Lawmakers introduced new legislation Thursday that would establish a blender’s tax credit for using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent.
The Sustainable Skies Act was introduced by representatives Bradley Schneider (D-IL), Dan Kildee (D-MI), and Julia Brownley (D-CA) and would establish a $1.50 per gallon tax credit for SAF that reduces emissions by 50 percent. If the reduction is over 50 percent, $0.01 is added for every percentage point maxing out at $2.
“Airlines have made sustainability commitments to reduce the carbon emissions, and the SAF industry has demonstrated its preparing to meet that demand,” Schneider said during a press call announcing the legislation. “But there is a clear need for federal investment to help SAF producers scale up and ensure aviation can meet their goals. This tax legislation represents a well-calibrated well-timed effort to kickstart SAF’s long-term viability. Our legislation enjoys the support of the aviation industry, the environmental community, fuel producers, and organized labor. The Sustainable Skies Act represents a pragmatic focused approach to reducing aviation’s carbon emissions.”
The legislation qualifies SAF as a liquid fuel that consists of synthesized hydrocarbons and meets the requirements of ASTM International Standards. It also specifies that to qualify for the tax credit SAF cannot be derived from palm fatty acid distillates, which have been shown to be harmful to the environment. These fuels must be produced in sustainable pathways and follow the guidelines instituted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Nathaniel Keohane, Environmental Defense Fund’s senior vice president for climate, expressed support of these safeguards during the call.
“We’re also excited about the broader environmental safeguards,” Keohane said. “The bill includes rigorous sustainability criteria and relies on traceability information requirements that the US government helps to put in place in the UN body, ICAO…or requirements that will be equivalent to that sort of stringency and the integrity of those requirements to ensure that only the highest integrity fuels get the tax credit. That will ensure for example that biofuels from the deforested lands don’t qualify this. That is a really critical aspect.”
Keohane also stressed the importance of this legislation following the COVID-19 pandemic which has put a strain on airlines.
“As economies reopen as demand for flights and all that they bring and the airlines come back, it’s really important that we take this moment to be forward-thinking put climate change at the center of the airlines’ recovery,” Keohane said. “The Sustainable Skies Act not only supports sustainable aviation fuels, but it does so in a way that creates the right incentives. It’s performance-based. It’s designed to exclude…some of the most problematic pathways in the past, palm oil, soy, rapeseed, and so on. It’s designed to that the incentive grows with the carbon benefit. The bigger the climate benefit, the bigger is the tax credit, and I think that’s a critical design feature.”
Airlines are already showing strong support for the legislation. A letter of support signed by over 60 organizations including American Airlines, Boeing, Delta, FedEx Express, JetBlue Airways, Southwest, and United, expressed support for passing and enacting the legislation.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby participated in the call announcing the legislation and stressed the importance of industry working with climate organizations.
“One of the important things today is, I hope, the start of a new trend where you see industry, represented by me, arm and arm with the Environmental Defense Fund…that is about finding genuine solutions instead of fighting each other,” Kirby said. “There are some industries, like aviation, that are going to be hard to decarbonize.”
Kirby said United is taking multiple initiatives to decarbonize its operations, however, he argued that SAF would be extremely important because of its ability to fuel large aircraft.
“We’re doing a lot at United for electric aircraft and hydrogen-fueled aircraft, but the truth is they don’t have the energy density to fly bigger planes long distances,” Kirby said. “So how do we decarbonize an industry that needs jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel is by far the number one alternative for us to do that.”
Brownley, who sits on the select committee on the climate crisis and the aviation subcommittee on the transportation and infrastructure committee, echoed the importance of SAF in decarbonization efforts
“SAF can both reduce emissions by up to 80 percent over traditional fuels and be dropped into the fuel tanks of existing aircraft,” Brownley said. “It can provide an immediate climate impact to our existing aviation system. All that’s missing is crucial government support to help grow the burgeoning SAF industry at the pace needed to meet our climate goals.”
Kildee said the Sustainable Skies Act takes climate change seriously because it targets that accounts for almost 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“We know climate change is real. It’s a present danger to our country and we’ve got to do all we can do to address it,” Kildee said. “That’s why I’m proud to support the Sustainable Skies Act. It takes the threat of climate change seriously by addressing one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters, and that’s jet fuel. Commercial aviation accounts for roughly 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly all of which comes from the combustion of jet fuel. The Sustainable Skies Act would incentivize companies to use sustainable aviation fuels, SAF. Low carbon synthetic jet fuel is made with safe and sustainable materials, which create lower greenhouse gas emissions and that’s the goal.”
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The development of advanced air mobility vehicles is opening doors for the use of aircraft in new ways. While the use of drones for civilian and commercial missions is not widespread yet, there are some projects exploring their use and showing the world how these aircraft could be utilized. In Africa, some organizations, such as VillageReach, have started using drones for medical supplies.
VillageReach is an NGO working to improve the way health products like vaccines, medicines, and laboratory samples are transported in developing countries, Oliver Defawe, director of health systems at Village Reach, explained in a May 18 webinar.
