The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected five airports to test unmanned aircraft system (UAS) detection and mitigation systems that will create future standards for countering UAS (C-UAS) use at airports, the agency announced in a March 1 press release.
The airports selected by the FAA include Atlantic City International Airport, Syracuse Hancock International Airport, Rickenbacker International Airport, Huntsville International Airport, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The FAA plans to test over 10 systems at these airports beginning at the end of the year and extending through 2023. The FAA declined to provide further details about which technologies would be tested.
A contract opportunity from May 2020 requests whitepapers for technology that can detect UAS within a five-mile radius from the air operations area and technology that offer mitigation capability for UAS.
“UAS detection system refers to a system of device capable of lawfully and safely detecting, identifying, monitoring, or tracking an unmanned aircraft of unmanned aircraft system,” the opportunity states. “UAS detection systems may be integrated into or be linked to counter-UAS system, but, themselves, do not provide the capability to disable, disrupt, seize control, or otherwise directly interfere with UAS operations.”
The opportunity says mitigation may use C-UAS systems but is not reliant on them and could use alternate technology.
These tests will result in the implementation of UAS detection and mitigation systems at airports meant to ensure safety for manned aircraft, according to the FAA. This effort is part of the FAA’s Airport UAS Detection and Mitigation Research Program.
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The Loyal Wingman completed a successful test flight, Boeing Australia announced in a March 1 press release. The Loyal Wingman is an uncrewed aircraft developed by Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) that will use artificial intelligence (AI) as the foundation for the Airpower Teaming System (ATS).
“The Loyal Wingman’s first flight is a major step in this long-term, significant project for the Air Force and Boeing Australia, and we’re thrilled to be a part of the successful test,” Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, RAAF Head of Air Force Capability, said in a press statement. “The Loyal Wingman project is a pathfinder for the integration of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence to create smart human-machine teams.”
The Loyal Wingman completed a low-speed taxi in Oct. 2020 and is one of three prototypes for the ATS which could be used for tactical warning missions. The unmanned aircraft will fly independently or in support of manned aircraft using a sensor package to support intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, according to Boeing’s website.
“The heart of this program is autonomous systems being part of a manned-unmanned team approach,” Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, chief of RAAF, said in a March 1 video released by Boeing. “So it’s how we work with other aircraft, be that a Super Hornet, an F-35, or a Wedgetail.”
During the test flight, the Loyal Wingman autonomously took off and completed a pre-determined route which involved varying speeds and altitudes, according to the release.
Other Loyal Wingman prototypes will also complete test flights later this year, according to Boeing.
The Loyal Wingman is the first military aircraft in over 50 years to be designed and manufactured in Australia.
“It’s a milestone for Australia, for the Boeing Company, and for the Royal Australian Air Force,” Brendan Nelson, president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific, said in Boeing’s March 1 video. “We have conceived, designed, built, and now flown the first military aircraft in half a century.”
HyPoint has unveiled the first operable prototype version of its turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system, as the Menlo Park, California-based green energy startup prepares to support validation and testing of its system for a variety of aircraft types and powertrain configurations.
Testing has shown that HyPoint’s turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system will be able to achieve up to 2,000 watts per kilogram of specific power. Dr. Alex Ivanenko, founder and CEO of HyPoint, told Avionics International that their technology has drawn interest from a wide range of aircraft developers from electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) jet makers to other startups developing hydrogen powertrains for turboprop aircraft.
Ivanenko said the length of an electric aircraft flight the full-scale version of their fuel cell system can support will depend on a number of different factors.
“It depends on configurations, we’re looking at a range from two hours to six hours, and we can provide different configurations. Flight time is really a question of hydrogen storage. What kind of hydrogen storage would you like to use? If it’s a gaseous form or liquid form, for example, you’ll be able to support a longer or shorter flight,” Ivanenko said.
Among the testing that has already been done by HyPoint on the prototype, they have demonstrated the ability to generate up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density. Thermal management in the fuel cell system is achieved by using bipolar plates and corrosion-resistant coating.
A technical white paper published by HyPoint explaining the design of their turbo air-cooled system says that the idea behind their approach is to circulate high-pressure air through a fuel cell stack, or a bundle of fuel cells, and to recirculate the exhaust air. By re-distributing exhaust air across fuel cell stack inlets, they’re able to save energy that would otherwise be spent by the system on compressing fresh air.
“As long as the air contains sufficient oxygen it can be reused,” the white paper notes.
HyPoint also announced that it will begin work with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to further test and validate its hydrogen fuel cell technology. NREL’s hydrogen and fuel cell research and development focuses on developing, integrating, and demonstrating hydrogen production and delivery, hydrogen storage, and fuel cell technologies for transportation, stationary, and portable applications.
