Mark A. Forkner, former Boeing 737 MAX Chief Technical Pilot, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Texas, according to an Oct. 14 Department of Justice announcement.
Forkner is being charged with allegedly deceiving the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) in connection with the group’s evaluation of the Boeing 737 MAX, which returned to passenger carrying service late last year after being grounded when two separate Lion Air and Ethiopian Airline flights involving the aircraft crashed six months apart. An indictment outlining the investigation into Forkner notes that his alleged deception involves providing the FAA AEG with materially false, inaccurate, and incomplete information about a new part of the Boeing 737 MAX flight controls, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
According to Forkner’s indictment, the alleged fraud occurred a change was made to the way MCAS functions. Originally, MCAS was included in the flight control system to fix the tendency of the 737 MAX to pitch-up during high-speed — approximately Mach 0.6-0.8) — wind-up turns, that was caused by the 737 MAX’s larger engines being situated differently under than wings compared to the 737 NG. Eventually, as the new aircraft type progressed closer to achieving final type certification, that characteristic was changed and the MCAS started operating at lower speeds, around Mach 0.2, investigators write in the indictment.
As the lead technical pilot for the program, Forkner was tasked with updating the FAA AEG with insights into the aircraft’s performance, and any issues or challenges they should be aware of. Forkner eventually learned of the change to MCAS’s operational scope during a simulated test flight of the 737 MAX in November 2016. However, following his discovery of this change, he withheld the information from the FAA AEG during a follow up discussion with them about the simulated flight he participated in where the change was discovered.
The indictment notes that Forkner withheld the information intentionally in an effort to prevent the FAA AEG from including a level higher than Level B in assessing the level of the differences between the 737 MAX and its predecessor aircraft type, the 737 NG. Training levels above Level B potentially can be much more expensive for airlines and they typically involve full-flight simulator training, an aspect of the re-engined aircraft that Boeing wanted to avoid so that the cost of adopting the new aircraft would not be preventatively expensive.
Thus, when the FAA AEG published its Flight Standardization Board Report that included the differences training determination for the new version of the aircraft, no mention of MCAS was included because the AEG was going off the original premise that it would only become enabled at speeds higher than the normal operational scope of a typical passenger carrying 737 MAX flight. Officials note in the indictment that the AEG did not learn of the change from MCAS operating at the higher speeds to the lower Mach 0.2 until the fatal crash of Lion Air flight 610.
“In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators,” Acting U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham for the Northern District of Texas said in a statement. “His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 MAX flight controls. The Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud – especially in industries where the stakes are so high.”
Forkner is being charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud, according to the indictment. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud and 10 years in prison on each count of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce.
“There is no excusing those who deceive safety regulators for the sake of personal gain or commercial expediency,” said Inspector General Eric J. Soskin of the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Our office works continuously to help keep the skies safe for flying and protect the traveling public from needless danger. Today’s charges demonstrate our unwavering commitment to working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to hold responsible those who put lives at risk.”
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Frontier Airlines is adopting Skywise Health Monitoring (SHM) technology from Airbus across its fleet of A320neo aircraft, according to an Oct. 14 press release.
SHM will give Frontier the ability to gather live fleet health diagnostics using the A320neo’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) link and Flight Operations and Maintenance Exchanger (“FOMAX”) data router and stream it to directly into their airline information sharing system. According to Airbus, Frontier has signed a five-year contract for SHM to be operated across a total of 111 A320neo aircraft.
Airbus notes that the FOMAX data router is capable of capturing over 20,000 real-time aircraft parameters to enable “end-to-end unscheduled event management/fixes, for example by anticipating tools and parts’ availability closest to the aircraft.”
“Frontier will use the solution for its A320 Family fleet. Airbus’ SHM will support the airline’s maintenance and engineering teams by enabling real-time management of aircraft events and troubleshooting,” Airbus said in the release.
During a June 30 media call, leadership from Airbus, Delta Tech Ops and GE Digital explained how the three entities were forming a new digital alliance to expand the data collection, storing and analysis tools provided by Skywise. According to Lionel Rouby, senior vice president, customer services innovation digital solutions at Airbus, the cloud computing infrastructure for the servers utilized by Skywise are contain a total of 15 petabytes, or 15 million total gigabytes of flight operational data points about individual in-service Airbus aircraft parts, systems, and engines.
