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A co-pilot on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (seen here in 2010) died after the spacecraft crashed in the Mojave desert. EPA/Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic

SpaceShipTwo cost a life, so why do we still use human test pilots?

Tragically, the experimental spaceplane SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave desert during a test flight on Friday, killing one pilot and injuring another. It is not clear what went wrong, and the coming…
Watching video on your smartphone is fine during take off and landing - so long as your device is in flight mode. Flickr/colorblindPICASO

Smartphones on aircraft – what access do we really want?

Australia is playing catch up by allowing plane passengers to keep their mobile phone switched on – albeit in flight mode only – during take off and landing. But many have probably already done this. A…
The missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft pictured in 2013. Flickr/Paul Rowbotham

Would real-time tracking have helped missing flight MH370?

The introduction of constant tracking of commercial aircraft during the whole journey has been raised by Malaysian authorities in a preliminary report into missing flight MH370. It’s been two months now…
The three variants of the F-35 Joinst Strike Fighter described as fifth-generation aircraft. Joint Strike Fighter

The F-35 JSF: what is a fifth-generation fighter aircraft?

Any conversation about Australia’s commitment to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter refers to it as a fifth-generation fighter aircraft. But what exactly is a fifth-generation aircraft, and why is it important…
Two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in action. AAP Image/Department of Defence, Lockheed Martin

What do we need of a military fighter aircraft?

Now the Australian Government has committed to a further 58 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft it is time to ask whether this is a good idea, will we be getting value for money – and will the JSF…
Australia now plans to have 72 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin. AAP/Lockheed Martin, Matthew Short

The Joint Strike Fighter: is it the right aircraft for Australia?

The Australian Government’s mission to upgrade the defence force fleet of ageing aircraft with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been controversial since it began more than a decade ago. Australia formally…
More than 100 vessels and aircraft from eight countries looking for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared on Saturday with 239 people on board. EPA/Ahman Yusni

Why some air crash investigations remain mysteries of the deep

The missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has some similarities to the disappearance of Pan Am flight 944, which disappeared into the Pacific Ocean almost 50 years ago. Late in the afternoon of November…
Looking for flight MH370. EPA/Malaysian Maritime Agency

What could have happened to flight MH370?

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 – with 239 people on board – is unusual in that two days after the plane lost communication there is no reliable evidence of debris. No radio calls were…
So many questions but few answers for Malaysia Airlines. EPA/AHMAD YUSNI

Clock is ticking on Malaysia Airlines in crisis management

For Malaysia Airlines, every hour counts as it deals with the loss of flight MH370 with 227 passengers and 12 crew on-board. The first 48 hours of a crisis are the most critical for an organisation as…
If we assume that demand for in-flight internet is going to increase, it’s time we did something about it. Damian Shaw/AAP

Qantas drops in-flight Wi-Fi – the NBN to the rescue?

The trial of in-flight Wi-Fi on six Qantas Airbus A380s flying between Melbourne, Los Angeles and London has ended, following an announcement by the carrier last week. So why does this matter? And could…
More than 50% of the Airbus A350 is made of composite materials. EPA/DB/EADS

Let’s stick together: composite materials, aeroplanes and you

What do Novak Djokovic’s tennis racket, Mark Webber’s F1 car and the new Boeing 787 have in common? They all extensively rely on composite materials. A composite material is a strategic combination of…
All 68 of the world’s Airbus A380 have to be inspected. Telstar Logistics

The Airbus A380 wing cracks: an engineer’s perspective

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has ordered the inspection of all Airbus A380 superjumbos following the detection of cracks in the wings of several aircraft. Cracks were first discovered in…

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