“We generate electricity from hydrogen,” Ivanenko said. “Our fuel cell system uses a chemical reaction to transform the chemical energy of hydrogen into electricity.”
In December 2020, HyPoint was named a winner of NASA’s iTech Initiative, in which inventive technologies were ranked based on criteria that included technical viability, likely impact on future space exploration, benefits to humanity, and commercialization potential. The startup also claims that its high-temperature (HTPEM) fuel cell system is “three times lighter” than comparable low-temperature (LTPEM) fuel cell systems.
One partner that HyPoint is working with, ZeroAvia, completed a hydrogen-electric aircraft flight in September 2020 and went on to raise $21.4 million from Amazon, Shell, and a Bill Gates-backed fund.
“The reality is that hydrogen fuel cells are the technological driver behind e-aircraft and we are working closely with the team at HyPoint to test their systems for potential integration into future ZeroAvia aircraft,” Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia said in a March 2 press release.
Ivanenko said that the main customers HyPoint will be targeting moving forward include aircraft designers, manufacturers, and powertrain OEMs among others. HyPoint expects the system will be ready for testing at the beginning of 2022 and commercialized in 2023, at a price point of between $100-500 per kilowatt (if mass-produced).
“This functional prototype brings us one step closer to our vision of delivering efficient and cost-effective zero-carbon emission fuel cell technology to the aviation industry,” Ivanenko said. “This year, we’re going to build a full-scale version of the system, and prepare for commercialization in different markets.”
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In-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) is both a revenue driver and an important element of the passenger experience, Mark Cheyney, In-flight Connectivity Development Manager for Virgin Atlantic, said during a Connected Aviation Intelligence webcast session on Feb. 25.
“So much of our lives now are digital and you can’t escape that,” Cheyney said. “And whether you like it or not, you just can’t escape it.”
Cheyney said that customers see in-flight connectivity as a basic need and for now Virgin Atlantic is viewing it as a revenue driver.
“It’s a very interesting subject,” Cheyney said. “For now, it drives revenue. It creates revenue for us and that’s very valuable revenue for now. But we obviously have to provide it though because it is such a, I don’t want to say it’s like a basic need but it’s kind of almost is a basic need of our customers now is that they want to be connected. So you know we have to provide that to them and provide that service there. But we do see it as a revenue driver for now.”
Virgin Atlantic uses three different providers: Panasonic, Gogo, and Inmarsat. The 787s and A330s use Panasonic, and Gogo, and the A350s feature Inmarsat’s GX Aviation connectivity system, Cheyney said.
COVID-19’s impact on the U.K. was reflected by a number of fleet, leadership and operational changes enacted by the Heathrow-based airline. In December, a one-day ceremony for the final retirement of their last in-operation Boeing 747, a fleet that is being replaced by newer A350-1000s and Boeing 787-9s.
New leadership appointments by the airline include Estelle Hollingsworth as Chief People Officer and Oliver Byers as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on Nov. 24.
“I think the good thing about having multiple connectivity providers is that you see different takes on kind of connectivity if that makes sense,” Cheyney said. “If you’re with one provider you can only really see it one way, but if you have multiple providers, you can kind of educate yourself…what’s better and improve not only product offerings but ways of working and moving forward.”
Across its multiple connectivity providers, Virgin has kept a similar pricing structure that it charges for access to Internet connected devices and applications. On most routes, passengers pay £8.99 per hour or a set amount for the entire flight that can range from £20-30 depending on the length of the journey and type of service or applications being used.
Passengers are also able to make calls or texts for standard roaming fees charged to their home cellular network operator by AeroMobile, which is featured on all Virgin flights. Cheyney said he has seen a rise in messaging apps versus the use of social media for customer use during flights.
“Surprisingly real-time communications or messaging services like WhatsApp, Signal, iMessage, those kinds of services have really taken a spike, where in some cases they’re outstripping data consumption of say social media like Facebook and Twitter, which I think kind of shows people want to be connected and stay a bit more connected than just kind of beyond a typical Instagram photo or Facebook post,” Cheyney said.
Virgin Atlantic is part of the Seamless Air Alliance which is an industry-wide acceptance of standards for in-flight connectivity, Cheyney said. These standards would enable an open in-flight connectivity architecture and benefit hardware systems, interoperability, and new technology. They would also give customers the best in-flight internet consistently, create a common roaming framework, and provide a greater range of products available.
“We’re moving as fast as we possibly can to get ourselves there because we see the overall benefit,” Cheyney said. “What can airlines do to drive that open IFC architecture, and that’s simply in the requirements that we spec when we’re procuring new IFC or new IFC services for new airlines or retrofit programs if we all get behind this as an industry and say this is the way we’re going, this is what we believe in, and this is what we want to do.”