“The first initial project we’re working on with Delta and GE is about predictive maintenance, monitoring the health of the aircraft, monitoring the messages generated by the aircraft, and collecting all the data generated to predict failure. The engine of this solution is the collection of analytics, of knowledge that will predict and anticipate the failure mode of the equipment,” Rouby said during the call, explaining how the company is trying to continually improve the capabilities of Skywise for airlines like Frontier and others using the platform.
Adoption of Skywise by Frontier comes amid a complete phasing out of their legacy A319s, the final aircraft — tail N949FR — of that fleet retired last month, completing its final flight after more than 15 years in service. The airline operates the largest A320neo fleet in North America, with an average age of 4.1 years and approximately 140 of the same aircraft model remaining on order, according to their website.
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Under a new partnership signed with Dublin, Ireland-based aircraft leasing company Avolon, Japan Airlines (JAL) will have the right to purchase or lease up to 50 Vertical VA-X5 electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Avolon-e, the investment and innovation affiliate to Avolon, is leading the strategic partnership signed with JAL that will focus on identifying partnership, customers, infrastructure requirements, certification and “a range of commercial models to introduce one of the world’s first eVTOL ride sharing businesses in Japan,” according to an Oct. 20 press release. The new partnership also includes an option for JAL to purchase 50 additional VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft.
JAL’s goal under the new partnership is to have their first VA-X4 eVTOL ready for entry-into-service in 2025, in time for the Osaka Kansai Expo occurring the same year.
“Today’s announcement represents an important step towards the social implementation of Air Taxi at Osaka Kansai EXPO in 2025. Our partnership with Avolon, lays out the pathway towards achieving Air Mobility revolution in Japan. The introduction of VA-X4 will also contribute to reduce our environmental impact and we fundamentally believe that sustainability will be the engine for future growth across our business and region. We look forward to collaborating closely with Avolon and Vertical on the roadmap to certification for the VA-X4 with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau,” Tomohiro Nishihata, managing executive officer of Japan Airlines, said in a statement.
Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL, the VA-X4, has a range of over 100 miles with a top speed of 202 mph and a five-person capacity, according to the company’s website. Vertical Aerospace is expecting the VA-X4 to be certified in 2024. The aircraft is also expected to take its first test flight this year.
Avolon recently established another similar future-facing purchase order agreement with GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A., the largest airline in Brazil. In September, GOL committed to the purchase or lease of up to 250 VA-X4s, and will also be collaborating with Avolon on identification of local partners, infrastructure and certification requirements, with the goal of launching an eVTOL network for the South American country in the near future. The aircraft leasing provider signed a purchase agreement for 500 VA-X4s in June to become Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL launch customer.
“We continue to identify partners who share the same vision to revolutionise air travel through zero-emissions eVTOL aircraft and shape the future of travel. This latest long-term partnership with JAL aligns us with one of Japan’s leading airlines on their journey to sustainability and to decarbonizing air transport. The VA-X4 will be certified to CAA and EASA’s stringent safety regulation,” Dómhnal Slattery, Avolon CEO, commented. “We believe JAL’s multi-decade experience will prove invaluable as Vertical seeks type certificate validation with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, demonstrating that the VA-X4 will be a global eVTOL, unconstrained by borders.”
Vertical Aerospace now claims — including Avalon’s 500-eVTOL order — that it has for a total of up to 1,350 aircraft preorders from American Airlines, Avolon, Bristow and Iberojet, which includes pre-order options from Virgin Atlantic and Marubeni. The company was also recently named as one of two eVTOL aircraft — Lillium being the other — that will be the launch platform for Honeywell’s next generation cloud-native Anthem cockpit system.
Vertical Aerospace has also continued to expand its aerospace engineering and leadership expertise in recent weeks, adding former Rolls Royce Chief People Officer Harry Holt as their new Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Justin Paines — previously Joby Aviation’s test pilot — as their new chief test pilot.
“The VA-X4 will transform how we travel. We are delighted to be working with Avolon and our newest partner Japan Airlines as we bring zero-emissions aircraft to the Japanese market,” Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical CEO said in a statement. “JAL’s experience will strengthen the certification roadmap in Japan demonstrating our global view as we make eVTOLs a reality.”
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On this episode of the Connected Aviation Intelligence Podcast, we feature a discussion with Leona Qi, president of the U.S. division of VistaJet.
