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December Around the World Release date 03.01.2017
The oldest pilot in the world, a new application that allows you to book flights on a private jet, a flight researching parrot, a Japanese space cleaner and the first American to orbit the earth has died. An international point of view of December’s events in aviation
Carmel Lahad, Carmel Stern & Yael Fuchs

The Oldest Pilot in the World
Ernest Eli Smith, who celebrated his 99 birthday on December 21st, is the oldest active pilot in the world, a title confirmed by Guinness World Records. Smith lives in California, has been flying from 1946 to this day and currently mainly pilots light transport aircraft. He fell in love with flying as a farm boy when he was given a dollar to go to the carnival but instead, he used his dollar for a plane ride. Smith added that he'd rather be the world's youngest, but at any age there's no better place than in the air.

Uber for Private Jets
“JetSmarter”: a new start-up that is expected to revolutionize the private jet industry, allows travelers to book seats on private jets via smartphone app. Among the company’s backers are Hip Hop icon Shawn Carter AKA Jay-Z and the Saudi royal family. The company consists of about 250 employees and is based in Florida.

How does it work?
The company searches for commercial – private jet flights online and offers vacant seats in said flights to the app’s users. A “core membership” costs 15,000 dollars in the first year and which covers their flights until their membership expires. “All you can fly” if you will. 

Winged Researcher
Researchers from Stanford have been using a live parrot (affectionately named Obi-Wan Kenobi) to measure and research the vortices produced by the bird’s flapping wings. The researchers set out to verify (or refute) the accuracy of existing models that claim to predict lift produced by animals in flight and the little goggle-wearing parrot didn’t disappoint! Obi-Wan was sent flying through an experimental setup which fired lasers (hence the goggles) and aimed high speed cameras at the parrot while it flew – all in order to map the birds micro motion and the vortices produced by its wings.

Surprisingly, Obi-Wan showed that the three equations widely used to model bird flight are inaccurate, as all three failed to predict the parrot’s lift. According to these models, a fling creature should create multiple well-organized vortex loops that slowly flow downstream, while Obi-Wan showed that these vortices break up violently much faster than expected. This newly found information could prove to be a significant breakthrough in development of bio-inspired aircraft.

Cleaning Space
On December 9, JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) launched a spacecraft called “Kounotori” (Japanese for Stork) which is designed to collect space debris and ultimately clean up space. The spacecraft that was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan consists of a mesh material made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminum, which generates electricity as it passes Earth's magnetic field to slow the debris and pull it into a lower orbit. The garbage will eventually enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

Space debris, which can travel up to 17,500 miles an hour, can potentially harm satellites, space stations and astronauts. It is estimated that there are about 500,000 pieces of space debris orbiting the earth.

The First American to Ever Orbit the Earth has Passed Away
On December 8, John Glenn, the third American Astronaut in space and the first to Orbit the Earth, passed away at the age of 95. Six months ago, in June 2016, the Port Columbus, Ohio airport was renamed John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

In 1962 Glenn took off for the “Mercury-Atlas 6” space mission in the “Friendship 7” spacecraft. Toward the end of its first orbit, Glenn noticed a problem with the automatic stabilization system and ultimately completed the flight and the spacecraft’s two other orbits in manual flight mode. At the age of 77 Glenn returned to space, aboard the “Discovery”, making him the oldest person to fly in space.