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Computer Chip Testing Delays Gogo 5G In-Flight Connectivity Launch to 2023

Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne reported a 5G computer chip testing issue during their quarterly earnings call on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Gogo Business Aviation)

Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne, during a second quarter earnings call Friday, said the expected fourth quarter launch of their next generation 5G in-flight connectivity (IFC) service could be delayed until mid-2023 due to testing associated with a computer chip being developed by one of their key suppliers.

Thorne said Gogo received the report of testing issues from Airspan, the company making the computer chip for its X3 onboard computer on Tuesday, with the executive noting that he had been preparing to announce fourth quarter availability of their entire 5G shipset for today’s earnings call. The chip testing delay update comes after a record-setting second quarter financial performance for Gogo with revenue increasing to $97.8 million, up 19% from the same period a year ago.

“The manufacturer of our 5G chip has just notified us of a new issue in late stage testing, which could delay ramping up to full production volumes until mid-2023,” Thorne said Friday.

Although caused by different factors, this is the latest computer chip related delay for Gogo’s 5G network. In March 2021, for example, Thorne discussed a delay in the launch of the service due to supply chain shortages.

The computer chip being developed by Airspan provides processing inside Gogo’s X3 line replaceable unit, pictured here. (Photo courtesy of Gogo)

Airspan is one of three key 5G technology suppliers for Gogo’s 5G connectivity. The end-to-end structure of Gogo’s 5G IFC network includes the following aircraft and ground-based elements:

  • Gogo’s Avance L5 and X3 Line Replaceable Units (LRUs)
  • Cisco’s 5G cloud computing service
  • Airspan’s Air5G base station and antenna arrays
  • First RF’s multiband antennas

The ground infrastructure for Gogo’s 5G network is supported by upgrades to 150 of its existing 250-tower 3G/4G network. The 5G network is using an unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4 GHz band, and Gogo has already reported connection speeds on average of up to 25 mbps on flight testing of the existing network. A total of 95 towers have been upgraded so far, according to Thorne.

Every individual airborne hardware and software component of Gogo’s 5G-enabling connectivity equipment has achieved FAA certification. However, Airspan’s reported delay prevents the availability of the X3 computer.

“The chip is stuck in test mode and can’t be moved to operational mode,” Thorne said. “The way these chips are built in multiple layers, test mode touches almost every layer. They have not been able to identify the exact source of the problem with their test mode; worst case would be a re-spin.”

According to Thorne, Gogo is still in the “discovery mode” phase for the testing issue associated with Airspan’s 5G computer chip. The Gogo CEO notes that if the chip has to be re-built, that would cause the launch of their service to slip to mid-2023. If a re-build can be avoided, the X3 computer could become available sooner.

Even with the delay of the 5G service, however, Thorne said the company is still seeing robust demand and pre-order commitments from operators who want the improved performance promised by the 5G network Gogo is deploying. Since the X3 box featuring Airspan’s computer chip is the only component of their 5G enabling equipment that is unavailable, some customers are already buying the antennas and other 5G-enabling LRUs that will allow them to operate on the 4G network until the 5G service becomes available.

Thorne also provided Gogo’s assessment of the size of the addressable market of business jets and turboprop aircraft that the company considers prime targets for aftermarket connectivity upgrades. This includes a total of 16,000 un-connected business and general aviation aircraft in North America, and another 13,000 aircraft currently in service in other regions around the world that it can now go after with the global broadband network it launched in partnership with OneWeb at EBACE.

The post Computer Chip Testing Delays Gogo 5G In-Flight Connectivity Launch to 2023 appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Business Jet OEMs Report Second Quarter Growth in Demand for Aftermarket Services

Second quarter earnings reports from Gulfstream, Embraer, and Bombardier—whose new Melbourne, Australia services center is pictured here—reported growth in demand for aftermarket services. (Photo courtesy of Bombardier)

Demand for aftermarket services from the world’s largest business jet manufacturers increased significantly between April and June, according to comments made by executives during recent earnings calls.

