Tag Archives: flight

Ingenuity has flown a full mile over Mars, and broken its altitude record

With its 10th flight on Mars completed just yesterday, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has now flown more than a mile through the skies of our red neighbor.

Illustration of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Image credits GPA Photo Archive / Flickr.

In a Twitter post on Sunday, NASA confirmed that Ingenuity flew over the “Raised Ridges”, part of a fracture system inside Jezero Crater that researchers have been looking to investigate for some time now. These fractures can act as pathways for fluids underground so, if there’s water on Mars (or if there was water on Mars), these fractures would hold signs of its passing. This marked the 10th flight for the helicopter drone, and its first full mile over Mars.

Humble beginnings

“With the Mars Helicopter’s flight success today, we crossed its 1-mile total distance flown to date,” officials with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California wrote in an Instagram update late Saturday. JPL is home to the mission control for Perseverance and Ingenuity.

In an earlier Tweet, Ingenuity operations lead Teddy Tzanetos described the planned flight in a status update, calling it the most complex mission the drone has undergone so far, in terms of both navigation and performance. The helicopter was sent to investigate (fly over and photograph) 10 sites, with the mission estimated to last around 165 seconds.

Although the full details of the mission haven’t been published yet, Tzanetos explained on Friday that it would be taking off from its sixth airfield and then moving south-by-southwest about 165 feet (50 meters). From there, it was scheduled to take two pictures of Raised Ridges from two different angles, both looking south. From there, Ingenuity was scheduled to fly west and then northwest, to snap further images of the Raised Ridges area. These will be used by NASA to create stereo images of the area.

What we do know is that during the flight, Ingenuity achieved a new record height: 40 feet (12 meters) above ground.

Ingenuity was meant to operate on mars for around 30 days; it has now been hard at work for 107. It went well beyond its duties during this time, allowing ground control to test out several flight maneuvers and undergoing two software updates — one to improve its flight speed, the other to refine its camera’s color-capturing abilities. To date, it’s flown for 14 minutes on Mars, which is a bit over 112% the performance target used for tech demos back on Earth.

Still, it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Since it’s running on solar panels, fuel isn’t a concern, and NASA has already extended its operations once (after Ingenuity completed its primary mission in April). We’re likely to see a similar extension in the future, as the craft is providing invaluable reconnaissance from the skies of Mars.

Bumblebees carry heavy loads in ‘economy’ flight mode

Bumblebees can carry surprisingly heavy loads of nectar, a new paper explains, potentially bearing up to their own body weight in the sweet liquid. Furthermore, the insects use a more energy-efficient flight pattern when heavily encumbered.

Image credits Suzanne Williams.

The humble bumblebees definitely lift, the authors report. In fact, they may be the ‘big lifters’ of the insect world. The team set out to understand how the bumblebees manage to fly with such impressive loads, and uncovered the surprising flexibility and adaptability of their flight mechanics.

The burdens we bear

“[Bumblebees] can carry 60, 70, or 80 percent of their body weight flying, which would be a huge load for us just walking around,” said Susan Gagliardi, a research associate in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of California (UoC) Davis and co-author of the paper.

“We were curious to see how they do it and how much it costs them to carry food and supplies back to the hive.”

For the study, the team emptied a snowglobe (to be used as an experimental chamber) and released bumblebees inside it. Each insect had various lengths of solder wide attached to it in an effort to adjust its weight. High-speed video cameras were used to record their wing beats and movements, while the team charted how much energy each bee needed to expend.

“We have the bees in a little chamber and we measure the carbon dioxide they produce. They are mostly burning sugar so you can tell directly how much sugar they are using as they are flying,” Gagliardi said.

Unlike our aircraft, which generate lift from the smooth flow of air over their fixed, horizontal wings, bees move their wings at a high angle to generate tiny wind vortices. These churning bodies of air curl around the insect’s wings and lift them up. The team explains that while the bee’s approach does generate more lift than the smooth-airflow approach out planes rely on, it’s also more unstable mechanically — the vortices are chaotic and they break down very quickly. Bees are only able to fly because they move their wings rapidly to re-generate the vortices.

We didn’t know, however, the energy-efficiency of this mode of flight. It seems reasonable to assume that the bees would use less energy the lighter their load is, but the team was surprised to find out this isn’t the case: bumblebees are actually more efficient per unit of weight when they’re heavily laden. In other words, they’re more “economical in flying” when they’re heavily loaded — “which doesn’t make any sense in terms of energetics,” says Stacey Combes. Combes is an associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the UoC and the paper’s lead author.

