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Sunday, May 15, 2011

European Air Transport Command Becomes Operational

The European Air Transport Command (EATC) became operational earlier this week at Eindhoven air base in the Netherlands. The EATC is responsible for the planning, tasking and mission control of Belgian, Dutch, French and German transport aircraft and tankers.

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EATC photo

The national breakdown of aircraft assigned to the EATC is as follows:

•10 C-130 Hercules
•1 A330 Airbus
•4 ERJ145s on request
•1 DA900 on request
•2 DA20s on request

•32 C-160 Transalls
•9 C-130 Hercules
•10 CASA-235s
•3 A310 Airbuses
•2 A340 Airbuses

•63 C-160 Transalls
•5 A310 Airbus MultiRole (MedEvac on request) + 2 A310 Airbuses on request
•3 A319 Airbuses on request
•4 CH601 Challengers on request

•2 C-130 Hercules
•2 KDC-10s
•1 G4 Gulfstream on request
•2 F50 Fokkers

Raytheon Eyes Upgrades for MALD

Raytheon is looking at options to further diversify the capabilities of its Miniature Air Launched Decoy (Mald). 

blog post photoMald on the interior station of the left wing of an F-16. source: Raytheon

Though officials are mum about the potential upgrade plans, there were hints at Raytheon's Tucson, Ariz., plant this week. One indicated a plan to potentially weaponize and network the decoy. 

Another, was a poster displaying the Mald with C-130 and C-17 aircraft. According to sources close to the program, the company is developing a standard palette-based magazine for ejection of up to eight Malds. 

The goal is to develop a magazine frame for up to eight Malds. The system is designed to rapidly eject the Malds when the cargo aircraft -- a C-130 or C-17 -- reaches a specific altitude and opens the rear cargo door. 

Raytheon has demonstrated the ejection of weight-representative surrogates from a C-130 ramp equipped with the cargo launch system. Traditionally, Mald is carried by fighter or bomber aircraft. 

This capability would allow the Air Force to rapidly fill the airspace with multiple jammers and decoys during an air campaign without using up space on the weapons stations of its fighter and bomber aircraft. 

The system weights just under 300 lb and can travel about 500 naut. mi. Under contract with the Air Force, Raytheon has developed the standard Mald as well as a jammer version (Mald-J).



Phantom Ready To Fly !

Phantom Ready to Fly
Collings Foundation's F-4D Phantom just before taxiing out for a flight.

Nato Tiger Meet 2011

Nato Tiger Meet 2011The 2011 Tiger Meet is here, see you at BA Cambrai ( France) Host unit: Escadron de Chasse 01.012. Photo from the last meet, The Sierra Line at Kleine Brogel Air Base, filled with part of the NATO Tiger Meet 2009 participants Photo source:copyright © Ulrich Metternich 2002-2009/NTA

BA, Cabin Crew Near End Of Contract Battle

British Airways and the union representing its cabin crew have struck a deal that should end a protracted labor battle that has seen numerous work stoppages, if employees ratify the accord.
The deal emerged after several rounds of talks and mediation efforts failed in recent years and comes days before a new deadline for the union to set strike dates was about to be reached.
The balloting of more than 10,000 members is to take one month, with the union leadership recommending approval by members.
Willie Walsh, CEO of BA parent International Airlines Group, says one of the aspects of the deal is to “modernize our crew industrial relations and help ensure that this kind of dispute cannot occur again.”
Both sides extracted some compromises from the other, although the airline appears to have won out on the aggregate. Walsh says “our agreement with Unite involves acknowledgement by the union that the cost-saving structural changes we have made in cabin crew operations are permanent.” Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey acknowledges as much, saying the deal “recognizes the rights and dignity of the cabin crew as well as the commercial requirements for the company.”
The union has won its battle to have travel concessions restored after the airline removed them in response to previous strike action.
The dispute had seen several rounds of strikes over 22 days, with a bill to the airline in excess of £100 million ($163.9 million). BA challenged several of the planned strike actions and prevailed in court but at the cost of increasing tensions with the union.
Helping reach an agreement was the move by Walsh to IAG (the company combining BA and Iberia), with Keith Williams taking over as head of BA.

GA Avgas Coalition Vows To Fight Avgas Lawsuit

The General Aviation Avgas Coalition vowed today to fight a looming lawsuit in California against 50 fuel retailers and suppliers for distributing leaded aviation gasoline. The Center for Environmental Health (CEH), based in Oakland, Calif., served notice this week that it plans to sue for violation of California’s drinking water and toxic enforcement law.
The CEH says it is a nonprofit dedicated to “protecting the environment, improving human health and supporting environmentally sound practices.” The notices states that airplanes burning leaded fuel are exposing airports throughout the state. “Ordinary use of the leaded aviation fuel supplied by the alleged violators results in discharges or releases of lead into water or onto land where lead passes or probably will pass into a source of drinking water,” the CEH says.
CEH adds it plans to file a lawsuit against each violator unless they enter a binding agreement that the will provide warnings to individual or reside or pass by exposed airports, cease the sale of all leaded aviation fuel in California, take remedial action to clean lead from sources of drinking water and pay an appropriate civil penalty.
The GA Avgas Coalition notes it is exploring all options to support those named in the lawsuit. “Because the National Airspace System belongs to the people of the U.S. and benefits the entire country, Congress has reserved to the federal government, through the FAA, the right and responsibility to regulate all aviation activities in the U.S.,” the coalition states. “The threatened CEH lawsuit in California raises the specter of a patchwork of state regulations governing fuels pilots may or may not use in their piston-powered aircraft.”
The coalition further argues that avgas is necessary to ensure that an aircraft engine does not suffer a catastrophic failure. The coalition notes work is ongoing to address the issue, and that FAA, the industry and the Environmental Protection Agency are all collaborating on the effort. “It is imperative that the issues surrounding the safe and effective transition to an unleaded fuel be addressed at the federal level, and that the FAA and EPA be the agencies that address those concerns,” the coalition says. “The potential for this type of legal action at the state level highlights the necessity of FAA leadership, EPA involvement, and industry input to continue the safe transition to a new fuel.”
The coalition notes that the potential litigants – even those involved in the coalition – did not join in the statement because of the legal ramifications.

