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UPS Purchases Beta’s eVTOL Aircraft

Beta’s ALIA-250 eVTOL uses a distributed direct-drive electric propulsion system, has a wingspan on 50 feet, and a range of 250 NM. The Vermont-based electric air taxi startup is supplying the ALIA-250 for UPS service to smaller and mid-sized markets. (UPS)

UPS is purchasing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft from Beta Technologies through its Flight Forward program and is expected to receive the first 10 aircraft by 2024, according to an April 7 release.

“This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers and the environment,” Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer, said in a statement. “These new aircraft will create operational efficiencies in our business, open possibilities for new services and serve as a foundation for future solutions to reduce the emissions profile of our air and ground operation.”

The complete order could include up to 150 of Beta’s eVTOL aircraft, according to the release. UPS also announced they reserved Beta’s recharging station. Beta declined to provide further details on the purchase of the recharging station.

The complete order could include up to 150 of Beta’s eVTOL aircraft, according to the release. UPS also announced they reserved Beta’s recharging station. (UPS)

“This deal is a milestone for us as we continue building an electric-powered ecosystem,” a spokesperson from Beta told Avionics International. “We’re grateful to have a logistics service partner like UPS to help us accelerate innovation.”

According to reporting from CNBC the deal also includes an embedded staff member from UPS at Beta’s headquarters.

Beta’s ALIA-250 eVTOL uses a distributed direct-drive electric propulsion system, has a wingspan on 50 feet, and a range of 250 NM, according to Beta’s website. The aircraft has a 1,400-pound cargo capacity and zero operating emissions.

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Boeing Recommends Some Airlines Pause 737 MAX Operations to Address Electrical Issue

Boeing is recommending some airlines remove the 737 MAX from service to address an electrical issue. (Boeing)

Boeing on Thursday identified a potential electrical issue involving the 737 MAX and has recommended some airlines operating the aircraft, which recently re-entered service, temporarily pause those operations to address it.

“Boeing has recommended to 16 customers that they address a potential electrical issue in a specific group of 737 MAX airplanes prior to further operations,” the company said in an April 9 statement.

The airplane manufacturer said the recommendation for removal from service is being made to “allow for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system.” Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) both provided responses with limited information on the matter in reply to emailed inquiries from Avionics International.

“We are in contact directly with the impacted airlines and will provide additional information as it becomes available. Please note, this is not related to [maneuvering characteristics augmentation system] MCAS,” a representative for Boeing told Avionics in an emailed statement.

The FAA published a statement to its Twitter account advising any passengers impacted by the temporary removal of the aircraft from service should contact affected airlines about possible flight delays and cancellations.

“Boeing notified the FAA late Thursday that it is recommending that operators of certain Boeing 737 MAX airplanes temporarily remove them from service to address a manufacturing issue that could affect the operation of a backup power control unit. The FAA is in contact with the airlines and the manufacturer and will ensure the issue is addressed,” Ian Gregor, a public affairs specialist for the FAA told Avionics.

WestJet, the Calgary-based low-cost airline, has already removed one of the MAX jets within its operational fleet from service to address the electrical issue.

“Last night, WestJet was notified regarding a potential production issue with one of its 737 MAX aircraft and has removed the affected aircraft from service for subsequent inspection. Any maintenance, if necessary, will be completed before the aircraft returns to service,” a representative for WestJet told Avionics.

The Canadian airline has been operating the MAX since Jan. 21, and operates a total of 14 MAX aircraft according to the WestJet representative.

Boeing’s identification of the electrical power issue comes a week after the FAA granted type certification for the 737 MAX 8-200, a variant developed for Ryanair with capacity for up to 202 passengers and five crew members. EASA approved the 8-200 on Wednesday.

Southwest Airlines also recently completed the restructuring of its previous order for the MAX, making a firm commitment to Boeing for 100 aircraft, extending their 737 order book through 2031.

Boeing has not publicly identified any of the airlines it has contacted about the backup power issue. The FAA approved the MAX’s return to service in November.

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Air Taxis Likely to Not Deploy in Early to Mid 2020s as Predicted, New Report Says

An illustration of downtown Atlanta, Georgia with air taxis in the skies. (NASA)

An illustration of downtown Atlanta, Georgia with air taxis in the skies. (NASA)

Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft are still facing many technological, regulatory, and infrastructure hurdles and will likely not deploy in the early-to-mid 2020s as some have predicted, new research from PitchBook says.

PitchBook’s Mobility Analyst, Asad Hussain, writes in the report that the eVTOL industry will have to overcome issues such as battery density, manufacturing competition from high-volume automakers, lack of infrastructure, certification hurdles, and a possible pilot shortage.  However, the industry can be successful with the support of non-traditional investors funding research and development of these aircraft.

“While the flurry of SPAC-driven public market debuts in air mobility has created a peak of investor expectations, we believe mass eVTOL deployments in the early-to-mid 2020s are unlikely given large technological, regulatory, and infrastructure-related hurdles,” Hussain said. “Nonetheless, there are clear, long-term commercial use cases for passenger air mobility, and we are relatively positive on the long-term business prospects for well- capitalized leaders in the space such as Joby Aviation, Archer Aviation, and Volocopter; as well as enablement technologies from providers including Daedalean, Reliable Robotics, and PHM Technology.”

