“More than 800 people have paid as much as $200,000 apiece to reserve seats on commercial flights into space, some of which are expected to launch, at long last, within a year. Space-travel agents are being trained; space suits are being designed for sex appeal as much as for utility; the founder of the Budget hotel chain is developing pods for short- and long-term stays in Earth’s orbit and beyond. Over beers one night, a former high-ranking NASA official, now employed by Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin transportation conglomerate, put it plainly: ‘We happen to be alive at the moment when humanity starts leaving the planet.’”
A pilot uses the FlySmart with Airbus app on an Apple iPad
“In September, a passenger was arrested in El Paso after refusing to turn off his cellphone as the plane was landing. In October, a man in Chicago was arrested because he used his iPad during takeoff. In November, half a dozen police cars raced across the tarmac at La Guardia Airport in New York, surrounding a plane as if there were a terrorist on board. They arrested a 30-year-old man who had also refused to turn off his phone while on the runway. […]
Dealing with the F.A.A. on this topic is like arguing with a stubborn teenager. The agency has no proof that electronic devices can harm a plane’s avionics, but it still perpetuates such claims, spreading irrational fear among millions of fliers. A year ago, when I first asked Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., why the rule existed, he said the agency was being cautious because there was no proof that device use was completely safe. He also said it was because passengers needed to pay attention during takeoff.
When I asked why I can read a printed book but not a digital one, the agency changed its reasoning. I was told by another F.A.A. representative that it was because an iPad or Kindle could put out enough electromagnetic emissions to disrupt the flight. Yet a few weeks later, the F.A.A. proudly announced that pilots could now use iPads in the cockpit instead of paper flight manuals.
The F.A.A. then told me that “two iPads are very different than 200.” But experts at EMT Labs, an independent testing facility in Mountain View, Calif., say there is no difference in radio output between two iPads and 200. “Electromagnetic energy doesn’t add up like that,” said Kevin Bothmann, the EMT Labs testing manager. […]
The F.A.A. should check out an annual report issued by NASA that compiles cases involving electronic devices on planes. None of those episodes have produced scientific evidence that a device can harm a plane’s operation. Reports of such interference have been purely speculation by pilots about the cause of a problem.”
FAA still has no proof that electronic devices harm a plane’s avionics
“The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which represents the Pentagon’s largest weapons program, was supposed to be the arms program that broke the mold, proof that the Pentagon could build something affordable, dependable and without much drama. […]
The F-35 was conceived as the Pentagon’s silver bullet in the sky — a state-of-the art aircraft that could be adapted to three branches of the military, with advances that would easily overcome the defenses of most foes. The radar-evading jets would not only dodge sophisticated antiaircraft missiles, but they would also give pilots a better picture of enemy threats while enabling allies, who want the planes, too, to fight more closely with American forces.
But the ambitious aircraft instead illustrates how the Pentagon can let huge and complex programs veer out of control and then have a hard time reining them in. The program nearly doubled in cost as Lockheed and the military’s own bureaucracy failed to deliver on the most basic promise of a three-in-one jet that would save taxpayers money and be served up speedily.
Rather than being the Chevrolet of the skies, as it was once billed, the F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in military history. But while Pentagon officials now say that the program is making progress, it begins its 12th year in development years behind schedule, troubled with technological flaws and facing concerns about its relatively short flight range as possible threats grow from Asia.
With a record price tag — potentially in the hundreds of billions of dollars — the jet is likely to become a target for budget cutters. Reining in military spending is on the table as President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress look for ways to avert a fiscal crisis. […]
The jets would cost taxpayers $396 billion, including research and development, if the Pentagon sticks to its plan to build 2,443 by the late 2030s. That would be nearly four times as much as any other weapons system and two-thirds of the $589 billion the United States has spent on the war in Afghanistan. The military is also desperately trying to figure out how to reduce the long-term costs of operating the planes, now projected at $1.1 trillion.”
[photo: Marine Corps’ version of the Joint Strike Fighter]