Friday, February 26, 2016

Second Marenco Swisshelicopter prototype now flying - Charles D'Alberto

The second SKYe SH09 prototype performed its first flight at Mollis airport in Switzerland. Marenco Swisshelicopt ...

Lockheed warns Sikorsky could underperform - Charles D'Alberto

An Austrian army Sikorsky S-70 "Black Hawk" helicopter hovers over a statue of Archduke Charles as it lands in Vi ...

Black Hawk helicopters used in drills for possible terrorist attacks in Australia - Charles D'Alberto

You will most likely hear them before you see them.Five Black Hawk helicopters will join the country's fight ...

Five cool technology leaps about to change aviation for good - Charles D'Alberto

Singapore: Given the terrifyingly airline seat patents filed in recent years, the future of flying often looks ...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

World's s(l)ickest new biz jets unveiled at Singapore Airshow - Charles D'Alberto

Singapore (CNN)Aircraft orders may have been sluggish at last week's Singapore Airshow, and the overall forecast ...

FIRST LOOK: Tom Hanks emerges with silver hair to play hero pilot Captain Sully in film about 'miracle' landing on Hudson River - Charles D'Alberto

Tom Hanks has started work on a film about Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger.The 59-year-old is playing the h ...

AFA Air Warfare 2016 - Charles D'Alberto

Lockheed Martin:We're partnering with the U.S. Air Force to usher in a new era of aviation. From legendary je ...


Charles D'Alberto, Perla AviationAs any traveler will tell you, flying has become a very tedious affair. Comm ...

Airbus Helicopters Launches Concept X6 Heavy-twin Helo - Charles D'Alberto

Airbus Helicopters' X6 is primarily targeting the offshore oil-and-gas market with a 19-seat cabin. Turbomeca’s ...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Israeli engineers made a helicopter-hovercraft drone that can carry more than 1,100 pounds - Charles D'Alberto


U.S. Air Force to send F-15 jets to Finland - Charles D'Alberto

The U.S. Air Force will send six F-15s to Finland this spring for exercises that will operate out of a base about ...

F-35 fighter jet’s capabilities far outweigh deficiencies: US Marines - Charles D'Alberto

Lieutenant-General John Davis, deputy commandant for aviation at the US Marine Corps, with a mockup of a F-35 fig ...

Bell Helicopter Upbeat About Asia - Charles D'Alberto

With one of the most volatile industry sectors – oil-and-gas – seeing plunging profits and investment worldwi ...

Laser struck Pope Francis' plane, airline says - Charles D'Alberto

No one, it seems, is immune to the danger of laser beams aimed at commercial airplanes.Not even Pope Francis.I ...

U.S. aircraft hit militants in Libya, more than 40 reported dead - Charles D'Alberto

TRIPOLI, Feb 19 (Reuters) - U.S. warplanes carried out air strikes early on Friday morning in the western Libyan city of Sabratha, where Islamic State militants operate, killing as many as 40 people.

A U.S. military spokesman said the attacks targeted a senior Tunisian militant linked to attacks in Tunisia last year.

Sabratha's mayor, Hussein al-Thwadi, told Reuters the planes struck at 3.30 a.m. (0130 GMT), hitting a building in the Qasr Talil district in which foreign workers were living. He said 41 people had been killed and six wounded. The death toll could not immediately be confirmed with other officials.

Tunisian security sources have said they believe Tunisian Islamic State fighters have been trained in camps near Sabratha, which is close to the Tunisian border.

Two major attacks in Tunisia last year claimed by Islamic State - one on a Sousse resort hotel and another on a Tunis museum - were carried out by gunmen who officials said had trained in Libya.

The New York Times earlier reported that Friday's air strikes targeted a senior Tunisian operative, Noureddine Chouchane, connected to both of last year's attacks.

The mayor said officials visited the site of the strike and found weapons in the building, but he did not give any further details. Some Tunisians, a Jordanian and two women were among the dead, he said.

Several Tunisians who had recently arrived in Sabratha were among survivors.
Since Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, the north African country has slipped deeper into chaos with two rival governments each backed by competing factions of former rebel brigades.

As Islamic State has expanded in Libya, taking over the city of Sirte and attacking oil ports, so too have calls increased for a swift Western response to stop the group establishing a base outside its Iraq and Syria territory.

Western officials and diplomats have said air strikes and special forces operations are possible as well as an Italian-led "security stabilisation" plan of training and advising.
U.S. and European officials insist Libyans must invite help through a united government, but say they may still carry out unilateral action if needed.

Last November the United States said it carried out an air strike on Libya's Derna to target Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, an Iraqi commander in Islamic State.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto

‪#‎Helicopter‬ Crashes Off the Coast of ‪#‎Hawaii‬ -Charles D'Alberto

A helicopter with five people on board crashed into Hawaii's Pearl Harbor Thursday, leaving a teen critically injured. In this photo, visitors are seen entering the USS Arizona memorial at the W.W. II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 4, 2010.

