Blog Archives

AirPooler Is Lyft For Private Planes


Beautiful article on how Digital and Technology can transform your business model or even help create new market niches. This could become the Uber of the skies – and I can’t wait to see it succeed. As an aviation enthusiast nothing could be more satisfying than making private air travel an affordable alternative. Good luck AirPooler!

Crowdsolving and MH370


Tomnod

Tomnod – enabling the crowd search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 – Picture courtesy of Tomnod

It’s been 9 painful days since Malaysia Airlines flight 370 vanished from secondary radar on the early morning of Saturday the 8th of March en-route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. As sad as the story and mystery of the whereabouts is, a beautiful use of Technology, Digital and Social Media has come on the spotlight in the hunt of the plane. The idea is simply brilliant. Thousands of detailed, freshly captured satellite images are made available to the public, allowing the crowd to collaborate in the humongous task of combing thousands of square miles of ocean in the search for any trace of the missing plane. The imagery is provided by DigitalGlobe, who owns and operates the network of satellites that constantly capture the images, with Tomnod being their crowdsourcing arm.

The mechanics are simple, and brilliant. Just browse to Tomnod’s website and join the cause. Tomnod will assign you tiles of the map where the search area is being focused, allowing you to tag different types of objects as you find them. With a simple and incredibly intuitive user interface, you can be collaborating to the cause in a matter of seconds

Whilst in this particular case the plane is yet to be found, this has been successful in the past in finding a missing light plane in Idaho, helping response and humanitarian aid teams prioritize they activities in the aftermath of devastating super typhoon Haiyan or mapping the damage of a deadly tornado in Oklahoma.

Tomnod has helped resolve real problems in recent times.

Tomnod has helped resolve real problems in recent times – picture courtesy of Tomnod.

It just comes to demonstrate how Technology can help solve real world complex problems, by organizing and coordinating a massive collaboration effort across the globe. Beautiful idea, hope it is as successful this time as it was in the past. You can help, spread the word!.

The convenience marriage – The BAe 146 and London City Airport story


I have always been fascinated by the women and men with the drive and determination to row against the tide in the pursuit of a vision. With no fear to think and create different, they often find opportunities where the majority only see issues.

This is a story about a convenience marriage, a symbiosis of two elements that possibly would not have been what they are without each other. London City Airport and the BAe 146 (also known as Avro RJ), the most successful British built airliner.

The airport

London City Airport

London City Airport – photo courtesy of Mostaque Chowdhury

It is under the drive of the LDDC – London Docklands Development Corporation, the government agency that in the early 80’s took the lead  the regeneration of the London Docklands area, that the idea of a city airport was developed.

Whilst the benefits of such a location are obvious, the operational, technical, social and environmental challenges associated to an airport located in a densely populated area are of a tremendous scale. It takes strong determination and courage to overcome every single one of them and bring the airport to what it is today, with more than 3 million passengers every year and over 70,000 operations.

Surrounded by water and with a very short runway of only 1500 metres, the airport has one of the steepest glide slopes, meaning aircraft have to approach the runway at an angle more than twice the usual one. The steep approach and climb requirements, together with the limited runway length, limits the aircraft types allowed to operate out of London City, restricting it to propeller aircraft. Not to mention the severe noise restrictions.

Next 26th of October will mark the 26th anniversary of the first commercial flight out of London City Airport (LCY).

The aircraft

BAe 146 in LCY

BA Connect BAe 146 taking off from London City Airport

After almost two decades of abandoned studies since the late 50’s, the then designated HS146 study begun in 1971. With very unique characteristics for a regional, feeder airliner, the 146 featured four turbofan engines a high wing and a T-tail.

The 1973 oil crisis brought the project to a halt, and it was not until the formation of British Aerospace in 1978 that the project was revived.

Built around the idea of operating out of small, often unpaved airfields, the aircraft offered outstanding take off and landing performance, being able to operate in short runways. It’s four Lycoming engines granted the aircraft it’s two most common nicknames: Jumbolino and Whisperjet.

The silent operations proved to be, together with the shortfield performance, the two key attributes that made it the perfect -and first- jet aircraft to operate in London City Airport. After a very successful trial in July 1988, followed by a poll in which 83% of the residents approved the introduction of the BAe 146, commercial flights of the type started operating in the small airport in 1993.