The team explains that bumblebees have two ways to deal with heavy loads. They can either increase the amplitude of their strokes (i.e. how far the wings flap), which helps but isn’t enough on its own for the heaviest of loads, or increase the frequency of their wingbeats, which helps them stay aloft but costs more energy. However, they also observed an alternative flying mode being used — one the team calls their “economy mode” — in which the bees can carry lots of nectar while using less energy than faster flapping requires.

Exactly how they do this is still unclear, Combes said, although the team believes it may involve the wings rotating when reversing direction between strokes. However, it seems to be something that the bees themselves can choose to do, or not. The team explains that overall, when lightly-loaded or rested, the bumblebees were more likely to increase the frequency of their wingbeats. However, they switch to the ‘economy mode’ only when heavily loaded, which produces more lift without an increase in flapping frequency.

“It turns out to be a behavioral choice they are making in terms of how they support the load,” Combes said.

But why don’t they always fly in this mode? The team is still unsure, but it may be that high wingbeat frequency brings other advantages to the table that are more attractive to the bees in a lighter-load scenario.

“When I started in this field there was a tendency to see them as little machines, we thought they’ll flap their wings one way when carrying zero load, another way when they’re carrying 50 percent load and every bee will do it the same way every time,” Combes adds.

“This has given us an appreciation that it’s a behavior, they choose what to do. Even the same bee on a different day will pick a new way to flap its wings.”

The paper “Kinematic flexibility allows bumblebees to increase energetic efficiency when carrying heavy loads” has been published in the journal Science Advances.

A clock error spoiled NASA’s Christmas mission — but the craft just landed, safe and sound

Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule safely landed in the New Mexico desert on Sunday, after an internal clock error thwarted its mission of delivering presents and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Boeing Starliner spacecraft is seen after it landed in White Sands, N.M., Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. Image credits Bill Ingalls / NASA via AP.

Although the mission itself was a bust, Boeing employees were relieved to get the Starliner back. Furthermore, the landing itself — the Starliner is the first American crew lander to land on the ground, not in the ocean — was a resounding success. The mission managers at NASA are currently reviewing data from the mission to decide whether they’ll run another test flight or go straight to manned missions, the agency reported.

A matter of time

“We pinpoint landed it,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a post-landing briefing.

“A beautiful soft landing,” added NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. “Can’t wait to try it out.”

The Starliner touched down at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in the predawn darkness on Sunday. It was scheduled for a week-long mission but only flew for two days. It was launched Friday from Cape Canaveral and all seemed to be going smoothly until, half an hour into its journey, the Starliner failed to fire its thrusters as scheduled. This burn was meant to put it on the same orbit as the ISS.

However, the capsule’s internal clock wasn’t set properly and showed an 11 hour difference with those on the Atlas V rocket that carried it, explained Jim Chilton, senior vice president of the Space and Launch division of Boeing. In the end, the Starliner set on a wrong orbit. Ground control had eventually managed to reset the clock — a process made difficult by frequent signal gaps due to the capsule’s position — but by this time the Starliner had used up so much fuel in an effort to reorient itself in orbit that it couldn’t reach the station any longer. So they decided to land the craft. The mission lasted nearly 50 hours and included 33 orbits around the Earth, about 100 orbits fewer than planned.

Boeing is still working to figure out how the timing error occurred. Right now, however, they’re relieved to have the capsule back in one piece. The landing was broadcast live on NASA TV, showing the craft fully upright and with very little wear and tear from reentry by dawn.

The astronauts assigned to the first Starliner crew, two from NASA and one from Boeing, were part of the welcoming committee. Rosie the Rocketer, a test dummy that flew in the capsule, survived the landing in perfect condition — as did the food, clothes, and presents inside. The returned capsule also received its name following the landing: Calypso, after Jacques Cousteau’s boat.

“We didn’t do everything we wanted to do, but we don’t see anything wrong with this spaceship right now,” despite the timing error, Chilton said.

He also apologized to the six space station residents on behalf of the company for not delivering their Christmas presents.

The capsule will return to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in two weeks for inspections and refurbishments.

“We’ve got a lot of learning in front of us,” Bridenstine said. “But we have enough information and data to where we can keep moving forward in a very positive way.


Warmer climate will make for more air turbulence, bumpier flights

Climate heating will, unexpectedly, make your flights much bumpier in the future.


Image via Pixabay.

Researchers at the University of Reading report that the jet stream is becoming more turbulent in the upper atmosphere over the North Atlantic. Since satellites began observing it in 1979, they explain, jet stream shearing has increased by 15%.

Jet, streamed, sheared

“Over the last four decades, temperatures have risen most rapidly over the Arctic, whilst in the stratosphere — around 12 km above the surface — they have cooled,” says lead author Simon Lee, Ph.D. student in Meteorology at the University of Reading.

“This has created a tug-of-war effect, where surface temperature changes act to slow the jet down, while temperature changes higher up act to speed it up.”