“This operation not only allows us and the governments to get experience with drone technology, but they also help generate hard evidence in data on the benefits on the supply chain performance and cost,” Defawe said.
Phase one of using drones in this project concerned safety and feasibility testing. VillageReach had to get permission to import and use the drones and explore the costs and benefits of implementing them into the system.
“The first challenge that we took was on designing, implementing, and scaling a new supply chain model that got vaccines to the children in an extremely rural and hard to reach area in Mozambique,” Defawe said.
This phase also included evaluating which technology would be used in the project. VillageReach put out a global request for proposals to select a drone partner, Defawe said. The chosen partner, Swoop Aero, also had to conduct test flights and train staff on drone operations.
VillageReach then expanded its focus to the system which the drones would support, Defawe said.
“From there we have extended into a broader mandate around supporting the system delivering medicines supplies,” Defawe said. “VillageReach is made of professionals with extensive expertise in supply chain, health workforce and development, digital health technology, and data analytics. These components are all developed out of our strong belief that the system that delivers most include not just the supply side but also the data in the system that drives demand.”
Defawe said the project has had mixed successes five years in. They were able to deliver 25 kilograms of vaccines and syringes to five rural health areas to immunize 470 children, complete 80 kilometer round trips at 115 kilometers per hour reducing transport times from three hours to just 20 minutes and maintain a cold chain.
“This has lasted five years, almost six now, when mixed with successes,” Defawe said. “Like in the DR Congo, with the first drone supported vaccination session in West and Central Africa… but also setbacks. But at the end, the experience made village reach one of the most know-how partners in the drone delivery space and is allowing us to lead the way on the international stage.”
One of the biggest issues they have had during this project was the loss of connectivity, Defawe said. However, they have built redundancies into the system allowing the drone to switch from cellular to satellite communications to prevent these problems.
VillageReach currently has six drones that fly 10 hours a day for six days a week.
“We’re slowly scaling up a bit with our technical partner,” Defawe said. “We are currently delivering through this region using up to six drones, six days a week, 10 hours a day, and I can tell you it’s not easy. It’s quite challenging. Remember, the conditions where we work…Those assets are flying constantly. They can get worn out and pilots are getting worn out.”
However, this was not a surprise to VillageReach and they were prepared for these challenges. Defawe said they use 3D printers to print replacement parts for the drones.
“This is an example of how what VillageReach does,” Defawe said. “We really work to adapt to the context and the conditions and make things work by thinking out of the box.”
The COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity for technology like drones to fill gaps in health systems to ensure more equitable access.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made visible to the global community that health inequities are a universal reality,” Defawe said. “…As the attention is now turning to how we can ensure equitable access to essential health materials, such as the COVID-19 vaccines, drones provide a potential avenue for ensuring that everyone, no matter where they live, has access to high-quality health care.”
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NASA’s Langley Research Center (LaRC) and the Longbow Group are collaborating on a concept of operations (ConOps) for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) unmanned aerial system (UAS) flight corridors in Virginia through the Space Act Agreement (SAA), the agency announced in a May 17 release.
The ConOps created by NASA and Longbow will support BVLOS operations from LaRC’s City Environment Range Testing for Autonomous Integrated Navigation (CERTAIN) and Longbow’s Unmanned Systems Research and Technology Center (USRTC) at Fort Monroe in Virginia, according to the release.
Besides the ConOps, the agreement will also include developing supporting infrastructure and data sharing requirements. According to the agency, possible research between the two partners could include UAS Traffic Management, supplemental data service, surveillance radars, meteorological systems, data networks, and data and command and control communications.
“NASA Langley is pleased to collaborate with LONGBOW to develop a ConOps for a beyond visual line-of-sight corridor and potential follow-on collaboration,” Lou Glaab, High Density Vertiplex (HDV) project tech lead. “When implemented, these efforts will enable the UAM ecosystem prototype assessment with longer, more complex flight routes, within the HDV subproject for AAM along with establishing operational credit for an array of advanced NASA technologies.”
The HDV project’s goal is to create an urban air mobility (UAM) ecosystem with small UAS in place of large UAS and perform testing with the Federal Aviation Administration for BVLOS flights at LaRC, according to the release.
The city of Hampton, Virginia, Raytheon, and Hampton University will all contribute researchers and support for Longbow.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to support this project and work with the researchers at NASA Langley in collaboration with Hampton University, City of Hampton and Raytheon,” Marco Sterk, LONGBOW’s President and CEO, said in a statement. “It takes a community to build a community, and that is so true when it comes to developing a local self-supporting eco-system, involving industry, government and academia.”
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BETA Technologies received $368 million during a new funding round from new and returning investors who included Fidelity Management & Research Company, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, and RedBird Capital, the company announced on March 18.
BETA is developing an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft called ALIA which uses a distributed direct-drive electric propulsion system, has a wingspan of 50 feet, and a range of 250 nautical miles, according to BETA’s website.
