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Concept: Aircraft


Background Worldwide, 2.75 billion passengers fly on commercial airlines annually. When in-flight medical emergencies occur, access to care is limited. We describe in-flight medical emergencies and the outcomes of these events. Methods We reviewed records of in-flight medical emergency calls from five domestic and international airlines to a physician-directed medical communications center from January 1, 2008, through October 31, 2010. We characterized the most common medical problems and the type of on-board assistance rendered. We determined the incidence of and factors associated with unscheduled aircraft diversion, transport to a hospital, and hospital admission, and we determined the incidence of death. Results There were 11,920 in-flight medical emergencies resulting in calls to the center (1 medical emergency per 604 flights). The most common problems were syncope or presyncope (37.4% of cases), respiratory symptoms (12.1%), and nausea or vomiting (9.5%). Physician passengers provided medical assistance in 48.1% of in-flight medical emergencies, and aircraft diversion occurred in 7.3%. Of 10,914 patients for whom postflight follow-up data were available, 25.8% were transported to a hospital by emergency-medical-service personnel, 8.6% were admitted, and 0.3% died. The most common triggers for admission were possible stroke (odds ratio, 3.36; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.88 to 6.03), respiratory symptoms (odds ratio, 2.13; 95% CI, 1.48 to 3.06), and cardiac symptoms (odds ratio, 1.95; 95% CI, 1.37 to 2.77). Conclusions Most in-flight medical emergencies were related to syncope, respiratory symptoms, or gastrointestinal symptoms, and a physician was frequently the responding medical volunteer. Few in-flight medical emergencies resulted in diversion of aircraft or death; one fourth of passengers who had an in-flight medical emergency underwent additional evaluation in a hospital. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health.).

Concepts: Myocardial infarction, Physician, First aid, Emergency medical services, Aircraft, Airline, Avianca, Airlines


The Germanwings Flight 9525 crash has brought the sensitive subject of airline pilot mental health to the forefront in aviation. Globally, 350 million people suffer from depression-a common mental disorder. This study provides further information on this important topic regarding mental health especially among female airline pilots. This is the first study to describe airline pilot mental health-with a focus on depression and suicidal thoughts-outside of the information derived from aircraft accident investigations, regulated health examinations, or identifiable self-reports, which are records protected by civil aviation authorities and airline companies.

Concepts: Psychology, Mental disorder, Suicide, Aircraft, Aviator, Airline, International Civil Aviation Organization, Civil aviation


Albatrosses do something that no other birds are able to do: fly thousands of kilometres at no mechanical cost. This is possible because they use dynamic soaring, a flight mode that enables them to gain the energy required for flying from wind. Until now, the physical mechanisms of the energy gain in terms of the energy transfer from the wind to the bird were mostly unknown. Here we show that the energy gain is achieved by a dynamic flight manoeuvre consisting of a continually repeated up-down curve with optimal adjustment to the wind. We determined the energy obtained from the wind by analysing the measured trajectories of free flying birds using a new GPS-signal tracking method yielding a high precision. Our results reveal an evolutionary adaptation to an extreme environment, and may support recent biologically inspired research on robotic aircraft that might utilize albatrosses' flight technique for engineless propulsion.

Concepts: Evolution, Bird, Albatross, Seabird, Flying and gliding animals, Procellariiformes, Aircraft, Dynamic soaring


