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    United Arab Emirates Airlines to Add 80,000 Workers Over Next Decade
    July 10, 2010
    By Martha

    UAE Airlines to Recruit 80,000 Staff in a Decade

    Ivan Gale, The National, July 10. 2010

    Abu Dhabi Airport

    The country’s two largest airlines are gearing up for one of the biggest recruitment drives in aviation history, with plans to hire 80,000 pilots, cabin crew and other staff over the next decade.

    The immense growth in hiring at Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways comes at a tough time for the industry in many other parts of the world.

    In Europe, carriers have resorted to cost-cutting, which includes shedding jobs. They also face constraints in the form of environmental taxes and opposition to the building of new runways that would ensure continued growth.

    The UAE carriers’ extra staff will be needed to operate hundreds of new aircraft that are on order. The number of aircraft being bought is expected to increase this month when representatives of the region’s big carriers gather at the Farnborough International Airshow to announce their latest orders.

    Dubai officials have already hinted at yet another order for Emirates, on the heels of an US$11.5 billion (Dh42.23bn) purchase of new Airbus A380s announced last month at the Berlin Air Show.

    In Abu Dhabi, Etihad is already one of the largest employers, with about 8,000 staff. By 2020, when all of its planes have been delivered, it should have 27,000 employees.

    Emirates Group has even greater staffing needs. The company, which includes the airline and a global network of ground handling, travel and ticketing agencies, will double in size by 2020 to a fleet of about 300 aircraft, from 149 today.

    It took us 25 years to get to 40,000 employees, but in the next 10 years we will double that to 80,000,” said Rick Helliwell, the vice president of recruitment at Emirates. Factoring in current employees who retire or move on, Emirates will require more than 60,000 new employees over the decade, including 2,500 pilots and 20,000 cabin crew, Mr Helliwell said.

    Recruitment agencies say the big Middle East airlines such as Emirates and Etihad are always favourites among qualified aviation professionals. However, their staffing would become more challenging throughout the decade……. (continued)

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    * AUGUST 5, 2010

    From the NYPD to JetBlue

    Some airlines try to hire flight attendants who are young and attractive. JetBlue Airways has a type, too: cops and fire fighters.

    It's "Law & Order: Cabin Crew." Or "CSI: jetBlue."

    Since its launch 10 years ago, the New York-based airline has hired several hundred New York police officers and fire fighters, most of them retirees, for its flight attendant ranks. By some counts, 10% of its total cabin crew workforce of 2,400 has emergency response experience, though the airline doesn't have an exact number.

    The very first class of jetBlue flight attendants included a retired fire fighter, Leonard Spivey, who became the role model for the airline and is still flying today at age 70. Mr. Spivey brought gravitas to the job—crucial for an airline with no experience—and provided a pipeline to bring in others. To jetBlue, his focus on safety was appealing; his take-charge manner and calm under fire were crucial and his corny jokes and upbeat nature were infectious.

    JetBlue decided from the beginning that hires didn't have to have airline experience and it wanted to hire locally. When Mr. Spivey showed up, it dawned on recruiters that people who had been through emergencies routinely wouldn't panic onboard airplanes. Fire fighters and police officers come from careers where they dealt with the public and provided customer service, jetBlue officials say. They're used to working holidays. They knew how to handle people in stressful situations and could take command of an aircraft cabin.

    "Past experiences are predictive of future behavior,'' Chief Executive David Barger says. "People who don't get too high and don't get too low, you want that in areas where decisions have to be made."

    Vicky Stennes, jetBlue's vice president of inflight experience, notes that the airline cabin changed considerably after the 2001 terrorist attacks, putting more pressure on flight attendants. Before hijackers commandeered jets and flew them into buildings, flight attendants could always call the captain to march back to authoritatively end problems. Now flight attendants are on their own because pilots can't leave the cockpit.

    "NYPD and FDNY are almost brands themselves and it fits well for us," Ms. Stennes says. "It proved to be such an early success we make a targeted effort to get crew members with emergency response background."

    For NY police and fire department veterans, who typically can retire after 20 years of service and receive yearly pensions of half their annual salary, a second career as a flight attendant offers all kinds of benefits, including free or deeply discounted flights. The NYPD and FDNY veterans at jetBlue say the schedule of a flight attendant fits well with what they are used to: a few days on with long hours, then several days off. The pay is less than what they earned working for the city, but the flexibility is better in some cases.

    "I came here for the schedule,'' says Laura Romer, 53, a former NYPD detective and hostage negotiation team member who got married, went back to school and found working part-time at jetBlue fit her lifestyle well. "I like that I get off the plane and the job is finished. The beeper doesn't go off at 1 or 2 a.m. with someone saying, 'We got your guy,''' she says.

    Police and fire veterans say that like most flight attendants, they try to size up passengers as they board, keeping an eye out for people who need extra help or people who might turn into a problem. The best skill they bring to the airplane cabin, they say, may be the ability to put an end to conflicts before they turn into air rage incidents.

    As a police officer, "you learn to de-escalate the situation,'' says Ms. Romer. "It's not what you say to people. It's how you say it to them.''

    Once, when two passengers got into an argument because the man in one row reclined his seat and the passenger behind responded by hitting him in the head with a plastic soda bottle, Ms. Romer interceded as a detective might.

    "I let him know I witnessed it,'' she says. Then, taking control of the argument, she calmly asked questions to learn more. It turned out that the man with the bottle was ill and agitated. He apologized. The man who had reclined said he understood.

    Charles Harris was trained at FDNY in part by Mr. Spivey and spent 25 years in the department when he decided to retire after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He had been at the World Trade Center as it was destroyed; like so many, he lost friends and colleagues, and attended countless funerals.

    Now as a jetBlue flight attendant, Mr. Harris, 56, says he thinks of himself more as a "security chaperone'' than a flight attendant. He says he teaches younger flight attendants a firefighter's tactic—how to vary the tone and volume of their voice to get and keep someone's attention.

    "Taking someone down a ladder, they can freeze. You have to vary your voice. If you keep yelling at people the same way, they freeze,'' he says.

    On flights, Mr. Spivey makes a point of delivering pre-flight instructions while standing at the front of the cabin making eye contact with passengers. He does it from memory rather than reading a card so that people are more likely to pay attention. He always ends with a folksy story, a parable about not sweating the small stuff, that gets people thinking about what's most important in their lives.

    If they clap, and most do, then passengers are rewarded with a corny joke from his extensive repertoire.

    The story serves a purpose: When flights run into delays, Mr. Spivey reminds passengers of the lesson of his story and to not get bothered by inconveniences.

    After 30 years as a firefighter in Manhattan, Mr. Spivey is most concerned about safety. On a New York to San Diego flight recently, a mother had belted her infant into an empty seat. He asked how old the child was in a friendly, grandfatherly tone and then delivered stern safety instructions about how to position the 21-month-old girl on a parent's lap, belted in for takeoff.

    "It sounds like a great idea,'' the child's father, Brian Summers of Chappaqua, N.Y., said, after learning of Mr. Spivey's background.

    Mr. Spivey, who is No. 1 on jetBlue's seniority list for flight attendants, lives in Florida and works out of New York, spending nights with his grown children in the New York area when he needs to. He says he misses the camaraderie of the fire department.

    He applied to jetBlue because he likes to travel and realized he needed a job after too many unsuccessful visits to horse-racing tracks in retirement.

    The everyday duties of a flight attendant—serving coffee and soft drinks, picking up trash in the cabin—weren't a difficult adjustment because fire fighters have to clean the firehouse, make coffee, do dishes, clean tools on trucks, and make beds all the time, he says.

    "This is not as stressful as running into a burning building where smoke is down to the floor and you are trying to find people," Mr. Spivey says.

    Write to Scott McCartney at [email protected]


    ORD watcher World Airline Report 2010_0.pdf
    Top 50 Airports 2009 vs. 2008


    Rank - Airport - 2009 Passengers

    1 - Atlanta, GA - 88,032,086
    2 - London, UK - 66,037,578
    3 - Beijing, China - 65,372,012
    4 - Chicago, IL - 64,158,343
    5 - Tokyo, Japan - 61,903,656
    6 - Paris, France - 57,906,866
    7 - Los Angeles, CA - 56,520,843
    8 - Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX - 56,030,457
    9 - Frankfurt, Germany - 50,932,840
    10 - Denver, CO - 50,167,485


    Rank - Arport - 2009 Movements

    1 - Atlanta, GA - 970,235
    2 - Chicago, IL - 827,899
    3 - Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX - 638,782
    4 - Los Angeles, CA - 634,383
    5 - Denver, CO - 607,019
    6 - Houston, TX - 538,168
    7 - Paris, France - 525,314
    8 - Las Vegas, NV - 511,064
    9 - Charlotte, NC - 509,448
    10 - Beijing, China - 488,505
    Complete list see here: World Airline Report 2010_0.pdf
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    FAA Computers Are Vulnerable to Cyberattack
    By Lolita C. Baldor August 19, 2010 9:36AM

    Federal Aviation Administration computer systems remain vulnerable to cyber attacks despite improvements at a number of key radar facilities in the past year, according to a new U.S. government review.

    The Department of Transportation's inspector general said while the FAA has taken steps to install more sophisticated systems to detect cyber intrusions in some air traffic control facilities, most sites have not been upgraded. And there is no timetable yet to complete the project, the IG said.

    FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency is working on a timetable and will notify the IG with that information soon. The FAA also said that upgrades to critical air traffic control systems have taken precedence over the intrusion detection improvements at a number of facilities.

