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United Airlines Commits to Seatback IFE Screens in Record Airbus, Boeing Jet Order

United Airlines has placed its largest order ever for a total of 270 Airbus and Boeing jets. (Boeing)

United Airlines has placed its largest ever order for a combined 270 Airbus and Boeing commercial jets and committed to equipping every new aircraft type joining its fleet with seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens.

The order includes 50 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, 150 737 MAX 10s, and 70 Airbus A321neos, with a “new signature interior that includes seat-back entertainment in every seat,” according to a June 29 press release. During a question and answer session with analysts at the “United Next” investor event, Andrew Nocella, Chief Commercial Officer, United Airlines, said that the international carrier sees higher net promoter scores (NPS) on aircraft that feature seatback IFE screens versus those that do not.

“In particular the seatback IFE, we have a number of aircraft with this, we can tell our NPS scores are off the chart when we offer this type of product, our customer satisfaction is off the charts when we offer seatback IFE. Everything about the experience of flying on an aircraft with seatback TV is better. The food is better on our aircraft with seatback TVs, literally, the food is better, and it’s a halo effect that comes with occupying the time of our customers while they’re flying a three to five or six-hour journey. It’s really important.”

The decision to keep the seatback IFE screens by United comes as some airlines have decided to drop them in favor of centering their in-flight passenger experience strategies around connecting passenger mobile devices. Most low-cost carriers, including newly launched Avelo Airlines, whose VP of guest experience says they’re considering future IFC investment, have opted to eliminate them in new aircraft orders.

Southwest Airlines has never equipped its Boeing 737 fleet with seatback IFE screens, and American Airlines has removed seatback IFE screens from the majority of its domestic fleet as well.

“There’s some other airlines out there that do offer seatbacks and there’s many airlines that don’t. But when you combine our global network, this product, these seatbacks, we really are in the process of differentiating our product. It’s not just for the people that sit upfront, there’s a seatback monitor at every seat,” Nocella said. “When we’re competing on the low end or the high end we’re often an elevated product, and our belief is this is going to allow us to differentiate, better segment our revenue, and make sure we generate the most revenue we can from this new aircraft.”

United’s new order will upgrade 100 percent of its existing mainline narrow-body aircraft fleet by 2025, as the airline expects to add more than 500 new narrowbody aircraft by then. In 2023 alone, United expects to be on a schedule where a new narrowbody aircraft is added to its fleet every three days.

Nocella said that the airline has also invested in digital aircraft maintenance technologies that allow its technicians to wirelessly clear an aircraft on the ground for takeoff.

“When there is a mechanical problem on the aircraft, our mechanics carry iPads, they can request the parts from those iPads and they can clear the flight to depart from those iPads, whereas it used to be the logbook and all the paper going back and forth, you could see the mechanic going in and out of the aircraft, and you’re saying when are we going to leave? If you fly United today you just don’t see that anymore. Expect a lot more and our digital team is just so energized to deliver these products as well,” Nocella said.

The order for 270 new aircraft comes following United’s recent commitment to purchase 15 total supersonic jets being developed by Boom Supersonic, and several months after  United made another major investment in future aircraft technology through a partnership with Archer Aviation for its Maker electric air taxi.

“By adding and upgrading this many aircraft so quickly with our new signature interiors, we’ll combine friendly, helpful service with the best experience in the sky, all across our premier global network,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kerby said in a statement. “At the same time, this move underscores the critical role United plays in fueling the broader U.S. economy – we expect the addition of these new aircraft will have a significant economic impact on the communities we serve in terms of job creation, traveler spending, and commerce.”

The post United Airlines Commits to Seatback IFE Screens in Record Airbus, Boeing Jet Order appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Congress Could Create a Working Group to Address Advanced Air Mobility

NASA’s AAM NC project is a collaboration between the agency, industry, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It is funded through 2030 and every two years the campaign gets more complex in operations. (NASA)

The Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act could create an interagency working group of over 10 departments and agencies to advance advanced air mobility (AAM) efforts like safety, infrastructure, and federal investment in the United States, but first, Congress must pass it.

The bill was first introduced as H.R. 1339 in the House by Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) in February of this year. It now sits in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s subcommittee on aviation. The bill was also introduced in the Senate as S.516 in March by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and was passed through the commerce committee in May.

The bill is now headed toward the Senate floor where legislators are hoping it will be ‘hotlined’ and passed onto the House of Representatives, Katie Kentfield, a legislative correspondent for Moran who specializes in transportation aviation and technology issues, said during a Revolution.Aero Global 2021 panel discussion on June 29.

“In mid-May, it successfully passed out of commerce by voice vote, unanimously, so we are hopeful that it will pass similarly on the Senate floor and be hotlined there,” Kentfield said. “So, if a bill hotlines that means that no member within the U.S. Senate would object to his passage, and then, in this case, would be picked up by the House of Representatives. We’re hoping that they’ll pick it up as well and move this effort forward.”

The interagency group created by the bill would be led by the Secretary of Transportation and they would review and put forth recommendations for AAM aircraft. Besides other agencies and departments, it would also incorporate manufacturers, operators, air carriers, airports, first responders, training and maintenance providers, energy providers, and state and local officials.

“It would authorize the Secretary of Transportation to establish a working group with other federal agencies that would plan for the advancement of operating AAM aircraft,” Kentfield said. “This working group but also be tasked to review and make recommendations for the federal role in the AAM sector. Beyond the initial critical stage of aircraft certification and operation, it would focus on economic and workforce opportunities.”

The bill states that it would further U.S. leadership on AAM, grow new transportation options, amplify economic activity and jobs, advance environmental sustainability and new technologies, and support emergency preparedness.

Industry has also expressed support for the bill.

“The industry wants to go here,” Ed Bolen, president and CEO of NBAA, said. “We recognize that we’ve always been about on-demand air mobility…Through the years that’s meant lots of changes in technology from radial engines to piston engines to jet engines from fixed-wing rotor wing, aluminum, composite, whatever it is, it’s what technologies can we use to get people where they need to be when they need to be, that on-demand air mobility. I think what you’re seeing is that the industry has been embracing this idea for quite a while. There’s been a relatively clear vision, a lot of brilliant passionate people, and now we’re seeing a lot of capital flowing into the industry so you have all the elements to be able to move forward.”

Bolen said the government is signaling to the industry that what they are doing is important to the nation’s transportation system.

“What we’re seeing in the introduction of Senator Moran’s bill is that we are effectively reaching out to the government and what they are saying to us is, yes, we recognize this is an important part of our future, it’s an important part of our economic engine, our transportation system, our world leadership in civil aviation, and they’re embracing it,” Bolen said.

While the industry is eager to advance this technology, they also realize they will need to be regulated in order to progress safely, Bolen said.

“The companion legislation in the House is really all about is the government beginning to say, we recognize that there is a lot of potential here and we want to help realize that potential, but we want to do it safely and appropriately,” Bolen said. “That’s where NBAA and other groups are working closely with the government itself to try to make sure that there’s broad-based understanding on what we’re trying to do and how we can do it safely and, again, get people where they need to be when they need to be there.”

The departments and agencies that would be part of the working group include the Department of Transportation, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and Labor and the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“I think one of the important reasons by making certain that this is an interagency working group that incorporates up to 10 agencies, and even more if the Secretary of the Department of Transportation sees fit, is to make certain that we’re doing our role within the federal government to make sure that we can help this industry advance,” Kentfield said. “We don’t want to be a hindrance whatsoever. So, if we can get the ball rolling now and have those conversations with industry folks and stakeholders of this industry, then I think we’re better off long term.”

If passed, the bill would create this working group within 120 days and complete a report no more than a year later to examine how AAM will mature, its physical and digital security and safety requirements, infrastructure, benefits, and other factors limiting the full potential of the industry.

The post Congress Could Create a Working Group to Address Advanced Air Mobility appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Drone Pilots Now Need FAA’s TRUST to Fly in the NAS

TRUST was created as a requirement of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 which requires pilots to take a test to operate in the national airspace.

Recreational drone pilots will now be required to complete a safety test to fly in the national airspace. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved 16 organizations to provide this test which is known as the Recreational Unmanned Aircraft Systems Safety Test (TRUST), the agency announced on June 22.

“These organizations are key to making this test widely available and easily accessible to recreational drone pilots,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement. “We need pilots of all aircraft, including those who operate recreational drones, to have the training and knowledge needed to operate safely in the nation’s airspace.”

TRUST was created as a requirement of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 which requires pilots to take a test to operate in the national airspace.

“Passing The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) is required for recreational drone pilots operating under 49 U.S.C. Section 44809,” the FAA told Avionics International via email. “The test is online and free to take. The FAA will continue to use the Compliance Program to address instances of non-compliance.”

The Pilot Institute is one of the 16 organizations authorized by the FAA to administer TRUST. Greg Reverdiau, co-founder and lead instructor at the Pilot Institute, told Avionics that the test takes about 30 minutes, however, he has seen people do it in 10 to 15 minutes. The course includes reading and four quizzes with a total of 23 questions.

“TRUST is about 30 minutes,” Reverdiau said. “We’ve seen people do it in a lot less than that—10-15 minutes it looks like seems to be the average. It’s a bunch of reading on the platform that we created and then it’s 23 questions in quizzes, there’s four quizzes throughout the entire thing, and you can be done in about 15 to 30 minutes.”

Through TRUST drone pilots will learn information pertaining to regulation, airspace approvals, and pilot fitness, Reverdiau said.

“It’s primarily providing information about the regulation, so what can you do, what can’t you do with your drone; its airspace and basically figuring out if there’s an airport near you, what do you need to do, can you fly, how do you get approval to fly in that airspace; and then it’s information about the pilot themselves, so are you fit to fly, have you had alcohol, all the things that pertain to the pilot performance,” Reverdiau said.

Once a pilot completes TRUST, they will be given a certificate to provides to authorities when flying. This certificate does not expire.

“There was no requirement for recreational flyers to retake the test,” the FAA said. “The FAA may update the test content in the future and will encourage recreational flyers to retake the test if updated content is created.”

Reverdiau said he thinks of TRUST as more of a training than a test.

“I wish the FAA would call this a training rather than a test,” Reverdiau said. “The T in TRUST at the very end stands for test; it’s really about training. They wanted people to get trained more than just taking a test. So, they’ve been trying to make this as accessible as possible, which is why it’s free, which is why it’s pretty short.”

The FAA said they made the test free to make the test widely available.

“The FAA recognizes that recreational drone flying is a popular hobby and wants to make sure that there are no barriers that would prevent anyone from taking the test,” the FAA said.

Reverdiau said his program alone received over 4,000 users after only being available for 48 hours and is now up to 13,000. He also received feedback from people who completed TRUST and said they were not aware of some of the regulations they were required to follow.

“The one thing I was surprised and happy about is we’ve seen a lot of comments from people saying, I didn’t know I couldn’t do that, and to me that’s the biggest one because this is all about training, it’s all about educating people, and it’s working…I believe that the vast majority of people that get a drone have no idea what they’re supposed to do with it and I think this is going to help with filling that gap,” Reverdiau said.

The other organizations approved by the FAA to provide TRUST include the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), the Boy Scouts of America, Chippewa Valley Technical College, Community College of Allegheny County–West Hills Center, CrossFlight Sky Solutions LLC, Drone Launch Academy LLC, Drone U, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), HSU Educational Foundation, Lake Area Technical College, Proctorio Incorporated, Tactical Aviation, UAV Coach, University of Arizona Global Campus, and Volatus Aerospace Corp.

The post Drone Pilots Now Need FAA’s TRUST to Fly in the NAS appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Leonardo to Deliver Subsystems for F-35 Training, as USAF Looks to Cybersecurity Upgrade for Older Jets


A Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) F-35A Lightning II fighter jet assigned to the 308th Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, Ariz. soars over Bagdad, Ariz. on May 5. RDAF recently received two of seven F-35s that will support Danish pilot training at Luke. (U.S. Air Force)

Leonardo DRS said on June 24 that it has received a subcontract from Cubic Corp. to deliver more than 150 internal subsystems (IS) of the P5 Combat Training System (P5CTS) for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter’s Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) system.

The two new lots of IS will go on P5CTS for U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and allied nation F-35s.

Leonardo DRS said that it has delivered more than 779 of its P5CTS internal subsystems for the F-35 to provide training “to counter and keep ahead of growing global adversarial threats.”

The U.S. Air Force has been looking to correct cybersecurity shortfalls in P5CTS pods on older F-16 and F-15 fighters through a System Security Upgrade (SSU). The SSU will replace the P5CTS Data Guard Processor with a National Security Agency-certified Type 1 encryption device to improve cyber protection of the P5CTS Airborne Subsystem’s data-link.

The older F-16s and F-15s have a wing-mounted flight training airborne subsystem (AS) pod, and the cybersecurity remedy will likely be important for secure data exchange between those aircraft, other fourth-generation aircraft, and the F-35s, which carry the IS–an internal version of the system.

“Leonardo DRS’ unmatched ability to integrate ACMI systems onto fighter aircraft, either externally in pods, or internally in the F-35 continues to provide the warfighter the information they need to maximize the value of their training for current and future combat,” Leonardo DRS Airborne and Intelligence Systems Vice President Larry Ezell said in a June 22 press release.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio has said that the SSU “will require the production of field installable retrofit kits for the AS and integrate the SSU modification into the overall P5CTS architecture.” For SSU, the Air Force is to buy up to 1,015 SSU AS kits.

In an April SSU pre-solicitation and subsequent request for proposals (RFP), AFLCMC said that “a security upgrade” for P5CTS “must be completed.”

“Headquarters Air Combat Command requires implementation of an encrypted P5CTS data link to a) protect tactics and training methods and b) allow 4th generation aircraft to engage the F-35 during training missions,” per AFLCMC.

Responses to the RFP are due by June 25. For SSU, AFLCMC said in the RFP that it wants “a shop-replaceable retrofit kit to replace the obsolete Data Guard Processor (DGP) in the Airborne Subsystem (AS)/pods that consists of a Data Security Module (DSM), and a P5 AS modified End Cap (MEC), interface cable(s) and associated hardware.”

“The DSM shall encrypt data through a National Security Agency (NSA) certified Type 1 encryptor and provide a NSA certified control interface that enables or restricts the access or transfer of information between security domains,” per AFLCMC. “The P5CTS AS currently transmits unencrypted Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) over-the-air. Department of Defense’s Risk Management Framework requires that classified and CUI information be encrypted. Accordingly, the P5CTS must remedy the obsolescence concern and noted deficiencies to enable continued operations through at least 2030.”

AFLCMC has said that it intends to award a firm fixed price, six-year contract for SSU.

During training sorties, wing-mounted P5CTS pods for non-stealth aircraft–and the internal F-35 system–are to display the live-air picture, record mission data, aid weapons engagements, and relay time, space, and position information among aircraft.

Last September, the Air Force awarded Cubic a $193.3 million contract to continue support through September 2027 for almost 1,000 P5CTS Airborne Subsystems and range infrastructure at more than 20 Air Force bases and training ranges, as well as support for the use of P5CTS by allied countries, including the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Australia, Egypt, Morocco, and Singapore.

The Air Force Armaments Directorate at Eglin AFB, Fla., said in April that the service has 947 P5CTS pods that it can use on 4th generation fighter aircraft, including the Air Force F-15, F-16, and A-10 aircraft and the Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Last September, Cubic said that it expected to deliver 250 AS to the Air Force and international customers this year.

Cubic has said that all F-35s have the P5 IS for the provision of encrypted ACMI for U.S. and allied forces to train on a common ACMI platform.

Cubic received the initial P5CTS contract in 2003 and delivered its first wing-mounted P5CTS pods for Air Force F-16s in 2006.

The Navy and Air Force created their “Top Gun” and Tactical Fighter Weapons School, respectively, in response to aircrew training shortfalls the services said they saw during the Vietnam War, including shortfalls presented in the Navy’s Ault Report in 1968.

Now the services may move out on a new air combat training system.

While the Air Force uses P5CTS, the Navy and Marine Corps have used the Cubic Corp. Tactical Combat Training System (TCTS).

“Both systems are becoming obsolescent as air platforms, simulators, and computer modeling of air operations all become more sophisticated,” Leonardo DRS said. “As a result, there are limits on their abilities to conduct the kind of exercises of joint forces that would be the norm in current and future real-world conflicts.”

Last summer, the Air Force joined the Department of the Navy effort to field follow-on training systems, based upon the Navy’s TCTS Increment II system by Collins Aerospace and Leonardo. The Air Force system is to be called P6CTS.


