Ian Twombly Archive

Land Rover debuts technology aimed for cars that’s meant for aviation

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

The name Land Rover is synonymous in the automotive world with luxury utility. It’s the ultimate SUV for the aristocracy, whether officially recognized as such or just self appointed. It’s never been considered the most innovate, or even the most reliable brand. A recent announcement may change that. The company is developing a forward-looking camera system that creates the illusion of a see-through hood. The off-road applications are obvious when you think of the large rocks, gullies, and other obstructions these vehicles are meant to handle. But where a technology like this has real promise is aviation.

Describing the technology doesn’t do it justice. Watch the video below and the use in aviation becomes immediately obvious. 

It’s a bit of a misnomer, but what’s most impressive about the see-through hood is that you can still see the hood. Having a full view of everything in front of you would be useful, but it’s invaluable to know where the machine is in space. Imagine what this would mean in an aircraft. Judging the flare would be a non-event. Those nose-high full-stall landings would be easy and routine. Forget all that talk about how far down the runway to look. All the pilot would have to do is look out the front, through the cowling and to the runway stripes below. Or maybe off to the side a bit, through the door and tire until it touches the pavement. Even a helicopter, with its characteristically great view angles, would benefit from a system like this. The ability to look below and slightly ahead would be great in an off-airport landing, or even a normal touch down on pavement.

There’s only one problem with all this–it’s unlikely to ever happen. Given aviation’s glacial pace of innovation and strict regulatory environment, the hurdles are large. Which is unfortunate because Land Rover has proven that technologically it’s all within our reach.

UPDATE: iOS5 update troubles

Thursday, November 17th, 2011


Apple released iOS 5.0.1 a few days ago that apparently fixes the delete issue. According to ForeFlight, some app development may also be required, and they are working on that now. For more, check out the company’s blog. If you’ve updated to iOS 5.0.1 and are using a different aviation application, let us know in the comments section how it is working.

iPad and other Apple device users should take note of a rather odd quirk that can occur after updating the operating system to iOS5. According to multiple application developers, the operating system could delete data, including charts and approach plates, if certain conditions are present.

Essentially the device senses the memory is full, or almost full, and will delete previously saved data if new data is brought in. So, the operating system will now favor new data, instead of rejecting it to preserve old data. For those running ForeFlight, WingX, or any of the other large multipurpose apps, you could lose charting data by bringing in any other additional pieces of data. What’s worse, the device will do this with only a minor indication of what’s happening. A small message that says, “Cleaning” will appear under any app that is currently losing data.

To keep this from happening, simply make sure you have extra space on the device. Most of the multipurpose charting apps run around 7 GB, while Jeppesen’s charting app is around 1 GB. The problem comes from having either multiple aviation apps, or having the device loaded with other big programs.

This issue brings to light an important consideration in using the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch for aviation. Make sure to preflight the apps. After you have downloaded the data you want to use on the flight, disable Wifi and 3G, and open your app. Then scroll through the charts and airport data to make sure you have everything you need. This way you’ll know that what you have actually resides on the device, and that you’re not just streaming it off Wifi. Also, each app should have a list of downloaded charts. Check the list for an additional source of confirmation.

For more information, ForeFlight has a good update on the problem, as does WingX and Readerplates.

Let us know in the comments section if you’ve experienced this problem, or if you have any iOS5 reviews.

iPad insanity

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I’ve been flying with an iPad for around a year now, testing all the various apps, and let me just say that I don’t get it. I mean, I get it in the sense that the thing is cool and it holds all the charts you need; it does some rudimentary flight planning and a little bit of everything else. But I still don’t get it.

Apple’s iPad has taken off in aviation like nothing I’ve ever seen. Even GPS, which was a much bigger technological leap, took years to catch on with as much unbridled excitement. Maybe that’s because it was relatively more expensive, but when you’re talking about the difference between going from VORs to direct and carrying paper versus a tablet, it seems to me there’s no contest. Maybe that’s talking Apples to Oranges, but I don’t think so.

Let’s start with what the iPad really offers. And I mean in terms of new capability. From what I’ve seen on the app market, there’s virtually none. Granted, some apps package information in a new way, or offer a new gizmo or tool. But no one is buying an iPad for the ability to calculate a crosswind faster. Maybe you can say that ForeFlight, WingX, and the rest of the integrated navigation apps offer some type of new capability because they integrated charts with flight planning in the cockpit. But that’s simply not true, other than a few minor features here and there. Seattle Avionics has offered Voyager for years now. It’s a PC-based product, meaning you can use it on a tablet in the cockpit. And it does significantly more than any app on the market so far.

I think most of what these programs do is simply duplicate technology of a panel-mounted GPS and a free computer flight planner, such as AOPA’s. I mentioned this to Editor in Chief Tom Haines, and he made the point that his Garmin 530 doesn’t show airways, and the iPad does. That’s true, but so does a chart.

