New Tiltrotor Aircraft Seeks FAA Approval

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The value of military aircraft with both short takeoff and landing (STOL) and vertical takeoff and landing capabilities (VTOL) was recognized by the United States Department of Defense decades ago, prompting the collaboration between Boeing Helicopters and Bell Helicopter in 1983 to develop a tiltrotor aircraft. Although the resulting CV-22 Osprey took its first flight in 1989, it took many years of design adjustments and flight testing before the tiltrotor aircraft was used in the field by the United States Air Force and United States Marine Corps in 2007. Since then the Osprey has proven to be invaluable both in combat and rescue operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Libya.

Until now tiltrotor aircraft have been restricted to military service, but helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland hopes to change that with their new AW609 tiltRotor aircraft which recently successfully completed ten flight hours focusing on wind-milling and autorotation – a process where the rotors of the aircraft in helicopter mode turn in response to air movement as the aircraft descends. This feature will assist the AW609 in landing safely in the event of the aircraft’s engines failing completely. Reporting on the test flights of the AW609 prototype, which were monitored by the FAA at a facility in Arlington, Texas, an AgustaWestland spokesperson noted that the aircraft’s performance exceeded expectations based on the engineering simulator.

A second prototype of the AW609 is being tested at facilities in Samarate, Italy. With more than 650 flight hours, the aircraft have demonstrated their ability to cruise at speeds of up to 275 knots at maximum takeoff weight of 16,800 pounds and reach altitudes of 25,000 feet. Currently being assembled, a third prototype will be used for ice testing and certification, while a fourth prototype is planned for the development and integration of the latest avionics.

The Anglo-Italian company is working towards gaining FAA certification for the AW609 in the year 2017. In anticipation of FAA approval, AgustaWestland is reportedly planning manufacturing facilities to fulfill orders it already holds, as well as setting up a full flight simulator for training commercial pilots.

VTOL X-Plane Development Challenge

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As aviation technology continues to develop at breakneck speed, the goal of producing aircraft with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities, that can fly as fast as a fixed-wing airplane may soon become a reality. This has been achieved to some degree with the tiltrotor technology of the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, where lift and propulsion are generated by proprotors mounted on engine pods at the ends of a fixed wing. Take off is facilitated by the rotors being angled horizontally as a helicopter rotor works, but as the aircraft gains speed, the rotors tilt forward until they are vertical, allowing the aircraft to reach higher speeds than a conventional helicopter. An Australian company recently announced that it is developing an aircraft which can transition between VTOL and fixed-wing modes with what it calls StopRotor Technology.

The company’s new RotorWing design reportedly aligns the airflow with rotation axis of the rotor while the aircraft is in flight, thereby creating a stable flight profile allowing the smooth transition from one mode of flight to the other. In a statement announcing the new concept, the company noted that the it is a “paradigm shift involving flight well beyond the limitations of conventional fixed and rotary wing flight”, going on to say that it “requires a new way of thinking”.

A patent application has been lodged for the new StopRotor, and the company is currently using flying models and computer simulations to test the concept, which was inspired by the VTOL X-Plane program announced in February by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The DARPA VTOL X-Plane project is dedicated to developing VTOL aircraft with greater hover and cruise efficiency, larger payload capacity, and higher speeds than current aircraft – the performance standard being set at greater than 300 knots, which is almost double the speed of the fastest helicopter today. Project leader Ashish Bagai noted that it was hoped that the project would “spark a paradigm shift”. DARPA is putting $150 million into developing the X-Plane which would prove valuable in search and rescue missions, surveillance, transportation of troops and other difficult to reach situations requiring swift response time.

2013 National Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

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Home of the legendary Wright Brothers, and widely considered to be the “birthplace of aviation”, Dayton is the perfect location for the National Aviation Hall of Fame – a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the pioneering and innovative people who have been behind the development of aviation in America. Situated at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Aviation Hall of Fame recently announced the names of the four individuals who will be joining the ranks of other inductees at the prestigious annual ceremony taking place in October 2013. They are Major General Patrick H. Brady, Captain Robert L. Gibson, the late Charles Alfred Anderson and the late Dwane L. Wallace.

Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady of the USAF (now retired) accrued a number of noteworthy achievements in his more than 34 years in the army. He developed tactical techniques for helicopter air ambulance rescue in combat and during his two Vietnam combat tours, Brady flew more than 2,500 missions and participated in the rescue of more than 5,000 wounded. As a highly decorated member of the armed forces, Brady’s service awards include the Distinguished Service Cross and the Medal of Honor.

Retired Capt. Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson flew combat in Southeast Asia as a Navy fighter pilot and was a flight test pilot before he joined NASA in 1978. Of his five Shuttle missions, he was Commander of four. As an aeronautical engineer Gibson was a member of the Challenger accident investigation team. In his aviation career Capt. Gibson has logged in excess of 14,000 hours in more than 130 types of aircraft.

Widely acknowledged as “the father of African-American aviation”, the late Charles Alfred Anderson played a major role in developing a civilian-pilot training program for blacks in 1940. His historical flight in 1941, with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt aboard, is considered to have been the stepping stone leading to the training of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots, with Anderson as the chief instructor.

The late Dwane L. Wallace spent 41 years with the Cessna Aircraft Company before retiring in 1975 as the company’s Chairman and CEO. His dedication to the company was so strong that during the Great Depression, he used money he won by air racing to ensure employees were paid. Following WWII, Wallace directed the company’s development away from military into corporate and general aviation products, with much success. Wallace was also a founding member and the first chairman of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

The induction ceremony, referred to as “America’s Oscar Night of Aviation”, will take place at the National Aviation Hall of Fame Learning Center on Friday, October 4, 2013, and is open to the public, with advance reservations to be made with the NAHF.

Algae-oil Based Biofuel for Aviation Industry

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With the increasing demand for a cleaner burning aviation fuel obtained from renewable resources, Airbus recently signed a deal at the 9th China International Air Show in Zhuhai, with Chinese natural gas supplier ENN Group to develop alternative fuels, including fuel derived from algae oil. Extracted, processed and refined from algae, algae oil is considered to be one of the most promising biofuel products being developed for the aviation industry. Depending on the results of a Sino-US feasibility study, a test flight using the biofuel will take place in China in 2013. ENN has the capacity to produce more than ten tons of algae oil-based jet fuel annually.

High oil-output algae was initially considered as an alternative to fossil fuels back in 1978, under the presidency of Jimmy Carter. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted research which tested more than 3,000 different types of algae, the conclusion being that algae oil-based fuel could be used in place of fossil fuels for heating homes and running transportation. But when the gas crisis which had resulted in high prices and long queues at the gas pumps passed, and carbon emissions were not an issue back then, the need for alternative fuels was no longer urgent.

Today, several government agencies and private companies are supporting projects to make the production of algae oil-based fuel more commercially viable. Although harvested algae releases CO2 when burned, the CO2 is reabsorbed by the growing algae. Referred to as ‘algaculture’ the commercial cultivation of algae can be carried out on land that would not have been used for agriculture, so the product is not competing for land that could be used for food crops, which is a concern with some other biofuel products. Other advantages of cultivating algae for fuel are that they can be grown in ocean water as well as certain grades of wastewater. Also, they are biodegradable, burn cleaner and will not pose the same level of risk to the environment as fossil fuels if spilled.

A report by the United States Department of Energy has estimated that to produce sufficient algae-based fuel to replace all the petroleum-based fuel in the United States would only require the equivalent of around 15,000 square miles of land, or 0.42 percent of the United States. But, while space is not a problem, cost is, and this is one of the main issues to be addressed. It’s not so much a question of whether the product can be produced and whether it works, but whether it will be commercially viable.

