Sunday, November 13, 2016

Southwest Airlines begins Cuba service from Florida

Southwest Airlines inaugurated service between South Florida and Cuba on Sunday with the scheduled 11:00 a.m. EST departure of Flight 3914 to Varadero from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Over 140 passengers and a crew of five Southwest employees donned Cuban-style hats as the aircraft departed to an orchestra playing Caribbean music.

Steve Goldberg, Southwest Airlines' vice president of Ground Operations, announced the airline intends to begin daily service from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara, Cuba, on Dec. 15, subject to requisite approvals of the Cuban government. "By the end of this year, we'll offer six daily round trips between two Florida gateways and three Cuban cities as the work continues to open a new, five-gate international concourse in Fort Lauderdale next summer,” Goldberg said.

On Oct.13, Southwest announced its flight schedule of new nonstop service between Florida and both Varadero and Havana. Cuba is the ninth country served by Southwest. Service between Havana and both Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Tampa International Airport begins Dec. 12, subject to requisite approvals of the Cuban government.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Video: Unmanned flight system under development for Huey helicopter

Aurora Flight Sciences continues to break ground on the development of advanced autonomous capabilities for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) systems. Aurora's work on the Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program will integrate the company's Tactical Autonomous Aerial Logistics System (TALOS) on a UH-1H helicopter. The primary goal of the AACUS program is to enable rapid cargo delivery by unmanned, and potentially optionally-manned, VTOL systems.

At the AACUS flight testing event held Thursday in Northern Virginia, the program demonstrated on a manned Bell 206 the capabilities required for autonomous takeoff, transit and landing.

Aurora's TALOS system has been demonstrated previously on a Boeing H-6U Unmanned Little Bird flown autonomously, and three different human-piloted Bell 206 aircraft.

"You're not buying a new fleet of helicopters, you're buying a capability set for your current fleet," said John Wissler, vice president of Aurora's R&D Center in Cambridge, Mass. "TALOS is not an aircraft, nor is it a robot flying an aircraft -TALOS is transferable intelligence designed with both manned and unmanned aircraft requirements in mind.”

Commercial applications for the TALOS technology are also being explored by Aurora. "Think of the civilian first responder pilot attempting to land in a remote, storm-ravaged area at night - TALOS senses and alerts to power lines and landing zone obstacles well before the pilot and informs the pilot's maneuvers," said Wissler.

The final phase of the AACUS program will transition the TALOS system onto an autonomous UH-1H platform currently under development at Aurora, with culminating demonstrations occurring in 2017-2018. Aurora's TALOS system is being developed with funding from the Office of Naval Research.

Unmanned drone use could increase cyberattacks

AT&T and NASA are researching the development of an Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management solution that would support the safe and highly secure operation of drones in the national airspace.

AT&T has been working with NASA and other companies to make UAS flight path monitoring, flight planning, navigation, surveillance and tracking safer. “We have focused on the role of wireless networking and advanced technologies,” the company said in a press release.

AT&T brings expertise in networking, Internet of Things, cloud, identity management and cybersecurity to the effort.

Drones are already used in agriculture, public safety, construction, utilities, real estate and TV. AT&T uses drones to inspect cell towers and measure network performance at venues and locations across the country.

A key element AT&T and NASA are researching is the potential impact of cybersecurity threats. The vast availability of drones - and their many current and potentialuses -- could increase their risk of cyberattacks. AT&T advocates cybersecurity protections designed into the system from the outset.

Chris Penrose, president of AT&T's Internet of Things Solutions, was selected as a member of the FAA's Drone Advisory Committee earlier this year. The group identifies and advises actions to support the safe introduction of UAS into our national airspace.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

First non-stop flight from Canada to Belize

With the departure of flight 2604 from Toronto Pearson International Airport on Saturday, WestJet officially becomes the only Canadian carrier directly connecting Canadians to the beautiful country of Belize.

“We have absolutely changed the game with our twice-weekly service from Toronto," said Bob Cummings, WestJet executive vice-president, Commercial.

Belize is WestJet's 21st destination in the Caribbean and third destination in Central America.  During peak winter months the airline has a total of more than 90 flights per week from Toronto to the Caribbean and Central America.

Flights will be operated on WestJet's Boeing 737 aircraft.

Friday, October 21, 2016

P-8A aircraft training center opens at Whidbey Island

Boeing has installed a training center for the new P-8A Poseidon aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., as the base begins preparations for the arrival of P-8s beginning in 2017.

“About 70 percent of the training we do for our P-8 crews happens in this building,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Kyle Cozad. “That is going to make that wonderful aircraft last longer and longer. As much as 45 years.”

The complete training system uses simulators and classroom-based materials to train pilots and mission crews to operate the aircraft, its sensors, communications and weapons systems without relying on live flights.

Boeing is on contract to modify and provide updates to the training devices over the next three years.

Boeing also provides P-8A aircrew training devices, electronic classrooms and courseware for the Navy at its Integrated Training Center (ITC) at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla. Aircrews began training in the ITC in early 2012.

New hunting ground for planets outside our solar system

Eight people with no formal training in astrophysics helped discover what could be a fruitful new place to search for planets outside our solar system - a large disk of gas and dust encircling a star known as a circumstellar disk.

A paper, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and coauthored by eight citizen scientists involved in the discovery, describes a newly identified red dwarf star, AWI0005x3s, and its warm circumstellar disk, the kind associated with young planetary systems. Most of the exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system, that have been imaged to date dwell in disks similar to the one around AWI0005x3s.

The disk and its star are located in what is dubbed the Carina association - a large, loose grouping of similar stars in the Carina Nebula approximately 212 light years from our sun. Its relative proximity to Earth will make it easier to conduct follow-on studies.

Since the launch of NASA's Disk Detective website in January 2014, approximately 30,000 citizen scientists have performed roughly two million classifications of stellar objects, including those that led to this discovery. Through Disk Detective, citizen scientists study data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission (WISE), the agency's Two-Micron All Sky Survey project, and other stellar surveys.

"Without the help of the citizen scientists examining these objects and finding the good ones, we might never have spotted this object," said Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Fight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who leads Disk Detective. "The WISE mission alone found 747 million objects, of which we expect a few thousand to be circumstellar disks."

The eight citizen scientist co-authors, members of an advanced user group, volunteered to help by researching disk candidates. Their data led to the discovery of this new disk.

Disk Detective is a collaboration between NASA, Zooniverse, the University of Oklahoma, University of Córdoba in Argentina, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Space Telescope Science Institute, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Carnegie Institution of Washington, University of Hawaii and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute.