Boeing: 787 test flight 'uneventful'
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been plagued by problems with lithium-ion batteries.
April 5th, 2013
05:15 PM ET

Boeing: 787 test flight 'uneventful'

A flight labeled the "final" certification test of an improved battery system for the grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliner was "straightforward" and "uneventful," the airplane maker said Friday.

The test was an important one for Boeing, which has billions of dollars riding on the success of the new airliner. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and similar regulators worldwide grounded the Dreamliner in January after two battery-related fires damaged 787s in Boston and Japan. No one was hurt in the fires.

In March the FAA approved a Boeing certification plan to fix the 787's problematic lithium-ion battery system and prove the new design is safe. Friday's nearly two-hour flight was the final certification test of that plan.


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Filed under: Air travel • Business • Technology • Travel
August 13th, 2012
11:57 AM ET

Protesting Scouts renounce Eagle awards

Earning the right to be called an Eagle Scout ranks among life's most cherished achievements for countless men. But now, more than 100 Eagles have renounced their precious red, white and blue medals to protest the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay and lesbian members.

"With sadness for the loss of the good things - I respectfully return my badge and ask that the BSA consider the opinions of the more than 10,000 other Eagle Scouts who have now done the same," wrote Ray Myers on a Tumblr site called Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges.

Protesters have posted letters and photos of their Eagle badges and medals that they've sent to Robert Mazzuca, chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America.

The Boy Scout national headquarters said it doesn't have an exact count of medals returned recently. "But we have received a few," wrote BSA spokesman Deron Smith in an e-mail to CNN. "Although we are disappointed to learn of anyone who feels compelled to return his Eagle rank, we respect their right to express an opinion. While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand and appreciate that not everyone will agree with any one position or policy."

Myers' figure of 10,000 Eagle Scouts who've sent letters of protest can't be confirmed, but Smith said the number is closer to that reported by the site - 105 as of Friday.


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Filed under: Gay and lesbian • Protest
NASA insider: Some truth to Gingrich's barb
NASA is "standing in the way" of new opportunities, Newt Gingrich said Monday at a debate among GOP presidential candidates.
June 14th, 2011
08:13 PM ET

NASA insider: Some truth to Gingrich's barb

After Newt Gingrich's harsh comments about NASA during Monday's night's debate between GOP presidential hopefuls, you'd guess the outrage from the nation's legendary space agency would be deafening.

So far today, all we've heard from Houston and Washington are crickets.

For those who missed it, Gingrich accused NASA's bureaucracy of wasting hundreds of billions of dollars that it's spent since the 1969 moon landing. Without such waste, he said, "we would probably today have a permanent station on the moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles."

NASA is "standing in the way" of a "new cycle of opportunities" when it "ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector," said the former House speaker.

The government agency that fulfilled President Kennedy's Cold War challenge to send a man to the moon within a decade chose not to comment. "It is inappropriate for us to comment on election rhetoric," said today's one-line statement from the communications office.

Why so quiet? Some NASA officials suspect Gingrich may be letting us know that the emperor has no clothes.


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Filed under: NASA • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Space
Gotta Watch: Behind the scenes of the Reagan shooting
Ronald Reagan exits the Washington Hilton hotel moments before a gunman opens fire in 1981.
March 18th, 2011
10:34 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Behind the scenes of the Reagan shooting

Breaking news, 1981-style – It's hard to believe it's been 30 years this month since the failed assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. CNN - less than a year on the air as the world's first 24-hour news network - sprang into breaking news mode to report initial details of the attack.


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Filed under: Gotta Watch • Politics
March 12th, 2011
07:54 AM ET

Expert: Typical nuke plants can take a 10,000-year quake

Many questions remained about Saturday’s explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan. In general, these kinds of facilities are among the most carefully designed and heavily scrutinized structures in the world, said a top civil engineer.

Ron Hamburger, who travels the world studying earthquake-damaged buildings and other structures, says a typical nuclear power plant is designed to withstand earthquakes of the magnitude that only occurs once every 10,000 years.

Friday’s quake was the most powerful to hit the island nation in recorded history, and the tsunami it unleashed traveled across the Pacific Ocean. Reports from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy estimated the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the entire planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters).

Engineers typically design nuclear facilities with very thick walls. “It’s not unusual for the reinforced concrete walls of these structures to be between 3 and 6 feet thick,” Hamburger said Friday before reports surfaced about the Japanese blast. “The reason the walls are that thick is not so much for structural strength, but rather because they use the concrete in part to shield any possible radiation.”

Typically, equipment that’s most critical to safety at these plants has been rigorously tested for earthquake resiliency on so-called “shaking tables.” The equipment being tested – pumps, control valves and electric motors - is attached to the shaking tables - which measure as large as 20 feet by 20 feet. Computers use data from past earthquakes to move the table and the equipment up and down and side-to-side to closely simulate movement from actual quakes.

“The entire design and testing process of these nuclear facilities is designed to withstand the earthquake, shut down safely and contain any radiation hazards,” Hamburger said.

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Filed under: Earthquake • Nuclear • Tsunami
The surround-sounds of mass destruction
Civil engineer Ron Hamburger surveyed infrastructure damage during last year's devastating Chilean earthquake.
March 11th, 2011
05:09 PM ET

The surround-sounds of mass destruction

What does it sound like in the middle of a powerful and deadly earthquake?

Through his work with the American Society of Civil Engineers, Ron Hamburger has lived through dozens of quake aftermaths and aftershocks while studying their damage on buildings and other infrastructure.

As most people know, the intense shaking of the ground inflicts incredible stresses on buildings. But what may not be so apparent is how these noises offer clues to what's really happening inside the floors and walls of each structure.

Buildings made of steel or reinforced concrete don't topple from earthquakes very often. But when they do, they make very loud and scary noises, Hamburger says.


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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Chile • Japan
Help on way for air traffic jams
Captains Jeff Martin, left, and Kevin Fergerson work with GPS-based traffic displays in a Southwest Airlines cockpit.
March 4th, 2011
12:32 PM ET

Help on way for air traffic jams

Tom Stuker jokes that his home is "in Row One in a nice, big plane."

The 57-year-old car dealership consultant is a mega-frequent flier who has racked up 9.7 million miles during 5,000 flights over the past three decades - and he's got the stories to prove it.

"I've experienced aborted takeoffs, aborted landings, near misses and passenger deaths on three different flights."

Sure, his status as frequent-flier king earns him royal treatment. But the U.S. commercial airline system often leaves him stranded like millions of other travelers.

To deal with potential gridlock from the 1 billion U.S. air passengers expected to crowd the skies by 2021, the FAA is overhauling its traffic system, which has remained largely unchanged for 30 years.

The overhaul is called NextGen and components of the air traffic program are in use or being tested at airports in several U.S. cities including Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky.

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Filed under: Air travel • Travel