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Monday, January 31, 2011

Jordan Eyes India For Tourism Boost

Jordan’s tourism industry and flag carrier Royal Jordanian (RJ) are working in concert to attract more traffic to the country, and India is a major growth market, says Nayef Al Fayez, managing director of the Jordan Tourism Board.
Helping this effort is Jordan’s largest airport—Queen Alia International (QAIA)—which will open a new terminal in 2012 as part of a $675-million redevelopment plan to increase passenger-handling capacity from 3 million to 9 million per year.
With 51,000 visitors to Jordan in 2010, Nayef expects the figure will rise by 30% this year. He added eased visa restrictions were helping attract more Indian visitors.
Indians have also upped their stay in Jordan from under two days to more than four days in the past two years. Amman, as a regional hub, will help Indians connect to onward destinations, such as Egypt and Israel.
Royal Jordanian, which operates five weekly flights to Delhi and three to Mumbai, had asked for traffic rights for a city in southern India. It is believed that Royal Wings, a subsidiary of RJ, is interested in flying to Hyderabad or Bengaluru, which could increase the tourism base for Jordan.
Meanwhile, QAIA handled 14% more passenger traffic—5.43 million arrivals—in 2010, compared with the previous year. With renovation of the existing terminal, the government is banking on enhancing QAIA as a regional hub airport.
Aircraft movements for 2010 also witnessed strong growth, closing the year at 62,900, an 8.8% increase from the 57,800 movements in 2009.
Despite the recessionary climate in 2009, tourism in 2009 to Jordan showed a 1.6% growth giving reason to Royal Jordanian to focus on its growth plans.
While RJ flies to Hong Kong, Al Fayez said China is a growth destination, as are Korea and Japan.
The carrier has 31 aircraft, including eight Embraers and Airbus A340s, A330s and A320 family aircraft.
RJ intends to introduce seven new Airbus A320s and A321s to replace six Airbus aircraft operating in the fleet. The first delivery is scheduled in April, and the others will follow in 2012. Royal Jordanian has ordered 11 Boeing 787s expected to join its fleet in 2013.

JSF Production Takes $11.5 Billion Hit

The newest Pentagon restructuring of the $380 billion Joint Strike Fighter program will result in an overall cut of $6.9 billion through Fiscal 2016, according to F-35 program officials.
This money was removed from the production portion of the program; 124 aircraft will be cut from the U.S. buy of F-35s through Fiscal 2016 if Congress approves the plan laid out by Defense Secretary Robert Gates early this month (Aerospace DAILY, Jan. 7).
The $6.9 billion cut from the production profile is on top of another $4.6 billion shifted from that account into research and development. “After funding the JSF [system design and development] program cost increase, approximately $6.9 billion was returned to the services over the Fiscal 2012-16 time frame,” according to Joe DellaVedova, director of public affairs for the government’s F-35 office. This money was dedicated to other service priorities, and does not reflect an overall reduction to the Pentagon’s topline in Fiscal 2012.
The United Sates is working with eight partner nations to develop the single-engine, stealthy F-35, which has three variants — conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL), short takeoff and vertical landing (Stovl) and a carrier version (CV). This is the third major restructuring since Lockheed Martin won the development contract in 2001. At that time, development was thought to cost $38 billion; it is now estimated at $59.4 billion.
It remains unclear exactly what the $4.6 billion added to the development program will buy. But program officials say there is money “to address known discrete improvements to include propulsion lift system, durability and structuring testing shortfalls, training systems, pilot-vehicle interface upgrades and others,” DellaVedova says.
Several problems with Stovl are known, including cracking in a bulkhead and issues with the propulsion system.
Testing and fielding of the Stovl version was previously the priority for the program to provide much-needed AV-8B Harrier replacements to the Marine Corps. Because of the commonality among the variants, Stovl testing was expected to satisfy many requirements for testing of the F-35A/C. Now, however, Gates proposes to decouple Stovl flight testing from the CTOL and CV versions and prioritize work on A and C.
Developmental testing for the A and C versions would be extended by 10 months until the first quarter of 2016, with double the amount of time needed to shore up Stovl developmental testing. The 20 months added to Stovl developmental testing will go until the fourth quarter of Fiscal 2016 (which ends in September 2017).
It remains unclear when the CTOL variant will be released to international customers for use; that was slated for 2014.
DellaVedova describes each of the known problems for the F-35B Stovl jet as “readily solvable through engineering adjustments and then testing to validate sufficiency of the adjustment.” Among the issues now being worked are problems with the lift-fan clutch heating, thermal expansion of the lift-fan drive shaft and roll post heating (which takes place in the wing near where fuel is stored). Additionally, “selective redesign” of the lift-fan doors is likely necessary to “increase durability,” DellaVedova says.
Also in the $4.6 billion added to development is additional reserves, or “funding to address unknown items that may be discovered in developmental flight test,” DellaVedova says. The government added up to 500 additional flights for the program as margin to avoid the need for further restructurings; if all of those flights are not needed, the development and operational testing phase could end earlier, according to a program source.
Gates did not say during his press conference what must be done for Stovl to graduate from probation. Completion of the system design and development (SDD) phase, including developmental and operational testing, is being assessed as part of a detailed schedule that will be released later this year, DellaVedova says. An integrated baseline review is expected to take place in the fall.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

F-35B BF-2 goes vertical

F-35B BF-2 goes vertical
F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing test aircraft BF-2 prepares to make its first vertical landing on Jan 2, 2011, at NAS Patuxent River, Md. Credit: Phaedra Loftis, Lockheed Martin

Canada's Cyclone on trial

Canada's Cyclone on trial
A Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter is undergoing ship trails off Halifax with the HMCS Montreal before deliveries begin to the Canadian Forces in 2011. Credit: Canadian Forces

F-35A AF-4 arrives at Edwards

F-35A AF-4 arrives at Edwards
F-35A test aircraft AF-4 arrives at Edwards AFB, Calif., on Jan 22, 2011, to join the flight-test program. Credit: Liz Kaszynski, Lockheed Martin

