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.

Advances in Solar-Powered Flight

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The extent to which solar cell and battery technology has advanced was well demonstrated by the aircraft, Solar Impulse, which recently flew across America powered entirely by sunlight. The airplane used monocrystalline silicon solar cells, chosen for their ratio of efficiency to weight, to capture solar energy and convert it into electrical power. While solar-powered planes will not be replacing conventional aircraft for the foreseeable future, the advances in technology are noteworthy and valuable to other alternative energy applications.

The Solar Impulse has a wingspan of more than 63 meters, but only weighs 1,600kg. These long wings serve two main purposes – providing lift and, along with the tail, providing 200 square meters of surface area for the huge number of solar cells needed to harness the power of the sun. These solar cells are the lightest in weight and thinnest (135 microns) silicon photovoltaics, but they still account for up to twenty-five percent of the Solar Impulse’s mass. During the hours of the day when sunshine is at its strongest, the solar cells enable the aircraft to charge its batteries while climbing to its peak altitude of 9,000 meters. Because the airplane is shaped like a glider, when the sun is no longer providing power, the pilots are able to shut the engines off and glide, sometimes for several hours, before switching over to using energy stored in the batteries. The Solar Impulse has managed to stay airborne for 26 hours using this method.

In addition to the flight across America, from San Francisco to New York, the Solar Impulse has also completed flights in Europe and from Europe to North Africa. The next goal is a trip around the world, but as pilot André Borscheberg notes, while technology is able to sustain 24 hours flights, the pilot is not. There is only space for one pilot in the current aircraft, with very little room to move about and next to no room for essential equipment such as a parachute and oxygen. To make a trip around the world, the aircraft will need to be larger in order to allow the pilot space to move around and catch some sleep. No doubt these, and other, obstacles will be overcome as technology keeps advancing.

Development of X-47B Ready to Move Forward

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The most recent test flight of the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base resulted in a new goal being reached in the process of developing the aircraft for use in 2013. The futuristic, somewhat UFO-shaped drone effectively retracted its landing gear, flying in cruise configuration, a new achievement for the engineers. This landmark test flight aided the engineers in validating the precision navigation software and hardware that will be used when the Northrop Grumman X-47B is required to land on the deck of a Navy aircraft carrier.

The Northrop Grumman X-47B is part of the United States Navy Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The program was put in place to create unmanned aircraft that are suitable for carriers, developing technologies for Launch, Recovery and Carrier Controlled Airspace procedures, as well as Autonomous Aerial Refueling. Roll out of the vehicle was on 16 December 2008 at Air Force Plant 42, located in California. Since then various tests have taken place in developing the X-47B for the Navy. Sea trials are planned for 2013, following three years of testing at Edwards Air Force Base and Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The demonstration aircraft has the same mass and size as the planned operational vehicle and will be used to display launches and recoveries from carriers, along with inflight refueling.

Northrop Grumman’s X-47B has a wingspan of 62.1 ft, length of 38.2 ft and height of 10.4ft, along with an empty weight of 14,000 lb. The cruise speed is 0.45 mach, with a subsonic maximum speed. The maximum unrefueled range of the aircraft is in excess of 2,000 miles. There are two weapon bays, although it carries no weapons.

Following the successful test flight of the X-47B, Janis Pamiljans, who serves as the vice president of the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration program for Northrop Grumman, was quoted as saying that the flight provided the team with a look at the X-47B air system’s aerodynamic cruise performance, and all went according to plan. The air system is ready to move on to the following phase of flight testing.

Mahindra NM5 to Revolutionize Domestic Air Travel

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With its headquarters based in Mumbai, India, and a significant presence in Australia, the Mahindra Group launched its Aerospace Division in 2007 for the purpose of extending its design and manufacturing expertise in the rapidly developing aerospace industry. The latest achievement of the Mahindra Aerospace Division is the five-seat all-metal NM5 aircraft, developed over a three year period as a collaborative project between the Mahindra Group and the state-run CSIR National Aerospace Laboratories. Considered to be a milestone in India’s domestic civil aviation, as well as a notable achievement in partnerships between the public and private sector, it is anticipated that the NM5 will help to revolutionize Indian transportation over the next ten years.