Hussain said the energy density of batteries will need to improve significantly for eVTOLs to be successful. Air taxi manufacturers will also have to contend with competition from automakers to secure the supply of these batteries.

A pilot shortage could also constrain growth in the eVTOL industry despite the focus by some on autonomous solutions, Hussain said. While in the long-term autonomous systems will help the industry by allowing non-certified pilots to fly aircraft, the technology is not advanced enough for this in the near future. Regulatory bodies have not yet come to a consensus about how to certify this new technology.

According to Hussain, the certification hurdles for eVTOL aircraft have also been underestimated. The report forecasts the cost for certification including design work and setting up production facilities to exceed $1 billion.

“Of the 100+ startups developing eVTOL technology, only Joby Aviation, Lilium, and Archer have raised enough to cross this threshold (as of March 2021),” Hussain said. “As this ecosystem develops, we believe dozens of smaller startups in the space will ultimately be forced to shutter their projects due to the high cost of certification.”

Air taxis will also require new infrastructure developments like vertiports, charging stations, and air traffic management systems representing another hurdle to adoption. While some companies have invested in this technology it has yet to be developed enough to warrant use in the early to mid-2020s.

“Despite these hurdles, we are optimistic about the industry over the long- term as eVTOL aircraft provide major advantages relative to helicopters, such as reduced noise levels,” Hussain said.

The report suggests the implementation of mandated model-based system engineering tools could be possible for future airworthiness rules. This could also provide safety benefits.

“Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) could provide a solution to these challenges by moving previously siloed workflows and data to centralized model-based platforms for systems engineering,” Hussain said. “MBSE solutions provided by companies such as Siemens and PHM Technology enable companies to accelerate product development for complex projects while reducing unexpected costs, as well as more cohesively integrate design, analysis, validation, and verification during the product development lifecycle. Startups that have made progress adopting these engineering systems may have an edge over competitors.”

According to the report, eVTOLs could reduce noise levels by 20dB compared to helicopters which could help in their adoption.

“Quieter aircraft should lead to increased routes opening closer to residential areas, significantly expanding the market for air mobility beyond existing helicopter routes,” Hussain said. “Additionally, eVTOL aircraft do not produce emissions, a factor that could speed adoption as governments seek ways to offset carbon emissions from conventional transportation solutions.”

Air taxis could also provide a cost advantage once scale is reached that could further speed adoption. According to the report, helicopters cost approximately $9 per mile where eVTOL manufacturers are estimating their costs to be between around $3 per mile.

“Uber Elevate, the urban air mobility division of Uber (which has since been acquired by Joby Aviation), focused on piloted air taxi flights to reach profitability, but forecast that 2030+ air mobility operations would decrease cost per passenger mile to that of existing ground ride-hailing operations (approximately $2.50 per mile),” Hussain said. “Air taxi startup Lilium has claimed that the cost of a trip from Manhattan to JFK Airport could be $70, or approximately $4.40 per mile. Joby Aviation estimates the operating cost of its aircraft will be $3.80 per mile for a 25-mile trip, significantly below the cost of a $9-per-mile helicopter trip.”

In 2025 the global air taxi passenger mobility market will grow to $1.5 billion in revenue, the report forecasts. By 2035 the industry’s predicted revenue will jump to $150.9 billion which is equivalent to about 19.4 percent of expected global airline revenue in 2021.

“Although the industry faces significant technological and regulatory hurdles, we believe nontraditional investors such as manufacturers and corporates with vested interests in shaping the evolution of the transportation industry will continue to fund R&D in the space, helping drive a new wave of innovation and reshaping the aviation industry,” Hussain said.

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Agility Prime Researches Electronic Parachute Powered by Machine Learning

Kentucky-based Aviation Safety Resources is developing ballistic parachutes for use in aircraft ranging from 60 lbs to 12,000 lbs. (ASR)

The Air Force’s Agility Prime program awarded a phase I small business technology transfer (STTR) research contract to Jump Aero and Caltech to create an electronic parachute powered by machine learning that would allow the pilot to recalibrate the flight controller in midair in the event of damage, the company announced on April 7.

“The electronic parachute is the name for the concept of implementing an adaptive/machine-learned control routine that would be impractical to certify for the traditional controller for use only in an emergency recovery mode — something that would be switched on by the pilot if there is reason to believe that the baseline flight controller is not properly controlling the aircraft (if, for example, the aircraft has been damaged in midair),” Carl Dietrich, founder and president of Jump Aero Incorporated, told Avionics International.

This technology was previously difficult to certify because of the need for deterministic proof of safety within these complex systems. The research was sparked when the Federal Aviation Administration certified an autonomous landing function for use in emergency situations which created a path for the possible certification of electronic parachute technology, according to Jump Aero.

The machine-learned neural network can be trained with non-linear behaviors that occur in an aircraft in the presence of substantial failures such those generated by a bird strike, Dietrich said. Once trained with these simulated failures, the controller could select the appropriate control laws.