The increase in demand for services is primarily driven by the increase in the number of flight hours being flown by private jet operators. According to the latest report on global business jet flight operations published by WingX, business jet flying increased by 22% during the first six months of 2022 compared to the same period a year ago. That’s also an increase of 21% over the number of business jet flights that occurred during that same period in pre-pandemic 2019.

Bombardier published its second quarter earnings report this week that included $1.6 billion in revenue for the quarter reflecting 28 deliveries and “a 22% year-over-year aftermarket revenue increase to $359 million.”

“Our goal to reach $2 billion in annual aftermarket revenue by 2025 is fully on track,” Bombardier CEO Éric Martel told investors during an earnings call on Thursday.

The Canadian business jet manufacturer opened an expanded version of its service center in Singapore in June to meet the growth in demand for aftermarket services in the Asia Pacific region. Bombardier is also expanding its facilities in Miami and London and will open a new facility in Melbourne, Australia, later this year.

One of the ways Bombardier has also captured more of the demand for aftermarket services from independent maintenance and repair providers is by including SmartLink Plus on new in-production aircraft model to provide operators with a common digital infrastructure that captures and analyzes aircraft health, maintenance, and performance data in real-time.

Martel highlighted this feature of new Bombardier jets during the introduction of their new Global 8000 jet at the 2022 European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE), calling it the “digital evolution of services that lets our operators stay connected to the aircraft at all times.”

The Bombardier CEO wants to continue to expand the number of authorized aftermarket services facilities operated by the company in key regions to “bring more of our jets home.”

Gulfstream St. Louis, pictured here, is growing its workforce to increase services and production support. (Photo courtesy of Gulfstream)

Gulfstream has been involved in significant expansion of its aftermarket services facilities as well, including the addition of new avionics and cabin communications experts to a 24-hour support service operated at its Farnborough Service Center. The General Dynamics subsidiary opened a new service facility at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in March.

The company also announced a $55 million investment to add 200 new engineers, mechanics, and avionics technicians to its facility in Appleton, Wisconsin, according to a June 2 press release. New cabinet makers and finishers, upholsterers, aircraft paint technicians, and manufacturing engineers are among those being added to the growing workforce at Gulfstream St. Louis.

On July 27, General Dynamics released its second quarter results, with Gulfstream generating $1.9 billion in revenue. “Revenue was $245 million more than the year-ago quarter or 15.1%, largely as a result of higher service center sales at Gulfstream and higher service volume, particularly FBOs at Jet Aviation,” General Dynamics CFO Jason Aiken told investors during their earnings call last week.

Embraer also reported its second quarter earnings on Thursday, where the Brazilian business jet manufacturer’s executives noted they’re experiencing a similar increase in demand for services driven by the increased utilization of their business jet and regional airliner fleet. The company has also invested in significant expansion for several of its service centers, including doubling the useful area from “20,000 m² to 40,000 m²” at its Sorocaba Service Center in Sao Paulo in June.

“Revenues reached $1.90 billion in the quarter, down 10% compared to the second quarter of ’21, due to lower deliveries in commercial and defense segments, partially offset by our service and support business unit,” Embraer CFO Antonio Garcia said during Embraer’s earnings call on Thursday.

The post Business Jet OEMs Report Second Quarter Growth in Demand for Aftermarket Services appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Canadian ADS-B Airspace Mandate Delayed Amid Transponder Supply Chain Constraints

Nav Canada is delaying the start of its ADS-B Out airspace mandate from February to August 2023, citing supply chain issues associated with ADS-B transponder parts. Pictured here is an air traffic control tower located at Toronto Pearson International Airport. (Photo, courtesy of Nav Canada.

The start of Canada’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) Out airspace mandate has been delayed by six months amid “supply chain limitations and backlogs” associated with aircraft transponder equipment, according to an Aug. 2 announcement from Nav Canada.

In February, the Canadian air navigation service provider (ANSP) introduced its new ADS-B Out airspace mandate in partnership with Transport Canada—the state civil aviation regulator—that would require aircraft flying in Class A and B airspace to be equipped with transponders that meet the applicable standard of DO-260B by Feb. 23, 2023. Now, under a new update to the policy, aircraft operating in Class A airspace only, need to be equipped with ADS-B Out by Aug. 10, 2023.

