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Vistara Upgrades Cockpit Connectivity on Airbus A321neos

Vistara is adding the Cobham Aerospace AVIATOR 200S system to its fleet of A321neo aircraft. (Airbus)

Vistara, the Gurgaon, India-based airline, is upgrading its fleet of Airbus A321LR aircraft with a satellite-based cockpit connectivity system from Cobham Aerospace.

In emailed statements to Avionics International, representatives for Cobham Aerospace explained that their AVIATOR 200S SwiftBroadband system is being added to four A321LR aircraft operated by the joint venture of Tata Group and Singapore Airlines. Vistara’s selection of the AVIATOR 200S includes the addition of a Compact Satellite Data Unit (CSDU), Enhanced LGA Antenna with built-in HPA and DLNA (HELGA), and SATCOM Configuration Module (SCM) to their A321LR.

“We are pleased that a prominent international carrier such as Vistara has placed their trust in AVIATOR S,” Eiji Kawaishi, CEO, Cobham Aerospace Communications, said in a statement. “We have every confidence that AVIATOR will exceed performance expectations, leading to even greater market acceptance of this groundbreaking SATCOM system.”

Compared to previous generations of aircraft satellite communication systems, “200S offers two segregated aircraft communication domains, an 80-times increase in data-transfer capacity, as well as safety services-approved ACARS and SATVOICE,” the company said in a press statement announcing the Vistara selection.

Cobham Aerospace’s AVIATOR 200s is has achieved type certification for the Airbus A320 Family, A330, and A350 platforms. (Cobham Aerospace)

According to Cobham, the AVIATOR 200S combines the provision of SwiftBroadband Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) data services with an Internet Protocol (IP) data pipe for the transfer of operational and flight data to ground maintenance and control facilities, or real-time weather and other flight relevant information updates to Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) or Flight Management Systems (FMS). Other features of the system include a Compact Satellite Data Unit (C-SDU) which is deployed with a phased array antenna with built-in Diplexer, Low Noise Amplifier (DLNA), and High Power Amplifier (HPA).

AVIATOR 200S offers interfaces capable of supporting future 4D Trajectory-Based Operations routing systems for continental (SESAR and NextGen) and oceanic use, according to Cobham.

“4D Trajectory Guidance is a primary application of interest where Cobham sees significant opportunity for growth in [Air Traffic Control] ATC efficiencies.  It will replace and improve legacy cockpit Safety Services offered by legacy network technology for Safety Voice and CPDLC data for ATC communications. Further applications would include data connectivity driven apps offered on Airbus’ FOMAX Platform,” the representative for Cobham said.

The AVIATOR 200S selection for Vistara comes as the airline continues to report ongoing fleet and flight operational expansion. Vinod Kannan took over as CEO of Vistara last month for Leslie Thng, who is taking on a senior role with Singapore Airlines after four years as the CEO of Vistara.

The post Vistara Upgrades Cockpit Connectivity on Airbus A321neos appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Ryanair Hiring Thousands of Engineers, Pilots and Cabin Crew to Support 737 Fleet Growth

Ryanair plans on hiring up to 6,000 cabin crew, engineers and pilots over the next five years. (Ryanair)

Ryanair plans to add up to 6,000 new employees to its global workforce within the next five years to support a massive Boeing 737 MAX fleet expansion, according to comments made by the airline’s executive team during a Jan. 31 earnings call.

Despite posting a net loss of €96 million for their third quarter fiscal year, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has a positive outlook for growth for the Dublin-based carrier that announced 720 new routes and 15 new bases over the last year and will need to train and hire new engineers, pilots and cabin crew to support its planned fleet growth. By 2026, Ryanair expects to grow its flight operations from a pre-COVID average of 149 million passengers annually to more than 225 million per year by 2026.

“We’ll create 6,000 new jobs over the next five years, we’re investing heavily in new people and training, we’ve opened a €50 million Dublin aviation training center, four full motion simulators, two fix-based simulators, cabin crew training facilities and we expect to open two more of those. One somewhere in the Iberian Peninsula and one in central to eastern Europe within the next two or three years,” O’Leary said in a video statement released by Ryanair. “We’re committed over the next five years to training and recruiting thousands of very high skilled, highly paid aviation professionals.”

The start of the hiring and training expansion for Ryanair began back in September, when the airline announced the opening of its aviation training center located near Dublin Airport. Airline Flight Academy, a Dublin-based flight school, is the airline’s exclusive training partner for the new facility.

Most of the training efforts for the new facility will go toward training engineers, pilots, and cabin crew to operate the Boeing 737-8200 “Gamechanger” aircraft that Ryanair is adding to its fleet. In December 2020, Ryanair increased its firm order for the 737-8200 from 135 to 210 firm orders.