    Without the detection abilities, the FAA cannot effectively monitor air traffic control for possible cyber attacks or take action to stop them, the inspector general said in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

    The findings echo broad U.S. government worries about gaps in critical U.S. computer systems and networks that leave them vulnerable to cyber attacks by criminals, terrorists or nation states.

    U.S. networks are persistently probed and attacked by hackers and criminals looking to steal money or information, get access to classified documents or military technologies, or disrupt networks that control vital utilities and services.

    Last year, a government audit found that air traffic control systems were vulnerable to cyber attacks, and that some support systems had been breached, allowing hackers access to personnel records and network servers.

    The computer systems used to control air traffic are often in the same building as ones used for administrative functions, but they are not connected.

    Cyber experts repeatedly warn, however, that in some cases software glitches and other gaps can be exploited by hackers to move between computer systems at critical infrastructure facilities.

    In the report last year, the IG warned that although most of the attacks disrupted only support systems, they could spread to the operational systems that control communications, surveillance and flight information used to separate aircraft.

    Since then, the FAA has taken a number of steps to shore up the vulnerabilities in its computer networks.

    In a letter to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, two senior members of Congress said they are concerned about the vulnerabilities. Rep. John Mica, who is the ranking Republican on the House Transportation panel, and Rep. Thomas Petri, also a Republican, urged Babbitt in a letter last week to take any necessary steps to immediately address the security issue.

    Mica and Petri requested the initial inspector general's investigation into the matter last year.


    What's Up with Today's Airline Wi-Fi?
    August 31, 2010 9:41AM

    A few months back, none of Alaska Airlines' 116 aircraft was wired for wireless Internet access. Now half are. By the end of the year, the airline plans to have its entire fleet wired. After a tentative start, it's no exaggeration to say that Internet access at 30,000 feet is growing daily.

    Like most U.S. airlines, Alaska is being wired by Aircell, which entered the market two years ago by wiring a handful of American Airlines planes; today it offers wireless Internet service on nearly 1,000 planes on eight airlines.

    But will it stick? Michael Planey, an airline-industry consultant who tracks in-flight passenger technologies, said at least another year will pass before consumers have ruled whether the airlines' -- and Aircell's -- gamble pays off. Cost is an issue, he said: Aircell charges $4.95 to $12.95 for access during a single flight, depending on length.

    Here is a breakdown of wired domestic carriers.

    AirTran was among the earliest to wire its planes, making all 138 in its fleet Wi-Fi capable last year.

    American has Wi-Fi capability on 167 planes. Customers can learn whether theirs will be among them 24 hours before departure at An American spokeswoman said the company will continue outfitting its 737 aircraft through 2010 and 2011.

    None of Continental's 337 planes is wired. A spokeswoman said that adding Wi-Fi is among the issues being examined as it merges with United Airlines.
    Delta has installed Wi-Fi on almost all of its 500-plus fleet. The airline also updates its capabilities at

    Frontier is planning to install Wi-Fi on 32 of its planes.

    JetBlue offers free access to e-mail, instant messaging and on one airplane, nicknamed BetaBlue. The company is deciding whether to expand that offering or install Wi-Fi on its 153 planes but has no timetable, a spokeswoman said.

    One Southwest plane is Wi-Fi equipped, but the company plans to start installation by the end of the summer on all of its 541 planes at a rate of about 15 per month. Southwest is one of the few airlines not to use Aircell; it uses competitor Row 44. Southwest charges a flat $5 access fee per ride but hasn't said whether that price will change.

    United offers Wi-Fi only on flights between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles and San Francisco, a total of 13 planes in its massive fleet. It plans to expand the service but has no firm details, a spokeswoman said.

    On June 1 US Airways finished wiring all 51 planes it uses for domestic long-haul service.
    All Virgin America planes are wired.

    The Major Wi-Fi Providers
    The two primary domestic providers of airplane Wi-Fi access are Aircell, which holds the majority of the market, and Row 44. Aircell relays its signal by a network of ground towers across the lower 48 states and, soon, Alaska. The company says that never leaves a plane without coverage (Hawaii will be an exception). Row 44 uses satellites.


    Airlines Go on Guard Against Cyberfraud
    By Charisse Jones October 6, 2010 9:34AM

    The Internet, a convenience to travelers looking to quickly book a trip, is also a gateway to fraud, costing the airline industry tens of millions of dollars a year.

    Now, some carriers are stepping up their efforts to fight back. They're boosting the staff that tracks crimes and tapping into new technology that can help detect it. But as large airlines tackle the problem, there is growing concern that fraudsters are moving onto smaller carriers whose defenses are not yet in place.

    "The fact is that any airline that hasn't upgraded their fraud-protection system in the last couple years is a sitting duck," says Jeff Liesendahl, CEO of Accertify, which provides fraud-prevention technology and services to airlines and other e-commerce companies.
    Throughout the airline industry, online fraud is on the rise. A Deloitte UK survey taken in 2009 found that 48 percent of more than 50 responding U.S. and global carriers said online fraud had increased in the past year, and each airline's losses averaged more than $2.4 million annually.

    Other fraud experts say the amount is far greater. An industry poll released last year by CyberSource, an electronic payment security-management company, and aviation conference firm Airline Information estimated total losses at $1.4 billion in 2008.

    "The general feedback from everybody ... is that they see it getting worse," says Graham Pickett, partner in charge of aviation services for Deloitte UK, which conducted its survey for the International Association of Airline Internal Auditors. "The main driver has been ... the Internet, and in particular credit card type bookings."

    American Airlines and Virgin America have noticed an uptick. "We have seen an increase over the past year that is significant," says Virgin America spokeswoman Abby Lunardini. Virgin officials "assume it's a combination of the overall rise in online purchasing and the growing sophistication of those who engage in credit card fraud."

    In July, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Beth Phillips, announced indictments of 38 people allegedly involved in a nationwide ring that used stolen credit and debit card information to buy airline tickets. The tickets were resold and led to estimated losses of more than $20 million for several U.S. airlines, banks, card holders and other businesses.

    Airlines have ramped up prevention efforts in the last two years, hiring experts from the financial services industry, expanding anti-fraud teams and incorporating new computer systems that are more skillful at pinpointing suspicious transactions.

    It's primarily larger carriers that have taken steps against fraud, Liesendahl says. As a result, smaller airlines, or those that have been online for a shorter time, are drawing the attention of criminals.

    "The fraudster is going to go to the places where there's the least amount of fraud protection," Liesendahl says.

    Secret Fraud-Prevention Efforts
    Airlines are reluctant to reveal details of their fraud-prevention efforts.
    "Common sense on this issue limits a discussion of what we do to track, prevent and seek prosecution of such occurrences," says Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines. "We're just not interested in providing a 'how to' lesson on the subject."

    Still, Smith says, "I can tell you, in a very broad sense, that we have seen some increase in fraud and attempted fraud the last couple years." The airline's corporate security team deals with credit card fraud, he says, and often works with financial services companies and law enforcement when making inquiries.

    In the travel sector, companies such as Orbitz were hit first and hardest by fraudsters, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue a month.

    After those companies took action to plug their holes, criminals took aim at airlines.
    "The Web is where businesses go to accelerate growth but also (it's where they) have the most risk," says David Britton, vice president of airline fraud solutions at 41st Parameter, which provides fraud-detection solutions to various industries. "Unfortunately, (airlines) have had to learn along the way."

    Credit card abuse, with someone entering a stolen card number on a Web site, is the primary type of online fraud, experts say. But criminals are also increasingly tapping into fliers' airline loyalty accounts and then using the passengers' miles or points for travel.
    Although first-class and business-section seats typically booked by business passengers have been popular -- both for fraudsters wanting to take a trip and those looking to sell a ticket -- criminals are now booking seats throughout the plane, and further in advance, to make their scams harder to detect, some fraud experts say.

    A Full-Time Anti-Fraud Department
    AirTran set up a fraud-prevention department in 2003 that began with one staffer. It has since grown to six people that work full time keeping a lookout for such crimes. And in the last several months, the carrier has been upgrading its anti-fraud program with advanced technology that is "much more automated, less dependent on manual work," says spokesman Christopher White. As a result, he says, the airline's losses to fraud amount to less than 1 percent of revenue. The airline took in $2.3 billion in revenue in 2009.

    "We continue to learn," White says. "It's a 24/7 game of cat and mouse. It's just like malware, spyware: You plug one hole (and) a thief is going to try to find another way."
    Southwest began using a technology platform from Accertify in August 2008 that takes into account all that is known about a passenger, from where they usually travel, to the phone number being used, to flag suspect purchases. Those can then be referred to an agent who gives it a closer look, and may even call the customer to make sure the transaction is valid.

    Southwest's fraud dropped 73 percent in the first year, Liesendahl says.
    With airlines generating billions in revenue a year, the loss of a few million dollars to fraud may not seem particularly alarming. But "it's a crime," says AirTran's White. And "this is probably the most competitive industry in America. Every dollar counts, and every passenger counts. So we're going to do all we can to protect both."
    Verizon To Expand Its 4G Wi-Fi To Over 60 Airports
    By Roger Yu October 19, 2010 9:39AM

    More than 60 U.S. airports will get faster wireless data networks installed by Verizon Wireless by the end of the year, the carrier says.

    The company has been working on deploying its latest network, dubbed 4G Long Term Evolution, to 38 metropolitan areas. For airports, Verizon Wireless will install additional equipment to enhance wireless coverage indoors, spokesman Jeffrey Nelson says. "Airport buildings are built differently, with lots of underground space. Many require in-building systems."

