Air France will install Intelsat‘s 2Ku high-speed satellite In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) service on 60 of its new A220-300 aircraft. Intelsat is equipping the aircraft now and will be ready to offer the full commercial service when Air France begins using the new aircraft for its short and medium-haul destinations starting in the fall.
“We are honored to partner with Air France and delight their passengers with a superior In-Flight Connectivity experience on Airbus’ state-of-the-art A220 aircraft,” Intelsat’s President of Commercial Aviation John Wade said in a statement. “This award expands the total Intelsat fleet at Air France to 143 aircraft, including widebody B777s and A330s. Air France is the third airline partner to select Intelsat on the A220 airframe and our first 2Ku line-fit European airline partner.”
Financial details of the contract order were not disclosed. Air France is rolling out the 2Ku service on its A220 fleet in three tiers, including a free messaging-only option.
Intelsat became an IFC solutions provider after it acquired Gogo’s Commercial Aviation division in the second quarter of 2021. The operator inserted the business into it’s Network Services division, and has been benefiting from increased IFC service revenues now that they no longer have to pay Gogo as a distributor.
The operator has also benefited from the ability to build off of Gogo’s previous business relationships. This new contract with Air France follows a 2018 contract the airline signed to equip 83 aircraft with the Intelsat-powered Ku service.
Air France also utilizes IFC systems and services from Anuvum, formerly Global Eagle Entertainment and Orange Business Services under a contract the airline signed with the providers in 2018 to equip 113 Airbus A320 family aircraft. The airline expects that by 2025 it will have integrated the 60 A220-300s ordered in 2019 to gradually replace its Airbus A318s and A319s as well as several Airbus A320s, according to a Sept. 29 press release.
“The cabin is more spacious, brighter, and offers full Wi-Fi-connectivity, further contributing to the upmarket positioning of our offer,” Anne Rigail, CEO of Air France said in a statement.
The first A220-operated Air France flights are scheduled to begin Oct. 31, to Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid and Venice, with plans to gradually extend the network to Copenhagen and other locations.
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On this episode of the Connected Aviation Intelligence Podcast, we feature a discussion with Xavier Lansel, senior consultant for Euroconsult.
Xavier joins the episode to discuss some of the details featured in their recently published ninth edition of their annual in-flight connectivity market report, that provides a comprehensive analysis of the market’s global trends and forecasts for the next decade, in terms of connectivity provided to onboard passengers.
In the report, Euroconsult predicts that the number of connected aircraft could double by the end of this decade, and there will be between 16,000 and 20,000 connected aircraft by 2030. The 2021 edition shows that around 9,000 aircraft across 115 airlines are currently equipped with In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) terminals — a reduction of 2.5 percent compared to the previous year. Over 80 percent of these aircraft were connected through satellite connectivity, with the remainder connected through Air-to-Ground. The rate of new installations was much lower this year as a result of regional lockdowns, leading to difficulty in accessing aircraft.
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A new large-scale demonstration project involving Airbus, Air France and DSNA, the French Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) called “ALBATROSS,” will demonstrate how the use of four-dimensional trajectory (4DT)-based operations can reduce fuel and CO2 emission savings on flights operated by Air France and other airlines throughout European airspace.
First launched in February under the framework of a series of Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) flight trials, ALBATROSS will involve around 1,000 gate-to-gate live demonstration flights occurring combining the use of 4DT and several other airborne and ground-based procedures designed to reduce aircraft fuel burn and CO2 emissions. Many solutions will be put into practice during the flight demonstrations, from new precision approach procedures to continuous climb and descent, a more dynamic management of necessary airspace constraints, sustainable taxiing and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) usage, according to a Sept. 21 press release published by Airbus.
To mark the beginning of its Pioneering Sustainable Aerospace Summit and the project, Airbus and its partners collaborated on a demonstration flight from Paris to Toulouse Blagnac that featured the use of 4DT, continuous descent operations and single-engine taxiing among other concepts and technologies designed to make the flight more energy efficient.
“In a post-COVID world, we all realize that coming back to the normal situation will only be possible with more sustainable aviation,” Thierry Harquin, engineering senior manager in charge of ATM international cooperation at Airbus, said during the Airbus Summit on Sept. 21. “Air traffic management, ATM, is one of the four pillars identified by all aviation stakeholders in the destination 2050 roadmap to decarbonize aviation. That’s why ATM shall resolve to reduce our environmental footprint, respond to the air traffic growth, and obviously continuing to keep and improve the safety of our operations. In spite of the efforts made in the past on ATM, we can still optimize the ATM system. ATM optimization could contribute to a nation to six to 10 percent of CO2 emissions generated by aviation in Europe today.”