“We’re going to grow strongly over the next five years, we’ll grow to about 620 aircraft in the fleet and with that, we’ll see about 6,000 jobs created—high paying jobs, high skilled jobs for pilots, cabin crew, and engineers. We’ve already started the process of building out our training infrastructure,” Neil Sorahan, CFO of Ryanair, said during a question and answer session with analysts.

While both O’Leary and Sorahan admitted that the rise in the number of Europeans contracting the Omicron variant caused a noticeable setback in passenger demand and the number of flights completed during their third quarter, the hiring outlook is a massive turnaround from where the airline was at the beginning of the global pandemic. In May 2020, after a historic drop-off in the number of flights being operated, Ryanair announced plans to cut 3,000 jobs—15% of its workforce—and enacted 20% pay cuts for its remaining staff.

Although O’Leary warns that another COVID-19 variant could lead to further disruptions, the 6,000 jobs being added in coming years will recoup all of the jobs it shed and add additional new staff to support its growth throughout Europe. One challenge remaining for Ryanair, though, could be the reduction in the number of non-Ryanair 737s currently being operated by European airlines, which puts a strain on the number of available engineers and pilots for the aircraft type.

O’Leary, however, does not believe that will be a concern moving forward.

“I think the job opportunities for 737 pilots across Europe in the next number of years will largely be combined to Ryanair. We have the capacity to train all our own engineers, our own pilots and our own cabin crew,” O’Leary said. “But given the cost of trying to retrain the 737 pilot onto an Airbus, I think if anything, there will be a lot less turnover of pilots here in Ryanair. We will essentially be the only 737 operator here in Europe in the next couple of years.”

Ryanair currently has 1,000 total 737 pilots in training, and currently has the capacity to train up to a thousand pilots per year. That number will increase once the airline adds two additional aviation training centers, bringing the total number they operate in Europe to seven.

The post Ryanair Hiring Thousands of Engineers, Pilots and Cabin Crew to Support 737 Fleet Growth appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Elroy Air Debuts the Chaparral, an Autonomous VTOL Cargo Aircraft

VTOL developer Elroy Air has just revealed their pre-production aircraft, the Chaparral, an autonomous cargo drone with a range of up to 300 miles and the capacity to carry 500 pounds of cargo. (Photo: Elroy Air)

Elroy Air revealed its pre-production vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft last week, the Chaparral—the first end-to-end autonomous VTOL aerial cargo system. It is capable of picking up cargo weighing up to 500 pounds and performing air deliveries at a range of 300 miles. Elroy Air is headquartered in South San Francisco, CA, and has received funding from Catapult Ventures, Lockheed Martin Ventures, Marlinspike Capital, and Prosperity7 Ventures, in addition to various angel investors.

The company’s CEO and co-founder, David Merrill, spoke during the Transformative Vertical Flight 2022 conference last week. “Our mission is to enable same-day shipping to every person on the planet,” he said, explaining that their system for moving cargo directly to loading docks can be done at a speed much faster than today’s trucks. Elroy Air’s President and co-founder, Clint Cope, commented, “The Chaparral will be a vital logistics link for people around the world with unreliable roadways and in remote and rural areas that take longer to reach today.”

The Chaparral features a hybrid-electric powertrain, eight vertical lift fans, and four distributed electric propulsors, in addition to a modular cargo pod. (Photo: Elroy Air)

Development of the Chaparral has been underway for the past two and a half years. It is a hybrid-electric vehicle that has an in-flight rechargeable lithium battery. The hybrid-electric powertrain offers range, reliability, and flexibility. The modular cargo pod, explained Merrill, allows for rapid loading and unloading, and the aircraft uses LIDAR for navigation on the ground. “This modality will be faster than ground transport with lower operating costs than today’s manned aircraft, and better efficiency than today’s helicopters.” He added, “We’re designing it to be utilized at a very high level—lots of hours per day—which was our motivation for creating a separate cargo container that can be picked up and dropped off.”

Elroy Air has already agreed to provide more than 500 aircraft, amounting to over $1 billion in demand, to its customers including AYR Logistics—looking to expand its humanitarian logistics business—and Mesa Airlines, along with other commercial and defense customers. Mesa Airlines plans to order 150 aircraft to meet what it sees as the growing air transportation needs of the express parcel and healthcare sectors.

As of August 2021, Elroy shared that they had raised $40 million in funding. Having now secured agreements for purchases of its VTOL of more than $1 billion, the company looks to be on track to continue rapid expansion over the next year and make further improvements to the Chaparral aircraft as it goes through flight tests and demonstrations.

