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Lilium Completes Second EASA Design Organization Approval Audit

Lilium completed its second Design Organization Approval (DOA) audit by EASA “with flying colors,” according to CTO Alastair McIntosh. (Photo courtesy of Lilium)

Lilium recently announced successful completion of its second Design Organization Approval (DOA) audit by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Lilium is working towards type certification of its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the Lilium Jet, with both EASA and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. 

EASA requires all commercial aircraft manufacturers to comply with Part 21 Subpart J by completing four total DOA audits in order to achieve aircraft type certification. Lilium’s Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Alastair McIntosh, spoke to Avionics International about the significance of achieving this latest milestone.

“It’s a rigorous process,”McIntosh said. “You have to prove that you’re an organization that is fit to undertake aircraft type certificate programs. It’s one thing to claim capability, and another to demonstrate it.”

Lilium’s team was required to demonstrate the company’s organizational structure, the capability of staff members, and the ability to maintain practices and procedures during the DOA audit. “The first audit was about demonstrating fundamentals, what the structure looks like, staff, training, how we maintain it. The second audit that we just went through focused more on core principles—how we do data management, configuration control,” he explained.

The team from EASA spent about three days in-house carrying out the rigorous process of the DOA audit, speaking to multiple engineers and participating in guided tours throughout Lilium’s facilities. 

“Without having that DOA, we would not be able to certify the aircraft,” McIntosh stated. “It’s a big step forward for us, to bring control into an organization that is very entrepreneurial and dynamic. Particularly in terms of regulation—the aviation industry is regulated to maintain high levels of safety. We’re really happy to have passed the first two audits with flying colors.”

Pictured above is an engineer installing a flap on the Lilium Jet technology demonstrator. (Photo courtesy of Lilium)

Lilium continues to work towards certification and entry into service in 2025. McIntosh mentioned that they completed their preliminary design review at the end of 2021 and have made some announcements about refinements to the aircraft. 

“Now we head into the stage of critical design review and providing detailed data and definition to the supply chain so they can start manufacturing components. We anticipate moving forward from the end of May onwards, releasing more data and definition to the supply chain.”

At the end of next year, McIntosh commented, they will be getting their first aircraft ready to start the flight test program which will last about 18 months. Lilium will use the data gathered during the flight test program to support their efforts to achieve certification in 2025. He predicts that the third audit will happen around December of this year, and the fourth and final DOA audit will likely take place just before certification. 

“We’ve had a really good working relationship with EASA,” McIntosh said. “Our discussions have been really critical in shaping the design to make sure it’s compliant and that we can demonstrate compliance going forward. The EASA team actually owns the relationship with the FAA; they secure that concurrent validation on our behalf.”

The news of a second successful DOA audit followed two other big announcements from Lilium this year. In March, the company entered into a purchase agreement with NetJets for 150 aircraft. And just last month, Lilium announced the start of the next phase of flight testing for its eVTOL in Spain.

Lilium also had a busy year in 2021. April marked the reveal of the design of Lilium’s eVTOL aircraft, and in June, the company released details about the path to certification for its 7-seater jet. In August, Lilium announced a partnership with Brazilian airline, Azulu S.A., including a $1 billion purchase order, and in September 2021, Lilium became a publicly traded company following a business combination with Qell Acquisition Corp.

The post Lilium Completes Second EASA Design Organization Approval Audit appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Saudi Arabia’s $100 Billion Investment in Aviation to Enable ATM Upgrades, New Airline and Airspace Entrants

Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser, speaking at the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh. (Photo, courtesy of Arab News)

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) committed to investing $100 billion—356 billion SAR—into its aviation sector by 2030 in an effort to upgrade its air traffic infrastructure, launch a new national carrier, and provide a path for new airspace entrants such as drones and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, according to comments made by government and industry leaders speaking at the two-day inaugural Future Aviation Forum (FAF) in Riyadh.

“Over the next 10 years, the Kingdom will emerge as the Middle East’s leading aviation hub,” Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser said during his opening keynote.

Al-Jasser said the $100 billion investment will come through a combination of private and public funding, and is aligned with the nation’s Vision 2030 framework first released in 2016 to outline how Saudi Arabia can become less dependent on oil as the centerpiece of its economy. The minister said Saudi Arabia expects its domestic airlines to collectively carry more than 330 million passengers annually by 2030, transport 5 million tons of freight, and establish connections to more than 250 destinations around the world.