1st of 2 C212-400s Received by Thailand

Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has taken delivery of the first of two CASA C212-400 transport aircraft on order.
The second C212-400 will come toward year’s end, says Airbus Military, adding that prior to these two aircraft the ministry already had a fleet of 11 C212s.
It says the ministry plans to use the new aircraft for cloud seeding. Thailand has experienced flooding in the south of the country this year and droughts in the north.
CASA C212s are built by Airbus Military in Spain, but the aircraft manufacturer announced last year that the C212 line eventually would shift to Indonesian Aerospace in Bandung. The C212 is the smallest and cheapest aircraft in the Airbus Military product lineup. The company wants to shift C212 manufacturing to Indonesia because manufacturing is cheaper there. But before doing that, Airbus Military first wants to secure firm orders for C212s from customers in Indonesia.

Fighters Top Turkish Defense Wish List

ISTANBUL — Turkey is exploring whether it would be feasible to launch an indigenous fighter program, even though the government recognizes that the country still might have to be satisfied with another off-the-shelf procurement.
The fact that such an endeavor is being seriously contemplated became clear when the defense ministry’s powerful procurement and industrial agency, SSM, awarded a two-year feasibility study to Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) to explore the “art of the possible.” TAI may reach out to established aircraft makers for help, with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Saab having already offered their support.
Embraer also is talking to TAI, which could be an interesting prospect given Brazil’s own interest in launching an indigenous development this decade.
The highly ambitious schedule currently envisioned would see the Turkish fighter enter service in 2023. Industry officials suggest the requirement is for a medium- to heavy-class aircraft.
Several fallback options exist in case an independent path is deemed beyond reach. One is a partnering arrangement in which another company would provide technology critical to managing a co-development program, likely derived from an existing design. Several models would already exist from which to work. One is what Japan undertook with its F-2 fighter, in which Lockheed Martin was a major partner; the other is the arrangement Lockheed Martin struck with Korea Aerospace Industries for development of the South Korean T-50/F50 .
Turkey and South Korea at one point discussed cooperation around Seoul’s KFX project, but Seoul did not want to relinquish more than 20-30% of the program.
Another option would be a straight off-the-shelf procurement. Industry officials say a decision on which approach will be followed should be announced before the end of 2013.
These deliberations come just as Turkey is implementing an extensive fighter modernization strategy. The country is buying 30 Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 50+ fighters; the first one is slated to be delivered this month and the rest will follow before 2013. They are being fielded to offset losses of more than 20 F-16s and as a bridge until the first of 116 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are fielded. Turkey had hoped for a 2014 delivery, although that time frame is now considered unlikely given the delays in the core program.
The Turkish air force still operates a fleet of F-4 Phantom fighter/bombers. Around 50 of them were upgraded to the Phantom 2020 standard through a program carried out with Israeli involvement. But there are still “original” F-4s and RF-4s in service. These will be the first to go, while, in theory, the Phantom 2020s could last until a new fighter is procured.
Turkey also is reviewing its overall strategic outlook. The latest defense policy assessment no longer lists Greece, Syria and Iran as direct threats, which could herald a move to reduce the total fighter inventory and allow the F-4s to be retired without an immediate replacement.
Even if the F-4 follow-on program is realized, it would be for no more than 50 aircraft, with Ankara likely to buy an established system.

U.S. Commercial Crew Costs Could Exceed Soyuz

Private space companies probably can expect at least 44 paying passengers for trips to orbit in the next 10 years, NASA has told Congress, but the price per seat could be higher than the U.S. government already is paying for rides on Russia’s Soyuz capsule.
The agency’s congressionally mandated assessment of the market for the commercial cargo and crew transport to low Earth orbit (LEO) — the centerpiece of U.S. space policy for the post-shuttle era — carries no cost estimates, and is based largely on extrapolated historical data and projections by two firms that aren’t directly involved in building the commercial systems NASA needs to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station.
Phil McAlister, acting director for commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters and one of the report’s authors, says it’s too early to put a price tag on commercial human spaceflight.
“Every program’s got risks,” he says. “We don’t know for certain five years in advance what’s going to happen in 2016, what the landscape’s going to be like in 2017. All we can say for certain is at this point it looks like a very reasonable strategy to go about.”
The bottom-line assessment presented to Congress, as required by the three-year NASA authorization act adopted late last year, is a “lower end” of 44 individual human flights over the report’s 10-year span, and an “upper end” of 329-259 seats to orbit, not counting the eight seats and 26,400 lb. of cargo a year NASA plans to buy to get its astronauts and those of its non-Russian partners to the space station and keep them supplied.
Based on a “generic” consumption rate of 10.3 lb. of cargo per day per International Space Station (ISS) crewmember, the NASA team that drafted the assessment calculated a total cargo load of 7,170 lb. to LEO at the lower end, and 51,920-59,530 lb. at the upper end, over the 10-year period.
Those estimates, in turn, are based on projections supplied to NASA by Space Adventures, the Virginia-based travel agency that has sold Soyuz flights to the ISS, and Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing a commercial space station infrastructure in LEO.
If Bigelow’s plans work out, the Las Vegas-based company’s inflatable modules would be the only other destination in LEO for commercial cargo and crew vehicles, and NASA’s assessment is based largely on Bigelow’s projections. Bigelow told NASA it anticipates 30 flights with three to five passengers each to its first operational station, and 45-60 flights of three to five passengers each to a larger station planned for launch two years later. On the basis of those expectations, and historical data on the number of nations that have sent their astronauts to space, the NASA group calculated a minimum of 36 individual astronaut flights over 10 years paid for by governments in the “sovereign-client” market, and a maximum of 186-216.
Additional commercial flights would come from space tourism — wealthy individuals willing to pay millions for the adventure of spaceflight. Space Adventures has sold eight Soyuz flights to the ISS since 2001, and extrapolating that figure over the next 10 years gives the lower end of the space-tourism market. The upper end was provided by Space Adventures, which predicts another 143 passengers to the ISS and other destinations like the planned Bigelow facilities.
The full report is available at