“We’re gratified for the confidence this diverse group of investors has placed in our team as we continue on our mission to transform how people and goods move about the world,” Kyle Clark, BETA’s Founder and CEO, said in a statement. “These funds allow us to continue hiring the best talent, meet aggressive certification milestones, ramp up production of ALIA, and accelerate the rollout of an extensive high-speed universal charging infrastructure.”
Amazon’s investment in BETA through its Climate Pledge Fund follows the company’s goal of having over 100,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, according to a blog post from the company. Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund has also invested in other eVTOL companies like ZeroAvia.
“We support BETA Technologies’ mission to reshape air transportation through zero-emission aviation and are proud to invest in them through Amazon’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund,” Kara Hurst, vice president and head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon, said in the post. “The development of sustainable and decarbonizing technologies will help facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy and protect the planet for future generations.”
BETA said they will use the new funding to refine ALIA’s electric propulsion systems and controls and to construct manufacturing facilities while the company is working on gaining certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
This new funding follows a busy year of developments and partnerships from BETA starting with an interstate flight with ALIA from Plattsburgh, NY to South Burlington VT in March. In early April UPS purchased 10 of BETA’s eVTOL aircraft and later in the month BETA expanded into the passenger market with a partnership with Blade Urban Air Mobility. Then in May, ALIA received the first Air Force airworthiness approval for human flight in electric aircraft. BETA has also partnered with United Therapeutics to transport its synthetic organs for human transplant.
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Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) announced a new partnership with Toulouse-based electronic wiring interconnection system (EWIS) supplier Latécoère Interconnection Systems to develop the aircraft manufacturer’s first Light Fidelity (Li-Fi) in-flight entertainment (IFE) monitor on the first day of the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition’s (EBACE) 2021 online forum.
According to a May 17 press release, the two companies are developing the next generation “ACJ Smart Li-Fi Monitor,” with the goal of having it certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) before the end of the year. The monitor will usher in a new generation of cabin IFE technology for the business jet division of Airbus, as it will also feature Bluetooth, casting, mirroring, videoconferencing, and Wi-Fi all embedded inside a single screen without the need for an associated computing box or server.
Latécoère Interconnection Systems, the EWIS division of parent company Latécoère group, has been gradually expanding tripling and testing of smart LiFI monitor technology for air transport jets in recent years, starting with its demonstration of a Li-FI IFE cabin mockup at the 2019 Paris Air Show. Shortly after that demonstration, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Netherlands-based lighting supplier Signify and South Korean aerospace and defense manufacturer Hunted Technologies for the supply of Li-Fi data communications electronics and software.
Now, the Airbus partnership gives Latécoère a new line-fit deal across every Airbus corporate jet type, with the exception of the new ACJ Two Twenty. The newest business jet version of tLatécoère Airbus A220 will be approved for the new technology at a later date, Benoit Defforge, president of Airbus Corporate Jets, told Avionics International in an emailed statement.
“Li-Fi stands for Light Fidelity and it is a wireless communication device which uses light to transmit data in a safe, cyber-secure, and agile way,” Defforge said.
Light from specialized LED bulbs serves as the data transmission medium for a Li-Fi system in the same way radios, modems and antennas transmit data in Wi-Fi systems, according to Latécoère’s description of the technology.
“We did implement it on our Smart Li-Fi Monitor to be ready for the next generation of communication systems. As an integrated module, the Li-Fi equipment/module draws its power directly from the Smart LiFi Monitor. As it is a low power device, it does not need any specific power line coming from the aircraft,” Defforge said.
Defforge said the Li-Fi IFE system will be a single monitor replacement as an upgrade on the existing family of Airbus corporate jets.
“All in all, the only IFEC element that needs to be replaced, in order to enable this upgrade, is the monitor currently installed in the cabin,” Defforge said. “It is an all-in-one equipment ready-to-use and integrates an intuitive, easy to use and fully customizable interface, a real 4K display and unique smart functionalities like: multiple connectivity devices, powerful processing, and a 2 Tb storage capacity. The Smart Li-Fi Monitor is an easy plug-and-play equipment that fits with all the existing IFEC solutions with no necessary removal.”
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Volocopter, the German urban air mobility (UAM) company, is releasing its second electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft design geared towards more passenger capacity and longer range flights to connect suburbs to cities, the company announced on May 17.
VoloConnect will be a four-seat aircraft that will use a hybrid lift and push design with six lifting electrical motors and rotors and two propulsive fans, according to Volocopter. It will have a max cruise speed of 250 kilometers per hour and a range of 100 kilometers with today’s battery technology.
In comparison, VoloCity is designed for inner-city use and has a two-passenger capacity with a max cruise speed of around 100 kilometers per hour and 35 kilometers of range, according to Volocopter. VoloCity uses 18 rotors and nine lithium-ion batteries to power its flights. This aircraft was debuted by the company in 2019 and has already flown at an international airport in Helsinki and Singapore.
“VoloConnect embodies the next dimension of our mission to offer affordable, efficient, and sustainable flight mobility solutions for cities around the globe,” Florian Reuter, Volocopter CEO, said in a statement. “Leveraging customer insights from our existing VoloCity and VoloDrone, VoloConnect’s capacity to support longer missions and higher payloads serves another strong growing market demand.”