That leaves packaging. Are we as a population really blown away by the fact that we can carry all our charts in one small, portable device? I think the answer is yes. There seems to be no other plausible explanation for why the adoption rate is so high. As I wrote in an AOPA Pilot feature,  “Godsend or Gadget?”: “If the iPad were just a chart viewer, it wouldn’t be worth the expense.” A few letter writers said I was flat-out wrong, but I stand by the statement. If I had $700 to spend on either an iPad and a full set of chart updates for a year, or that same amount to buy paper, I’d buy paper. Call me old-fashioned, but paper doesn’t overheat, you can read it in sunlight, and it doesn’t require a charge.

 Admittedly, I’ve been stuck before without the proper chart, which should never happen on an iPad, but that’s more a result of my stupidity than a limitation of the product. And I generally fly over only about half of the states, which I think is fairly common. I don’t need a nation’s worth of charts.

So to me we’re left today with a device that largely replicates what we have, but with all the limitations that come with relying on an electronic device. But, the future is promising. Once we get good in-cockpit weather on it, the iPad will become infinitely more valuable. And that’s just the beginning. Better flight planning products, panel integration, logbook and maintenance tracking, and all the other facets of our aviation life on one device is an exciting thought.

I just think that day has yet to come.

GA serves America in unique ways

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Chances are you’ve noticed our GA Serves America campaign. At least, we hope you have. Clearly pilots know the value of aviation to communities around the country from an access standpoint, but how many of us trumpet the j word? You know, jobs.

General aviation contributes 1.3 million jobs in this country, which is astounding when you consider the relatively few number of pilots and aircraft. But I wonder how much that number extends out to secondary and tiertary levels.

As a product tester I get lost of unique and funky products in the office on a regular basis. A recent one called Glovelite got my attention for being particularly creative. And it’s creator and leader is a creative guy. Besides the value of the product itself, founder Paul Smith is also very aware of how his product is helping to give work to small businesses around his region.

Directly as a result of creating this one unique product, Smith has engaged publishers, a Web manager, a computer equipment company, an advertising/marketing consultant, a patent attorney, a lawyer, an accountant, the local printing shop, a label maker, a Neoprene supply company, a lining material supply company, a sewing resource, and the local UPS office. And this was all before the product even got much visibility. He also exhibited at AOPA Aviation Summit, helping to employ union workers in Tampa, people who service his airplane, the hotel, AOPA, etc.

It’s astounding when you think about it. Smith is just one example of thousands of aviation products and services out there creating jobs in a tough economy. So remember that GA serves America even when we’re parked on the ramp.


Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I’m not going to get into details about the economy. There’s no need to waste electrons doing so. Let’s just all agree it’s bad. Despite that, work still has to get done. Goods and services are still being sold, and luckily for Brad Pierce, people still need to eat.

Pierce is the owner of a restaurant supply and consulting company in Orlando. He also owns a Cirrus and is profiled in the November issue of Pilot as part of our ongoing series explaining how GA serves America. Although the story is familiar to many members, the rest of the American public doesn’t understand the benefit of GA. Surveys show while they may know they have a local airport that’s somewhat smaller than O’Hare, they don’t understand who flies in or out, or why.

I first heard about Pierce at Sun ‘n Fun earlier this year from the folks at Cirrus, who wisely used a letter he wrote to tout the benefits of the airplane for business travel. But as we know, the airplane doesn’t even matter in the end–it’s almost always better than the airlines.

Pierce got a chance recently to explain that fact to a Senate subcommittee on a non-aviation topic. Since the Cirrus allows him to quickly travel to his state capital and lobby his state legislature often, Pierce has made relationships that resulted in an invite to talk about trade export in Washington. As part of his testimony, he plugged GA as a great technological benefit to his business.

I think the impact of actions like Pierce’s can’t be overstated. AOPA clearly has significant clout in Washington’s aviation circles, but getting beyond that is always difficult. Pierce was able to capitalize on his opportunity and mention the positive benefits of GA to senators that likely don’t know the story. It’s an opportunity we should all grab whenever possible. AOPA’s ranks of CEOs, company owners, and influencers has the chance to do this type of thing often. So make sure to help the cause whenever possible and keep GA strong.

Reason #1 to fly GA

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Not being forced to sleep in my airplane.

What’s new at OSH?

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The editorial team has been so busy at Oshkosh this year we haven’t even had time to blog. But now that I’m back in the security of the office, I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about what’s new and interesting at the show.

Without a doubt, the A380 and WhiteKnightTwo are the draws this year. Garmin has yet more new products, the OEMs are generally happy and optimistic, and technological innovation is continuing to transform flying. But none of that matters when you get to see the world’s largest airliner and the future of space travel fly on the same day in the same place. I feel very fortunate to have been there. The A380 will be old news in a few years, but seeing that behemoth fly slowly by the crowd was simply incredible. But watching WhiteKnightTwo was, for me, infinitely better. I feel like it was a moment I’ll get to tell my grand kids about–the first time I saw the future of space travel. What’s most amazing to me is not that Rutan and his crew have built this incredible airplane, but that we all believe they will really succeed in this adventure. It’s practically a foregone conclusion at this point. Imagine relatively normal (I say relatively because certainly most people will never be able to afford it) people going into space as tourists. It’s the stuff of science fiction and we’re going to see it in the near future. Incredible.