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bin Laden Raid Crash Helo Reveals Stealth

Photography of U.S. military technology left behind in the May 1 raid against Osama bin Laden shows that previously unseen stealth-like enhancements to rotorcraft played a critical role in the mission to take down the Al Qaeda leader.
The Aviation Week analysis, made shortly after the Abbottabad, Pakistan, operation, proves that the potential to capture or kill the 9/11 mastermind was important enough to U.S. leaders to risk the lives of at least two dozen of the most highly trained U.S. special operators. In addition, the raid would have been a major international embarrassment for Washington if something went wrong and might have exposed cutting-edge military and intelligence technology.
In the end, only the exposure of technology might have occurred—and even then, the otherwise highly successful operation still has left tantalizingly few, albeit significant, new clues to military advancements.
According to widely published photographs from Abbottabad, at least one previously undisclosed, low-observable helicopter apparently was part of the U.S. task force that killed and recovered bin Laden’s body. It appears to be a significantly modified version of a Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawk, although whether an MH-60K, L or M version is still unknown. The U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the Night Stalkers, uses all three types of MH-60s.
Pentagon leadership remains tight-lipped about operational details. But an intelligence source says two Black Hawks and two Boeing HH-47 Chinooks were used. The Black Hawks participated in the assault, and the Chinooks were used to refuel the Black Hawks and for backup. Indeed, when the one Black Hawk was downed, a Chinook came in to help complete exfiltration of the Navy Seals.
What is as intriguing as the stealth adaptations is how well they apparently worked. “The attack on bin Laden did not occur in some remote area outside Pakistani control, but in a compound in a city of some 100,000 and less than 100 mi. from a major Pakistani population center like Islamabad, and one occupied by a brigade from the Pakistani army’s second division and the location of the Army’s military academy,” notes analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
According to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who was briefed last week by the military on the issue, it was not a mechanical failure or a problem by the pilot that downed the Black Hawk—it was a miscalculation of temperature in and outside the compound. The Black Hawk ran into lift trouble due to a 15F difference inside the courtyard, says Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). “They couldn’t hold the ­hover.”
The Seals appear to have destroyed almost all of the airframe that landed inside the compound, but part of the helicopter’s tail landed outside the wall and escaped demolition during the roughly 40-min. ground operation.
The public photos show that the destroyed Black Hawk’s tail features stealth-configured shapes on the boom and the tail-rotor hub fairings, swept stabilizers and a “dishpan” cover over a five- or six-blade tail rotor. It has a silver-loaded infrared (IR) suppression finish similar to that seen on the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey.
Stealth enhancements for rotorcraft are not new and were applied extensively to the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, canceled in 2004. Compared with fixed-wing stealth, more emphasis is usually placed on noise and IR signatures.

U. S. Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, Retired, 2011 National Space Trophy recipient

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Kevin Chilton, left, STS-76 commander, Mir space station visitor Shannon Lucid and STS-76 payload commander Ron Sega pictured in 1996. Photo Credit/NASA Photo

U.S. Air Force General Kevin Chilton, retired, became the 25th recipient of the National Space Trophy, an award bestowed annually by the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation for career contributions to the exploration and uses of space, on May 6 in Houston. Chilton retired from the military in March after 31 years. During the last four years, he led the U.S. Strategic Command, where he oversaw a multi-service team of 40,000 personnel responsible for the nation's nuclear weaponry and strategic deterrence. Between 1987 and 1998, Chilton was assigned to NASA's Johnson Space Center, where he served as a shuttle pilot and commander as well as NASA's deputy program manager for the International Space Station.

"If I was successful at all when I returned to the Air Force, it was because of the 11 years I spent at NASA and learning this business that is so important to us," Chilton told an audience of more than 1,000 aerospace professionals who gathered to honor him. "I learned the space business from all of you. I learned from the folks in the medical business, the engineering community, operations. I learned the business of launch from the theoretical to the practical element of getting out and fixing things that are broken and then the drama of the countdown."

While at NASA, Chilton commanded STS-76, the third shuttle mission to Russia's former Mir space station -- launched in March 1976. He served as pilot aboard the STS-59 Space Radar Laboratory mission in April 1994 as well as STS-49, the May 1992 inaugural flight of Endeavour. Endeavour's daring satellite rescue mission featured the world's only three person spacewalk.

Upon his return to active duty in the Air Force, the former test pilot served on the Air Force Space Command Staff, and then the Air Staff, the Joint Staff, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, the 8th Air Force, the Joint Functional Component Command for Space and Global Strike and as commander, Air Force Space Command. In 2006, Chilton became the first former astronaut to achieve the rank of four-star general.

