Category Archives: future plans

Terrafugia ‘flying car’ completes initial flight testing

From Flightglobal:

Light aircraft developer Terrafugia has completed flight-testing of its proof-of-concept aircraft, the Transition, three months after the two-seat light sport aircraft took to the skies for the first time.

The “roadable” aircraft – dubbed the Flying Car – made 29 flights, says Woburn, Massachusetts-based Terrafugia “and has now completed the first of a four-stage process to bring the Transition into production”.

The second phase of development is under way, with work on the beta prototype already in progress. First deliveries are earmarked for 2011.


Some pictures from the manufacturer’s website:

Terrafugia_Takeoff-thumb terrefugia POCFlightImg204G TransitionRoad

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FAA updates NextGen Implementation Plan; emphasis on avionics

There’s a new plan in town, and it comes from the FAA. The current update to the NextGen Implementation Plan (summary here; full doc available here) outlines the agency’s implementation commitments for the next five years, locks in a set of capabilities that it aims to make operational by 2018, and lays out a roadmap for avionics equipage.

Aviation Week had this by way of summary:

Avionics is a major focus of FAA’s latest 2018 plan. “Ensuring that a significant portion of the aircraft fleet is appropriately equipped to take advantage of NextGen infrastructure improvements is perhaps the most critical issue in achieving success,” the plan says. To achieve this, FAA advocates a “best-equipped, best-served” policy, as well as incentives for operators. The agency believes the changes it proposes could cut delays by 35%-40%, versus the “no-change” scenario.

For aircraft equipage, the plan envisages greater use of existing technology such as RNAV/RNP, electronic flight bags and data communications. However, new capabilities will also be implemented. Many of these are based on satellite navigation, drawing on automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), with both ADS-B In and Out.

The new plan also highlights the ATC infrastructure programs that will be necessary. Many of these are already in various stages of implementation or development, such as the massive en-route automation modernization (ERAM) effort.

The NextGen portion of the FAA’s web site has a fairly detailed layout of the 2018 capability framwork broken down by “flight stage”: Planning, pushback/taxi/takeoff, climb and cruise, descent and approach, and landing/taxi/gate arrival.

We’ll hear more about avionics and the NextGen roadmap at Thursday’s JPDO all-hands meeting — stay tuned.

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Flying NextGen in 85 years…

How’s this for a next-generation aircraft?

Finnair aircraft of the future

European carrier Finnair has put together an interesting site, in which they (with some help from Airbus) imagine what commercial air travel will be like in 2093.

Their upbeat assessment: Flying will be popular, ecological, personal, good business, and an adventure.

[Thanks to Fly NextGen reader Patrick Zoll for the heads-up on this item.]

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NASA to fund radical thinking on the future of commercial flight

The aeronautics research arm of NASA has awarded $12.4 million in grants to six teams, who will develop advanced concepts for commercial aircraft that could enter service around 2035 (press release). The teams, which include industry giants like Northrop-Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, as well as researchers from MIT, Purdue, Georgia Tech and Tufts, will focus on three key areas: aircraft that could operate from small airports, subsonic airliners, and supersonic jets.

All concepts are expected to be dramatically cleaner, quieter, and more fuel efficient than today’s models. NASA’s website includes details for each project as well as highly imaginative artist renderings.

[Kudos to Graham Warwick from Aviation Week for spotting this story; his article includes reactions and analysis and can be found here.]

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[Update] ADS-B Air-to-Air capabilities

Updating my previous post, I had a chance to look at the FAA’s final Statement of Objectives (link to word doc here) related to the ADS-B Performance Requirments contract that will be awarded in the next six weeks. I have to be honest: Between the acronym soup and the agency-speak, it’s pretty hard to wade your way through the content.

Anyway, there are a few intriguing nuggets. For one, the following graph highlights the two very different goals of this project: (1) Make arrivals safer, and (2) promote ADS-B.

FAA has a need for acceleration of ADS-B air-to-air applications, specifically in the area of surface conflict detection and cockpit alert capabilities to reduce number of runway incursions with additional consideration of incorporating arrival applications.

These needs are consistent with the National Transportation Safety Board’s concern with runway safety and FAA’s desire to stimulate early adoption of ADS-B by the Airlines.

Another item of interest is the diagram explaining how the timelines of the two sponsoring organizations (FAA and RTCA) will intersect. Before looking at this diagram, I had not really appreciated how pivotal the RTCA’s role will be.

FAA/RTCA diagram

FAA/RTCA diagram

If I understand this correctly, the RTCA will provide a draft definition of the operational and environmental framework as it is understood today. Then, the vendor will develop the key components that, taken together, provide a complete conceptual solution for evaluating safety/hazard and system performance issues. It’s interesting that this entire phase of the project appears to be under the aegis of the RTCA.

One final note. According to the Statement of Objectives, all of this ground work is meant to come to fruition in February 2010 during a demonstration at a “medium to high density airport” of the vendor’s choosing. The vendor must expect to show system functionality for the following conditions:

  • Demo aircraft taxies on a taxiway toward a runway with high-speed converging conflict traffic.
  • Demo aircraft departs and conflict traffic enters the runway ahead of the demo aircraft.
  • Demo aircraft is on approach to a runway with conflict traffic on that runway so that a go-around is required.
  • Demo aircraft has landed on a runway and conflict traffic is entering the runway ahead of the demo aircraft.
  • Demo aircraft is taxiing on a runway and conflict traffic approaches the runway from behind.

It will be interesting to see which vendors step up to the plate, and how they will be aiming to differentiate themselves.

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