The Hunt For MH370 Goes On With Barnacles As A Lead

On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished. The crash site was never found, nor was the plane. It remains one of the most perplexing aviation mysteries in history. In the years since the crash, investigators have looked into everything from ocean currents to obscure radio phenomena to try and locate the plane. All have thus far failed to find the wreckage.

It was on July 2015 when a flaperon from the aircraft washed up on Réunion Island. It was the first piece of wreckage found, and it was hoped it could provide clues to the airliner’s final resting place. While it’s yet to reveal a final answer as to the aircraft’s fate, some of the ocean life living on it could help investigators need to find the plane. The picture is murky right now, but in an investigation where details are scarce, every little clue helps.

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Building A Rad Super Capacitor RC Plane

[Tom Stanton] is a fan of things like rubber band planes, and has built many of his own air-powered models over the years. Now, he’s built a model powered by a supercapacitor for a thoroughly modern twist on stored-energy flying toys.

It’s not a wholly original idea; [Tom] was inspired by a toy he bought off-the-shelf. His idea, though, was to make one that could be hand-cranked to charge it to make it more like the rubber-band planes of old. He thus built his own geared generator for the job using a big pile of magnets and 3D printed components. It’s capable of putting out around 17 volts when cranked at a reasonable speed. Hooked up to the toy plane, his hand-crank generator was able to fully charge the plane in just a few turns.

His generator was really overkill for the small toy, though. Thus, he elected to build himself a much larger supercapacitor-powered model. He wired up a pack of six supercapacitors in series, designed for roughly 18 volts. The pack was given balance leads to ensure that no individual capacitor was charged beyond its 3.0 V rating. The pack was placed inside a nice aerodynamic printed fuselage. The plane was then given a brushless motor and prop, speed controller, servos, and an RC receiver. Indeed, far from a simple throwable model, it’s a fully flyable RC plane.

The plane is quite a capable flyer with plenty of power, but a fairly short run time of just under two minutes. Though, with that said, it can be recharged in just about that same amount of time thanks to its supercapacitor power supply. [Tom] reckons it should be capable of a 1:1 crank time to flight time ratio in ideal conditions.

Supercapacitors are super cool, but we don’t see enough of them. They’ve popped up here and there, and obviously have many important applications, but we’re not sure they’ve had a real killer app in the consumer space. XV Racers were killer fun, though. Continue reading “Building A Rad Super Capacitor RC Plane”

Truss-Braced Wings Could Bring New Look To Runways Worldwide

Airliners have looked largely the same for a long time now. The ongoing hunt for efficiency gains has seen the development of winglets, drag reducing films, and all manner of little aerodynamic tricks to save fuel, and hence money.

Boeing now has its eye on bigger, tastier goals. It believes by switching to a truss-braced wing design, it could net double-digit efficiency gains. It’s working together with NASA to see if this concept could change the face of commercial aviation in decades to come.

Aspect Ratio Matters

The ASH 31 glider features wings with an aspect ratio of 33.5, and a lift-to-drag ratio of 56. Credit: Manfred Munch, CC-BY-SA 3.0

The key goal of using a truss-braced wing is to enable an airliner to use a wing much thinner and narrower than usual. These “high aspect ratio” wings are far more efficient than the stubbier, wider wings currently common on modern airliners.  But why is aspect ratio so important, and how does it help

If you’ve ever looked at a glider, you will have noticed its incredibly long and narrow wings, which stand it apart from the shorter, wider wings used on airliners and conventional small aircraft. These wings are said to have a high aspect ratio, the ratio between the square of the wingspan and the projected area of the wing itself.