The minister’s transportation department has already started down the path of its $100 billion investment strategy by transferring 25 of its previously state-run airports into a private holding company. “Recently we have approved hundreds of aircraft orders and started opening new routes to many of the countries and nations represented here at this event,” Al-Jasser said.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) launched a new “Harmonising Air Travel” policy, that it hopes will also be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) General Assembly meeting in October. GACA’s 39-page white paper aims to achieve what other aviation digital health passport initiatives—such as IATA’s Travel Pass—have not been able to amid the COVID-19 pandemic: provide a digital health passport that is managed and accepted by all countries.

In the white paper, GACA effectively provides an overview of how confusing the process of traveling internationally can be for vaccinated airline passengers trying to determine if they need a negative COVID-19 test result when traveling across borders.

“The global Digital Health Certificate (DHC) is defined here as a globally standardised travel document that would be delivered at the national level by health authorities in electronic format and include the vaccine information of passengers. The DHC would be recognised by all domestic applications (to be QR readable),” GACA writes in the white paper.

Air traffic management (ATM) modernization is another major goal that the KSA seeks to achieve with its investment in aviation through 2030. On that front, Saudi Air Navigation Services (SANS)—which first became a private company in 2016—signed several technology and training agreements during the event. One of the most prominent agreements was signed with Indra Sistemas, to establish what will become the first virtual air traffic control tower in the Middle East.

Saudi Air Navigation Services and Indra Sistemas signed an agreement to deploy the first virtual air traffic tower system in the Middle East. (Photo, courtesy of SANS)

During his participation in a panel entitled “Air Traffic Management and Airspace Modernization” that included representatives from ICAO, Thales, and Indra, among others, SANS CEO Eng. Abdulaziz Al Zaid said ATM modernization is needed in Saudi Arabia to account for an expected increase in passenger air traffic over the next decade. Al Zaid said that in the first quarter of 2022, KSA had already recovered to 100 percent of the domestic and international passenger air traffic volume recorded during the same pre-pandemic period in 2019.

The SANS executive also discussed how he sees a need for ANSPs and regulators to take a different approach to managing the operations of new lower altitude airspace entrants.

SAMI Advanced Electronics, the Riyadh-based aerospace and defense manufacturer, showcased its “Bariq” drone pictured here during the Future Aviation Forum.

“Today we segregate between ATM and UTM (unmanned traffic management), and this segregation creates the “threat” of what could happen with a BVLOS drone. Actually, we should treat it as a traffic management, it is one system, one airspace,” Al Zaid said. “This should be enabled by a system and technology that will be able to do the proper segregation and have a safe operation between all of the airspace users. This is the true way we should envision the future, there should be no UTM and ATM, it’s just traffic management and one airspace.”

GACA is also using a joint venture established between NEOM—a “smart city” currently being developed in the northwestern region of Saudi Arabia—and German eVTOL maker Volocopter to develop a regulatory framework and concept of operations for eVTOL operations in the future. Captain Sulaiman Almuhaimedi, Vice President of safety and aviation standards for GACA, explained the goals of the Volocopter partnership during an appearance on the “Destination: Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Solutions” panel.

Sulaiman described the NEOM-Volocopter initiative as “a project that will act as an incubator and test lab for such technologies, proof of concepts, where we can as a regulator have an access into reliable data where we can utilize and capitalize in order to develop a regulatory framework that will enable the industry to achieve its objectives.”

GACA’s Saudi Aviation Strategy document—a white paper released during the event—calls for the establishment of new special economic zones, “a project that will act as an incubator and test lab for such technologies, proof of concepts, where we can as a regulator have an access into reliable data where we can utilize and capitalize in order to develop a regulatory framework that will enable the industry to achieve its objectives.” GACA expects the new zones to expand air freight operations in Saudi Arabia from 0.8 tons today to 4.5 million tons by 2030.

Overall, the agency expects its strategy to allow KSA’s air transport efficiency ranking to become “among the top 5 ranked globally by 2030.”

The post Saudi Arabia’s $100 Billion Investment in Aviation to Enable ATM Upgrades, New Airline and Airspace Entrants appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Embraer, Eve, and Daedalean Test Systems for Autonomous Flight

Embraer completed multiple experimental flights in partnership with Eve Urban Air Mobility, Daedalean, Iris Automation, and Near Earth Autonomy to explore the use of autonomous technologies. (Photo courtesy of Daedalean)

Embraer and its subsidiary Eve recently completed a series of flights to test new autonomous system technologies, collecting data via piloted helicopters for Embraer’s Autonomous Systems project (Project EASy). Partners that contributed directly to this project include Iris Automation, Near Earth Autonomy, and Daedalean.

