Boeing deploys technology to end bumpy flights in 2018
Call it a new era in flying and you will not be wrong. Boeing aircraft manufacturer will be deploying remote-sensing technology that can detect clear-air turbulence early next year
And courtesy of the effort, turbulence may become a thing of the past given the new technology that promises to predict the type of turbulence that lurks unseen – and steer planes around it.
The concept, which they hope could be rolled-out across all commercial carriers, comes from collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and has huge potential for travellers.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the number of turbulence-related injuries doubled in 2016, from 21 to 44. But this could be slashed by lidar (light detection and ranging technology), which will work by emitting pulses of laser light from the plane’s nose, scattering small dust and other particulates.
Observing the reflected light in segments, the pulse provides measurement of the wind speed at increments all along the direction of the laser.
It offers the potential to accurately measure winds as much as 17.5 kilometers (10.8 miles) in front of airplanes and provide pilots with sufficient time to take appropriate action to avoid wind shear and clear air turbulence, which often occurs at high altitude and does not have any visual cues, such as clouds.
These anomalies will trigger audio cues, which will be broadcast to pilots and cabin crew. Experts believe it would provide at least a 60-second heads-up.
The lidar research will be conducted in 2018 as part of collaboration with FedEx Express. Over a six-week period more than 30 technologies, including lidar, will be tested on board a new FedEx-owned 777 freighter.
Boeing’s Doug Christensen, who’s overseeing the collaboration, said: “We are eager to continue working with JAXA so that we can both learn more about lidar technology.”
When turbulence is at its most severe, it can stall an aircraft, by pushing it below its minimum speed, despite the engines being on fullpower. When this is about to happen pilots receive an attention-getter called a ‘stick shaker’.
Speaking anonymously to MailOnline, an airline captain recounted an occasion when he received this warning while flying over North Africa in a 747. He explained that he came out of the stall by pointing the plane downwards.
“You push the nose forward, keep the power on, and let the aircraft accelerate. Aircraft like flying, they don’t like falling out of the sky, and you’ve got to try pretty hard to make them do that,” he said.
“So, just push the nose forward, accelerate the aeroplane, and we return to our assigned altitude. “For two to three minutes it was exciting, it was proper flying, the autopilot wasn’t coping very well with it, so you take the autopilot out with a little push button on the control column and you go back to basic flying skills that keep the aircraft safe. That’s why we are there.
“That’s why there’s always two of us on the flight deck and why we take the business of flight safety very seriously. And part of that is putting the seatbelt signs on.”
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