“The neural network would learn new operating limits and effector gain mapping in the presence of these simulated failures,” Dietrich said. “The adaptive aspect of the controller would in effect select the appropriate pre-learned control laws that the DNN discovered through the training of the simulated failures.   The goal is to optimally map the original command structure of the baseline controller onto the new controller with the fundamental limitations of the new plant model — so the aircraft response would be as close as possible to what the pilot expects — thereby improving the probability of a safe landing.”

This technology is still in early-stage work, Dietrich said, however, Caltech has created similar adaptive controllers which could help in the development of the electronic parachute.

“This particular research could lead to the first application of an adaptive/ML controller to a piloted aircraft in the form of a recovery function (or ‘electronic parachute’) if it is carried forward through Phase III,” Dietrich said.

The electronic parachute could be trailed on Jump Aero’s electronic vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, JAI eVTOL, which is still within the preliminary design stage, Dietrich said. Jump Aero was launched in January 2020 as a solution for first responders.

“We are starting to test subsystems for the demonstrator and we are in the preliminary design stage of the full-scale aircraft,” Dietrich. “If we are awarded a Phase II STTR contract, we would expect to demonstrate this electronic parachute technology on a subscale demonstration aircraft where we can simulate failures and (hopefully) successful recovery at low cost/risk.”

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Zipline Expands into Japan with Toyota Partnership

A new partnership between Zipline and Toyota will bring drone delivery services to 

Zipline and Toyota Tsusho, a member of the Toyota Group, have formed a partnership to use drone delivery service to enable healthcare access in communities in Japan, the companies announced recently.

Zipline has established operations in the United States, Ghana, and Rwanda. This partnership marks its first expansion into Asia.

“The partnership itself is to enable the first-ever drone delivery of medical supplies and expand that to Japan,” Conor French, general counsel at Zipline, told Avionics International. “What we’re trying to do is build a model where we provide the hardware, the training, and those wraparound services and Toyota Tsusho is able to operate this facility. So it’s a different type of arrangement that we hope could spur growth in different directions.”

Previous Zipline operations in the U.S. and Africa were more powered by Zipline where their employees staffed and operated the project, French said. This project aims to provide Toyota Tsusho with a manual and providing umbrella training similar to an OEM.

“We’ve been working so hard for years now I think it is allowing us to explore in these ways,” French said. “I don’t see it as particularly different. Of course, we wouldn’t be the operator and so we would be providing that sort of umbrella training and hardware and being a true OEM in this type of relationship.”

Toyota Tsusho and Zipline are not new partners. Toyota Tsusho invested in Zipline in 2018 and is involved in the NEXT Technology strategy, according to the release. The companies also partnered in Ghana where Zipline delivered medical products from Gokal-Laborex Limited which is Toyota Tsusho Group’s pharmaceutical distributor.

“We first invested in Zipline three years ago because we strongly believe their technology has the power to reimagine how health systems deliver care to people around the world,” Masato Yamanami, CEO for the automotive division of Toyota Tsusho, said in a statement. “Zipline’s model has proven systematic impact, and we are thrilled to bring that same innovation to support the communities of Japan.”

The companies could not provide any details on the exact locations in Japan where these operations were going to begin because they want to engage with the communities to build acceptance first before establishing operations, French said.

“The way I think about public acceptance, and why it’s this enormous hidden challenge in the industry because I think people are so preoccupied with FAA and approvals in the U.S. and they don’t think about what that next level will be with the same rigor,” French said. “In the history of aviation public acceptance is closely tied to the regulator in a way that you get on a plane unthinkingly because the FAA says it’s safe, and it sort of signals, they have a great signaling effect for air risk. That doesn’t eliminate all the public acceptance challenge.”

French said Zipline is focused on delivering value and being able to provide services to address the public acceptance of drone delivery operations.

Zipline drone delivery operations could begin in more rural areas, French said, but Zipline has shown they are able to operate in densely populated areas as well with their programs in Rwanda.

“There are many folks who consider Africa itself a country rather than a continent full of diverse countries and Rwanda is actually one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and so we do feel very comfortable both from a safety perspective but also in terms of delivering value there,” French said. “That being said, a lot of this may begin in more remote and potentially island areas.”

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JetBlue Brings In-Flight Sports Streaming to London-Bound Airbus A321LRs

JetBlue will introduce the Airbus A321 Long Range single-aisle aircraft with the Airspace by Airbus interior to its fleet for the airline’s highly anticipated transatlantic service. (Business Wire)

JetBlue is adding an in-flight live sports streaming platform, Sport 24, to its new fleet of Airbus A321LR aircraft that are on track to begin the New York-based carrier’s first transatlantic flights to London later this year.

Sport 24, a 24-hour live sports platform provided to JetBlue by Panasonic Avionics, will be streamed to passengers using the airline’s existing Viasat in-flight connectivity system. The airline first started operating the Airbus A321LR in 2018 and plans to launch transatlantic service on the new aircraft to London later this year.

“This reinforces Panasonic’s ability to offer its services to any airline, on any in-flight connectivity provider,” Ken Said, CEO of Panasonic Avionics said in an April 6 press release.

