Friday, August 30, 2013

Meteorological Instruments used in Airports

This post is dedicated to my dear friend and colleague, Mr. Faisal Mallick, Sr. System Engineer, ICAD. He is responsible for the Meteorological Instruments going to be installed in King Abdulaziz International Airport. Recently we had a talk about these instruments/equipment and the important role it plays in airport environment.  

Technically, Meteorological Instruments are the equipment used to sample the state of the atmosphere at a given time. The equipment vary in type and numbers according to airport size and operation. Meteorological Instrument do more than just observe weather. Without these instruments it will be impossible for 50,000 aircraft around the world to land safely. These are the vital back-stage hard-workers of airport.

In aviation world; wind speed, wind direction, pressure, temperature, humidity, noise level and air quality are all information without which the industry cannot function. It's like internet for Google or tweets for Twitter. 
The most common Meteorological Instruments used are:

1. Wind Measurement System

As the name indicates, this system calculates the wind speed and direction. I am sure you ahve seen this instrument, an image at-least, somewhere:

2. Weather Surveillance Radar
Weather Radar is used to locate precipitation, calculate its motion, and estimate its type (rain, snow, hail etc.)

3. Meteorological Garden
An area protected by fence where most of the weather instruments are installed to measure vital parameters.

4.Low Level Wind Shear Alert System

These instruments are kept near runway to detect micro-bursts or wind shear, very dangerous for aircraft.
These wind are heavy and can cause the aircraft to change its intended path leading to worst-case scenarios.

6. Upper Air Observation System

The Balloon. To know accurate data of the atmosphere activities in stratosphere, an Upper Air Observation system is used. It's basically a large helium balloon with an instrument called Radiosonde. They measure the usual parameters like wind, pressure, temperature and pressure. Since the pressure decreases as the height increases, these systems blow up at 40km or less from the ground. Yea, everyday meteorological team in airport blow up $150 worth equipment.


We as passengers/pilots/engineers/ATC Controllers or anyone in aviation industry owe a lot to these instruments for making our live safe and easy.

I am grateful to Faisal for making me realize the importance of these systems.

Live Safe Guys..

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Can't You Use Phones on Planes?

Below given video is so funny, that I actually had to show you:

But seriously, why can't we use our phones or any electronic devices in the plane?

Usually people/passengers think that it might affect the communication between the pilot and ATC Towers (Air Traffic Control Towers). But let me tell you it's not just that. Affecting the communication is the least an electronic device can do.

Cell phones or any other electronic devices can interfere with aircraft navigation sensors. You see all the aircraft has lot of sensors like Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, Gyro, Instrument Landing System(ILS) etc. They have a safety margin line for electronic signals. Most of the electronic device operate and produce electromagnetic signals less than the safety line. But there are times when the signals spike.

Take this for example, if a passenger is trying to make a call in air 10,000ft above ground, that cell phone has access to many cell towers below. The signal will bounce-off multiple towers instead of one. Now if in the same plane another person is trying to make a call; there are multiple signals now bouncing-off multiple  cell towers. What if ten people in the plane try to call at once? How much signals their cell phones produce? So with right timing and activities, there can be a major spike in the signal level and can seriously damage the aircraft equipment to work properly.

There were many incidents in the past, like wrong readings in instruments, which when investigated led to the use of cell phones. Since aircraft have two-set of reading (redundancy), no flight ended in crash.

Understand and realize the fact that when you travel, you travel with hundred others. You are either a team inside or doomed individual alone. You can only lead by example.

Also it is an aviation rule not to use cell phones inside a flight. Internation Civil Aviation Organisation(ICAO) and Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) comply this.

That being said, aircraft that are capable of Wi-Fi and telephone capabilities have extra shields specially designed to resist electromagnetic signals from common electronic devices. It is all about safety after all. As I have told before, Safety is the first priority in Civil Aviation Industry.

Pilots now use ipads for flight plans and to know meteorological data.

So be the greater he/she to switch-off your mobile while flying.

Live Long.

And your comments are appreciated.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Boeing Vs Airbus

I'm excited to write about this topic. Two World-Class Companies - Boeing of America and Airbus of European Union. 

The story of business rivalry between these two legendary aircraft manufacturing companies is like a party that never ends. Boeing and Airbus represents more than just mere companies, they make powerful political and social impacts.


Each companies have bought dynamic innovations in aviation industry.We have seen Airbus, although a younger than Boeing, was able to break the ice despite the customer loyalty enjoyed by Boeing. Airbus depicts the classic story of how dangerous big risk can be measured and dealt with proper tactical approach. For Airbus it was Win Big or loss. 