Ever since that moment, the history of both airport and aircraft is written together. The airport proved to be the perfect field for the aircraft, and the introduction of the type into London City boosted the traffic, with a 96% increase in passengers in the first year of operations of the BAe 146.

Having flown in this charming, silent and comfortable aircraft many times, I am still fascinated by the radical engineering solutions taken when designing and building it, which made it the most successful British airliner ever together with the merit of making the impossible airport the success it is today.

A convenience long lasting marriage that contributed to the success of both, thanks to the creativity, courage and determination of the men and women that saw opportunities where others only saw problems.

A decade without you


Concorde

Concorde

Time flies even faster than the speed at which she flew the skies. Next 24th of October, it will be a decade since Concorde touched down in Heathrow with passengers for the last time, bringing the era of supersonic transport to an end.

Being an aviation enthusiast and passionate about technology and innovation, this is one sad anniversary. Concorde was a huge engineering achievement and possibly one of the biggest leaps in technology.

One can only hope that supersonic transport will be possible again in the times to come. In the meantime, here is a beautiful gallery of Concorde pictures.

You are missed, Concorde.

The anomaly in progress – part II


Concorde wing

The distinctive Concorde delta-shaped wing

Today I have been thinking about innovation. More specifically about how and why some organizations seem to have mastered the art of innovating while others struggle to adopt a culture that embraces change and innovation. The level of industrialization and quality of the processes that run and support an organization, and that make it achieve excellence in their day to day operations and products, whatever their nature, are sometimes the worst enemy of creativity and innovation.

Yet some companies have mastered both sides of the coin and are able to execute, operate and manufacture with atomic precision while creating a corporate culture that promotes and embraces thinking out of the box, pursuing new ideas and pushing the boundaries to create better products and, ultimately, progress.

I have to admit I admire those organizations. And every time I go through this thought process, I end up thinking of my favorite example of innovation at a great scale: Concorde. It is not the first time I write about this beautiful machine and what it meant to commercial aviation, yet I still find amazing to learn the amount and complexity of the challenges faced by the men and women that strongly believed that they could deliver something that changed the way air travel was understood, and they did. They proved that determination and the right culture for innovation can go very far, so far, that they created a gap in progress.

Concorde cockpit

Concorde cockpit

Enumerating every single innovation that Concorde brought would be material for a large number of books, but there are still a few items worth mentioning. The most curious one is how the effect of drag at high speed generated so much heat, that the nose tip would reach temperatures well beyond +100 degrees celsius, even though the air at cruising levels would typically be below -60. This meant that Concorde would be longer (up to one feet) in the air than on the ground. Due to its higher takeoff and landing speeds, the brakes where a crucial component, being the first commercial aircraft to be equipped with carbon brakes. This, together with the early introduction of fly by wire as mentioned in the previous post, mark just an example of the challenges that had to be overcome with the help of creativity, innovation and determination. All of this, using 1950-60s technology.

More than being just a beautiful machine and possibly the most sleek and elegant commercial aircraft ever built, it is a living -at least in our memories- example of the culture of innovation that can change the world.

The anomaly in progress – part I


Building Concorde

Building Concorde

Often progress and technological evolution is seen as a continuous and relentless process. Some industries progress faster than others, and every now and then, there are huge steps that create a huge gap with the precedent technology. But extremely rarely, evolution goes backwards and progress is inverted, creating an anomaly in progress, a situation in which something that was technically possible is not possible anymore.

This is the case of Commercial Supersonic Travel and the incredible machine that made it possible for 27 years. Concorde.

The more I look into the history of how this beautiful craft was designed and built, the more admiration I develop for the huge, quantum leap that designers and engineers managed to make using 1950’s and early 1960’s technology. Interestingly, some of the techniques and technologies developed for Concorde are still being introduced gradually into modern airliners, like fly by wire. Now widely adopted (Airbus first introduced it after Concorde in 1988 on the A320 family, whilst Boeing waited until the 777 was introduced in 1994), it was an example of how Concorde was way ahead of its time.

A controversial machine, though, environmentally unfriendly for the noise its four Rolls Royce Olympus engines generated, and its generous fuel burning, yet an incredible breakthrough in progress, so big, it constituted one of the very few anomalies in progress. Nearly a decade after it was withdrawn from commercial service, there is no sign that Commercial Supersonic Travel will be possible again in the near future.