Panasonic’s selection by JetBlue to provide Sport24 for its A321s comes several months after the in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) provider renewed its agreement with sports and media management firm IMG. Per the terms of the agreement, Panasonic is the exclusive in-flight provider of IMG’s Sport 24 and Sport 24 Extra channels, to any airline, regardless of the connectivity service they use.

“JetBlue’s commitment to our customers’ onboard experience is one we take extremely seriously,” Mariya Stoyanova, director of product development for JetBlue said in a statement. “Installing this award-winning live sports platform on our new international fleet of A321LRs will ensure they remain entertained and connected at 30,000 feet.”

JetBlue passengers will be able to watch Sport24 on the A321LR’s seatback screens, shown here. (JetBlue)

The fleet of A321LRs is also receiving all of the other cabin interior upgrades being rolled out across JetBlue’s entire A320 fleet, including upgrades to the Thales AVANT IFE system and Viasat-2 connectivity. These will also be the first single-aisle A320 family aircraft to feature the Airspace cabin from Airbus, with new LED lighting and touchless features.

One new feature that will also be unique to the airline’s London-bound A321s is the ability to order customized meals through their seatback screens. Under a new partnership with New York City-based restaurant group Dig, passengers will be able to digitally customize the new complimentary meal service.

“We know all too well the pain points of international flying – the dreaded center section, the ‘choice’ of assembly-line chicken or beef, and the lack of connectivity,” Jayne O’Brien, head of marketing and loyalty at JetBlue said in a statement. “JetBlue is ready to change all that with our take on transatlantic travel where you are well taken care of and fully connected if you want to be.”

JetBlue plans on announcing which London airport it will fly to and when its transatlantic service will begin “at a later date,” the airline said.

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AFWERX Invests in Nap of the Earth Flight with Vy 400 VTOL

The aircraft will have a tilt-wing fly-by-wire design and be able to reach speeds of 405 mph with a range of 550 miles, according to the company’s website. The idea behind its design is to have the speed and comfort of a jet with the flexibility of a helicopter. (Transcend Air)

AFWERX is working with Transcend Air through a new contract that will explore “nap of the Earth” flight, whose flights require the aircraft to fly low and follow the contours of terrain as a way of remaining undetected, with high-speed vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft.

These aircraft would provide military support for small unit resupply and causality evacuation missions, according to an April 5 AFWERX press release.

The contract includes a partnership with Auburn University to explore simplified vehicle operation and flight control laws for these flights using Transcend Air’s Vy 400 VTOL. The Vy 400 VTOL will have to be customized for military support which is also part of the contract.

Peter Schmidt, chief operations officer and co-founder at Transcend Air, told Avionics International  the goal of the research and development contract is to develop the flight control laws that will be used as waypoints for these missions.

The customizations of the aircraft will then be made based on the flight control laws. Transcend Air will include a rescue winch and compatible doorway, higher energy absorption landing gear, and an ambulance interior within the aircraft design to meet mission needs.

“The R&D goal is to realize control laws that will transit a pre-defined set of waypoints as fast as possible and as close to terrain as possible without exceeding operator-configured max g (force of gravity) loads,” Schmidt said. “Thus, on the dash out to a rescue situation, the Air Force para-rescue jumper (PJ) operator of the aircraft might select a high max g load because they are fully fit and can take the strain, while on the return with injured personnel, they would typically select a lower g load to protect a wounded patient.”

The Vy 400 is currently still in the design phase and should be ready to enter into service by mid 2024, Schmidt said. The aircraft will have a tilt-wing fly-by-wire design and be able to reach speeds of 405 mph with a range of 550 miles, according to the company’s website. The idea behind its design is to have the speed and comfort of a jet with the flexibility of a helicopter.

Schmidt said the advantage of using the Vy 400 for these missions is its high-speed capabilities.

“The Vy’s advantage is speed,” Schmidt said. “There is a “Golden Hour” to get injured crew members medical treatment before survival rates fall steeply. The Vy can be out and back in an hour to over six times as much area as a conventional helicopter.”

Transcend Air’s partnership with Auburn University will work to balance the Vy 400’s speed with g-forces, Schmidt said. The ability to increase and decrease g-forces quickly will be important for nap of the earth flights because that determines how fast you can fly in mountainous terrain.

Vy 400 will not require a trained pilot and instead will use an operator with less training, according to Schmidt. The simplified vehicle operations work done through this contract will help inform the training program for operators.

“It is designed to fly mission profiles uploaded to it pre-departure, and if need be, the operator can use the stick and power lever inceptors to modify the flight path, for example, to maneuver away from hostiles,” Schmidt said. “By default, the aircraft will return safely to its original route once the operator stops manipulating the controls. They will have simple touch screen buttons to return to base, or to head to one of a set of pre-charted safe landing zones or bases.”

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What’s Trending in Aerospace – April 4, 2021

Check out the April 4 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.


Southwest Airlines Orders 100 Boeing 737 MAX Jets

Southwest Airlines has placed a new order for 100 total Boeing 737 MAX jets. (Boeing)

Boeing and Southwest Airlines reached a new purchase agreement around the 737 MAX family with an order for 100 airplanes and 155 options across two models, according to a March 29 press release. The deal comes after a multi-year fleet evaluation by Southwest and means that Boeing and its suppliers could build more than 600 new 737 MAX jets for the airline through 2031.