Embraer To Roll Out Indian AEW&C On Feb. 21

BENGALURU, India — India’s Embraer-built Airborne Early Warning & Control System (AEW&C) is scheduled for rollout Feb. 21 in Brazil.
A senior defense official confirmed to Aviation Week Jan. 27 that the first flight of the modified EMB-145 is expected around May. “The first EMB-145 will land in India in August 2011 for system integration and subsequent induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF),” the official says.
India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the AEW&C program in October 2004. The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) gave the task to the Bengaluru-based Center for Airborne Systems (CABS). The initial project was approved at a cost of Rs 1,800 crore ($396 million) to develop two operational systems and one engineering prototype within 78 months. But the IAF could only finalize the operational requirements in 2007. CCS looked into the delay and extended the probable date of completion to March 2014, while approving funds to carry out additional tasks.
“The AEW&C with the systems integrated by CABS will fly in India in early 2012,” the official says. “CABS has already begun the integration on ground-based systems [according to the] exact specifications [of] the EMB-145, including the seating arrangements.”
AEW&C is seen as a force multiplier for IAF’s surveillance activities and is expected to boost India’s network-centric warfare capabilities. “In addition to surveillance and tracking of aircraft and UAVS, the system can also detect emissions and communications from radar,” the official says.
The Indian AEW&C system can operate with a maximum crew of 12. “It can fly nonstop for 10-12 hours with midair-refueling,” the official adds. “The all-up weight is 24 tons. The aircraft is being modified to enable mounting of mission systems and [to] be certified for airworthiness, including ... icing conditions, by Brazilian authorities as per the FAR 25 standard.”

Nominations Open for Collier Trophy

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is looking for nominations for the Robert J. Collier trophy. The award is presented annually “for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America” in the preceding year and can go to individuals, groups, companies or institutions.
Anyone is eligible to submit a nomination, yet the NAA has said the entries for certain categories, particularly from the general and business aviation community, are often few in number and it would like to see that change.
The Washington-based association put out the call last and says the deadline for submissions is Jan. 31st. Applications can be submitted online. For information on the process and forms go to:

Germany Nears ISS Extension Agreement

PARIS — German space agency DLR has approved a program plan for 2011 featuring new in-orbit servicing, broadband technology and methane-monitoring missions, as well as additional funding for the International Space Station (ISS), the Ariane 5 launch system and a European relay satellite system.
The plan reflects the priorities of a new strategic space plan, unveiled late last year, and Germany’s commitment to increase financial support for space activities. This year’s budget will make around €1.25 billion ($1.7 billion) available for space spending, up from €1.2 billion last year, DLR head Johann-Dietrich Woerner said on Jan. 27.
In an address Jan. 26, Woerner said the agency approved the launch of three new projects this year — DEOS, a mission to test the ability to service and de-orbit satellites that fail in orbit; Heinrich Hertz, a demonstrator intended to evaluate broadband communications technologies; and Merlin, a joint mission with France that is designed to monitor methane emissions in the atmosphere.
Merlin is fully agreed to and budgeted, and Heinrich Hertz is defined and ready to start, except for the secondary science payload, Woerner says. Merlin is to be orbited in 2014 and Heinrich Hertz in 2015. Some aspects of the in-orbit servicing mission — a high-risk undertaking, currently in Phase B detailed definition, for which a convincing business case has yet to be made — may also still have to be settled, and no launch date has yet been set. “But we believe we have unique robotics know-how that will allow us to do it,” Woerner says.
In addition, DLR has agreed to operate Sweden’s Prisma formation-flying mission to gain more rendezvous and docking expertise. And a technology satellite, known as TET, designed to test new attitude control software, onboard data management subsystem and other satellite components, will be launched on March 19.
Woerner says DLR also has come to an agreement in principle with other European Space Agency (ESA) member states to proceed with development of the European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS) system, even though an ESA board meeting on Jan. 25 failed to secure sufficient funding to launch the program. The agreement would entail adding one or more hosted payloads, probably in communications, to the dedicated satellite that will comprise the two-spacecraft system in order to attract other countries to back the initiative.
Germany has committed the biggest share in the €270 million mission, which will be operated by EADS Astrium and use an OHB System bus and optical relay supplied by Tesat Spacecom. Contract signature is imminent, Woerner says (Aerospace DAILY, Jan. 18).
The DLR chief executive also confirms statements earlier this week by Yannick d’Escatha, head of French space agency CNES, that Germany and France have come to agreement on how to reorganize Europe’s increasingly uncompetitive launch sector and finance a five-year life extension of the ISS. In a head-to-head meeting in December, the two nations “made a giant leap forward” on the two issues, Woerner says, and are now “very close to a joint position ... that resolves both issues in parallel.”
Paris and Berlin are “not far away” from agreeing on a new price support mechanism for Arianespace — a top French priority — although the figure may vary somewhat from the €120 million-per-year target that had been set (Aerospace DAILY, Jan. 27). They favor keeping the current mixed public-private shareholding structure for now, but with far more transparency, reserving the right to modify it later.
In return, Germany will get strong support for the ISS extension — a chief German objective — although not as much as the €380 million per year it had sought.

Pemco Counters FAA Claims

Pemco World Air Services responded to FAA’s Jan. 24 claim that the MRO failed to properly follow drug and alcohol testing requirements in two categories.
On the first count, FAA says the MRO did not administer pre-employment drug tests to two people doing safety-sensitive jobs. Pemco says the two people had started company training a few days before the negative drug test results came back, but those people were not performing safety-sensitive work.
FAA’s second claim, based on a routine audit, states Pemco didn’t conduct follow-up drug or alcohol testing for eight people reinstated after finishing return-to-duty-training in 2008. The agency says Pemco missed 24 follow-up tests in total for these individuals. Pemco says it gave the tests per an external substance abuse vendor, which apparently provided faulty scheduling and test quantity requirements. “In the vast majority of instances cited, the required number of tests were administered, but in the wrong months,” says Pemco, which no longer uses that vendor.
FAA proposed a $170,000 civil penalty against Pemco, which has 30 days to respond. In its Jan. 25 statement, the company says it supports FAA’s efforts to monitor safety and takes the agency’s allegations seriously. “Pemco does not believe that any of these circumstances represented a material shortfall in our safety procedures, and we are working with the FAA to clarify whether they warrant the action the FAA has proposed,” says a company statement.
In related news, the FAA proposed a $1,025,000 penalty on Jan. 22 against ST Aerospace San Antonio for also not following drug and alcohol testing requirements. ST Aerospace says it addressed FAA’s allegations in 2008. “Although we are concerned about the FAA’s notice, we are also comfortable with the fact that we cooperated with the FAA years ago to resolve their concerns and to implement quality controls to ensure that we continue to comply with the FAA’s drug-testing program,” says the MRO in a press release.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Photo: Air New Zealand Proves It Is Crazy About Rugby

Air Lease Corporation took delivery of the first of 51 Airbus A320 family aircraft today. The order was placed at Farnborough in 2010. 