Two years later, Chilton led the planning and coordination for Operation Burnt Frost, the successful Feb. 20 (2008) shoot down of a defunct National Reconnaissance Office satellite carrying 1,000 pounds of hydrazine fuel. Facing imminent re-entry, the toxic fuel posed a threat to human life.

Photo: Sbirs launch from the Cape

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The ULA Atlas V thunders off the launch pad at SLC-41. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

The satellite, which launched Saturday [see Amy Butler's story here], is worth an estimated $1.2 billion and was built by Lockheed Martin. GEO-1 is the first in the SBIRS constellation. These spacecraft are set to replace the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Support Program satellites

Sbirs GEO-1 Launches At Last

The first of a new generation of missile warning satellites has lifted off on it way to geosynchronous orbit.
The Space-Based Infrared System (Sbirs) satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, boosted on an Atlas V 401 rocket at 2:10 p.m. EDT on May 7 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The launch is a major achievement after the Air Force and Lockheed Martin struggled with myriad management and technical problems developing Sbirs.
Eventually, the spacecraft will join existing Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites already in orbit to provide early warning of boosting ballistic missiles. Along with DSP, Sbirs will be among the first sensors to cue U.S. missile defenses in the event of a hostile launch.
Sbirs GEO-1 is based on Lockheed Martin’s A2100 satellite bus and carries two payloads capable of collecting in the short- and mid-wave infrared (IR) bands, as well as one “wider, more open shortwave band” that can “see through to the ground,” Jeff Smith, Lockheed Martin Sbirs program manager told Aviation Week late last year. One of the payloads is a scanning IR detector. It is designed with shorter revisit times than those offered by DSP, which operates using a spinning scanner.
Additionally, Sbirs GEO-1 will have a staring sensor that can focus on different geographical areas than the scanner. The Air Force currently hopes to buy six Sbirs satellites.
Sbirs GEO-1 vehicle separation from the Atlas V’s Centaur upper stage took place 43 min. into the flight. At that point, the spacecraft was at 100 nm altitude heading for an apogee altitude of 19,323 nm.
A series of six liquid apogee engine burns are planned over nine days to reach a geosynchronous orbit slot 22,000 mi. over the Earth for initial checkout and operations, says Lt. Col. Ryan Umstattd, an Air Force Sbirs official. At this point, the satellite will deploy its light shade (designed to protect the sensor payload), antennas and payload doors, he says.
Thirty-five days after launch, officials expect to turn the IR payloads on and begin transmitting raw data from the satellite. Full integrated tactical warning and attack assessment certification, allowing the satellite to officially tip missile defenses in the event of a threat, is expected within 18 months of launch.
Sbirs GEO-2 is likely to boost about one year after GEO-1.
Already, two staring sensors in highly elliptical orbit — HEOs 1 and 2 — are providing infrared coverage of the extreme north regions.

Boeing: 747-8 Hold No Threat To Deliveries

Boeing says that despite a one month long production freeze starting today at its Everett site, initial deliveries of 747-8 freighter and passenger models remain on track for mid-year and last quarter of 2011 respectively.
The manufacturer is suspending 747-8 production for a month from May 6 to incorporate changes from discoveries made during flight test and to allow workers in Everett to catch up on thousands of unfinished items, or ‘traveled work.’ “We are re-balancing the work on the line to do a bunch of catch up on unfinished work, and perform change incorporation from flight testing as necessary” says a spokesman for Boeing.
The move, which follows similar actions taken three times on the 787 line, is an unwelcome new development to a program desperately trying to catch up on almost two years of program slippage. However, Boeing says it expects to gain some benefit by using the production hold to help prepare for next year’s planned production rate increase to two aircraft per month. While not affecting initial deliveries, Boeing says it is still assessing the overall impact on downstream deliveries next year.
Boeing plans to resume normal production flow in early June, but until then the line will remain static with completion of tasks on aircraft in-situ. Change incorporation, which includes “tweaks” to minor components such as the outboard aileron modal suppression system introduced to counter vibration discovered in flight testing, will also be completed on the 20 aircraft already assembled. Of these, seven have been used for flight testing while 13 are in storage around the Paine Field, Everett delivery ramp alongside a growing number of undelivered, engineless 787s.

Jetnet to Host Global BizAv Summit

Aviation market intelligence consultancy Jetnet LLC will hold its first Global Business Aviation Summit June 6-7, 2011, in New York City, based on the theme “Igniting Ideas. Provoking Change.”
The summit is being held in conjunction with the unveiling of Jetnet iQ, the company’s forecasting and premium advisory service for business aviation that was launched in January.
“We wanted to hold the summit to discuss economic details in business aviation, and show what Jetnet iQ can do for the industry,” says Paul Cardarelli, Jetnet’s director of sales and marketing. “We wanted thought leaders to raise the dialog.”
The summit will feature presentations from international experts with independent perspectives on the industry and its future. Specific agenda topics include the outlook for the economy, aircraft finance and capital markets, aerospace technology and design, talent, leadership, and customer insights. The company will also release key findings from Jetnet iQ’s new Business Aviation Survey, including forecasts for new and pre-owned business aircraft sales, aircraft utilization, and new aircraft deliveries.