Airbus first started delivering A320s capable of flying 4D initial trajectory operations equipped with “FANS-C” avionics—the combination of automatic dependent surveillance contract (ADS-C) and controller to pilot data link communication (CPDLC) capabilities—to EasyJet in 2019.
4D adds the fourth element of time, progressively showing the change in an aircraft’s flight path in real time to controllers. The concept will enable airlines to optimize their aircraft’s trajectories and make traffic flows more fluid and aircraft speed easier to manage, according to Airbus. Onboard avionics necessary to enable 4D trajectory operations include new data link routers, upgraded flight management systems and data link compatible cockpit displays.
Mattia Nurisso, engineering program management for ATM at Airbus, said that the ALBATROSS project also marks a significant milestone for SESAR JU, a project criticized by airline executives in recent years for failing to make Europe’s air traffic system more efficient in the way that it manages cross-border flying.
“We will be looking at the famous 4D trajectory based operation a concept that has been maturing in SESAR we have reduced drastically the uncertainty around aircraft trajectory prediction and therefor allow our ANSPs to better control the aircraft in a more efficient way. When we talk about ground we will be showcasing hybrid towing vehicle that will allow aircraft to taxi in and taxi out without engine running which is drastically reducing the consumption of our aircraft,” Nurisso said. “We’re not talking about R&D anymore, we’re not just studying the solution anymore, we’re targeting to deploy right now so it’s really a next step with the SESAR program, we’ve been passing a lot of years studying different solutions, now it’s time to deploy.”
According to Nurisso, the goal of the ALBATROSS project isn’t necessarily to revolutionize the concept of air traffic management, instead the stakeholders involved want to take advantage of as many small incremental steps they can take to reduce CO2 emissions. That would mean using things like 4DT in the air, while also taking advantage of the a new hybrid towing vehicle for taxi assistance, “taxibot,” that will allow aircraft to use a single engine to taxi in and out of their airport slots.
Other technologies and procedures to be demonstrated in ALBATROSS include the use of “novel data analytics-based tools” that can identify tactical in-flight trajectory change opportunities that will improve their fuel efficiency on a per-flight basis. Continuous climb and descent will also be facilitated, along with new New precision approach procedures such as RNP-to-ILS and RNP-AR.
Laurent Lafontan, fight operations technical development senior vice president at Air France, participated in the launch ALBATROSS demonstration flight from Paris to Toulouse Blagnac that featured continuous descent operations.
“I was in the cockpit, and I can say that at the end of the flight, I think we saved one to five percent of CO2 emissions,” Lafontan said. “So we reduce by five percent of CO2 emissions on this flight. Why? Because it was a beautiful collaboration between airspace and air navigation services providers with dynamic management of the airspace. We were able on the ground to keep doing our single-engine taxiing. We are able, by using big data, to optimize vertical flight paths getting the most efficient flight level doing cruising and through continuous descent. When you make the addition of all these teeny things, we are able to save five percent. I think in the most efficient way, we will have been able to maybe to reduce…around seven or 10 percent of co2 emission.”
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The F-35 Joint Program Office and the Lockheed Martin-led industry team have agreed on a rebaselined program that will deliver between 133 and 156 planes in the coming years.
The rebaselining “ensures predictability and stability in the production process while recovering the aircraft shortfall realized over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lockheed Martin said on Sept. 27.
“With this agreement, Lockheed Martin is scheduled to deliver 133-139 aircraft this year, 151-153 aircraft in 2022 and anticipates delivering 156 aircraft beginning in 2023 and for the foreseeable future,” the company said.
Defense analyst Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners LLC wrote in a Sept. 27 note to investors that the expected F-35 deliveries this year “are in line with management guidance as of mid-2021.”
“The 156 level is below prior expectations for a steady-state rate of 170, but there are other factors that have to be weighed for the F-35 and more broadly for Lockheed Martin,” he wrote. “We expect the 2023 and out-year delivery level may reflect decisions about the DoD F-35 buys in the FY23-27 budget request and plan that is being finalized and absence of significant congressional add-ons to F-35 unit buys in the FY22 request and beyond. The FY22 request was for a total of 85 F-35s, down from 96 that were funded in FY21. SASC (Senate Armed Services Committee added five F-35Cs in its markup but the two House committees didn’t increase the unit buy. In FY16-21, Congress added 11-20 additional F-35s to the administration’s annual request.”
