X-48C aircraft flight testing campaign comes to an end

The flight testing campaign of the X-48C Blended Wing Body (BWB, aka Hybrid Wing Body) research aircraft kicked off on August 7, 2012, at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. Eight months later the campaign has come to a close with the 30th and final flight carried out on April 12. NASA plans to use the data gathered over the campaign to aid in the design of future “green” airliners that are quieter and more fuel-efficient than conventional aircraft, while Boeing is touting the design’s potential military applications.

Unlike flying wing designs such the Stealth Bomber that lack a definitive fuselage, BWB designs have separate wing structures that are smoothly blended into a flattened and airfoil-shaped body. The purpose of the recently-completed flight testing campaign was to establish base data relating to the lift, stall and spin characteristics of the BWB design that promises increased fuel economy and range due to the entire aircraft contributing to lift generation…

In an effort to reduce the X-48B’s noise profile and study its low speed stability its wingtip winglets were moved inboard on either side of the engines – effectively turning them into twin tails – its fuselage was extended at the rear by about two feet (0.6 m), and its three 50-pound thrust jet engines were replaced with two 89-pound thrust engines. The result was the X-48C, which boasts the same 21-foot (6.4 m) wingspan and approximate 500 lb (227 kg) weight as the X-48B that made 92 flights between 2007 and 2010.

In the evolution from X-48B to X-48C, the aircraft’s flight control system software was also modified to account for the different handling qualities of the two models. The team says this enabled a stronger and safer prototype flight control system that is suitable for future full-scale commercial blended wing aircraft…

“We have accomplished our goals of establishing a ground-to-flight database, and proving the low speed controllability of the concept throughout the flight envelope,” said Fay Collier, manager of NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation project. “Very quiet and efficient, the hybrid wing body has shown promise for meeting all of NASA’s environmental goals for future aircraft designs.”

We probably won’t see anything looking like this in passenger/cargo/civilian aircraft for a couple of decades. And Boeing admits their first probable customers will be Uncle Sugar’s Air Force.

Which means you and I get to pay for them instead of some airline. Still – it is an interesting looking critter and hopefully produced research which will aid all aircraft construction.

The new Pope affirms the old Pope’s crackdown on U.S. nuns

Pope Francis has backed the Vatican’s doctrinal crackdown on a major group of American nuns, reasserting the Roman Catholic Church’s conservative approach to various social issues in a move that could cool the warm reception he has received from some liberal Catholics since taking office last month.

The Vatican said in a statement Monday that Francis had reaffirmed the doctrinal evaluation and criticism of U.S. nuns made last year by the Holy See under his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The assessment accused the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents most U.S. female Catholic orders, of promoting “radical feminist themes” and ignoring the Vatican’s hard line on same-sex marriage and abortion…

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious represents about 57,000 sisters, or 80% of U.S. nuns.

On Monday, officials from the conference met with Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith…Mueller reminded conference officials that organizations such as theirs “are constituted by and remain under the direction of the Holy See,” the Vatican’s statement said, and that Francis had “reaffirmed the findings of the assessment and the program of reform” prescribed for the nuns.

Kenneth Briggs, the author of a book about the Vatican’s clash with U.S. nuns, said Francis’ backing of the Holy See’s unyielding line was “a major blow” to prospects for more dialogue.

“It seems like the Vatican has put a more appealing salesman in charge of the same old product,” Briggs said.

You got it. The “new” pope seems perfectly happy in charge of a ideology in decline – at least as long as the coffers continue to keep him and his brethren living according to whatever style of royalty they choose.

Being out-of-date and irrelevant is, after all, perfectly acceptable behavior to many religious old geezers who fear women, equal opportunity, democracy and progress.

Turkish court convicts classical pianist of insulting Islam

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say has been given a suspended 10-month prison sentence for insulting Muslim values.

An Istanbul court found Say guilty of denigrating religion through comments he made on the social networking site Twitter, his lawyer said on Monday.

The 43-year-old musician, who has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Symphony and other world orchestras, was on trial for sending tweets last year, including one that joked about a religious leader and some Islamic practices…

The court ordered a “supervised release” for Say, meaning that he would be free as long as he did not commit a similar crime within five years…The sentence was reduced to 10 months from 12 months due to good behaviour in court.

“We reject the charges against us but the decision is the court’s,” the musician’s lawyer told the court..

Say was not in court for the sentencing. But he denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

He is the latest in a series of intellectuals and artists to be prosecuted in Turkey for expressing opinions and his case has raised further concerns over rights and freedoms in the country, a democracy with a mostly Muslim population that seeks membership in the European Union.

Say, who is due to perform in Germany on Monday evening according to his website, is a strong critic of the Islamic-rooted government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a devout Muslim who expounds conservative values, alarming some secular Turks who fear the government plans to make religion part of their lifestyle…

If Turkey hopes to join a democratic assembly like the European Union that nation’s government will have to grow into the 20th Century – if not the 21st – and understand that democracy can be impertinent and even disrespectful.

It isn’t unusual for True Believers in any religion to wish to silence critics of their beliefs, lifestyle and sometimes hypocritical regulations. It isn’t considered the norm or acceptable in modern society for government to act as agent for that religion.

Trader pleads guilty to $1 billion stock fraud scheme

A former Rochdale Securities trader whose unauthorized purchase of about $1 billion of Apple stock caused the demise of the financial services company pleaded guilty on Monday to wire fraud and conspiracy.

David Miller, 40, entered his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Martinez in Hartford, Connecticut.

Miller faces a maximum 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on July 8, but under a plea agreement he could receive a term of five to eight years. The Rockville Centre, New York resident is free on bond…

Prosecutors said Miller bought 1,625 million Apple shares on October 25, 2012, the day the maker of iPads, iPods and iPhones planned to report third-quarter results, hoping to profit if the company’s share price rose.

But they said Miller falsely told Rochdale that the trade was for a customer that had in fact ordered just 1,625 shares.

When the bet backfired, Rochdale was on the hook for $5.3 million of losses on the extra 1,623,375 shares, leaving the Stamford, Connecticut-based company undercapitalized, the SEC said in court papers…

The SEC said as a result of Miller’s bets, Rochdale ceased operations and its staff left or was fired in November 2012. On February 25, Rochdale asked Connecticut, the SEC and other regulators to withdraw its registrations.

So much for counting on the industry kingpins to regulate themselves. So much for providing oversight – preventing deception and fraud. Things were sufficiently lax to kill the company providing the opportunity to commit the crime.