Last year we saw the next generation of aircraft powered by the capabilities of Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data hit scales that have never seen before. What does the future hold?
When I started taking flying lessons in 1998, one thing that surprised me was the relatively primitive engines that modern airplanes use. These are engines that have more in common with tractor engines than the reliable high-tech automotive engines we all drive behind. Would you be surprised if I told you that in the year 2015 most brand new airplanes have engines that use carburetors with primers and chokes?
The world’s largest plane maker is in the midst of its biggest peacetime boom, churning out 20 percent more planes than when the last big cycle peaked in the 1990s.
But it is doing so with one-third fewer workers. In their place, Boeing is turning to robots and outsourcing.
On the 777 line, the labor savings from automated riveting could be more than 100-fold. One person can run eight sets of robot arms that each do the work of 16 people, replacing 128 workers, said Surinder Lamba, president of Apache Aerospace Inc, a Washington state company that supplies tooling to all of Boeing’s commercial jet programs.
Too many planes drives down prices
While fuel prices have fallen significantly in the past year, most airlines are still focused on upgrading their fleets with the newest, most fuel-efficient airplanes. In the widebody market, Boeing and Airbus are currently meeting this demand by ramping up production of the 787 and A350, respectively.
AIRPORT TOWERS ARE to planes as lighthouses are to ships, but they don’t get nearly the fanfare. Most people barely notice them, but Carolyn Russo sees beauty in them. She’s spent nine years photographing the hulking giants of aviation for her series Art of the Airport Tower.
Airlines are trying to draw passengers away from low-price comparison sites and back to their own home pages, seeking to boost profits by selling them extra services such as additional legroom or access to airport lounges.
Airlines across Europe and the United States are experimenting with strategies to bring travelers back to their own websites. These range from improving the booking process to adding fees for tickets booked using third-party distributors, which themselves charge airlines for their services.
It’s a clear sky over San Francisco, with no clouds in sight, and there’s an audible groan as your captain announces that your aircraft’s approach is on hold due to weather conditions. It’s not the pilot, the aircraft, or the airline – there’s a lot more that is going on under the hood of your cross-country trip than what meets the eye. Orbiting somewhere over the Bay Area, you and the117-foot wide aircraft supporting you are waiting for clearance from the ruler of the airspace you’re inhabiting – the air traffic control tower.
Over 3,000 commercial flights pass through New York City airports every single day, according to Port Authority statistics.
Each one of these aircraft — passenger jets, cargo planes, helicopters, seaplanes, private jets and more — has to be safely routed into and out of the area’s crowded airspace, which is no easy task.
The past few weeks especially have made 2015 feel like a new golden age. Pilots are again stretching the boundaries of the possible, using machines in which a new beating heart, the electric propulsion system, is finally coming of age.
An engine alone, for example, is likely to have as many as 5,000 elements monitored every second.
“It’s not Google big data, but it’s a lot of data,” says Bill Baumgarten, business development manager at UTCAerospace Systems, one of the major suppliers of high-tech sensors to the industry. Among the capabilities UTC sensors provide: monitoring the temperature of an engine part to flag even a five-degree variation from normal, or sensing a change from flight plan.