A teenaged passenger was critically injured Thursday after a helicopter he was in with four others crashed into Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor. The moment of the crash was captured in a video that is now being circulated on social media.
Agnes Tauyan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy, said that the Bell 206 aircraft landed and then sank near the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, a popular tourist site on Oahu Island. The names of the people on board the helicopter were not made available while bystanders in the area helped in rescue, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The helicopter went down 20 feet offshore, near the visitor center’s lawn.
“I took off my shirt and dove in,” Chris Gardner, one of the bystanders who helped to rescue the passengers on board, said, according to the AP, adding that he, a Navy sailor, a federal police officer and another man dove to the submerged helicopter in turns and tried to rescue a passenger with a knife. “He was strapped into his seat in the back of the aircraft,” Gardner added, according to AP, which added that the passenger was eventually freed and taken to a hospital nearby.
Paramedics in Honolulu treated the 16-year-old boy who was in critical condition. “It was a team effort and we pray that he's OK," Gardner said, according to AP.
Justice Winrich of Madison, Wisconsin, saw the crash and said, according to AP: “I saw it like as it was coming in, and it looked pretty normal. It didn't look like it was shaking or anything,” she said, according to AP, adding: “It just started like getting really close this way and started going down.”
As the helicopter flew closer to water, she saw a black plume of smoke coming out from the back of the helicopter, which was shaking. Three people from the helicopter immediately got out after it hit the water and started swimming toward the shore.
“I was like, oh my God, I can't believe this just happened. It was crazy,” Winrich said, according to AP, adding: “You go on vacation and you never think you're going to see something like that.”
Paramedics said, according to the Mirror, that a 50-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman were in stable condition at the Pali Momi Medical Center, while the condition of the other two was not clear. The teenager was taken to The Queen's Medical Center, a local news network reported, according to the Mirror.
Last month, two military helicopters crashed off Oahu Island, which led to 12 marines on board going missing. The authorities declared them deceased after five days of search was unfruitful. No distress call was issued by either of the aircraft.
Posted By Charles D'Alberto

Thursday, February 18, 2016

U.S. F-22s fly low in a show of force over South Korea - Charles D'Alberto

The U.S. military flew four of its most advanced fighter jets low over South Korea on Wednesday in a show of force after recent North Korean actions that have heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The four U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors landed at Osan Air Base after the flyover, joining South Korean F-15 and U.S. F-16 fighter jets on the flight line.

"This mission demonstrates the strength of the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, and the resolve of both nations to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula," Lt. Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Seventh Air Force and deputy commander of United Nations Command/U.S. Forces Korea, said in a statement from U.S. Forces Korea.

Gen. Jeong Byung-doo, chief of staff of the South Korean air force, thanked the aviators involved in the flyover.

"They demonstrated commanding spirit to the world and resolve to crush the enemy's reckless provocation through the successful combined flyover. We will further develop the relationship of cooperation to support peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the world," Jeong said in the U.S. Forces statement.

    The launch triggered a wave of international condemnation and prompted strong reaction from an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

    North Korea said the launch was for scientific and "peaceful purposes."

    The United States and other nations widely viewed the deployment of the dual-use technology as a front to test a ballistic missile, especially coming on the heels of a purported hydrogen bomb test last month.

    After January's purported bomb test, the United States flew a B-52 bomber from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam over Osan in a show of force, and the Air Force has made similar shows over the past several years.

    The F-22 flight puts some of the U.S. top technology in the spotlight.

    "The F-22 Raptor is the most capable air superiority fighter in the world, and it represents one of many capabilities available for the defense of this great nation. The U.S. maintains an ironclad commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea," O'Shaughnessy said.
    The stealthy F-22s became operational in 2005 but only saw their first combat in attacks on ISIS positions in Syria in late 2014.

    "The F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft," says the Air Force's fact sheet for the Raptor, each of which costs about $143 million.

    The F-22 flight came less than two weeks after the U.S. Army sent a Patriot ballistic missile defense battery from Texas to South Korea. It marked the first time a U.S.-based battery was integrated into existing missile defense in South Korea.

    "We have taken ballistic missile defense readiness on the Korean Peninsula to new heights," Col. Mark Holler, commander of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, said in a statement.

    Anti-ballistic missiles considered for South Korea

    Ballistic missile defense will be taken to even greater heights if U.S.-South Korea talks to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense yield results.

    The system, known as THAAD, consists of truck-mounted anti-ballistic missiles capable of intercepting incoming missiles either in or above the atmosphere. They are directed by the "largest air-transportable x-band radar in the world," according to their manufacturer, Lockheed-Martin.