BACKGROUND: Flame retardant chemicals are used in materials on airplanes to slow the propagation of fire. These chemicals migrate from their source products and can be found in the dust of airplanes, creating the potential for exposure. METHODS: To characterize exposure to flame retardant chemicals in airplane dust, we collected dust samples from locations inside 19 commercial airplanes parked overnight at airport gates. In addition, hand-wipe samples were also collected from 9 flight attendants and 1 passenger who had just taken a cross-country (USA) flight. The samples were analyzed for a suite of flame retardant chemicals. To identify the possible sources for the brominated flame retardants, we used a portable XRF analyzer to quantify bromine concentrations in materials inside the airplanes. RESULTS: A wide range of flame retardant compounds were detected in 100% of the dust samples collected from airplanes, including BDEs 47, 99, 153, 183 and 209, tris(1,3-dichloro-isopropyl)phosphate (TDCPP), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) and bis-(2-ethylhexyl)-tetrabromo-phthalate (TBPH). Airplane dust contained elevated concentrations of BDE 209 (GM: 500 ug/g; range: 2,600 ug/g) relative to other indoor environments, such as residential and commercial buildings, and the hands of participants after a cross-country flight contained elevated BDE 209 concentrations relative to the general population. TDCPP, a known carcinogen that was removed from use in children’s pajamas in the 1970’s although still used today in other consumer products, was detected on 100% of airplanes in concentrations similar to those found in residential and commercial locations. CONCLUSION: This study adds to the limited body of knowledge regarding exposure to flame retardants on commercial aircraft, an environment long hypothesized to be at risk for maximum exposures due to strict flame retardant standards for aircraft materials. Our findings indicate that flame retardants are widely used in many airplane components and all airplane types, as expected. Most flame retardants, including TDCPP, were detected in 100% of dust samples collected from the airplanes. The concentrations of BDE 209 were elevated by orders of magnitude relative to residential and office environments.

Concepts: Fire retardant, Flame retardant, Decabromodiphenyl ether, Bromine, Brominated flame retardant, Flame retardants, Hexabromocyclododecane, Aircraft


Ornithopters, or flapping-wing aircraft, offer an alternative to helicopters in achieving manoeuvrability at small scales, although stabilizing such aerial vehicles remains a key challenge. Here, we present a hovering machine that achieves self-righting flight using flapping wings alone, without relying on additional aerodynamic surfaces and without feedback control. We design, construct and test-fly a prototype that opens and closes four wings, resembling the motions of swimming jellyfish more so than any insect or bird. Measurements of lift show the benefits of wing flexing and the importance of selecting a wing size appropriate to the motor. Furthermore, we use high-speed video and motion tracking to show that the body orientation is stable during ascending, forward and hovering flight modes. Our experimental measurements are used to inform an aerodynamic model of stability that reveals the importance of centre-of-mass location and the coupling of body translation and rotation. These results show the promise of flapping-flight strategies beyond those that directly mimic the wing motions of flying animals.

Concepts: Bird, Flight, Wing, Fixed-wing aircraft, Flying and gliding animals, Aircraft, Airfoil, Ornithopter


Small-winged drones can face highly varied aerodynamic requirements, such as high manoeuvrability for flight among obstacles and high wind resistance for constant ground speed against strong headwinds that cannot all be optimally addressed by a single aerodynamic profile. Several bird species solve this problem by changing the shape of their wings to adapt to the different aerodynamic requirements. Here, we describe a novel morphing wing design composed of artificial feathers that can rapidly modify its geometry to fulfil different aerodynamic requirements. We show that a fully deployed configuration enhances manoeuvrability while a folded configuration offers low drag at high speeds and is beneficial in strong headwinds. We also show that asymmetric folding of the wings can be used for roll control of the drone. The aerodynamic performance of the morphing wing is characterized in simulations, in wind tunnel measurements and validated in outdoor flights with a small drone.

Concepts: Aerodynamics, Reynolds number, Drag, Flight, Wing, Lift, Aircraft, Aerospace engineering


This study simultaneously models crash severity of both parties in two-vehicle accidents at signalized intersections in Taipei City, Taiwan, using a novel bivariate generalized ordered probit (BGOP) model. Estimation results show that the BGOP model performs better than the conventional bivariate ordered probit (BOP) model in terms of goodness-of-fit indices and prediction accuracy and provides a better approach to identify the factors contributing to different severity levels. According to estimated parameters in latent propensity functions and elasticity effects, several key risk factors are identified-driver type (age>65), vehicle type (motorcycle), violation type (alcohol use), intersection type (three-leg and multiple-leg), collision type (rear ended), and lighting conditions (night and night without illumination). Corresponding countermeasures for these risk factors are proposed.