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Check out the Feb. 28 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.
On Feb. 25, the U.S. Department of Transportation published its full year 2020 Air Travel Consumer Report, with the agency reporting that it received the highest number of complaints on record from passengers last year.
“In 2020, the Department received 102,550 complaints, the highest number on record. This is up 568.4 percent from the total of 15,342 received in 2019. Of the 102,550 complaints received in 2020, 89,518 (87.29%) concerned refunds,” the report says.
Check out the full report here.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a 59-page report with analysis on a series of reviews related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) certification of the MAX and its safety oversight, including the Agency’s oversight of Boeing’s Organization Designation Authorization (ODA).
OIG’s report, originally requested by former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, found that while the FAA and Boeing followed an established certification process for the MAX, limitations in FAA’s guidance and processes that impacted certification and led to a significant misunderstanding of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), the flight control software identified as contributing to the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air accidents.
“We made 14 recommendations to improve the Agency’s aircraft certification process and oversight of the Boeing ODA. FAA concurred with all 14 of our recommendations and provided appropriate actions and planned completion dates,” OIG said in the report.
Check out the full report here.
The Qantas Group attributed a $7 billion revenue reduction for the Australian carrier’s first half 2021 results on Feb. 25.
“These figures are stark but not surprising,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a press statement. “During the half we saw the second wave in Victoria and the strictest domestic travel restrictions since the pandemic began. Virtually all of our international flying and 70 per cent of domestic flying stopped, and with it went three-quarters of our revenue.”
Qantas expects to resume international flying in October to “22 of its 25 pre-COVID international destinations including Los Angeles, London, Singapore and Johannesburg,” the airline said.
KLM Cityhopper, the regional subsidiary of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, received its first Embraer E-195-E2 jet at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on Feb. 25.
Seven new aircraft of this type will be joining the KLM Cityhopper fleet this year. KLM has ordered a total of 25, the airline said in a press release.
“Not only is the 195-E2 an economically attractive aircraft, it also fits perfectly within our Fly Responsibly sustainability approach. This will enable KLM to make its own operations and the sector as a whole more sustainable. Now, more than ever before, we’re committed to reducing the impact we have on our surroundings and our ecological footprint. At present, fleet renewal makes the biggest contribution towards reducing CO2 emissions,” Warner Rootliep, Managing Director KLM Cityhopper, said in a press statement.
Panasonic Avionics Corp. has a new partnership with Japanese multinational video game publisher and developer Bandai Namco Entertainment to expand their in-flight entertainment (IFE) portal, according to a Feb. 24 press release.
Airlines featuring IFE systems supplied by Panasonic Avionics will soon see a software update adding Bandai Namco’s popular Dig Dug, Pac-Man and Galaga games.
“The COVID-19 pandemic that struck the world has greatly affected and changed our way of life. As the world comes together in overcoming the pandemic, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment has partnered with Panasonic Avionics to provide our universally acclaimed game content to be enjoyed in-flight, with hope of the day to come when travelers are free to enjoy the skies again,” Naoki Katashima, Managing Director of Bandai Namco Entertainment said in a Feb. 24 press release.
SmartSky Networks has closed on more than $32 million in equity and debt funding, the company announced Monday. This funding comes as the company prepares to roll out its Air-to-Ground (ATG) aviation Wi-Fi connectivity service this year.
SmartSky’s office-grade inflight Wi-Fi service for business and commercial aviation uses the company’s scalable, single-beam-per-aircraft approach, which it said is backed by a substantial patent portfolio and years of flight testing. The company pitches its solution as one that enables b-directional connectivity without the latency of satellite-based solutions.
CEO David Helfgott called the funding a “display of confidence in the future of SmartSky’s groundbreaking technology and services.”
Helfgott was formerly CEO of satellite antenna tech company Phasor, which went bankrupt in May 2020. South Korean defense company Hanwha Systems acquired Phasor’s business assets in June, and Helfgott joined SmartSky in October 2020.
The U.S. portion of the T-7 Red Hawk advanced trainer has entered into production, Boeing announced in a Feb. 23 press release. The training jet used by the Air Force was designed using 3D modeling and data management systems at Boeing.
“The future of air dominance lies in the ability to move quickly, take smart risks and partner in new ways to get the job done,” Shelley Lavender, Boeing senior vice president of Strike, Surveillance and Mobility, said in a press statement. “By creating aircraft and systems along a digital thread, we can accelerate build times and increase quality and affordability for our customers in a way that has never been done before.”
