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Florida Residents Complained About Champlain Towers Development Two Years Before Collapse

Two and a half years before the Champlain Towers South building collapsed in Florida, residents were complaining that the buildings were being developed too closely together and didn’t seem safe. 

“We are concerned that the construction next to Surfside is too close. Workers were digging too close to our property and we have concerns regarding the structure of our building. There’s construction equipment directly across from our building’s property wall,” resident Mara Chouela, who is also a board member of the condo association, wrote in a January 2019 email to a building official.

Rosendo Prieto was the official responsible for sorting through complaints made by the condo association at the time. 30 minutes after Chouela sent the initial email, Prieto responded that there was nothing that needed to be checked. He reasoned that “the offending development, an ultra-luxury tower known as Eighty Seven Park, was directly across the border separating the town of Surfside from the city of Miami Beach, which runs between the two buildings. 

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Now, after the Champlain Towers South collapse, Eighty Seven Park is facing even more scrutiny over the construction of these buildings. In fact, Champlain residents often complained that all the construction from the neighboring buildings continuously caused their units to shake.

“The construction of 87 Park did not cause or contribute to the collapse that took place in Surfside. But the 18-story tower would not have been allowed to be built across the border in Surfside, where buildings are subject to a 12-story height limit (although Champlain Towers itself received an exemption in the 1980s to add nine extra feet),” The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Maggie Ramsey is a Florida resident whose mother is among the unaccounted for Champlain residents, and she claims her mother had been concerned about the work being done next door for weeks now. 

“She did complain of a lot of tremors and things that were being done to the other building that she sometimes was concerned about what may be happening to her building, and if she was at risk.” 

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Peter Dyga, the president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, said that “the likelihood of the Eighty Seven Park construction being a significant cause in the Surfside collapse is slim, but no lead or idea should be excluded.”

“There’s probably going to be multiple things in the end that have contributed in some way or another. Still, buildings are built next to buildings all the time, and it doesn’t mean that they come down.”

Records also show that Champlain South residents have sent a series of angry emails to Terra Group, the developers behind Eighty Seven Park, complaining about construction debris, noise, and lack of action. 

“I am shocked and disappointed to see the lack of consideration and respect that Terra has shown our residents. You have said you want to be a good neighbor… This is truly outrageous and quite unprecedented from what we hear from other associations in the area that have dealt with construction beside them,” Anette Goldstein, a condo board member, wrote to executives with the developer. 

Electric Plane

World’s First Electric Plane Flies For 15 Minutes in Canada

Climate issues and air pollution are a top priority for many countries around the world with the number of electric cars in many towns and cities steadily on the increase. But what about the aviation world?

It is a known fact that air travel is damaging the planet with American flights responsible for around 11 percent of our CO2 emissions. But what can we do to reduce it?

This week saw a seaplane, completely powered by electric, take its maiden flight in Vancouver, Canada, leading some to claim it as a “world first” for the aviation sector.

Harbour Air – who has a fleet of airplanes that carries around 500,000 passengers annually – and magniX carried out a test flight of an aircraft that had been fitted with an electric motor. And although the plane was only a small six seater aircraft, it has been hailed as leading the way to “the world’s first all-electric commercial fleet.”

Taking off near the Fraser River in Vancouver, the electric seaplane continued for around 15 minutes before landing safely.

It is hopeful that by bringing electric into the aviation sector, the amount of carbon emissions could be reduced. Similar to that of the motor industry, where electric cars produce between 17 – 30 percent less carbon emissions to that of a petrol or diesel powered car, it is believed electric airplanes can reduce carbon emissions significantly, something the high-polluting sector should be embracing.

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In a joint statement released by magniX and Harbour Air, it was claimed that “this historic flight signifies the start of the third era in aviation – the electric age.”

magniX, an Australian company, actually launched the plane at the Paris Air Show in June this year and states that the propulsion system – the companies used a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver which has a 750-horsepower (560kW) magni500 propulsion system – enabled them to create a “clean and efficient way to power airplanes.”

It is believed that Harbour Air, a Canadian operator of seaplanes, are aiming to have an all-electric fleet of airplanes, they currently have 40 aircraft, by 2022, however this all depends on whether they secure the relevant regulatory and safety approvals.

There are many benefits of having electric airplanes with zero emissions as well as a much lower operating cost. Yet they are proving to be a bigger challenge to engineers, unlike the concept of electric trains and cars, which do not travel such long distances. Currently the plane’s batteries are only able to fly about 100 miles in between battery charging, which severely hampers the majority of flights.

The size of the motors and batteries that would be needed to not only launch an electric plane but to also keep it in the air – and for several hours at a time – would mean that it could be difficult for the planes to be flown.

However these are only minor issues that can be resolved eventually due to the rapid advancements in electric flights. In 2017 a non-commercial electric plane crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans during a round the world trip.

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But will moving airplanes to electric engines actually help cut gas emissions in the aviation sector?