This article was first published on Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics. It has been edited. Click here to view the original version. 

The post Leonardo to Deliver Subsystems for F-35 Training, as USAF Looks to Cybersecurity Upgrade for Older Jets appeared first on Aviation Today.

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What’s Trending in Aerospace – June 27, 2021

Check out the June 27 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines and updates happening across the global aerospace industry.




Korean Air Deepens Involvement in Space Sector 

(Korean Air)

Korean Air, South Korea’s largest airline, is getting further involved in the space sector. The airline will develop common bulkhead propellant tanks for small satellite launch vehicles as part of the Ministry of Science and ICT’s ‘Space Pioneer’ project. Korean Air announced the collaboration  in a June 24 press release.

The common bulkhead propellant tank will combine fuel and oxidizer tanks into a single tank using the latest metal welding and insulation technology. The airline said this new technology will increase the competitiveness of the small satellite launch vehicle market in Korea, as it will reduce the number of satellite launch vehicle parts, simplify structures, decrease vehicle weights by 30 percent, and cut down production costs.

Korean Air has been involved in space projects for almost a decade now. In 2012, Korean Air developed and assembled Korea’s first space launch vehicle, Naro (KSLV-1), and the company has core technology capabilities such as aircraft system integration and aircraft structure development.

“The small satellite launch vehicle market is expected to grow rapidly worldwide. SpaceX has already launched 1,000 400-kg satellites and plans to launch up to 12,000 more in the future. Global IT companies such as Amazon and Facebook are also planning to launch hundreds of small- and medium-sized satellites,” Korean Air said in the release.  “On June 23, 20 engineers and officials from Korean Air, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, and NDT Engineering & Aerospace gathered at the Korean Air R&D Center in Daejeon to discuss development plans, a future roadmap, and the scope of cooperation.”



Lufthansa Announces New A340 and A350 Plans From Munich

A Lufthansa A340-600 at Munich Airport. (Lufthansa)

As the global travel industry is returning to prior levels of activity, Lufthansa is strengthening its long-haul flying from Munich Airport and will again offer first class on selected routes. This means, Lufthansa is temporarily reactivating five Airbus A340-600 aircraft with four flight classes, according to a June 25 press release.

Commencing in summer 2022, the A340-600 will fly from Munich primarily to in North American and Asian destinations, according to Lufthansa. The decision to reactivate these aircraft is due to growing premium demand, for business as well as leisure travel.

“In late summer 2023, the first Airbus A350-900, offering First Class, will join the fleet and take off from Munich, bolstering the premium offering at Lufthansa’s 5-star hub,” Lufthansa said in the release.



Maintenance and Staffing Issues Force Hundreds of American Airlines Flight Cancellations 

American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights last weekend due to staffing shortages, maintenance and other issues, according to a June 20 report published by CNBC.

“About 6% of the airline’s mainline schedule, or 190 flights, were canceled Sunday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. The airline said that equaled about 3% of its total flights, including those operated by regional carriers. An internal company list, which was viewed by CNBC, showed about half of those were because of unavailable flight crews. On Saturday, about 4% of its mainline schedule, or 123 flights, were canceled and 106 on Monday, FlightAware showed,” according to CNBC.





Bell Retires V-280 Valor From Flight Testing As Focus Shifts To FLRAA Program Of Record

The Bell V-280 Valor. (Bell Flight)

Bell said Thursday it is retiring its V-280 Valor tiltrotor technology demonstrator from active flight testing, after reaching 214 flight hours and a max speed of 305 knots, as it readies for the Army’s official Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program of record.

The announcement arrives as the Army is set to release its Request for Proposals for FLRAA production this summer, with a contract to be awarded in late fiscal year 2022 to either Bell or a Sikorsky-Boeing team offering the Defiant X platform.

“We have come a long way since we started our journey eight years ago. We made commitments, we safely executed our program on time, and we validated our performance claims and the accuracy of our digital models through flight demonstrations. Ultimately, the Army doesn’t send warfighters into battle riding in the back of digital models and so we thought it was important to bring that physical proof,” Ryan Ehinger, Bell’s FLRAA program director, said in a statement.

Both Bell and Sikorsky-Boeing are currently participating in the FLRAA’s Competitive Demonstration and Risk Reduction (CD&RR) Phase II effort for the Black Hawk replacement program to further refine their proposals, which will include completing both air vehicle and weapons systems preliminary design reviews.




State Department Approves $2.6 Billion In Philippines F-16 Weapons Sales 

The Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 (Lockheed Martin)


The State Department has approved three sales totaling $2.6 billion in F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and Sidewinder missiles to the Philippines.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the possible sales on Thursday.

The largest sale is $2.43 billion for 10 F-16 Block 70/72 aircraft and two F-16D Block 70/72 aircraft along with associated equipment  including 15 each F100-PW-229EEP or F110-GE-129D engines; Improved Programmable Display Generators; AN/APG-83 Advanced Electronically Scanned Array Scalable Agile Beam Radars; Modular Mission Computers 7000AH; and LN-260 Embedded GPS/INS with SAASM and PPS.

The sale also includes 24 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles AIM-120C-7/C-8 or equivalent; 48 LAU-129 missile launchers; three KMU-572 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kits; six Mk-82 500lb bombs; six Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP) or Litening ATP; 15 M61A1 Vulcan Anti-Aircraft 20mm guns and several other sensors, ammunition types and associated equipment and logistical support services.




uAvionix Micro-Transponder Certified by DoD

The Department of Defense (DoD) has certified uAvionix Corporation’s micro-transponder, RT-2087/ZPX-A, though the Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System Identification Friend or Foe Program Office (AIMS PO), according to a June 23 release from the company.

