Museum of Flight Lands B-29 Bomber

Sitting on the Southeast parking ramp of Boeing Field, a gigantic airplane in a bright white protective sheet awaits restoration by the Museum of Flight team.

The airplane is an antique Boeing B-29 bomber that flew 37 missions in World War Two but was retired before it could see service in Korea. It was used instead for target practice for new Navy combat pilots.

It survived all this abuse, and in 1994, the Air Force donated it to the Museum of Flight.

“The Museum’s B-29 was trucked to Seattle from Lowry Air Force Base when that base was being deactivated,” said Thompson, a volunteer restoration worker on the B-29. “It was decided that it was appropriate for it to be here since this was where it was designed and where the first three were built.”

After over 5,000 hours of restoration since its arrival, the plane is more than 90% ready for display in a museum.

However, due to a lack of hangar space, all work has stopped on restoration.

“When work resumes, the time to complete the restoration will depend upon the available time that volunteers can provide,” Thompson said. “A rough estimate might be two years from the time work resumes.”

This B-29 will be perfect down to every last detail. From crew ash trays to turret motors, all parts will be in perfect working order. Right now, with modifications from the restoration crew, this is the only B-29 in the world with turret guns that are capable of moving.

The airplane is wrapped in a white protective coating to protect it from the weather. Once the restoration is complete, the goal is to display it with the rest of the Museum’s collection.

“The current visions of the Museum are to build an addition on the west side of the existing building which would house both the B-17 and the B-29, along with the Red Barn,” said Thompson. “This would be known as the Boeing Pavilion.”

When this airplane finally goes on display, it will be a great benefit for the Museum patrons, providing another connection to one of the largest wars of American history. Alongside the B-17 that currently is on display in front of the Museum, it will show the story behind some of the most dangerous flying missions of the War.

“Putting those two planes on display will provide close access for the public to observe two famous airplanes,” Thompson said. “The role played by these planes is very significant in the history of World War II. The legacy of those who flew them can be preserved and their descendants can better appreciate the conditions under which their forefathers fought for their country.”

Currently, Museum visitors can take tours through the inside of the B-17. When the B-29 is finally restored, patrons may be able to do the same thing, and go inside a completely airworthy aircraft. Although the plane will be restored to perfect flying condition, it will never fly again.

Aviation High School students will be able to experience this connection. Scott Sluys, an AHS senior, wants to be an airline pilot after he graduates.

“With the help of the B-17 and the B-47,” Sluys said, “the B-29 will complete the chain in evolving aircraft, allowing the community and the students of the future AHS campus to watch the dramatic improvement in aircraft that occurred during the second World War.”

However, displaying only the aircraft would not tell this complete story. George Bowling, Jr. is another volunteer with the Museum of Flight. He helps to run the Living History section, which uses volunteers acting as WWII pilots to bring history to life.

BRIAHS is First High School to Think With Portals

 

BRIAHS Junior Anastasia Pallis tests out the portal that will be installed at the new school.

Sponsored by Sirius Cybernetics Corportation

Back in the good old days, there were really only two ways to get to school—driving or taking the bus, but now BladeRunner Industries Aviation High will offer teleportation as an alternative.

Students of today have many choices, such as the extremely popular Lockmarboebombus™ (the new megacompany formed last year in the merger between Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Bombardier, and Airbus) personal helicopter or the latest Martin jet pack model.  The new Aperture Laboratories (a Textron company) teleportation pad will eliminate the need for all the costly helicopter parking stalls and jet pack traffic jams in the morning.

Even with the sophisticated air travel that has taken the world by storm, it is still slow.  Commuting by helicopter from Everett takes a whopping five minutes.  Students have simply had enough of long commutes.

AHS junior Ford Prefect is faced with an arduous commute from Olympia every day.

“It takes me seven whole minutes to get to school,” said Prefect.  “That’s seven minutes I could have been watching 4-D TV or playing Temple Segway on my iPad 20.”

Tolled airways have also been a bother to commuting students.

“I’m just glad I don’t live on the East Side,” said Prefect.  “The tolling on the 520 air-bridge is ridiculous.  When I play Brockian Ultra-Cricket in Bellevue, I have to go two whole minutes out of my way to take the I-90 airway.”

When Aviation completes its 1.21 gigawatt teleporter next summer (or so the Administration promises), it will make it so that anyone with a teleporter can just pop right into school, eliminating the dangerous and arduous commute.

Teleportation opens up infinite possibilities for the school.  Not only could students from Seattle simply walk out of bed and into the schoolyard, but students from all over the world could.  

Chell Rattman, a teenager who lives in New Liverpool, England, would love to attend Aviation.