The certification for this aircraft will be under the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’s special condition for VTOL enhanced 10-9. According to Volocopter, the VoloConnect has been two years in the making and the company has already filed multiple patents for its technology. Volocopter is expecting to achieve certification for VoloConnect in the next five years.
VoloConnect will be added to Volocopter’s UAM ecosystem which includes VoloCity, an eVTOL, VoloDrone, a heavy-lift drone, and VoloIQ, a digital platform. Like other aircraft, VoloConnect will be integrated with VoloIQ.
“We are confident that this aircraft family, and the years of experience and leading innovation on which it’s founded, will pioneer the way for electric UAM services to launch commercially and internationally,” Reuter said.
Volocopter said they have already flown multiple scaled prototypes of VoloConnect and are working towards tests with full-scale prototypes.
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Engineers at California-based Global Eagle Entertainment recently completed network simulations evaluating the efficiency of their Ka-band in-flight connectivity terminal’s ability to operate over Telesat’s Lightspeed low-earth orbit (LEO) network.
According to a May 10 press release, Telesat, the Canadian satellite communications company, used the network simulations to determine how Global Eagle’s Airconnect antenna could support in-flight applications like online gaming and cloud-hosted applications. The two companies have been working toward delivering aircraft connectivity from Telesat’s 300-satellite LEO network—which is on track to be ready for service by the end of 2023—since first establishing a partnership in 2018.
Testing in multi-orbit configurations reportedly achieved round-trip latency of 19 milliseconds (ms), compared to ”traditional geostationary satellite (GEO) networks which experience over 600ms of latency,” according to Global Eagle.
“Achieving this critical milestone lays the foundation for the eventual certification of our Airconnect Ka solution on the Telesat Lightspeed constellation,” Mike Pigott, vice president of connectivity for Global Eagle said in the release. “Since 2018, our partnership with Telesat has demonstrated the smooth transition from existing GEO satellite networks to LEO satellites inflight. We now have the confidence to begin installations this year.”
Global Eagle currently uses the Airconnect antenna on Telesat’s existing GEO satellite network. The latest progress on the Global Eagle-Telesat aircraft LEO connectivity partnership comes less than a year after Global Eagle filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. In March, Global Eagle announced the addition of four new executives to its leadership team, including former SmartSky Networks Chief Commercial Officer Nancy Walker.
Kate Santoro has been appointed the new Vice President, Legal & General Counsel, and Hope Groves as Vice President, Content Technology. Additionally, Estibaliz Asiain has been promoted to Senior Vice President, Commercial – Media & Content.
Telesat is one of the uniquely positioned global operators of satellites that has primarily been involved in providing IFC service through backhaul agreements with aviation service providers who make equipment and service available to operators. Their aviation service provider partnership list includes Global Eagle, Gogo, and Panasonic Avionics.
“With Global Eagle’s Ka terminal evolution, airlines can be confident that they are future-proofing their connectivity decisions today,” Telesat’s Erwin Hudson, vice president, LEO, said in a statement. “Collaborating with future-focused companies like Global Eagle will enable us to achieve our goal of transforming inflight connectivity with the Telesat Lightspeed network.”
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Check out the May 16 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines and updates happening across the global aerospace industry.
Delta Air Lines achieved the highest passenger satisfaction ranking among North American carriers featured in a new J.D. Power Associates study published last week.
According to the study, this is the first time Delta, with a customer satisfaction score of 860, has ranked highest in the study since 1995. Southwest Airlines ranked second at 856, followed by Alaska with 850. The consumer insights firm uses eight factors (in alphabetical order): aircraft; baggage; boarding; check-in; cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; and reservation, to rank airline passenger satisfaction.
“The study measures passenger satisfaction among both business and leisure travelers and is based on responses from 2,309 passengers. Passengers needed to have flown on a major North America airline within the past month of completing a survey. The study was fielded from August 2020 through March 2021,” according to the study.
“The airline industry adapted to a most unusual year by simplifying ticketing processes, waiving change fees and baggage fees which were key to persuading people to fly during the pandemic,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power said in a May 12 press release. “Airline personnel rose to meet the challenges of a drastically altered travel environment. Maintaining that level of flexibility and recognition of individual passenger needs will be a strategic advantage for airlines that want to set themselves apart in passenger satisfaction as travel volumes start to recover.”
Alaska Airlines is exercising options on 13 new Boeing 737 MAX and 17 Embraer 175 jets in an effort to meet a projected return in demand for domestic travel over the next year, according to a May 12 press release.
“Alaska expects domestic travel to return to pre-COVID levels by the summer of 2022,” the airline said in the new release.
“Regional aircraft play a huge role in Alaska’s growing network,” said Nat Pieper, senior vice president of fleet, finance and alliances. “As our network expands, regional aircraft connect smaller communities to our larger hubs providing critical feed to assist in the development of new markets.”
