Listen To Live Air Traffic Control

There is constant chatter over commercial-airline radios. Tower gives the captain the go ahead, "American five eight seven heavy, wind three zero zero at niner, runway three one left, cleared for takeoff."

After takeoff, "American five eight seven heavy, New York departure. Radar contact. Climb maintain one three thousand."

If you’re a student pilot or air traffic control enthusiast, Live ATC (Live Air Traffic Control) might be of interest to you. You can listen to the dialogue between ground control and pilots in real-time. ATC covers major airports from all over the world. And if you’re interested, you can tune in to archived recordings of commercial-airline radio too. For the super-enthusiast, ATC is looking for help. If you are within 20 minutes of an airport and you have a police scanner, you can set up a base station of your own.


Flightsimmers Rise in Popularity

"Vatsim 702, cleared for takeoff, contact departure on frequency 124.7" the flightsimmer announces with confidence from his computer chair.

"Tower, Vatsim 702 switching to departure," and by now you’re wondering who is going where. But air traffic radio chatter like this isn’t unusual for Vatsim-flight-simulator-air-traffic controllers. Flightsimmers virtually spend hours bringing national and international flights to a smooth landing. Vatsim stands for virtual air traffic simulation network, and their air traffic controllers spend two years in written and simulated flight training before taking control of virtual airspace.

Business News says that In Imaginary Skies, Would-Be Controllers Guide Pretend Pilots. But sometimes, Vatsim controllers cross paths with real-world pilots. "Last year, the Israeli airline El Al ran newly hired 737 pilots through a PC simulation hosted by members of Vatsim in Israel to hone their commercial-airline radio skills in a realistic environment." So if you’re wondering where hours spent monitoring fake flights might lead, well, you just never know.


747 Fire Fighting Super Tanker

As the air warms up for hot summer temperatures, fire hazard warnings will be posted in natural forests all over the country. But if all goes well for a converted 747 cargo supertanker, this season’s fires could be dowsed with seven times the normal amount of water with each fly by.

This "Plane Delivers Super Help" reports the Tallahassee Democrat. In a test drop over the Tallahassee Regional Airport on Thursday, 205,000 gallons of water was dumped from an altitude of 500 feet at a velocity of 180 mph. According to the report, "The supertanker is made by an Oregon firm, which is in negotiations with the U.S. Forest Service to sell or lease the supertankers."

Pilots Confused by Airport Names

GPN-2000-002008.jpg Is it really too difficult for pilots to navigate safely to airports named after famous people like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan in the United States or John Lennon in the UK? The Sunday Times, Britain, says the Civil Aviation Authority thinks it can be. The CAA in Britain thinks these types of naming conventions are too confusing for foreign pilots. In the event of an emergency, pilots might get lost and confused.

Even though navigational charts clearly depict a unique four-digit identifier for airports, the CAA thinks that references to airports should be kept simple and relate to their geographic region. After all, an airport named after a famous city some thousands of miles away could be a little confusing at times.

Pilot Lands with Faulty Gear

A low pass confirms that the right landing gear is not locked forward. For the next hour and a half, Corey Fontenot circles above Killeen, Texas, while KWTX 10 news cameras watch from the ground. Corey does what any well-trained pilot would do, he sent his wife a text message to let her know he’d call when he left the airport. It’s that kind of composure and confidence that Fontenot, his student pilot, and everyone watching the six o’clock news hoped would bring this pilot back to safety.

Once the fuel had been burnt, it was time to bring the plane down. "Maintain control of the aircraft. Keep it on the centerline. Keep the weight off the bad gear for as long as possible. Maintain directional control" is how he describes this intense landing to channel 10 news. Cool, calm, and well-trained, that’s the only way to describe Fontenot’s demeanor, and that’s what turned this precarious landing into a non-event. "It was a pretty good feelin’ to have the solid ground underneath ya again" Fontenot told channel 10 in a TV interview.

Are Cessnas and General Aviation Planes Safe?

ABC News, Charleston, wants your opinion on whether general aviation planes are safe. Under the opinion that small planes are safe, Steven Barbieri offers the following. Light planes are less likely to crumple on impact and they are easier to land in the event of engine failure or other incident.

So why were there 1,669 small-plane accidents last year compared to only 39 commercial airplane crashes? Apparently, according to the ABC News report, of the 1,669 accidents, 300 involved fatalities. But despite these figures, Barbieri says small airplanes are very safe and that the reason there are more small-plane incidents is because there are more small planes to begin with. It’s a numbers thing for Barbieri.

Streamlined Boarding Plan for Passengers

800px-United_Airlines_aircraft_taking_off_at_Schiphol_Airport.jpg Airlines make their money by keeping passengers in the sky, not on the ground. In search of faster turnaround times between flights, US Airways and Arizona State University engineers have worked out a solution.

Passengers are generally boarded from the back rows forward. But middle and aisle seats interfere with other passengers. So by boarding a few rows at a time, from the window seats in, downtimes can be significantly reduced.

The new Airbus A380, however, will take five minutes longer to board than other planes. The difference is that the A380’s maximum capacity is much greater than any other plane.

So Wired News expects that as Airlines Try Smarter Boarding, passengers should expect a "21 percent decrease in departure delays." Airlines hope this streamlined boarding procedure will be more passenger-friendly and add one or two more flights per plane everyday.

London Heathrow Tests New A380 Superjumbo Jet

The Airbus A380 passenger jet test lands on Heathrow’s "specially-widened taxiways" and into a triple-decker hangar designed to house up to four of these airplanes. CNN International covered the story: "The double-decker plane had flown directly from Berlin, but made detour fly-pasts over the UK factories that helped in its design and construction."

The Airbus Superjumbo Makes UK Debut, but not without some commercial concerns. Will spikes in gasoline prices ground this superjet before it takes to the skies? That’s a question Airbus is no doubt concerned with. But airports considering facilitating this plane will have to make costly preparations in widened runways, ample lounges and bagging claims for the increased passenger and cargo loads. It’s an amazing plane, but it’s an expensive one. 

How To Profit in Alaskan Skies

"A life of adventure–doing what you love and getting paid for it–does this sound interesting to you? Maybe if you’re thinking about a career change, you should think about heading to Alaska to be a float plane pilot or a bush pilot." That’s the advice Sandra McKeever offers in her recent article on jobs for pilots. From summer fun to glacial adventures, Alaska offers pilots a unique, sometimes profitable, destination. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

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Supersonic Passenger Aircraft

CNN Money covers news from Tokyo saying Japan, U.S. to develop supersonic aircraft. The new Mach 2 technology is a joint effort between Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, several Japanese firms, NASA, and Boeing. The supersonic technology is expected to be ready in 14 years, by 2020, according to the CNN headline.

Little margin for error at such high speeds should create new challenges for commercial pilots and air traffic controllers. But passengers will probably enjoy flight times cut in half. Currently, if a large passenger plane catches a tailwind, speeds above 600 mph can thrust passengers from Los Angeles to New York in five hours. Imagine doubling the speeds at the same altitudes–a national flight from LA to NY could take two-and-a-half hours or less. Some people commute that long to work every morning.