    Most of the airports overlap with Verizon Wireless' selected cities. But some, such as Honolulu International and Salt Lake City International, will get their own coverage.
    The new network will transmit data faster than Verizon Wireless' current 3G network, Nelson says. "Anything you can do on a wired (connection) today can be wirelessly operated with (4G)."

    Verizon Wireless is focusing on enhancing airport coverage to attract business travelers, a high-paying base of customers who are also more demanding in their technology expectations. It has yet to release pricing for the faster network, but wireless carriers have been increasingly moving to "tiered pricing," in which heavy data users pay more if they exceed a capped usage amount.

    Given the likelihood of more expensive pricing, many travelers will continue to opt for Wi-Fi service at airports, especially if they're free or if they already pay for a fixed monthly Wi-Fi subscription plan, says Christian Gunning of Wi-Fi provider Boingo Wireless. Boingo charges subscribers $7.95 a month for Wi-Fi connections at 685 airports worldwide, and also offers daily and hourly passes.


    Tech Gadgets for Frequent Travelers
    By Dana Wollman November 28, 2010 10:23AM

    If you have people on your gift list who travel a lot, you may want to think about giving them something to keep them comfortable and entertained while on the go, even if they're not as nomadic as George Clooney's road warrior character in the movie "Up in the Air."
    We can't do anything about delays, cramped seating, jetlag, traffic jams and noisy passengers, but these gadgets could make it easier to tune them out:

    Livescribe Echo Smartpen (4GB: $170; 8GB: $200)

    Pros: Livescribe makes pens that record audio and match it up with what you're writing. So people taking notes during a presentation can get away with jotting down keywords and then going back and listening to the conversation , cued up to different words on the page. Users can download free software to their PC or Mac that pulls in their notes, along with the audio, whenever they plug the pen into their computer 's USB port. Livescribe claims the pen lasts five to six hours when it's recording audio, and it charges using the USB cable.

    Cons: The pen works only with paper that's pre-printed with a special pattern. It comes in notebooks of different sizes ($8-$25), but each has the same icons lining the bottom of every page. Tap on the controls to stop, start and pause audio recordings, as well as do things such as adjust the volume of the pen's speaking voice.

    Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse ($50)

    Pros: This mouse lies flat when you're not using it, but, with one satisfying click, can be bent into a curved shape, making it look more like a standard mouse. Light and low maintenance, it turns off automatically whenever you press the mouse into a flat shape. It promises up to six months of battery life before travelers have to recharge it. It's designed to be usable on any surface, so there's no need to pack a mouse pad. A small dongle plugs into a Windows PC or Mac to create the wireless connection.

    Cons: The scroll wheel is simulated by a touch-sensitive strip that lacks the feel of a real wheel.

    Apple iPad (Wi-Fi only: $499-$699; 3G: $629-$829)

    Pros: Although ads for the iPad often depict someone relaxing with the tablet, legs propped up, it is an ideal companion for people on the go as well. True, you can surf the Web and watch movies on a phone or laptop , but the iPad's 9.7-inch display makes for easier viewing. It looks better than most laptop screens. Because the iPad turns on instantly and lasts up to 10 hours unplugged, using it is less of a hassle than booting up your PC and hoping that you can finish the movie before the battery runs out. The fact that the Transportation Security Administration doesn't require travelers to remove iPads from bags during airport security checks is the icing on the cake.

    Cons: With a starting price of $499, the iPad is one pricey toy. And that's not counting the cost of applications and a protective case. (We like Apple's $39 offering because it doesn't add bulk and also has a stand, making hands-free movie-watching easier.) At 1.8 pounds, it won't weigh down a carry-on, but it's more cumbersome to whip out than a phone.

    Klipsch Image S4 headphones ($80)

    Pros: For some people, the iPod's standard-issue white ear buds get uncomfortable when worn in long stretches. Travelers will find comfort in the S4's small, tapered ear buds, which come with soft tips in different sizes. I found them more comfortable than iPod buds. They're sturdier, and they block out some ambient noise. When I wore them on my subway commute, I could still hear announcements over the loudspeaker, but not other people's conversations or the rattle of the tracks. As a bonus, the buds come with a metal carrying case and a tool to clean off earwax.

    Cons: The cable tangles easily and is awfully thin, although the ear buds are covered by a generous two-year warranty should they break. Over-the-ear headphones with active noise cancellation, such as Audio-Technica's ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint headphones ($80), are better at muffling the roar of jet engines.

    iGo Laptop Travel Charger ($100)

    Pros: Every laptop comes with a power brick, but this one, made by iGo, is easier to take on the road and works with a variety of Windows-based laptops, thanks to a bevy of "tips," or adapters, that fit into differing power jacks. Someone who travels with two or more laptops could find it a god-send. Weighing 13.5 ounces and measuring 0.7 inches thick, the charger is lighter and thinner than most AC adapters for full-size laptops. It comes standard with a cigarette-lighter adapter.

    Cons: Not compatible with Macs. Works with international wall current, but you still need a separate adapter to plug it into the wall in most countries.
    Digital Camera Prices Down Even with Cool New Tricks
    By Jefferson Graham November 28, 2010 10:17AM

    If you're looking for great deals on digital cameras, check out the latest Black Friday pricing stunts.

    Kmart will have a Kodak C143 with 3X zoom and a free 4-gigabyte memory card for $69.99. A year ago, the camera was $125 to $150, with $25 or so more for the card. Target has an ultra zoom Canon for $129 that once sold for $300.

    "Canon wouldn't have ever considered selling it so low back then," says Chris Chute, an analyst at IDC. "But they can do it now, because the competition is so intense."
    At a time when more photos are now taken by smartphone cameras, manufacturers are under pressure to keep selling cameras at any cost.

    More cameras will sell this year than last -- 35.9 million in the U.S., up from 35.3 million in 2009, says technology research firm IDC, as consumers respond to post-recession deals and new features.
    Besides lower prices, some cool add-ons are new this year for point-and-shoot cameras:

    *Shoot in 3-D. Sony's $299 WX5 has 3D Sweep: Press the shutter button and capture 10 images at once while moving the camera from left to right. The camera then takes the 10 frames, with separate left-eye and right-eye images, and melds them into one big panoramic image. Watch them on a Sony 3-D TV (only Sony, not competitors' models) and your 2-D camera images become 3-D.

    *Self-timers that pop only if you're smiling. Nikon's Coolpix S80 has the Smile Timer, which, when activated, will take the picture only once you say, "Cheese." The camera also promises to be "blink proof." It takes two shots in a row, when activated, and saves the one that has eyes wide open.

    *GPS. Casio's $349 EX-H20G has built-in hybrid GPS that "remembers where you've been ... even when you don't," according to the company. How it works: It tracks your position when shooting, using map data stored in internal memory.

    *Super zooms in a compact body. In years past, cameras that took you really, really close to the action had huge zooms that made for a bulky camera that wouldn't fit in your pocket or purse. No more. Canon's $349 PowerShot SD4500 IS has a 10X zoom (the average point-and-shoot has a 3X zoom) in the same subcompact body that adorns most PowerShot cameras.

    *1080p full HD video . When video was first added to point-and-shoots, clips were silent. Then they were in standard definition, followed by 720p high-definition. Now, many point-and-shoots take video in full 1080p high-definition, including the Canon PowerShot SD4500, Sony's $349 TX9 and Nikon's $299 Coolpix S8100.

    Camera manufacturers can afford to add the new features and lower prices for point-and-shoots because they make up for it with digital SLRs, which usually go for about $1,000 and provide the bulk of the profits, says Chute.

    Beyond point-and-shoots, a new category of camera has emerged: the mirrorless SLR, a smaller SLR with interchangeable lenses as seen with Sony's NEX line, Panasonic 's G and Olympus' Pen cameras. There's a tradeoff with these cameras: either no optical viewfinder or a video viewfinder that doesn't offer the same clarity as cameras with optical viewfinders. But they're easier to tote and offer superior image quality to point-and-shoots.
    Chute predicts 2011 will be "the year of mirrorless." Nikon and Canon are expected to join the fray and bring this type of camera to the masses.

    "Consumers will start to understand the value of the lighter, smaller design. And it will start to really penetrate the price points of SLRs."