Elroy announced a partnership with NASA last year “to accelerate and improve the safe integration of advanced autonomous cargo aircraft into the United States airspace,” according to the announcement. Using the Chaparral VTOL, the partnership will demonstrate operational advanced air mobility (AAM) scenarios. The FAA will also support the flight tests and demonstrations for middle-mile aerial logistics.

“The opportunity is to dramatically expand the reach of express logistics, by creating orders of magnitude more aerial cargo routes that can operate to/from locations that would not support air cargo today,” David Merrill told Aviation Today in a recent interview.

More than 500 units have already been pre-ordered—equivalent to more than $1 billion. (Photo: Elroy Air)

The U.S. Air Force awarded Elroy a Phase 3 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract with the Agility Prime program at the end of 2020, In the expansion of their existing partnership, Agility Prime will fund technical demonstrations and validations of the Chaparral aircraft’s performance. The Agility Prime program will be evaluating the Chaparral for USAF use cases, and they see the autonomous VTOL as capable of meeting both commercial and government needs.

An early prototype of Elroy’s Chaparral was first flown in 2019. Today, the model possesses eight vertical lift fans, four distributed electric propulsors, and updated systems for ground autonomy and cargo handling. In sharing the company’s vision for the future, Merrill stated that “by 2023, we expect to be doing commercial flights with customers, beginning full-scale operations, and continuing to expand.” 

Elroy also released a video unveiling the Chaparral aircraft can be viewed here. 

The post Elroy Air Debuts the Chaparral, an Autonomous VTOL Cargo Aircraft appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Boeing Secures Qatar Airways as Launch Customer of New 777-8 Freighter

Qatar Airways is the launch customer of Boeing’s 777-8 Freighter jet, and has also signed a new agreement with Boeing to purchase 25 737-10 (MAX) passenger jets. (Boeing)

Qatar Airways has become the launch customer for Boeing’s new 777-8 Freighter, the air cargo variant of the 777X passenger jet that the Middle East carrier is also launching, with an expected first delivery coming in 2023.

Under a new agreement signed with Boeing, Qatar will convert 60 of its existing 777X family orders to the 777-8 Freighter with a firm order for 34 jets and options for 16 more. With a range of 4,410 nautical miles (8,167 km), the 777-8 Freighter has a maximum structural payload of 118 tonnes and will feature a new carbon-fiber composite wing.

Boeing signed the 777-8 Freighter launch customer agreement with the airline during a ceremony held at the White House on Monday. Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said in a statement that the airline is “honored” to become the launch customer for an aircraft that will “not only allow us to further enhance our product offering for our customers, but also help us meet our objectives to deliver a sustainable future.”

The 777-8 Freighter will be built at Boeing’s Everett, Washington factory where the company has invested “more than $1 billion” to support 777X production, according to a Jan. 31 press release. Boeing notes that the payload capacity on the 777-8 Freighter is nearly identical to the existing 747-400 Freighter with a “25% improvement in fuel efficiency, emissions and operating costs.”

Qatar’s 777-8 Freighter fleet will be powered by the GE9X engine, after the airline signed a $6.8 billion purchase order with GE Aviation, one of the biggest announcements for the engine-maker since it announced a new strategic business plan to spin-off its healthcare division, while combining its energy, power and digital divisions into one business that will leave the industrial giant’s sole focus on aviation within the next few years.

“The commitment includes 30 GE9X engines and four GE90-115B engines, plus GE TrueChoice™ services,” according to GE Aviation’s announcement of the new selection.

“We are confident that Qatar Airways’ focus to drive towards a sustainable future will be very much supported by the efficiency of the GE9X engines,” Al Baker said.

Boeing expects to deliver the first 777-8 Freighter to Qatar Airways by 2027. The move by Qatar to expand its air cargo fleet comes amid increasing demand for the package-carrying side of the air transportation industry. Last week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data showing the full-year demand for air cargo increased 6.9% in 2021, compared to pre-COVID 2019 levels, and 18.7% compared to 2020.

“The lack of available capacity contributed to increased yields and revenues, providing support to airlines and some long-haul passenger services in the face of collapsed passenger revenues,” IATA said in its latest report.

Boeing’s launch of the 777-8 Freighter comes following the launch of the A350 Freighter by rival Airbus last year. Airbus and Qatar Airways have been involved in a legal dispute for several months involving claims that the airline has experienced issues with degradation of surface and paint on certain A350 aircraft within its fleet. A Jan. 25 report from Business Insider notes that Airbus has cancelled a 2017 order placed by Qatar Airways for 50 A321 jets amid the ongoing dispute.

In addition to the 777-8 Freighter launch agreement, Qatar Airways also committed to a firm $7 billion order of 25 total Boeing 737-10 aircraft and purchase rights for 25 additional airplanes. As the largest variant in the 737 MAX family, the 737-10 has a 3,300 nautical mile range. Boeing completed the first 737-10 test flight last June, and expects the aircraft to achieve entry into service by 2023.