We recorded this interview live at VistaJet’s booth during the 2021 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) conference and exhibition in Las Vegas. Leona provides some insightful perspective on some of the personnel and aircraft related supply chain issues that VistaJet and the entire business aviation segment as a whole is facing right now.
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Building on what the company describes as growing investment and interest in the super midsized segment, Gulfstream has introduced new avionics and cabin upgrade options to its G280 business jet.
According to an Oct. 12 press release, the series of new avionics upgrades are being made available as V3.6.1 to the G280’s PlaneView 280 cockpit system. Among the new enhancements included in the upgrade options are SiriusXM graphical weather with real-time updates, dual electronic charts and a new surface management system that provides verbal and visual cues on unsafe ground and arrival conditions.
The aircraft’s controller to pilot data link data link communications (CPDLC) system is also now “FANS-E compliant,” providing pilots the ability to perform CPDLC messaging in en-route airspace. The G280’s RVSM heigh-monitoring validation interval has also been reduced from 96 to 24 months. Access to vertical weather and predictive windshear information is also made available via the V3.6.1 upgrade.
Inside the cabin, the G280 has a new option for Gulfstream’s plasma ionization clean air system. The G280 is certified for steep approaches, and has recently been certified to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Stage 5 noise standards.
Gulfstream’s new G280 upgrade package comes following the unveiling of their new G400 and G800 jets during a launch ceremony at their Savannah headquarters last week.
“We are seeing tremendous demand for the G280, further proving the aircraft is the high-performing super-midsize leader,” Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream said in a statement. “We remain confident in the G280’s proven track record and are committed to investing in enhancements that further increase the benefits it offers customers.”
LAS VEGAS, NV — Textron Aviation has introduced the Gen2 variants of its Citation M2 and XLS jets at the 2021 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) BACE, adding a blend of new technology and interior upgrades to its light and midsize business jets.
Citation M2 Gen2
According to an overview of the Citation M2 Gen2 released by Textron, the upgraded M2 has a range of 1,550 nm and capacity for up to seven passengers. In the cockpit, Textron notes that pilots will “enjoy improved boot up and processing speed” with the aircraft’s Garmin G3000 avionics suite. Three inches of legroom have also been added to the co-pilot position.
Textron has also added wireless charging capabilities and USB-A ports to each of its cabin seats. Other cabin upgrades include illuminated accent lighting, wireless charging and USB-C ports in the cabin club area.
“Since the Citation M2 was first introduced in 2013, it has quickly become one of our most popular light jet models – in particular with owner/operator customers,” Christi Tannahill, senior vice president, customer experience said in an Oct. 11 press release. “Building on its already outstanding performance capabilities and flexibility, the M2 Gen2 brings the latest cabin amenities and technological advances often found in larger jets to the entry-level light jet segment.”
Textron has priced the M2 Gen2 at $5.85 million and expects to begin deliveries of the upgraded aircraft by the first quarter of next year.
Citation XLS Gen2
The Citation XLS Gen2 features a range of 2,100 nm and seating for up to 12 passengers. Inside the cockpit, Collins Aerospace is providing its Pro Line Fusion 21 avionics, while the main exterior enhancement includes a lighted airstair door.
In the cabin, Textron added a new entry curtain designed for improved cabin acoustics in-flight and inclement weather protection on the ground. The cabin also features a new wireless cabin management system that includes a touchscreen moving map monitor, wireless charging, USB charging ports at each cabin seat and optional Bongiovi Immersive speaker-less sound system.
“The 560XL series is the best-selling midsize business jet family of the 21st century, and the customer-influenced updates we’ve made will ensure the next generation retains that title,” Tannahill said. “Like its predecessors, the XLS Gen2 hits the sweet spot of offering the features, amenities and comfort of a midsize jet, but with lower operating costs.”
Textron has priced the XLS Gen2 at $15.5 million and expects to begin deliveries of the upgraded aircraft by the second quarter of 2022.
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Bombardier has named Collins Aerospace as its new Preferred Service Provider (PSP) for cabin and cockpit connectivity, the two companies announced on the first day of the 2021 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) conference and exhibition.
Under the new agreement, Collins Aerospace will extend and integrate its flight planning and/aircraft connectivity service management platform ARINCDirect into Bombardier’s “digital platform.” Bombardier aircraft operators will also have Collins Aerospace available for the end-to-end management of their cockpit and connectivity needs, ranging from “sign up to training, operations and troubleshooting,” according to an Oct. 12 press release.