    For consumers, that's good news indeed.
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    In-Flight Cell Phone Use: The Fable Exposed
    December 5, 2010 8:24AM
    If you've noticed more people leaving their cell phones on during flights -- and apparently not in the so-called airplane mode -- so have I.
    While slightly disconcerting, it also might be fine. Several non-U.S. airlines allow in-flight cell phone use for voice calls, including Emirates and Malaysia airlines and, within the next year, Cathay Pacific Airways and, on a trial basis, Virgin Atlantic.
    Could such allowances be made in the United States? Certainly, said Michael Planey, a consultant on in-flight passenger technologies. But bans would need to be lifted by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration.
    The FCC ban has nothing to do with air safety; it is to prevent cell phone towers from being overwhelmed by thousands of quickly moving phones searching for signals on the ground. In late 2004, the agency considered overturning the ban but relented in the face of public opposition. The FAA ban is in place to prevent possible interference with airplane functions.
    It's easy to find experts to take opposite sides on whether cell phones present a risk to aviation controls. Planey argued that cell phones present little risk, and the overseas experience seems to bear that out. The primary hurdle, he said, is convincing the public that voice calls wouldn't drive them crazy.
    "Everyone assumes they'll be stuck next to a teenager yapping away on their phone for a six-hour flight," Planey said.
    The key, Planey said, is making people pay handsomely for the service -- as much as $2 to $4 a minute (though Virgin Atlantic said callers on its flights will be charged by their mobile operator on their normal monthly bill, so the matter of charging clearly remains a work in progress).
    In theory, no one could benefit more than the business traveler; just imagine getting work done while charging an employer for the cost. But the National Business Travel Association has supported House legislation that would ban voice communications on airplanes.
    "Business travelers welcome the opportunity to work quietly in-flight while utilizing technologies such as e-mail , texting and instant-messaging ," the association's director of public policy, Shane Downey, said by e-mail. "However, phone conversations can be disruptive in such an environment when so many require the few hours of peace between meetings."
    Rick Seaney, co-founder of, said surveys show that about 85 percent of people oppose in-flight cell calling, which means a battle looms.
    "Airlines will push for it at some point," Seaney said. "The question is whether enough people want it for the airlines to invest in the infrastructure costs."
    He agreed that calling from the skies should be an expensive prospect but said there is no certainty that people would be willing to pay. And that makes sense. After all, how often did you see people calling the ground on those phones built into airplane seatbacks for so many years?
    Russian GPS Satellite Launch Fails
    December 6, 2010 1:40PM
    Russian news reports say a rocket and its payload of three communications satellites has fallen into the Pacific Ocean after failing to reach orbit, the latest setback to that country's attempts to develop a system to rival the U.S. Global Positioning System.
    The state news agency RIA Novosti cited an unidentified aerospace industry source as saying the rocket and satellites went into the sea Sunday about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) northwest of Honolulu, Hawaii.
    Similar reports on other agencies also were based on an unidentified source, and it was not clear if all were the same person.
    The Russian space agency Roscosmos declined to comment to The Associated Press.
    Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael de Nyse in Hawaii said Sunday his agency knew about the fallen satellites but was not responding to the scene. He did not know whether the U.S. military or any other agencies were devoting resources.
    Messages left with the U.S. Pacific Command were not returned, and the Pentagon referred questions to Russian authorities.
    The Proton rocket blasted off Sunday from the Russian launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. It was carrying three satellites for Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS.
    The system -- which seeks to be the equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS -- was developed during the Soviet era and serves both military and civilian purposes.
    The government had hoped to make GLONASS fully operational by the beginning of 2008, but it was delayed by equipment flaws and other technical problems.
    Faster, Bigger Memory Cards for Photos Planned
    By Jennifer LeClaire November 30, 2010 1:50PM

    Taking and sharing digital photos has reached the mainstream, and it's causing old-school companies to think about the next decade. The goal is faster and bigger storage cards.

    That's just what SanDisk, Nikon and Sony are setting out to offer. The companies have collaborated to develop a set of specifications with the future demands of photographers and videographers in mind.

    Digital photography and HD video have changed the industry -- but to get to the next phase, professional photography and high-definition video applications need a new generation of memory cards that can process much larger files much more quickly.

    Friendly Competition
    SanDisk, Nikon and Sony have proposed their specs to the CompactFlash Association (CFA). The companies hope to standardize the format and lead the charge in the next wave of professional imaging products.

    The competition so far seems to be friendly as the international organization that sets the standards is made up of leading manufacturers with a common cause. Once CFA -- led by a Canon executive -- approves the new spec, hardware manufacturers can drive innovation in the photography and video markets.

    "This ultra-high-speed media format will enable further evolution of hardware and imaging applications and widen the memory-card options available to CompactFlash users such as professional photographers," said Canon's Shigeto Kanda, chairman of the board at CFA. "This next-generation format is expected to be widely adapted to various products, including those other than high-end DSLRs."

    Need for Speed
    Here's the technical side of the story: The proposed specifications would create products with data -transfer rates of up to 500 megabytes per second. Those faster speeds would make possible imaging and video applications that cannot be accomplished with the current specs. CF6.0, released this month, only offers maximum performance of up to 167 megabytes per second.

    With the faster speeds, photographers and videographers can take continuous shots and store massive raw images. Users can also more quickly transfer storage-intensive high-resolution photos and videos from a card to a computer. The specifications combine high-speed data transfer with low power consumption via a power-scaling system to extend battery life.

    "The capacity of memory cards today only tells part of the story. It's not only important how large my card is, but also how fast my card responds. It's the same way that a hard drive in a computer spins faster to launch applications faster," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner.

    "That's becoming an issue with memory cards when you are talking about devices that can do mega-megapixel images and high-definition video. New storage devices have to be fast enough to keep up with that; otherwise consumers get very impatient waiting for files to move or copy or forward. This looks like the right group to kick things to the next level."

    The Future of Photography
    In addition to industry-leading performance capabilities, the group's new memory-card specifications also meet the future capacity and durability requirements of professional imaging applications.

    For example, the proposed new format has the potential to extend maximum storage capacities beyond two terabytes. That would make cards designed to the spec especially useful for high-resolution images and HD video applications.
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    Associated Press
    Russia's Soyuz soon to be only lifeline to space
    By PETER LEONARD , 12.13.10, 07:10 AM EST

    BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan -- As a Soyuz spacecraft slowly rolls to its launchpad on the icy cold steppes of Kazakhstan, even the most seasoned space fan cannot help but be spellbound by the sight.

    With NASA finally retiring the shuttle program next year, the venerable Russian workhorse is now set to become the world's only lifeline to the International Space Station. That predicament is provoking mixed feelings of concern over excess reliance on Russia's space program and enduring admiration for the hardiness of the Soviet-designed Soyuz.

    The vehicle is a rugged 'one trick pony,' no frills or luxuries, and can take any licking and keep on ticking," said James Oberg, a veteran of NASA Space Shuttle Mission Control in Houston.

    The next Soyuz mission begins Thursday, when NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and European Space Agency's Paolo Nespoli of Italy lift off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in southern Kazakhstan.

    In a procedure polished over more than four decades of Soyuz launches, the carrier rocket was horizontally rolled out of its hangar on a flatbed train at 7 a.m. local time Monday and carefully carried to the blastoff site in the winter darkness.

    In contrast to NASA's distinctive winged shuttle, which is reusable albeit exorbitantly expensive to operate, the Soyuz can only be used once. It is a relatively streamlined craft consisting of a tiny capsule sitting atop powerful booster rockets.

    The name, which comes from the Russian word for "union," was both a tribute to its Soviet design and a reference to the Soyuz's ability to dock with other modules. That detail was an absolute must even to begin thinking about long-term space missions or possible travel beyond the Earth's orbit.

    Whereas the shuttle's viability has been hamstrung by countless delays, the last time a Soyuz launch was postponed was as far back as 1971.

    Yet for all its trustworthiness, the first Soyuz launch in April 1967 ended in tragedy when Col. Vladimir Komarov, the sole cosmonaut onboard, died on re-entry.

    Soviet authorities had grown alarmed at U.S. strides in the space race and had pushed for hasty deployment of the Soyuz before the United States could get its Apollo rocket off the ground.

    That Soyuz disaster led to an immediate postponement of manned flights and injected a new spirit of caution into the Soviet space program. A minute attention to detail, most evident in Russian space officials' obsession with running operations on a timetable counted in seconds, has earned the Soyuz a well-deserved reputation for safety.

    "My biggest dream in life has always been to fly in orbit someday, but I can tell you that I would feel a hell of a lot more at ease in a Soyuz than in a shuttle," space historian Bert Vis said.

    Despite such oft-heard endorsements, a clutch of incidents in recent years has aroused concern. Most notably, problems with the Soyuz capsule's service module during a landing in April 2008 caused a perilously steep re-entry trajectory, which placed crushing gravitational pressure on its three-person crew.

    Ahead of watching the Soyuz being winched into place at the launchpad Monday, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who traveled onboard that capsule, said the luxuries afforded by the shuttle would indeed be missed.

    "The Soyuz is kind of a gentler launch, but I'd much rather land in a shuttle, because it's much more civilized," Whitson said.

    Critics also complain that by leaving themselves so heavily reliant on the Soyuz, the United States could fall victim to costly price gouging at the hands of Russian space authorities.

    "Moscow already uses it for leverage and has raised the price to NASA repeatedly over the years, to $50 million now," said Brian Harvey, an expert on the history of the Russian space program. "But a shuttle launch costs $550 million a go, so it's still good value."

    And while the Russian space program is set to enjoy almost a complete monopoly on ferrying people to space for the next few years, things might change. The successful test launch last week of a privately developed rocket from Cape Canaveral is a clear example of how the market could breed viable space competitors.

    "If new, commercially developed space transportation systems in the West leapfrog the tried-and-true Russian booster stable in the next decade, Russia will be left with no significant capability of interest to foreign customers," Oberg said.

    The politics and economics of space travel is usually far from astronauts' minds, however, and while in Baikonur, most relish the pleasure of witnessing the ingenuity that goes into assembling the rockets.

    "It was Michelangelo that said the sculpture was always inside the rock, I just have to take away the unnecessary pieces. The Soyuz is one of those sculptures," said Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who plans to fly to the International Space Station onboard a Soyuz spacecraft in 2012.


    Construction Begins on 1,000-MPH Rocket Car
    By Chuck Squatriglia February 7, 2011

    After three years of planning, a missile on wheels designed to top 1,000 mph is finally under construction.

    The team behind Bloodhound SSC hope to shatter the current land-speed record of 763.035 mph when it sends Royal Air Force pilot Andy Green streaking across a dry lake bed in South Africa within two years. The team is one of three hoping to exceed 800 mph.

    Of the vehicles, the Bloodhound SSC is perhaps the most radical — which is saying something. The car, if it can be called that, features a jet engine and a rocket that produce 47,000 pounds of thrust. To put that in perspective, each of the Concorde’s four engines produced roughly 38,000 pounds at takeoff.

    The British engineers designing the Bloodhound have signed off on the steel lattice chassis that will hold the wild ride’s drivetrain. Aerospace manufacturer Hampson Industries will build it.