Indonesia Again In Safety Spotlight

The Indonesian government’s efforts to improve its aviation safety reputation has suffered a setback with the May 7 crash of an MA-60 turboprop belonging to Merpati Nusantara Airlines.
MZ8968 crashed Saturday killing all 27 on board (21 passengers and six crew members) when the MA-60 turboprop crashed 600 meters short of the runway at Kaimana Utarom after departing the Sorong airport an hour earlier. The aircraft was attempting to land in poor weather, with heavy rain and strong winds.
The aircraft (registered as PK-MZK) was built by Xian Aircraft last year, Indonesian officials say. The turboprop had logged about 615 flight hours and 764 flight cycles.
Indonesia has been making inroads in improving aviation safety, seeing several airlines removed from the European Union blacklist after the country was subject to a blanket ban in 2007. The FAA, at the time, also sanctioned the country.
But safety problems have persisted.
The European Union points out in its latest blacklist update that Indonesian safety officials notified them in March “that only 9% of the fleet of aircraft operating in Indonesia had yet to be fitted with the required ICAO equipment, that the [regulator] had issued an exemption permitting operations until the end of 2011, and that aircraft not fitted after this date would be grounded.”
Merpati Nusantara Airlines has been in the spotlight more than once. It suffered a runway overrun with a Boeing 737 injuring around 20 people when the aircraft landed in heavy rain at Manokawi Airport in Indonesia’s Papua Province. The airline -- which remains blacklisted by the EU -- also suffered a fatal accident in 2009.
The MA-60 crash is the second accident in Indonesia this year after the death of five persons in the crash of a Casa Aviocar in February at Bintan Island, Indonesia.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Auxiliary Power Unit (APU)

An auxiliary power unit (APU) is a device on a vehicle that provides
energy for functions other than
propulsion. They are commonly found
on large aircraft, as well as some large
land vehicles.
The primary purpose of an aircraft APU
is to provide power to start the main
engines. Turbine engines must be accelerated to a high rotational speed
in order to provide sufficient air
compression for self-sustaining
operation. Smaller jet engines are
usually started by an electric motor,
while larger engines are usually started by an air turbine motor. Before
engines are to be turned, the APU is
started, generally by a battery or hydraulic accumulator. Once the APU is running, it provides power (electric, pneumatic, or hydraulic, depending on the design) to start the aircraft's
main engines.
APUs are also used to run accessories
while the engines are shut down. This
allows the cabin to be comfortable
while the passengers are boarding
before the aircraft's engines are
started. Electrical power is used to run systems for preflight checks. Some
APUs are also connected to a hydraulic
pump, allowing crews to operate
hydraulic equipment (such as flight controls or flaps) prior to engine start. This function can also be used, on
some aircraft, as a backup in flight in
case of engine or hydraulic failure. Aircraft with APUs can also accept
electrical and pneumatic power from
ground equipment when an APU has
failed or is not to be used. APUs fitted to ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operations) aircraft are a
critical safety device, as they supply
backup electricity and compressed air
in place of the dead engine or failed
main engine generator. While some
APUs may not be startable in flight, ETOPS-compliant APUs must be flight-
startable at altitudes up to the aircraft service ceiling. Recent applications have specified starting up to 43,000 ft.
(≈ 13 000 m) from a complete cold- soak condition such as the Hamilton Sundstrand APS5000 for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. If the APU or its electrical generator is not available, the
airplane cannot be released for ETOPS
flight and is forced to take a longer
non-ETOPS route.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bill Sweeetman, Live and Direct

Our Fearless Leader was everywhere yesterday talking about the stealth helo that Seal Team 6 used to drop in to bin Laden's compound and take him out.

EXCLUSIVE: Northrop Grumman's Firebird

Unsatisfied with the dominance of General Atomics in the MALE UAS market, Northrop Grumman has secretly been developing and testing its Firebird.

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The design was purpose-built from the ground up at its Scaled Composites facility and first flight took place in February 2010. Since then, officials have conducted various flight tests, mostly out of Mojave, Calif.

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source: Northrop Grumman

Company officials chose an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) design to offer the endurance of a UAS -- Firebird is designed for 40 hr. depending on payload -- but the flexibility of transiting with a pilot onboard. While this is likely to be attractive to the Pentagon as long as it continues to wrangle with the FAA over rules for flying UAS outside of military controlled airspace, the market is not likely as robust as that for the Predator/Reaper/Gray Eagle MALE family.

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However, there could be potential to sell it abroad if the U.S. government will allow it. The flexibility of an OPV could be especially attractive in the dense airspace over Europe. 

Firebird is designed with four onboard stations for sensors as well as two hard points on the wings for weapons (which have yet to be demonstrated). Company officials plan to demonstrate the ability to operate four payloads (various intel gathering and communications relays) during one mission, land, reconfigure the payload and launch within an hour during the Joint Forces Command Empire Challenge exercise slated for later this month at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Plane spotters have captured some glimpses of Firebird during its test flights. While spending most of its time in Mojave, the aircraft has also flown out of McClellan airfield, a former U.S. Air Force facility. But, the company has kept the development project close to the vest.

Phantom Ray first flight video

Boeing has released images and video of the April 27 first flight of the Phantom Ray unmanned air vehicle at Edwards AFB, Calif. The sharply swept delta-shaped aircraft, originally in development as the X-45C for the abandoned DARPA/US Navy Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System requirement, was completed as the Phantom Ray under the Boeing Phantom Works rapid prototyping initiative. Boeing says it expects to conduct additional flights of the Phantom Ray in the coming weeks. 

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The 17-minute flight began at 9.05 am Pacific time and saw the General Electric F404-powered aircraft climb to 7,500 ft. Compared to the more sedate maneuvering demonstrated by Northrop Grumman’s X-47B during its first flight, the 50-ft span Phantom Ray was seen making relatively aggressive turns.

