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08 March 2013

Things That Make Me Smile


Radio Communications for Beginners: in which One One X-Ray gets slightly confused coming into Muenster/Osnabrueck, with subtitles and background laughter by Steve Paul. I have to say this is also a great example of why a controller should be able to switch into the native language to try to help a clearly confused new pilot.


This poster has been making the rounds. I’m not sure who wrote the original but it’s spot on.


Get a virtual seat on an helicopter flying over Kamchatka, where four volcanoes erupted at the same time. Hit fullscreen (the icon on the right of the playing video) and then use your mouse to look around as the helicopter brings you close and personal.

360 video, Plosky Tolbachik Volcano, Kamchatka, Russia, 2012


Three people linked this story to me. I think it’s lovely.

United Airlines delays flight for man to see dying mother –

He started crying, obviously distraught. The flight attendants brought napkins for his tears, said they would do what they could to help, and most importantly, got his connecting flight information to the captain, he told CNN.

When he got off the airport train and was running toward the gate, “I was still like maybe 20 yards away when I heard the gate agent say, ‘Mr. Drake, we’ve been expecting you,’” he said.


If I needed to explain to someone why flying is such an amazing experience, I would simply shut up and show them this video.


This is nothing to do with aviation, but if you’ve ever travelled on the London Underground, this is sure to bring a smile to your face.

The original Mind the Gap returns … | | The Importance of Being Trivial

Wonderful news from the northbound platform of the Northern Line at Embankment Tube station. London Underground have reinstated the original Mind the Gap announcement – just so that the widow of the man who said it can go and hear his voice.

What’s made you smile this week? Leave me a link in the comments!

25 January 2013

Close Calls

This week, I want to share with you a collection of close calls (each with a happy ending) collected from around the Internet.

The FAA are investigating this video of a stunt aircraft coming dangerously close to people on the ground. A commenter who claims to have been on site when the video was filmed says that the stunt was planned, briefed and completely safe and that the camera angle makes the aircraft look closer than it is. All I can say is that the person holding the camera didn’t seem briefed, she seemed to be scared out of her wits.

Smoke in the cockpit « Contract pilot tales

I’d been warned.

I was a lowly flight instructor in the days after Sept 11, 2001. Flying jobs were next to impossible to find so I was “biding my time” as a flight instructor in Merritt Island, Florida. My flight that fateful day was to do a flight-review with an 80-something year old lady. She was a retired US Navy officer and I’d been told she had a bit of a strong character. Her doctor had told her she shouldn’t be flying any more but she decided to come to our flight school to prove otherwise. I’d never flown with her before but other flight instructors urged me not to sign her logbook ( for a flight review ) if I wasn’t comfortable.

Read the whole story on Contract pilot tales

This video of an engine fire after lightning strike is eerie to watch.

A Turkish Airlines flight suffered an engine fire due to lightning strike during its descend to I.zmir Adnan Menderes Airport (LTBJ)

Turkish Airlines flight TK-2348, an Airbus A321-231 registration TC-JRI, landed at LTBJ safely at 22:05 UTC
Passengers exited the plane normally. There were no injuries and no impact on airport operations.

Pilot ejects from fighter plane moments before crash

With his £20 million fighter plane hurtling towards the ground, Captain Brian Bews had little time to think. The 36-year-old pilot was forced to choose between battling to save the plane, or bailing to save his life. He chose the latter, launching himself out of the cockpit with the ejector seat and parachuting down to earth – miraculously landing unharmed, as his plane exploded in a mass of flames and black smoke.

These spectacular pictures show just how close Capt Bews, who has clocked 1,400 hours of flying time, came to death.

This happened a few years ago but I hadn’t seen the photograghs before. Captain Bews made a full recovery from his injuries.

I found this interesting collection of photos and story was posted onto Reddit.

Lear 35 wing strike – Imgur

So, I had an interesting day at work.