The ZPX-A is suited for DoD classification Group 1 and 2 unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV), according to the release. The transponder is certified with AIMS 17-1000 performance specification and will allow aircraft to fly in worldwide airspaces with civil transponder modes 3/A, C, S, and extended squitter (ES) ADS-B OUT.





Business & General Aviation 

Jet It and JetClub to Become Launch Customers of Bye Aerospace Electric eFlyer 800

A computer-generated image of what Jet It’s first eFlyer 800 will look like. (Bye Aerospace)

Jet It and JetClub, two sister companies that operate unique new fractional ownership models in North America and Europe, have become the launch customers for Bye Aerospace’s all-electric twin-turboprop, the eFlyer 800.

First unveiled by the Colorado-based electric aircraft maker in April, the eFlyer 800 is being developed to feature a 500 nm range with an operational ceiling of 35,000 feet and 320-knot cruise speed. It will use two wing-mounted electric motors with dual redundant motor windings and quad-redundant battery packs.

Jet It, the North Carolina-based private aviation operator, and JetClub, their sister company serving Europe and Asia Pacific destinations, have signed a purchase agreement for a fleet of eFlyer 800 and four eFlyer 4 aircraft. Launched in 2018 by Glenn Gonzales, with expansions to Canada, Europe, and Asia through the partnership with JetClub, Jet It uses days rather than hours to sell shares of HondaJet Elite aircraft, allowing owners to only pay for the direct operating costs of the aircraft.




Aircraft Electronics Association Hosts Successful Avionics Convention in Texas

The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) hosted its 64th annual international convention and trade show last week in Dallas, Texas. According to a June 22 press release, nearly 1,500 avionics manufacturers, repair stations, installers and others converged on the at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.



Virgin Galactic Receives Approval From FAA for Full Commercial Launch License

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity 2 completed its third successful spaceflight on May 22, 2021. (Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic received an update to their existing commercial space transportation operator license that will allow “the spaceline to fly customers to space,” according to a June 25 press release.

The adjustment to Virgin Galactic’s operator’s license, which the Company has held since 2016, marks the first time the FAA has licensed a spaceline to fly customers. It is further validation of the Company’s methodical testing program, which has met the verification and validation criteria required by the FAA.

“We’re incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which achieved our stated flight test objectives. The flight performed flawlessly, and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system,” Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said in the release. “Today’s approval by the FAA of our full commercial launch license, in conjunction with the success of our May 22 test flight, give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”


SpaceX to Launch Falcon 9 to Transport First SDA Experimental Satellites on June 25

On June 25, SpaceX is to launch a Falcon 9 rocket that will carry the Space Development Agency’s (SDA) first satellite missions–Mandrake II, the Laser Interconnect Networking Communications System (LINCS), and Prototype On-orbit Experimental Testbed (POET).

The SDA missions involve two Astro Orbital-built Mandrake II cube satellites with an SA Photonics payload, two General Atomics LINCS microsatellites to demonstrate space-to-air communications with an MQ-9 Reaper drone, and a Loft Orbital satellite carrying the POET payload, which is to demonstrate a low-latency “battle management capability” in space.

“The more processing that we can move into space, the better off we’re going to be,” an SDA official said on June 22. “POET is going to give us the first opportunity to actually do that… so we’re really looking forward to getting some data out of this.”

The Astro Digital satellites have been part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Blackjack program, started in 2018 to show how the military could benefit from low Earth orbit satellites and mesh satellite networks.

SpaceX’s Transporter 2 mission launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. will carry dozens of rideshare satellites in what the company says is its second dedicated rideshare mission. SDA said that its missions will “gather data on optical communication terminal (OCT) performance and processing in low-Earth orbit (LEO), proving out a core capability required for SDA’s future development efforts.”

“Optical links between space, air, and ground assets offer significantly higher data rates and lower latency when compared to conventional radio frequency links, and demonstrate a pathway of getting real-time data to warfighter,” the agency said.





Hyundai’s UAM Division Partners with ANRA

Hyundai Motor Group’s Urban Air Mobility Division and ANRA Technologies have formed a new partnership to develop an operating environment for the advanced air mobility (AAM) industry, according to a June 23 press release.

ANRA provides end-to-end drone operations and traffic management solutions for unmanned system operators, according to the release. ANRA will help Hyundai create a concept of operations (ConOps) for integrating AAM vehicles into the existing airspace.

“ANRA’s SmartSkies family of airspace management solutions have been proven worldwide and provide the critical support required for complex AAM operations at scale,” Amit Ganjoo, founder and CEO of ANRA Technologies, said in a statement. “We take a long-term view in everything we do as a company and are looking forward to integrating our advanced technologies with the Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group’s AAM ecosystem and sharing our knowledge and experience to ensure the success of our partnership and help move our industry safely forward.”

According to the release, this partnership is the first in a series of ATM partnerships from Hyundai.

“We are pleased to partner with ANRA Technologies to begin building toward the safe and efficient integration of AAM into existing airspace,” Pamela Cohn, chief operating officer at Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group, said in a statement. “As an emerging mobility solution, it is critical diverse parties work together to co-create the AAM ecosystem, including its necessary digital and physical infrastructure. ANRA brings a unique background of operational history in the drone services sector that will help define the operating environment for all AAM vehicles.”





Drone Emergency Response Exercise Conducted in New Jersey

The National Aviation Research and Technology Park (NARTP) conducted an exercise to test how unmanned and manned aircraft could work together during an emergency response scenario, the agency announced in a June 23 release.