With five successful tests completed in the past ten days, the next step is to qualify for Federal Aviation Regulation 23 (FAR23) certification for safety. FAR23 sets comprehensive safety standards to be met for airworthiness, including areas such as stability, performance, structural loads, airframe, safety mechanisms, oxygen and air pressurization systems, construction of seats, escape hatches, fire prevention, flight control communications, flight management procedures, and emergency landing procedures. It also stipulates aspects of performance including rate of climb, take off speed, stall speed, and the weight restrictions of pilot and passengers.

It is anticipated that obtaining FAR23 certification for the new aircraft could take up to six months. Upon FAR23 certification, the aircraft will proceed to commercial development and is expected to be marketed at around US$400,000. It will also be the only five-seat airplane in its class. The plane is powered by a Lycoming IO-540 engine. The prototype was built by a team at the Australia-based Mahindra Aerospace subsidiary, GippsAero, over a period of ten months. Current and future flight testing is being done at this facility in Melbourne.

In a recent press release, the Mahindra Group Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Anand Mahindra, was quoted as saying that the maiden flight of the NM5 was a matter of great pride for the company and is part of their goal to provide transportation solutions to isolated communities. It was also noted that the NM5 complements the growing range of light utility aircraft manufactured by Mahindra Aerospace, all of which are designed to meet global safety standards and are able to operate in varied environments.

Boeing 747-8 Freighter Approved

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Great excitement surrounds the news that Boeing is approved to deliver their first Boeing 747-8 Freighter to Cargolux in September, with their latest release having just received its federal certification, allowing Boeing to move forward with this airplane series. This is the fourth model in the widebody 747 range of Boeing, and most definitely the largest of the range that needed to undergo a few changes to set it apart from previous versions, such as the Boeing 747-400.

The new and improved Boeing 747-8 Freighter offers sixteen percent more space than its predecessors, and it features a redesigned wing as well as a longer fuselage. The new and improved Boeing 747-8 Freighter is eighteen feet longer than its predecessor making it a total of two hundred and fifty feet in length, and also features an additional three lower-hold pallets as well as four more main deck pallets. The struts, nose section and the nacelles were constructed by Spirit AeroSystems, which is located in Wichita.

Boeing tested the aircraft on the ground for numerous hours, ensuring that every component of the aircraft was tested according to certification standards. Once ground testing was completed, flight testing commenced, where the aircraft logged over three thousand four hundred hours. Todd Zarfos, who is the engineering vice president for the project, spoke to the media expressing his excitement in regard the certification and said that the approval was a combination of thousands of hours of hard work that has finally paid off. He also added that the forecast for Boeing’s sales estimated approximately eight hundred and twenty places to be in demand for aircraft that can accommodate four hundred passengers or more over the next twenty years, and it is estimated that of the demand number at least two hundred and fifty will be the freighters.

At present the orders for the new freighter total a hundred and fourteen, while the demand for intercontinental passenger versions of the new 747-8 comes to fifty-six. Looking at the interest in the new approved and certified freighter, Boeing is confident that their fourth generation freighter will be as successful as their previous versions.

Testing of New GEnx-1B Boeing 787

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There is a huge build up of excitement surrounding the new GEnx-1B Boeing 787 aircraft, as two of the aircraft are almost ready to undergo functionality, reliability and ETOPS evaluations. It is estimated that if all goes well, evaluations will be able to begin in July 2011. General Electric has confirmed that two Boeings, which are nearing the end of their certification tests, have amassed numerous flight hours. ZA005 and ZA006, which are GE-powered aircraft, have been performing better than expected and General Electric have expressed that they are pleased at the progress being made.

Boeing looks at complete flights in regard to the progress of the testing of an aircraft, and the aircrafts have therefore completed approximately two hundred and eighty flights, which means that over eight hundred hours of flight have been accumulated. Looking at General Electric statistics, the aircrafts have completed 1 150 engine flight cycles and more than one thousand five hundred engine flight hours. The aircraft now stand on approximately seventy percent completion of certification tests and eighty percent of tests conducted by Boeing. Boeing commented that they will begin reliability, functional and ETOPS tests by the end of June, before the aircraft go for final certification. They hope that if all goes according to schedule that the first aircraft, which was commissioned by All Nippon Airways with a Rolls Royce engine, can be launched by August or September. Bill Fitzgerald, the General Manager of the GEnx product line, commented: “We’re several weeks from entry-into-service of the GEnx-1B-powered 787 in October with Japan Airlines.”