Last week, the U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $1 billion contract modification for the production and delivery of 16 F-35s in Lot 15. Those 16 include 10 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force and six F-35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who spearheaded a two-year production pause for the F-35B as Pentagon acquisition chief during the Obama administration, said that he intends to study sustainment costs for the Air Force’s F-35A and to recommend ways to reduce them.
“We’ve got to work very hard to get improvement for the F-35A,” Kendall said in response to a question at a media roundtable on Sept. 20 at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber conference. “The costs of sustainment have been high for a long time. We were able to drive them down to some extent before I left my old position, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”
This article was first published by Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics, it has been edited. Click here to view the original version.
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The Federal Aviation Administration has released final special airworthiness conditions for electric engines created by magniX, the agency announced on Sept. 27.
The special conditions, which go into effect Oct. 27, will account for the certification of magniX’s magni350 and magni650 model engines that use an electric motor, controller, and high-voltage systems as their propulsion systems.
“These engines have a novel or unusual design feature when compared to the state of technology envisioned in the airworthiness standards applicable to aircraft engines,” according to the FAA’s rule. “This design feature is an electric motor, controller, and high-voltage systems as the primary source of propulsion for an aircraft. The applicable airworthiness regulations do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for this design feature. These special conditions contain the additional safety standards that the Administrator considers necessary to establish a level of safety equivalent to that established by the existing airworthiness standards.”
During a panel at the Vertical Flight Society’s Electric Aircraft Symposium on July 21, Gary Horan, an aerospace controls systems specialist at the FAA, spoke about the agencies work with magniX on this special condition.
“We are working at the FAA…to get a special condition issued for the first project to certificate an electric engine,” Horan said. “This special condition is written around one particular company and their product, and to be honest with you, we don’t know if they’ll be the first ones to cross the finish line, but, you know, we had to pick a horse and that’s what we did.”
MagniX applied for the type certificate in April 2019. The special condition is based on the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard and is a mix of 14 CFR Part 33 standards and special conditions.
The proposed special conditions were published in the Federal Register on November 19, 2020 and received comments from 11 organizations and two individuals including Wisk Aero (Wisk), Rolls-Royce North America (Rolls-Royce), GE Aviation (GE), Ampaire Inc. (Ampaire), Textron Aviation (Textron), Associacao Das Industrias Aeroespaciais Do Brasil (AIAB), Safran Electrical & Power (Safran), Airbus Commercial Aircraft (Airbus), magniX USA, Inc. (magniX), Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
On Sept. 30, magniX was one of two companies—the other being GE Aviation—selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, support its Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) that will rapidly mature Electrified Aircraft Propulsion (EAP) technologies through ground and flight demonstrations. The total combined value for the awards is $253.4 million and the work will be conducted over the next five years.
Through the EPFD program, NASA seeks to introduce EAP technologies to U.S. aviation fleets no later than 2035, supporting short-range and regional commercial air travel, as well as single-aisle seat transports, according to the agency.
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The German urban air mobility company Volocopter has announced a joint venture company with a subsidiary of China’s Geely Technology Group, Aerofugia, to bring its UAM aircraft into China, according to a Sept. 22 release.
The announcement includes the purchase of 150 Volocopter aircraft and a member of Geely joining Volocopter’s advisory board, according to the release. The company will operate under Volocopter Chengdu.
“Geely has been a valuable partner since they became our strategic investor in 2019,” Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, said in a statement. “Today marks another important milestone on our journey to bring affordable electric air mobility to China, the biggest single market opportunity for the UAM industry. With the joint venture company up and running and Daniel Li Donghui as the new Geely representative on our Advisory Board, we are in pole position to introduce air taxi services globally in a safe, sustainable, and practical manner.”
Volocopter will also produce its aircraft in China with a contract manufacturing agreement with Volocopter Chengdu and General Aviation Manufactory Base of Geely Technology. Volocopter’s aircraft could come to mainland China in the next three to five years through this deal.