Additionally, aircraft operating in Class B airspace need to meet the equipage requirements by May 16, 2024. The third phase of the updated policy applicable to aircraft operating in Class C, D and E airspace remains unchanged from the timeline that was rolled out in February. Those aircraft need to be equipped “no later than 2026.”

Equipage levels for aircraft flying in Class A and B Canadian airspace from April. (Photo, courtesy of Nav Canada)

While not referencing any specific avionics manufacturers by name, Nav Canada updated the timeline for its ADS-B mandate based on “customer feedback regarding supply chain limitations and backlogs to acquire and install the appropriate transponder, as well as current equipage levels in each class of airspace,” according to their announcement.

Nav Canada Vice President of Operational Support Jeff Dawson, in a statement, said that the later dates “are warranted as the industry continues to navigate the ongoing impacts to supply chains due to the pandemic.”

“We are taking these steps to ensure customers have adequate time to comply with mandate equipage requirements,” Dawson adds.

ADS-B Out equipage levels for aircraft flying in Class A Canadian airspace are at 95%, while the rate in Class B is over 88%, according to Dawson.

The post Canadian ADS-B Airspace Mandate Delayed Amid Transponder Supply Chain Constraints appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Skylift’s Electric Drones Perform Medical Deliveries in the UK

Skylift’s electric UAV is demonstrating its ability to deliver prescription medications in the UK in partnership with Apian. (Photo: Skylift UAV)

The company Skylift UAV develops unmanned aircraft with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities. Their drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), were selected by the National Health Service (NHS) in England for a pilot program in the Isle of Wight. The delivery method was launched in partnership with Apian, a medical drone startup. Skylift’s CEO, Toby Moores, and Operations Manager, Ben Dexter, provided insights into the development of their UAV in a recent interview with Avionics International.

Skylift’s UAVs will deliver chemotherapy drugs from a pharmacy at Portsmouth Hospitals University to St. Mary’s Hospital. The UAV flights will take about 30 minutes each—a significant improvement from the four hours it typically takes to transport a package to the Isle of Wight. Efficient delivery is particularly important for transporting medications with a short shelf life. Following the trial flights in the Isle of Wight, the pilot program will carry out drone flights in Northumbria.

Boots, a pharmacy chain in the UK, announced last week that it had used a Skylift UAV to transport prescription medications from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. Apian selected the Skylift drone for this project and also helped to facilitate the test flight. Boots claims that this is is the first time a community pharmacy in the UK has transported prescription-only medications via UAV or drone.

Rich Corbridge, Chief Information Officer at Boots, commented on the achievement, saying that drones have significant potential for delivering medicine. “In this trial, we will be looking at how much time we can save, as well as how we can incorporate drones into our medicines supply chain to create economic efficiencies too,” Corbridge stated.

Ben Dexter, Skylift’s Operations Manager, noted that one of the early use cases their company originally considered was how to increase efficiency in transporting rapid test kits for COVID-19 via drone. Skylift’s objective with the NHS pilot program is to “make it a more reliable service for patients on an island or in remote places around the country,” Dexter told Avionics.

For transporting medications or supplies from one hospital to another, an aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing made sense, since hospitals often have helipads or other infrastructure in place to accommodate VTOL aircraft.

Skylift’s UAV is fully electric and is designed with eight lift motors. It transitions into forward flight once reaching an altitude of about 30 meters. With a conventional multi-rotor, Dexter explained, it would only be able to travel short distances.

The assembly, testing, and certification of the aircraft is all done in-house by Skylift. The company also specializes in fleet management of UAVs with its Skyfleet platform that enables remote piloting.

Skylift’s team works closely with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said Dexter. Based on their operational safety case, they are permitted to operate the drone for trips up to 35 kilometers. The Skyfleet platform, he added, was the critical piece that allowed the company to operate beyond visual line of sight.

Skylift CEO Toby Moores stated that one of the unique features of their aircraft is its size compared with other VTOL concepts. It’s a larger aircraft with decent payload capacity, he told Avionics, and it offers solid speed and endurance when operating in forward flight mode.