Boeing received a $9.2 billion contract in 2019 to supply 351 aircraft and 46 training simulators, according to the release.
GKN Aerospace will manufacture advanced composite V-tails for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) in its Cowes facility in the UK, according to a Feb. 23 press release. The MQ-9B is used by the Royal Air Force (RAF), Belgian Defense, and Australian Defense Force.
“We value our long relationship with GKN Aerospace as a strategic supplier of critical aerospace subsystems to support our global supply chain,” Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI, said in a press statement. “We are pleased to expand this relationship with composite structures manufactured in the UK. This will mean that not only the RAF’s Protector will have UK-manufactured tails, but the global MQ-9B fleet will also benefit from tails manufactured in the UK.”
GKN Aerospace and GA-ASI were already under a pre-production contract, according to the release. This new agreement will allow the full-rate production of V-tails from the Cowes facility.
On Feb. 23, Northrop Grumman published a news release providing updates on some of the latest technological concepts and advancements the aerospace and defense manufacturer is developing for the airborne side of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) initiative.
According to DoD, JADC2 is an effort to integrate “sensors with shooters across all domains, commands and services,” the release says.
“Northrop Grumman is also bringing forward a new family of gateway systems that are designed to enable communications and cross domain translations between multiple beyond line-of-sight and line-of-sight networks and datalinks—inclusive of 5th-to-4th generation capabilities. The development of these systems includes a focus on cyber-secure and integrated functions such as cloud computing, machine learning and secure and ethical artificial intelligence, among other capabilities,” Northrop Grumman notes in the release.
Check out all of the JADC2 and related military aircraft avionics development efforts occurring at Northrop Grumman in the press release here.
The FAA is accepting applications nationwide from people with experience in controlling air traffic, such as former civilian and military controllers. The application period is Feb. 26 – Mar. 2, 2021.
The announcement is open to candidates who have maintained at least 52 consecutive weeks of air traffic control experience involving the full-time active separation of air traffic. The candidate must have an air traffic control certification or facility rating within five years of application while serving at any of the following:
Check out the agency’s full hiring announcement published last week here.
Hyundai Motor Group announced a new chief technology officer for its urban air mobility division, Ben Diachun, according to a Feb. 23 press release.
“I have been fascinated by technology and air travel since I was a child and am thrilled to put my experience to work at the Urban Air Mobility Division,” Diachun said in a press statement. “With an incredibly talented team and the manufacturing expertise of Hyundai Motor Group, we are well positioned to transform the human travel experience. I am honored to join this group and am excited for what we will accomplish together.”
Diachun was previously CEO and president of Opener, an aerospace start-up based in California.
Joby Aviation has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Reinvent Technology Partners to become publicly traded with a common stock expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) upon the close of the transaction.
“In Joby we see a remarkable founder-led team that has quietly delivered the most advanced technology we’ve seen in this sector,” Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn Co-Founder and Co-Lead Director of Reinvent Technology Partners, said in a Feb. 24 press release.
“With valuable strategic partnerships including Toyota and Uber, a compelling business model and an unparalleled track-record of executing against its targets, we believe Joby is well-positioned to create a transformative new human-centered mobility network,” Hoffman added.
Joby recently agreed to new G1 certification conditions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and plans to launch commercial services in 2024.
Austro Control awarded Schiebel a light unmanned air system (UAS) operator certificate (LUC), according to a Feb. 25 press release. This marks the first operator in Europe to receive a LUC from Austro Control.
“By issuing the first LUC in Europe to Schiebel, Austro Control has shown to be a reliable and innovative partner for the Austrian aviation industry when it comes to the fast and efficient implementation of new regulations,” Valerie Hackl, Managing Director Austro Control, said in a press statement. “With this Certificate, Austro Control provides Austrian companies such as Schiebel with an early competitive advantage and enables them to strengthen their international market position.”
The LUC allows the company to self-authorize operations within guidelines in civil airspace without applying for additional authorizations, according to the release. Schiebel will be conduction commercial drone flights, test flights, and pilot training.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) released its 2020 year-end general aviation aircraft billings and shipments report on Feb. 25, showing a decrease in total aircraft deliveries with piston airplane deliveries holding steady while turboprop, business jet, and helicopter deliveries saw declines, according to a Feb. 24 press release.
In 2020, business and general aviation aircraft deliveries reached $22.8 billion compared to $27.3 billion in 2019, according to the report. Total fixed-wing aircraft billings declined 14.8 percent in 2020 reaching $20 billion.
“As expected, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted general aviation and stifled the industry’s growth,” GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said in a press statement. “While we continue to face headwinds globally, all signs point to strong demand for our products and services that are unfortunately being constrained by pandemic induced supply chain limitations and a vast array of disjointed barriers to air travel across national borders. As we progress through the recovery process, our member companies have made the health and safety of their employees and that of their suppliers an overarching priority, and rigorously support economic policies that preserve our skilled aerospace workforce.”