The delivery aircraft will be operated by Air New Zealand, complete with a one-off livery as part of the airline's Crazy About Rugby campaign. Here it is:

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Air New Zealand A320

Air New Zealand A320
Air New Zealand's brand new A320 in all black livery (28 Jan)

NZ Govt. May Reduce Stake In Air New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says the government will consider reducing the majority stake it holds in Air New Zealand, although he also says this ownership model has worked well and should be emulated with other state-owned assets.
In a major annual policy speech, Key said he has asked Treasury for advice on “the merits and viability” of reducing the government’s shareholding in the airline, which is currently about 75%. However, he stresses that the government would still retain a majority stake.
Such a move would not affect the company much. While it is the major owner, the government takes a hands-off approach to strategy and the running of the carrier. The government acquired the majority ownership in 2001 when the carrier was in dire financial straits.
“A change in the government’s shareholding while retaining a majority stake would have no influence on Air New Zealand’s business but would provide greater market liquidity for shareholders,” the airline says in a statement.
Key says the government is conducting a broader review of certain state-owned assets, to identify “where we have more money invested than we absolutely need to.”
He says the mixed-ownership model under which Air New Zealand operates, with a government majority stake but some private equity, “gives the best of both worlds.”
“Under this model, the government has a controlling stake in what is a crucial piece of transport infrastructure and guarantees that it will be majority New Zealand owned,” says Key. “But by not owning 100% of the airline, the government also has capital free to invest in other assets.” A similar model “could be extended to more of the government’s commercial assets.”
Key says under mixed government-private ownership, “Air New Zealand has been a creative and innovative company and a model corporate citizen … [and] has also offered some very competitive prices for air travel. I am convinced that Air New Zealand would not be run as well, nor provide as good a service to customers, if it was owned 100% by the government.”

Finally, Boeing Delivers a KC-767 to Italy

Almost six years late, Boeing has delivered the first of four KC-767A tanker/transports to the Italian air force. The aircraft, serial MM 62229, was handed over at Practica di Mare airbase south of Rome on Jan 27. 

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'It's all yours, mate." (Photo: Aeronautica Militare)

But it won't go to work just yet. First it will have to undergo in-country tests before entering operational service with 14 Stormo (Wing). Boeing will deliver the second aircraft within a few months, says the air force. The KC-767As are replacing four ageing Boeing 707T/T tanker/transports. Delivery was planned for 2005, but was delayed by flutter problems caused by the underwing hose-and-drogue refueling pods. 

Italy's KC-767As are equipped for three-point refueling, with a centerline boom in addition to the pods. The aircraft also can carry a combination of passengers and freight, whereas Japan's KC-767s are equipped with just the boom and can carry either passengers or cargo.

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Photo: Boeing

ISS Crew Grapples Japan's Kounotori Supply Capsule

The International Space Station crew successfully grappled Japan's second unmanned H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-2) space freighter during rendezvous operations early Jan. 27, setting the stage for berthing activities using the orbiting science laboratory's Canadian robot arm.
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ISS robotic arm grapples Japan's HTV 2 cargo capsule. NASA TV
NASA's Catherine Coleman, the primary arm operator, and the European Space Agency's Paulo Nespoli nabbed the spacecraft loaded with 5.3 tons of spare parts, food, research gear, water and other supplies at 6:41 a.m., EST, as the two spacecraft sailed 220 miles above the southern Indian Ocean. The two ships were separated by 33 feet.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) HTV-2, christened Kounotori, lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center on Jan. 22, the first in a parade of global supply missions that are previewing station supply operations in the post-space shuttle era.

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Kounotor maneuvers within 44 feet of the ISS.   NASA TV
Russia's 41 Progress mission was scheduled to lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome late Jan. 27, setting up an automated rendezvous and docking with the station on Jan 29 at 9:39 p.m, EST. The European Space Agency's second Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler, is nearing a Feb. 15 launching from Kourou, French Guiana, that will initiate an eight-day station transit.

Coleman and Nespoli, working on Jan. 27 from a computer control post in the station's cupola, were to berth Kounotori to the Earth-facing port of the U.S. segment's Harmony module, providing the station's crew with internal access to supplies within the freighter's pressurized logistics carrier early on Jan. 28.