The drone developed by Skylift is designed with eight lift motors for vertical take-off and landing, and it transitions to forward flight. (Photo: Skylift UAV)

The 12 members of the Skylift team have a range of expertise, including a strong background in manned aviation, Moores commented. “Our remote pilot station is very much based around the glass cockpit—the PFD [primary flight display] and MFD [multi-function display],” he said, “things you would normally expect to see on a Garmin 3000 or something like that.”

The remote pilot interface within the Skyfleet platform “should be relatively familiar for anybody who’s flown anything with a glass cockpit,” according to Moores. “Those without manned experience can quickly get up to speed, because it’s something that’s well understood, and we haven’t had to invent all of the UI for that.”

The synthetic vision system is a useful component of Skylift’s concept. Moores explained, “If you lose a camera,  or if visibility is poor, you can still fly, just like with any synthetic vision. But it also doubles up as a simulator for training purposes.” 

Long-range communication as well as resilient command and control are vital, he added. It is possible that the UAV will be out of range of standard drone comms, so aviation-grade comms are necessary. “We use L-band or S-band and satcoms to stay in touch with the aircraft,” he shared.

Working towards certification of their aircraft with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) may be next on Skylift UAV’s radar. “They’re our nearest neighbors, and I think that would be sensible,” Moores said. To operate under the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations would be more of a challenge. It will depend on their customers’ needs, he remarked, and whether it makes sense to expand to international operations.

The post Skylift’s Electric Drones Perform Medical Deliveries in the UK appeared first on Aviation Today.

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OneWeb’s Ben Griffin Explains How LEO Satellites Address Capacity, Throughput Needs for In-flight Internet

OneWeb VP of Mobility Services Ben Griffin is the guest on this episode of the Connected Aviation Intelligence Podcast.

On this episode of the Connected Aviation Intelligence Podcast, Ben Griffin, Vice President of Mobility Services, OneWeb, joins to discuss how the introduction of their Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite could provide a paradigm shift for in-flight internet service in the near future.

Last week, Eutelsat and OneWeb reached an agreement to combine, bringing together satellite assets in Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) for multi-orbit service. Since this interview was conducted on the day of this major announcement, the discussion does not focus on the Eutelsat-OneWeb agreement; however, Griffin does provide some initial reaction on how the partnership might benefit their plans for in-flight connectivity (IFC) in the future toward the end of the conversation.

Griffin does explain why their LEO constellation a perfect match for IFC service because of the amount of capacity the systems will make available, low latency, and global coverage, including over the polar regions. The OneWeb executive also provides perspective on how the company is evaluating the results of a recent test of their partially completed LEO network conducted on a Boeing 777.

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 OneWeb’s Ben Griffin Explains How LEO Satellites Address Capacity, Throughput Needs for In-flight Internet appeared first on Aviation Today.

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How Transportation Departments Are Using Advanced Drone Technology for Infrastructure Inspections

Autonomous drones like those developed by Skydio can be useful for inspecting critical infrastructure such as bridges. (Photo: Skydio)

Departments of Transportation are increasingly using autonomous drones for monitoring and performing inspections of critical infrastructure such as bridges and highways. An autonomous drone can eliminate the need for a manual inspection which can be difficult and dangerous. Autonomous drone inspections are also less expensive to perform. Departments of Transportation (DOTs) in Alaska, North Carolina, New York, and other states have found that using autonomous drone technology to monitor and inspect infrastructure can improve workflow efficiency and lower costs. 

Autonomous drones, such as those developed by the company Skydio, can easily be operated by less experienced pilots. “They are a lot easier to fly than a traditional manual drone,” according to David Buhrman, Senior Solutions Engineer.

Skydio closed $100 million in Series C funding in the summer of 2020. Shortly after that, the Defense Innovation Unit approved a version of the X2 model, along with four other drones, as trusted purchases for government customers. In the summer of 2021, the FAA granted BNSF Railway approval to remotely operate dock-based Skydio drones for BVLOS operations, including infrastructure inspection.