“To attend Aviation now, I would have to take a one hour rocket ride to Seattle every morning,” said Rattman. “The new teleporter could make Aviation High an opportunity for anyone in the world.”

Of course, this would make the admissions process even more competitive.  Last year, from the 2,500 applicants, only 110 were accepted.  With the ability for anyone in the world to attend the school, the number of applications could skyrocket.

What this technology means for the future of air travel and the original mission of Aviation High School is unclear.  While AHS will be the first school in the world to get a teleportation device, other schools and businesses will follow.

The collapse of the rocket airlines and personal helicopter industry seems inevitable, as people start to just pop around instead.  It will be no use to have an aviation-centric school when the airplanes die out, just like how the cars died out decades ago.

FAA Administrator Bandy Rabbit insists that air travel will always hold a niche.

“Teleporters are expensive,” Rabbit said.  “At first, not everyone will be able to afford a fancy new quantum-device.  The poor will still need to use their primitive personal helicopters and jet packs.”

Rabbit refused to comment about the future of the rocket airlines.  Many economists are nervous that they will face the same fate as the jet airlines that vanished after the invention of the rocket liner in 2069.

The new technology is not without problems, however.  The cost of the new device limits it to the very rich—or those who know how to “connect” with industry.  AHS, in partnership with Aperture Laboratories and Textron, is getting the new device for free.  There is no word on what the two companies are getting in return, except for the fact that their logos will soon be plastered all over the school and on students’ uniforms.

Gladys Johnson, a spokesperson for Aperture, advocates the safety of their device.

“We’ve been thinking with portals for almost a century,” Johnson said.  “Of course, there’s a 1 in 1000 shot you’ll end up with someone else’s arm, or that all your bowels will turn to coal, but hey, that’s almost as safe as driving.  As my father used to say, ‘why not marry safe science if you love it so much?’”

Corporate Marriage (on the) Rocks?

Despite the $138 million loss in revenue for the fourth quarter, the newly merged United Airlines is on the way to increased profits.

This loss is up from a $325 million loss in the fourth quarter of last year.

Although it is still a significant loss of money, it illustrates an upward trend in the company’s growth since 2002, when it declared bankruptcy.

This loss of money is due to the costs of the 2010 merger between United and Continental Airlines.  United Continental Holdings, the new company formed by the 2010 merger, is faced with the difficult task of making the two airlines come together seamlessly.

This includes of repainting every aircraft in the fleet to a standardized paint job.  In addition, they must relocate their ticket counters, and standardize their computer systems, websites, and crew procedures.

Progress is slow but steady.  Last year, the company gained a single operating certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, making them officially one airline.  Much of the fleet has been repainted, and the According to the Wall Street Journal, the company is working to combine the crew unions.

In fact, the company is actually adding both airplanes and routes.  There are 25 of Boeing’s new 787-8 and 787-9 aircraft on order.  The company is not only expecting to supplement their fleet with these aircraft, but they are also adding routes, including a direct DC to Honolulu flight and another from Houston to Jackson Hole.

 

These changes will really affect passengers.  Some routes will be combined, such as Chicago to Philadelphia, which will lead to reduced capacity.

Another aspect of the merger that will greatly affect passengers is frequent flyer miles.  As the dominant partner in the merger, United Airlines will integrate Continental’s mileage program into its own United Mileage Plus program.  Customers using Continental’s Mileage plus program will be able to transfer their miles completely.  The only downside is that now the miles are subject to expiration, which is United’s mileage plus policy.

They have not only been adding planes and routes, but also augmenting their existing aircraft.  According to Air and Business Travel News, United has retrofitted all of the former Continental airlines 757-200 aircraft with Economy Plus seating.

This upturn is in stark contrast to other airlines, such as American, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection.  American aims to cut over 13,000 jobs—a staggering 15% of its work force.  According to Newsday, it also plans on seeking approval to its pension plans.

Comparatively, United Airlines, even with the logistical and merger costs, is still doing better than other airlines.  In fact, it reported a higher profit than Delta Airlines this year.

Northwest Airlines was recently acquired by Delta Airlines in 2009.  Since the merge, Delta has actually been exceeding analysts’ expectations and earned almost $380 million, according to Bloomberg news.  Fuel costs have increased about five percent, but airlines are still managing to turn a profit.

If the United/Continental merge goes as well as this, United should start to improve profit margins and reduce budget deficits.

Though the airlines have been doing well, ticket prices have not decreased.  This is due in part to a bill that was passed in Congress in late January of this year.  This bill requires that airlines publish all taxes and fees in the prices of their tickets.  According to the Los Angeles Times, this initial “sticker shock” of ticket prices should wear off and United can continue its upward climb in the airline industry.