Business jet deliveries were down to a total of 609 last year, compared to 809 in 2019. Textron Aviation saw the highest decline, delivering 74 fewer aircraft in 2020, while Gulfstream was down by 20 and Bombardier by 28 deliveries.
Piston airplanes only saw a 0.9 percent decrease from 2019 to 2020, according to the report. This is less than the overall airplane change which was 9.7 percent. According to GAMA most of the piston engine market shipments came from North America.
However, 2020 also saw the first certified electrical aircraft delivered in the piston airplane segment, Nicolas Chabbert, GAMA chairman and senior vice president of Daher’s aircraft division, said during GAMA’s remotely hosted 2021 “State of the Industry” press conference.
Chabbert said that the North American market had the largest market share again and the Asia Pacific market came in second.
Chabbert said that despite the slow down caused by the pandemic the need for pilots is still high.
“The need for pilots is still high, and especially for younger pilots, so just wanted to pause on that,” Chabbert said. “I was very impressed to see that in the U.S., students starts were actually 3 percent higher in 2020. It’s almost 50,000 students, as we speak. So these shipments are probably going to last for quite a long time.”
Single engine turboprop airplanes performed slightly better than regular turboprop airplane shipments which decreased 15.6 percent, Chabbert said.
“It is encouraging to see that segments of our industry saw a solid rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020,” Bunce said. “In 2021, it will be important for the general aviation industry to work together with our commercial sector colleagues to keep our interlinked but very fragile supply chain secure, while continuing to engage global regulatory authorities to leverage their mutually recognized safety competencies to keep pace with accelerating technological innovations that improve aviation safety and environmental sustainability and facilitate industry recovery.”
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The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has given full certification basis to its first flying car, PAL-V’s Liberty, the company announced on Feb. 23. This marks a major step in flying cars becoming commercially available to customers.
PAL-V completed 10 years of testing to achieve this certification, according to the company.
“Getting a flying car to the market is hard. It takes at least 10 years,” Robert Dingemanse, PAL-V’s CEO, said in a press statement. “Although we are experienced entrepreneurs, we learned that in aviation everything is exponentially stricter. Next to the aircraft, all aspects of the organization, including suppliers and maintenance parties must be certified.”
EASA’s special condition for gyroplane road vehicle use was issued on Feb. 10 and provides type certification for PAL-V’s two-seat gyroplane powered by two reciprocating engines with a maximum take-off weight of 910 kg, according to the document.
PAL-V’s Liberty has a max speed of 180 km/h and a range of 400 km when in flight mode, according to the company’s website.
“Being a gyroplane, which is a kind of rotorcraft, the certification requirements for this product need to differ in certain aspects from those of helicopters,” the special condition states. “A part of the CS-27 technical specifications is not directly applicable to gyroplanes. This CS is also more helicopters oriented. It is, therefore, necessary to address the particularities of a gyroplane by establishing specific technical specifications in the form of a SC.”
The special conditions also acknowledge the dual functionality of Liberty as a gyroplane and road vehicle.
There were over 1,500 criteria that PAL-V worked with EASA on to make Liberty certifiable, according to the release. A final version of the criteria was published last week.
“I’m proud to see the results of our work. We can now speed up the completion of the compliance demonstration phase,” Cees Borsboom, PAL-V Head of Airworthiness, said in a press statement. “It’s hard to grasp the amount of work required to certify an aircraft. The sign-off of 1,500 requirements already in 2012, before starting manned test flights, was the beginning. The development of the requirements started in 2009. More than 10 years of analysis, test data, flight tests, and drive tests, led to this important milestone. In parallel, we already started compliance demonstration to obtain the type certificate, which will be followed by delivery of vehicles to our customers.”
PAL-V will complete a final phase of compliance demonstrations before it is available to customers, according to the release.
“Safety is key in developing the Liberty, we are privileged to work with top experts of EASA,” Mike Stekelenburg, CTO of PAL-V, said in a press statement. “Their high safety standards also allow the Liberty to be used professionally. From the start, we built the Liberty to comply with existing regulations. This strategy provides the fastest route to market.”
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Damage to two turbofan blades involved in the in-flight engine failure on United Airlines (UAL) flight 328 are among the initial discoveries in focus by a team of investigators reviewing the incident that occurred shortly after takeoff from Denver International Airport en route to Honolulu, Hawaii Saturday Feb. 19.