There was an 18 knot cross wind when the plane landed at 1am. Pilot said that he stalled a wing, and his wing struck the ground. As soon as he hit, he said he hit full power as quick as he could and pulled up, and looped around for another shot at landing. 2nd times the charm. Pilot did not inform tower of wing strike, just said he missed and looped around for another try. There was FOD all over the runway obviously. Real shady of the PIC to not inform anyone. I was called out at 2am to put the plane in the hangar

Click through to see the photographs of the damage and read the full story. The pilots departed with the fuel leak, hoping to make it from Canada to Mexico. I guess as it hasn’t been in the news yet, they must have made it…

EAA News – Chambliss Reportedly OK After Crash in El Salvador

“I was watching him the whole way. The plane crashed into small trees and flipped over. The airplane was badly damaged, but Kirby extracted himself and walked to a clearing. I had immediately called for the rescue helicopter and they were there very quickly. A testament to the readiness of the El Salvadorian military. Kirby is fine with superficial scrapes and bruises.”

The video is in Spanish but gives a good view of the wreckage and the removal of the (remains of the) plane from the crash site.

Meanwhile, I’m still hoping for a happy ending for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Any word yet?

09 November 2012

Aviation Entertainment

Some times, there’s just too many fun links to get down to work. Here’s a collection of new websites I was reading / watching when I should have been writing you a new post…

Landing short and checking out my balance in my Wild West Aircraft Highlander (Just Aircraft)

Rockwell Collins brings head-up flying to iPad® with new ‘HGS™ Flight’ simulation app

The HGS Flight app goes beyond standard head-up display symbology like flight path vector, speed and altitude, and lets users simulate flights using real-life advanced features that enable more precise flying. These include an approach guidance cue, speed error tape and acceleration caret. The app also features synthetic vision to allow users to see a virtual view of terrain despite any weather condition.

This man is a goddamn hero…

Security video shows SkyWest jet hitting St. George airport | – Salt Lake City, Utah News & Weather from KSTU Television FOX 13

Police and city officials have released airport surveillance camera video of a bizarre incident where a SkyWest Airlines pilot suspected of murder stole a jet and crashed it into the airport shortly before killing himself.

I didn’t do very well on this one!

Flight Attendant Quiz: Can You Name That Airline By The Flight Attendants’ Uniforms? (QUIZ)

The last time we presented you with a brain teaser, we asked if you could identify an airline by its livery. Most of you did very well — we’re so proud!

But it’s not just airplane art that’s unique to each airline, flight attendants can be icons in their own right. So, we thought we’d further test your airline savvy with a little match up of flight attendant uniforms.

In the quiz below, try to identify the airline by what the lovely flight attendants are wearing. Do you have a favorite flight attendant uniform? Let us know in the comments!

Timelapse: Gulfstream GV Paint Refurbishment – YouTube

On June 29th, a Gulfstream GV received a fresh coat of paint as Duncan Aviation celebrated the opening of its $11.5 million, 45,000 sq. ft. aircraft paint shop in Lincoln, Neb. (LNK).

A small fleet of cameras mounted in the paint bays captured a timelapse video of the GV’s transformation, highlighting the size of the aircraft paint facility and the number of technicians involved during the paint process.

BBC News – Clackmannanshire fatal microlight crash pilot untrained

The report found the CAA records showed a “No Flight” declaration was made on the microlight on 18 February 2011, something which is done when an aircraft is not insured and the owner has declared it will not be flown until evidence of insurance is produced.

It also found Mr Paterson was not a member of a microlight club and there were no records of him attending any formal flying lessons.

In other news, I’m very excited that I’ll be visiting Blackpool ATC later in the month! I contacted them as a part of the Visit ATC day is back – Airspace & Safety Initiative and they were happy to have me come visit. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.


12 October 2012

Planes, more planes and well, even more planes

This week there were so many interesting things in the news, the best thing that I could do was gather them all together for you to enjoy them with me.

Felix Baumgartner’s 23-Mile-High Skydive Aborted Due To Wind | Popular Science

12:27am MDT – Thompson in response to a journalist’s question about syncing the delay with the live video feed. His answer, in essence: Engineers aren’t thinking about live feeds (at least not the ones that don’t provide data from the capsule). “The reality is we have a person’s life at stake, so our primary concern is making sure conditions as safe as possible to get in the air.”