“One of the things that we’re looking at doing here is taking the friction out of the experience from the customer perspective. We’ll be using our world class tools alongside Bombardier’s world class tools, to provide a seamless connectivity experience for all Bombardier customers,” LeAnn Ridgeway, Vice President and General Manager of Information Management Systems for Collins Aerospace said during a pre-NBAA media call with reporters.
Collins is also making ARINCDirect representatives available at Bombardier authorized service facilities under the new agreement. The PSP selection is the latest connected aircraft advancement introduced by Bombardier this year, after the business jet manufacturer started offering free Smart Link Plus upgrades to operators of legacy Challenger 300s and 350s.
Smart Link Plus is a health monitoring unit designed to enable a more streamlined process for acquiring and sharing flight data between aircraft systems and maintenance technicians, that is also featured as standard line-fit equipment on Global 7500s as well. With this new agreement, Bombardier customers can use Collins’ ARINCDirect to view and manage their in-flight connectivity service subscriptions.
“Since they’re usually making many different connectivity related decisions, we believe this creates the ‘easy button’ for Bombardier customers,” Ridgeway said. “They’ll still be making that original decision through Bombardier, while we’ll be managing the service, and we can create value for Bombardier by simplifying how connectivity solutions are integrated and supported for all their customers.”
The PSP agreement comes several weeks after Bombardier unveiled the new Challenger 3500 super-midsized business jet during a Sept. 14 virtual launch event. Jean-Christophe Gallagher, Executive Vice President, Services and Support, and Corporate Strategy, Bombardier said the new agreement will give their customers “impeccable support services” for all of their connectivity needs.
“This new agreement with Collins Aerospace will provide our customers and operators with the cockpit and cabin connectivity solutions they demand and deserve,” Gallagher said. “Having the ARINCDirect support team co-located at our Completion Centre, Customer Response Centre and at our service facilities will ensure customers get immediate assistance with their connectivity needs quickly and efficiently.”
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LAS VEGAS, NV — Honda Aircraft opened the 2021 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) conference and exhibition by introducing its next generation HondaJet 2600 Concept, displaying a mockup of the new design that will feature a transcontinental range of 2,625 nm and keeps the North Carolina-based company’s patented over-the-wing mounted engines.
The HondaJet 2600 has been introduced with a mockup at NBAA this year in an effort to collect customer feedback and validate market demand before moving forward with plans to develop a new light jet. Honda Aircraft president and CEO Michimasa Fujino describes the 2600 as continuing their goal of establishing an entirely new category for light jets.
“HondaJet set a category unto itself,” Fujino said. “Over the past five years, HondaJet continuously evolved based on our customer feedback and engineering expertise, we introduced a HondaJet Elite, then HondaJet Elite S, at the same time we became an OEM for the need for a new kind of aircraft based upon the different market segment. New conditions in the business aviation industry have signaled the need for rapid cross-country travel and the ability to carry more passengers and payload and dire necessity of cutting carbon emissions. In response we developed the HondaJet 2600 Concept, which delivers a transcontinental range of 2,625 nautical miles, with seating for up to 11 occupants.”
Fujino said their next generation light jet will enable pilots to cruise at a high speed of 450 knots with a maximum operating altitude of 47,000 feet. While Honda released very few details about the avionics systems to be featured on the aircraft, the company is planning to keep the configuration similar to the Garmin G3000 flight deck that is already in-service on the HA-420 with a few new features.
Specifically, the 2600’s new features include autothrottle, autobrake, Advanced Steering Augmentation System (ASAS) and Runway Overrun Awareness and Alerting System (ROAAS). There are also several unnamed systems onboard the new aircraft that “have incorporated increased electrical architecture allowing for more precise control and enhanced aircraft integration,” according to Honda.
Honda is also including three different types of modular and customizable cabin configurations on the 2600 Concept and claims it will feature a pressurization with a cabin altitude of 6,363 feet.
The launch of the 2600 comes a week after Honda revealed plans to develop a hybrid electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
“We’re creating a totally new aircraft concept, with the performance that not only surpasses that of other light jets, but will rival that of a medium-sized business jet,” Fujino said.
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Aviation Management Services – Serviços Aeronáuticos Ltda. (Avantto), the largest operator of Embraer executive jets in Latin America, has signed a letter of intention (LOI) under a partnership with Eve Urban Air Mobility, LLC to order 100 of its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
The LOI is part of a broader partnership between Avantto and Embraer’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) subsidiary Eve to develop a UAM ecosystem in Latin America, according to an Oct. 4 announcement.