Citation Ten Puts Cessna Back in Top Spot as Fastest Civil Aircraft

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Cessna Aircraft Corporation recently announced that its Citation Ten has reclaimed the top spot as the fastest civil airplane with a maximum Mach of 0.935. Cessna’s Citation X held the fastest speed record at a maximum Mach of 0.92 before being overtaken by the Gulfstream G650 business jet with a Mach of 0.925. With the capability of traveling at 93.5 percent of the speed of sound, or almost 700 mph, the Citation Ten has pushed the G650 into second place, proving that as technology advances, records are made to be broken.

In addition to the increase in speed that the Cessna Citation Ten offers over the Citation X, the new aircraft boasts an increase in both payload capacity and range. The Citation Ten will have a range of 3,242 nautical miles, being an increase of close to 200 miles compared with the Citation X, and a payload increase of around 200 pounds.

In an interview relating to the announcement of the new speed record, Cessna President and CEO Scott Ernest noted that the founder of the Cessna Aircraft Corporation, Clyde Cessna, believed that ‘speed is the only reason for flying’ and Cessna pursues the goal of designing, manufacturing and flying the fastest civil aircraft in the world so that their customers can work faster and more efficiently. Chip Ganassi of Chip Ganassi Racing, which reportedly currently operates a Citation X, agrees with this sentiment, noting that his teams compete in almost seventy races each year, and their aircraft “shrinks the map” for him, allowing him more time at the tracks and with his teams.

The Citation Ten will be powered by the new Rolls-Royce AE3007C2 engines featuring redesigned fan blades to deliver more thrust. The aircraft boasts a Garmin G5000 integrated Flight Deck with three 14-inch LCD screens and four touch screen control panels offering user-friendly ease of access. The interior of the Citation Ten allows more legroom and space to recline, and features more storage space. Takeoff distance is 5,150 feet, with landing distance at 3,430 ft and maximum operating altitude of 51,000 feet. As with all Cessna aircraft, the Citation Ten is backed by the after sales service that Cessna is well known for.

Entertainment and Innovation at Farnborough Airshow

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Taking place every second year at Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, England, the Farnborough International Airshow, is both a trade show for the aviation industry, and an entertaining event for the public. This year the show will be running from the 9th to the 13th of July as a Trade Exhibition, with the Public Airshow taking place on the weekend of the 14th and 15th. The Farnborough International Airshow, alternating on a yearly basis with the Paris Air Show, sets the stage for the announcement of new developments in the aviation industry, while providing a B2B platform for lucrative deals.

With 2012 marking the 60th anniversary of the accession to the throne by Queen Elizabeth II, the public weekend will include an extra-special patriotic flying display, with on-the-ground activities including an ‘Innovation Day’. For the first time in the show’s history there will be a limited number of tickets for the public to enjoy the Jubilee Day on Friday, including access to the four huge exhibition halls which is usually closed to the public. Features of the show include ‘Virgin Galactic’ with unique exhibits detailing the world’s first service where passengers can experience sub-orbital space travel in a six-passenger, two pilot spaceship. Model building enthusiasts will not want to miss the ‘Airfix Roadshow’ at the Farnborough International Airshow, where experts can be consulted and visitors can build a model onsite. Linked to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, ‘In The Zone’ will be offering insight into how the human body responds to sport, activities and rest. Team Extreme will be on hand to amaze spectators with their BMX, skateboard and inline skating stunts and tricks.

During the week the daily flying display will include the Airbus A380, Airbus A400M, Irkut YAK-130, Russian Knight’s Sukhoi Su-27, SAAB Gripen Fighter, and US Marine Corps V-22 Osprey, to mention just a few. On Saturday and Sunday, visitors can expect an extended flying display including the RAF Red Arrows, RAF Typhoon, RAF Falcons, RAF Redhawks, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and more. The list of aircraft on static display is really impressive, with visitors having the opportunity of viewing the Virgin Galactic-Shape Ship2 in addition to military and civilian aircraft.

With plenty of activity to keep the entire family interested all day, the Farnborough International Airshow is certainly an event not to be missed.