Southwest had been exploring options to modernize the largest component of its fleet: the 737-700 that serves the airline’s needs for a 140-150 seat airplane.

“Southwest Airlines has been operating the Boeing 737 series for nearly 50 years, and the aircraft has made significant contributions to our unparalleled success. Today’s commitment to the 737 MAX solidifies our continued appreciation for the aircraft and confirms our plans to offer the Boeing 737 series of aircraft to our Employees and Customers for years to come,” Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chairman and CEO, said in the release. “We are proud to continue our tradition of being the world’s largest operator of an all-Boeing fleet.”

The new purchase agreement takes Southwest’s order book to 200 737-7s and 180 737-8s, more than 30 of which have already been delivered. Southwest will also have 270 options for either of the two models, taking the carrier’s direct-buy commitment to more than 600 airplanes. The airline also plans additional 737 MAX jets through third-party lessors.



Alaska Airlines Finalizes Order for 23 New Boeing 737 MAX Jets

An Alaska 737-9 departs Boeing Field. (Boeing)

In a deal first announced in December, Alaska Airlines has completed a purchase agreement to acquire 23 new Boeing 737-900 aircraft, with 15 options.

With this agreement, the carrier’s 737 MAX order book, including options and lease commitments, stands at 120 airplanes, according to a March 30 press release.

“Alaska Airlines received its first 737-9 in January and began revenue service on March 1. Its second 737-9 entered service on March 18, with two additional 737-9s scheduled to begin revenue service next week,” Boeing said in the release.



Frontier Airlines Announces Pricing for Initial Public Offering

Frontier Airlines operates an all-Airbus fleet, including this A320neo. (Frontier Airlines)

In a March 31 press release, Colorado-based low cost carrier Frontier Airlines announced the pricing of its initial public offering of 30 million shares of its common stock at a price to the public of $19.00 per share.

“The offering consists of 15 million shares of common stock offered by Frontier and 15 million shares of common stock to be sold by certain of Frontier’s existing stockholders,” Frontier said in the release. “A selling stockholder has granted the underwriters a 30-day option to buy an additional 4.5 million shares of common stock from such selling stockholder at the initial public offering price, less the underwriting discount and commissions. Frontier will receive net proceeds of approximately $266 million after deducting the underwriting discount and commissions and estimated offering expenses.”

Frontier is the second U.S.-based budget carrier to go public this year, after Sun Country Airlines finished their IPO on March 16. In a securities filing, Frontier said it believed that it could lure millions of passengers over the coming decade, according to an April 1 article featuring an interview with Frontier CEO Barry Biffle published by The New York Times.



Air Canada Reaches Agreement to Terminate Acquisition of Transat

Air Canada’s acquisition of Transat A.T. Inc., the Montreal-based holiday tourism company, has been terminated under a new agreement “mutually” reached between the two carriers, according to an April 2 press release.

Air Canada and Transat had originally agreed in June 2019 on the acquisition, the terms of which were subsequently amended in August 2019 and then revised in October 2020 as a result of the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As previously disclosed, the acquisition was conditional on the approval of various regulatory authorities, including the European Commission (EC),” Air Canada said in the release. “In order to meet that key condition, Air Canada offered and enhanced a significant package of remedies, which went beyond the commercially reasonable efforts required of Air Canada under the Arrangement Agreement and what has been traditionally accepted by the EC in previous airline merger cases. Following recent discussions with the EC, it has become evident, however, that the EC will not approve the acquisition based on the currently offered remedy package.”




US Air Force Completes First Military Transport of eVTOL Aircraft Inside C-130

Airmen offload a LIFT Aircraft electronic vertical takeoff and landing aircraft from an HC-130J Combat King II at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Texas, March 24, 2021. This transportation test provided 79th Rescue Squadron Airmen a better understanding of how eVTOL vehicles can potentially integrate into military capabilities in the future. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens)

The U.S. Air Force transported an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft from Springfield, Ohio to Austin, Texas on March 23 and 24 inside an HC-130J Combat King II as a proof of concept to integrate eVTOLs into combat capabilities, according to the 355th Wing.

The eVTOL used was LIFT Aircraft’s Hexa which performed its first demonstration flight for the Air Force in August 2020.

“This is the first milestone in developmental operations of eVTOL in rescue and attack, which highlights how the wing continues to actively engage on the front end of these efforts to continue building our readiness for tomorrow’s fight,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Brendan Gallagher, 563rd Rescue Group chief of weapons and tactics, said in a statement. “By doing this, we are furthering the rescue and attack capabilities as we look toward the future, because these are the next generation of flying platforms.”

The 355th Wing, 621st Contingency Response Wing, and other units are looking to use these aircraft in personnel recovery, initial airfield assessment missions, and resupply missions, according to the Air Force.