Another Delay for Sbirs ... This Time For Weather

If you wanna play, ya gotta pay!  Need another reason to give up smoking? Ireland's Belfast International Airport is now charging smokers £1 ($1.64) to light up before their flight at a 'designated smoking area,' reports the Daily Mail.  The airport says the fee will cover the cost of building and maintaining the facility.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: guns/ammo and airports DON'T mix!  Two separate men were stopped at Miami International Airport after being caught with guns in their carry-on bags, reports NBC Miami.  The first man, who had a gun in his carry-on, says he was licensed to carry the weapon and forgot it was in his bag. The second man had boxes of ammunition in his bag.

I guess he didn't care about job security. British Airways employee Bryan Benning was fired after he posted a rant on YouTube threatening to poison a pilot he called a 'Scab,' reports the Daily Mail. In the rant, he called pilots 'glorified bus drivers'.

Where's Donald Trump when you *really* need him? Miss USA 2003 Susie Castillo did a media blast this week, including on the Today Show, to complain about what she called an intrusive pat-down by Transportation Security Administration screeners at Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport.  Trump owns the Miss USA pageant.

And speaking of Donald Trump...
Check out this interview, where Trump says he ran "a great airline." In 1989, he bought the assets of the Eastern Airlines Shuttle and ran the Trump Shuttle for a year and a half.

You know it doesn't snow in LA! Esteban Galtes got a three-year prison sentence after he was caught smuggling $100,000 worth of cocaine from Colombia to Los Angeles International Airport, reports the Beverly Hills Courier.  He hid the coke in egg-shaped candy.

If I were Norm Mineta, I'd be insulted! The San Jose city council decided not to come up with a new name for Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, reports the San Jose Mercury News.  The move was suggested as a way to include Silicon Valley in the airport's name.

ONLY $10,000? and Online Travel Review have a good chuckle about this new Cathay Pacific press release headline: "Cathay Pacific Offers First Class Service from Chicago to Hong Kong Starting at Just US$10,241 – Roundtrip!" I guess that's a bargain for some people! ;)

EASA Calls For A320 Fixes

The European Aviation Safety Agency is calling on operators of Airbus A320 family aircraft to address issues related to problems with the cargo loading system and cracking fuselage nuts.
A May 5 airworthiness directive (AD) addresses a previously identified problem with tie down points of YZ latches on the cargo loading system of A319s, A320s and A321s, which do not withstand maximum loading requirements leading to potential damage in the forward and aft lower deck cargo holds. EASA says the rectifying action, called for in 2006, has not been properly installed across the fleet.
The safety agency warns that it recently realized that on some aircraft the fix “has been applied only on one of the lower deck cargo holds (fwd or aft) while both cargo compartments were concerned by the modification.”
The second AD, issued May 4, warns that parts inspection during production showed some nuts used on the fuselage of A318, A319, A320, and A321s showed cracks. “A large number of these nuts are fitted on primary structural elements, which could have long-term consequences,” EASA says, while noting that no immediate action to address the issue is necessary.
EASA is therefore calling “a detailed inspection of the affected nuts, associated correction actions, depending on findings, and replacement of the affected [part number] nuts with new ones having the same [part number].”
Operators are supposed to inspect the affected parts for aircraft flying six years or more and, within 90 days, report those findings to Airbus.

Exclusive: Northrop Unveils Firebird MALE Aircraft

Northrop Grumman is planning to publicly unveil its secret Firebird aircraft later this month at the Pentagon’s Empire Challenge, an exercise designed to demonstrate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies that can be fielded quickly.
Despite mature work in the unmanned rotorcraft, airship and high-altitude UAS markets, company officials have remained unsatisfied at the dominance of General Atomics in the medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAS market with their Predator, Reaper and Gray Eagle designs.
“That was a target,” says Paul Meyer, director of the Advanced Technology and Concepts division, who spoke exclusively with Aviation Week about the new aircraft. “That is the one that is unopposed today [but] when we looked at it, we needed to do something different.”
Thus, Firebird is an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV); it was secretly built by Northrop Grumman’s Scaled Composites in 12 months. The aircraft, first flown in February 2010, was showcased last October in a private demonstration for Pentagon officials near Sacramento, Calif. Though unlikely to eclipse Predator or Reaper in order numbers, Northrop officials see an opportunity for a niche market with the OPV while the Pentagon and FAA continue to wrangle over rules for flying UAS in open airspace.
The twin-boomed, Bronco tail design – so named because it was used for the OV-10 “Bronco” -- was chosen to carry up to four payloads simultaneously, including sensors and communications equipment, and operate up to 40 hrs. in unmanned mode.
Firebird’s information architecture was crafted to offer users in various locations direct access to the payloads, offering service to multiple ground users at once, says Rick Crooks, director of special programs at Northrop’s advanced technology division. The aircraft is designed to fly at about 200 kts.
During Empire Challenge, which takes place May 23-June 3, Northrop plans to showcase the use of up to four payloads – including high-definition full-motion video, electro-optical/infrared sensors, electronic support/direction finding and a communications relay -- simultaneously on Firebird. The company plans to land, reconfigure the sensor payload and launch a new sortie within an hour.
Empire Challenge takes place in Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Though hosted by the now soon-to-be defunct U.S. Joint Forces Command, the Army is sponsoring the Firebird entry for the trials.
[Editor’s note: For an in-depth exclusive look at the Firebird, read Aviation Week & Space Technology’s cover story May 9.]