The post Boeing Secures Qatar Airways as Launch Customer of New 777-8 Freighter appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Clean Sky 2 Airbus C295 Technology Demonstrator Completes First Flight

The Flight Test Bed 2, based on the Airbus C295, made its first flight this week. (Photo: Airbus)

The Airbus C295 Flight Test Bed 2 (FTB2), as part of the Clean Sky 2 program, completed its maiden flight successfully, taking off from Seville, Spain. Modifications to the aircraft aim to reduce emissions and noise levels and include a high-efficiency, semi-morphing wing, dynamic winglets, and a flat panel SATCOM antenna, according to the announcement.

The FTB2 is based on the Airbus C295, a new-generation tactical airlifter, and completed ground tests prior to achieving this first flight milestone. According to Airbus, applying the modifications of the FTB2 to a future aircraft configuration could make it possible to achieve “up to 43% CO2 and 70% NOx reductions in a typical Search and Rescue mission of 400 nautical miles, as well as 45% less noise during take-off.”

A more efficient high lift system results from the new flight control system, where flight controls can be adjusted in-flight—including controls for ailerons, flaps, and flap tabs. It will also be possible to optimize the wing’s aerodynamic shape while in flight by leveraging digital control systems.

“The first flight of the C295 FTB2 is a key milestone that represents an important step forward in the programme, following the successful integration of the new aero structures, power-on, and ground tests. A few years ago, this programme was just a dream of a more sustainable future for aviation. Today, we are at the final stage, and we finally made it fly,” Francisco Javier Sánchez Segura, Executive Vice President Engineering for Airbus Defence and Space, said in the announcement from Airbus.

The demonstrator introduces improvements to the manufacturing process such as use of Scalmalloy and additive manufacturing. The aero structures of the wing are also constructed via a new assembly method. Assembling the FTB2’s flaps and ailerons was accomplished through jig-less methods, the use of which also reduces manufacturing costs.

Clean Sky, a public-private research partnership, connects the European Commission with Europe’s aeronautics industry to demonstrate innovative aircraft configurations that accelerate the reduction of CO2, NOx, and noise emissions in aviation. The program’s second phase, the Clean Sky 2 (CS2) joint undertaking, has the additional objective of developing “a strong and globally competitive aeronautical industry and supply chain in Europe,” according to the organization’s website. In combination with Horizon 2020, Europe’s largest research and innovation program, CS2 tests technologies related to its future regional multi-mission aircraft. Although the CS2 program will come to an end in 2023, it is estimated that 75% of the initiatives will reach a high level of readiness by the end of next year.

The post Clean Sky 2 Airbus C295 Technology Demonstrator Completes First Flight appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Scaling Up to Advanced Air Mobility

A series of speakers presented topics on Scaling Up to AAM during this week’s Transformative Vertical Flight event featuring an eVTOL symposium. (Photo: Black & Veatch)

The Scaling Up to AAM discussion during the eVTOL Symposium at TVF2022 started with a presentation by Paul Stith, Associate Vice President, Global Transportation Initiatives – Growth Accelerator at Black & Veatch. Black & Veatch is an engineering, consulting, and construction company that focuses on sustainable infrastructure innovations. To date, they have deployed well over 2,000 EV charging stations, said Stith. He sees the keys to establishing advanced air mobility (AAM) as industry collaboration, standardization, and policy support. 

Black & Veatch recently conducted an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Electrical Infrastructure Study to understand what changes are needed to the grid, to civic infrastructure, and to fueling systems in order to reach a zero-emission future. The question is, how can EV charging sites and existing infrastructure be developed and scaled up? Three challenges that need to be addressed are funding, permitting, and avoiding stranded assets.

Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) and Portland General Electric (PGE) have partnered with Black & Veatch to bring a public charging station online—one that is specifically designed for medium and heavy-duty electric commercial trucks. A statement from the company said that the “Electric Island” project will “demonstrate high-power charging infrastructure scaled to accommodate electric trucks and their large batteries capable of moving up to 80,000 pounds at highway speeds.” Stith views Long Beach Airport as a potential candidate for a site where both electric conventional take-off and landing (eCTOL) and eVTOL aircraft could be integrated into the existing system.

Alan Davis, President and CEO of i5 Services, LLC, discussed the topic of the manufacturing supply chain in the context of AAM and eVTOL aircraft. The CONNEX Marketplace, developed by i5 Services, offers supply chain solutions both nationwide and at a state level. It includes a database of manufacturers that is categorized by thousands of data points based upon specific capabilities.