AFSOC A-29 Super Tucano Takes Step Closer to Delivery

The second of three A-29 Super Tucano aircraft reached another step closer to production. (SNC)

The second of three A-29 Super Tucano aircraft for the Combat Aviation Advisor (CAA) mission for the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) landed Code 1, marking another step closer to production, according to a March 29 press release.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is the prime contractor and is partnering with Embraer Defense & Security are producing the aircraft.  The companies are also providing ground support equipment, pilot training, contractor logistics support, spares, and sustainment for the CAA mission, according to the release.

All three aircraft will be delivered this year with the other activities continuing through 2024.




CT-114 Tutor Aircraft Accident Result of Bird in Engine

The accident of a CT-114 Tutor aircraft in the 431 Squadron was caused by a single bird entering the engine following take off, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Directorate of Flight Safety concluded in a new report. The accident occurred on May 17, 2020 and resulted in the death of Captain Jenn Casey and injury to Captain Richard MacDougall.

The pilot and passenger were forced to eject from the aircraft when it stalled. The engine stall was linked to the bird entering the engine and causing a compress stall and loss of thrust, according to a March 29 release. The pilot attempted to climb straight following the loss of thrust resulting in an aerodynamic stall.

The ejections occurred at low altitudes and unsafe conditions which did not allow time for the parachutes to function properly, according to the release.

The report states that aircrews need additional training to better prepared for engine failure after take-off in low-level environments.

“Snowbird 11’s power loss could not have come at a worse time – low altitude, low airspeed, proximity to another aircraft, and in the vicinity of a built-up area,” Colonel John Alexander, Director of Flight Safety, Royal Canadian Air Force, said in a statement. “This tragic accident reinforces the importance of continuous, situation-specific training to minimize reaction time in an emergency and the importance of a timely decision to eject.”




Japanese Coast Guard Get Two New H225 Helicopters

Japanese Coast Guard expands its fleet of H225 helicopters. (Airbus)

The Japanese Coast Guard has expanded its fleet of Super Puma helicopters to equal 17 with the addition of two new H225 helicopters, according to a March 30 press release.

“From the first Super Puma delivery nearly 30 years ago to the latest H225 orders, we greatly appreciate Japan Coast Guard’s continued trust in our products and services,” Guillaume Leprince, managing director of Airbus Helicopters in Japan, said in a statement. “This repeat H225 order reinforces the aircraft’s position as a reference in SAR operations and security enforcement. We are proud of how the deployment of the agency’s fleet has ensured mission success throughout the years. Airbus will continue to ensure the fleet’s high availability, in support of the agency’s safe operations.”

The Japanese Coast Guard now has a total of 15 H225s that support territorial coastal activities, security enforcement, and disaster relief missions, according to the release.




Navy Orders 11 More P-8A Aircraft

The U.S. Navy now has 128 P-8A aircraft under contract. (Boeing)

Boeing received a contract for 11 P-8A Poseidon aircraft from the U.S. Navy worth $1.6 billion, according to a March 31 release. The U.S. Navy will keep nine of the 11 aircraft and two will go to the Royal Australian Air Force (FAAF) under a partnership program.

“The P-8A continues to be an invaluable asset and these additional aircraft will help deliver expanded maritime patrol and reconnaissance capabilities to the fleet,” Capt. Eric Gardner, program manager for the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Program Office, said in a statement.

The P-8A is used for intelligence gathering, surveillance reconnaissance, and search and rescue. The U.S. Navy now has 128 P-8A aircraft under contract, according to the release.

“We continue to hear feedback from deployed Navy squadrons who tell us the P-8A is exceeding expectations,” Stu Voboril, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s P-8A program, said in a statement. “Our focus is on delivering the world’s best maritime patrol aircraft.  That only happens when teams truly collaborate, listen and focus on customer priorities.”






Former SmartSky Networks CCO Among New Executives Joining Global Eagle Leadership Team

Global Eagle has announced the addition of four new executives to its leadership team, including former SmartSky Networks Chief Commercial Officer Nancy Walker, according to a March 29 press release.

Kate Santoro has been appointed the new Vice President, Legal & General Counsel, and Hope Groves as Vice President, Content Technology. Additionally, Estibaliz Asiain has been promoted to Senior Vice President, Commercial – Media & Content.

The new executive appointments come as the company emerges from a 2020 Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing.

“In this exciting time for our company, I’m pleased to welcome three talented new team members and make a well-deserved promotion, as we build our teams across Media & Content and Connectivity,” Global Eagle Chief Executive Officer Josh Marks, said in the release. “We are refreshing our leadership team to support our customers and lead our global workforce.”






Business & GA

Aerion Launches Mach 4+ Commercial Airliner AS3

Aerion revealed its first glimpse of the AS3 Mach 4+ jet, stating that it will take to the skies “before the end of the decade.”

Aerion, the Reno, Nevada-based supersonic business jet manufacturer, released new details and a video on the AS3, a Mach 4+ commercial airliner capable of flying from Los Angeles to Tokyo in less than three hours.

In the release, Aerion notes that it is projecting the AS3 to “take to the skies before the end of the decade,” and will be capable of flying up to 3,000 mph. Conceptualization and design work for the AS3

Earlier this year Aerion expanded its ongoing partnership with NASA’s Langley Research Center, with the intention of accelerating the realization of commercial high-speed flight and faster point- to-point travel, specifically studying commercial flight in the Mach 3-5 range.