Otherwise, there’s lots of new stuff going on at the AOPA tent, including a P-51 from The Horsemen on display, and some cool new outfitters, including one guy who’s making beautiful vintage aviation clothing. All in all, it’s a great year for OSH.

Colgan accident may mean big changes

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

February’s accident in which a Colgan Airlines Bombardier Q-400 crashed on approach to Buffalo International will result in changes to at least a few airline industry practices. It may sound obvious given the training, experience, pay, and fatigue issues that were raised in the days following the crash. But this week the FAA held the first of what it says will be many industry meetings aimed at figuring out solutions to some of these issues. And they’re apparently committed to making some changes.

Among some of the proposals are longer rest periods, higher pay, voluntary industry reporting of safety practices, and interestingly, more release of pilot records.

Some of the issues and their respective solutions makes sense, especially increased rest periods. But the release of a pilot’s record is something new entirely, and it’s more than a little troubling. For one thing, it’s a solution looking for a problem. The flight’s captain has been reported to have failed a few of his checkrides during his early training days, along with about 20 percent of his student pilot comrades nationwide.

The airlines have a very lengthy training regime. This we know, and while initially it was discussed in reference to the accident, now most seem to agree that Colgan’s training wasn’t an issue. So my question is if Colgan trained the captain well, how is his performance on the private pilot checkride at all relevant? If he failed checkrides in training that’s one thing. But dropping 100 feet on a steep turn on a private pilot checkride is quite another. Would the airline have hired him had they known about the failures? Maybe. Will they hire applicants in the future who have failed? No way. And the last time I checked, “checkride failure” wasn’t a common contributing factor in NTSB final reports.

So now we’re left with two major problems: Students fast tracking to the airlines will have immense pressure to perform on every checkride, and the FAA wants to make it easier to access a pilot’s personal file. The first point is less important for most of us, but I feel like it may lead to insider deals with examiners who never fail applicants at the big flight schools. Or worse, students who quit desk jobs in search of a dream airline career, only to fail their private pilot checkride.

The bigger issue for most pilots is what will happen in the future with pilot records. Now that record is only available if you release it. But how long will it remain that way? Will the FAA just release all of our records? How will it affect insurance? What about privacy concerns? There are too many questions right now without answers. I can only hope the fever dies down before we get to the gruesome details. And I’m not just saying that because I used the plotter wrong on my private pilot checkride.

Are you kidding me?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Newsflash from Reuters: Highflying CEOs are still flying their private jets. So says the story this morning picked up by MSNBC. According to the story, private aircraft perks are still being awarded to CEOs. This from a coporate compensation study from Equilar.

While I’m not one to typically bash the so-called mainstream media, this story has me fuming for a number of reasons. First, it’s not news. Of course people are still flying corporate. Did the writer really think the entire industry would vanish after the automakers flew to Washington? I just heard Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. Somebody should tell Reuters.

But of course this isn’t the real problem. The story is biased and is so clearly an attempt at eliciting an emotional response that it belongs on an editoral page, not as news. Come on, “highflying U.S. corporate chiefs”? I didn’t realize “highflying” was a title. Since when is it OK for a supposedly impartial news source to lead the reader to the writer’s intended conclusion? It’s absurd.

But if there was any doubt as to the story’s slant, we come to the end and realize there’s no question as to where the writer, editor, and therefore, Reuters, stands. Because the only evidence that’s given for the continuation of flying is the compensation survey. There’s no mention of the tens of thousands of jobs lost this year in general aviation. No mention of business aviation activity dropping off as much as 40 percent. There’s only a few numbers that say yes, CEOs at the largest 100 companies fly on corporate aircraft.

I’m sorry if the writer is so bitter with flying coach that he or she feels the need to start (continue?) class warfare on executives. But if truth and objectivity are the goals of a journalist, maybe the writer should learn to fly and realize the problem is not private aviation. Words are a powerful thing, especially to the hundreds of thousands of people around the country involved in GA that contribute billions to our national economy.

How are things?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Without a doubt, the economy is the top story of Sun ‘n Fun this year. How’s it going? Are people making it? How’s attendance? Which projects are on the chopping block? The conversations are consistent and predictable, only the players change.

But the answers are surprising. A few airplane manufacturers that we talked to said the show is fantastic. Some equipment and avionics sellers say they’re happy, or pleasantly surprised as they sometimes say. Cirrus yesterday even said domestic orders are up 2 percent from the same time last year. A popular financing broker said there’s capital, and the standards are pretty much the same as they always have been. Insurance prices are down, and even LSA seems to be taking hold.

So while most are still taking cover while the eyewall passes over, others seems to be approaching the outer rain bands. Is the progress for real and is it sustainable? Most say yes, even going so far to say that it was never that bad to begin with.

The skeptics say it was simply low expectations. Don’t expect any orders when you get here, and each one is special, they say. But others give clear examples of success that is undeniable. Maybe’s it’s the incredible weather, but people feel good.