Andrew Stagg was invited to tour the Mooney Factory last month and shared his photographs on Flickr:

Mooney Factory Tour (MAPA 2012) – a set on Flickr

An amazing set of photographs on Reddit:

Uncle commands a fighter squadron. Some epic pics for you

This was posted as a “dangerous take-off” but note the Airbus livery: this is Airbus test pilots testing an engine failure.

The A340-600 Flying Test Bed was performing some tests at Toulouse airport, but as engine 1 (outer left wing) was switched off, the aircraft banked dangerously to the right. Scary …

Holy Crap-Look at All These SR-71 Blackbirds Together!

Like Richard Gottardo says: this image reaches a “maximum amount of awesomeness.” Eleven! Lockheed Martin SR-71 Blackbirds—perhaps the the most exhilarating piece of flying titanium ever to touch the sky along with the Oxcart A-12—”posing” together.

10 Ass-Kicking Warplanes You’ve Never Heard Of | Danger Room |

But for a wide range of more secretive missions, the Pentagon possesses tiny forces of specialized, and largely unknown, warplanes.

Some are rugged transports meant to blend in with civilian air fleets and deliver commandos or diplomats to remote battlefields — or provide overhead surveillance during highly classified Special Operations. Others are electronic wizards, performing esoteric but vital communications functions in the high-tech management of the Pentagon’s far-flung forces. And then there are the “aggressors” — foreign-made or modified domestic models prized for their ability to accurately simulate the capabilities of America’s enemies.

This is one of the best commercial aviation advertisements I’ve seen in a long time. It makes me want to brave Heathrow.

British Airways Advert 2011: To Fly. To Serve.

Got any spare change?

Accident: Windjet A319 at Palermo on Sep 24th 2010, touched down short of runway

The main gear contacted an embankment rising from about 6 meters above mean sea level to 8 meters above mean sea level about 367 meters before the runway threshold at about 512 feet/minute rate of descent, 8 degrees of nose up angle and about 128 knots over ground, bounced with both engines and flight data recorder stopped upon first impact and touched down a second time, impacted the localizer antenna runway 25 and came to a stop about 850 meters past the runway threshold at the intersection with runway 02/20. The captain ordered the evacuation of the aircraft, the passengers and crew evacuated into intense rain and walked “disorderly” towards the lights of the airport buildings in about 900 meters distance.

Man survives plane crash « » Local News

“I came in on my fourth attempt to land, with a slight crosswind and an uphill breeze,” Vowel said Wednesday. He said the wind “kicked him around.” He touched down once, then increased power for another go around.
But things then went terribly wrong.
“The front canard wing stalled and was porpoising as I was trying to gain altitude,” Vowels said. “The terrain came up faster than I was coming up.”

And finally a front seat view of F-35B and F-35C test flights:

What fun! See you next week.

24 August 2012

Everyone Loves a Happy Ending

This week: a collection of aviation news that turned out well.

I find it terribly disconcerting to see a large plane doing a wheelie:

Photos: Airbus A310-325/ET Aircraft Pictures |

CS-TKN (cn 624) This month of November had been really good for us spotters, with so many different things coming by!! Not being a different A/C, this one deserved some attention… These pilots were caught in some wind shear, and it was really close to total disaster, since the wing almost touched the ground! You can also see the stress in main landing gear… At that time, there were gusts up to 44 knots of crosswind, and heavy turbulence was reported! I’m glad that everything ended up well..

The Daily Mail lambasted the pilot’s action after he wrecked a Tiger Moth, but it seemed a totally sensible response to me.

Pilot’s crashes plane in a field, takes photo of the wreckage… then goes to the pub | Mail Online

A heap of mangled metal, this is all that remains of a bi-plane that crash-landed in a field.

The 1930s design Tiger Moth smashed into pieces after clipping a tree as it tried to land in Denbighshire, North Wales.

Luckily, however, the pilot was unhurt and calmly walked away from the wreckage, telling a witness: ‘I just feel such a fool.’

The man, in his 40s, was wearing a cream linen suit and was later spotted in a local pub.

The terror in the pilot’s voice makes this a chilling exchange to listen to.