Wildlife Hazards and Aviation Safety

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With recent FAA data revealing that aircraft bird strikes in the United States continue to pose a significant threat to both civil and military aviation, the services of the Bird Strike Committee USA are more necessary than ever before. Formed in 1991, the Bird Strike Committee USA is a volunteer organization with members from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), US Department of Defense, and US Department of Agriculture, as well as representatives from the aviation industry, airlines and airports. Among the organization’s goals is to facilitate the collection and analysis of accurate data regarding wildlife strikes; facilitate the exchange of information between the various aviation industry sectors; promote the ongoing development of new technologies for dealing with wildlife hazards; advocate high standards of conduct and professionalism in wildlife management programs, including the appropriate training for bird control personnel; and liaise with similar organizations based in other countries.

Together with Bird Strike Committee Canada, the Bird Strike Committee USA meets once a year to discuss matters pertaining to their stated goals. Taking place over a period of three-and-a-half days, the conference program includes field training and classroom sessions covering wildlife control at airports in both civil and military aviation. Also on the agenda is the presentation of technical papers, with exhibits and demonstrations by suppliers of wildlife control equipment, and a field trip at the host airport to observe firsthand the current management programs and the specific habitat issues faced by authorities responsible for aviation safety. The last meeting of the Bird Strike Committees was held in September 2011 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, and the 2012 event is scheduled to take place in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, on 13-16 August.

Among the topics covered at the annual meeting are wildlife strike reporting; bird control techniques; new technologies for reducing wildlife hazards; wildlife management training at airports; environmental issues; aircraft engine performance and standard specifically related to wildlife hazards; migratory patterns of birds; and remote sensing to detect, and predict, bird movements and numbers. Attendance at the annual meetings is open to anyone interested in environmental management at airports and the reduction of wildlife hazards in aviation.

Bearing in mind that reporting wildlife strikes in civil aviation is not compulsory, and many incidents likely go unreported, statistics reveal that about 10,000 bird and other wildlife strikes were reported in 2011 for civil aviation in the USA, and about 4,500 were reported by the USAF. Thanks to quick-thinking pilots and sound equipment, hundreds of potential disasters have been averted -the historic landing of Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in January 2009 being an example that readily comes to mind. Nonetheless, more than 221 people have been killed as a direct result of bird strikes worldwide since 1988, highlighting the need to continue to seek solutions to the ongoing problem of bird air strikes.

South Carolina’s First 787 Destined for India

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The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner to come out of the Chicago-based airplane manufacturer’s South Carolina plant was celebrated recently at a function in North Charleston. The aircraft will undergo a string of systems checks and engine runs before taking to the air locally, in preparation for its flight across the Atlantic Ocean to India’s Mumbai International Airport and delivery to Air India. Speaking at the event, Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes president and chief executive officer, Jim Albaugh noted that the rolling out of an airplane from the company’s third final assembly site in South Carolina was a proud moment for Boeing.

Air India will take delivery of the history-making aircraft in mid-2012. It will be the second Boeing 787 Dreamliner of its 27-aircraft order, with the first having been delivered in March from the aircraft manufacturer’s Washington plant. Three more 787’s are to be delivered by the end of the year, with the balance expected in 2013.

Launched in April 2004, with initial orders for 851 airplanes valued at more than $175 billion, from sixty customers, the 787 goes on record for the most successful launch of a new commercial airplane in Boeing’s history. Following a number of delays in manufacture, the first 787 Dreamliner flight took place on 15 December 2009, with the first airline to fly the plane, All Nippon Airlines of Japan, taking delivery on 25 September 2011. Although the company has reportedly had 25 order cancellations this year, they have secured 19 new orders for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Private Russian airline, Transaero, has ordered four of the airplanes, while Japan remains the biggest buyer.

Boeing South Carolina vice president and general manager Jack Jones noted that every one of the teammates at the South Carolina plant should be proud of the historic accomplishment of building airplanes to meet Boeing’s high quality standards, while at the same time maintaining an exceptional workplace safety record. Jim Albaugh endorsed this view by welcoming the South Carolina team into a “small and elite fraternity … of workers who have built one of the most complex machines in the world – a commercial airplane.”