Boeing Puts Hold On 747-8 Production

Boeing will freeze 747-8 production for a month from May 6 to incorporate changes from discoveries made during flight test and to allow workers in Everett to catch up on thousands of unfinished items, or ‘traveled work.’
The move, which follows similar actions taken three times on the 787 line, is an unwelcome new delay to a program desperately trying to catch up on almost two years of program slippage. However, Boeing expects to gain some benefit by using the production hold to help prepare for next year’s planned production rate increase to two aircraft per month. Although Boeing says the interruption to production will not delay first delivery to Cargolux later this summer, the manufacturer is assessing the overall impact on downstream deliveries later this year.
Boeing plans to resume normal production flow in early June, but until then the line will remain static with completion of tasks on aircraft in-situ. Some change incorporation is also expected to be completed on the 20 aircraft already assembled. Of these, seven have been used for flight testing while 13 are in storage around the delivery ramp alongside a growing number of undelivered, engineless 787s.
The temporary production freeze is widely expected to knock delivery of the first 747-8 passenger variant into early 2012, although this is due for delivery to a completion center for conversion into a corporate jet. The first passenger version for launch customer Lufthansa is due for delivery in the first quarter of 2012. Cargolux, which became launch customer for the stretched freighter variant in November 2005, was originally scheduled to take delivery in the third-quarter of 2009. However, following production and development issues, Boeing later delayed delivery to December 2010. It subsequently announced in September 2010 it was pushing back delivery of the first 747-8F by around six months to mid-2011.
Flight testing of the 747-8F and passenger -8 meanwhile continues at a fast rate with flight controls, stability and control and systems certification work ongoing with the freighters, while low-speed testing as well as stability and control assessments are underway on the two passenger test aircraft.

Talks Continue To End Air India Strike

A fresh round of talks Thursday between striking Air India pilots and authorities failed to resolve the impasse and end a nine-day strike.
“The talks remain inconclusive, and we hope to continue talks with the striking pilots on Friday,” says a Civil Aviation Ministry official, who was confident that the deadlock would end soon.
Union leaders also expressed hope that the issues would be resolved in a day or two.
“We met for four-and-a-half hours today. Government is making sincere efforts to resolve the issue and has taken some serious steps forward. We are hopeful that the matter will be resolved in a day or two,” says Rishabh Kapur, general secretary of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA).
Kapur, however, declined to elaborate on the issues discussed during the meeting.
“We will meet again tomorrow ... The talks are going on in a positive direction.”
The pilots went on strike at midnight April 26 demanding equal pay for Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots in the merged entity.
Meanwhile, fresh trouble is brewing for the crippled Air India management as the All India Cabin Crew Association (AICCA) demanded immediate implementation of the merger agreements, including better pay and fixed flying hours.

USAF Eyes Overhead In EELV Cost Reviews

After months of studying reasons for the growing cost of the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV), Air Force officials are focusing on how to reduce – or at least better account for – overhead rates and indirect costs on the program, according to senior service officials.
Late last year, David Van Buren, the top procurement official in the Air Force, wrapped up a “should-cost” review for EELV. Should-cost reviews are prevalent at the Pentagon since the passage of the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, which directs the department to budget to independent cost estimates. These are provided by the Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation office and are generally the highest estimates in the Pentagon, forcing the department to identify larger sums of money for various programs than planned prior to passage of the law.
“We are required to fund our programs to the independent cost estimate. That does a negative thing from a business perspective to the United States Air Force. It basically shows our hand to the contractor … The contractor knows what we have budgeted before we sit down to negotiate,” says Air Force Maj. Gen. John Hyten, who oversees space program procurement for the Air Force’s acquisition office. “The ‘should cost’ is what we want to pay and what we think that satellite or end item should cost.”
About three-quarters of the 84 recommendations in the EELV should-cost review are associated with overhead and indirect costs, Hyten says. And, this is one area in which Air Force officials hope to trim pricing.
Van Buren led the high-profile should-cost review of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which is credited with helping the Pentagon negotiate the first fixed-price contract for the stealthy fighter, built by Lockheed Martin.
'Blue ribbon' review
Van Buren is also leading a detailed “Blue Ribbon” review of the ULA’s cost structure, including the overhead rates and indirect costs. This is likely to be similar to the Blue Ribbon review conducted last year on the Global Hawk unmanned aerial system; Van Buren said in March he found at least $39 million in savings for the UAS program.
“We are going to budget to the will cost and we are going to manage to the should cost,” Air Force Under Secretary Erin Conaton tells Aviation Week.
The opportunities for savings in EELV are likely to be on a larger scale than Global Hawk, given that each booster alone costs roughly $200 million or more.
Questions have arisen about how ULA is charging various functions to the two EELV contracts, Conaton says.One contract, the EELV Launch Capabilities contract, which covers the EELV infrastructure (including personnel) is a cost-plus deal, meaning the government pays for the cost of the services no matter the price. By contrast, the EELV Services contract, which pays for the actual rockets, is fixed price. Conaton says that, “I don’t think we have a very good understanding of the cost,” and notes that there are questions about what costs should be allocated to the cost-plus contract versus those on the fixed-price structure.
“We need to make sure that we have correctly and adequately allocated the cost of building the rocket on the [launch services] side, on the rocket contract. Right now with the way the contracts are structured, it’s not clear,” Hyten adds. “We want to make sure we have the contract structure correct so that we know exactly what we’re paying for that rocket.”
He emphasizes that visibility on cost is crucial as the service proceeds with efforts to qualify new competitors in the launch market. “We want to make sure we have a level playing field across the industry so that we know what we’re paying for a rocket and that if we ask somebody else to build it we can compare apples to apples and not apples to oranges,” he says.
Industry observers suggest the cost trend for EELV is spiraling, perhaps to the extreme levels of the Titan IV heavy launcher. But Hyten disagrees, noting that EELV prices vary depending on the size of the vehicle. He acknowledges, however, that EELV costs needs to be stabilized.
Major first step
A decision to buy eight EELV cores annually, as proposed in the fiscal 2012 budget plan, is a major first step, according to Conaton. The goal is to buy a stable number of boosters – providing assurance to ULA and, in particular, its second- and third-tier suppliers that buys are on the horizon.
In the buy, so-called white tail boosters will be purchased independent of specific satellites and will be matched with the spacecraft for missions late in their production cycles. This, Air Force officials hope, will provide flexibility in planning the launch manifest even if satellites encounter schedule slips.
This recommendation came out of a massive Broad Area Review (BAR) Plus 10 study, so dubbed because it is 10 years removed from the seminal launch BAR conducted after a series of major launch mishaps. Air Force officials decline to release the study or summarize its findings, citing concerns about proprietary information.
Meanwhile, the Air Force has created a new senior post to oversee launch procurement. Previously, a single program executive officer managed the EELV contracts as well as major satellite procurements. But, with major renegotiations upcoming on key satellite efforts and new launch competitions expected, Hyten said the service opted to create a program executive officer who will now oversee launch separately.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Scaled Performs First SS2 Feather Flight Test