The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) program within Alaska’s DOT frequently employs drones to perform routine inspections of infrastructure. Ryan Marlow, UAS Program Coordinator, Statewide Aviation for the Alaska Department of Transportation (AKDOT), remarked that they perform an average of 8–12 bridge inspections each day. 

AKDOT’s UAS program team currently uses Skydio’s autonomous drones for infrastructure inspections. They have had particular success using the Skydio 3D Scan software that automates the data capture process for generating 3D models of infrastructure. “This has been a fantastic breakthrough for us—to take all of that data and visualize it, and do change detection,” Marlow shared during a webinar hosted by AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) last week.

He commented that the interface of the 3D Scan software is easy to use. “We’re seeing a lot of success with the 3D Scan with our engineers in the field.”

They first used the technology to perform an autonomous 3D scan on a pedestrian bridge over a creek in Juneau. Although the bridge had undergone numerous manual inspections, the drone captured visuals of a previously undetected structural issue that needed repair. “We were able to see something leaking out of the timbers,” Marlow said. “It allowed us to capture this environment in a way that we’d never been able to visualize.”

Skydio’s 2+ model was launched earlier this year at CES. (Photo: Skydio)

The data collected via autonomous drones is also useful for measuring changes in critical infrastructure over time, which helps the AKDOT to prioritize the most urgent repairs. 

Skydio’s UAS uses six 4K cameras working in tandem to visualize its surroundings, explained David Buhrman of Skydio. Navigation is supported by deep learning algorithms and advanced predictive artificial intelligence to make decisions. The Skydio Autonomy Enterprise enables close proximity obstacle avoidance which is particularly useful for safely capturing data during infrastructure inspections.

In 2020, North Carolina’s DOT was granted approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate Skydio drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) for bridge inspections. This followed extensive collaboration between NCDOT, Skydio, and the FAA. A key advantage of Skydio’s technology is that its drones do not require GPS, making them ideal for inspections of the more than 13,500 bridges in the state of North Carolina.

The Skydio 2 model was the company’s entry into the consumer market. They quickly realized that it would be useful for enterprise solutions. The Skydio 2+ model, an updated version, was introduced at the end of 2021. It offers “360 degrees of obstacle avoidance based on nine onboard deep neural networks,” stated Buhrman. “We use these networks to identify things like, for motion tracking, people and vehicles.”

He described the enterprise edition, Skydio X2, as an “enterprise workhorse, a ‘ruggedized’ alternative to the 2+.” The X2 model was released last year along with the Skydio Enterprise Controller. The airframe construction of the X2 is based on magnesium and carbon fiber composites, and the controller is built with high-impact plastics as well as a protective cover and built-in antenna.

Skydio’s X2 model was designed to be more rugged for providing enterprise solutions. (Photo: Skydio)

Skydio partnered with DroneDeploy a few months ago to automate the data analysis process. Imagery from the Skydio Cloud is imported to the DroneDeploy platform for immediate processing, Buhrman explained.

“Under Part 107, the FAA does require a remote pilot in command to be present with the aircraft that can see attitude, altitude, and position of the aircraft at all times,” he remarked. “There is no directive about flying in an automated fashion, as long as the pilot can take over for manual flight in an emergency situation.”

Sean Nordstrom, Product Marketing Manager for Skydio, described some of the limitations of manual drone inspections. It is challenging to operate around low bridges, for example, and it is also difficult to operate in a GPS-denied environment. “Prohibitively high pilot skill is required, and manual drones are expensive,” he said.

Enabling BVLOS drone flight is also expensive, and it is notoriously difficult to receive a waiver from the FAA for BVLOS operations. Ground-based surveillance radar, another option, is expensive as well.

Transportation and other individual state agencies throughout the U.S. have been increasingly adopting the use of drones for infrastructure and asset inspections as well.

In partnership with the nonprofit NUAIR, the New York State Thruway Authority launched a pilot program to use drones to perform highway bridge inspections. UAS have the potential to examine components of bridges and other infrastructure that would be difficult to inspect manually, according to the Federal Highway Administration. According to the NYS Thruway Authority’s announcement about the pilot program, drones may improve safety for inspectors and lower overall inspection costs. Another benefit of using UAS is the digital images and video that the aircraft can capture.