American Aerospace Technologies (AATI) managed the drill which included manned aircraft like helicopters and unmanned aircraft such as drones, according to the release. The exercise included private companies and local, state, and federal agencies.

“Unmanned aircraft are a post-disaster force multiplier,” David Yoel, AATI CEO, said in a statement. “In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, UAS can provide critical information to first responders, accelerating response while increasing the safety and effectiveness of first responders. The goal of the 2021 South Jersey Emergency Response Exercise is to begin to develop an air operations coordination and approval process that enables UAS and conventional aircraft to operate concurrently – without adding risk to conventional aircraft operations, potentially accelerating response and recovery by days.”




ATC App for Drones Completes Successful Test with LVNL

The air traffic control (ATC) app made by Altitude Angel, GoDrone, completed a successful test where it gave ATC instructions to drone pilots through its interface with Air Traffic Control The Netherlands (LVNL), according to a June 25 press release.

“The success of this test is an important milestone for us,” Jurgen van Avermaete, general manager of procedures at LVNL, said in a statement. “By succeeding in this test, LVNL has delivered the next step towards safe air traffic control for manned and unmanned flights in the same airspace. In controlled airspace, this also means providing air traffic control to drone operators. This is a challenging task which we are addressing in close cooperation with our Dutch Drone Delta partners. We are not there yet, but today’s success shows that we are on the right track.”

The drone uses a UTM system via KPN’s 4G/5G network to transmit data, according to the release. This system was also tested during the exercise.

“The success of the trials are a clear demonstration of how, through collaboration, drones can successfully and safely be integrated in to controlled airspace, opening up a multitude of use cases for UAVs across a broad spectrum of industries,” Chris Forster, Altitude Angel Chief Operating Officer, said. “We’re very much looking forward to working with LVNL on the next exciting phase in the development of the GuardianUTM O/S powered GoDrone which in-turn will enable the Dutch drone economy.”



EASA Awards First Drone Certification to Volocopter

Volocopter’s VC200-2 drone was awarded the first design verification certificate from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to operate its aircraft for a specific usage, the agency announced in a June 24 press release.

Volocopter applied for the certificate on May 21 after EASA released guidelines for the design verification of drones on April 8, according to the release. The certificate allows Volocopter to operate its drone in a delimited low-risk area even if that area is located close to a higher risk area.

“The short time needed to issue the design verification report demonstrates that EASA is able to develop flexible tools that are adapted to the risk of the drone operation and to the needs of the market,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a statement. “In the medium term this will be a winning concept for our stakeholders as it is efficient for all parties. We expect to process a large number of applications for design verification in the coming months.”


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GE Aviation CEO Talks Importance of SAF in Future of Aviation

GE Aviation CEO John Slattery was the guest on the latest edition of Eurocontrol’s Straight Talk Live on Thursday. (GE Aviation)

GE Aviation and Safran recently unveiled a new development program focused on sustainable technologies for a next-generation CFM engine. During an appearance on EUROCONTROL’s Aviation StraightTalk Live, GE Aviation President and CEO John Slattery described why sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) were essential to making a sustainable aviation engine and what obstacles need to be overcome to increase their use.

“We announced RISE, which stands for revolutionary innovation for sustainable engines,” Slattery said. “It’s a development program that we will look at over 300 different technologies that we will develop. Eventually, that will manifest into an engine that will enter into service sometime in the mid-2030s, but a lot of those technologies…that we will be developing through the RISE program will probably end up feathering a lot of those technologies into our current engines and even engines that we may even introduce before 2030.”

Some of the technologies that will be part of RISE include hybrid-electric engines, SAF, and hydrogen. The RISE program is focused on reducing emissions and one way to do that is to change the type of fuel the engine is burning, Slattery said.

“What people get confused about is the difference between CO2 emissions and the fuel burn,” Slattery said. “If we can change the type of fuel that goes into the engine, we can reduce those emissions a lot more than the initial 20 percent we’re talking about.”

A big advantage to using SAF is that aircraft today do not need to be modified in any way to use a 50 percent blend of SAF. The current in-production engines developed by GE Aviation are certified to operate with a blend of up to a 50 percent blend of SAF.

To be able to use 100 percent SAF, some modifications to the aircraft engine will be necessary, but these modifications will be small, Slattery said.

“We’re working with regulators around the world to define what the standard is, the definition and the standard of what defines 100 percent SAF,” Slattery said. “When we get to agreeing that standard, there will be some small hardware modifications required on the engine but actually nothing meaningful, some work with the tubes and the ducks. The viscosity of SAF is different to the properties of kerosene, K1, but very doable.”

The problem is aircraft are not even using the 50 percent blend that is approved today. In reality, SAF accounted for less than one percent of the fuel used by airlines, according to 2019 data from IATA. The reason for this is there is not enough supply in the market yet. Slattery said if SAF were to be flown on the entire Air France KLM fleet for example, they would burn the world’s supply of SAF in one day.

“The big issue is getting availability of SAF… so the challenge on us is to create a stable demand so that industry can rally around and create the availability of SAF so that airlines can then get it at a more economical price,” Slattery said.

Slattery said he does think there is demand from airlines for SAF, however, regulators and policymakers may need to create incentives for generating SAF.

“I know the airlines want to do it…but the regulators, the policymakers, they may need to play a role here,” Slattery said. “As they look around encouraging incentives to help people generate SAF and SAF can come from a multitude of sources, including synthetic SAFs. If we bring up the supply, the price will come down and that supply-demand equation will help bring the price down, but regulators are also looking at potentially regulating the percentage of SAF that would need to be used onboard an aircraft.”

