Aircraft Safety

A new light for safety

By Keith Button

May 1, 2024

Despite the brushes with aircraft collisions at U.S. airports, FAA has no plans to expand its most elaborate and expensive ground collision alert technology beyond the 20 airports that already have it. Keith Button spoke to FAA-funded researchers who believe they might have a lower-cost solution.

Safety versus innovation: It’s time for a rebalancing

July 1, 2023

The air transportation industry has for years toyed with radical new designs but in the end has always stuck with the familiar tube-and-wing approach in the face of FAA’s safety standards. Mislav Tolusic of the venture capital firm Marlinspike argues that accepting more risk will spark needed innovation.

Listening for turbulence

By Keith Button

April 1, 2023

In recent months, airline passengers have been injured by encounters with clear air turbulence that, at the moment, crews have no way to detect. A solution could be at hand through a collaboration between NASA and the National Research Council Canada. Keith Button tells the story.

Hydrogen: coming to an aircraft near you

By Karen Kwon

July 1, 2022

Hydrogen-powered aircraft could prove to be the best way for the air travel industry to meet its bold commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. For that to happen, hydrogen must be stored safely on these next-generation aircraft, and the question is the best way to do it. Karen Kwon tells the story.

Flying digitally

By Keith Button

June 1, 2022

Today, earning type certification for a new kind of passenger jet culminates with months of expensive test flights, some of them harrowing. Keith Button spoke to aerospace engineers who aspire to change this with a bold idea: certification by analysis.

Learning from the MAX

By Jan Tegler

July 1, 2019

No one knows with certainty what mix of factors brought down two of the world’s most sophisticated passenger jets. The final accident reports from the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes are still being drafted. Jan Tegler looks at how the crews might have been able to save their aircraft from all that was working against them.

A.I. in the cockpit

By Keith Button

January 2, 2019

Modern airliners do a good job of flying automatically until something unexpected happens. At that point, a pilot takes control and typically resolves the problem with no drama or fanfare. Very rarely, though, a pilot must save the day or die trying. For passenger planes to fly autonomously, software would have to be capable of handling these edge cases.

Soft targets

By Joshua Hatch

August 31, 2018

Cybersecurity attacks on airlines and their partners are neither a matter of if nor when. They are already happening with serious consequences. Joshua Hatch spoke to independent security experts and aviation executives about the greatest threats ahead.

Containing a blade-out

By Keith Button

July 1, 2018

NASA has long been working with the FAA and the aviation industry to improve technologies for containing broken fan blades and preventing damage like that which killed a Southwest Airlines passenger. Keith Button looks at a research project that could help prevent future tragedies.

Symbiosis: Why CFD and wind tunnels need each other

By Joe Stumpe

May 31, 2018

As powerful as computational fluid dynamics and supercomputing are, they have not come close to relegating wind tunnels to history. In fact, in the U.S., a new tunnel is going up at MIT, and NASA is deliberating whether it should close a historic tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia four years from now as planned.

Wringing out the risks

By Keith Button

March 2, 2018

Mathematicians are exploring an entirely new approach to making aircraft safer

Danger in the air

By Debra Werner

February 28, 2018

Meteorologists might have a way to wave pilots around dangerous pockets of cold air

Solving engine icing

By Keith Button

August 31, 2017

One hurdle has been the inability to accurately model partially melted ice crystals

War on wiring

May 1, 2017

A look at the payoffs and challenges of removing wires from airlines

Stall recovery

March 6, 2017

Businesses are racing to meet an FAA mandate for training