Slimming Seattle’s Airspace

The old Seattle airspace (black) overlaid on the new Seattle airspace (red).

In the most recent update of the National Airspace System, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has substantially reduced the size of the heavily-regulated Class Bravo Airspace that radiated 30 nautical miles surrounding Sea-Tac Airport.

Class Bravo airspace is the most restrictive type of controlled airspace. Only the busiest airports in the United States are given Class Bravo airspace.  Its main duty is to separate heavy commercial traffic from small planes.

Before the December 15th update of the National Airspace System, Seattle’s Class Bravo extended mostly in a 30 nautical mile radius around Sea-Tac airport.  This wasted much space because most arriving and departing airliners were coming in or leaving straight north or south.  That is to say, there was much more space being allocated than there was being used.

The latest update greatly reduces this unnecessary space, making it much easier for small planes to get around without the bother of getting clearance through the airspace.

“I think the new airspace will greatly help student pilots,” said Jacob Hoag, a student pilot and Junior at Aviation High School. “The practice area is larger, giving student pilots more room without having to worry about transport jets.”

Student pilots are generally inexperienced pilots who are training for their Private Pilot’s License, the most basic certification offered by the FAA.

Keeping things basic will prevent dangerous airspace incursions.  An airspace incursion is when a pilot unknowingly enters controlled airspace without a clearance.  These simple mistakes can be both costly and dangerous.

Such an incursion can make the pilot get a fine or even lose their certificate.

“To the East and West,” said Michael Marinkovich, student pilot and AHS Junior, “the airspace is much slimmer and makes it easy to climb out to the practice area earlier before hitting the Bravo.”

The new airspace, however, is not without problems.

To enter Class Bravo airspace, a pilot has to contact the perpetually busy Seattle Approach/Departure frequency, request a clearance, change their transponder code, and wait for their clearance to be accepted.

Despite the airspace being reduced greatly, in one area it was actually extended.

“When I was flying my solo cross countries,” Marinkovich said, “I’d get to Kenmore and climb to 5000 [feet], but now, the airspace was extended, so you have to wait to climb until you’re out around Paine Field.”

Launching Curiosity

Curiosity's large wheels will help with a soft landing

The newest Mars rover, dubbed “Curiosity,” was launched on November 25th atop a massive Atlas V rocket.

The Mars Science Laboratory mission aims to land this vehicle on the surface of Mars—over 62 million miles away.  The trip is expected to take about 686 Earth days, almost two years.

After landing, the expected lifespan of the rover is another two years.  The heat created from the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 is used to keep it running in the harsh Martian climate.

Getting Curiosity to land safely on Mars is one of the biggest challenges in the program, as it is the largest rover NASA has worked with.  In order to get it to land without breaking, NASA has developed a special system of retro-rockets.

The complicated landing system involves a platform with four hydrazine rockets with the rover hanging underneath.  This will function as more of a “sky crane” than a parachute.

Radar altimeters will indicate to the crane when it is about 65 feet above the ground, and the rover will slowly descend on a system of ropes until it hits the surface.  There, the sky crane will fly away to a safe crash landing site, reports CNET news.

Previous designs have used parachutes and large airbags, which allow the rover to bounce to a safe landing.  However, with this new rocket system, the rover can be dropped more accurately and safely—assuming nothing goes wrong.

Though this system is more complicated, it is simply a necessity for this mission.

“That precision,” reports NASA’s website, “about a five-fold improvement on earlier Mars landings, makes feasible sites that would otherwise be excluded for encompassing nearby unsuitable terrain.”

The only flaw with the Mars Science Laboratory mission is the fact that it will not be able to return soil samples to Earth for analysis.

“At this time,” said AHS mathematics teacher and space enthusiast Dr. Richard Edgerton, “we don’t have any samples from Mars, and we can only make some guesses based on the science we can bundle into a rover.”

A recent Russian mission was launched only about a month before Curiosity. Named Phobos Grunt (translation: Phobos Dirt), the lander was scheduled to go to one of Mars’ moons, Phobos, and return a sample.  However, the launch vehicle suffered a failure and trapped the lander in low earth orbit.

However useful bringing a sample back to Earth would be, the amount that could be learned would be vastly increased if an actual human were to visit Mars.

“It’s a robot,” Edgerton said. “It’s only going to execute its programming.  A true investigation requires people, that’s why we sent a geologist to the moon.”

The future of Mars exploration is likely headed towards human research.  This would provide more opportunities for scientific advances.