Eve’s co-CEO, Andre Stein, commented on the value of conducting these experimental flights, saying, “All information and data raised in this project, as well as the technical solutions under development, will set the path for fully autonomous flight of eVTOLs in the future,” in the company’s announcement.

The CEO of Daedalean, Luuk van Dijk, commented on their participation in this project as well as the company’s unique offerings. Based in Switzerland, Daedalean creates autonomous piloting software systems to implement in general aviation and future advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft. “When UAM [urban air mobility] overcomes all the challenges it is facing—technological, regulatory, public acceptance, air traffic management, physical infrastructure—it is expected to become a hundred-billion-dollar market,” he explained in an emailed statement to Avionics. “But there are three problems that block it from becoming a sound business case: safety, economics, and capacity.”

Embraer’s Autonomous Systems project (“Project EASy”) uses the agile testing process for developing solutions to support the future autonomous aviation industry. (Photo, courtesy of Eve)

These three challenges can be overcome through autonomous flight control, stated van Dijk. “Autonomy could be an excellent tool for assisting and supporting pilots, helping them to detect potential collisions and land more safely,” he remarked. In addition to increasing safety, autonomous piloting systems will significantly reduce costs and also address the problem of pilot shortages. 

Luuk van Dijk and the team at Daedalean view autonomy as the key enabler for the future AAM industry. “To fly air taxis or smaller cargo transports at a higher density at an equal or better level of safety, with human-human pilot-ATC communications over a voice channel, the system today can tolerate maybe 10 or 20 aircraft over a large city,” he explained. 

A screenshot of Daedalean’s camera-based landing guidance solution (Photo courtesy of Daedalean)

Daedalean’s solutions for visual traffic detection and camera-based navigation and landing guidance are unique in that they are based on input that is purely visual, said van Dijk. Though Daedalean’s systems can work with GPS, ADS-B, and ILS when available, they are capable of functioning without them. “Our system is the only one that can create situational awareness that, until now, was only possible for a conscious human being with working eyes and visual cortex,” he noted. “As we gather more and more data, improvements in the accuracy of all functions are continuous, especially when it comes to below-horizon traffic detection.”

Daedalean entered into a partnership last year with company Avidyne to introduce a new cockpit vision system. Daedalean contributed its artificial intelligence-based software to Avidyne’s avionics system, called PilotEye.

The solutions created by Daedalean were optimized for the experimental flights conducted by Embraer and Eve, intended to enable operation of autonomous aircraft in complex urban airspace. According to the announcement from Eve, they collaborated in exploring “nominal and edge-case scenarios for take-off, climb, cruise, approach, and landing flight phases.”

Head of Autonomous Systems at Embraer, Julio Bolzani, commented that the data collected from these flights will be used in future simulations. Embraer was also able to evaluate multiple technologies for autonomous flight in real-time. Bolzani added, “We are not going straight to fully autonomous operations. As Eve begins operations, pilots will be on board and will also benefit from the application of these technologies through a safer and simplified vehicle operation until we reach a fully certified autonomous flight system for Urban Air Mobility.”

The post Embraer, Eve, and Daedalean Test Systems for Autonomous Flight appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Belgian UTM Company Unifly Receives €10M in Investments

Unifly, based in Belgium, offers an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system. The company just announced €10 million in investments from Terra Drone Corporation and Japanese government fund JOIN.

Unifly, a Belgium-based UTM (unmanned traffic management) system provider, announced last week that they received €10 million in investments from Terra Drone Corporation and Japanese government fund JOIN. Unifly was founded in 2015 and initially operated as a spin-off company of the Flemish institute for technological research, VITO. The key features of their UTM platform are planning and managing drone operations, automating real-time maps of airspace activity, and in-flight communication with air traffic controllers (ATC).

In the last year, Unifly collaborated with air navigation service provider (ANSP) NAV CANADA in launching NAV Drone for operators to fly drones in the Canadian airspace. Two other recent achievements were partnering in development of an automated digital drone management platform as part of a contract with Spanish air navigation service provider (ANSP) ENAIRE, and developing and launching a UTM platform with Port of Antwerp. In addition to the UTM platform, Unifly also offers a broadcast location and identify platform (BLIP) in the form of a self-powered “e-identification” device.

The UTM system from Unifly enables authorities in real-time to monitor, approve, and manage drone operations in restricted zones.(Photo courtesy of Unifly)

The preparations to go live with a U-Space compliant system in Spain are underway, with partners working on implementation and demonstrations. The Spanish ANSP, Enaire, awarded the contract to the company Indra, in partnership with Airbus and Unifly. A key area of focus for Unifly is to guarantee scalability for a variety of use cases and functionalities to support increasing numbers of drones in operation.