Boeing 787 Test Priority Shifts To ETOPS

Boeing’s 787 certification focus is shifting from aircraft tests to qualification for long-range ETOPS at entry-into-service in the aftermath of last November’s electrical fire, says Boeing CEO James McNerney.
Despite the delays caused by the fire on ZA002, the 787 program has completed 75% of the flight testing required for delivery, but the redesign of software prompted by the incident is threatening the timing of Boeing’s ETOPS qualification program. Without FAA approval for ETOPS at entry-into-service, early long-range operations by launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) and others will be severely limited.
Speaking to analysts on a 2010 earnings call, McNerney adds that as 787 flight hours pass the 2,500 flight-hours mark, qualification testing for ETOPS at entry-into-service is the growing priority. “We have a clear view of what we need to do. The FAA has been working very closely with us. ETOPS is different this time around than it was on the 777. The FAA has a new way of doing it. It used to be cycle-based and now it is fault-based and condition-based. The question is what test points are applicable for each test point, and we have to do it right.”
Commenting on development of the revised power distribution control software after the 787 electrical fire, and whether the chances of winning ETOPS clearance at entry-into-service have been endangered, McNerney says, “We are in agreement. We have a temporary fix, but we are going to implement a permanent fix before we go into ETOPS testing. But there is no misunderstanding between us [and the FAA] on what needs to be done, and on what timing.”
Overall Assembly Rate Will Continue To Grow
Production of the 787 is holding at two per month, and Boeing remains confident the overall assembly rate will continue to grow to 10 per month by the end of 2013. McNerney says the target is achievable but will occur later in the year than originally planned because of the delivery slide to the -8 into the third quarter of 2011. “We had a very conservative view and a significant amount of margin in our production ramp-up plans, and a lot of that has now been eaten up by the latest delay. Everything slid to the right—and that is offset by a contingency we had in 2013.”
McNerney adds that completion of recent assemblies into Everett has been at a “very high” level, suggesting that the company’s supply chain is over the hump on rework levels and aiming for a smoother ride into the production ramp-up plan for 2011-2013. On any thoughts of rate acceleration, McNerney is cautious. “We’re mindful of the supply chain, and we don’t want to relive the experiences of 1997.”
Commenting on the 747-8F program, McNerney says the stretched freighter has also passed the 1,700-flight-hour mark and, at roughly 650 flights, is about two-thirds of the way through its test program. With fixes for the aileron vibration and modal suppression issues discovered last year now completing flight test, Boeing remains confident of achieving first delivery around mid-2011. Development of the -8I passenger variant, meanwhile, remains on track for first flight in late March, while both the first two aircraft have now achieved ‘power-on’ in ground tests.
CFO James Bell says deliveries for 2011 are expected to cover 485-400 aircraft, and that all positions through December are “sold out.” This includes 25-40 747-8/787s, divided “roughly equally between the two programs.” Analysts suggest deliveries of up to 17 747-8s by yearend, meaning that Boeing could be looking at eight to 23 787 deliveries for the last four months of 2011.

Pentagon Defers Senate KC-X Questions

The U.S. Air Force will respond to a lawmaker’s inquiry on whether the Integrated Fleet Aerial Refueling Assessment (Ifara) can be eliminated from the service’s KC-X aerial refueling tanker competition, as well as comment on how important Ifara is to the award, an Air Force representative told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) this morning.
Moreover, USAF will respond to a question about what options were considered to “level the playing field” after a data-release mistake last year, defense officials said during a wide-ranging and mostly theatrical hearing on the error. The 2.5-hr. hearing, which quickly became more contentious among senators than between the panel and the witnesses, follows the Nov. 1, 2010, incident and comes just weeks before the long-expected award announcement (Aerospace DAILY, Jan. 17).
Responses to these questions may become the most relevant outcome from the hearing and the mistake as Ifara, a model used to gauge how each aircraft will handle various operational scenarios, is important to the competition. The assessment is one of three areas that could impact the final price that the bidders can offer.
As reported by Aviation Week since the now-defunct 2008 attempt to award the KC-X program to a team of Northrop Grumman and EADS, Ifara was added to the KC-X competition after pressure from that team. Boeing proponents see Ifara as favoring the EADS proposal, which calls for a larger aircraft.
The witnesses were Maj. Gen. Wendy Masiello, program executive officer for combat and mission support in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition; and Steven Shirley, executive director of the Defense Department’s Cyber Crime Center. Neither official is involved in the KC-X competition, nor were they able to provide much comment on Air Force and Pentagon thinking over the data-release error.
In turn, most senators used the opportunity to try to advocate for Boeing or EADS, depending on the potential benefits to their states. Along the way, some legislators sought actual details on the data-release as well. For instance, Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), the second-ranking Republican on the Democratic-controlled SASC, inquired about the role and importance of Ifara. The witnesses took the question for the record, meaning the Air Force and Pentagon officials are expected to provide answers later. “I believe we should know,” Inhofe said.
In the data-release, Air Force officials sent files containing interim Ifara information to the wrong industry teams. However, in an effort to level the playing field, USAF then released to both contractors the cover sheets outlining each bidder’s performance in the Ifara model so both sides now officially have the same information.
Positive, efficient performance in Ifara can work in a bidder’s favor, and a design Ifara deems ineffective can have the opposite result. The data were not a definitive score. But some industry officials contend that the mix-up gave each competitor an unplanned glimpse at the rival’s design.
According to Masiello and Shirley, whose lab provided highly regarded computer forensics analysis, defense officials had a high degree of confidence in understanding what happened right after each industry team received the data. Some information stems from the companies themselves, but officials have no reason to doubt their veracity. According to the hearing testimony and statements provided by the companies, a Boeing executive recognized that the one wrong computer file was not intended for Boeing and did not view it.
“At no point did the Boeing analysts open any files on the second (“K30B”) disk, nor did they make any copies or printouts of the second disk data,” Dennis Muilenburg, chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, told the SASC. “Our analysts did not forward the files or in any other way provide further access to the data to any other person.”
By comparison, an EADS executive glimpsed the file and quickly reported to another person under a protocol for handling inappropriate exposure to such data. The executive purportedly looked at the one-page file for 15 sec. The file was open on the computer for about 3 min., and the computer itself stayed on for about 20 min. during this sequence of events.
“At this point, we believe the incident was properly handled by our personnel as to mitigate the situation,” said an EADS email to a USAF contracting officer, which was included in a detailed EADS chronology that was sent to the SASC.
Some senators lobbed questions at the defense witnesses about the truthfulness of the EADS assertions. Shirley expressed confidence in the computer forensics. Masiello—and some senators friendly to EADS—noted that the interim Ifara data has since been formally provided to both teams, which can still update the final bids they have submitted. Senators also sparred over whether the hearing was appropriate now, considering that the KC-X award has not been made and the session could be seen as influencing the outcome. SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) defended calling the hearing while ranking Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) criticized the timing and the official release of related statements from Boeing and EADS.

Task Five

Research under NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) program has established that conventional tube-and-wing configurations will simply not cut it when it comes to meeting its noise, emission and fuel burn goals for the mid-2020s and beyond.

So it was with some interest that delegates gathered here at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics aerospace sciences conference in Orlando, Fla, viewed the finalists in NASA’s N+2 preferred system concepts competition. ‘N+2’ refers to a second generation of technology beyond today, and encompasses technology that could be in service around 2025. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman won contracts, and a finalist will be selected by year-end. 