    “It’s a fantastic feeling to be handing over the drawings to the people who will now build the car,” chief engineer Mark Chapman told BBC. “It’s a ‘progressive definition release,’ which means as soon as we finish a design, it goes out the door. The first metal parts should start coming back to our design house in Bristol by Easter.”
    Team leader Richard Noble announced this crazy idea more than two years ago. He and his crew unveiled a full-size mock-up of Bloodhound last summer at the Farnborough International Air Show near London.

    Noble, who set a land speed record of his own in 1983, and his team are no strangers to this madness. He and Green set the current land speed record of 763.035 mph in 1997.

    They continue a British tradition for speed that dates to the 1920s and ’30s, when Sir Malcolm Campbell set several records on land and sea. Britain has held the land speed record for 58 of the 112 years since Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat reached a blistering 39 mph outside Paris.

    Traveling faster than a bullet is no easy feat. To do it, Bloodhound will use a Eurojet 2200 engine and a Falcon hybrid rocket. The idea is to use the jet to reach 350 mph and the rocket to go the rest of the way to 1,000 mph. Noble figures it should take 42 seconds to reach that velocity.

    Bloodhound also will use an 800-horsepower V12 developed by Cosworth to start the jet, pump high-test peroxide into the rocket and power the hydraulic systems. (You can get the full technical rundown of the vehicle here.)

    Aerodynamics are paramount at those speeds. Noble and chief aerodynamicist Ron Ayres spent three years designing the 42-foot–long vehicle. It will weigh 14,158 pounds fully fueled and ride on aluminum alloy wheels almost 3 feet in diameter. Lockheed Martin helped design them.

    The team hopes to begin low-speed testing early next year before shipping Bloodhound to South Africa for flat-out runs in late 2012 or early 2013.

    More than bragging rights are at stake here. Noble and Lord Drayson, Britain’s minister of state for science and innovation, hope the project will inspire children to pursue careers in engineering, mathematics and science. More than 4,000 schools throughout Britain are following the project through the Bloodhound Education Programme.



    Russia Working on Mysterious Space Plane of Its Own
    By David Axe February 3, 2011

    It’s official: the space race is on again.
    54 years after the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik I satellite, sparking the original space race — and 20 years after the USSR’s collapse left America as the sole space superpower — the Russians are back on track. The Kremlin’s military space chief Oleg Ostapenko just announced that Russia is developing a small, maneuverable, reusable space plane to match the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.
    Russian industry has already outlined the craft’s design, Ostapenko said. “As to whether we will use it, only time will tell,” he added coyly.
    But it seems unlikely Russia would forgo the opportunity to match the U.S. Air Force’s accomplishment with the X-37B. That craft, a quarter-scale unmanned Space Shuttle first launched in April last year, represents one of the biggest leaps forward in space since, well, Sputnik.
    The X-37 can carry anything that will fit in its pickup-truck-bed-size bay. “You can put sensors in there, satellites in there,” said Eric Sterner, from The Marshall Institute. “You could stick munitions in there, provided they exist.” The X-37 can also help repair U.S. satellites or sneak up on and disable enemy sats. Plus, it can stay in orbit for nine months, land like an airplane, then return to orbit just a few weeks later.
    The initial X-37 test flight ended in December, flawlessly except for a blown tire. While “OTV 1″ is being prepped for its second flight late in 2011, its twin “OTV 2″ will boost into orbit on March 4, atop a rocket launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
    It should come as no surprise that Russia wants its own “X-37ski.” With Sputnik, Moscow beat America into space. But with every major space capability since in recent decades, Washington has led its eastern rival. The U.S. fielded the manned Space Shuttle in 1981. Russia built its own, similar space vehicle, the Buran, but it flew only once, in 1988.
    A decade later, America built the Global Positioning Satellite system, allowing precise navigation on Earth. Today, Russia is still struggling to construct its own version of GPS, the so-called “GLONASS.” The last attempt to reinforce the GLONASS constellation failed, when a rocket failed on launch in December, destroying three of the pricey satellites.
    Not coincidentally, an X-37ski could help Russia put satellites like the GLONASS craft into orbit more reliably.
    It’ll probably be a few years before the Russian X-37 clone takes flight. After all, this is super-cutting-edge technology. By then, the race for nimble military spacecraft could be a three-way competition. Just last week, there were rumors — highly, highly questionable ones — that China is working on an X-37-type vehicle, too.
    Why the Russian Space Plane Won’t Fly
    By David Axe February 9, 2011


    Call it space-bot envy. Two months after the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious and unmanned X-37B space plane wrapped up a history-making 225-day flight, the Russians announced they were working on a cheap, fast, reusable space plane of their own. “Something has been done along these lines, but as to whether we will use it, only time will tell,” Oleg Ostapenko, head of the Russian space force, said last week.

    Ostapenko’s veiled comment sparked a wildfire of press speculation — our own included. Only now are cooler heads joining the conversation. Their consensus: that there’s no technical reason Russia can’t match America’s robot space plane. But a lack of political will, supporting infrastructure and cash make a Russian “X-37ski” an unlikely prospect.

    The basic technology for a reusable space plane is half a century old, according to space expert Jim Oberg. “The Russians have experimented with lifting body spacecraft since the 1960s and have even flown orbital prototypes.”

    At the hardware level, “there are no obvious roadblocks,” Oberg said. But that’s not the only level.

    Oberg pointed out that the Dreamchaser, one of the many in-development U.S. space planes meant to eventually join the X-37 in low orbit, might in fact be indirectly based on the Russian MiG-105 from the 1970s. (Pictured.)

    Moreover, as recently as the late 1980s, the Russians were working on a space plane called MAKS that could be launched from the back of a six-engine Antonov airlifter. Some observers believe Ostapenko was referring to a revived MAKS in his oblique commentary last week.

    Even if it got built and reached orbit, the new Russian space plane could find itself flying blind, Oberg warned. “Their [the Russians'] worldwide tracking net has dramatically shrunk and their space-based relay satellites broke down in the 1990s and haven’t been replaced, so real-time in-flight monitoring/control can be a problem.”

    Plus, space planes are probably too expensive for the rickety Russian economy, Oberg added. “The most recent time that their government was conned into copying a winged spaceship ‘because the Americans have one,’ they bankrupted their space budget on a pointless dead end — the magnificent, maleficent ‘Buran.’” That’s the Soviet’s answer to our Space Shuttle. It flew exactly once.

    Never mind the control and cost issues. According to Stanford-affiliated analyst Pavel Podvig, the major reason Moscow probably won’t go ahead with a new space plane is conceptual.

    Space planes like the X-37B are highly versatile and their operational concepts necessarily a bit vague at this point. “You can put sensors in there, satellites in there,” Eric Sterner, from The Marshall Institute, said of the X-37. “You could stick munitions in there, provided they exist.” The Air Force is likely to discover more and more uses for the X-37 as it steadily increases the bot’s flying rate, from just one sortie last year to at least two in 2011.

    For the Russian military, which doesn’t enjoy a $50-billion “black” budget like America does, that kind of ambiguity represents a political liability. “My understanding is that the [Russian] space industry has better luck getting support and financing for projects that have a more or less clearly defined goals,” Podvig said.

    All the same, until Ostapenko or another official gives us more information on Russia’s orbital intentions, even Oberg and Podvig can only guess. One thing is clear: space planes will probably play a big role in future conflicts. The only question is: whose space planes?


    ORD watcher
    Another Privately Owned MiG-29 Flies

    January 27, 2011
    —Another front-line Eastern Bloc fighter - a 1989 MiG-29 Fulcrum - flew for the first time in the United States on January 23 at Snohomish County Airport in Everett, Washington. It’s the second privately held MiG-29 flying in the U.S., closely following Don Kirlin’s aircraft that flew last month in Quincy, Illinois.

    This latest Soviet fighter, N29UB, belongs to the Historic Flight Foundation, based at Paine Field in Mukilteo, which specializes in vintage airplanes built from 1927-57. Among its collection are a Waco UPF-7, P-51B Mustang, Spitfire Mk. IXE, T-33, Grumman Bearcat, and B-25D Mitchell. However, when HFF founder John Sessions learned about the MiG becoming available in 2005, he decided to acquire it and verify that a complex high-performance aircraft could be restored by following the same rules and guidelines as a vintage airplane.

    The result is one of the most pristine examples of the MiG-29 anywhere in the world.

    It wasn’t easy to get the Mach 2.2/60,000 feet aircraft to the States. The company hired to transport it to the U.S. split it into two shipments to deter hijackers - one, containing the wing and engine, shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and the other, with the fuselage, heading across the Pacific. Things got complicated, however, when the fuselage was being off-loaded to another ship in Hong Kong; the shipper had neglected to obtain a local import license and it was seized as military contraband on April 4, 2006.

    Over the next two years Sessions traveled to Hong Kong a number of times in an effort to extricate the MiG from the bureaucratic red tape. A judge finally ruled in 2008 that the aircraft had been properly demilitarized before arriving in Hong Kong and should be returned to the Historic Flight Foundation. In 2008, the fuselage finally joined the rest of the aircraft at Arlington Municipal Airport in the hangar of Morgan Aircraft Restorations, the company that performed the restoration.

    Morgan fully disassembled the aircraft to inspect all the parts for damage. Some parts that didn’t make it to the U.S. had to be fabricated from scratch, or duplicated by making a mirror copy from the other side of the aircraft. Components showing unusual wear or any sort of corrosion or damage were replaced, including both Klimov RD-33 afterburning turbofan engines specially manufactured by the Klimov factory in Russia. Morgan also utilized experienced MiG-29 mechanics with decades of front line MiG-29 service, flown in from Slovakia.