Andres Van Swalm, co-founder of Unifly, offered some company updates and background in an interview with Avionics International. Before Unifly, he worked as an air traffic controller for the military. His knowledge and expertise in air traffic management (ATM) was particularly useful when founding Unifly and working to ensure safe operations in a complex airspace.

Pictured above is Unifly’s co-founder, Andres Van Swalm. (Photo, courtesy of Unifly)

“We want to use the investment to make sure our system is even more safe, secure, and efficient,” Swalm said regarding the €10 million in funding they recently received from Terra Drone and JOIN. As the team at Unifly continues to build their platform, he explained, “We will make sure that the system is even more scalable, easier to deploy, and more configurable for customers—they can configure it themselves, build upon our platform, and make their own customizations.” Based on customer feedback, he said, these capabilities are incredibly important.

“Customers can, in a few months, deploy the entire UTM system and configure it according to all specifications and regulations of the country. In comparison, ATM integration takes years to implement.”

The platform enables drone pilots to safely plan, validate, and monitor their operations and flights. (Photo courtesy of Unifly)

A unique feature of Unifly’s UTM platform is that it can be deployed at any location independently of the cloud provider. The team had decided from the beginning not to build on one cloud provider. “We believe ANSPs will play an important role, so the unique feature of being independent from cloud is very important,” remarked Swalm.

Another key concept of the UTM platform is configurability. Each country has its own regulations, so building the system to be configurable enables deployment in multiple countries. “Compared to manned aircraft, drones are a local phenomenon. Also, because of batteries, drones mostly will fly locally,” Andres Van Swalm explained. “We knew from the start that we needed to be able to configure our system to support all types of regulation and implementation. We have done implementations in Canada, and are now deploying the U-space concept in several countries. Regardless of deployment model, our system is configurable and scalable.”

Unifly has also rebranded their application to offer multiple languages, according to customer specifications and requests. Lastly, Swalm explained, the application explains regulations in ways that are easy for both commercial and recreational drone operators to understand. 

One of Unifly’s contributions in the partnership with NAV CANADA was to automate the approval process, which increased efficiency and safety. Swalm noted, “When drones are going to operate within controlled airspace, instead of elaborate processes and emails [for approvals], we automated that process, ensuring lower risk for drone operators and more situational awareness for both operators and air traffic controllers.”

Swalm shared some details about the UTM platform launched at Port of Antwerp, which has become the first seaport in the world that manages its own airspace. “It’s a restricted airspace,” he stated. “Only aircraft which are permitted can fly there.” The Port of Antwerp itself has use cases for drones, and some of the companies located there, like BASF and Total, are also interested in starting drone operations. 

One use case of interest is automated oil spill detection. The Port of Antwerp also hopes to automatically detect intruder drones that do not have approval to operate in the airspace. Another capability of the UTM platform is enabling tactical deconfliction. “Within a few months, they will start autonomous drone operations,” Swalm said.

The post Belgian UTM Company Unifly Receives €10M in Investments appeared first on Aviation Today.

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ASKA Targets 2026 Commercial Launch of “Drive and Fly” eVTOL

ASKA’s eVTOL aircraft has a four-seat configuration with a maximum range of 250 miles and a speed of 150 miles per hour. The company plans to begin flight testing of a full-scale demonstrator by early 2023. (Photo, courtesy of ASKA)

The California-based company ASKA is developing an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with “drive and fly” capabilities. The team expects to have a full-scale demonstrator ready to begin flight testing by early 2023, and they are already performing flight tests with a smaller-scale prototype. ASKA is also participating in NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign after signing a five-year Space Act Agreement with NASA in 2020.

The eVTOL vehicle has been in development since 2018. ASKA’s factory is located in Mountain View, CA, and they also have a showroom in nearby Los Altos. According to Guy Kaplinsky, ASKA’s co-founder and CEO, their mission is centered around improving everyday transportation while ensuring safety, efficiency, and sustainability.

Earlier this year, ASKA announced an agreement with IT services and consulting company Tech Mahindra, which will support ASKA in design, analysis, development of composites and advanced materials, crash dynamics, and battery and structural testing.

Kaplinsky told Avionics International in an interview that their aim is to improve quality of life because people spend so much of their lives in transit—either driving personal vehicles or taking public transportation. “New mobility solutions are not providing any solutions to the problem of [increasing] traffic,” he said.