The West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) has also used drones to improve safety and efficiency in performing aggregate stockpile inspections. The department stores numerous large piles of crushed rock, gravel, and other materials for use in road building and maintenance. Having a crew physically survey and inventory the stockpiles was inefficient and dangerous.

Following an initial $25,000 investment into drone equipment and pilots, the WVDOT calculated that the savings from just one month of using drones to survey stockpiles totaled more than $343,000. Manual surveying required 15 days of work by 42 employees, whereas the same workload was completed by 7 drone pilots over 9 days.

The WVDOT may expand its drone programs to perform road safety assessments and to assist in designing new road routes by providing topographical maps.

The post How Transportation Departments Are Using Advanced Drone Technology for Infrastructure Inspections appeared first on Aviation Today.

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11 Companies Are Developing High-Speed VTOL Concepts for U.S. Air Force Research Grants

AFWERX awarded Phase 1 contracts to 11 companies for the development of high-speed vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. One of these companies, Horizon Aircraft, recently announced the successful completion of the Phase I contract. Pictured above is Horizon’s Cavorite X-series VTOL concept. (Photo, courtesy of Horizon Aircraft)

The U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX program initiated a market research program last year to encourage development of a high-speed vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The AFWERX challenge accepted submissions from more than 200 companies that designed high-speed VTOL (HSVTOL) concepts.

Eleven companies were chosen by AFWERX for a Phase 1 contract award and received financial aid. Phase 1 began in January 2022 and concluded at the end of June. Bell Textron is one of the companies selected for the Phase 1 contract. Bell, a subsidiary of Textron Inc., partnered with NASA earlier this year to demonstrate detect-and-avoid capabilities of its unmanned Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) aircraft.

Some of the other recipients of a Phase 1 contract award were Whisper, Jetoptera, Continuum Dynamics, VerdeGo Aero, Valkyrie, Transcend Air, American Aerospace Engineering, and Jaunt Air Mobility.

Dr. Reid Melville, Chief Innovation Officer at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Transformational Capabilities Office, remarked, “The HSVTOL Concept Challenge has surfaced an impressive range and caliber of solutions to help us understand how to build a new class of air vehicles.”

As revealed last week, one of the 11 recipients—Horizon Aircraft—has successfully completed Phase 1 of the challenge as it continues to develop its Cavorite X-series VTOL aircraft.

Horizon’s patented fan-in-wing design for vertical lift (Photo: Horizon Aircraft)

The HSVTOL Challenge was created to develop an aircraft capable of flying 400 knots (740 km/h) and conducting missions such as personnel extraction and aeromedical evacuation. Phase 3 of the challenge will enable development of a full-scale technical demonstrator that could replace the Air Force’s CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, which has a maximum speed of 280 knots, or about 519 km/h.

Horizon Aircraft targeted regional air mobility and journeys of 200+ miles in developing its initial concept. E. Brandon Robinson, Horizon’s CEO, noted that their patented technology is unique amongst others in the VTOL space. The vertical lift system includes a patented fan-in-wing design that enables high-speed flight and long-distance flight capabilities. “It flies 98% of its mission as a normal aircraft; you wouldn’t even know it was a VTOL,” he told Avionics International.

Horizon’s X5 Cavorite is a hybrid-electric VTOL aircraft, powered by a gas engine and advanced electric motors. It will be capable of carrying four passengers in addition to the pilot, and will have 1,100 pounds of useful load.

Regarding the HSVTOL Challenge, Robinson said, “AFWERX should be praised for accomplishing its mission. It’s designed to leverage innovative products and accelerate innovation by making these public-private partnerships accessible. And we got to accelerate our development—it’s very much a win-win scenario.”

He remarked that AFWERX’s goal is to assess new technologies and evaluate what could be used to increase overall capability. For successful companies, the HSVTOL Challenge will support further development of the selected technologies through the Phase 2 and Phase 3 contract awards over the next few years.