After lowering the price, the industry will also have to create a structure to make SAF more user-friendly, Slattery said.

“We do need an eco-structure to make it more user friendly to get SAF to the airports to actually generate SAF, to distill and refined SAF,” Slattery said. “We feel comfortable that it is all doable. Certainly, the refining parts of it is very doable. Frankly, with the current footprint of refineries that are out there today refining oil can very easily move over to SAF.”

There is also pressure from airline passengers about lowering emissions when they are flying which could also contribute to a demand for technologies like SAF, Slattery said.

“The travelers of the future, the passengers, who we are all here ultimately to serve, they want to know what their carbon emission per mile is going to be in the future,” Slattery said.

If GE were to reduce emissions by 20 percent on narrow-body aircraft types flying with its engines today, it would be equivalent to taking 17 million cars off the road, Slattery said. However, the goal of the RISE program is to cut emissions by using a hybrid-electric engine with an open fan architecture and the capability to burn 100 percent SAF or hydrogen fuel.

“To get to that nirvana of carbon-free emissions, zero carbon-free flight, we’re going to need to have improved fuels,” Slattery said. “We’re going to need to have sustainable aviation fuels in a volume that will make sense for the operators around the world and then we need to stay on that path to get to ultimately to find a way to burn green hydrogen.”

Slattery said the aviation industry’s growth is dependent on adopting and developing these new technologies to drive down emissions.

“We’re at an inflection point in our industry,” Slattery said. “We need to win the right to continue to grow and that’s going to be rooted, in my humble opinion, in our commitment to drive down CO2 emissions.”

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Agility Prime Invests $1.5M in eSTOL Aircraft from Electra

Electra claims its ultra-short takeoff and landing aircraft can deliver nearly triple the payload capacity, an order of magnitude longer ranges, and less than half the operating costs.  (Electra)

The Agility Prime program from the U.S. Air Force has invested in multiple electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and now it is investing in a new type of flying car, an electric ultra-short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft through a partnership with

The Air Force awarded Electra a $1.5 million direct-to-phase II small business innovation research (SBIR) contract with a 15-month performance period, Ben Marchionna, director of technology and innovation at Electra told Avionics International via email. Electra plans to complete the work for this contract by July 2022.

“Agility Prime is excited to partner with Electra on their recent Phase II SBIR contract award,” Agility Prime’s Deputy Lead, Major John “Wasp” Tekell said in a statement. “We look forward to exploring the unique capabilities of this design while continuing to accelerate the electric aviation industry.”

An eSTOL aircraft differs from eVTOLs because eSTOLs use electric propulsion combined with a technique called blown lift to takeoff over very short distances.

“eVTOLs use electric propulsion to takeoff and land vertically – many of these concepts then transition from vertical flight to forward flight with a wing providing the lift once in cruise,” Marchionna said. “Vertical flight requires significantly more power, resulting in an enormous payload, range, and cost penalty. eSTOLs use electric propulsion and an aerodynamic technique called blown lift to takeoff over distances as short as 100 feet. This provides eSTOL aircraft access to many of the same urban air mobility markets.”

The blown lift technique utilizes the aircraft’s wings and propellers to push large amounts of air over the aircraft’s wings and push the air downwards, Marchionna said.

“Blown lift is an aerodynamic technique that tricks the wing into thinking its much larger than it really is,” Marchionna said. “Propellers are typically used for thrust and the wing is used to generate lift. Blown lift uses the propellers to also blow significant amounts of air over large wing flaps that deflect the air downwards. This can be done very efficiently across the entire span of the wing with distributed electric propulsion systems. The technique has been used for nearly 75 years, with extensive research, flight testing, and operations by NASA and the USAF in the 1960s and 70s, but the advent of distributed electric propulsion now makes blown lift practical again.”

Electra’s eSTOL will also use a custom battery system that can be charged mid-air, Marchinonna said. Recharging the battery mid-air will allow Electra’s aircraft to conduct missions over longer distances.

Electra claims that its eSTOL will offer more payload capacity, longer ranges, and fewer operating costs than eVTOL aircraft.

“The improved payload, range, and operating cost are not compared to any specific eVTOL platform – rather, these advantages come from the fundamental physics,” Marchinonna said. “Taking off vertically, even if only for a few seconds before transitioning to wing-borne lift, requires big compromises in performance and safety. An eSTOL requires one quarter the power of an eVTOL to lift the same payload.”

Electra’s aircraft will have a capacity of seven passengers and one pilot with a range of 500 miles, Marchinonna said.

Electra has completed the sub-scale testing of its eSTOL and is now building a two-seat technology demonstrator, Marchinonna said. They will begin ground testing this year and flight testing in 2022. By 2026, Electra is expecting to have its aircraft certified by the Federal Aviation Administration under Part 23.

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Gogo Starts Flight Testing 5G Antennas

The first two Gogo 5G antennas being installed on a tower in the Midwest. (Gogo Business Aviation)

Gogo Business Aviation has begun flight testing the antennas for its next-generation 5G network, the Colorado-based in-flight connectivity (IFC) service provider said in a June 22 press release.

On the ground network side, the first two 5G antennas have been installed on a tower, enabling the company to start conducting prototype testing of the 5G antenna towers. Originally scheduled for deployment this year, Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne explained during their first-quarter earnings call in March that a supply chain delay caused by a microchip supplier ultimately lead to their delaying the 5G network until 2022.

“The tests we’ve conducted and successfully passed validate what we modeled when we initially announced we would build a 5G network,” Mike Syverson, senior vice president of engineering for Gogo Business Aviation said in a statement. “Through the testing we’ve done so far, we now know that Gogo 5G is going to be better than we originally thought it would be.”