Wind shear is the variation in wind velocity at right angles to the wind’s direction. It sounds pretty complex but, in essence, wind shearing is when bodies of air move perpendicular to the direction the wind is blowing, and generate a turning force.

Vertical wind shearing, the increase in wind speed at higher altitudes, is particularly dangerous as it creates clear-air (invisible) turbulence, potentially with enough force to throw passengers out of their seats.

Tens of thousands of planes encounter severe turbulence every year, causing hundreds of injuries — both from passengers and flight attendants. Overall, the estimated cost of clear-air turbulence for the global aviation sector is estimated to be around a billion dollars annually, through a combination of flight delays, injuries to cabin crew and passengers, and structural damage to aircraft.

The new study is the first one to show that, while man-made climate heating is closing the temperature difference gap between Earth’s poles and the equator at ground level, the opposite is happening at around 34,000 feet, a typical airplane cruising altitude. 

The jet stream, like all wind, is powered by these differences in temperature. Growing differences in high-altitude temperatures are strengthening the stream, driving an increase in turbulence-generating wind shear at cruising altitudes that has gone unnoticed up until now, the team reports. They also add that their findings support previous research at Reading indicating that human-induced climate change will make severe turbulence up to three times more common by 2050-80.

“Our study shows these opposing effects currently balance out, meaning the speed of the jet stream has not changed. However, we looked for the first time at the wind shear, where significant change has previously gone unnoticed,” Lee explains.

“This strengthens previous projections for increased clear-air turbulence, as we can see an increase in one of the driving forces has happened already.

He explains that the upper-level element of that “tug-of-war” mentioned earlier will eventually win out, and that the jet stream will accelerate. “This has serious implications for airlines, as passengers and crew would face a bigger risk of injury,” Lee adds. It’s also likely that this change in the jet stream will increase flight times from Europe towards the US and speed up flights in the other direction.

The study’s lead researcher, Professor Paul Williams from the University of Reading’s Department of Meteorology, first linked increased turbulence to climate change. Prof. Williams is currently collaborating with the aircraft industry to design the next generation of planes — one that is better fit for a warmer and bumpier airspace.

The paper “Increased shear in the North Atlantic upper-level jet stream over the past four decades” has been published in the journal Nature.


Engineers study the in-depth structure of wings to make better adhesive materials

Bird feathers may be the key to new adhesives and advanced aerospace materials.


A, E, and F show birth feathers under normal magnification and under the microscope. B shows a model of the team’s 3D-printed structures and its behavior during a wing’s upstroke (C) and downstroke (D).
Image credits T. Sullivan, M. Meyers, E. Arzt, 2019, Science Advances.

If you’ve ever toyed around with a feather you’ll know that they somehow pull themselves back together if you take their barbs apart. The structures that underpin this behavior may point the way to novel adhesives and aerospace materials, say researchers from the University of California San Diego.

On the wings of progress

Tarah Sullivan, who earned a Ph.D. in materials science from the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, led the research efforts. Her team is the first in roughly two decades to take an in-depth look at the structure of bird feathers without focusing on a particular species.

Based on their observations, the team 3D-printed structures that mimic the vanes, barbs, and barbules of feathers to better understand their surprising properties. This step helped them better see how feathers knit themselves back together after you pull them apart, for example, or how their undersides can capture air for lift while the top of the feather can block air to help with the landing.

Sullivan found that barbules — smaller, hook-like structures that connect feather barbs — are spaced within 8 to 16 micrometers of each other. This distance remained stable throughout bird species, from the hummingbird to the condor, suggesting that it is an important property for flight.

“The first time I saw feather barbules under the microscope I was in awe of their design: intricate, beautiful and functional,” she said. “As we studied feathers across many species it was amazing to find that despite the enormous differences in size of birds, barbules spacing was constant.”

The vane-barb-barbule structure seen in feathers could lead to the development of new materials. Adhesives — similar to Velcro — and materials intended for the aerospace industry are the team’s main areas of interest. Sullivan has already built a prototype adhesive material which she plans on discussing in a follow-up paper.

“We believe that these structures could serve as inspiration for an interlocking one-directional adhesive or a material with directionally tailored permeability,” she said.

Sullivan’s team also took a look at the bones in bird wings. They found that the humerus (the longest bone in the wing) is disproportionately long. This is likely intended to give it enough strength to take the weight of a bird’s body in flight, they say. Because bone strength is limited, and because the humerus carries the brunt of the load during flight, scaling it up proportionately to the rest of the wing just doesn’t cut it. Instead, the bone needs to grow much faster and to a greater relative size to withstand the forces it’s subjected to during flight.

