NASA – Large Commercial Jets, Single Pilot Operation Research.

This subject has been overflying for a while. In the era of automation, the airlines are specially concerned about the lack of experienced pilots. Now, in an effort to solve the problem, NASA is looking into whether single pilots can fly large commercial jets so that the shortage of trained airline pilots can be resolved.

The study is conducted by NASA and Rockwell Collins Inc. – a major defence contractor specialising in avionics for jet aircraft – it will focus if co-pilots can assist pilots from the ground, the Wall Street Journal reported.

All large commercial jets are now flown by a two-man flightcrew.

The study will include simulations, determining where technology can teplace human intervetion and even realize real-time flight trials.

The team will analyse changes in technology and operations that could make the concept feasible by at least 2030.

The topic of reducing the size of cockpit crews for big cargo or passenger planes has been discussed for several years.

The NASA initiative is significant because it raises the concept’s profile, and signals that NASA officials are convinced the general notion is not too far-fetched to merit further research.

The researchers will study if co-pilots on the ground could be assigned to assist solo pilots on multiple flights, virtually co-piloting during the busiest times through crowded airspace, approach-and-landing manoeuvers, or if something goes wrong.

NASA awarded the $4 million, four-year contract to Rockwell earlier this year for the study.

Capt. Ivan

NASA – Alternative Jet Fuel Flight Tests Begin

The flight tests took place last Wednesday 7, over Palmdale, California, called Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions II (ACCESS II), include NASA’s DC-8 and HU-25C Guardian, DLR’s Falcon 20-E5, and NRC’s CT-133 research aircraft.

NASA and a group of international partners, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and National Research Council of Canada (NRC) – started with a series of flight tests to gather critical data that may aid in the development of cleaner aircraft fuels.

NASA’s DC-8 leads the flight formation as the “guinea pig” of this experiment. Its engines will burn various fuel blends, while the Falcon and CT-133 measure emissions and observe contrail formation from the DC-8.

Flying as high as 40,000 feet, the DC-8’s four CFM56 engines burn either traditional jet fuel JP-8 or a 50-50 blend of JP-8 and renewable alternative fuel of hydro processed esters and fatty acids produced from camelina plant oil.
“This is a great example of how NASA works with partners around the globe to solve the challenges common to the international aviation community such as understanding emission characteristics from the use of alternative fuels which presents a great potential for significant reductions in harmful emissions,” said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics research.

Measurements taken during ACCESS I in 2013, showed soot levels were 40 to 60 percent lower in the emissions from burning blended fuels than those of JP-8, according to Bruce Anderson, NASA’s principal investigator for the ACCESS program.

“We saw big changes in soot emissions from the DC-8, but we weren’t able to make clear ties between the type of fuel burned and formation of contrails,” said Anderson. “So for ACCESS II we really want to dig into that.”

NASA – Press Release.

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DLR’s Falcon 20-E5, with NRC’s CT-133 in the background. Image Credit: NASA / Peter Merlin

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NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft, once in flight, provides the emissions and contrails for the other aircraft to “sniff” and store data. Image Credit: NASA / Peter Merlin

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NRC’s CT-133 research aircraft exits the hangar for a morning of final prep and fueling for flights later in the day. Image Credit: NASA / Peter Merlin

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Flight crew boards the HU-25C Guardian in preparation for ACCESS II tests. Image Credit: NASA / Peter Merlin

Photos:  NASA

 

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