Pictured above is a rendering of the interior of ASKA’s eVTOL aircraft. (Photo courtesy of ASKA)

ASKA’s team imagines a future in which cars will be used for short trips between 1 to 30 miles, and AAM vehicles will be used for longer trips up to 250 miles. This is how they came up with the concept of a “drive and fly” vehicle that can be driven on the road like a car and then can take off from an airport, either as a VTOL or a short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft. “We have to use the existing infrastructure,” he added. 

Their aircraft will have a range of 250 miles and a maximum speed of 150 miles per hour. When the vehicle performs a conventional runway take-off and landing as an eSTOL, it uses between 30% and 60% less energy than the vertical take-off and landing. “Since we are targeting everyone [as potential customers], the cost of operation is very important. It’s not a toy for billionaires. [The STOL functionality] makes it more affordable for more people,” he stated.

According to the co-founders, ASKA’s eVTOL has the advantages of utilizing existing infrastructure and offering a high level of safety while keeping initial and operational costs as low as possible. (Photo courtesy of ASKA)

“One challenge for aviation with going electric is the batteries,” Kaplinsky remarked. “We don’t believe they’re ready yet, so we developed our own generator with a range extender that provides a second energy source.” Including two energy sources, a battery and a generator, is part of ensuring safety for the vehicle. Those operating the vehicles can rely on a backup energy source for landing because it meets the 30-minute requirement for reserve flight time, according to Kaplinsky.

The launch pad imagined for ASKA’s vehicle to perform a vertical take-off or landing has a minimal footprint with an area of 65 feet by 65 feet. This also offers the option for operators to drive in or out of the launch pad rather than use extra energy to perform the VTOL function. The average time needed for a departure or landing at the launch pad will be highly efficient—about 3 minutes. Therefore, one launch pad can facilitate 80 passengers in an hour.

“We are in the middle of fundraising right now,” said Maki Kaplinsky, ASKA co-founder and chair/COO. “We’re looking for good partners to support this project. We already have pre-orders for the ASKA and continue to receive more.”

The post ASKA Targets 2026 Commercial Launch of “Drive and Fly” eVTOL appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Raytheon Partners with Universities to Develop Skyler Radar

Raytheon Intelligence & Space is involved in partnerships with the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Virginia Tech, Stony Brook University, and Hampton University to encourage innovations that will facilitate drone integration into the national airspace. (Photo courtesy of Raytheon)

Raytheon Intelligence & Space is collaborating with multiple universities to conduct research related to drone traffic management and to further develop its weather-sensing Skyler radar technology. Mike Dubois, technical program manager for air traffic systems at Raytheon, shared details on the status and trajectory for these partnerships in an interview with Avionics International.

RI&S has shared its resources and equipment—including systems for air traffic management, weather prediction, cybersecurity, and mobile radar—with researchers at several colleges including Purdue University, Stony Brook University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Virginia Tech, and Hampton University. These long-term partnerships provide hands-on experience for college faculty and students while also enhancing innovation and helping to create a more diverse workforce, according to RI&S.

Dubois is the technical program manager for the Skyler product, which is a multifunctional radar capable of detect-and-avoid operations and is used for traffic management of unmanned aircraft (UTM) and other advanced air mobility (AAM) needs. Skyler is also positioned to be a high-resolution weather sensor, says Dubois. According to the company website, Raytheon’s Skyler is an Active Electronically Scanned Array that provides high-resolution data. A single radar can be scaled up to a distributed network of radars that work in tandem to provide data across a large area.

“The Skyler product is really the out-product of an initiative where we partnered with the University of Massachusetts in a program called CASA (the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere),” Dubois said. Beginning in 2002, Raytheon served as the lead industry partner in this multidisciplinary partnership established by the National Science Foundation Engineering Center. The University of Massachusetts and Raytheon shared the goal of developing a phased-array weather sensing radar with no moving parts, and this ultimately resulted in the creation of Skyler. 

“The most exciting and interesting part has been the engagement with the universities,” Dubois commented. “The technology can help shape someone’s academic career, or their thesis.”

“There are still fundamental questions that need to be answered by the community as a whole—understanding what a phased-array radar can do to enhance or upgrade weather systems.” – Mike Dubois (Photo courtesy of Raytheon)

RI&S is also currently working with Hampton University, where a team plans to perform a combination of uncrewed traffic management and weather research. “We hope to have radar installed at their campus later this year,” Dubois added. He explained that the university’s location at Chesapeake Bay is ideal for coastal weather research given the high-density, mixed-use airspace.