UAL 328, a Boeing 777-200 carrying 229 passengers and 10 crew members, experienced the engine failure and in-flight fire that went viral in a video on social media posted by a relative to one of the flight’s passengers. The aircraft circled back to DIA once pilots discovered the failure. None of the passengers or crew were injured, and a team including the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), United Airlines, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, the Air Line Pilots Association, and the Independent Brotherhood of Teamsters are now investigating it.
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that the agency’s preliminary analysis of the engine shows that two of its individual fan blades were damaged. Sumwalt explained how Boeing 777-200 model’s engine, Pratt & Whitney’s PW4077, has 22 fan blades that join together into a hub inside of the containment ring and housed by an exterior cowling—which fell off the aircraft along with other debris from the 777 as it returned to DIA.
“Two fan blades were found fractured, one fan blade was found fractured at the root where it joins the hub and the other adjacent fan blade was found fractured about mid-span. One piece of the blade was found embedded in the engine containment ring,” Sumwalt said. “Another small piece of the fan blade was recovered from a soccer field in Broomfield, Colorado. Regarding the fan blade that was fractured at the root, a preliminary on scene exam indicates damage consistent with metal fatigue,” he added.
Damage was also discovered along the tips and leading edges of the remaining fan blades featured on the PW40777 model engine.
The aircraft suffered damage to the area underneath the left wing where the wing joins the body accompanied by a composite fairing underneath the wing that helps improve the aircraft aerodynamic performance. Sumwalt described this as “minor damage,” and noted that NTSB discovered other minor dings and nicks along other areas of the wing but at this time his team has not discovered any structural damage.
Sumwalt also does not believe at this stage of the investigation that the engine fire which was caught on video could be categorized as an “un-contained engine failure.”
“We, by our strictest definition do not consider this to be an un-contained engine failure, because the containment ring contained the parts as they were flying out. From a practical point of view to the flying public it really doesn’t matter whether or not we technically call it that or not,” Sumwalt said.
Both the cockpit voice and flight data recorders have been flown to Washington D.C. where NTSB will be reviewing data recovered from each to help gain a better understanding of what caused the engine failure. The piece of the fan blade that was recovered from the Broomfield soccer field is being flown via private jet to Pratt & Whitney for further review at its laboratory in collaboration with NTSB.
A 777 operated by Japan Airlines (JAL) on Dec. 4 powered by the same PW4000 engine model also experienced trouble, although Sumwalt said investigators are not yet sure if the two incidents are related. That incident and the UAL 328 engine failure lead to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau issuing a suspension of all 777 aircraft powered by that engine type on Feb. 20.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson issued a Feb. 21 statement noting his decision to issue an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) that would require “immediate or stepped-up inspection of Boeing 777 airplanes with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines.”
“We reviewed all available data following yesterday’s incident. Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes,” Dickson said.
Boeing released a statement the same day recommending flight operations for all 69 in-service and the other 59 in-storage 777s powered by the 4000-112 model engines be suspended immediately.
“Boeing supports the decision yesterday by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, and the FAA’s action today to suspend operations of 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines,” Boeing said in the UAL 328 statement. “We are working with these regulators as they take actions while these planes are on the ground and further inspections are conducted by Pratt & Whitney.”
In a series of tweets, United Airlines explained its decision to remove all 24 of its 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines from its schedule.
“We are voluntarily & temporarily removing 24 Boeing 777 aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney 4000 series engines from our schedule,” United said. “We will continue to work closely with regulators to determine any additional steps and expect only a small number of customers to be inconvenienced.”
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On Feb. 18 NASA landed the Perseverance rover on Mars. Inside the belly of Perseverance sits Ingenuity, a four-pound (1.5 pounds on Mars) rotorcraft technology demonstrator that will attempt to fly in the unforgiving Martian atmosphere.
“The Wright Brothers showed that powered flight in Earth’s atmosphere was possible, using an experimental aircraft,” Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said in a press statement. “With Ingenuity, we’re trying to do the same for Mars.”
On Feb. 20 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory received its first status report from Ingenuity from a connection through the Mars Reconnaissance Orbitor, NASA announced. The downlink indicated that the helicopter and base station are operating as expected. Ingenuity will remain attached to Perseverance for 30 to 60 days before deploying.
“There are two big-ticket items we are looking for in the data: the state of charge of Ingenuity’s batteries as well as confirmation the base station is operating as designed, commanding heaters to turn off and on to keep the helicopter’s electronics within an expected range,” Tim Canham, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter operations lead at JPL, said. “Both appear to be working great. With this positive report, we will move forward with tomorrow’s charge of the helicopter’s batteries.”