Another 5G network milestone announced by Gogo is the completion of the development of its 5G air card prototypes and recently completed coast-to-coast flight testing of its 5G belly-mounted antennas. The first flight test involving a connection between the 5G antennas on the aircraft and the 5G antennas on the ground tower was also recently completed. An end-to-end call using a 5G SIM card, from the onboard equipment “to the cell site, through the data center to the internet, and back,” has also been completed, according to Gogo.

“What we’ve done is validate that our systems can talk to one another,” Syverson said. “The antennas can talk to the cell site, which in turn can talk to the data center. There is a lot of software development to put those pieces together, and it’s all working very well.”

Technicians install the first two Gogo 5G antennas on a cell tower. (Gogo Business Aviation)

During his participation in the recent Connected Aviation Intelligence 5G panel, Jim MacDougall, vice president of product management for Gogo Business Aviation said the company plans to have a test 5G network with 10 sites available by the end of the year, followed by a full-scale launch in the U.S. by the second half of 2022.

“Each antenna is using beam-forming to provide an improved experience, and by using the licensed and the unlicensed spectrum together, we ensure that customers will get the best possible experience even in congested airspace over heavily populated areas,” MacDougall said.

Gogo expects their nationwide 5G network to become available by the second half of 2022.

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Eve and Skyports Advance Partnership in Asia and the Americas

Eve and Skyports have formed a partnership for eVTOL operations in Asia and the Americas. (Eve)

A new partnership between Eve Urban Air Mobility and Skyports is aiming to advance the adoption of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft operations in markets in Asia and the Americas, Eve announced in a June 21 press release.

As part of the agreement, the two companies will create a concept of operations to inform operational procedures and vehicle and services development, according to the release. The concept of operations will be developed using Eve’s eVTOL, urban air traffic management (UATM) software, and UAM services.

“In transition to a low carbon economy, the aerospace industry depends on disruptive innovation to create a more sustainable future,” André Stein, president and Chief Executive Officer of Eve, said, in a statement. “With urban air mobility, we have a unique opportunity to co-create vertiports, vehicles, and operation, designing a new and optimized mobility ecosystem from the ground up. We are thrilled to have Skyports in this journey to develop UAM solutions in Asia and the Americas, bringing us a step closer in providing commuters and travellers [sic] with an entirely new, zero-emission, experience.”

The partnership will also include a market readiness exercise and vehicle concept of operations study in Brazil that Skyports will lead, according to the release.

“Our partnership with Eve paves the way for rapid innovation in UAM, accelerating innovation to meet the growing demand for eVTOL services,” Duncan Walker, Chief Executive Officer at Skyports, said in a statement. “We are looking forward to the expanded partnership, unlocking new opportunities in this fast-growing market.”

The relationship between Eve and Skyports developed in 2020 and the companies have previously worked together on a concept of operations for Airservices Australia and in the UK, according to the release.

Eve announced partnerships with Helisul Aviation and Halo as well in the past month.

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Volocopter 2X eVTOL Takes First Public Flight in France

Volocopter’s X2 eVTOL aircraft flew a flight demonstration in France for the first time. (Volocopter)

The electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturer Volocopter flew its Volocopter 2X in public for the first time in France at the Paris Air Forum, the company announced in a June 21 press release.

The flight took place at Le Bourget Airfield and lasted three minutes, according to the release. The aircraft flew in a 500 m route at speeds up to 30 km/h.

“The first flight today in Paris highlights Volocopter’s commitment to bring air taxi services to this region in time for the 2024 Olympic Games,” Florian Reuter, Volocopter CEO, said in a statement. “The alliance of the Paris region, Groupe ADP, and RATP Groupe and their intent to bring electric air taxis to France is a stellar example of the collaborative approach we see to be the most successful for adding this exciting category of mobility to cities globally.”

Volocopter is currently working with the French Civil Aviation Authority to bring air taxis to the Île-de-France region and Groupe ADP and RATP Groupe to use eVTOLs in the 2024 Olympics, according to the release. In September 2020, Volocopter was chosen as the first vehicle and operations partner to launch an urban air mobility industrial branch in Paris.

“Today, we were as close as never before in France to experience electric aviation. Volocopter is a vivid example of what the futures of aviation could look like, both carbon-free and innovative, that Groupe ADP wants to accompany thanks to our infrastructure assets, expertise, and know-how,” Edward Arkwright, deputy CEO at Groupe ADP, said. “Along with the other partners of the RE.Invent Air Mobility initiative, Volocopter is now ready to enter a first test flight campaign by September on the Pontoise airfield sandbox we have been building up in the past months. And we are thrilled to be partnering with them, RATP Group and DGAC towards our objective of flight demonstrations in the Paris Region during the 2024 Olympic Games, to lay the foundation of a strong UAM industrial ecosystem in France.”

Volocopter has a design organization approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for its eVTOL aircraft.

“After having responded as the first player in the urban air mobility industry, in the context of the call for expressions of interest, we are very pleased that Volocopter has confirmed its development and its establishment in France,” Marie-Claude Dupois, director of strategy, innovation, and development at RATP Group, said. “For RATP Group, this new mobility aims to complement our traditional transport modes.”

Volocopter is working on creating an urban air mobility ecosystem that includes VoloCity, an eVTOL aircraft for intra-city missions, VoloConnect, an eVTOL for inter-city missions, VoloDrone, a drone for cargo transport, VoloPorts, vertiport sites, and VoloIQ, a digital platform.

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