The airline also announced a new nonstop service to Belize City, Belize, in Central America from the West Coast. Belize will be the fourth country Alaska flies to from its West Coast hubs, joining Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica.
Aircraft landing and departing from Munich Airport in Germany will have new refueling options for “green kerosene” starting June 1, according to a May 6 press release.
“This means that sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) can now be delivered, stored and refueled at Munich Airport, provided they meet the relevant quality specifications for Jet-A1 aviation fuel. The tank farm, which is supplied with fuel by various oil companies on behalf of the airlines, is thus also permitted to receive deliveries of SAF blends, i.e. conventional paraffin with an admixture of renewable fuels,” according to the release.
The SAFs will be made available to airlines through a new fuel depot opening up at Munich Airport, to be operated by Skytanking Munich GmbH & Co. KG.
“By approving our refueling facilities for Sustainable Aviation Fuel, we are enabling airlines to reduce their CO2 emissions on flights from Munich by using sustainable aviation fuels,” Jost Lammers, CEO of Munich Airport, said in the release. “‘Green fuels’ have a key role to play on the way to a complete decarbonization of air transport. We expect the share of these sustainable fuels in total energy consumption in aviation to increase continuously in the coming years.”
The U.S. Navy has chosen a Naval Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (N-MRO) solution from Lockheed Martin and IFS to complete a digital transformation of multiple legacy systems into a modernized logistics information system, according to a May 12 release.
“Our goal is to provide capabilities that create real value across the Navy’s complex, multi-site operations and optimize its mission-critical maintenance processes,” Reeves Valentine, Lockheed Martin Vice President of Enterprise Sustainment Solutions, said in a statement. “We want to empower Navy personnel with tools that are easy and effective to use with intuitive interfaces, streamlined workflows and timesaving, intelligent features. IFS distinguished itself by providing all of these capabilities through a single, commercial-off-the-shelf solution.”
The solution, Total Asset Readiness, uses artificial intelligence, digital twin capabilities, and predictive analytics for maintenance, repair, and overhaul of over 3,000 aircraft, ships, and land-based equipment, according to the release.
“We are proud to be part of N-MRO, which will set a new global standard for Total Asset Readiness and the way defense organizations manage asset maintenance and logistics, both ashore and afloat,” Scott Helmer, President of Aerospace & Defense at IFS, said in a statement. “A&D has been a key focus industry at IFS for decades and this landmark deal stands as testament to the success of our long-term strategy and determination. Working with Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy, we are already making great strides and look forward to a long and successful collaboration.”
The new Ka-32A11M from Russian Helicopters will make its debut at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon in July, according to a May 12 press release.
The new aircraft will feature a new glass cockpit with an avionics system, VK-2500PS-02 engines, and a new fire extinguishing system, according to the release.
“Ka-32 is recognized all over the world as one of the best helicopters for firefighting work,” Andrey Boginsky, Director General of Russian Helicopters, said in a statement. “Nevertheless, even the best models need timely modernization. We have managed to preserve the outstanding flight performance of the model, supplementing it with modern avionics and a new, more efficient and multifunctional fire extinguishing system. A prototype of Ka-32A11M will be present at the MAKS-2021 air show and we are planning to start supplying the aircraft as early as next year.”
The ongoing tactical aircraft (TACAIR) study by the U.S. Air Force, the Joint Staff, and the Pentagon office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) may offer a range of future fighter options for the U.S. Air Force to replace its F-16 fighters and neck down from the service’s seven current fighter types–the Lockheed Martin F-16, F-35A, and F-22 and the Boeing F-15C, F-15D, F-15E and A-10.
“I’m really looking for a window of options because the facts and assumptions based on threat will change over time, but I want to get us shaped in a direction because right now we have seven fighter fleets,” Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown told the McAleese and Associates’ FY2022 Defense Programs conference on May 12.
“My intent is to get down to about four,” he said. “With that four, what is the right mix? Really, a four plus one because we’re going to have the A-10 for a while, as we re-wing the A-10. I look at NGAD [Next Generation Air Dominance], F-35, which will be the cornerstone [of the future fighter fleet]; F-15EX; we will have F-16s for a while as well. It will be something that will replace the F-16, whether it’s additional F-35s or something else into the future. But I don’t need to make that decision today. That’s probably six, seven, eight years away. What we need to do is shaping the thought process and realize I can’t do this in one budget year. This is why the collaboration with Congress is so important. I’ve got to lay this out with some analysis and have a conversation of where we’re headed and then at the same time work with industry and internal to the building.”
The European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE) returns to an online format for the second consecutive year as COVID-19 will again postpone Europe’s largest business aviation trade show.
On May 17, EBACE Connect will host online press conferences with Airbus Corporate Jets, Milano Prime and Volocopter among others.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating a May 12 mid-air collision involving a Cirrus SR-22 airplane and a Swearingen Metroliner airplane near Centennial Airport, Denver. Federal officials say that there were no injuries in the collision, and have conducted interviews with both of the pilots involved.