This process by which certain body parts grow at different rates than the body as a whole is known as allometry. Our brains, for example, are allometric, as they grow much faster than the rest of our bodies when we’re young. Our hearts are isometric, as they grow proportionately to the rest of the body.

“Professor Eduard Arzt, our co-author from Saarland University in Germany, is an amateur pilot and became fascinated by the ‘bird wing’ problem. Together, we started doing allometric analyses on them and result is fascinating,” said Meyers.

“This shows that the synergy of scientists from different backgrounds can produce wonderful new understanding.”

The paper “Scaling of bird wings and feathers for efficient flight” has been published in the journal Science Advances.

How the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs spared ground-dwelling birds

Some 66 million years ago, an asteroid struck the Earth with an estimated strength of 10 billion Hiroshima A-bombs. It carbonized everything around it and caused planet-wide extinctions. Among the havoc it wreaked, the asteroid is perhaps most famous for wiping out the dinosaurs. But somehow, it spared some birds. A new study analyzes why.

Birds such as this adorable Kingfisher almost certainly wouldn’t have survived the cataclysm.

Most people believe that birds are related to dinosaurs, but that’s only partly true. Technically, birds are dinosaurs, and when we’re talking about the dinosaurs being extinct, we should say that non-avian dinosaurs are extinct. But technicalities aside, birds somehow managed to escape the devastation  — at least partially. What allowed them to escape the mass extinction? According to a new study, living on the ground as opposed to the trees made a big difference.

“We drew on a variety of approaches to stitch this story together,” says lead author Daniel Field (@daniel_j_field) of the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, UK. “We concluded that the devastation of forests in the aftermath of the asteroid impact explains why tree-dwelling birds failed to survive across this extinction event. The ancestors of modern tree-dwelling birds did not move into the trees until forests had recovered from the extinction-causing asteroid.”

The asteroid destroyed forests or severely damaged forests worldwide, and it took centuries or even millennia before they could recover. This would have spelled disaster for tree-dwelling birds, which greatly relied on forests to survive. Meanwhile, grounded birds would have still had a fighting chance.

Researchers analyzed plant fossils, confirming that global forests collapsed in the wake of the asteroid’s impact. Moving one step further, they used the evolutionary relationships of living birds and their ecological habits to track how bird ecology changed in the aftermath of the meteorite impact. This indicated the same thing: the most recent common ancestor of birds likely lived on the ground.

At the time, many birds had developed flight and spent much of their time in the trees. It’s unfortunate, and somewhat ironic, that birds which dwelled on the ground (even those which couldn’t fly) would have been more likely to survive.

“Today, birds are the most diverse and globally widespread group of terrestrial vertebrate animals–there are nearly 11,000 living species,” Field says. “Only a handful of ancestral bird lineages succeeded in surviving the K-Pg mass extinction event 66 million years ago, and all of today’s amazing living bird diversity can be traced to these ancient survivors.”

Journal Reference: Current Biology, Field et al.: “Early Evolution of Modern Birds Structured by Global Forest Collapse at the End-Cretaceous Mass Extinction” https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)30534-7

A flat-earther brought a spirit level on a plane to prove the Earth is flat. Yeah…

A Youtuber and conspiracy theorist from the US has taken pseudoscience to the next level — literally. He took a spirit level onto a plane, hoping to convince people that the Earth is flat.

This is the Earth. Some people believe it is flat.

That people still claim the Earth is flat is simply stunning to me. It’s not just watching ships sail off in the horizon or looking at constellations, we have gone into outer space and looked at the Earth. Heck, we have a massive research outpost, the International Space Station, constantly revolving around the planet and snapping photos. In this day and age, this level of ignorance is simply not allowed, even if you’re one of the greatest basketball players of all time. But back to our guy.

D Marble decided to take his spirit level to a plane. In case you’re not familiar with a spirit level, it’s an instrument designed to indicate whether a surface is horizontal or whether it dips. It has a slightly curved vial incompletely filled with a liquid so that an air bubble remains. When the surface is completely flat, the bubble rests exactly in the middle.

A spirit level. Image via Wikipedia.

He thought this would show the Earth has no curvature and that it is essentially flat:

“I recorded a 23 minute and 45 seconds time-lapse, which by those measurements means the plane travelled a little over 203 miles. According to curvature math given to explain the globe model, this should have resulted in the compensation of 5 miles of curvature. As you’ll see there was no measurable compensation for curvature.”

It’s not just the flat Earth that he was trying to prove — he also took a jab at gravity…

“Understand that gravity is a still just a theory,” he goes on to say. “No more defending what we know to be true! Now we take the fight to the enemy! #FEOffensive.”

We’ll give him a lot of creativity points, but he scores a big fat zero on the science scale. Try to figure it out for a moment. You can come up with a number of valid arguments, ranging from middle school physics to simple, common sense.