The AS2 supersonic business jet is projected to commence production in 2023. Aerion expects to release more details on the AS3 later this year.



ZeroAvia Secures $24.3 Million to Start Large Engine Development for 50-Seat Zero-Emission Aircraft

Silicon Valley-based startup ZeroAvia is launching the development program for a 2MW hydrogen-electric powertrain for full-size regional aircraft. The program kick-off is supported by a new raise of $24.3 million, led by Horizons Ventures, joined by a new investor British Airways, according to a March 31 press release.

Existing investors Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, and SYSTEMIQ also participated in the financing. This new round accelerates the larger hydrogen-electric engine development for the 50+ seat aircraft and supports additional commercial airlines initiatives to adopt hydrogen in aviation.

The latest round brings the company’s total private investment to over $53 million. This follows a December announcement from ZeroAvia for a funding round that included investment from a group of investors that included Amazon.

“This new funding, in conjunction with our other recent milestones, will significantly accelerate our path to zero-emission solutions for larger regional aircraft at a commercial scale,” Val Miftakhov, CEO and founder of ZeroAvia said in the release. “With many airlines lining up and ready to make the shift to zero-emissions, we expect to see wide-scale adoption of this technology.”





Lilium Reveals New 7-Seater eVTOL and Merger with Qell

The 7-Seater Jet is an updated version of Lilium’s 5-Seater aircraft and carries six passengers and one pilot. (Lilium)

Lilium revealed its latest electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the 7-Seater Lilium Jet, as a culmination of four generations of technology demonstrators, according to a March 30 press release published by the Munich, Germany-based company. Lilium will also merge with Qell Acquisition Corp. making the eVTOL maker a publicly listed company.

“We’re incredibly excited to reveal the development of our 7-Seater Lilium Jet and announce the next stage of our growth,” Daniel Wiegand, Co-Founder and CEO of Lilium, said in a statement. “This is a validation of all the hard work over the last five years from our talented team and our world-class partners and investors.”

The 7-Seater is an updated version of Lilium’s 5-Seater aircraft and carries six passengers and one pilot. It has received CRI-A01 certification from EASA and concurrent type certification with EASA and the FAA, according to the release. It has a cruise speed of 175 mph and flies at 10,000 feet with a range of 155 miles.





Nuuva V300 UAV Will Use Honeywell Navigation and Motion-Sensing Data Technologies

Concept art of the Nuuva V300. Image: Pipistrel

Pipistrel’s Nuuva V300 cargo unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will use Honeywell’s attitude heading reference system (AH-2000) and air data module (ADM) along with Honeywell’s compact fly-by-wire system, the company announced on April 1.

The AH-2000 and ADM work alongside the fly-by-wire system to supply critical motion data to all avionics systems and many mechanical systems, according to the release.

“Unmanned aircraft, especially those delivering packages, must be equipped with high-performing inertial systems to ensure fly-by-wire systems are provided the best possible information on location, speed and position,” Matt Picchetti, vice president and general manager of Navigation & Sensors at Honeywell Aerospace, said in a statement. “Vehicles like Nuuva V300 will change the way logistics companies fulfill package deliveries, and we’re proud to add our growing list of onboard technologies to enhance safety and make flying easier.”

The Nuuva V300 UAV can carry up to 460 kilograms with a range of 300 kilometers, according to the release. This UAV could be used for deliveries typically only accessible by a helicopter.

“Nuuva V300’s groundbreaking operational concept requires highly accurate, dependable and robust navigation sensors, and the AH-2000 and ADM are key enablers of this functionality,” Tine Tomažič, chief technology officer at Pipistrel, said in a statement. “This technology allows us to deliver simple and intuitive mouse-click control to fly the vehicle, eliminating the need for operators to be trained with traditional piloting skills, which helps ensure rapid scale-up of operations for our customers.”

The post What’s Trending in Aerospace – April 4, 2021 appeared first on Aviation Today.

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PODCAST: Georgia Tech Aerosols Researcher Talks In-flight Cabin Air Quality Study

Nga Lee (Sally) Ng, is an associate professor and Tanner Faculty Fellow in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

On this episode of the Connected Aircraft Podcast, Sally Ng, associate professor for the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, joins to discuss the results of a study on in-flight cabin air quality recently published in the Journal of Indoor Air. Supported by Delta Air Lines, the research may be the first to comprehensively measure particle concentrations likely to be encountered by passengers from terminal to terminal.

To better understand the circulation of airborne particles, Delta approached Ng to conduct a study of multiple indoor environments, with a strong focus on air travel conditions. Using handheld instruments able to measure the total number of particles and their mass, Georgia Tech researchers examined air quality in a series of Atlanta area restaurants, stores, offices, homes, and vehicles — including buses, trains, and private automobiles.

They trained Delta staff to conduct the same type of measurements in terminals, boarding areas, and a variety of aircraft through all phases of flight.

In all, the researchers evaluated measurements from 19 commercial flights with passenger loads of approximately 50 percent. The flights included a mix of short- and medium-length flights, and aircraft ranging from the CRJ-200 and A220 to the 757, A321, and 737.