“AFWERX has done a fantastic job,” Robinson commented. “It was a very positive experience, and we received a lot of excellent feedback that directly helped improve our design.”

The request for proposal (RFP) for Phase 2 is expected to be issued this fall, and the 11 awardees from Phase 1 will be able to respond to the RFP. Phase 2 will provide additional non-dilutive grant financing and will take place over a nine-month period, likely starting in the first quarter of 2023.

Following Phase 2, the Phase 3 contract award will take place in the 30 months following Phase 2 to support the development of a full-scale technical demonstrator, according to Robinson.

Horizon Aircraft’s current product is a 50% scale prototype with a 22-foot wingspan and a weight of roughly 500 pounds. The full-scale version will be about 4,000 pounds.

Though the Cavorite X-series is a hybrid aircraft, Robinson says that they will develop an all-electric aircraft “when batteries get to the point where it starts to make sense at the regional level.”

CEO of Horizon, E. Brandon Robinson, pictured above with a prototype of the Cavorite X-series VTOL (Photo: Horizon Aircraft)

Horizon Aircraft has entered into technical partnerships with multiple aerospace companies, according to Robinson. The company also received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) as part of a three-year collaboration with Fleming College and Ontario Tech University. Horizon Aircraft merged with Astro Aerospace in 2021.

The post 11 Companies Are Developing High-Speed VTOL Concepts for U.S. Air Force Research Grants appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Dassault Falcon 8X Dual Head-Up Display Installation Certified by EASA, FAA

The FAA and EASA have issued regulatory approval for the installation of a dual head-up display installation in Dassault’s Falcon 8X business jet. (Photo courtesy of Dassault)

Dassault has achieved civil aviation regulatory approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the installation of a dual head-up display (HUD) modification for its Falcon 8X business jet.

The EASA and FAA approvals were issued for FalconEye, developed by Elbit Systems and first certified as in a single HUD configuration on the Falcon 2000LXS/S and 900LX in 2016. FalconEye is the industry’s first HUD to fuse separate synthetic database-driven terrain mapping and enhanced thermal and low-light camera images in the same display. It is also the first HUD to allow pilots to adjust the split between a synthetic vision system (SVS) and enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) imaging areas.

Carlos Brana, executive vice president, civil aircraft at Dassault Aviation, says the regulatory approval “results in enhanced safety and more capability for Falcons equipped with Dassault’s industry-first FalconEye technology.”

Dassault also has plans for certifying the dual HUD option on the Falcon 6X, due to enter service mid-2023, and on the ultra-long range Falcon 10X, planned for certification in late 2025. Some 8X operators have already scheduled installations for the dual HUD modification.

The French business jet manufacturer also expects the dual HUD configuration to ultimately permit the use of “an EFVS-to-land capability in near zero-zero conditions, pending new EASA regulations.”

The post Dassault Falcon 8X Dual Head-Up Display Installation Certified by EASA, FAA appeared first on Aviation Today.

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AirAsia Continues Pursuit of Future eVTOL Operations with Skyports Partnership

AirAsia has signed a one-year partnership with Skyports to study the feasibility of deploying eVTOL infrastructure in Malaysia. (Photo courtesy of AirAsia)

AirAsia has taken its latest step toward the future development of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL), signing a letter of intent (LOI) with Skyports to deploy air taxi infrastructure in Malaysia.

The partnership between Capital A Bhd.’s low cost airline subsidiary and Skyports comes following AirAsia’s launch of an Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) division and commitment to leasing 100 VX4 eVTOL aircraft from Avolon in February. Skyports, the London-based eVTOL infrastructure developer, has included a one-year partnership in the LOI where it will partner with AirAsia on feasibility studies for the deployment of eVTOL vertiports in Malaysia.

As part of its leasing agreement signed with Avolon in February, AirAsia also launched an Advanced Air Mobility division, which the airline says has tasked with establishing commercial applications for eVTOLs, drones and other emerging technologies. The division has also launched a drone pilot training program under a Certificate of Approval (COA) received from the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) in January.