In 1960s Airbus was nothing but a small European company with no great future let alone be a competitor of Boeing. But, when A320 was entered service in 1988, it was a huge success. Only A320 had fly-by-wire control system in the civil Aviation Sector. Fly-by-wire made the flight safe and reduced pilot error a lot. This technology is installed in all commercial aircraft today. Boeing innovated its 737 from time-to-time and is still the market leader. Boeing 737 is the world's best selling narrow-body jet. Airbus A320 is the second best.

Airbus rose a respectable class of  Aircraft manufacturer and Boeing began to take Airbus seriously.

Airbus introduced a new model called Airbus A340 in 1991. This plane filled the need for an long-range wide bodied aircraft which falls into the category in between narrow-body and jumbo-jet class.  In 1995 Boeing 777 was introduced to compete. This was Boeing's first aircraft to have fly-by-wire system. Boeing 777 was much more efficient than A340. A340 programme is now terminated. Airbus now focus on A350 which is loaded with composite materials and fuel efficient engine. This aircraft will go head-on with Boeing 777. Who will be the winner in this class is yet a question unanswered. 

In 2005, by the introduction of Airbus A380, for first time in world history Airbus took on a very tough market. A market in which Boeing and only Boeing was leading for more than three decades with 747. You have to realize that designing a jumbo-jet aircraft itself is a Herculean task. Airbus took the initiative to fight Boeing with brilliant engineering, compelling manufacturing process and assembly line and amazing logistics. 

Boeing striked back with introduction of 787 Dreamliner. This plane as claimed by Boeing is one of the most efficient aircraft to be produced in the world. This narrow body plane is packed with composite materials with advanced wing design and production. This is a bold move from Boeing in designing a environment-friendly aircraft. Even though they faced some hurdles along the way, Boeing made a smart move with this plane. 

Boeing and Airbus will continue to innovate and create aircraft which will make flying safer and environmental friendly because that is what world desperately needs. This epic battle between these companies is worth watching. We live in a time when these make headlines in news papers. Let'c cherish that fact.


Your comments are much appreciated.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Douglas Bader - An Inspiring Pilot

I came to know about Douglas Bader when I was a kid, strolling around aviation books. He became an instant deep inspiration the moment I read his story. I photocopied that particular page and kept it in my school textbook all year. Although I lost the piece of paper, the inspiring story still glow deep inside my brain.

Douglas Bader was a fighter pilot, a Royal Air Force Fighter Ace. He is credited with shooting down 20 aircraft in a single air-to-air combat. There were also series of formation attacks with more than 10 victories. He was a War Hero who had incredulous knowledge in Aerial Combat Maneuvering a.k.a. Dogfight. But he was known as a legend for another reason.

In 1923, when Bader was in school, he happened to see an World War I Fighter Aircraft, Avro 504. The sight of biplane caused him to take an interest in aviation. At that time it was highly competitive to enter Air Force let alone fly a fighter plane. He got discouragement from everyone and was told not to pursue this because he was not good in his studies. But Douglas Bader was firm to become a pilot and decided to do whatever it takes.

Since he was good in Sports, he was able to get in the Royal Air Force Rugby team. He still needed the academic excellence in maths and science. His Warden helped him in his studies and through hard work he aced all his exams. In 1928, he did his first solo.

His aggressive nature helped him improve naturally in his dogfights and air shows. In 1931, when attempting a low-flying aerobatics, his plane fatally crashed. Bader was saved from the crash but lost his both legs forever.

All he ever wanted was to fly planes. Now handicapped, he was told to resign from the Air Force. He was constantly given pain killers for months to decrease the pain. Everyone around him had nothing but sympathy to this daredevil.

I believe that there is always a choice for every-man. I believe it's the choice that make a man who he is.

Douglas Bader chose to be a pilot no matter what. He rekindled his passion for flights. He got artificial legs. He learned to walk slowly, once he mastered it he started to run. His doctors said it was dangerous for him to do these, but whatsoever, he did. 

Through his sheer perseverance he learned to drive, run, play and even dance. His doctors were astounded with his achievements. Finally he was proven medically fit to fly again. He flew an Avro 504 amazingly. By 1937, he was back to active services and played an important role in the war. He led a life that deserves great respect and admiration.

Douglas Bader portray that with a definite goal, persistence and faith in self; impossible is nothing but word.

Live Passionate Guys.

Also your comments and suggestions are very much appreciated.
- Chan