So far Ingenuity has completed its first milestone: surviving the launch, cruise, and landing on Mars. Deploying from Perseverance’s belly will be its next challenge. Ingenuity will then have to survive cold Martian nights and autonomously charge itself with its solar panel. All of these obstacles have to be overcome before the aircraft even attempts flight, which it will do autonomously.
“We are in uncharted territory, but this team is used to that,” MiMi Aung, project manager for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at JPL, said. “Just about every milestone from here through the end of our flight demonstration program will be a first, and each has to succeed for us to go on to the next. We’ll enjoy this good news for the moment, but then we have to get back to work.”
Mars’ atmosphere is 99 percent less dense than Earth’s which means Ingenuity has to be very light and have large fast spinning rotor blades. Ingenuity’s blades have a wingspan of about four feet and are made from carbon fiber foam core.
“Mars is extremely difficult to fly at because atmospheric compared to Earth at Mars is less than 1 percent,” Aung said in a press statement. “So the first and foremost challenge is to make a vehicle this light enough to be lifted. And then, the second is to generate lift the rotor system has to spin very fast. Spinning between 2,000 to 3,000 revolutions per minute, and it takes a lot of energy. So, it’s that balance of a very light system. Yet, having enough energy, this needed to spin the rotor so fast and lift, and on top of it, having to design and the autonomy.”
The first test flight will be done completely autonomously because of the communications delays between Earth and Mars. The initial goal is just to get the aircraft off the ground.
“The main thing is we want to get the legs off the ground,” Grip said. ‘And so we will basically go up about three meters, and we’ll hover there, and then come down again and that will be the first you know really major milestone.”
If the first flight is successful, NASA has additional flight tests planned with increasing levels of difficulty. Ingenuity could end up taking five flights total if everything goes to plan.
“Most of our flights will be at the three to five meter height,” Bob Balaram, Mars Helicopter chief engineer at JPL, said in a press statement.
The post NASA’s Ingenuity Could Be First Aircraft to Fly on Mars appeared first on Aviation Today.
Check out the Feb. 21 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.
NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance, landed on Mars on Thursday at 3:55 EST after a 203-day journey traveling over 293 million miles. The rover’s mission is to collect samples from Mars and bring them back to Earth.
“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk, said in a press statement. “The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration. The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.”
Perseverance was launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Flordia on July 30, 2020. It will complete a two-year investigation of Mars’ Jezero Crater focusing on the ancient lakebed and river delta, according to NASA. The samples Perseverance collects will help scientists search for definitive signs of past life.
“Because of today’s exciting events, the first pristine samples from carefully documented locations on another planet are another step closer to being returned to Earth,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA, said. “Perseverance is the first step in bringing back rock and regolith from Mars. We don’t know what these pristine samples from Mars will tell us. But what they could tell us is monumental – including that life might have once existed beyond Earth.”
Flight UA328, a Boeing 777 operated by United Airlines from Denver to Hawaii, experienced an engine failure shortly after taking off from Denver International Airport on Feb. 21, according to a statement published to the airline’s Twitter profile shortly after a video of the engine captured by one of the passengers onboard went viral on social media.
“Flight UA328 from Denver to Honolulu experienced an engine failure shortly after departure, returned safely to Denver and was met by emergency crews as a precaution,” United said. “There are no reported injuries onboard. We are in contact with the FAA, NTSB and local law enforcement.”
The engine failure lead to debris from the aircraft falling throughout “soccer fields, homes and yards in a Denver suburb,” according to a Feb. 20 CNN report covering the incident.
JetBlue and American Airlines have established a new alliance designed to expand flight options and streamline the travel process for passengers flying from the Boston and New York City region airports.
“With access to JetBlue’s and American’s schedules , you’ll have more options when traveling to, from or through Boston and the NYC area—and more flights to choose from than any single airline for some of your favorite routes, like Los Angeles to the NYC area, Miami to the NYC area or Boston, DC to Boston, and more,” the airline wrote in an update posted to its website last week.
The new alliance will launch nearly 80 codeshare flights along with new routes launched by American to Colombia and Chile using a Boeing 777-200, according to a Feb. 18 press release.
Arthur D. Collins Jr. and Susan C. Schwab, directors Boeing’s board, will be retiring and will not stand for reelection at the company’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders, Boeing announced in a Feb. 17 press release. The release also announced chairs to six board committees.
“We are grateful for Art and Susan’s distinguished service on our board,” Boeing Chairman Larry Kellner, said in a press statement. “Boeing has benefited enormously from their committed and dedicated service.”
The six directors named to committee chairs include Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., chair of the Aerospace Safety Committee, Akhil Johri, chair of the Audit Committee, Lynn Good, chair of the Compensation Committee, Robert Bradway, chair of the Finance Committee, Ronald Williams, chair of the Governance, Organization and Nominating Committee, and Adm. John Richardson, chair of the Special Programs Committee, accord to the release.