Davis mentioned PPE as an example of a supply chain issue: “It wasn’t that we didn’t have capable manufacturers, but that we couldn’t find those capabilities in the U.S., and we had people that couldn’t find the demand.” In order to use the database as a national platform, it was critical to provide value to the manufacturer; forcing manufacturers to provide data doesn’t work, said Davis.

In May 2021, i5 Services and NEXA Capital partnered to form a national consortium aimed at developing an integrated supply chain solution for AAM using the CONNEX electronic exchange platform. The AAM platform connects eVTOL developers in the U.S. to both local and national suppliers of products such as motors, propellers, power control systems, traffic management systems, avionics (flight control, pilot assistance, surveillance, etc.), and energy storage systems. Davis explained, “If we’re searching for supply, we need to be able to expand the search to broader geographies for capabilities that may not be locally available. It’s also important that we have the ability to contract and search very locally.” 

David Stepanek, Executive Vice President, Sales and Chief Transformation Officer at Bristow Group, represented one of the world’s largest helicopter operators. Bristow Group joined Overair in a partnership last month in development of Overair’s Butterfly eVTOL aircraft. Bristow President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Bradshaw commented on the announcement: “Our MOU with Overair allows us to set the stage for the next generation of vertical flight. Our collaboration facilitates expansion into new high-density geographic markets with sustainable, innovative and efficient vertical lift and aerial transport services.”

Overair and Bristow Group signed an MOU to work together on commercialization plans for Overair’s Butterfly eVTOL aircraft. (Photo: Overair)

Stepanek remarked that one challenge in scaling AAM is an already short supply of pilots. “You can’t just take a pilot out of flight school and put him in a cockpit.” At Bristow, pilots need 1,500 hours of flight time before they can operate the aircraft independently. Another obstacle is public acceptance. To build and scale a compelling business, “we’re going to have to sell people on sustainability,” Stepanek said, emphasizing the importance not only of sustainability but also of safety at every stage of development in AAM.

Dana Jensen, Senior Industrial Policy Analyst for the US Air Force, discussed scaling of the AAM supply chain during this week’s eVTOL Symposium. He asks, how do we address the concerns associated with a limited set of suppliers that are not in coordination with each other? “Some may be able to supply products for AAM and don’t even know it. Our purpose is to develop an electronic exchange platform and a modeling and simulation environment.” 

The Agility Prime program, in coordination with NASA, issued an RFI and received over 370 responses. The manufacturing companies that are reluctant to communicate with each other have been more willing to respond to RFIs with details of their capabilities and financials if they think it could provide benefits.

Respondents to the RFI “may have the opportunity to closely collaborate with NASA, Agility Prime, and other government organizations in discussions relating to developing and operationalizing AAM. These discussions will leverage NASA and Agility Prime’s industry knowledge and extensive experience designing, testing, and flying novel aircraft, and airspace management systems,” according to NASA’s website. The initial rollout for the prototype of the modeling and simulation tool is tentatively set for early April, Jensen said, and they are always looking for new firms to submit responses to the RFI.

The “Scaling Up to AAM” discussion was concluded with a presentation from Vivek Saxena, Managing Director, Advisory Aerospace OSC, in which he shared Advisory Aerospace’s efforts to enable Smart Factories. “We work with manufacturers that make fasteners, and those who make full aircraft systems. Most aerospace factories with complex manufacturing show poor performance on KPIs such as Velocity, OTD, and Cost.”

“In manufacturing, only 13% of available data is currently used, and that number is even lower for aerospace manufacturing—less than 10%. Due to disconnected data sources, very few people have a full view of what’s going on in the factory. They aren’t using existing data to run the factory more efficiently.”

Improving factory operations and supply chain visibility, Saxena said, doesn’t require expensive software. Startups like Advisory Aerospace can perform complete modeling and simulation of a large factory in less than two months. “We can help eVTOL companies optimize operations whether they have a data system or not,” added Saxena.

The post Scaling Up to Advanced Air Mobility appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Transformative Vertical Flight 2022: Opening Words from NASA, FAA, and USAF

Speakers from NASA, the FAA, the USAF, and the US Army presented updates during the Government Plenary of the Transformative Vertical Flight event this week. (Photo: Joby Aviation)

This week, the Transformative Vertical Flight 2022 event is taking place for in-person attendees in San Jose, California, as well as for virtual attendees. The 9th annual eVTOL Symposium includes presentations from researchers, government agencies, and industry leaders. The opening session of TVF2022 featured Davis Hackenberg and Jaako Karras from NASA; Col. Jay Hopkins, US Army, Chief of Staff, FVL CFT; Col. Nathan Diller, USAF, Director of AFWERX; and Steve Bradford from the FAA.