Iced Pilots: Cessna Caravan Emergency due to Icing – YouTube

On April 23rd, 2006, a Cessna Caravan flying near Buffalo experienced a total loss of control due to severe icing. The pilot was able to recover from three 90 degrees banks: she then opted to continue on to her final destination, Bangor.

Mrs Ahmed is now back in Paris but it isn’t clear who should pay.

BBC News – Paris plane passenger flown back to Lahore while asleep

A Frenchwoman who flew from Pakistan, slept through her arrival at Paris and then flew back to Lahore, has finally arrived back in the French capital.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is investigating how ground crew at Charles de Gaulle Airport failed to notice Patrice Christine Ahmed during the plane’s two-hour stopover.

By the time she woke up she was on her way back to Pakistan.

Pakistan International Airlines are arguing that it is the passenger’s responsibility to disembark at the correct airport.

And in another cockpit video, this plane struck power lines with the landing gear on final approach:

Video Landing Page – Fox 2 News Headlines

The sheriff’s department says the single-engine plane was piloted by 84-year-old Wilbert Matthes of Ida and his co-pilot was his 20-year-old grandson Ian Zawacki of Monroe. They were attempting to land at a small airport when a landing gear caught the power line north of the landing strip.

The men were taken to a hospital as a precaution. Injuries were described as minor. Some power outages were reported due to the crash.

Finally, I promise I will never complain about airport regulations and the time it takes to get fuel again:

20 July 2012

Things That Make Me Go Hmmmmm

This week: a collection of news and views from the Web that I think you will find interesting. Don’t forget that if you want to see interesting Aviation links throughout the week, you can subscribe to Fear of Landing on Facebook for automatic updates.

This looked like a pretty slick landing to me until the very end:

Plane’s crash landing captured by camera mounted on the wing | The Sun |News

You can get the full details on the NTSB write up: WPR12CA072

First injury reported:

JetBlue Pilot suffers eye injury from green laser during flight

Pilots on board JetBlue 657 reported seeing green laser flashes while they were on their approach into John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday, and notified the tower immediately, saying it was somewhere about 5,000 feet above sea level.

Question of the day:

You have an electrical fire in the cockpit… – PPRuNe Forums

As your first action, do you:

- Declare an emergency?
- Turn off the master switch?

And finally, this made me smile. A lot.

Gopher Found To Be Living Under Rocket Launch Pad :: The Florida News Journal

Workers at the Russia’s Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan recently discovered a gopher living under one of its launch pads while preparing for an upcoming launch.

Workers placed a camera at the hole trying to see what was under there and caught the sub-terrain resident coming out for a stroll.

The Russian Space Agency said it will safely relocate the friendly gopher out of the launch pad area for its safety.

As they say, at least he has plenty of space…;)

22 June 2012

Lost Hydraulics, Fuselage Collapse, Aircraft Falling to the Ground

Lots of interesting plane incidents in the news this week so rather than pick just one subject, I’ve created a selection for you to view.

AVweb have posted the audio and flight path information for JetBlue flight 194 which lost hydraulic systems and declared an emergency last week.

JetBlue Flight 194: “We’ve Lost Two Hydraulic Systems”

The pilots of an Airbus A320 operated by JetBlue as Flight 194 out of Las Vegas for JFK Sunday told controllers “we’ve lost two hydraulic systems” before they declared an emergency, audio of the event shows. Ultimately, the flight landed safely and the NTSB is investigating. But the flight itself was far from routine. In the air, the airliner began to swing from side to side and rolled into steep banks. There were roughly 155 passengers aboard and some got sick. The pilots called Las Vegas to request a hold near the airport as they worked the problem. When asked by controllers, the pilots described the problem as “right now, it’s quite a few things, but the initial thing is, uh, uh, we lost our hydraulics, two, we’ve lost two hydraulic systems.” It would be four hours before the flight was safely on the ground again.

Follow the above link for the streaming audio or click here to download the MP3 file.

Last Sunday, an All Nippon Airways flight damaged its fuselage on impact as it came in to land at Narita Airport.

VIDEO: ANA Boeing 767 damaged after ‘hard landing’

The aircraft, registration JA610A, was on a Beijing-Narita service when the incident happened at 13:28 local time. Flightglobal data show that the airframe was manufactured in 2002.