Have suggestions or topics we should focus on in the next episode? Email the host, Woodrow Bellamy at, or drop him a line on Twitter @WbellamyIIIAC.

Listen to this episode below, or check it out on iTunes or Google Play If you like the show, subscribe on your favorite podcast app to get new episodes as soon as they’re released.

The post PODCAST: Georgia Tech Aerosols Researcher Talks In-flight Cabin Air Quality Study appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Alaska Airlines CEO Says Electric Aircraft Necessary for Future Aviation Sustainability Goals

Alaska Airlines has been participating in various initiatives to develop and test sustainable aviation fuels, such as the November 2016 flight powered by a 20 percent blend of biofuel made from forest residuals pictured here. But the carrier’s new CEO believes electric power is the technology enabler that could help the industry meet ambitious future net-zero emissions goals.

Ben Minicucci, who assumed the position of CEO for Alaska Airlines on March 31, says the northwestern carrier has been studying the capabilities of electric-powered aircraft as a way of helping airlines reduce carbon emissions and achieve several recently announced 2050 climate impact goals by leaders in various segments of the aviation industry.

During the question and answer session of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2021 Aviation Summit panel, Minicucci was asked to provide some perspective on the emerging electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) market. The panel was Minicucci’s first public appearance since taking over for Brad Tilden, who retired after a 30-year career with the fifth-largest U.S. passenger airline.

“We’re looking at it very closely, there are currently a lot of companies working on this technology and I think it’s going to come in more rapidly in the next decade than you think. Probably in the next decade, we’re going to see something, based on the research that we’ve done,” Minicucci said, responding to the audience-submitted eVTOL question.

Ben Minicucci took over as the new CEO of Alaska Airlines on March 31.

The new CEO did not provide major details about any specific eVTOL programs they’re studying, rather focusing on the potential for electric-powered aircraft to help the aviation industry overall reduce carbon emissions generated by flight operations. One day prior to the Aviation Summit, Airline for America (A4A), which counts Alaska, American, Delta, and United among its members, announced the commitment of all 10 of its U.S. air carriers to “work across the aviation industry and with government leaders in a positive partnership to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” according to a March 30 press release published by the organization.

A key element of the new A4A commitment includes an ambitious goal of making 2 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel available to U.S. aircraft operators by 2030. Minicucci said the SAF goals will help reduce carbon emissions, but a new technological capability is needed o meet the ambitious net-zero 2050 goal.

“If you look at some of the environmental goals everyone is setting on 2050/2040, and short term goals to really help reduce the climate impact, this is going to be an essential piece of that strategy to get to a Net Zero in 2040 or 2050, you cannot do it on sustainable fuels alone, you need technology,” he said, referring to electric-powered aircraft.

The majority of Alaska Airlines’ publicized efforts to enact measures that reduce carbon emissions over the last year have focused on the development of new sources of sustainable aviation fuels. As an example, Netherlands-based SKyNRG is now supplying SAF for Alaska aircraft flying routes most frequented by Microsoft employees according to an Oct. 22 blog post. SkyNRG’s website notes that its SAF is produced from waste oils using Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) technology, a process that refines vegetable oils, waste oils, or fats into SAF.

Alaska’s ongoing partnership with Washington State University to use alternative jet fuel made from forest residuals was highlighted in the November 2020 “Washington Electric Aircraft Feasibility Study” published by the aviation division of the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Kevin Burke, CEO of Airports Council International’s North America division, was also featured on the March 31 panel, advocating for U.S. airports to modernize and prepare for a future to include infrastructure capable of supporting eVTOL operations.

“I’m an optimist, I think we’re in an ever-evolving aviation ecosystem, and that is a great example of it’s not there yet but it will be, and I think we have to be open to the fact that it will be there,” Burke said. “It’s another reason we have to take a look at the places they take off and land at airports, to modernize, and we fully support anything that lands at an airport as long as it’s safe and protects the people there.”

Minicucci’s comments during the Aviation Summit panel follow a string of recent major airlines in different regions committing to investments, partnerships, and development of electric or zero-emissions aircraft programs. British Airways, for example, joined a new investor group backing hydrogen-fueled flights from ZeroAvia, which is managing the development program for a 2MW hydrogen-electric powertrain for full-sized regional aircraft.

On March 25, Finnair signed a letter of interest for the future acquisition of Heart Aerospace’s ES-19 electric aircraft, currently under development in Stockholm, Sweden. In February, United Airlines established a new partnership with eVTOL developer Archer Aviation, which includes the purchase of 200 aircraft once operational.

Minicucci believes such partnerships are key to the advancement of the industry and also gave some thoughts on how electric batteries will eventually be integrated into regional aircraft.

“I think we need to help these technology companies with investment, and research so we can really accelerate, the issue of batteries is very heavy, but I think you’ll see it on little passenger airplanes, whether they be 5-10 at first and then moving into the bigger regional market,” Minicucci said.

The post Alaska Airlines CEO Says Electric Aircraft Necessary for Future Aviation Sustainability Goals appeared first on Aviation Today.

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