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Blended wing concepts with open rotor and geared turbofans form Boeing's bid. (Boeing/NASA)

Boeing is proposing a blended wing body and, more interestingly, is configuring it with either two Pratt & Whitney geared turbofans, or the option of three General Electric/CFM Leap-X based open rotors. Lockheed Martin - revealing its most-progressive new home-grown airliner concept in three decades - gains points with a radical-looking option. Configured with a non-traditional, laminar flow, modified box-wing, the engines are tail-mounted.  Northrop Grumman presents a notional double-fuselage study and says its final concept will “fall out of the study”.

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Lockheed Martin is offering a highly-modified box-wing concept. (Lockheed Martin/NASA)

The coming year will focus on five main tasks, says ERA chief engineer Mark Mangelsdorf. The first will be to evaluate a full-scale concept, starting with studies of how the contenders could best fit into the FAA’s NextGen airspace plan. Task 2 will focus on meeting the preferred performance requirements. For example, the passenger vehicle should be able to carry a 50,000-lb. payload 8,000 nm. while the freighter should be able to carry a 100,000-lb. payload 6,500 nm. Each contender will compile concept data packages together with comparisons to a conventional baseline design.

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Northrop Grumman's notional double-fuselage concept will likely be superseded by a less radical proposal. (Northrop Grumman/NASA)

Task 3 will sketch out a detailed 15-year technology maturation roadmap, while task 4 will focus on the “long poles”, or the critical technology demonstrations for the second half of the ERA program in 2013-15. “We’re also interested in technologies that apply to N+1 (nearer term single aisle concepts, or retrofitable to current 737/regional jet-class models),” Mangelsdorf says.

But it is Task 5, the conceptual design of a subscale test vehicle (STV), that really captures the imagination. With the same configuration as the full-scale concepts, and capability to fly at the same Mach cruise speeds, it will have retractable gear and be big enough “to demonstrate noise, emissions and fuel burn goals.” Initial feedback from teams suggests a “sweet spot” around 65% full-scale to enable, intriguingly, the use of “the thrust class of engines for the 737RS size,” Mangelsdorf says. What’s more, should NASA proceed with the STV, it could have a 20-year career as a testbed for other projects, including integrating unmanned platforms in the US National Airspace System.

ATC Evacuation Disrupts Transatlantic Flights

The Nav Canada air traffic control center that handles most transatlantic traffic was temporarily evacuated Jan. 27, causing ground delays and re-routings.
Controllers had to leave the Gander Area Control Center at about 9:15 a.m. EST due to smoke coming from an electrical panel in a power supply room. They returned about 40 minutes later, but it took longer to get systems up and running.
While Gander was offline, controllers in the nearby Moncton center took responsibility for the Gander oceanic airspace. However, a ground delay was issued for flights headed east to Europe until about 3 p.m. EST.
About 20 U.S. transatlantic flights were affected by this delay, a Nav Canada spokeswoman says. Some flights did take off, but stayed further south in the FAA’s New York oceanic airspace.
Westbound flights from Europe also were delayed on the ground due to the Gander evacuation, but numbers are not yet available. Snow in the U.S. and Canada caused additional disruption to transatlantic flights.
Nav Canada says there were about 200 flights already airborne in the Gander sector when the problem occurred, and these were switched over to the Moncton controllers. About two dozen westbound flights were re-routed further south to avoid the Gander airspace, an FAA official says.
The major eastbound flow occurs in the evening, and Nav Canada says the Gander center will be operating normally for these flights.

Pentagon Boosting Emarss Buy Despite Protests

The Pentagon expects to increase its purchase of U.S. Army Enhanced Medium-Range Surveillance System (Emarss) aircraft in the forthcoming Fiscal 2012 budget request, according to a defense official.
The original procurement of Emarss platforms was expected to be six aircraft in low-rate initial production. The Pentagon will propose an additional 12, for a total of 18, this official says.
On Jan. 6, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a series of budget shifts to come, including the termination of the General Dynamics Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and a two-year “probation” for the Lockheed Martin F-35B program — both for the Marine Corps — to address design problems and testing delays. Among the possible “plus-ups,” or budget boosts, listed by Gates was the purchase of more MC-12 aircraft, although it was unclear at that time whether Gates meant the Air Force MC-12W Project Liberty configuration, or the forthcoming Emarss version sought by the Army.
L-3 Communications is now building the final MC-12Ws.
The plus-up will not, however, accelerate the Emarss development that is on hold while federal auditors explore claims of unfairness in the Army’s selection of Boeing to design and build the Emarss aircraft. The congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) is reviewing protests of Boeing’s $323-million development contract award filed by all of the company’s rivals for that program. They are Northrop Grumman, L-3 and a Lockheed Martin/Sierra Nevada Corp. team.
Boeing was ordered to stop work on Dec. 15, 2010, following Northrop Grumman’s protest a day earlier. L-3 filed its claim Dec. 15 and Lockheed Martin followed on Dec. 20. Northrop Grumman filed subsequent papers with the GAO on the matter on Jan. 20.
The findings are expected to come out as soon as March 24.
Raytheon and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) also bid but were eliminated from competition during an earlier downselect.
Likely at issue is how the Army rated the four competitors and how the service assesses value with respect to price and capabilities of the designs.
Aviation Week reported last month that L-3’s proposal was about $50 million less than Boeing’s, and both were rated equally in terms of technical and past performance (AWIN, Dec. 16, 2010).
Some considered Boeing to be a dark horse in the Emarss competition.
Northrop Grumman has experience building the Army Guardrail, the predecessor to Emarss. L-3 has built similar platforms for the Task Force ODIN anti-improvised-explosive-device project, and L-3 led the Project Liberty work for the Air Force.
The Army planned to deploy the first Emarss to Afghanistan within 18 months of contract award, which would have been around June 2012. It is unclear now when those aircraft will be ready for service.
Emarss grew out of another problematic program: it is a scaled-down version of the defunct Aerial Common Sensor project, won by Lockheed Martin/Embraer, which the Army terminated because of weight problems and cost growth.
Emarss will employ electro-optical/infrared and communication intelligence-collection systems.