During the landing the 767 bounced off the runway before coming down heavily a second time, a video recording of the incident shows.

The landing was caught on security camera:

There was a strong crosswind and multiple landing craft reported strong turbulence on final approach earlier that morning. Appparently the nose wheel strut is damaged and the fuselage was twisted and cracked as a result of the landing which was beyond 5gs.

Last week the landing gear collapsed on a Blue Island plane after arriving at Jersey Airport.

BBC News – Landing gear collapse at Jersey Airport

The ATR 42 plane from Guernsey had touched down and was taxiing to its stand when there appeared to be a “collapse” of the undercarriage.

A spokesman for airline Blue Islands said the plane was evacuated in less than a minute and no one was hurt.

Flights were suspended and the runway was closed for more than seven hours on Saturday.

“MrKnowwun” on YouTube was at the airport at the time. He posts wonderful photographs and videos of trains on YouTube but for their holiday, he says his wife dragged him to Jersey as there are no trains there. He was at the airport at the time and took these great photographs from the departure lounge:

There’s also a set of photographs of the aircraft and its recovery posted by Graham Hocquard of Jersey Airport: Blue Islands – a set on Flickr

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch in the UK posted today to celebrate 100 years of Aircraft Accident Investigation in the UK.

Air Accidents Investigation: 100 years of aircraft accident investigation

Aircraft accident investigation in the United Kingdom has been an evolutionary process which began in the early twentieth century. Surviving information on the earliest period is sketchy and in some cases contradictory. In 1910, C S Rolls, co-founder of the Rolls-Royce Company, had the misfortune to become the first British citizen to be fatally injured in an aircraft accident, when his modified Wright biplane suffered a structural failure during an aviation meeting at Bournemouth. Later in the same year, a British pilot and his aircraft disappeared during an attempted double crossing of the Channel. Although no official flight safety structure then existed, the Royal Aero Club, which had only recently obtained its Royal Charter, became closely interested in the topic.

The article includes a PDF scan of the first accident report:

He was making a left-hand turn when the aircraft fell to the ground, killing both the aviator and passenger. Almost immediately after contact with the ground, the aircraft was in flames.

Fascinating reading the sequence of events and especially the probable cause in the very first British accident report.

25 May 2012

In the News

There have been so many interesting links in my inbox this week, I spent the day reading fascinating aviation pieces. I’ve collated my favourites as a Flying Around the Web round-up to share with the rest of you.

Here are the links, with a warning: If you have any intention of being productive, stop reading right now!

Steve Weaver’s history is amazing and this blogpost is charming for its healthy combination of nostalgia and horror at just how naive he started out.

Steve Weaver: Flying with the Newly Dead

The Six had arrived at our airport with much fanfare and as I was admiring it and getting ready to hang out my new ‘Charter Flights Available’ shingle, a friend who worked for a large charter operator out of state came by. As we stood talking about my new venture into the people transport business, he asked if I’d had trouble getting my 135 certificate from the Feds. My deer-in-the-headlights look was followed with a gulped ‘what is a 135?’ My friend proceeded to enlighten me about how the days of having a Commercial License and an airplane with a 100 hour inspection was enough to do charter were over, and had been since half the country stars in Nashville had been wiped out by airplane crashes. I discontentedly placed a call to the FAA.

NYC Aviations coverage of this YouTube video is worth the read.

Video: Passenger Captures Engine Cover Shattering During Takeoff | NYCAviation

This is what happens when you use an electronic device during takeoff: The engine cover breaks off and hurls itself into the side of your plane.

The Professional Pilot’s Rumour Network says that we need an investigation: why on earth was the golf course closed on a sunny weekday?

WSVN-TV – Door detaches from plane, lands on golf course

The main cabin door fell from the airplane and landed onto the golf course near the Westin Diplomat Hotel & Spa, Wednesday afternoon.

The incident occurred shortly after the jet took off from Opa-Locka Executive Airport.

The door seemed to have fallen in between two condominium high-rises and crashed through some trees before hitting the ground, skidding 15 feet and coming to a stop on the golf course.

A tongue-in-cheek look at aviation history.