Avolon’s eVTOL leasing agreement with AirAsia is the result of an order for 500 VX4 eVTOL aircraft from Vertical Aerospace placed by the Ireland-based aircraft leasing company last year.

Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A, on the left, and Dómhnal Slattery, CEO of Avolon, signed a leasing agreement for 100 VX4 eVTOL aircraft in February. (Photo courtesy of AirAsia)

Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, will be the initial focus of the eVTOL infrastructure study conducted by AirAsia and Skyports.

“Following the announcement of our venture into the urban air taxi service earlier this year, we have been working around the clock to explore its feasibility in Malaysia,” AirAsia Head of Advanced Air Mobility, Captain Ling Liong Tien, said in a statement. “This partnership with Skyports will accelerate the review of the infrastructure including vertical take-off and landing platforms in the country as well as strengthen our potential as a zero-emissions ultra-short-haul air travel provider in Southeast Asia.”

Skyports has continued to pursue partnerships with key eVTOL aircraft makers, airlines, and air navigation service providers in different cities and countries across the globe this year. The eVTOL infrastructure startup is one of the companies participating in the U.K. government-funded Advanced Mobility Ecosystem Consortium that has been awarded a £9.5 million grant to develop the “essential building blocks” of an AAM ecosystem in the U.K.

Embraer’s Eve Urban Air Mobility (UAM) subsidiary and Skyports are also part of a consortium that includes L3Harris to develop a concept of operations for future eVTOL infrastructure to be deployed in Miami.

Yun-Yuan Tay, the leader of Skyports’ Asia Pacific operations, calls AirAsia “a powerhouse airline operator that brings great synergy to our work at Skyports.”

“This partnership highlights the steady progress of AAM development and interest in Malaysia and the wider APAC region,” Tay said.

The post AirAsia Continues Pursuit of Future eVTOL Operations with Skyports Partnership appeared first on Aviation Today.

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JetBlue Expects to Close Acquisition of Spirit Airlines by 2024

JetBlue reached a new merger agreement to acquire Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion, the two airlines said in a July 28 announcement. (Photo courtesy of JetBlue)

JetBlue Airways on Thursday announced a definitive merger agreement to acquire the Spirit Airlines for $3.8 billion, an acquisition still subject to regulatory approval that the New York-based carrier expects to officially close by 2024.

The merger agreement comes a day after Spirit terminated a previous merger agreement reached with Frontier in February. If the acquisition of Spirit clears regulatory approvals, the combination would create the fifth largest airline in the U.S., behind American, Delta, United, and Southwest.

Merging the two airlines would result in an all-Airbus fleet of 458 in-service aircraft with 300 outstanding orders, JetBlue notes. According to the merger agreement, JetBlue would bring its “JetBlue Experience” to all of the aircraft in the combined operational fleet.

Robin Hayes, chief executive officer for JetBlue, said the combined carrier will “advance our shared goal of disrupting the industry to bring down fares from the Big Four airlines.”

An image posted to the Spirit Airlines Facebook page notes that under a combined operation, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines would serve 77 million total passengers. (Photo, courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

JetBlue estimates that as the fifth largest airline, it would potentially control 9% of the market for passenger-carrying commercial airline flights operated in the U.S.

Ted Christie, president and chief executive officer, Spirit, commenting on the potential merger, said it would create the “the most compelling national low-fare challenger to the dominant U.S. carriers.”

“Bringing our two airlines together will be a game changer,” Christie adds.

Once approved, the combined airline would employ 34,000 total crew members, and JetBlue has also committed to “insourcing” some of the labor that Spirit currently has outsourced in certain cities. Based on December 2022 schedules, JetBlue expects the acquisition to help expand its operations to 1,700 daily flights to more than 125 destinations in 30 countries.

The merger agreement for the two airlines comes several weeks after JetBlue announced updates on some of the slots and routes operated on its new transatlantic operations to London. Spirit also recently introduced in-flight internet service to passengers for the first time.

Both airlines will continue to operate independently until the merger clears all regulatory approvals.

The post JetBlue Expects to Close Acquisition of Spirit Airlines by 2024 appeared first on Aviation Today.

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