“The reason you send a geologist to a place is that person has a perspective on what they’ll find,” Edgerton said. “To really investigate well requires people.  If we truly want to investigate much more deeply, we’ll have to send people to Mars.”

According to NASA’s website the rover can “roll over obstacles up to 65 centimeters (25 inches) high and to travel up to about 200 meters (660 feet) per day on Martian terrain.”

Anyone can track this progress on NASA’s website, where they continually provide updates about the probe’s position.

The launch of this craft shows that the United States is still very much involved with space.  NASA will continue to need engineers and astronauts; jobs that Aviation High School students could one day occupy.

On board the rover there are four mass spectrometers, three cameras, two radiation sensors, and an environmental monitoring system.  These instruments are deployed on the surface of Mars after the rover lands safely, but are packed tightly inside for travel.

This rover is the largest object NASA has sent to Mars, weighing in at almost 2000 pounds and measuring over ten feet long—the same as a small car.  The six wheels are very large and have very high clearance, allowing the rover to overcome obstacles that previous models could not.

Open post
An Alaska Airlines 737 at Boeing Field

Taking it to the MAX

An Alaska Airlines 737 at Boeing Field
An Alaska Airlines 737 at Boeing Field; Boeing has selected Renton as the location for the new 737 MAX factory, Photo by Jacob Hoag

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is scheduled to vote December 7th that will create a four year contract for Boeing workers.  The new contract will include an “annual pay raise of 2 percent and cost-of-living adjustments, an incentive program tied to bonuses of between 2 and 4 percent,” reports AIN Online.  

When Boeing announced the new 737 MAX this August, the search for the perfect location to manufacture their new airliner was narrowed down to three cities, including Renton.

The Boeing 737 was first introduced in 1967, and has dominated the commercial airplane market.  There have been eight versions since the original 737-100.

The short-range small-capacity Boeing jets have sold remarkably well since the beginning of the Jet Age.  The 737 is the best selling jet airliner in aviation history, closely followed by the Airbus A320 family. The next generation, dubbed the 737 MAX, promises to further surpass Airbus in the short-range market.

To the untrained eye, the 737 and the A320 might seem indistinguishable.  However, there are many design differences.  The new LEAP 1B engines promise to help Boeing catch up to the Airbus A320neo that outsold the 737 at this year’s Paris Airshow.

Initially, there was a big controversy surrounding this new aircraft–specifically the location where it would be manufactured.  Currently, 737s are built in Renton, and then flown out to Paine Field in Everett for final mechanical modifications.  In their August press conference, Boeing announced that they were thinking about moving the MAX factory from the Seattle area to a new location.

After Boeing unexpectedly moved the 787 line to South Carolina in 2009, the mere suggestion of another manufacturing plant location change is being taken very seriously in Northwest Washington.  Boeing is one of the largest economic powerhouses in the Seattle area.  After losing the second 787 line, losing the 737 MAX production would have severely harmed Washington State’s economy.

“Each dollar is really three or four dollars, because it gets spent three or four times,” said Aviation High School economics teacher, Dr. Michael Katims.  “Now that [the Boeing employees] just got paid they feel like they can take in a movie; they stop at Starbucks for some coffee, and then that person at Starbucks stops in somewhere and spends money, so the money just keeps moving.”

This movement of money is what doubles and triples its value.  If Boeing took away this source of money, then the flow would stop, starving other businesses that rely on Boeing employees as customers.

“It has a huge ripple effect,” said Katims.  “If you move a few thousand jobs out of state, then you’re going to move a few doctors out of state; you’re going to move a few service employees out of state; you’re going to need fewer gas stations and fewer grocery stores and dry cleaners.”

Currently, Boeing employs about 79,000 people in the state of Washington.  If these jobs moved to another state, employees would be forced to either relocate to another state or lose their jobs, forcing Washington’s unemployment rates to skyrocket.

In order to prevent such a disaster, Governor Christine Gregoire assembled a special team of city council members and attorneys to help keep Boeing a Washington company.

Taylor Washburn, a prominent attorney at Foster Pepper law firm, was selected to be the chairman of the group, dubbed “Project Pegasus.”

Washburn said that if Washington did not get the factory, the economic effects would have been “very significant if it displaced Renton–up to 20,000 jobs.”

Initially, people were worried that Renton would not have the space to accomodate the new line, but Washburn said that they “understand Renton can accommodate a larger number of 737s.”  Had there not been enough space, other options in Washington would have had to be considered.

Grant County has been campaigning to bring the factory to Moses Lake.  If it was not possible to build it in Renton, that would be another option to keep Boeing in Washington.  Washburn said that it would be possible to build it there, or at alternate sites in Washington State, “but this would be a major capital investment.”

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