Boeing Clinches P-8A LRIP Contract

Boeing plans to start assembly of the first of six low-rate initial production (LRIP) P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft by midyear, following the award of a $1.6 billion U.S. Navy contract.
The LRIP-1 contract includes spares, logistics and training devices, and comes as Boeing continues to make rapid progress with the first batch of flight and ground test aircraft under the P-8A System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract awarded in 2004.
Three of the six SDD aircraft are in flight test at NAS Patuxent River, Md., while a fourth is undergoing systems installation at Boeing Field in Seattle. The fifth aircraft arrived at Boeing Field on Jan. 22 from the 737 assembly line at nearby Renton, Wash., while the sixth aircraft, a late addition to the original SDD contract, is now in final assembly.
Boeing also completed the initial ground tests on the static airframe earlier this month and in September will transfer the aircraft to Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake, Calif., for live-fire exercises. S2, the fatigue test airframe, will begin testing later this year, Boeing says.
The Navy is expected to take delivery of 117 P-8As by 2025 as replacements for the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion, with entry into service due in 2013. Boeing also has started assembly work on the first of eight P-8Is for the Indian Navy and is in talks with the Australian Navy about an additional order.

Cessna Delivers 79 BizJet in Q4

Cessna Aircraft delivered 79 business jets in the fourth quarter, for a total of 179 on the year, and executives are optimistic that the manufacturer will deliver at least as many jets, if not a little more, in 2011.
Cessna parent Textron today reported that the aircraft manufacturer’s revenues increased $105 million in the fourth quarter to $960 million, and the business jet maker returned to profitability after a loss in the third quarter. Cessna posted a $23 million fourth quarter profit, but a $29 million loss on the year.
Fourth quarter profit was down $5 million from a year earlier, the company says, “as the profit from higher volumes was more than offset by the impact of manufacturing inefficiencies relate to low production levels, lower deposit forfeiture income and higher used aircraft write-downs.”
But Textron Chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly says, “The most encouraging news in the quarter was the noticeable improvement in the demand environment for business jets, as well as commercial helicopters.” Cessna booked the highest number of gross business jet orders in the fourth quarter since the third quarter of 2008, Donnelly notes.

EADS Astrium To Develop Spaceplane

SINGAPORE — EADS Astrium has disclosed that Singapore will be a partner in its suborbital spaceplane program.
At the Global Space & Technology Convention in Singapore, EADS Astrium executives announced that Singapore will be building a small-scale demonstrator of the spaceplane and may be involved in developing parts for the commercial product. EADS Astrium is also hoping Singapore will ultimately have a fleet of its commercial spaceplanes stationed at Singapore’s Changi Airport.
Christophe Chavagnac, EADS Astrium’s suborbital spaceplane chief engineer and program manager, says Singapore companies will be designing and building a small-scale demonstrator spaceplane used to test aerodynamics and glide capability. It will have no engines, whereas the real vehicle uses turbofan engines as well as a rocket engine.
The spaceplane’s two fuselage-mounted commercial turbofan engines are needed for takeoff and initial ascent. Once it reaches an altitude of 12 km. (7.5 mi.), the rocket engine takes over.
A maximum altitude of 100 km. is achieved before the spaceplane descends. There is a period when it glides, before the turbofan engines are started and the vehicle makes its approach and lands.
The fact that it uses conventional turbofan engines means it is designed to take off and land from commercial airports. EADS Astrium also plans to apply for EASA certification for the vehicle.
Hughes Laporte-Weywada, EADS Astrium’s senior vice president for Asia-Pacific international sales and marketing, says the company has yet to officially launch the program because — like other commercial programs — the company needs to first get launch customers. Once the program is officially underway, it will take about seven years before the spacecraft will receive certification, Laporte-Weywada predicts. The program will need to build three spacecraft for the certification flight-test effort, he adds.
But even though the program has yet to be launched, the company is proceeding with building the demonstrator, which will be about 3-4 meters long, with a comparable wingspan, Laporte-Weywada says. Building and testing the demonstrator will take 18 months, he says. The real spaceplane, meanwhile, will be much larger and will have a maximum takeoff weight of about 20 tons, he adds.
Developing and building the demonstrator in Singapore means some of the demonstrator flights will occur there. For example, there will be one flight in which a helicopter will lift the demonstrator about 3 km. off the ground and then drop it to see how it glides. Other demonstrator flights will involve balloon drops from higher altitudes, but these are likely to be done elsewhere due to Singapore’s limited airspace.
EADS Astrium has the support of Singapore’s Economic Board, which has been examining for some time the development of a spaceport in the city-state.
Chavagnac says EADS Astrium last year “did a study for operating a fleet of spaceplanes from Singapore Changi Airport.
There is a dynamic market in Southeast Asia and the spaceplane would have a valuable impact on Singapore’s tourism industry.” If Singapore has a fleet of spaceplanes then it may also have a role in maintaining them, he adds.
The EADS Astrium spaceplane seats four passenger and one pilot. The flight up and back lasts about 1 hr. Its rocket engine is derived from EADS Astrium’s Vulcain engines used for satellite launchers.
But those have 120-130 tons of thrust, whereas the spaceplane’s rocket engine will have 40 tons, EADS Astrium says. The turbofan engines, used for takeoff and landing, will have about 10,000 lb. of thrust, according to Chavagnac.

Hubble Pushes Back The Clock

Analysis of far-infrared data collected during the Hubble Space Telescope’s Ultra Deep Field observations has turned up what scientists believe to be the earliest galaxy ever spotted, pointing the way for more discoveries with the planned James Webb Space Telescope.
According to a scientific paper on the discovery to be published in the journal Nature, the compact galaxy of blue stars — merely one one-hundredth the size of the Milky Way — existed only 480 million years after the Big Bang.
Light from the object — too distant to resolve the individual stars — traveled for 13.2 billion years to reach the orbiting observatory.
That breaks the old record for Hubble by 150 years, but that record is likely to be shattered if NASA can overcome cost overruns to launch the Webb telescope, which is designed to look back even deeper into the red-shifted early Universe.
“We’re peering into an era where big changes are afoot,” says Garth Illingworth of the University of California/Santa Cruz, who co-authored the Nature paper with Rychard Bouwens of the University of Leiden. “The rapid rate at which the star birth is changing tells us if we go a little farther back in time we’re going to see even more dramatic changes, closer to when the first galaxies were just starting to form.”
Based on the new data, Illingworth and Bouwens calculate that the rate of star birth over the period from 480 million years after the Big Bang to 650 million years increased by a factor of 10 — much faster than expected. Webb may be able to push back deeper into the roughly 13.7-billion-year mark accepted as the age of the Universe to help astronomers better understand when and how the first stars formed.
“These observations provide us with our best insights yet into the earlier primeval objects that have yet to be found,” Bouwens says.
The galaxy was found in the Ultra Deep Field, a long-exposure observation with the Wide Field Camera 3 installed on the Hubble in May 2009. Analysis of the data and confirmation of the galaxy’s age took about a year.