Davis Hackenberg is the AAM (Advanced Air Mobility) Integration Manager at NASA. He shared details about NASA’s AAM National Campaign—a series of flight demonstrations intended to promote public confidence in the safety of AAM and to develop sustainable, accessible air travel in partnership with government entities and industry leaders. National Campaign-1 (NC-1) includes both flight demonstrations and simulations that will take place this year. Vehicle partners that will participate in NC-1 include Joby Aviation, Wisk Aero, and Reliable Robotics. Additionally, Joby took part in integrated operational urban air mobility (UAM) scenarios in 2021 as part of the developmental testing phase.

For NASA, the focus is less on the performance characteristics of the electric aircraft and more on gathering data on safety. Multiple companies including BETA and Joby are already flying, gathering data, and developing prototypes, Hackenberg said, and with most of the new vehicles, the automation of in-flight controls enables even safer configurations. NASA’s AAM National Campaign is concerned not only with safety but also with minimizing environmental disturbance. Flight testing performed with Joby’s eVTOL aircraft last year provided NASA with an opportunity to collect high-quality noise data using 60 microphones.

TVF 2022 and the annual eVTOL Symposium are taking place this week, featuring updates and perspectives from industry leaders, government agencies, and researchers. (Photo: Honeywell)

Jaakko Karras, a Robotics Electrical Engineer with NASA, gave a presentation on the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which successfully landed on Mars in February 2021. “The motivation for ingenuity is to enable new forms of exploration on Mars. There is a lot that can be done in the aerial dimension,” Karras says, in spite of the thin atmosphere of Mars—which is 1% the density of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level. In addition to the difference in atmospheric density, other challenges the team faced included the cold temperatures (90℃), the need for a self-sufficient solar power system, and autonomous operations due to the distance from Earth and inability to maintain real-time communications.

The next presentation was given by Col. Jay Hopkins, US Army, Chief of Staff, Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team (FVL CFT). He shared three areas of focus for future unmanned aerial systems (UAS):

  1. Future Attack Recon Aircraft (FARA), with the first prototype flight planned for FY23. Prototype builds are already between 70–80% complete. 
  2. Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems (FUAS)
  3. Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA), with the first prototype flight expected to take place in the second quarter of FY25.

According to Hopkins, the four tenets of Future Vertical Lift are reach, survivability, lethality, and affordability. Aircraft will need to be built with the capability for multi-domain operations. When range and speed increase, so will survivability, which requires a layered approach of intelligence preparation off the battlefield and both off-board and on-board technologies. Another priority is driving competition to reduce both risks and operational costs.

Director of the AFWERX program within the USAF, Col. Nathan Diller spoke on the program’s progress and their coordination with the FAA to examine airworthiness and flight standards. May 2021 marked the Air Force’s first airworthiness approval awarded for human flight in the Agility Prime program. “​​It provides us the opportunity to do government-directed flight tests and understand the multiple different use cases,” Diller said. “In May, AFWERX also sent out a team of 20 operators that worked closely with our partners to identify the areas with the highest interest among our air force operators of these new electric aircraft.”

Just last month, the first AFWERX Agility Prime Air Force pilot was able to fly the Kittyhawk eVTOL through remote operations. Also in December, Archer performed its first hover flight with its Maker eVTOL. This month, Joby Aviation received FAA and USAF approval for their second aircraft prototype and also achieved a flight speed of 205 mph. “Looking to the year ahead, we see companies—fast followers—contacting us with opportunities to participate more broadly [in the AFWERX program],” shared Col. Diller. He also explained that they are collaborating with NASA to advance autonomy, traffic management technologies, and supply chain management.

Pictured above is Kittyhawk demonstrating Heaviside’s autonomous capabilities. (Photo: Kittyhawk)

TVF2022’s opening session concluded with a presentation from Steve Bradford, Chief Scientist for Architecture and NextGen Development at the FAA. The topic was integration of UAM operations into the airspace. Bradford said that airspace integration is defined by conflict management, which is comprised of traffic synchronization, balancing of demand and capacity, and airspace organization. 

UAM corridors came into existence when the FAA released the first version of its Concept of Operations (ConOps) in July 2020. Bradford and his team are working on ConOps 2.0 now with the idea that corridors will be implemented only as needed; there will be alternate mitigation strategies for crossing traffic; and the overall impact to non-UAM vehicles will be reduced. Through this version of ConOps, expected to be issued early this year, the FAA will offer more flexibility for UAM corridor design.

The post Transformative Vertical Flight 2022: Opening Words from NASA, FAA, and USAF appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Lockheed Martin Finishes 2021 With Strong Fourth Quarter

Lockheed Martin delivered 52 F-35s in the fourth quarter of 2021. Pictured here is the company’s F-35 production factory located in Fort Worth, Texas. (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin on Tuesday reported strong fourth quarter financial results, ending a challenging 2021 on a high note, although the company continues to project a drop in sales in 2022.