Raytheon began a formal collaboration with FAA-designated UAS test site Virginia Tech last year. In this partnership, Skyler offers “a multifunctional system, where it does both air traffic and weather surveillance, and we test that at an FAA test site,” stated Dubois. The focus is on integrating beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations into the national airspace. Kip Spurio, Air Traffic Systems technical director for RI&S, remarked in the company’s announcement, “Virginia Tech is well positioned to test the Skyler radar in a mixed environment—crewed and uncrewed aircraft systems. Their assessment is validating its capabilities to safely further this ecosystem.” 

Dubois commented that he looks forward to seeing the contract with Virginia Tech fulfilled, as well as “delivering results to ASTM and RTCA that describe the system that was implemented and the results that were generated in the findings.”

Dubois expects the relationship between RI&S and the University of Massachusetts to grow in its focus on the antenna itself and RF characteristics. The focus in their collaboration with Stony Brook University’s Atmospheric Sciences program, he said, has been weather sensing capabilities. The program has multiple ongoing research projects, including those funded by the Department of Energy.

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done with the weather radar technology before it is adopted. “There are still fundamental questions that need to be answered by the community as a whole—understanding what a phased-array radar can do to enhance or upgrade weather systems,” Dubois said. By partnering with universities to explore these types of questions, Raytheon’s team can benefit the community as well as their own understanding of the technology. 

He views the aviation community as the intersection of air traffic and weather. “The industry is still focused on the vehicles and avionics, but we’re very quickly going to run into the need to understand the weather at lower altitudes.” As a collective, he says, we need to understand how these subjects intersect and what technology is needed to support that.

The post Raytheon Partners with Universities to Develop Skyler Radar appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Stakeholders Urge Congress to Pass Sustainable Skies Act

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and numerous stakeholders wrote a letter to Congress in support of the Sustainable Skies Act, underscoring the importance of a tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). (Photo, courtesy of NBAA)

On April 22, the National Business Aviation Association, along with about 80 stakeholders in the aviation industry, put forth a letter asking Congress to pass the Sustainable Skies Act. This legislation includes a provision for establishing a tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which would accelerate commercial-scale production of the fuel. SAF is vital to the aviation industry’s pursuit of net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050 since it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%.

Scott O’Brien, NBAA’s Senior Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, offered his insights on the congressional letter and the need for an SAF tax credit in an interview with Avionics International. “[SAF] has never had a dedicated federal tax credit, whereas some of the other renewable fuels have had longstanding tax credits,” O’Brien explained. “This letter describes the importance of having this standalone credit for SAF at an amount that will make it more competitive for producers to make versus other renewable fuels.” The tax credit also needs to incentivize production of SAF in the long-term to encourage significant investments, he commented. 

Stakeholders involved in the coalition to encourage an SAF-specific blender’s tax credit included representatives from general aviation, clean-fuel producers, aircraft manufacturers, and trade associations, according to the NBAA. “There are all kinds of stakeholders that often don’t come together around issues like in aviation,” O’Brien remarked. Unfortunately, he said, there isn’t currently a legislative vehicle that could serve to advance support for the tax credit. “The purpose of the letter is to reinforce the importance of doing this in the near-term in this Congress and showing, most importantly, how broad the support is.”

The dedicated blender’s tax credit is the most important step towards achieving the goal of producing 35 billion gallons of SAF by 2050, O’Brien believes. “We’re hopeful that negotiations going on with Senator Manchin and the White House will lead to some sort of package that includes the SAF tax credit. We are trying to best position ourselves for those discussions.”

He predicts that there will likely be movement towards a detailed agreement related to an SAF tax credit in the next few weeks. “There should be parity between SAF and what’s been done for other renewable fuels,” he stated. ”There’s been a lot of federal investment through tax credits and other things in renewable diesel, ethanol, and different fuels over the years.”

The Biden administration has previously issued proposals supporting the SAF tax credit, as have groups such as the Business Aviation Coalition for Sustainable Aviation Fuel. The Sustainable Skies Act, containing the provision for a dedicated blender’s tax credit of $1.50–2.00 per gallon, was introduced last May. In the coalition’s letter to Congress, they emphasized that not only will this tax credit promote investment into SAF, but it will also uphold “rigorous environmental standards and ensure that fuels that achieve the greatest reduction in emissions are eligible for the greatest tax incentive.”