Timco Growing 737NG Airframe MRO Business

Boeing 737NG airframe maintenance is a growing business for Timco Aviation Services, which has recently added capacity in the U.S. for C checks and plans to add more later this year. Timco opened an C check line in September 2010 in Greensboro, N.C., where it has carried out winglet installation modifications on the type since 2005, and it added a second C check line there in late December 2010. The Greensboro capabity supplements Timco’s initial 737NG C check line in Lake City, Fla., where it has done the work on 737NGs since 2008.
C checks for narrowbodies such as the 737NG and Airbus A320 family are expected to lead the airframe MRO market in the near term: The number of C checks that operators will require this year shows a slight incline over recent years, and the number of C checks slated for the worldwide 737-800 fleet, for example, will grow from 1,580 to 1,678 over the 12-month period from September 2011 September 2012, according to MRO Prospector data.
This growth is driving Timco’s expansion. “As larger numbers of the newest family of Boeing 737 aircraft are coming up for scheduled maintenance, we have anticipated increased visits of the type at our facilities,” says Mike Anderson, general manager for Timco’s Greensboro operations.
Timco’s Greensboro facility is doing all phases of C check work on Boeing 737-700, -800 and -900 aircraft. In 2010, it completed C checks on nine aircraft for North American customers; the addition of the second line late in the year allowed it to produce an additional five aircraft, says spokesman John Eichten. Based on its current plan, Eichten says Timco expects 20-25 visits per line at the Greensboro facility this year.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Horizon Air, In Pictures

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Progress Departs ISS As Part Of Cargo Shuffle

HOUSTON — The crew of the International Space Station dispatched Russia’s Progress 40 on Jan. 23, clearing the Pirs docking port for the arrival of a replacement space freighter carrying more than 6,000 lb. of propellant and other supplies by month’s end.
Progress 40 departed the orbiting science lab at 7:40 p.m. EST, ending a near three-month stay (docking at Pirs took place on Oct. 30, 2010), according to the Russian Federal Space Agency. The spacecraft made a fiery descent into the Earth’s atmosphere, with some pieces plunging into the Pacific Ocean.
Meanwhile, Progress 41 is undergoing preparations for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Jan. 27 at 8:31 p.m. EST, initiating a two-day transit to the station. The Russian capsule, carrying slightly more than 6,000 lb. of fuel, water, compressed air and other supplies, is scheduled for an automated docking with Pirs on Jan. 29 at 10:20 p.m. EST.
The Progress 41 launching will come on the heels of the arrival of Japan’s HTV-2, Kounotori, at the station. Kounotori was launched Jan. 22 from the Tanegashima Space Center, with 5.3 tons of equipment including research gear and external spare parts for the station’s U.S. segment. The Japanese cargo capsule is scheduled to rendezvous with the station on Jan. 27 (Aerospace DAILY, Jan. 25).

Neuron UCAV On Track For 2012 Flight

PARIS — Saab has handed over the central and forward fuselage section for Europe’s Neuron unmanned combat aerial vehicle, marking a major step forward in the French-led, six-nation stealth demonstration program.
The Saab subassembly will be mated to the rear fuselage section, which was delivered by Helenic Aerospace Industries (HAI) in mid-January.
Other items are scheduled to follow in the coming months to pave the way for the first flight, set for mid-2012. The ordnance release pantograph is expected to arrive in late February from Switzerland’s Ruag and the delta wings from EADS CASA of Spain in early March. Alenia will deliver the bomb bay doors at the end of March and Saab the landing gear doors the following month. Low-visibility items­ — a key object of the demonstration — will be delivered between January and March by Dassault Aviation, which is leading the program and managing assembly work at its Istres facility near Marseille. Dassault also will perform final electrical, tubing and equipment installation.
Ground tests are scheduled for the final quarter of 2011 and first run of the Neuron’s Adour engine at year’s end.
The Neuron demonstrator is intended to showcase stealth and other key technologies for the next-generation European combat aircraft program, and establish a potential cooperation framework for its design, construction and deployment. It is currently funded through an initial phase of flight demonstrations, set to end in late 2013. But the French are studying a proposed five-year follow-on demonstration program with Great Britain that would pair Neuron with Britain’s Taranis demonstrator with a view to a possible joint-development initiative toward the end of the decade.
A road map for a common technology development and production path is slated to be completed by 2012 under a wide-ranging Franco-British defense cooperation treaty signed last November. However, how France’s Neuron partners view such an arrangement remains to be seen. Moreover, no European nation, including France and Britain, has yet defined a UCAV requirement.

