Tonight a Virgin Atlantic 747 will fly on fuel made from industrial waste gas

Displacing jet fuel is a first step toward reducing the carbon footprint of flight.

PNNL

A little after 7pm ET tonight, a Virgin Atlantic 747 will take off from Orlando, Florida, bound for London's Gatwick airport. This flight will be the first to use a blend of jet fuel and fuel made from industrial waste gas from a steel mill in China. This waste-gas fuel will displace some of the petroleum-based jet fuel that usually fills up a commercial jet's tanks.

The company that makes the alternative fuel blend, LanzaTech, says third-party estimates show its fuels reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 70 percent compared to burning the same amount of jet fuel.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

British Airways customer data stolen in data breach

British Airways has confirmed a data breach. The London-based airline, the largest in the UK, did not disclose much about the breach, only that hackers stole customer data from its website, ba.com. In a statement, BA said that the “personal and financial details” of customers who made bookings on BA’s site or app between August […]

British Airways has confirmed a data breach.

The London-based airline, the largest in the UK, did not disclose much about the breach, only that hackers stole customer data from its website, ba.com.

In a statement, BA said that the “personal and financial details” of customers who made bookings on BA’s site or app between August 21 and September 5 were compromised, but travel or passport information was not taken.

A spokesperson told TechCrunch that “around 380,000 card payments” were compromised. BA had more than 45 million passengers last year.

“The breach has been resolved and our website is working normally,” the company said in a statement.

“British Airways is communicating with affected customers and we advise any customers who believe they may have been affected by this incident to contact their banks or credit card providers and follow their recommended advice,” said the statement.

Under the new European GDPR data protections laws, the airline can face fines of up to four percent of its global annual revenue.

Boeing’s new R&D center focuses on autonomous flight

Flying cars are BS. But there is actually a chance that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in general aviation as startups and major players like Airbus are looking to modern technology to allow more people to take flight without having to first learn how to steer a Cessna 152 down a short runway […]

Flying cars are BS. But there is actually a chance that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in general aviation as startups and major players like Airbus are looking to modern technology to allow more people to take flight without having to first learn how to steer a Cessna 152 down a short runway (though that’s a good skill to have, too). Boeing, which is not currently a player in general aviation, clearly doesn’t want to be left behind. The company today announced that it is opening a new R&D office in Boston that will focus on designing, building and flying autonomous aircraft.

Perkins + Will (PRNewsfoto/Boeing)

The new office will be staffed by Boeing engineers and employees of its Aurora Flight Sciences subsidiary, which it acquired last year. Unsurprisingly, the company also plans to work with the boffins at MIT, which is the landlord of the company’s new offices in Kendall Square.

“Boeing is leading the development of new autonomous vehicles and future transportation systems that will bring flight closer to home,” said Greg Hyslop, Boeing’s chief technology officer, in today’s announcement. “By investing in this new research facility, we are creating a hub where our engineers can collaborate with other Boeing engineers and research partners around the world and leverage the Cambridge innovation ecosystem.”

There’s obviously plenty left to be figured out with regards to autonomous flights — or even just giving people access to semi-autonomous aircraft that would fall under the FAA’s ultralight designation so that the pilot wouldn’t need a pilot’s license.

Right now, the rules are pretty clear about what’s possible and what isn’t — and most ideas around “urban air transportation” (at least in the U.S.) aren’t feasible under today’s rules. But those rules were written for an aviation system that handles fewer than 250,000 small general aviation aircraft, most of which feature very little in terms of automation. The FAA has shown some ability to act relatively fast when new technology comes along (see: drone regulations), so maybe that’ll be the case here, too. By 2020, the average Cessna you see puttering about in the sky above you will be close to 50 years old, but who knows, maybe we’ll see sleek electrified personal Boeing drones zooming 500 feet above our heads instead.