    While the aircraft was being restored, two crashes of Russian Air Force MiG-29s occurred, later found to be caused by the vertical tails separating from the fuselage due to corrosion. HFF redesigned all of the attachment components entirely out of aluminum to prevent that from occurring. Also, since the airplane had been parked outside in the Ukraine through many long winters plus sat on a Hong Kong dock for two years, some of the sheet metal needed replacement. The entire plane also had to be stripped and repainted, but the markings were kept as close to original as possible - from the pattern of the camouflage to the black panther on the nose.

    The restoration was completed in December 2010 - except for the explosive charges for the ejection seats, which had been removed as part of its demilitarization in the Ukraine. Acquiring replacements and importing them into the U.S. was another challenge, but they were finally installed earlier this month and the aircraft was ready to fly again.

    Sessions and Doug Russell, former F-15 pilot with MiG-29 time in Europe, flew the January 23 ferry flight of the newly christened N29UB from Arlington to Snohomish County. Sessions characterized the flight as “solid.”

    “In a slow turn, when you start to ‘feel the hammers,’ they bring to mind the felt tips of a Steinway,” Sessions described. “No jackhammers. Add a little power and the hammers go away.”

    The only movement in the seat was caused by cessation of the afterburner, he said. “Made me lurch forward. It was a happy experience.” The flight experienced no unexpected drips or streaks, “which is tribute to Morgan Aircraft Restorations,” Sessions added.

    The MiG-29 is scheduled to undergo a 5-hour flight test program soon, flying to altitudes of 60,000 feet at speeds of Mach 0.97, along with high-g aerobatic maneuvers.




    Space Shuttle Discovery Lands, Ends Flying Career
    By Marcia Dunn March 9, 2011 9:44AM

    Discovery ended its career as the world's most flown spaceship Wednesday, returning from orbit for the last time and taking off in a new direction as a museum piece.
    NASA's oldest shuttle swooped through a mostly clear noontime sky to a touchdown at its home base.

    "To the ship that has led the way time and time again, we say, 'Farewell Discovery,'" radioed the Mission Control commentator.

    Florida's spaceport was packed with shuttle program workers, journalists and even some schoolchildren eager to see history in the making.

    The six astronauts on board went through their landing checklists with the bittersweet realization no one would ever ride Discovery again. They said during their 13-day space station delivery mission that they expected that to hit them hard when the shuttle came to a stop on the runway.

    At three minutes before noon Eastern Time -- Discovery landed and ceased being a reusable rocketship.

    "For the final time: wheels stop," Discovery's commander Steven Lindsey called out as the shuttle rolled to a stop.

    Even after shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis make their final voyages in the coming months, Discovery will still hold the all-time record with 39 missions, 148 million miles, 5,830 orbits of Earth, and 365 days spent in space. All that was achieved in under 27 years.

    Discovery now leads the way to retirement as NASA winds down the 30-year shuttle program in favor of interplanetary travel.

    NASA estimates it will take several months of work -- removing the three main engines and draining all hazardous fuels -- before Discovery is ready to head to the Smithsonian Institution. It will make the 750-mile journey strapped to the top of a jumbo jet.

    Throughout the flight, Lindsey and his crew marveled at how well Discovery was performing. They noted that the spacecraft was going into retirement still "at the top of her game."

    "A dream machine," observed Lindsey's co-pilot, Eric Boe, on the eve of landing.

    Discovery's last mission ended up being flawless despite a four-month grounding for fuel tank repairs.

    Perhaps more than any other shuttle, Discovery consistently delivered.

    It made its debut in 1984 following shuttles Columbia and Challenger, dispatched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, flew the first shuttle rendezvous to Russia's Mir space station and carried the first female shuttle pilot in 1995, and gave another ride into space to John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, in 1998.

    It got NASA flying again, in 1988 and 2005, following the Challenger and Columbia disasters. And it flew 13 times to the International Space Station, more than any other craft. On its last trip, it delivered a new storage compartment packed with supplies and a humanoid robot.

    NASA's boss, Charles Bolden, a former shuttle commander, led the welcoming party. He'll announce the final homes for Endeavour and Atlantis on April 12 -- 30 years to the day that Columbia soared on the first shuttle flight.

    NASA planned to move Endeavour out to the launch pad Wednesday night for its April 19 liftoff, but delayed the move until Thursday because bad weather was expected. The mission will be commanded by the husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly. His identical twin brother Scott is currently the skipper of the space station; he returns to Earth next week on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

    Atlantis is slated to make its last trip at the end of June.

    NASA is under presidential direction to spread its wings beyond low-Earth orbit. The goal is to send astronauts to an asteroid and then Mars in the decades ahead. There is not enough money for NASA to achieve that and maintain the shuttle program at the same time. As a result, the shuttles will stop flying this summer after 30 years.

    American astronauts will keep hitching rides to the space station on Russian capsules, until private companies are able to provide taxi service to and from orbit. NASA expects to get another nine years out of the space station.
    Solar Flares Could Affect GPS, Satellites, Power
    By Adam Dickter February 17, 2011 2:32PM

    If your GPS system 's performance is a little spotty on Friday, don't call tech support. Blame the sun. Three waves of charged particles that erupted from its corona Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will hit the Earth in the next few days in what scientists are calling the biggest solar event since December 2006.

    It won't be as bad as a 2003 flare-up that is the biggest solar eruption ever recorded by instruments, but planes are being directed further south than usual to avoid the North Pole, where the impact will be most severe. Northern areas may also be treated to a light show Thursday and Friday nights.

    Sunny, with a Chance of Coronal Mass

    The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday on its daily space weather site that solar activity Thursday would be moderate, but over the next three days there could be "an increase to unsettled to active conditions, with a chance for minor storm periods expected late on day one into day two (18 February) because of the arrival of the coronal mass eruption." The forecast for day three, Feb. 19, is "quiet to active."

    The warning of G1 or G2, out of a range through G5, is mild, said Joseph B. Gurman, project scientist for NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory. However, it could impact some radio frequencies, he said.

    "Flares have excess high energy radiation -- EUV, soft and hard X-ray, even gamma rays -- that can affect ionization and heating in the Earth outermost atmosphere, the thermosphere," Gurman told us. "That, in turn, affects the heights at which shortwave radio frequency signals are reflected, and sometimes that means disrupting RF communications, particularly near the geomagnetic poles."

    Some disruptions were reported in China. Unlike the coronal mass that takes hours to travel the 95 million miles to Earth, electromagnetic radiation gets here in just eight minutes. It then takes the earth's atmosphere several hours to "relax" after the impact and return to normal.

    Since satellite technology takes these routine events -- they average 175 per 11-year solar cycle -- into account, the impact on communication should be minimal.

    "Typically you prepare to shift traffic to terrestrial resources and away from satellites," said Rob Enderle, principal technology analyst at the Enderle Group. "Generally it is the sun-facing satellites that are the most affected, but, in most cases, with a performance impact, the traffic can be shifted to better-shielded resources."

    Danger To Power Cables

    Gurman said the flares are the result of catastrophic changes in magnetic field in the sun's outer atmosphere.

    "If they're ejected fast enough, CME's can drive shocks through the solar wind, and those shocks, threaded with twisted magnetic fields, provide efficient charged-particle acceleration --- enough to get particles going at speeds of half the speed of light or more," the scientist said.

    In extreme cases, that energy can cause electric currents in our atmosphere and trapped energy that could interfere with or even damage satellites.

    "The ring currents can also induce electric currents in the Earth and the oceans, particularly at high geomagnetic latitudes, that can damage copper cabling and interfere with electric power transmission if the generating facilities do not have adequate warning to allow them slowly to adjust the ground phase of their large transformers," Gurman said.

    In 1989, solar flares are believed to have caused a nine-hour power disruption in Quebec.

    The Los Angeles Times reported that NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer satellite can give researchers and industries a 30-minute warning before coronal mass ejections strike.

    We may be in for a worse storm in 2013, when the sun's 11-year cycle of activity is due to crest.
    Could High-Speed Wireless Render GPS Useless?
    By Alan Levin March 11, 2011 9:27AM

    A new high-speed wireless network given initial approval for installation across the nation could cause severe disruptions to GPS signals, rendering everything from car-navigation systems to jet-flight controls useless, industry groups and government agencies charge.
    A trade group called The Coalition to Save Our GPS is announcing its formation today, and on Friday a representative for the Global Positioning System industry will testify on the issue before the House Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee.

    The Federal Communications Commission wants the LightSquared network to begin serving 100 million customers by the end of next year. Several government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Commerce Department, have raised concerns that the technology could cause conflicts with GPS systems.

    Industry groups predict the new towers will create vast zones where motorists can't find GPS directions, smartphones will lose functionality, and 911 emergency systems will be confounded.

    "It will overwhelm the signal from the GPS," says Jim Kirkland, general counsel of Trimble Navigation, a leading manufacturer of GPS systems. "If a commercial airliner is coming in on approach and it loses its GPS signal, then they abort the landing. Think what (interference from a wireless transmitter) would do to BWI or LaGuardia (airports)."

    LightSquared, a Virginia company, plans to install 40,000 cell locations across the country, in an area that would jeopardize GPS signals in as much as 1 million square miles, the industry contends.

    The system also could undercut the government's plan to modernize the air-traffic system to use GPS signals over the next decade.

    The conflict pits two of the most popular consumer technologies against each other: the growing wireless networks that power iPads and smartphones, vs. the network of GPS satellites that enable much of the same technology.