Boeing Bets On Replacement 737 Over Reengining

Boeing is betting that technology will mature enough by 2019/2020 to support a new airplane to serve the all-important 100- to 200-seat market, rather than taking the option of re-engining 737NGs to compete with the Airbus A320 New Engine Option (NEO) program.
“If we can come up with the right airplanes in the roughly 2019/2020 [period], I personally think the market will wait for us,” CEO James McNerney told analysts during a 2010 earnings call Wednesday. “But we have to work through the airplane [to see] more precisely what it will look like.”
The company expects to spend most of the year evaluating the tradeoffs of introducing an all-new airframe with new engines, systems and, perhaps, greater use of composites in the fuselage to improve its overall lifecycle performance versus the interim step of re-engining the current 737 to achieve immediate fuel burn improvements.
If Boeing’s bet on an all-new airplane is feasible by the end of the decade, it will leapfrog Airbus’s NEO, which is to enter service no earlier than 2016. Airbus has bet that new technologies will not be mature enough to meet a decade-end deadline. It expects a 15% fuel burn gain for customers who chose either one of its engine offerings-- the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan or CFM International LEAP-X.
But if technologies are not mature enough until 2025 then Boeing will need to consider reengining to meet the NEO challenge. It will make that decision by year end, McNerney said. He did not mention engine choices, but they include the LEAP-X or PW1000G.
Boeing and Airbus are no longer operating in a duopoly vacuum. Bombardier’s 130-seat CSeries, to be powered by the PW1000G, and China’s C919 with the LEAP-X are both scheduled to enter the market at mid-decade.
There is a risk for Boeing’s and Airbus’ traditional customer base in this face-off. If they opt for the Airbus solution they will be investing in an interim approach that could sour only a few years later if Boeing’s all-new replacement is viable. On the other hand, if Boeing is unable to complete an all new design by the end of the decade and waits too long to respond to the NEO, Airbus will have gained an advantage.
McNerney’s comments are in line with what he and senior Boeing officials have been saying for more than a year. But coming on the heels of Airbus’ announcement, they are an important reiteration of the company’s insistence that it sees more opportunity in waiting for a full replacement for the 737.
The risk for Boeing is that airlines may grow impatient. Only last week, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson told analysts that he was most “excited” about the CSeries and NEO because of their promise of improved fuel burn. His clear implication was that Boeing will be out of the mix. Delta expects to place a firm order for some 200 small, medium and large aircraft by year-end with an option for 200 more.
Although he did not mention the NEO, McNerney implicitly criticized an interim engine upgrade strategy. “For me, putting our backlog at risk twice—once for the re-engine and then for the cost [of developing an all-new aircraft a few years later], only makes sense if the new airplane wants to be developed in 2025 and beyond,” he said.

Delta B757 Breast Cancer Awareness

Delta B757 Breast Cancer Awareness
Taken by Ajit Mahida @ Selfridge ANGB, Michigan 2009 Open House. All volunteer crew tour on weekend to promote awareness. Thanks Delta.

Netherlands Expands Chinook Fleet

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is expanding its helilift capacity with the acquisition of six CH-47F (NL) Chinook transport helicopters. The first new Dutch Chinook made its maiden flight at the Boeing Helicopters testing area in Philadelphia yesterday, the Netherlands Ministry of Defense announced.

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The ministry has ordered six CH-47Fs, which in addition to having tactical lift capabilities, are better equipped for special forces operations than the D version it supplements.

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The CH-47F is easier to maintain than the CH-47D and has an improved cockpit with a digital automatic flight system, making it easier and safer to fly under difficult conditions and to land in dusty or sandy environments, according to the Netherlands Ministry of Defense. A forward-looking infrared radar gives it better situational awareness. The CH-47F has five fast rope positions, a self-defense system and is better armed than the CH-47D. There is also room for growth, for example by adding defense against rockets.

In RNLAF service, the CH-47F will have a grey color scheme, compared to the green CH-47D.

The Netherlands' Defense Materiel Organization plans to hand the first CH-47F to the RNLAF at the end of the year, followed by the remaining five within the following six months. This will increase the number of RNLAF Chinooks to 17.

Carter Flies VTOL Hybrid

Plucky Carter Aviation Technologies has flown its proof-of-concept Personal Air Vehicle (PAV), which incorporates the slowed-rotor/compound (SR/C) technology that AAI has licensed for use in VTOL unmanned aircraft - and DARPA's Transformer (TX) flying Humvee.

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The PAV completed a 36-min flight in early January (and thanks to The Register's chief boffin-watcher Lewis Page for the heads up). Carter says the flight constitutes the first of eight milestones linked to release of funding under a $4 million economic-development incentive agreement signed with Wichita Falls, Texas, in April 2010.

For the initial phase of flight testing, Carter says, the PAV is being flown as an autogyro to refine the flight control system. This phase will include vertical take-offs and landings. For the second phase, Carter will add the 45ft-span wing and begin SR/C flight tests.

The first milestone flight (the PAV made its actual first flight back in December) is significant also for AAI, which has made a substantial bet on Carter's SR/C technology for its next-generation VTOL UAVs. Under the license agreement signed in November 2009, Carter is required to complete four new aircraft for AAI by the end of 2011.

AAI has ambitious plans for the SR/C concept, which combines the characteristics of an autogyro, compound helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft. In AAI's eyes, the SR/C is a fixed-wing aircraft that carries an unpowered rotor for VTOL capability, which makes it simpler and more efficient that a helicopter - conventional or compound.

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Shadow SR/C (Concept: AAI)

For vertical take-off, a drive system is engaged on the ground to enable the engine to spin the rotor up to take-off RPM. The drive is then disengaged and blade pitch increased for a "jump" take-off on the energy stored in the rotor. Once airborne, the same engine drives a pusher propeller to provide forward thrust. 

As speed increases, the rotor mast is tilted forward forward to slow down and offload the now-autorotating rotor, lift transferring to the more-efficient fixed wing. To land, the aircraft autorotates to a "zero-roll" touchdown using energy stored in the high-inertia rotor system, which has composite blades with heavy weights in their tips.

AAI has at least three projects under way using SR/C. The first is to modify a pair of next-generation Shadow tactical-UAV prototypes with the propulsor and unpowered rotor. VTOL capability will make the aircraft independent of the current Shadow's pneumatic launcher and runway recovery while increasing payload and endurance, says AAI.

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Cargo SR/C. (Concept: AAI)

The second is to fly a prototype of an unmanned cargo aircraft. This will be built by Carter and based on its PAV design, and will carry a heavier payload faster, and further, than an unmanned helicopter, says AAI. The Shadow SR/C and cargo UAV are to fly this year.

AAI's third project, for which a second license was signed with Carter late last year, is to design a four-seat "fly-drive" tactical vehicle for DARPA. This could lead to a protoype flying in 2015. AAI's TX design has folding rotor, mast and wings and uses a turboshaft engine to spool up the rotor and drive a ducted propulsor in "fly" mode, and to generate electricity to drive wheel motors in "drive" mode.

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Transformer SR/C. (Concept: AAI)

Carter, meanwhile, plans to offer the "2+2" PAV as a kitplane. The company calls the aircraft is its second generation of SR/C. In an...eventful...flight-test program between 1995 and 2008, the earlier technology demonstrator showed the aircraft can take-off and land vertically and cruise at 150kt with near fixed-wing efficiency.