Both aircraft were operating under Part 91 general aviation rules, according to NTSB. The Cirrus was on a local flight from Centennial and the Metroliner was repositioning from Salida, Colorado.
“We are working to understand how and why these planes collided,” said John Brannen, an air safety Investigator from the NTSB’s Central Region office said in a May 13 press release. “It is so fortunate that no one was injured in this collision.”
Wheels Up, a private aviation brand focused on making private air travel accessible, appointed Vinayak Hegde as its new chief marketplace officer, according to a May 11 press release.
Hegde previously worked for Amazon and Airbnb and has more than two decades of experience in the technology and digital sector, according to the release. In his new role at Wheels Up, Hegde will focus on strategy and execution of initiatives across the brand’s marketplace.
“I am thrilled to be joining Wheels Up during this pivotal time for the Company,” Hegde said in a statement. “Wheels Up is a pioneer in the private aviation industry in so many ways and I am looking forward to accelerating the marketplace growth and expanded adoption. The team has developed a strong foundation and together we will realize the vision of its potential.”
The National Business and Aviation Association (NBAA) says demand for its upcoming convention, the 2021 Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) is strong among exhibitors and attendees, according to a May 10 press release.
“NBAA-BACE 2021 is shaping up to be a special event,” Ed Bolen, association president and CEO, said in a statement. “Although a small number of companies are not participating in trade shows this year, we’re thrilled that nearly all the leading companies in business aviation will be at NBAA-BACE, some in a very big way.”
The event, which is scheduled for Oct. 12-14 in Las Vegas, NV, has almost sold out its exhibit floor, according to the release. NBAA also states that a recent survey showed 88 percent of attendees wanting to attend live events in the fall.
“NBAA-BACE will be a celebration of innovation, technology, sustainability, workforce development – essentially all-things business aviation,” Bolen said. “It will be a truly transformative week, as we come together to unite with each other and ignite the imagination.”
The Asian Sky Group’s 2020 Fleet Report named Sino Jet as Asia’s largest business jet operator for the second year in a row, according to a May 7 press release.
Sino Jet’s fleet contains 47 business jets and grew in size despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the release.
Royal Mail has started a trial of beyond visual line of sight autonomous drone flights between the UK mainland and the Isles of Scilly to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 test kits, and other mail, according to a May 10 press release. The trial also achieved another first by completely parcel deliveries across the Scillies.
“Two more major UK firsts is hugely significant for us, and we are incredibly proud to find ways to support the more remote and isolated communities we serve,” Nick Landon, Chief Commercial Officer at Royal Mail, said. ‘This is part of our constant drive to incorporate the best and most innovative technologies into our network. We’ve seen a huge increase in parcel volumes since the start of the pandemic, and this is just one of the ways we are looking to support our postmen and postwomen in delivering fast and convenient services for all of our customers while reducing our carbon emissions.”
The trial will use Windracers Limited drones and the drone delivery arm of Skyports, according to the release.
“It’s been a privilege and an honor to serve the Isles of Scilly and Royal Mail’s customers and employees with our autonomous, 100kg over 1,000-kilometre, ULTRA UAV,” Charles Scales, Chief Executive Officer at Windracers, said in a statement. “The ULTRA platform was designed to supply and serve people in remote locations, whether to children in need of medical or food aid in a country as large as South Sudan, or to serve island communities within our home shores. This project has proven the efficiency and robustness of ULTRA, with each round trip being 211km and being completed in less than two hours. With our unique CAA permissions, this will be the first time a large, economic, load carrying UAV is used between the Isles of Scilly and mainland Cornwall in a month-long trial.”
North Dakota’s statewide unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) network, Vantis, will begin testing and validation with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), who administers the network, according to a May 4 press release.
“Safety is always our number one priority,” Trevor Woods, director of safety for NPUASTS and Vantis, said in a statement. “Vantis is blazing a new trail in UAS operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”
Vantis’ infrastructure will use radars, ADS-B receivers, and command and control radios to allow UAS to fly beyond visual line of sight within the network, according to the release.
“We work closely with the FAA on every step of this process,” Nicholas Flom, executive director of NPUASTS and Vantis, said in a statement. “It’s an ideal partnership because we have a shared goal of achieving BVLOS flights that are scalable, repeatable, and economically viable.”
Google Cloud has signed a deal with SpaceX to connect its Starlink internet constellation to Google’s cloud services. Under the deal Google announced Thursday, SpaceX will locate Starlink ground stations within Google data center properties and connect Starlink to Google Cloud’s infrastructure.
Google Cloud’s private network will support Starlink internet service to business and consumers. Google said that this combination will support public sector agencies and businesses working at the network edge, or those operating in rural or remote areas, to use cloud applications, or to cloud services like analytics, artificial intelligence, or machine learning.
“Applications and services running in the cloud can be transformative for organizations, whether they’re operating in a highly networked or remote environment,” commented Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of Infrastructure at Google Cloud. “We are delighted to partner with SpaceX to ensure that organizations with distributed footprints have seamless, secure, and fast access to the critical applications and services they need to keep their teams up and running.”
Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft have unique battery challenges that will require developers to change how they think about battery systems and the designs of electric vehicles, Michael Armstrong, chief technology officer at Electric Power Systems, said during a May 13 Vertical Flight Society Forum 77 panel.
“If we look across these different applications between advanced air mobility, Part 23 fixed-wing aircraft, and automotive, the battery needs are very, very different and that stems primarily from how that battery is being used,” Armstrong said.
The current battery cell technology best reflects needs to automotive applications, Armstrong said. This technology has low-rate charging and functions as an energy cell when discharging. The external thermal constraints are determined by environmental conditions and it has a low nominal depth of discharge.
In comparison, eVTOLs require extremely fast charging capabilities and high-power cell discharging.
“I would say it’s an extremely fast charge on the order of 3C plus so being to be able to fully charge the battery within something like 20 minutes, and for a permission, something like five to six to seven to recoup say 10 to 15 percent of the energy,” Armstrong said. “It’s a very high-power cell. You have a very high-power requirement during takeoff and landing and the energy density targets are very, very aggressive.”
Electric aircraft batteries also require very careful thermal management because of high load conditions at the beginning and end of flights.
“The other challenge around this battery is it has to be very, very carefully thermally managed, especially with this mission that assesses a very high load at the front of the mission, and then at the end,” Armstrong said. “So you need to be able to manage the thermal energy generated by the battery itself during those high load conditions, but what’s interesting about this is the urban application for this technology is it’s not necessarily a very deep discharge so you can you can take advantage of that shallow discharge, but you’re taxing that battery significantly on every mission on every flight cycle thermally and in terms of power.”
Armstrong said to develop a battery to fit the unique needs of an eVTOL they needed to understand the relationship between battery performance and operator needs.
“This is one of those moments where we’ve said, we need our aircraft customers, we need our aircraft integrators to think about boundaries in certain ways to enable an intelligent integration of our system within their within their product,” Armstrong said. “The real focus area is to look at the operator themselves and understand the relationship between the battery performance and what the operators needs are.”
As with other aircraft, size, weight, and power must be carefully balanced in an eVTOL. This means that they will require an energy-dense battery to be able to accommodate power requirements while still being light and small. This problem is why many manufacturers have chosen to go with a hybrid option to still have access to energy-dense fuel.
“Obviously, one of the big things that we think about is stored energy mass,” Armstrong said. “We have to be able to accommodate that battery and carry that in an air vehicle so we look at the cells energy density, but we also have to look at packaging and installation. We can have a cell that is extremely energy-dense, but if it requires additional packaging and requires additional installation overhead because of the unique aspects of that cell, it doesn’t mean that that battery is going to be lightweight. Additionally, we need to look at operational efficiency. How fast can I charge this battery? What type of range, do I get for a charge minute, and then because of that fast charge, how much utilization does that battery have within the operation of the vehicle.”
All of these aspects must be considered when generating the cost rate or how much energy is consumed per passenger mile. The cost per kilowatt hour is driven by the degradation to the cell which refers to the effect the charging itself does to degrade the use of the battery.
“Understanding which segments of the mission are adding the most degradation to the cell and what is charging itself doing to degrade the cell, the use of that battery, within the context of the operations that the vehicle has to go to, dictates the cost effectiveness of that of a certain chemistry within that vehicle.”
Electric Power Systems has done research on conventional battery technologies like lithium-ion and more advanced chemistries like lithium metal oxide or highly based silicon chemistries. They found that the more advanced chemistries still have a lot of challenges with cycle life, energy density, and feasibility.
“When we look at some of these advanced chemistries, we see that there are major penalties associated with cycle life, there are major penalties associated with charge rate, and there are major challenges associated with the installation of these within a battery to be able to contain and protect the system from these more volatile chemistries,” Armstrong said. “So, as we look through the future, we look at benchmarking existing technology and their progression that we see coming from our cell partners and through chemical builders like Purdue and ourselves, and then as well, looking at the future technology roadmaps and when we think that they become cost effective within the context of the operations.”
Lithium-ion battery cells can be damaged by battery thermal runaway which happens when the voltage of the cell and the temperature is not managed adequately, Armstrong said. This can be managed by keeping the battery in a safe region between the two factors.
“The philosophy, generally, has been hey let’s keep the battery in the safe region, let’s not allow it to be exposed to this abuse and that’s done through a battery management system,” Armstrong said. “So we don’t allow the voltage to go too high, we don’t allow the voltage to go too low, we don’t allow the temperature to go too high or too low. The challenge is that battery management system is a leaky sieve. I would say there are intrinsic challenges that the battery management system cannot protect against and those include the manufacturing defects at the cell level, and potential dendritic load growth or things that would cause internal short circuits on the cell.”
To protect the aircraft from potential battery failures, manufacturers will have to put containment and propagation mechanisms in place to protect the battery from damaging itself and the vehicle structures, Armstrong said.
The Federal Aviation Administration has a rule for battery safety, 311 A, however, Armstrong said there still needs to be a battery system-level approach to enforcing safety.