Net income in the quarter rose 14 percent to $2 billion, $7.47 earnings per share (EPS), versus $1.8 billion ($6.38 EPS) a year ago, results that cruised well above consensus estimates of $7.15 per share. Sales increased 4 percent to $17.7 billion from $17 billion a year ago.

Overall, in 2021 sales increased 3 percent to a record $67 billion from $65.4 billion in 2020 and net income tumbled 8 percent to $6.3 billion ($22.76 EPS) from $6.8 billion ($24.30). Lockheed Martin’s annual earnings took a substantial hit in the third quarter due to $1.3 billion charge related to pension costs.

Last October, when Lockheed Martin released its third quarter financial results, the company reduced its sales outlook for 2021 and 2022 due to supply chain constraints on several of its operating segments. James Taiclet, the company’s chairman, president and CEO, said on Tuesday that there are still supply chain disruption risks but “we think the bow wave has passed in supply chain disruption for Lockheed Martin.”

Sales in 2022 are forecast to be about $66 billion, down more than a percent from 2021, and earnings are forecast to be about $26.70 EPS. Free cash flow is projected to be at least $6 billion, about $500 million below the prior outlook due to an expected tax payment related to a research and development amortization provision in a 2017 COVID-19 stimulus bill.

Free cash flow in 2021 was $7.7 billion. Lockheed Martin spent $4.1 billion of its free cash on share repurchases and $2.9 billion on dividends to shareholders. The company also spent a record $1.5 billion on independent research and development, with key investments in hypersonics, directed energy, and artificial intelligence, Taiclet said.

The company also created mission-based technology roadmaps and invested in its 5G.mil architecture to enable joint all domain operations across platforms and military services and allies, he said.

Sales in the quarter were up at the Missiles and Fire Control, Aeronautics, and Rotary and Mission Systems segments, driven by the PAC-3, tactical and strike missile programs, F-35 fighter aircraft, classified, C6ISR, training and logistics, the Canadian Surface Combatant and Aegis programs.

Lockheed Martin delivered 52 F-35s in the quarter versus 42 a year ago, and 142 in all of 2021 versus 120 in 2020. The program is currently expected to peak at 156 aircraft per year. The F-35, including production, development and sustainment, accounts for about 25 percent of the company’s revenue.

Lockheed’s fourth quarter earnings report comes following the company’s undisclosed investment in electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft developer Electra.aero last week.

This article was first published by Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International, it has been edited. To view the original version, click here.>>

The post Lockheed Martin Finishes 2021 With Strong Fourth Quarter appeared first on Aviation Today.

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FAA Requires Boeing 747-8, 777 Flight Manual Changes to Address 5G C-Band Radio Altimeter Interference

A new airworthiness directive published by the FAA on Tuesday, Jan. 25, requires airplane flight manual changes for all Boeing 777, 747-8 and 747-8F aircraft. Pictured here is the 747-8F aircraft that Boeing used to complete certification testing for the model in 2011. (Boeing)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a new airworthiness directive (AD) on Jan. 25 requiring airplane flight manual (AFM) changes for Boeing 747-8, 747-8F and 777 after determining that the radio altimeters featured on these aircraft models “cannot be relied upon to perform their intended function if they experience interference from wireless broadband operations in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency band (5G C-Band).”

Radio altimeter data featured on the Boeing aircraft models identified in the directive are vulnerable to interference that may affect “pitch control laws, that provide tail strike protection regardless of the visibility conditions or approach type being used at airports in regions where 5G C-band stations have been deployed,” according to the directive. Other systems that could be impacted include the auto throttle, ground proximity warning, thrust reversers and Traffic Collision Avoidance System.

“The AD does not apply to landings at airports where the FAA determined the aircraft altimeters are safe and reliable in the 5G C-band environment. It also does not apply to airports where 5G isn’t deployed,” the agency said in its latest statement on the ongoing 5G C-band rollout.

There are approximately 336 aircraft registered in the U.S and another 1,714 worldwide impacted by the new AD. The FAA determined that the AFM changes required under the new directive will cost the combined U.S.-registered fleet $28,560.

FAA’s requirement for 747-8 and 777 operators to change the limitations section of their AFM comes following an evaluation of 5G C-Band interference by Boeing that occurred since the issuing of an AD by the agency last month requiring similar changes that focused on low visibility conditions. That testing, according to the directive, determined that anomalies from 5G C-Band interference may not be evident to pilots until low altitudes and could result in “uncommanded, inappropriate pitch inputs, adversely affecting controllability.”