Concepts: Mathematics, Model, Lighting, Taiwan, Republic of China, Taipei, Aircraft, Ordered pair


This article concerns the assignment of buffer time between two connected flights and the number of reserve crews in crew pairing to mitigate flight disruption due to flight arrival delay. Insufficient crew members for a flight will lead to flight disruptions such as delays or cancellations. In reality, most of these disruption cases are due to arrival delays of the previous flights. To tackle this problem, many research studies have examined the assignment method based on the historical flight arrival delay data of the concerned flights. However, flight arrival delays can be triggered by numerous factors. Accordingly, this article proposes a new forecasting approach using a cascade neural network, which considers a massive amount of historical flight arrival and departure data. The approach also incorporates learning ability so that unknown relationships behind the data can be revealed. Based on the expected flight arrival delay, the buffer time can be determined and a new dynamic reserve crew strategy can then be used to determine the required number of reserve crews. Numerical experiments are carried out based on one year of flight data obtained from 112 airports around the world. The results demonstrate that by predicting the flight departure delay as the input for the prediction of the flight arrival delay, the prediction accuracy can be increased. Moreover, by using the new dynamic reserve crew strategy, the total crew cost can be reduced. This significantly benefits airlines in flight schedule stability and cost saving in the current big data era.

Concepts: Prediction, Futurology, Future, Forecasting, Flight, Fixed-wing aircraft, Aircraft, Airline


Aerial surveys are a recognised technique to identify the presence and abundance of marine animals. However, the capability of aerial observers to reliably sight coastal sharks has not been previously assessed, nor have differences in sighting rates between aircraft types been examined. In this study we investigated the ability of observers in fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft to sight 2.5 m artificial shark analogues placed at known depths and positions. Initial tests revealed that the shark analogues could only be detected at shallow depths, averaging only 2.5 m and 2.7 m below the water surface for observers in fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft, respectively. We then deployed analogues at shallower depths along a 5 km-long grid, and assessed their sightability to aircraft observers through a series of transects flown within 500 m. Analogues were seen infrequently from all distances, with overall sighting rates of only 12.5% and 17.1% for fixed-wing and helicopter observers, respectively. Although helicopter observers had consistently higher success rates of sighting analogues within 250 m of their flight path, neither aircraft observers sighted more than 9% of analogues deployed over 300 m from their flight paths. Modelling of sighting rates against environmental and experimental variables indicated that observations were affected by distance, aircraft type, sun glare and sea conditions, while the range of water turbidities observed had no effect. We conclude that aerial observers have limited ability to detect the presence of submerged animals such as sharks, particularly when the sharks are deeper than ∼2.6 m, or over 300 m distant from the aircraft’s flight path, especially during sunny or windy days. The low rates of detections found in this study cast serious doubts on the use of aerial beach patrols as an effective early-warning system to prevent shark attacks.

Concepts: Observation, Flight, Rocket, Wing, Fixed-wing aircraft, Aircraft, Helicopter, Sharks


The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for ecological research has grown rapidly in recent years, but few studies have assessed the disturbance impacts of these tools on focal subjects, particularly when observing easily disturbed species such as waterfowl. In this study we assessed the level of disturbance that a range of UAV shapes and sizes had on free-living, non-breeding waterfowl surveyed in two sites in eastern Australia between March and May 2015, as well as the capability of airborne digital imaging systems to provide adequate resolution for unambiguous species identification of these taxa. We found little or no obvious disturbance effects on wild, mixed-species flocks of waterfowl when UAVs were flown at least 60m above the water level (fixed wing models) or 40m above individuals (multirotor models). Disturbance in the form of swimming away from the UAV through to leaving the water surface and flying away from the UAV was visible at lower altitudes and when fixed-wing UAVs either approached subjects directly or rapidly changed altitude and/or direction near animals. Using tangential approach flight paths that did not cause disturbance, commercially available onboard optical equipment was able to capture images of sufficient quality to identify waterfowl and even much smaller taxa such as swallows. Our results show that with proper planning of take-off and landing sites, flight paths and careful UAV model selection, UAVs can provide an excellent tool for accurately surveying wild waterfowl populations and provide archival data with fewer logistical issues than traditional methods such as manned aerial surveys.

Concepts: Fixed-wing aircraft, Aircraft, Unmanned aerial vehicle, Helicopter, MQ-1 Predator