    The FCC on Jan. 26 granted LightSquared a waiver to build its network because it will increase competition for broadband services and create tens of thousands of new jobs, but the company will not be allowed to proceed if it interferes with GPS signals, spokesman Robert Kenny says.

    A committee including LightSquared and GPS industry officials will conduct tests and respond by June, the agency ordered.

    LightSquared says it has filters that prevent its signal from interfering with GPS devices, says Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president for regulatory affairs. The company has no interest in harming GPS because it is essential to the very smartphones on its networks, Carlisle says.

    GPS leaders, such as Garmin, contend that the FCC shouldn't have given LightSquared permission to move forward before tests were done.


    ORD watcher
    Radiation on planes from Japan to Sea-Tac not cause for concern, customs officials say

    Routine radiation monitoring of air travelers, their luggage and cargo arriving at Sea-Tac Airport from Japan has uncovered no harmful levels of radiation, Sea-Tac officials and Customs and Border Protection spokeswomen said Thursday.

    JOHN GILLIE; Staff wruter
    Published: 03/18/11 4:32 am | Updated: 03/18/11 6:45 am

    Routine radiation monitoring of air travelers, their luggage and cargo arriving at Sea-Tac Airport from Japan has uncovered no harmful levels of radiation, Sea-Tac officials and a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman said late Thursday afternoon.

    “No aircraft entering the United States has tested positive for radiation at harmful levels,” Customs and Border Protection said in a prepared statement in response to specific inquiries about radiation screening of incoming flights at Sea-Tac.

    At the airport, spokesman Perry Cooper said Sea-Tac officials have not been notified of any unusual radiation levels on passengers or cargo arriving from Japan, where several damaged nuclear reactors are emitting radioactive plumes.

    “Our fire department would have been notified if there was any unusual radiation level,” he said. “They’re the ones who would handle that.”

    Some news reports said that radiation had been detected in cargo arriving by plane in Chicago, Dallas and Seattle. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Stephanie Malin said the agency is trying to track down the origin of those reports. No harmful levels of radiation have been detected at those three airports or anywhere in the country, she said.

    All arriving international passengers, their baggage and cargo are routinely screened for radiation at all ports of entry.

    Cooper said it’s not uncommon to detect some slight level of radiation among some international travelers who may have received medical radiation treatments. Those passengers are questioned and screened further and are allowed to enter the country.

    Sea-Tac hosts three daily flights to and from Japan. One Delta and one United Airlines flight connect Sea-Tac with Tokyo’s Narita airport. One Delta flight connects Sea-Tac to Osaka.

    Delta announced Thursday it will discontinue flights from Detroit and Los Angeles to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport next week. A Delta spokesman said the airline has no plans to cut its flights to its Narita hub. From there, Delta flights fan out across Asia.


    World IPv6 Day Will Test New Internet Protocol
    By Barry Levine June 2, 2011 11:36AM

    Mark your calendars: Wednesday, June 8, is World IPv6 Day. On that date, the Internet Society will oversee the first global trial for the new Internet protocol.

    The society said it will be joined by a variety of web sites and Internet service providers, including Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Akamai and Limelight Networks. In all, more than 225 organizations will use IPv6 on their main services for a full 24 hours to test the technology and motivate other organizations to prepare for the handoff from the current IPv4, which is rapidly running out of addresses.

    'An Important Step'

    Leslie Daigle, chief Internet technology officer for the society, said the test flight is "an important step toward ensuring the global Internet can continue to grow and evolve so that it can connect billions of new users and devices."

    The goals of the test drive include exposing potential issues, but doing so under controlled conditions. The society estimates 99.95 percent of users will experience no problems connecting to the web on World IPv6 Day.

    Businesses and Internet providers are encouraged to review their plans for the transition. Steps include providers making IPv6 connectivity available to all users, web sites offering their wares over IPv6, software updates for older operating systems, and firmware updates by home gateway manufacturers. An open-source IPv6 test-drive site, created by Jason Fesler, is available at, with summary results about the visitor's readiness.

    On Feb. 3, the end for IPv4 was announced. In a public ceremony, the last blocks of addresses based on the current Internet Protocol were assigned to regional Internet registries (RIR). Those addresses are projected to be given out by the RIRs by September, at which point the future expansion of the Internet will depend on a successful transition to IPv6.

    Each block contains 16 million addresses, and one block went to each of the five regional organizations covering Africa, the Asia Pacific region, America, Europe and the Middle East, and the Latin American and Caribbean region. The handoff was conducted at a public ceremony in Miami by four international nonprofit groups that collaboratively administer the Internet addressing system.

    'A Matter of Time'

    Raъl Echeberrнa, chairman of the RIR umbrella organization, the Number Resource Organization, said in February that "it's only a matter of time before the RIRs and Internet service providers must start denying requests for IPv4 address space." He added that "deploying IPv6 is now a requirement, not an option."

    Three main factors are behind the now-in-sight depletion of IPv4 addresses. One is the explosion in web access from multiple devices for each user, primarily in developed countries. Each of those smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktops and other devices that access the web require a different IP, or Internet Protocol, address. And the demand for device addresses is increasing rapidly with TVs, game consoles, even automobiles beginning to offer web-browsing capabilities.

    A second factor is a rapidly growing user base in developing countries such as Brazil, India and China. Many users in those countries access the web through mobile devices, which means the device-per-user ratio is also likely to rapidly increase.
    And, third, the Internet is becoming the communications network for non-user-based equipment, such as smart electricity grids, sensors, RFIDs and smart houses.

    IPv4 dates back to 1980 and a time when its 4.5 billion addresses seemed like a lot. The new IPv6 utilizes 128-bit addresses, instead of IPv4's 32-bit, and the new IP could offer -- if needed -- a vast number of addresses that should keep humanity happy until the sun burns out.

    Some experts say IPv6 could provide four billion addresses for each person on Earth. But Dave Evans, Cisco's chief technologist in its Internet business solutions group, has said the actual number is closer to "50 thousand trillion trillion addresses per person."

    In addition to zillions of new addresses, IPv6 also brings improvements in routing, network autoconfiguration, better handling of 3G mobile networks, and other advantages.


    New Galaxy Tab To Be Promoted on Long Airline Flights
    By Mark Long June 14, 2011 11:29AM

    Samsung Mobile has struck a deal with American Airlines for premium passengers on selected transcontinental and transoceanic flights to use Samsung's newest Galaxy Tab as their in-flight entertainment hub. American plans to deploy 6,000 of the Samsung tablets on selected international flights and domestic U.S transcontinental flights beginning later this year.

    The deal will help American enhance the in-flight experience for premium passengers. For Samsung, the agreement will boost its quest to familiarize traveling business executives with the entertainment and enterprise -ready capabilities of the new Galaxy Tab, which sports a 10.1-inch touchscreen.

    Time is precious to an executive, so Samsung's deal is a natural fit for a captive audience like this, noted Gartner Vice President David Willis. "It's a good way to get their devices in the hands of both high-value customers and corporate influencers," he said.

    A Good Marketing Technique

    Samsung is trying to use the 'front-of-the-airplane' bias to its advantage, noted Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. "Executives who ride at the front of planes get a skewed perception of technology adoption," she explained. "First-class fliers see everyone with iPads and think everyone has one, but still less than five percent of U.S. consumers do."

    She thinks Samsung's deal is a good marketing technique that gets outside the bottleneck of Best Buy, where there's lots of competition for consumers' attention. "But ultimately the product will need to speak for itself, and no Android tablet measures up to the iPad so far," she added.

    Though American Airlines didn't say exactly when the Samsung tablet will be available to passengers, U.S. consumers will be able to purchase Samsung's new device beginning Friday. For Samsung Mobile, the new offering with a larger touchscreen is an opportunity to grow market share.

    According to IDC, Samsung held 17 percent of the media tablet market during the fourth quarter of 2010, when the company's seven-inch Galaxy Tab was the only brand-name alternative to Apple's iPad. However, it will be tough for Samsung to retain the same level of market share this year due to the launch of the iPad 2 as well as a large number of rival offerings.

    Enterprise Aims

    According to Gartner, some companies have already issued media tablets to business and IT leaders in the spirit of exploration, and some IT organizations have found new places where tablets can deliver information and media in new ways. "Businesses are finding that tablets are a favorite tool of some of their best people," Willis said.

    Moving forward, the opportunities for tablet deployments in the enterprise space are huge, Willis observed. "Sales leaders are clamoring to adopt media tablets with their sales teams as a more engaging way to share sales collateral and promotional materials," he explained. "And it won't stop there."

    Next to come will be customer relationship management systems, as well as order entry and sales-configuration applications, Willis predicted. "For sales managers, media tablets will be a natural platform for business analytics and performance dashboards," he said. "In other settings, the intimacy of using a media tablet supports more personal interactions."

    One big problem Samsung faces is the skepticism that businesses still have about Google 's Android platform and the Android Market, Willis noted. "Until somebody gains the trust of the enterprise, we'll see business customers staying with RIM or Apple," Willis said.


    ORD watcher
    Mon Jun 20, 12:41 pm ET
    Airbus’ superjumbo jet clips building at air show
    By Liz Goodwin

    The European airplane maker Airbus was left red in the face this weekend, when on on-ground accident forced it to withdraw an A380 superjumbo from the Paris Air Show.

    The enormous plane--with a wingspan of 80 yards--scraped a building at the show, clipping its wing. Korean Air flew one of its superjumbo jets to the show to come to Airbus' rescue, The Wall Street Journal reported. The damaged
    plane sat with its wing covered over the weekend.