For starters, the spirit level requires a lot of stillness for the bubble to align, which plane travel can’t really ensure. Twitter was quick to point this one out.

If you want a more elegant approach, you could say that even if (theoretically) the plane would have been perfectly still and moved in a perfect way, the experiment still couldn’t have worked because that’s not how gravity works — his entire premise of curvature compensation is flawed. Twitter was all over this one as well.

Lastly, for crying out loud, the man was traveling on a plane, you’d expect he’d at least look out the window.

This really sums up perfectly the anti-intellectual and anti-scientific trend so prevalent in the US and the world: a man using a plane (developed with science) uses an instrument (developed through science,) then shares his opinion on an Internet platform (made possible through science) from a device built through science, to share anti-scientific opinions. He uses a badly-devised experiment and can’t even understand basic principles but hey, people are buying it so why not?

His initiative was well-received by other flat-Earthers — which doesn’t even come as a surprise by this point.

Take a moment and think that in the 21st century, when we are sending shuttles to the Moon and to Mars, when we are toying with the genetic make-up of the human body, when we are zooming closer towards understanding the fabric of the Universe, people are saying the Earth is flat on Youtube. What a world we live in.

Here’s the whole video, already with over 200,000 views, having been shared by several flat Earth societies, including Flat Earth ActivismGod’s Flat Earth and various other globe-deniers. Yes, there are societies like these all around the globe (heh).


Artist’s concept of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy — the most powerful rocket in the world — is nearly ready

Artist’s concept of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Credit: SpaceX

Artist’s concept of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Credit: SpaceX

Ever since Elon Musk founded SpaceX at the turn of the new century, he has been dreaming about building a huge rocket with three nine-engine boosters strapped to it. More than a decade later, this fabled rocket, called the Falcon Heavy, is nearly ready. According to inside sources, Falcon Heavy’s maiden voyage could take place as early as fall 2017, ending a four-year long wait. Once it officially enters service, governments and companies will be able to launch instruments, cargo, and various machines that they previously couldn’t due to payload restrictions.

The most powerful rocket in the world

The Falcon Heavy’s specs are simply mind blowing. Basically, it’s made out of three Falcon 9 rockets — a standard Falcon 9 with two additional Falcon 9 first stages acting as liquid strap-on boosters. Simply put, this means the triple-body rocket will be able to loft payloads three times heavier to orbit than the Falcon 9.  It should carry up to 21,200 kilograms (46,700 lb) to geostationary orbit and more than 14,000 kilograms (31,000 lb) to Mars. It can even carry up to 4,000 kilograms to Pluto! No other rocket besides the Saturn V used during the Apollo era to put a man on the moon is more powerful in the history of space flight.

Currently, the most powerful rocket in the world is United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4-Heavy, which is another three-body design. However, the 70-meter tall Falcon Heavy has more than twice the payload capacity to low Earth orbit than ULA’s Delta 4-Heavy.

Falcon Heavy vs Falcon 9

Credit: SpaceX.

That’s certainly impressive, but it wasn’t easy getting here. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the design for the Falcon Heavy in 2011 and promised it would be ready for liftoff in 2013.

“Falcon Heavy is one of those things that, at first, sounded easy,” Musk said in March. “We’ll just take two first stages and use them as strap-on boosters. Actually, no, this is crazy hard, and it required the redesign of the center core and a ton of different hardware.

“It was actually shockingly difficult to go from a single-core to a triple-core vehicle,” Musk said.

We know the Falcon Heavy is imminent because on May 9th SpaceX shared a video showing the first test of the rocket’s boosters. You’re invited to check it out.

Yup, that’s what  5.1 million pounds of thrust look like. But the best thing about the Falcon Heavy is that it will be fully reusable. Just like the Falcon 9, each of the three boosters will touch down safely on a spaceport very casually like so:

Or crash miserably:

Each of the boosters for the maiden Falcon Heavy mission will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final processing in the coming months. According to March 30th press conference, the rocket will likely launch in ‘late summer’. It was actually supposed to launch this week per the previous schedule to deliver a powerhouse communications satellite owned by Inmarsat into orbit. Instead, it launched on Monday on a single Falcon 9 rocket.

The huge Inmarsat 5 F4 getting ready for take off on a Falcon 9. Credit: Inmarsat.

The huge Inmarsat 5 F4 getting ready for takeoff on a Falcon 9. Credit: Inmarsat.

Once the Falcon Heavy finally enters in operation, the ‘most powerful rocket’ crown might not last long. That distinction will soon enough belong to NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System. It will provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons) to enable missions even farther into our solar system.

Aviation 101 : Flight Dynamics

To most people, the sky is the limit.

