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.”