2014: The year's biggest Aerospace Technology stories

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft placed its Philae lander onto the surface of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed into the Java Sea off the Indonesian coast, and the hunt continues for the traces of crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. Aerospace-technology.com wraps-up the key headlines from 2014.


Rosetta Philae

Missing AirAsia flight suspected to have crashed in sea off Indonesia

AirAsia

The missing AirAsia flight could have crashed into the Java Sea off the Indonesian coast after the pilot's request to change course was turned down, rescue officials said.

AirAsia Flight QZ8501 was flying from Surabaya city in Indonesia to Singapore. Halfway into its journey, the pilot made a request to change to a higher altitude due to bad weather.

The air traffic control could not accommodate the request as the route was busy. The flight went missing five minutes thereafter.

ESA's Rosetta mission lands Philae robot on comet 67P

Rosetta Philae

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft made history by successfully placing small lander Philae onto the surface of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.

It is the first time that a robot has landed on a comet after a journey a six billion kilometre journey through space, which took more than ten years.

ESA director-general Jean-Jacques Dordain said: "Our ambitious Rosetta mission has secured another place in the history books: not only is it the first to rendezvous with and orbit a comet, but it is now also the first to deliver a probe to a comet's surface."

The 100kg lander arrived at the comet on schedule. A thruster, which was intended to push the robot, and harpoons which were used to anchor it to the surface failed to deploy as planned, causing the Philae to bounce away from the landing site.

Hunt continues for missing Malaysia Airlines jet

Searches are continuing for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, which disappeared off radars an hour after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur.

The MH370 flight is believed to have crashed off the Vietnam coast, and Malaysia and Vietnam, along with several other countries, are conducting search-and-rescue operations on an area of the South China Sea, south of Vietnam.

The aircraft was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members. According to reports, it was cruising at an altitude of 35,000ft when it lost contact on Saturday 8 March.

UK's Centre for Process Innovation reveals windowless aircraft concept

CPI

UK-based Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) unveiled a windowless aircraft concept, which will replace windows with ultra-thin smartscreen panels.

The new concept will see the aircraft equipped with touchscreen technology, which will allow passengers to adjust lighting or change the panoramic view of the skies.

It will provide passengers with views outside the aircraft captured by cameras mounted on the aircraft's exterior.

Nearly 300 dead in Malaysian plane crash in Ukraine

Malaysia Airlines

Malaysian Airlines' MH17 passenger jet was reportedly been shot down in the eastern, rebel-held Ukraine, killing 298 passengers on-board, just four months after the disappearance of flight MH370.

US and the Ukranian authorities are saying that the Boeing 777, which was on its way to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, was hit by a ground-to-air missile.

The Ukranian Government and the pro-Russia rebels in the country have blamed each other for shooting the plane with a missile.

Qatar Airways finalises $18.9bn order for 50 777-9X

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways placed an $18.9bn order with Boeing for 50 777-9Xs. with options for 50 additional 777-9X aircraft.

If finalised, the firm order along with options could take Qatar Airways' 777X order to 100 aircraft, valued at around $40bn at list prices.

The carrier announced the 777X order as a commitment at the 2013 Dubai Airshow.

It also plans to buy four 777 Freighters with options for another four, which have a combined value of approximately $3bn at list prices.

Nasa selects Boeing and SpaceX for flights to ISS

Boeing and SpaceX were selected by Nasa to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and back aboard their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Nasa's decision was in line with efforts to end the country's dependence on Russian spacecraft by 2017.

Boeing's fixed-price contract is valued at $4.2bn, while SpaceX's at $2.6bn.

Nasa administrator Charlie Bolden said: "Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry will also allow Nasa to focus on an even more ambitious mission, sending humans to Mars."

Under the commercial crew transportation capability (CCtCap) contracts, Boeing and SpaceX will each conduct at least one crewed flight with Nasa astronaut aboard, to test and validate the rocket and spacecraft system can launch, manoeuvre in orbit, and dock to the ISS.

Solar Impulse 2 aircraft completes first flight in Switzerland

Solar Impulse 2

Solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 has completed its maiden flight in Payerne, Switzerland, moving a step closer towards a round-the-world voyage in 2015.

The flight took-off from Payerne airfield with test pilot Markus Scherdel on-board. It lasted for two hours and 17 minutes, reaching altitudes of 5,500ft with an average ground speed of 55.6km/h.

Initial results are in line with calculations and simulations, the company said.

GKN Aerospace reveals innovative wing technology

GKN

GKN Aerospace and Airbus partnered to develop an ultra-high performance, natural laminar flow (NLF) wing for the next-generation of low emission aircraft.

The new wing concept is developed as part of the ground based structural and systems demonstrator phase of the Clean Sky smart fixed-wing aircraft programme.

GKN has delivered the wing technology demonstrator to the Clean Sky programme, which will make further improvements to the technology.

BAE Systems developing human-like skin concept for aircraft

Engineers at BAE Systems' Advanced Technology Centre worked on a concept to give aircraft human-like 'skin', which is claimed to detect wind speed, temperature, physical strain and movement more accurately than existing technology.

Embedding tens of thousands of micro-sensors into the aircraft body, the 'smart skin' concept is said to enable an aircraft to monitor its health and report potential problems, thereby reducing the need for regular check-ups on the ground.

It also helps to increase the efficiency of aircraft maintenance and improve safety.

BAE Systems said that the sensors are as small as dust particles and have their own power source.

On connecting with the appropriate software, the sensors will be able to communicate in a similar way as the human skin.

German scientists successfully test brain-controlled aircraft

TUM

Scientists from the Institute for Flight System Dynamics at Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany demonstrated the feasibility of flying a brain-controlled aircraft.

Led by professor Florian Holzapfel, the team is researching ways that brain-controlled flight works in the EU-funded project 'Brainflight'.

TUM project head Tim Fricke said a long-term vision of the project is to make flying accessible to more people.

"With brain control, flying, in itself, could become easier," Fricke said. "This would reduce the workload of pilots and thereby increase safety.

"In addition, pilots would have more freedom of movement to manage other manual tasks in the cockpit."

World's longest aircraft unveiled in UK

HAV304

The world's longest aircraft, HAV304, was unveiled at a hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire, UK.

The 113ft-wide aircraft, known as HAV304, was originally developed for the US military, and was later abandoned due to budget issues.

The aircraft is being developed by Hybrid Air Vehicles, with plans to build it for passenger and cargo purposes.

Designed to stay airborne for nearly three weeks, the ultra-green HAV304 can be used in a variety of applications, including surveillance and communications.

The aircraft combines the features of aeroplane, airship and helicopter designs and costs nearly $100m.