To those who love aviation, the sky is home.

All vehicles are free to operate in three dimensions i.e the longitudinal, vertical and horizontal axes. But while cars are limited in that they can’t really take off from the streets, airplanes can really take advantage of all axes.

In an aircraft, movements are known by Pitch, Yaw, and Roll, respectively.


Motion about the lateral axis is called pitch. This is a measure of how far an airplane’s nose is tilted up or down and is controlled by the elevator.



Motion about the perpendicular axes is called yaw. It determines which way the nose of the aircraft is pointing.

This is controlled by the movement of the rudder.



Motion about the longitudinal axis is called roll and in aircraft determines how much the wings are banked.


This is controlled by the movement of the aileron.


                                                        The position of the Aileron, Elevator and the Rudder on an airplane

Where do you use it?

Although usually, plane flights are quite monotonous and employ just one type of movement at a time, there is a wide variety of times where all the three have to be employed, like in the crosswind landing. Crosswind landing is a landing maneuver in which a significant component of the prevailing wind is perpendicular to the runway center line.


The above maneuver is known as Crabbing.

The nose points towards the wind so that the aircraft approaches the runway slightly skewed with respect to the runway centerline ( depends on the direction of the wind ). Upon approaching the runway threshold, moments before landing, the pilot aligns the aircraft with the centerline.


And this is easier said than done as it involves the meticulous control of the pitching, yawing and the rolling of the aircraft in order to stick the landing ( as is seen in the animation )

Some more examples

One need not restrict the usage of these terms merely to aircrafts, but can extend it other objects of interest as well.

Cars also experience pitch, roll, and yaw, but the amounts are relatively small and are usually the result of the suspension reacting to turns, accelerations, and road conditions.



For a human- Pitch is like saying Yes. Yaw is when you say No! And roll is when you just wave your head.

Pitch, Yaw and Roll and that’s all there is to it.


We’ve finally discovered how birds can sleep and fly at the same time without crashing

An experiment performed by an international team of scientists has confirmed that birds are capable of sleep while flying. The finding finally allows researchers to explain how some species of birds can pull off their incredibly long flights without falling out of the skies, exhausted.

A frigatebird in flight, probably napping. Modified after Niels C. Rattenborg et al., 2016 / Nature Comm.

A frigatebird in flight, probably napping.
Modified after Niels C. Rattenborg et al., 2016 / Nature Comm.

It’s Thursday morning, and you begrudgingly get out of bed to go to work. You’re tired and you only want to go back to sleep, and flossing (or not flossing) doesn’t help either — truth is, you’re getting too much work and not enough sleep!

Well, too bad we’re not birds. They can pull off some incredible feats seemingly without a moment of shuteye, pulling in horrendously long flight hours with ease. This has lead scientists to theorize that certain bird species are capable of sleeping mid-flight, but have never been able to confirm this theory.

A recent experiment by an international team of researchers has now proven this to be true, showing that birds rest while hitching a ride on rising air currents.

Niels Rattenborg from the Max Planck Institute and colleagues from several other institutions have found that migratory birds can shut down  one half of their brains for rest and can even fly with both hemispheres shut down at the same time. Even more impressively, they retain their navigational ability during REM sleep, a state so deep it involves temporary loss of muscle tone.

Putting only one hemisphere to rest while the other keeps watch is known as unihemispheric sleep, and it allows animals to get some rest while maintaining awareness of their surroundings. Dolphins sleep like this, so they can still surface for air and prevent drowning (which tends to ruin a good night’s sleep,) but up to now it’s only been assumed in birds — it has been previously observed on ducks perching on land, but never in flight. Unihemispheric sleep during flight made sense, but there wasn’t any evidence to support it.

With help from researchers at the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Rattenborg’s team developed a small device that gets strapped to a bird’s head, which records electroencephalographic (EEG) brain activity and head movements. Using this device, they recorded the brain activity of flying frigatebirds to check for signs of two different types of sleep: slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM).

This image shows how the devices were attached to the bird’s skulls.
Modified after Niels C. Rattenborg et al., 2016 / Nature Comm.

They chose this species because frigatebirds spent weeks on end flying over the ocean in search for dinner. The birds strapped with Rattenborg’s device flew more than of 1,850 miles (3,000 kilometers) without stopping for a break. When the flight data recorders were recovered and analyzed, the data showed that the birds remained awake during the day, but as the sun set they stopped foraging and went into soaring mode and went into SWS windows of up to several minutes.

SWS either kicked in in one hemisphere at a time or in both simultaneously. This lead the team to conclude that the birds don’t need unihemispheric sleep to remain in flight — however, it occurred quite often, mostly while the birds were circling, rising on air currents.