The lack of a credit is a significant obstacle for fuel producers, O’Brien remarked. As they consider how to invest, “they have to consider all of these elements—where to have their facility, and what tax incentives they can get. These fuel companies have to make a lot of calculations about what this credit structure is going to look like for them at the end of the day. There’s a lot of SAF produced today, but people don’t understand the scale-up that needs to happen. It’s pretty immense and it really needs to start happening now to meet these goals.”

The post Stakeholders Urge Congress to Pass Sustainable Skies Act appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Gulfstream Adjusting to New Software Validation Certification Process on G700

The Gulfstream G700 is nearing the final stages of its flight testing and certification campaign, which could be slightly delayed from Gulfstream’s original timeline due to a new software validation requirement included by the FAA. (Photo courtesy of Gulfstream)

General Dynamics Chairman and CEO Phebe Novakovic told investors and analysts during an earnings call last week that the company’s efforts to obtain type certification on the Gulfstream G700 in preparation could be delayed due to a new software validation process being used by the FAA in its evaluation of the long-range business jet.

The G700 was first launched by Gulfstream at the 2019 NBAA Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (BACE), capable of flying up to 7,500 nautical miles (nm) at Mach 0.85 or 6,400 nm at Mach 0.90, powered by Rolls-Royce’s Pearl 700 engines. During the General Dynamics earnings call, Novakovic said the G700’s flight test and certification program are ongoing, and that the completion of certification flights with the FAA is typically the “most predictable” part of a new aircraft certification program.

However, there is a new software validation requirement included in the final stages of the G700 certification program that did not exist when Gulfstream first launched the new model.

“This flight test process has a first-time requirement that was not part of our original flight test plan or any prior development effort,” Novakovic said. “It is a model-based developmental software validation, a line-by-line examination of the plane software. The level of effort is considerable, completing 100% of the software validation is the impediment to finishing performance testing by the FAA.”

Novakovic indicated that while the company is still targeting a fourth-quarter timeline on certification of the G700, the addition of the software validation process could cause a three- to six-month delay. There are currently five G700 flight test aircraft involved in the flight testing certification campaign that have completed 2,800 flight hours, with all structural testing now complete as well.

The process is “time and resource intensive” according to Novakovic, who also answered some analyst questions about the process.

“This was an added process that we had not contemplated when we originally laid out our certification plan. And it’s a result of events that are independent of us,” Novakovic said.

The G700’s avionics configuration features the same Symmetry flight deck setup that is used on the G500 and G600, with the same embedded data concentration network as well.

Comments made by Novakovic on the uncertainty around how long it could take the FAA to complete its software validation process for the G700 are similar to those made by Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun two years ago when the company was re-certifying the flight control system for the 737 MAX.

“There is a mountain of documentation that has to be completed,” Calhoun said at the time.

While Gulfstream’s certification requirements are for an all-new aircraft type, the uncertainty on the time required for the FAA is similar.

“It’s more a question of time resources, certainly on the new requirements,” Novakovic said in response to an analyst question about the certification process. “But you saw an increase in R&D this quarter. And it was because that we have this new set of software validation requirements that we need to walk through.”

According to Novakovic, completion of the software validation requirements is also a prerequisite to Gulfstream moving forward with the first flight of its G800—one of two new jets launched last year, the other being the G400—and the eventual certification and validation of that aircraft.

The post Gulfstream Adjusting to New Software Validation Certification Process on G700 appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Northrop Grumman Touts B-21 Benefit In First Quarter; Income, Sales Slip

Pictured is an artist rendering of the B-21 Raider (Photo, courtesy of Northrop Grumman).

Northrop Grumman on Thursday posted first quarter results that included a boost from its ongoing development work on the Air Force’s B-21 next-generation stealth bomber.

The $67 million benefit on the B-21 stems from a favorable estimate-at-completion (EAC) adjustment attributed to performance benefits on the engineering and manufacturing  development (EMD) contract. An EAC refers to the hours expected to complete a project or milestone.

The gain on the contract was partially offset by a benefit a year ago from lower overhead rates on fixed price contracts at the company that did not recur in the first quarter of 2022.

Northrop Grumman typically has little to say about its B-21 work due to its classified nature but the company provided incremental details about the growth trajectory of the franchise program in the coming years.

Sales from the B-21 are expected to grow as the EMD phase of the program continues and low-rate initial production (LRIP) begins in parallel, Kathy Warden, chairwoman, president and CEO of Northrop Grumman, said on an earnings call with analysts.

Dave Keffer, Northrop Grumman’s chief financial officer, said in 2022 the EMD phase is in “a critical integration and test portion,” adding that “we continue to focus on production efficiencies.”

The Air Force said in March that the first B-21 has begun the ground-test phase and there are five more aircraft in various stages of production.