The directive comes following a series of 5G C-Band policy updates issued by the FAA, including one last week where altimeters for most of the in-service Airbus, Boeing and Embraer U.S. airline-operated fleet were cleared from vulnerability to any interference issues. Boeing issued “Multi Operator Messages MOM-MOM-22-0024-01B(R2)” to affected 747-8 and 777 operators last week. A key update in the new directive from the FAA is that it is not limited to the low visibility and poor weather conditions outlined by the agency on Dec. 23.

AT&T and Verizon have agreed to limit the power of radio frequencies generated by 5G C-Band stations deployed near airports for the first six months of the year.

Boeing 747-8 and 777 operators are provided the opportunity to request permission for Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs) in the new AD. The FAA also included further details on why commercial aviation radio altimeters are vulnerable to 5G C-Band interference.

“The radio altimeter must detect faint signals reflected off the ground to measure altitude, in a manner similar to radar,” the agency writes in the directive. “Out-of-band signals could significantly degrade radio altimeter functions during critical phases of flight, if the altimeter is unable to sufficiently reject those signals.”

The post FAA Requires Boeing 747-8, 777 Flight Manual Changes to Address 5G C-Band Radio Altimeter Interference appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Boeing Invests $450 Million in Wisk eVTOL Development

Boeing has invested $450 million in Wisk to support certification of their 6th-gen eVTOL and expand Wisk’s global reach. (Photo: Wisk Aero LLC)

Wisk, the eVTOL developer and advanced air mobility (AAM) company, has received $450 million in funding from The Boeing Company. In addition to supporting development of Wisk’s 6th-generation eVTOL aircraft, the investment from Boeing will contribute to Wisk’s preparations for launching scale manufacturing and go-to-market operations. Along with its previous investments, Wisk is now one of the most well-funded AAM companies worldwide.

During a Jan. 24 media briefing announcing the investment, Wisk’s President and CEO Gary Gysin spoke about the benefits of the new partnership with Boeing. “It’s not just capital—it’s also the resources, the engineering expertise. The funding will support scaling our manufacturing and go-to-market efforts.” Wisk plans to reveal the design of their eVTOL aircraft later this year. When asked about a timeline for certification, Gysin explained, “We’ll fly when it’s safe, when we’re ready, and when it’s certified.” Once it is certified, their 6th-generation vehicle is expected to perform close to 14 million annual flights within five years. 

One of Wisk’s missions is for their eVTOL to provide affordable commuting options. (Photo: Wisk Aero LLC)

Cora, the eVTOL being developed by Wisk, is a two-passenger all-electric self-piloted aircraft. It has an experimental airworthiness certificate from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to their website. Gysin stated, “As we enter this next stage of our growth, this additional funding provides us with capital while allowing us to remain focused on our core business and our number one priority, safety.”

Wisk intends to remain the OEM and operator for the foreseeable future, and they are also engaged with companies and organizations to provide other capabilities. The company collaborated with Blade Urban Air Mobility to operate Wisk’s eVTOL aircraft on Blade’s network of dedicated terminals in the U.S. A partnership with NASA began in November 2020 to study safe integration of autonomous aircraft systems into urban air mobility (UAM) applications. In July 2021, NASA selected Wisk as an industry partner to support the advancement of AAM flight, airspace, and operations infrastructure. Another investor is Kittyhawk, who has supported Wisk’s development efforts for previous generations of eVTOL aircraft.

Brian Yutko, Vice President and Chief Engineer of Sustainability and Future Mobility at Boeing, shared that his team recognized the commercial potential of Wisk in 2019. “We liked that Wisk has achieved a number of aviation firsts and industry firsts,” he remarked during the briefing. The collaboration, he explained, includes development of technology and expansion of Wisk’s global reach in addition to supporting Wisk’s mission of achieving certification. Commenting on Wisk’s pioneering of all-electric autonomous capability, Boeing’s Chief Strategy Officer, Marc Allen, said, “Autonomy is the key to unlocking scale across all AAM applications, from passenger to cargo and beyond. That’s why straight-to-autonomy is a core first principle.”

Wisk has received support in developing its eVTOL and advancing AAM and UAM through partnerships with Blade Urban Air Mobility, Kittyhawk,  and NASA. (Photo: Wisk Aero LLC)

Wisk’s vision for an AAM network includes opportunities to leverage existing infrastructure—such as small and mid-size airports—to repurpose as vertiports and charging stations. Not only does this allow Wisk to focus on certification for their aircraft, but it is also a more efficient and environmentally friendly strategy. “Much like the development of eVTOL aircraft, the development of eVTOL infrastructure—if done responsibly—will add value while seamlessly integrating into local communities,” a Wisk spokesperson previously told Avionics International.

The post Boeing Invests $450 Million in Wisk eVTOL Development appeared first on Aviation Today.

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