Scaled Composites tested the feathering re-entry mechanism of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo in flight for the first time on May 4.
The test, conducted during the seventh glide flight of the 60-ft.-long, 42-ft.-wingspan commercial spaceship, was performed shortly after release from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft at 51,500 ft. After attaining a stable glide attitude, the test crew, comprising Scaled Composites’ test pilots Pete Siebold and Clint Nichols, activated the feathering mechanism to rotate the tail section up to a 65-deg. angle relative to the fuselage. The aircraft maintained a level pitch while descending almost vertically at around 15,500 ft. per minute for 1 min. and 15 sec.
The feather mechanism was then used at around 33,500 ft. to reconfigure SS2 for landing, which was achieved with a smooth touchdown at Mojave, Calif., some 11 min. 5 sec. after initial release. The test flight was a key evaluation of the feathering system, which was also used successfully on the SpaceShipOne suborbital vehicle. The device reconfigures the vehicle while in the vacuum of space and creates very high drag as it descends through the atmosphere. As well as providing a self-stabilizing mechanism for re-entry, the high drag and low vehicle weight combination means that skin temperatures remain relatively low during re-entry, thereby eliminating the requirement for conventional thermal protection systems.
The May 4 test follows a recent ramp-up in flight test activity, marking the third glide flight of SS2 in 12 days. George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, says the increase in tempo reinforces “… the fast turnaround and frequent flight-rate potential of Virgin Galactic’s new vehicles. We have also shown this morning that the unique feathering re-entry mechanism, probably the single most important safety innovation within the whole system, works perfectly. This is yet another important milestone successfully passed for Virgin Galactic, and brings us ever closer to the start of commercial operations.”
In the buildup to the feathering test, SS2 completed two glide flight tests over five days, including a 16-min., 7-sec. glide on April 27 which represents the longest flight to date. The increased tempo comes as settled weather continues to dominate the skies over southern California after weeks of unsettled conditions. The flights also evaluated stability and control and follow refinements to the vehicle’s aerodynamics and low-speed handling qualities. Building on the incremental envelope expansion approach established with SpaceShipOne (SS1), the next test phase beyond feather testing will involve higher speed subsonic flight with a short burst of thrust from a Sierra Nevada-developed RM2 rocket, which will power all vehicles.
Clay Center Observatory

Long-Range Strike Puzzle Pieces

If there is such a thing as a "bomber mafia" in US defense circles, Northrop Grumman's Robert Haffa, recently retired director of the company's Analysis Center, is one of its ruling dons. Together with NGAC colleague Michael Isherwood, Haffa has a new article in Joint Forces Quarterly talking about the "family of systems" approach to long-range strike.

It's worth reading in full, but here are some highlights.

Like every other document that refers to LRS, the Northrop Grumman piece mentions the "central" role of "enablers" such as "survivable airborne ISR assets."  It goes on to list eight principal characteristics by which the other LRS systems are assessed. 

  • promptness: reach any target worldwide within 1 hour
  • persistence: maintain on station/position for ISR and time-sensitive targeting for more than 4 hours
  • time-sensitive: possess organic as well as integrated “find, fix, and track” capabilities to engage fixed or highly mobile targets
  • multitarget: engage more than one target nearly simultaneously
  • command and control: retasking assets to meet the commander’s intent in a denied communications environment
  • standoff: achieve desired effects from a range of 1,000 nautical miles or more
  • penetration: operate, succeed, and survive within a high threat environment
  • nonkinetic: provide options such as electronic attack and cyber capabilities.
Haffa and Isherwood identify five distinct classes of LRS weapons. Interestingly, they include the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine (SSN) as a platform for cruise and ballistic missiles -- possibly because the Block 3 will carry a wider range of missiles, and because surface ship VLS tubes will be largely filled with SM-3-class weapons for missile defense.

This is how the authors see the systems stacking up against the eight requirements:
blog post photo

The authors drive a clear distinction between the Next Generation Bomber and the smaller Unmanned Combat Air System. The UCAS is important because of its "ability to engage and defeat a time-sensitive target in a matter of minutes owing to its persistence, sensor suite ... and kinetic or nonkinetic weapons systems".

However, the bomber can carry more and heavier weapons and "perhaps more important" provide an airborne command and control capability to knit all the systems together even if communications into and out of the theater are jammed.

The essay stresses the value of supersonic speed to future cruise missiles -- and notes that although the conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) weapon scores well against only three of the eight metrics listed above, it has an advantage in that it can be fielded soon.