In total, there are seven aircraft in the 787 test fleet, and all have accumulated close to four thousand flight hours. The aircraft with the most flight time, ZA001, is scheduled for undergoing maintenance, while ZA002 is now undergoing auxiliary power unit tests, and ZA003 is being inspected by being stripped down. The aircraft ZA004 is currently being upgraded with Package B Rolls Royce engines. General Electric, as engine manufacturers, are extremely excited to see the first aircraft being delivered to its first customers, and soon the Boeing 787 Dreamliners will be taking to the skies with their first passengers.

Jetpack Makes an Impression

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It has taken over $9 million and thirty years for the jetpack that is being funded by Martin Aircraft Company and designed by Glenn Martin to take to the skies. A dummy pilot was strapped into the device for testing, and everyone seems happy with the outcome of the test flight, even though it seems that there is a little work to be done in regard to landing the device. Since being aired on the internet, the jetpack seems to have generated a lot of interest and it is hoped that in the future the jetpack could become a tourist activity.

On the test flight the jetpack lifted into the air and reached a height of 1.5 kilometers above sea level. It has been designed to fly at speeds of a hundred kilometers an hour and has a two liter jet powered engine. It weighs a hundred and fifteen kilograms. The jetpack was brought down to earth with a parachute and it seems that the dummy pilot was jerked around on his way down to the ground, coming to a sudden stop. The jetpack did sustain some damage, but in all it was deemed to be a successful test flight, as it has now been proven that the jetpack is able to fly. With the information gathered from the flight, developers are positive that the jetpack can be improved upon and be made available to the public.

Wealthy businessmen have shown their interest in owning a jetpack by putting in orders for it, but Martin Aircraft Company has confirmed that personal orders have been set aside for now, as the device would have to be tested by military agencies and recue organizations. Chief Executive of the company, Richard Lauder, commented: “It makes sense to start this up at our Christchurch base but ultimately we want to take to Australia, the US and the rest of the globe too.”

They vision is that the jetpack will become an attraction, such as bungy jumping or skydiving, and was listed as the 50 Best Inventions by Time magazine. It seems that there has also been interest shown by emergency services and the military, and the company hopes that as time passes their jetpack product will become a great earning global product.

Phantom Ray Takes to the Skies

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It has been an ongoing project by Boeing, but the success achieved by their test flight was only recently released. The stealthy looking delta winged drone, named the Phantom Ray, is a great advance in aviation technology, and has become the leader in the combat drone industry. Edwards Air Force Base, which is located in the Mojave Desert, was the venue for the test flight that took place on 27 April 2011, and only positive feedback has been received from the flight.

The main aim of the Phantom Ray is to be able to fly into enemy territories undetected and to take out necessary targets to clear a safe flight path for bomber and fighter aircraft. What makes the Phantom Ray so unique from other drone aircraft is that while other models are driven by remote control, the Phantom Ray can be operated through a computer, allowing the human pilot to control the aircraft from miles away. These intricate computer programs, research and dedication shown by all involved in the project saw to it that the Phantom Ray could take off and complete a seventeen minute test flight. During the test flight, the Phantom Ray reached staggering speeds of up to two hundred and five miles per hour and flew at an altitude of seven thousand five hundred feet.

Program Manager of the Boeing Phantom Ray commented that the test flight now allows the team to improve on the unmanned aircraft technology and that the Phantom Ray has ultimately set the bar higher for all unmanned aircraft. To achieve all its goals, the Phantom Ray was designed with embedded engines that will not only reduce noise, but heat as well, and the shapes of its wings were designed to be able to avoid radar detection. It was constructed at their St Louis complex and is thirty-six feet in length with a wingspan of fifty feet.