“For more than a decade, Avantto has uniquely developed software, systems, and procedures enabling the company to offer 24/7 on-call flight services for short-haul intra-city helicopter transportation to its hundreds of active members. This exclusive know-how will be one of the principal pillars of the urban air mobility ecosystem developed by the EVE/Avantto partnership,” Rogério Andrade, CEO and Founder of Avantto said in a statement.
Eve describes the eVTOL that it is developing as featuring an all-electric low-noise design that is continuing to meet their program milestones including “the first flight of the engineering simulator in July 2020, and a proof of concept in October 2020.” The company has not released many details about the design of the eVTOL it is developing other than real and computer-generated images of the aircraft showing an eight-rotor design and noting that it will feature a fifth generation fly-by-wire system as well.
The eVTOL that Eve is developing achieved its first engineering simulator flight in July 2020, and a proof of concept in October 2020, according to the company.
Avantto has become the latest private aviation operator to partner or sign an intent-to-purchase offer with Eve after a series of other companies signed similar agreements with the company in recent months. In June for example, Halo, a helicopter provider in the U.S. and U.K., formed a partnership with Eve to develop UAM products and services in the U.S. and U.K. Helisul, one of the largest helicopter operators in Latin America, formed a partnership with Eve in June that includes an order for up to 50 eVTOLs.
Fahari Aviation, a subsidiary of Kenya Airways, also became an Eve partner in August, in an effort to develop operational models for the wide-accessibility of UAM to support some of Fahari Aviation’s key markets in the region.
“Avantto has been a great partner for Embraer Executive Jets, and we are reinforcing this bond with a shared focus on sustainability in this next generation of transportation,” Andre Stein, President & CEO of Eve, said in a statement. “The strength of Avantto’s experience in operations, coupled with their growth strategy, make an ideal partner for the future expansion of Eve’s eVTOL deployment in Brazil and across Latin America. We will work together to make sure we continue our mission to democratize aviation through increasing accessibility and affordability.”
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are ready for the initial roll out of an air traffic system software update designed to significantly improve the pre-departure process for aircraft at busy hub airports.
According to a Sept. 28 announcement, the software update is being added to the FAA’s Terminal Flight Data Manager (TFDM) system as a way to enhance its ability to calculate gate pushbacks at busy hub airports so that each plane can roll directly to the runway and to take off. FAA and NASA are ready to to introduce the software update out at 27 hub airports across the country after testing it for nearly four years at its NextGen group, airlines’ airport operations and FAA radar facilities in Charlotte and Dallas/Fort Worth and the Atlanta and Washington, D.C., centers handling high-altitude en route flights.
The goal of the program is to eliminate the need for airlines to wait or make intermittent stops along the ramp.
“When you are ready to go, you want to go. Waiting in line on a taxiway is not part of the flight plan,” FAA Assistant Administrator for NextGen Pamela Whitley said in a statement. “Through a productive partnership between the FAA, NASA and the airlines, we now have technology that brings better predictability of aircraft movements on and above our busiest airports. This will yield benefits for air travelers and for the environment.”
TFDM is an airport surface management platform that the FAA developed as part of its NextGen air traffic modernization program to establish a data exchange and processing architecture for air traffic tower operations. The system includes a taxi route generator and a suite of tools for sequencing and scheduling, route-assignment, departure route viability and airport configuration among other capabilities.
Now, the FAA is claiming that the new software update will give TFDM the ability to predict the timing at which an aircraft preparing for departure should pushback and takeoff without stopping to allow for other departures or inbound aircraft along the way. Data published by the agency based on testing of the software at Charlotte Douglas International Airport demonstrated its ability to reduce taxi times that helped save “more than 275,000 gallons of fuel annually, equivalent to the fuel burn of 185 flights between New York and Chicago by a Boeing 737.”
The software was also able to reduce delays by 916 hours, or the equivalence of “shaving 15 minutes of waiting time on a taxiway for more than 3,600 departing flights,” according to the agency.
“The proof is in the pudding. This air traffic scheduling technology enhances aircraft efficiency and improves dependability for passengers every day. I’m excited that the software NASA developed for air traffic controllers and airlines will be soon rolled out at airports across the country and know the results will continue to be extraordinary,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
The airports currently expected to be part of the rollout include:
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