Modified after Niels C. Rattenborg et al., 2016 / Nature Comm.

Interestingly, and quite unexpectedly, the SWS sometimes occurred in one hemisphere at a time, or in both hemispheres simultaneously. The researchers concluded that birds don’t need unihemispheric sleep for aerodynamic control.

That said, unihemispheric sleep occurred quite often, and it happened while the birds were circling, rising up on air currents. This suggests that the birds were literally keeping one eye open, watching where they were going, likely hoping to avoid a collision with other birds.

The birds occasionally fell into REM sleep, too. This might sound like a pretty dangerous thing to do while flying, but birds don’t handle REM sleep the same way that we do. Just like us, they do lose muscle tone — the heads of the birds dipped during the REM phase — but in birds, this pattern happens in bursts of a few seconds, so their flight patterns ultimately aren’t affected.

Even so, they get an average of only 42 minutes of sleep per day so…I’m sorry, frigatebirds? They do make up for it on land, where they get a solid 12 hours of sleep every day — and they get better quality sleep too. But that still means that, for most of their foraging runs, they’re seriously sleep deprived. How they’re able so function with so little rest for so long remains a mystery.

The full paper, “Evidence that birds sleep in mid-flight,” has been published online in the journal Nature Communications.

Artist’s impression of the new dinosaur Yi qi. Credit: Dinostar Co. Ltd

Newly discovered dinosaur had bat-like wings… but could it fly?

Every year, hundreds of millions people fly by plane to meet their family, do business or for leisure. Quite a feat, considering that you know… we don’t don’t have any wings. Like all advanced technology we have at our disposal today, flying is taken for granted. In the early days, however, just getting a few feet off the ground for a couple of seconds was considered a triumph. Like human pioneering flight, nature also had to experiment a lot before flying creatures could evolve. One newly discovered dinosaur species fits well into this story. Unearthed in 160 million year old sediments in China, this queer dinosaur strangely had bat-like wings. It’s uncertain however if it was able to fly or even glide, owing to the degraded state of the fossil records. One thing’s for sure, it makes the evolution of flight much more interesting to study.

Artist’s impression of the new dinosaur Yi qi. Credit: Dinostar Co. Ltd

Artist’s impression of the new dinosaur Yi qi.
Credit: Dinostar Co. Ltd

Scansoriopterygids are among the smallest dinosaurs known. The juvenile specimens of Scansoriopteryx are the size of house sparrows, about 16 centimeters long, while the adult type specimen of Epidexipteryx is about the size of a pigeon, about 25 centimeters long (not including the tail feathers). Scientists studying these tiny dinosaurs found compelling evidence that suggests these were astute tree-climbers. A hallmark of scansoriopterygids is their long hand and strongly curved claws, which makes them adapted  for climbing. These features, however, have also prompted some scientists to suggest that what we might actually be seeing are protowings that sparked the evolution of a wing capable of flight.

Skull of the new dinosaur Yi qi. Credit: Zang Hailong/IVPP

Skull of the new dinosaur Yi qi.
Credit: Zang Hailong/IVPP

The new dinosaur unearthed in China is also a scansoriopterygid, called  Yi qi (meaning ‘strange wing’). Each wrist of the animal was crossed by an unusually long rod-like bone, not seen in any dinosaur thus far. Patches of membranous tissue preserved between the rod-like bones and the manual digits suggest the arm was covered in a bat-like wing. This may have had a role in flight, but it’s all rather fuzzy judging from these fossil records alone. If they’re in good fortune, the Chinese paleontologists might find a new specimen or, at least, some fragments in the Tiaojishan Formation of Hebei Province, China where Yi qi was discovered.

Findings appeared in Nature.


Windowless Plane reduces CO2 Emissions and makes the trip more Enjoyable

An UK design firm is proposing a most daring idea: replace the windows in a plane with super-light smartscreen panel made from organic LEDs (OLED). These panels would cover most of the plane’s inner surface and display the view from outside, better and lovelier than any windows could. Of course, you could choose to watch a football match, read a book or just leave the screen blank – it’s your choice.


Photo: Photograph: Tomasz Wyszo/mirski/ww.dabarti/CPI

Of course, this is not just a design fad – these are rarely allowed through in the aerospace industry where even the slightest tweak can end up increasing a plane’s cost by the millions. On the contrary, the idea is most utilitarian in nature.


For a plane to support passenger windows,  the whole fuselage needs to be re-enforced because of the high stresses around the hollow window geometry. If these were removed, then the plane could be built with far lighter materials, cutting down manufacturing costs and, most importantly, operational costs. According to the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) – the company behind the smartscreen alternative to plane windows –  for every 1% reduction in the weight of an aircraft, there is a saving in fuel of 0.75%.