    The mishap wasn't the only embarrassment for Airbus at the biennial air show. The company also had to pull a military transport carrier A400M from a flight demonstration after problems were found in its gear box, the Journal reports. Airbus officials then brought in another aircraft to do a flyover pass to impress visiting foreign dignitaries who attended the show.

    Meanwhile, rival Boeing's distinctive 747-8 superjumbo upstaged Airbus. The company said it had received $5.4 billion in orders for the new aircraft.

    Despite the PR setbacks, Airbus pulled in billions of dollars worth of orders for its narrow-body A320 jet--especially from Middle East and Asia-based companies, according to Reuters. The narrow planes save 15 percent in fuel costs.

    Earlier this year, a double-decker A380 operated by Air France clipped a smaller jet while it was taxiing, sending it into a spin.
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    Planes Collide On Taxiway At Logan Airport

    BOSTON (CBS) – An investigation was underway after two jets collided on a taxiway at Logan Airport around 7:30 on Thursday night.

    The wing of a Delta jet clipped the tail of an aircraft that provides regional air service for the carrier while both planes were on the taxiway awaiting their instructions for takeoff.

    A Massport spokesman says flight 266 to Raleigh-Durham was sitting in front of flight 266 Boston to Amsterdam when the collission occurred, the left wing of the 767 hitting the tail of the much smaller plane.

    One female passenger complaining of neck pain was transported to the hospital as a precaution. The rest of the passengers were bussed to the terminal while Delta helped them make arrangements for other flights.


    No other flights were disrupted as planes were moved to other taxiways. There were 204 passengers on the flight to Amsterdam, and 74 on the flight to Raleigh.

    The passengers that were headed to Raleigh were being put up in hotels for the night.

    The FAA and the NTSB will now investigate, interviewing the Delta crews, passengers, and listening to the audiotapes.

    Delta released the following statement about the incident:

    “While taxiing out for departure, the wing from Flight 266 from Boston to Amsterdam made contact with the vertical stabilizer of ASA Flight 4904, also on departure from Boston to Raleigh-Durham. Flight 266 returned to the gate and passengers deplaned without incident. Passengers on ASA Flight 4904 deplaned and were transported by bus to the terminal. Both aircraft have been removed from service for inspections and passengers are currently being reacommodated on other aircraft.”


    ORD watcher
    about Pan Am

    Passion, adventure and espionage... They do it all—and they do it at 30,000 feet. The style of the 1960s, the energy and excitement of the Jet Age and a drama full of sexy entanglements deliciously mesh in a thrilling and highly original new series, Pan Am, premiering SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, on the ABC Television Network.

    Welcome to the Jet Age. It's 1963. WWII and Korea are history. A new kind of war, a Cold War, is underway. The world is poised on the brink of a cultural revolution, and everywhere change is in the air.

    [more]In this modern world, air travel represents the height of luxury, and Pan Am is the biggest name in the business. The planes are sleek and glamorous, the pilots are rock stars, and the stewardesses are the most desirable women in the world. Not only are these flyboys and girls young and good looking, but to represent Pan Am they also have to be educated, cultured and refined. They're trained to handle everything from in-air emergencies to unwanted advances—all without rumpling their pristine uniforms or mussing their hair. These pre-feminist women form a powerful sisterhood, as they enjoy the rare opportunity to travel outside the country—something most women in this age can only aspire to—and one of the few career options that offers them empowerment and respect.

    At Pan Am there's Dean (Mike Vogel), a cocky, charismatic and ambitious new pilot—the first of a new breed not trained in war. A farm boy from a small rural town, Dean finds himself thrust into a leadership position at Pan Am far too young, but is eager to prove himself as the new face of the airline. On the sly, he's dating Bridget (guest star Annabelle Wallis), a motherly beauty with a mysterious past. Co-pilot Ted (Michael Mosley) comes from wealth and privilege, but his powerful family is a blessing and a curse, and he has his own dark secrets. A rebellious bohemian, Maggie (Christina Ricci) turns into a buttoned up professional for work in order to see the world, trying to balance her hunger for life with her undefined ambitions. Also on this crew is flirtatious Colette (Karine Vanasse), who is the empathetic caretaker of the group, though she herself has a penchant for unavailable men. And finally there are the sisters, the spirited Kate (Kelli Garner) and her beauty queen younger sister, Laura (Margot Robbie), a runaway bride who recently fled a life of domestic boredom to take to the skies.

    In their individual quests for adventure, the Pan Am crew face both opportunity and peril, as they juggle their lives, their loves, their hopes and dreams while flying around the world to glamorous international cities like Paris, Berlin, Jakarta and Monte Carlo. Welcome aboard, and fasten your seat belts... Adventure awaits!

    Pan Am stars Christina Ricci (Penelope) as Maggie, Margot Robbie (Neighbours) as Laura, Michael Mosley (Justified) as Ted, Karine Vanasse (Polytechnique) as Colette, Mike Vogel (The Help, Blue Valentine) as Dean and Kelli Garner (Going the Distance) as Kate.

    Series creator Jack Orman (ER, Men of a Certain Age,), Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing, Parenthood, Mr. Sunshine) and Nancy Hult Ganis (Akeelah and the Bee) are executive producers. Orman also wrote the pilot, with Schlamme directing. Pan Am is produced by Jack Orman Productions, Out of the Blue Entertainment and Shoe Money Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television.
    Follow @PanAmABC to get the latest news, pics and behind-the-scenes info!


    Christina Ricci as Maggie
    Michael Mosley as Ted
    Mike Vogel as Dean
    Margot Robbie as Laura
    Karine Vanasse as Colette
    Kelli Garner as Kate


    Google Launches Flight Search
    By Barry Levine September 15, 2011 10:36AM

    Add air travel to the growing number of markets that Google now plays in. The search giant has launched its new Flight Search feature on its popular search engine.
    When a user enters a query into the search engine that relates to flight information, such as "flights from New York to Los Angeles," a Flights link appears on the left side of the screen. That leads to Flight Search, which also can be reached directly at

    ITA Technology

    Google is touting several advantages to Flight Search over conventional travel-agency sites, such as very fast results. There is also a simple, easy-to-scan results list of potential flights, on which the user can then drill down for more details. Clicking on a flight shows return options, and there's a booking button next to results.

    Travel dates can be scanned quickly by clicking arrows to change depart and return dates, length of stay, and price. Columns for takeoff time, flight duration, arrival, airline, route, and round-trip price can be sorted by clicking on the column heading. Filters are automatically set to focus on price and duration, but they can be modified to expand the options.

    Engineering Director Kourosh Gharachorloo noted on the official Google Search blog that this search capability allows a user to readily "use the map and filters to see where you can go from San Francisco within three hours for less than $300."

    Online Travel Sites

    Google said the flight results are not related to any paid relationships the company has with any airlines, and that the search points directly to the airline websites only.

    Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp,, said that online travel agencies such as Orbis or Travelocity have reason to be worried, but not to be panicked.

    "It's now up to them to come up with new features that add value to their sites," she said.

    The technology behind Flight Search is built on travel tools Google acquired when it bought ITA Software for $700 million last year.

    Many of the travel agencies use the same data from ITA Software, which is one of the reasons the U.S. Justice Department looked into Google's acquisition of the company. The settlement, agreed upon in April of this year, requires Google to sequester ITA data from its other company databases, and to continue allowing the use of ITA technology on "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms" by the travel agencies, but only through 2016.

    But the settlement did not address whether Google's domination of the search-engine market meant that it had an unfair advantage over the travel agency sites, since users who otherwise would use Google to find a travel agency might now go directly from Google to an airline for flight purchases.
    Airlines To Stream Video and Audio for Personal Devices
    By Roger Yu and Jon Swartz September 15, 2011 9:43AM

    In-flight entertainment is going BYOM: bring your own monitor. Virgin America announced Tuesday a feature coming late next year to its Red in-flight entertainment system that will allow customers to download video and audio files via Wi-Fi to their smartphones, laptops or tablet computers.
    Row 44, an in-flight Internet provider, will offer a video streaming service later this year on some aircraft flown by its largest client, Southwest Airlines.

    American Airlines, which introduced video streaming in May on 15 Boeing 767s, said Tuesday that it will expand the service to about 400 planes by the end of 2012.

    Those forays by airlines into the more personalized format is an acknowledgment that passengers increasingly prefer using their own mobile devices for entertainment now that nearly all major domestic airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi. Airlines see such services as a way to generate more revenue.

    Virgin America will charge $5 to $7 for a movie and about $2 for a TV show. Those who are unable to finish the movie that they paid for can take it to go, airline spokeswoman Abby Lunardini says.

    The service will be introduced initially on 10 percent of Virgin's 160 daily flights and added to more in the next few years. Virgin America will continue to use its seat-back monitors, which are currently installed on all 40 planes.

    It also envisions enhancing the tool so that passengers can view entertainment offerings, pre-purchase and create their movie/song lists prior to boarding, Lunardini says.

    "If you're standing still in this place, you're going backward," adds Virgin America CEO David Cush.

    Southwest customers will be able to select from a lineup of movies and TV shows from Disney, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Among the video content to be available are live Major League Baseball games and broadcasts from CNBC, Fox News Channel and Versus, as well as episodes of Glee, Modern Family and The Three Stooges.

    "Passengers already bring their own Wi-Fi devices on board. The growth in that market has been staggering," says Howard Lefkowitz, Row 44's chief commercial officer.

    American said video streaming will be available on about 90 MD-80 aircraft by year's end, and it will introduce the service on Boeing 737s and 757s starting first-quarter 2012.

    Fliers will pay $3 to $5 for a movie and $1 to $3 for a TV episode and don't have to pay separately for Internet access.
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