The first A320neo was delivered to Air Côte d’Ivoire, Ivory Coast’s flagship carrier based in Abidjan, according to a Feb. 18 press release. This delivery marks the first A320neo operator in the West-African region.
The A320neo will be deployed to serve Senegal, Gabon, and Cameroon, according to the release.
The aircraft also completed a flight from Toulouse carrying 1 ton of humanitarian goods intended to go to local NGOs in Abidjan.
As Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conducts a Global Force Posture Review, the U.S. Air Force and the Pentagon’s Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) will run a tactical aircraft (TACAIR) study to inform needed fighter capabilities and numbers for the Air Force fiscal 2023 budget submission, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown said on Feb. 17.
“One of the areas I am looking, we’re pushing through is a TACAIR study for the United States Air Force to look at what is the right force mix,” Brown told the Defense Writers Group. “There is a need for fifth-gen capabilty. There’s a need for NGAD [Next Generation Air Dominance] and that particular capability to remain competitive against our adversaries, and then there’s a mix for a low-end fight. I don’t know it would actually be F-16. I’d want to be able to build something new and different that’s not the F-16, that has some of those capabilities but gets there faster, uses a digital approach.”
Brown said that such an F-16 replacement could be a clean sheet design.
The Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) platform, which includes a modified version of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk drone, has reached initial operational capability (IOC), NATO said on Monday Feb. 15
The milestone for AGS was achieved after receiving the fifth and final RQ-4D surveillance drone, which will be operated by NATO forces to provide worldwide imaging data and improve surveillance for member nations.
“IOC represents a culmination of collective efforts across several international organizations. Since its inception each group has played a crucial role to take NATO AGS from concept to reality. This also demonstrates NATO’s commitment to our collective defense and our commitment to developing cutting-edge technologies and information dominance over our adversaries,” U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Houston Cantwell, the NATO AGS Force Commander, said in a statement.
Jet It, the private jet company, is expanding operations to Canada, according to a Feb. 18 press release. It will also be partnering with Skyservice Business Aviation for aircraft management and operations.
“Skyservice is the premier operator in Canada with the best facilities, one of the largest managed fleets in North America and they have a focused commitment to service for the full range of their capabilities,” Glenn Gonzales, Jet It CEO, said in a press statement. “By aligning with Skyservice, our clients will be assured a high level of service reaching across the country. They have an enthusiastic staff and an impeccable safety record spanning more than 35 years. As an aviation company run by Aviators, safety and service are our top priorities, and no one in Canada is better than Skyservice. We are honored to have Skyservice support our Canadian expansion.”
Jeremi Austin is joining the Jet It team as a direct sales operation for Canada, according to the release.
“Canadians are looking for a bespoke travel experience at an economical rate and access to business aviation for the entire day,” Austin said. “They want consistency at an expected price. The rapid growth of Jet It in the United States proves that Jet It is providing private travelers with a higher quality of life and with Jet It Canada this smart and refined way to travel is available to Canadians.”
The Jet It service operates on a fixed hourly rate of $2,200 CAD with no extra fees, according to the release. Customers can rent the jet for the day and only pay for the time occupied.
The company now has a fleet of 10 airplanes and 65 employees in the U.S.
The comprehensive project will use satellite navigation to move air traffic more safely and efficiently through the area. New routes for McCarran International Airport, Henderson Executive Airport, and North Las Vegas Airport will be more direct, automatically separated from each other and have efficient climb and descent profiles. It is one of 11 Metroplex projects nationwide.
Community involvement was a critical part of the project’s environmental process. The FAA conducted a thorough environmental review and extensive public engagement for the project, including 11 public workshops in 2017 and 2019.The agency also held four public comment periods totaling more than 120 days, and evaluated and responded to more than 140 comments.
Skyguide is looking to Frequentis’ VCS3020X next-generation IT voice communication system to implement its virtual center strategy, according to a Feb. 19 press release.
”In the future virtual center operations will allow us to react much faster and more efficiently to rapid changes in the volume of air traffic,” Alex Bristol, CEO Skyguide, said in the press release.
The VCS3020X system will provide flexibility, cost savings, cybersecurity, and increased safety to Skyguide, according to the release.
“Frequentis provides an enterprise architecture Air Traffic Control (ATC) system, with exceptionally high availability, flexibility, and unrivaled performance,” Hannu Juurakko, Frequentis Vice President ATM Civil and Chairman of the ATM Executive team, said in a press statement. “Frequentis is proud to continue a long-lasting commitment to Skyguide for a common future in virtual centers.”