“We had been speaking to people in aerospace and we understood that there was this need to take weight out of aircraft,” said Dr Jon Helliwell of the CPI.

“Follow the logical thought through. Let’s take all the windows out – that’s what they do in cargo aircraft – what are the passengers going to do? If you think about it, it’s only really the people that are sitting next to windows that will suffer.”

Helliwell and colleagues have actually thought of a better alternative to the windows by proposing screens that would be made using organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) – a combination of materials that give out their own light when activated by electricity. OLEDs are very expensive today and, worst of all, are very sensitive to moisture and require a special casing. This means they’re generally inflexible and hard to adapt for this kind of project.

“What would be great would be to make devices based on OLEDs that are flexible. We can make transistors that are flexible but if we can make OLEDs that are flexible, that gives us a lot of potential in the market because we can print OLEDs on to packaging, we can create flexible displays,” he said.

Using £35m worth of advanced equipment in its Sedgefield facility, the CPI says it working on technologies to advance flexible OLEDs and tackle problems of cost and durability. The team hopes it can develop technology that will enable the company to advance this concept in the next 10 years. The video below showcases how this might look like.

Watch How Many Flights Fly Through Europe on a Typical Summer Day

This fantastic animation was created by NATS (a provider of air traffic control services in the UK), showcasing all air traffic in Europe on a typical summer day. The visualization was created from real flight data (UK radar data from 21 June 2013 and European flight plan information from 28 July 2013).

European airspace is pretty much the busies and most complex in all the world – every single day thousands of air traffic controllers guide millions of passengers safely to their destinations. But most people are completely unaware of this happening – it literally goes above their heads.

Airspace might be the invisible infrastructure, but it is every bit as important as the road, rail and utility networks we use everyday – it’s the lifeblood of our economy, even more so for the U.K., connecting it to the rest of the continent.

Here are some vital statistics about European flights, also offered by NATS:


– On a typical July day there are around 30,000 flights across European airspace
– Approximately a quarter fly within UK controlled airspace
– The total distance flown by these aircraft is 25 million nautical miles
– That’s 998 times around the Earth
– Or 104 trips to the Moon
– On 21 June, 5,675 aircraft departed or arrived from UK airports, of which…
– 2,295 departed from or arrived at Gatwick (894) or Heathrow (1,401)
– 1,532 were overflights
– The video is 1440x faster than real time

San Francisco to Paris in 2 minutes [VIDEO]

Here’s another amazing time lapse video which is certain to enchant your senses and entertain equally enough, in which the Beep Show has documented its San Francisco to Paris flight by shooting a photo every 2 miles (clicky clicky every 15 seconds?). The photos were then put together masterfully, resulting in a lovely time lapse view over the American continent, the Pacific ocean and even … wait for it… Aurora Borealis! Yeah, now you gotta check this thing out.

All take-off and landing images are computer model renderings since the FAA prohibits the use of cameras at the beginning and end of flights

SF to Paris in Two Minutes from Beep Show on Vimeo.

The big picture on Icelandic eruption

Eyjafjallajökull (how ever you pronounce) is a volcano located in Iceland, covered by a small glacier with the same name. It’s crater has a diameter of about 3-4 kilometers, and it erupted the second time this month, causing a cloud of ash that forced authorities to stop almost all flights above Iceland.

The first fissure that opened on Fimmvörðuháls, as seen from Austurgígar. Photo by David Karnå.

The first fissure that opened on Fimmvörðuháls, as seen from Austurgígar. Photo by David Karnå.

The problem, when you have such a volcano, is that the ice on top of it melts, causing massive floods, as well as the usual shooting of smoke and gases. Thousands of people were forced to give up their homes and take cover in the face of the floods. Here we’ll present some of the most suggestive photos from the area, taken over a time span of approximately a month.

Photo by NASA.

Photo by NASA.


The First Flight of a New Era

Less than a year from now, in 2009, NASA is going to launch a whole new generation of spacecraft and launch vehicle system. The test flight is called Ares I-X and it will bring scientists even closer to the exploration goals they have set for themselves.

The main test objectives are focused on dynamics of the first stage flight, how easy it can be controlled , separation of the first and upper stages, ground operations, and first stage recovery. They are also going to verify the performance and dynamics of the solid rocket boosters.

After this test flight, Ares I, the crew vehicle will launch Orion, the spacecraft designed for the human spaceflight missions. Orion is designed as a capsule similar in many ways to the Apollo project, its goal being to transport people to the moon, the international space station, and Mars.

Ares I-X will provide NASA with both the opportunity to test the efficiency and performance of the hardware and ground operations which are associated with this project, and also to gather critical data during the ascent, which will ensure scientists that the project is fully operational.