“With its establishment, Volocopter Chengdu can accelerate the deployment of air taxis and UAM business,” Jing Chao, Chairman of Volocopter Chengdu, said in a statement. “UAM is an important part of the new aviation industry, which coincides with Aerofugia’s technical route and business plan of ‘new energy, vertical landing and take-off, and autonomous driving.’ As an investor for both Aerofugia and Volocopter, Geely looks forward to Volocopter Chengdu realizing urban air mobility in the near future.”
Volocopter is developing two electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, VoloCity and VoloConnect, and a heavy-lift drone, VoloDrone.
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Airbus announced the new version of its CityAirbus electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for the urban air mobility market, CityAirbus NextGen, at its Pioneering Sustainable Aerospace summit on Sept. 21.
“We are on a quest to co-create an entirely new market that sustainably integrates urban air mobility into the cities while addressing environmental and social concerns,” said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO, in a statement. “Airbus is convinced that the real challenges are as much about urban integration, public acceptance, and automated air traffic management, as about vehicle technology and business models. We build on all of the capabilities to deliver a safe, sustainable, and fully integrated service to society.”
The new CityAirbus NextGen comes after years of development with the companies demonstrator aircraft Vahana and CityAirbus. The NextGen version has a distributed propulsion system powered by eight electrical-powered propellers, a V-shaped tail, and fixed wings. It will have zero emissions and be capable of carrying four passengers.
“This is our fully electric four-seater,” Joerg P. Mueller, head of urban air mobility at Airbus, said during the summit. “It’s designed to the highest certification standards, in this case, its EASA SC-VTOL, and this is our answer to the urban mobility market that we see out there.”
Mueller said the eVTOL will utilize rotorcraft technology while still getting the advantages of aerodynamic flight with its wing.
“This is a rotorcraft so we using rotorcraft technology and rotorcraft capabilities, but it has a wing as well so it has an aerodynamic flight component,” Mueller said.
While the aircraft has a wing, it does not tilt. Mueller said the intent behind this is to keep the aircraft simple and efficient.
“It’s featuring a wing, it has no movable surfaces and no tilting parts,” Mueller said. “That’s very important because it makes it relatively simple and efficient still while providing a significant forward flight performance.”
Because this aircraft is intended to fly near where people work and live, Airbus has focused on limiting noise emissions. The CityAirbus NextGen will emit 65 decibels while flying and 70 decibels when landing, Mueller said.
“Noise is fundamental for such a design,” Mueller said. “We have run a number of test benches where we have set up propellers of different shapes and plate numbers, and we’ve optimized the design in that way. We have even overflown an urban area, have measured the propagation of sound in this city, and the effect it has on people on the ground, together with partners that allows us as well to see in which sense we need to optimize in such a vehicle.”
Airbus is aiming to launch its eVTOL with a range of 80 kilometers with speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour. According to Mueller, they will be able to reach 95 percent of targeting missions with their design.
“That allows us relatively simple design, while still providing a significant time advantage for the traveler that overflies a city and is often stuck in traffic,” Mueller said. “Traffic jams can be below 10 kilometers an hour average speed, so overflying them, shortcutting, and having a certain flight speed will allow you to provide really a significant advantage. We try to keep the vehicle as light as possible also to keep the hurdles manageable.”
Airbus plans to fly a prototype of the CityAirbus NextGen by 2023. They are also predicting certification by 2025.
“We have set a goal to fly a prototype by 2023 and this prototype will pave the way for certification that could be as early as 2025, roughly, with a successive entry into service there after building up all the ecosystem and everything that’s needed to make an urban mobility service viable,” Mueller said.
Brazil’s largest airline GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A. is planning to launch an electric air taxi network in Brazil following the acquisition of 250 aircraft from aircraft leasing company Avolon, according to a Sept. 21 press release from the company.
Grupo Comporte, a shareholder, will provide the investment for the project.
The airline will use Vertical Aerospace’s VA-X4 electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. In June, Avolon ordered 500 aircraft from Vertical Aerospace in a deal totaling $2 billion. GOL plans to launch its network in mid-2025 after the aircraft is certified, according to the release.
The VA-X4 has a range of over 100 and can reach speeds up to 200 mph. The aircraft will have a five-person capacity and is expected to be certified in 2024. Rolls-Royce is building the electric power system for Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL aircraft, the company announced in March.
GOL is planning to use the eVTOL network to open new routes to underserved domestic markets, according to the release. The eVTOL aircraft are also part of GOL’s strategy to reach carbon neutrality by 2020.