There has been increasing concern regarding the amount of pollution from flying and the impact it has on the planet, with many travelers aiming to reduce their carbon footprint in any way they can. For instance, many try to travel by alternative methods where possible, such as train, while others are utilizing websites that help give something back to the environment – such as BedandTree who plant a tree each time you book your travel through them – while many businesses now hold their cross-country business meetings via video conferencing apps – such as Zoom – therefore removing their impact on the environment completely.

Swiss bank UBS released a survey recently showing that flyers are trying to reduce their air travel due to their environmental concerns, with “flygskam” or “flight shame” spreading throughout the country. And in the United Kingdom it has been claimed that by 2050 the biggest source of air pollution will be from aviation.

However, the prospect of using electric airplanes for long haul flights continues to be a major challenge for those in the aviation sector.

Although there has been a significant advancement in generators, power distribution, electrical motors and controls, battery technology has not advanced as much.

With this in mind, the electric airplane we saw recently in Canada can fly around 100 miles (160km) on lithium battery power, according to AFP.

magniX chief executive Roei Ganzarski commented that “the [flight] range now is not where we’d love it to be, but it’s enough to start the revolution.” He has also questioned ‘’if people are willing to drive an hour to work, why not fly 15 minutes to work?”

Airplane Flying

Data Is Fueling Changes in Aviation Engineering

Airline passengers are easy to upset, often rightly bemoaning delays and disruptions. But for the operator, with a plane on the tarmac grounded by mechanical failure, the frustration is even more intense.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates this inertia equates to an eye-watering loss of at least $150 per minute.

With optimal reliability and an uptime vital just to break even, squeezing every drop of efficiency from an aircraft’s assets has become critical to the sector’s future health. Forecasts, from aviation consultancy Cavok, predict global sectors spending on maintenance, repair and overhaul will hit $100 billion by 2021, with smarter analysis of aircraft data playing a central role.

In turn, engine and airframe manufacturers are incorporating predictive models in their offerings to airlines, which will not only help identify faults and component failures, but also pre-empt issues before they become more serious.

“Predictive technology is great at finding a needle in a haystack and helping engineers pinpoint the areas they need to focus on. With experienced aircraft engineers proving scarce and many now retiring, these solutions are set to become even more vital in gathering and utilising all this invaluable knowledge and information,” says Torsten Welte, global vice-president for aerospace and defence at enterprise software company SAP.

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Mr Welte traces the genesis of this traction to the power-by-the-hour approach for engine maintenance, which Rolls-Royce pioneered in commercial aviation in the 1980s.

“When Rolls-Royce innovated the model with performance-based contracts that charge customers per flying hour of the engine, it became a case of ‘we must keep the engine running or we won’t make any money’,” he says.

“This changed the dynamics in the aviation industry between manufacturer and operator, and drove a different behaviour from the former that was now far more focused on getting the most out of their resources at all times.”

The exponential rise in data has continued to fuel momentum. IBM figures reveal that an average aircraft generates between 500 to 1,000 gigabytes of data. Data analytic platforms such as SAP HANA tap into this business intelligence to monitor fuel speed, torque and pressure with internal predictive algorithms making recommendations in real-time so parts can be sourced and engineers reassigned even while the plane is airborne, and it doesn’t stop there. The technology is also able to tackle the information silos which have traditionally undermined the effective sharing of key intelligence across the aviation ecosystem.

Mr Welte says: “In some countries, due to local ownership rights, performance data is owned by the pilot rather than the airline, which means they have to get permission to access it. Elsewhere, a manufacturer does not necessarily have access to maintenance data which is often owned by the airlines’ own maintenance systems, so it’s all very disjointed.”

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Another process undergoing significant transformation is the traditionally complex task of tail planning; in essence, assigning the most appropriate aircraft to a flight route. For example, if an aircraft has an issue that adversely affects fuel burn, it will be allocated to the shortest flight.

Typically, an airline would spend three to four hours working on a plan which can be subject to 150 changes daily. Until recently, the process had barely evolved from the handwritten schedules of the mid-1980s, with many airlines still transferring the information manually into spreadsheets comprising a dozen pages.

Dubai-based airline Emirates is one of the big names now automating the process, having adopted software vendor IFS Aviation and Defence’s predictive technology.

“Previously, the plans were devised based on the judgment of someone with perhaps 10 to 20 years’ experience, but our technology means we can tap into historical data that goes back 40 years, all in a matter of minutes,” says IFS business development head Espen Olsen.

“Maintenance history, fuel consumption, climate, forecast – all these characteristics are put into the algorithm to calculate the best option, which means reduced risk, increased fuel efficiency, and improved fleet utilisation and maintenance planning.”

Mr Olsen believes the Middle East is driving this market: “They see an issue and do something about it without over-analysing the problem, and they are definitely ahead of Europe when it comes to using this technology. One manufacturer does something visionary and everyone follows.”

More broadly, he is seeing a lot of interest from oil and gas companies inspired by the latest innovation in aerospace and defence. “There has been so much money in this market in the past, they didn’t have to consider how they could become more efficient,” says Mr Olsen. “Yet since the downturn, they are now far more focused on extending the life of equipment and how, as a service provider to the industry, they can commit to a 10-year contract on a fixed basis and still make money. Increasingly, predictive analytics has the answers.”