LRIP will begin over the next year and sales from this portion of the program will be recognized separately from the EMD effort, Keffer said. The full-rate production contract, which will account for most of the aircraft, hasn’t been negotiated, he said.

Northrop Grumman’s bid for the B-21 included a specific quantity of LRIP aircraft at a fixed-price, Warden said, noting that while she can’t disclose the number of aircraft, “it’s a small portion of the overall program of record.”

Asked by one analyst about the potential impact of inflation on the B-21 given that the LRIP aircraft will be built at a fixed-price, Warden answered the company’s bid had margin for inflation growth, that the program is still on a path to profitability, and expects to provide the aircraft within the “government target price,” which is updated regularly to account for inflation.

“I’ll remind you we’re not really gong to be in the production phase for a couple of years in any significant way,” she said. “And so, we still have a good bit of time and we expect inflation is going to modulate and we’re not seeing, based on the assumptions we’ve made today, a material impact to the program.”

Keffer said the company’s current assumptions run through the decade.

The Air Force’s future years defense program (FYDP) budget shows nearly $1.8 billion for B-21 production in fiscal year 2023 but that funding won’t flush out immediately to Northrop Grumman, Warden said.

“But it does project robust funding for B-21 through the decade and that is what we are anticipating as well,” Warden said. In response to another question about whether the current five-year FYDP contains peak year funding for the program, she replied that while aircraft quantities are classified, “the budget does not show a peak revenue year through fiscal year 2027.”

 

This article was first published by Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International>> 

The post Northrop Grumman Touts B-21 Benefit In First Quarter; Income, Sales Slip appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Qantas Commits to New Airbus Fleet Order for Project Sunrise, Boeing 737 Replacement

Qantas confirmed its new Airbus fleet order on May 2, noting that a combined 40 new A220 and A321XLR aircraft will replace some of the aging 737s and 717s currently being operated on domestic routes. (Photo, courtesy of Airbus)

Qantas has confirmed a new order with Airbus that will introduce 12 A350-1000 Project Sunrise aircraft into its fleet, along with 40 new A220-300s and A321XLRs that will replace aging 737 and 717 aircraft currently being operated by the Australian airline.

The A350s will be capable of flying nonstop routes from Australia to any other city, including New York and London, and are the result of a research initiative Qantas participated in for several years evaluating the Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350-1000 to operate what will become the longest nonstop routes ever operated by Qantas. Some of the primary routes Qantas evaluated the A350-1000 on include Brisbane to Paris, Melbourne to New York, and Sydney to London.

On the domestic side of its operations, a combined 95 total Boeing 737 and 717 aircraft will be retired and replaced by the incoming orders for the new A321XLRs and A220-300s, which Airbus will start to deliver late next year.

Qantas has included purchase right options for another 94 aircraft that are scheduled for delivery through at least 2034. Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce compared the introduction of Project Sunrise to how the Boeing 707 “introduced the jet age, the 747 democratised travel,” in statements published by Qantas.

“The A350 and Project Sunrise will make any city just one flight away from Australia. It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance. As you’d expect, the cabin is being specially designed for maximum comfort in all classes for long-haul flying,” Joyce said.

The A350-1000s on order for Qantas will be powered by the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine, and will require an additional fuel tank along with a slightly increased maximum takeoff weight to fly the Sunrise routes.

Joyce’s vision for Project Sunrise was effectively put on hold by the pandemic, after the CEO said in December 2019 that the carrier would ultimately make a decision on an order for the A350-1000  in March 2020. Two years later, Qantas included the Project Sunrise aircraft in the new fleet order that restructures an existing order agreement with Airbus of 109 A320s (plus purchase rights) for Qantas Group regional subsidiary Jetstar. That order will now be combined into “a single Qantas Group narrow body order of 299 aircraft (half of which are firm orders and half are purchase right options), with the flexibility to draw down on that order by choosing any variant from the A320 and A220 families,” according to details on the order released by Qantas.

“We have come through the other side of the pandemic a structurally different company. Our domestic market share is higher and the demand for direct international flights is even stronger than it was before COVID. The business case for Project Sunrise has an internal rate of return in the mid-teens,” Joyce said.

A release of its third-quarter fiscal year 2022 results showed an increase in passenger demand for Qantas, including increased “bookings for markets including London, Los Angeles, South Africa and Bali all above pre-COVID pandemic levels.”

The post Qantas Commits to New Airbus Fleet Order for Project Sunrise, Boeing 737 Replacement appeared first on Aviation Today.

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