5 Recklessly Stupid Attempts at Human Flight (That Worked) |

We like to think of early aviators as careful, studious men who cautiously weighed every possible design decision, knowing full well that somebody would be trusting their life to those calculations at the prototype stage. It turns out that wasn’t quite the case; it was more a matter of slapping as many of whatever they had lying around the workshop together and getting a running start off the nearest cliff. The truly crazy part? Sometimes it actually worked.

Alls well that ends well but the whole situation was a bit of a mess.

Report: Jetstar A320 at Brisbane on Oct 13th 2011, weather and “immediate” forces aircraft into cumulonimbus and alpha floor

There was congestion on the radio frequency which delayed him requesting a heading change to get out of the cell. About 30 seconds after receiving the instruction to immediately turn left the crew requested an “immediate heading of 090″, ATC advised they could expect the turn in 30 seconds, the crew repeated they needed the heading “NOW” and were cleared to turn onto 090. The aircraft subsequently flew clear of the weather and continued for a safe landing in Brisbane. No injuries occurred, the aircraft received no damage.

And finally, I’ve watched this video a dozen times and it just never gets old…

On Tuesday, May 22, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon capsule on a demonstration flight towards the International Space Station. The launch occurred at 3:44 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.


04 May 2012

Aviation Features and Videos

I spent much too much time browsing the web and not enough time writing. The result? A collection of interesting aviation articles and videos for your amusement!

Top tip: play this one in full-screen mode for the full effect.

GoPro + F18 = AWESOME
Footage taken from fighter detachment at NASWI with VFA-204.

I never knew wingtips could be so fascinating:

Yoga for jets: why planemakers prefer bent wingtips via

There are, so the industry saying goes, only three secrets in the commercial airplane business: the selling price, the production cost and the shape of the wing.

Boeing on Wednesday trumpeted its latest achievement in aerodynamics as it battles Airbus — wingtip to wingtip — for the lion’s share of a $2 trillion market for narrowbody Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 models over the next two decades.

It takes a special kind of geek to get excited by this page:

Airplane Boarding

By pressing play you can view a simulation of different airplane boarding strategies. Note, random boarding (i.e. boarding all rows at the same time) is faster than back-to-front boarding. Hence, you will actually speed up the boarding process if you board before your turn in back-to-front boarding. Try and explain that to your boarding agent :)

Whereas the appeal of this one is easy:

Test flight of the last 195th F-22 Raptor fighter on March 14, 2012. The final F-22 Raptor was delivered to the USAF in ceremonies on May 2, 2012 at the Lockheed Martin manufacturing facility in Marietta, Georgia.

As if pilots didn’t have a difficult job already:

Reports: North Korea jamming South’s air traffic navigation – This Just In – Blogs

North Korea has been busy for the past week, trying to jam the navigation signals going to civilian aircraft over South Korea, according to reports in South Korean media.

Through Wednesday afternoon, the GPS satellite signals to more than 250 aircraft have been affected, the Chosun Ilbo reported, citing South Korea’s Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Ministry.

I would think the FAA had better things to do with their time:

FAA rips Delta passenger for filming bird strike
Grant Cardone target of FAA probe for not turning off electronic device on takeoff

And finally, well, all I can say is ouch!

That’s a road that he’s on, not a taxiway. The aircraft somehow left the ramp, went between two hangars with a foot of clearance on each side and wound up bouncing through a drainage ditch. Obviously took out the nose gear and had a propstrike.

7S5 Independence, Oregon, for those wondering.


No, the 5 foot deep drainage ditch behind the airplane is responsible for the nose wheel failure. Not sure how fast he was going, but he cleared it…almost. The aircraft didn’t change direction. It came from directly behind where it’s sitting. To the left, just outside of the frame there is a gap between two hangars that is just wide enough for the plane to get through. The road it’s sitting on is between the ramp and the air park houses.

06 April 2012

Flying Through Space

I am going to be spending the weekend at Eastercon, an annual science fiction and fantasy extravaganza. If you are attending, please come and say hello! I’ll be speaking on the panel on Social Media in Science Fiction on Monday afternoon.