The partnership will begin with a feasibility study on aircraft certification and infrastructure.
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Telespazio, a satellite launch and in-orbit control services joint venture between Thales and Leonardo, has selected the Hughes Network Systems HeloSat helicopter satellite communications (SATCOM) system for Leonardo helicopters, the companies announced Monday.
The SATCOM solution will provide connectivity for Leonardo helicopters operating commercial and military missions across Italy and Europe, according to Hughes.
The HeloSat system has demonstrated the ability to enable in-flight full motion video and high throughput data. HeloSat consists of a Hughes HM100 gateway and HM400 modem. The system was validated in 2020, when Hughes performed multiple demonstrations on Black Hawk helicopters.
Telespazio said that HeloSat will be installed on helicopters like the Leonardo SW-4 Solo optionally piloted/rotorcraft uncrewed system, to enable connectivity through-the-rotor using the Athena-Fidus Ka-band satellite capacity via the Telespazio ground station in Fucino, Italy.
Italiana Ponti Radio, a radio frequency communications supplier based in Varese, Italy, will also contribute a 12-inch Ka band antenna to the project.
The option of HeloSat as a new connectivity-enabler for Leonardo’s helicopters marks the latest step in the Italian rotorcraft manufacturer’s efforts to provide better in-flight data services for helicopter operators, following their progress in 2020 with advancing predictive maintenance for their customers.
In a Sept. 20 press release, Alessandro Caranci, vice president and head of Telespazio’s SATCOM division said that the HeloSat system’s advanced waveform is capable of delivering “multi-megabit-per-second speeds through rotary blades without packet loss.”
“Our approach was to solve all problems connected with satellite avionics solutions by providing teleport services, on-board satellite antennas, baseband technology and space capacity on the satellites most suited to the proposal,” Caranci said. “When we searched for a technology that could ensure connectivity under the rotor of a helicopter we asked our strategic partner Hughes for a proof of concept; together with them we designed a solution that is currently unique in the market.”
This article was first published by Via Satellite, a sister publication to Avionics, check out the original version here.
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BETA Technologies announced a new partnership with CAE for pilot and maintenance technician training for its ALIA electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, according to a Sept. 15 press release.
The program will be developed to meet the specific needs of BETA’s eVTOL and will be built alongside the aircraft’s certification journey, according to the release.
“CAE has a rich history in participating in the development and launch of many innovative aircraft,” Kyle Clark, founder and CEO at BETA, said in a statement. “Flying and maintaining electric aircraft requires an understanding of electric systems and flight dynamics that are new to aviation. Our team is thrilled to be bringing in CAE’s expertise into the fold as we work hand in hand to teach the next generation of pilots and mechanics the unique aspects of flying and maintaining electric aircraft.”
ALIA uses a distributed direct-drive electric propulsion system with eight lifting motors for lifting and two internal motors for cruising. BETA plans to certify its eVTOL under Part 23 with the Federal Aviation Administration. The company already received military airworthiness from the Air Force, becoming the first manned electric aircraft to do so. BETA claims to have flown over 200 miles with its manned full-scale test aircraft.
CAE has been advocating for eVTOL manufacturers to start considering their pilot training programs in order to meet predicted launch dates.
“It’s really, really important, if the OEMs, want to get their aircraft into service on time, that they’re thinking about this training piece, two to three years out is what we’re suggesting right now,” Christopher Courtney, director of advanced air mobility at CAE, said during a call with reporters on July 7. “We have been doing this for a very long time, so we know what it takes to get there and the last thing you want is a cool we’re getting closer and closer and now we’ve got to figure out how to develop a simulator training program…and it’s going to cause delays.”
CAE and Volocopter also have a partnership to develop a pilot training program.
“CAE is a high technology solutions company at the leading edge of digital immersion, and we are committed to supporting the continuing needs of BETA and its operators throughout the lifecycle of the program,” Nick Leontidis, CAE’s Group President of Civil Aviation Training Solutions, said in a statement. “This marks the first step to what we believe will be a long-term partnership with BETA, and another example of our commitment to future aviation technologies and sustainability”.
BETA recently announced $368 million in new funding from investors including Fidelity Management & Research Company, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, and RedBird Capital. The company already has deals in the passenger market with Blade Urban Air Mobility, the logistics market with UPS, and the medical market with United Therapeutics.