The Phantom Ray project is not funded, meaning that Boeing is paying for every aspect of the development. To transport the Phantom Ray to the NASA Dryden Flight Research Centre, a Boeing 747 was modified to transport the drone. Test flights and research will continue, because ultimately the Phantom Ray is designed to reach speeds of over six hundred miles an hour and be able to fly at an altitude of forty thousand feet. Boeing also has another drone under development at the centre, with a hundred and fifty foot wingspan, altitude estimates of approximately sixty-five thousand feet and will be driven by liquid hydrogen as fuel. It has been named the Phantom Eye.

Testing the New HondaJet

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Honda is expanding its horizons by moving into the aviation industry. The first aircraft that was developed by Honda is the Honda HA-420. Now that it has reached its flight requirements and conforms to FAA specifications, it seems that the HondaJet will be able to go into full production by next year. And they have more up their sleeve, with another aircraft already outfitted and ready for testing, two more waiting in the wings as they are being assembled and a fifth aircraft that has been designed, but still awaits assembly.

During the late 1980s Honda began looking into the manufacturing of airplanes, and a prototype, the Honda MH02, was created by the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory at the Mississippi State University though the late 1980s to early 1990s. The HondaJet was introduced to the public at the 2005 EAA AirVenture Air Show, after test flights began in 2003. In 2006 orders for the new jet began rolling in and Piper Aircraft became marketing partners with Honda Aircraft Company in the same year.

At the beginning of 2010 is was announced that the first FAA conforming HondaJet was being assembled, which included hydraulic and electrical systems, landing gear, engine pylons, metal wings and fuselage. Due to component delays, display for FAA Certification was set back from November to December. The certification takes approximately twenty months, so production should begin in 2012. The plane was able to reach the company’s commitment to performance by flying at an altitude of thirty thousand feet and reaching a maximum speed of four hundred and eighty-nine miles per hour.

Honda Aircraft Company CEO and President, Michimasa Fujino, commented on the aircraft saying: “We are extremely pleased with the strong performance of the FAA-conforming HondaJet early in the flight test program. Our flight tests indicate the aircraft is handling and performing as expected, with excellent control harmony and stability.”

Through its commitment to the aviation industry, Honda has proved to be a company that takes transportation seriously, whether on land or in the air. The aviation industry is looking forward to the introduction of the new aircraft that Honda is developing.

Boeing 747-8I Takes Flight

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The new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental successfully completed its 4 hour 25 minutes inaugural flight, landing safely at Boeing Field in Seattle in front of a crowd of spectators gathered for the occasion. The new model Boeing began its flight at 09h59 PDT from Boeing’s assembly site at Paine Field in Everett, Washington State, with captains Mark Feuerstein and Paul Stemer at the controls. Following a route which took the aircraft along the Canadian border, over eastern Washington and along the Olympic Peninsula, the flight crew ran through a comprehensive checklist to substantiate the Boeing 747-8I’s handling features.

While this was the first time the passenger version of the Boeing 747-8 (dubbed RC001) has taken to the skies, the cargo version has already clocked up nearly 2,000 flights. The experience and information gathered during these flights undoubtedly contributed to the resounding success of the inaugural flight of the RC001.

During the test flight, most of which was spent in the eastern region of Washington State, the crew took the aircraft to a top altitude of 20,000 feet, pushing the speed to 250 knots and cutting back to 105 knots – close to the stall speed. As the commander of the first flight of the Boeing 747-8 Freighter, Feuerstein is very familiar with the capabilities of the aircraft. Based on its performance, the pilots decided to carry out a number of flight procedures that were scheduled to take place at a later stage in the development and testing of the Boeing 747-8I before it is put into commercial service – with satisfying results.

With the capacity to carry up to 467 passengers in a three-class configuration, the new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental seats 51 more passengers than the Boeing 747-400 that it will be replacing. The aircraft has a range of 14,815 kilometers (8,000 nautical miles), with quieter engines producing lower emissions and achieving lower fuel consumption. Moreover, both the Boeing 747-8 Freighter and the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental can make use of the existing ground equipment and infrastructure of most airports around the world.

The pursuit for larger seating capacity by competing airplane manufacturers has been questioned by some. With the goal of filling all their seats for each trip they make, the 365-seater Boeing 737-300ER is considered to be an ideal size by many passenger carriers. However, the Boeing 747-8 Freighter has received a positive response with orders reportedly already placed by Lufthansa, Korean Air and Air China.

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