So I’m not around for a new post today. In keeping with the Eastercon theme, I’ve put together this collection of aircraft from the future for you to enjoy.


Ascender is a small sub-orbital spaceplane designed to use existing technology and to pave the way for later vehicles on our development sequence. Ascender is specifically designed to generate spaceplane revenues at minimum development cost and risk, and thereby to be attractive to private-sector investment. Ascender carries one pilot and one passenger or experiment. The passenger remains strapped in his/her seat during the flight. Ascender takes off from an ordinary airfield using its turbo-fan engine and climbs at subsonic speed to a height of 8 km. The pilot then starts the rocket engine and pulls up into a steep climb. Ascender has a maximum speed of around Mach 3 on a steep climb and can reach a height of 100 km.

Find out more: Bristol Spaceplanes – Ascender


Astrium’s business jet-sized spaceplane will take off and land conventionally from a standard airport runway using its jet engines. At an altitude of about 12 km, the rocket engine are ignited and in only 80 seconds the craft climbs to 60 km altitude. The rocket propulsion system is then shut down as the plane’s inertia carries it on to over 100 km, enabling passengers to hover weightlessly for some minutes and to witness the most spectacular view of Earth imaginable. After slowing down during descent, the jet engines are restarted for a normal landing at the airfield. The entire trip will last approximately two hours.

Find out more: The Spaceplane: rocketing into the future – Folders | Astrium


This two-seat, piloted space transport vehicle will take humans and payloads on a half-hour suborbital flight to 100 km (330,000 feet) and then return safely to a landing at the takeoff runway.

Like an aircraft, Lynx is a horizontal takeoff and horizontal landing vehicle, but instead of a jet or piston engine, Lynx uses its own fully reusable rocket propulsion system to depart a runway and return safely. This approach is unique compared to most other RLVs in development, such as conventional vertical rocket launches and air-launched winged rocket vehicles “dropped” at altitude from a jet powered mothership.

Find out more: XCOR Lynx Suborbital Spacecraft / spaceplane

White Knight

The White Knight is a manned, twin-turbojet research aircraft intended for high-altitude missions. First flight was in August 2002. Design mission – provides a high-altitude airborne launch of SpaceShipOne, a manned sub-orbital spacecraft. The White Knight is equipped to flight-qualify all the spacecraft systems, except rocket propulsion. The White Knight’s cockpit, avionics, ECS, pneumatics, trim servos, data system, and electrical system components are identical to those installed on SpaceShipOne. The White Knight’s high thrust-to-weight ratio and enormous speed brakes allow the astronauts in training to practice space flight maneuvers such as boost, approach, and landing with a very realistic environment. Thus, the aircraft serves as a high-fidelity moving-base simulator for SpaceShipOne pilot training.

Find out more: Scaled Composites: SpaceShipOne & White Knight


SKYLON is an unpiloted, reusable spaceplane intended to provide inexpensive and reliable access to space. Currently in proof-of-concept phase, the vehicle will take approximately 10 years to develop and will be capable of transporting 12 tonnes of cargo into space.

Though the SKYLON has primarily been designed to launch satellites, consideration has been given to its passenger carrying capabilities. SKYLON is basically a hypersonic aircraft with hybrid engines, changing their mode of operation as the vehicle leaves the atmosphere. On return, because it is an aircraft, it has a cross range capability and ends its flights by landing conventionally on a runway.

Find out more: Reaction Engines Ltd : Current Projects : SKYLON


A unique capability to explore the atmosphere, surface and interior of Mars. During its flight, the ARES rocket-propelled airplane will fly over 500 km of geologically diverse terrain, obtaining previously unobtainable measurements of Mars’ remnant magnetic fields, atmosphere boundary layer and near-surface water.

Find out more: ARES – A Proposed Mars Scout Mission

And not so forward-thinking (nor even really “flying”) but amazingly cool nevertheless: an 800-pound, 45-foot long paper airplane.

It’s not every day that a giant paper airplane is released high over the Arizona desert. In fact, it’s never been done. But that’s exactly what the Pima Air & Space Museum did on March 21, 2012. The video shows the complete flight (including crash landing!).

I’ll be back next week with my feet more firmly on the ground.