“The FAA has certified lithium-ion batteries in the past and they have rules to do so…however that framework was developed in the context of engine start, or AP start and so the magnitude of the energy stored and the voltages that we’re talking about with these types of battery systems are different,” Armstrong said. “However, the framework is a useful framework to get started.”
One in five aircraft in Canada will be flying with zero emissions by 2040, JR Hammond, executive director of the Canadian Advanced Air Mobility Consortium (CAAM), said during a panel at the Vertical Flight Society’s Forum 77 on May 12. Making this goal a reality will require collaboration between industry and regulatory bodies to make advanced air mobility (AAM) not only environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable and accessible to everyone involved, industry professionals said.
“We are really playing that role in taking all of the work coming out of the drone or RPAS [remotely piloted aircraft systems] industry, transitioning into this vertical advanced mobility industry, and critically, having that technology, build and build on energy capacity as we move into the commercial aviation side,” Hammond said. “Our work on advanced mobility, yes, encompasses the retail side, but it’s critical for moving people, cargo, and the performing of various services within urban and regional areas that were previously not served or underserved by aviation, all with that thread of sustainability under zero-emission aviation.”
Part of making AAM sustainable is making sure that the demand for these technologies is inclusive, Teara Fraser, lead executive at Iskwew Air, said during the panel. Fraser said that when she started Iskwew Air she was conscious of the very diverse communities in Canada and focused on how aviation might be an answer to some of their unique challenges.
“When I started Iskwew Air, one of the things I really cared about and that I wanted to contribute to was ensuring that those communities could access food, medical supplies, and the services that they needed,” Fraser said. “So, I’m really curious and committed to exploring how can these emerging technologies uplift indigenous land, story, sovereignty, and stewardship. How can these technologies be used in service of people in service of community?”
Engaging communities that have not traditionally been served by these technologies will also help with the public acceptance challenge which has been cited as a barrier to AAM, Danny Sitnam, president and CEO of HeliJet, said.
“If we can protect communities, protect families, help rural and remote communities develop their own initiatives with these technologies, we are going to get tremendous acceptance,” Sitnam said. “We have to break the stereotypical situation that is around us once in a while where these technologies are for the rich and famous.”
AirJet Helicopter is developing an aircraft that uses compressed air to perform many mechanical functions making it less expensive and more reliable than traditional components, Clifford Dickman, co-founder of AirJet Helicopter, said. Dickman said the design and performance is comparable to a helicopter, however, the AirJet aircraft offers economic benefits by avoiding maintenance and repair expenses.
“There’s been no sacrifice in terms of performance, but the operating costs, clearly, are reduced, and at the same time everyone is striving towards having an environmentally friendly and low impact aircraft on the environment, both in terms of noise, and carbon footprint,” Dickman said. “I think the AirJet concept goes a long way towards achieving both.”
Sitnam said when thinking about AAM technologies it is important to operate on a cost per seat mile model. He said part of his thinking on this is investing in long-haul, high speed, high altitude hybrid technologies for connecting trunk routes and smaller lighter low altitude technologies to feed hubs to and from suburban destinations.
While some new AAM technologies are transformative for the aerospace industry, Sitnam said they should not try to “reinvent the wheel” for every aspect of operations.
“With these new technologies, I think a key component is not reinventing the wheel,” Sitnam said. “There’s a lot of infrastructure already in place that we need to take advantage of. Existing heliports, specifically say the Vancouver harbor heliport, is a huge economic driver for the city and the province, and they can accommodate future technologies, at some point in time. So, I think we need to look at rules and regulations today, of existing facilities, and see how we integrate the infrastructure that’s coming ahead without reinventing the wheel and building more infrastructure when there’s something already there.”
Craig Bloch-Hansen, project manager of RPAS Technical Standards at Transport Canada, said the regulator approach to these technologies is three-pronged and includes focuses on personnel, procedures, and products. To achieve their regulatory objects they will need to coordinate research and development and then work to advance to operational trials.
“Our challenge is to understand those technologies, understand the risks associated with them, and provide a regulatory framework, that really allows for industry to grow to become sustainable and to support technology innovation, sustainable development, and ultimately, supporting safety,” Bloch-Hansen said.
The operational trials will be important so regulatory agencies can explore how these new technologies can integrate into existing infrastructure while also making it more sustainable, Bloch-Hansen said.
“We’re also working with Canadian industry to define, test, and deploy new infrastructure to support operations,” Bloch-Hansen said. “We also see a need to expand those [existing infrastructure] to support efficiencies within our operations, and to find ways to continue to drive sustainable development, both economically and environmentally within the regulatory structure and with support of the operators nationally.”
The panelists also emphasized the sentiment that AAM is not something that is happening in the future but right now.
“Some people may think it is going to be in the future, maybe one day, maybe our children, no no no no,” Nicolas Chabee, vice president of marketing and sales at Pratt & Whitney Canada, said. “We are going to show that it’s actually coming today. There’s some technology that is available today. There are some resources that are already flying today. We all have the same objective to increase advanced mobility to make it more accessible and democratic.”