Boeing and Airbus Dominate Global Market

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With Boeing and Airbus dominating a global market valued at US$100 billion annually, the two aircraft manufacturers continue to vie for first place in this lucrative business sector. First quarter results for 2012 reveal that Boeing appears to be on course to recapture the top spot, as it delivered 137 commercial airplanes, compared to the 131 delivered by Airbus. Airbus has held the coveted number one spot since 2012, and with both manufacturers intent on increasing production of their best-sellers – the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 – they will be competing in emerging markets where medium-haul airplanes are becoming more in demand.

Boeing’s position was aided by the launch of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the enhanced version of its Boeing 747 – both of which had encountered major production delays. Among the airplanes delivered by Boeing were six Boeing 747-8s and five of the innovative carbon-composite Dreamliners. European manufacturer Airbus delivered four of its A380 superjumbos and has recently begun assembling its competitor to the Boeing 787 – the A350 – in its factory in Toulouse. It is anticipated that the A350 will enter service in mid-2014.

While airlines snapped up the fuel efficient model of the A320 in 2011, Boeing is reportedly ahead of Airbus in new orders for 2012. Furthermore, Airbus may lose some of its orders placed by China if the current conflict over emissions between the European Union and a group of countries including China is not resolved.

Just this week London Heathrow became the 200th airport welcome the Boeing 747-8, after having determined that the new airliner meets requirements for operating safely within an airport environment. Currently the Boeing 747-8 is the only airplane with a capacity of more than 400 seats approved by over sixty airports worldwide.

While cost-cutting may be a priority for commercial air travel, the world’s super-rich are offering Boeing and Airbus a new source of revenue. In early March this year a bespoke Boeing 747-8, dubbed the 747-VIP, took off from Paine Field near Seattle for delivery to an unnamed customer in the Middle East. Airbus is reportedly working on an A380 for the Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, with the original plans making provision for transporting two Rolls-Royces, horses and camels, and a rotating prayer room which will always point toward Mecca. Business people in emerging and fast-growing economies such as China and Russia are also entering the market for larger long-range planes providing direct service to their destinations.

Pipistrel Virus-SW914 to Circumnavigate Globe

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In a collaborative project between Penn State University and Slovenian aircraft manufacturer, Pipistrel, the Virus-SW914 aircraft was launched on 8 January this year from Ljubljana, with the aim of circumnavigating the globe, a distance of around 62,000 miles, over the next two months. As the winner of NASA’s 2011 Green Flight Challenge, Pipistrel aims to demonstrate that small aircraft can play an important role in climate science. One of the functions the aircraft will serve is to study the effect of light-absorbing aerosols and black carbon on the earth’s atmosphere as it travels through areas that are not currently being monitored by sensors. Because of the altitude the light aircraft will be traveling at, it will be in the position to obtain three-dimensional images of the atmosphere in predetermined areas.

The aircraft which won the 2011 Green Flight Challenge for Pipistrel, is the Taurus, which covered a distance of 400 miles on a single gallon of gas as it was primarily electric-powered. Specializing in ultra-light aircraft, Pipistrel holds ten FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) world records.

The Virus-SW914 has a fuel consumption figure of 36 miles per gallon travelling at a speed of around 170 miles per hour. The aircraft being used in the global circumnavigation attempt has extra fuel tanks in its wings and all-electronic instruments. The airplane weighs 640 pounds, has a maximum take-off weight of 1,500 pounds and can climb to an altitude of 30,000 feet.

With pilot Matevz Lenarcic behind the controls, the Virus-SW914 will travel to Morocco, followed by Senegal, before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to South America. The route will then travel down the coast of South America before crossing the Antarctic and the Pacific Ocean heading for New Zealand, Australia and southeast Asia and traveling back to Africa. When crossing Mount Everest in the Himalayas, Lenarcic will take photographs and gather data at different altitudes in areas that have not yet been monitored for climate change. The aerosol inlet feature of the Virus-SW914 is designed to measure aerosol optical properties at different wavelengths, providing valuable data for scientists and climate change research.

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