These wings are highly desirable for certain types of aircraft, as lift-to-drag ratio increases with aspect ratio. Any wing that generates lift also generates some drag, but this can be minimized through careful wing design. By making the wings longer and narrower, and thus higher in aspect ratio, the wing tip vortices generated by the wing are weakened. This reduces drag on the plane, and quite significantly so. Continue reading “Truss-Braced Wings Could Bring New Look To Runways Worldwide”

Watch This Beautiful Japanese Factory Manufacturing Hand Planes

If you’re a woodworker, you know the value of a good hand plane. A stout model will last a lifetime if properly cared for. [Process X] has now taken us behind the scenes of a Japanese factory that turns out quality hand planes to show us how it’s done. 

The video starts at the forge, where steel is attached to soft iron to form a blank that will become the hand plane blade. This is proper blacksmithing, with autohammers and flames akimbo. It’s also a woodworking story, though, with the hand plane bodies themselves carefully prepared for the years of faithful service ahead. We get to see the raw wood roughed into shape and put through the thicknesser, along with the more interesting machining steps that carve out the angled pockets and the blade slot.

The final assembly is great, too, particularly when the pins are nailed in to hold everything in place. The test is the icing on the cake, in which the hand plane peels a perfect contiguous strip from a long piece of lumber.

It’s still very much a manual process, with the workshop largely relying on classical machine tools. There’s not a hint of CNC control to speak of. For the Komori Small Plane Factory and the Koyoshiya Watanabe Woodworking Shop, though, the old methods are doing just fine.

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Here’s The World’s Smallest Wood Plane…Probably

Admittedly, we aren’t really in a position to confirm whether or not the miniature wood plane put together by [Daniel d’Entremont] is actually the smallest in the world, but we’re willing to take his word for it. At the very least, we certainly haven’t seen a smaller one.

In the video below, [Daniel] crafts the diminutive tool from a small block of wood by first slicing off a square using a band saw and then switching over to a small hand saw to cut out the individual pieces. These are glued together to make the body of the plane, and the shank of a small drill bit is used to hold down the wedge and blade. All told it’s about 1/2 of an inch long, and is fully functional…or at least, as functional as a 1/2 inch wood plane can be.

Interested in more miniature tools? Believe it or not, we’ve got you covered.

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Machining A Honing Jig Will Keep Skills Sharp

[Amy Makes Stuff] has long used a pair of diamond honing blocks to freehand sharpen planes, chisels, and all the other dull things around the shop. Although this method works fairly well, the results are often inconsistent without some kind of jig to hold the blade securely as it’s being sharpened. These types of devices are abundant and cheap to buy, but as [Amy] says in the video after the break, then she doesn’t get to machine anything. Boy, do we know that feeling.

[Amy] was able to make this completely out of stuff she had lying around, starting with a block of scrap aluminium that eventually gets cut into the two halves of the jig. The video is full of tips and tricks and it’s really interesting to see [Amy]’s processes up close. Our favorite part has to be that grippy knob that expands and contracts the jig. [Amy] made it by drilling a bunch of holes close to the outside edge of a circle, and then milled away the edge until she had a fully fluted knob. Once she had the jig finished, she upgraded her honing blocks by milling a new home for them out of milky-white high-density polyethylene.

Mills are fantastic tools to have, but they’re a bit on the pricey side. If you’re just getting started, why not convert a drill press into a mill? Wouldn’t that be more fun that just buying one?

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The V-Bomber Ejector Seat Controversy

Once upon a time, bailing out of a plane involved popping open the roof or door, and hopping out with your parachute, hoping that you’d maintained enough altitude to slow down before you hit the ground. As flying speeds increased and aircraft designs changed, such escape became largely impossible.

Ejector seats were the solution to this problem, with the first models entering service in the late 1940s. Around this time, the United Kingdom began development of a new fleet of bombers, intended to deliver its nuclear deterrent threat over the coming decades. The Vickers Valiant, the Handley Page Victor, and the Avro Vulcan were all selected to make up the force, entering service in 1955 through 1957 respectively. Each bomber featured ejector seats for the pilot and co-pilot, who sat at the front of the aircraft. The remaining three crew members who sat further back in the fuselage were provided with an escape hatch in the rear section of the aircraft with which to bail out in the event of an emergency.

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