    "THAAD would add an important capability in a layered and effective missile defense," Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a briefing this month.

    But sending the advanced missile defense to South Korea could complicate U.S. relations with China, already strained by Chinese military moves in the South China Sea.

    "The deployment of such a system would exacerbate regional tensions and seriously harm China's strategic security interests as well as the security interests of other countries in the region," China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday in a story from Seoul, attributing the concerns to Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui.

    "We are hoping that the related parties would seriously consider the concerns of China and be prudent with what they do," Zhang is quoted as saying.

    In a commentary on Chinese state-run, Han Xudong, a professor at China's National Defense University, said THAAD deployment in South Korea would destabilize the region.

    "The deployment will enable the U.S. to occupy a dominant position both in attack and defense missile capabilities. It will dominate the world to maintain its hegemony," Han wrote.
    Positioning the THAAD system in South Korea would also threaten Russia and China, Han wrote.

    "Once THAAD is deployed to the 'doorway' of Russia and China, it means that the strategic campaign missiles of the two countries are subject to be intercepted, which will seriously weaken the strategic capabilities of Beijing and Moscow," the Chinese professor wrote. "The two countries will not take the issue lightly. To maintain their strategic interests, they will undertake necessary countermeasures."

    Posted By Charles D'Alberto

    Wednesday, February 17, 2016

    Laser struck Pope Francis' plane, airline says - Charles D'Alberto

    No one, it seems, is immune to the danger of laser beams aimed at commercial airplanes.
    Not even Pope Francis.

    In a statement released Wednesday, Alitalia said one of its crews plus those on "other aircraft" in the area "noticed a laser light from the ground" as the pontiff's plane prepared to touch down in Mexico City.

    Flight AZ4000 -- which had just come from Havana, Cuba, where Francis met with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill -- managed to land safely last Friday, in time to kick off the Pope's five-day trip to Mexico.

    No crew members or passengers "were injured by the beam," according to Alitalia. The Vatican said it didn't even know until later about lasers pointed at the aircraft.

    Still, the incident raised enough concern for Flight AZ4000's Capt. Massimiliano Marselli to "promptly report" it to the Benito Juarez International Airport's control tower, according to Alitalia.

    Laser attacks becoming increasingly common

    Who was responsible? Was the Pope's Airbus A330, which was widely reported to be landing in the Mexican capital at that time, randomly hit or specifically targeted? Especially if it was the latter, why did they do it?

    There were no official answers to any of those questions as of Wednesday. In fact, the Mexico City airport has indicated officials there didn't know about the incident.

    But the fact it happened at all -- that someone would point a laser beam at a large commercial airliner potentially carrying hundreds of people, whether or not one of the most world's renowned religious figure was on it -- is hardly a surprise.

    Laser strikes against planes up nearly 40%

    Laser strikes on planes have become increasingly common in recent years, in part due to the fact handheld lasers have become more common and affordable.

    In the United States, for instance, the FAA reported 5,352 such strikes from January through mid-October 2015. That's compared to 3,984 in 2014, and 384 in 2006, the first year such numbers were compiled by the FAA.

    These beams are harmless most of the time. But not always, with authorities pointing to the risk of eye injuries to flight crews as well as the impact that blinding them -- even for a few seconds -- could have on the massive, passenger-packed planes they're piloting.

    "Shining a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft is a serious safety risk," one-time FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt has said. "Lasers can distract or temporarily blind pilots who are trying to fly safely to their destinations and could compromise the safety of hundreds of passengers."

    Posted By Charles D'Alberto

    Bell Helicopter Upbeat About Asia - Charles D'Alberto

    With one of the most volatile industry sectors – oil-and-gas – seeing plunging profits and investment worldwide, the O&G supply service industries are visibly cutting back on new investments, including across Asia.

    However, says Bell Helicopter Asia Pacific Managing Director Sameer Rehman, this is not leading the company to anticipate shrinking regional sales.

    "Ten years ago we as a company took a very distinct decision to establish a diverted and revitalized R&D division to update our products," he told Aviation Week.

    Now, says Rehman, this diversified approach is now paying off: although the O&G slowdown has led to fewer orders for medium- and large-size aircraft for offshore rig supply work, that is only part of Bell's Asia market.

    Rehman says the new range was driven by a recognition that Bell had fallen behind its competitors in terms of models and needed to revitalize its offerings.

    "So rather than see the current downturn in O&G markets as a problem, we see our new models like the 505 Jet Ranger X, 525 Relentless and 429 as an opportunity to change the way [Asian] buyers see the helicopter market," he says.

    "Certainly we don't think we'll deliver lots of aircraft to O&G, but we are very confident that the effect on our business will be unsubstantial," he adds.

    Rehman says the company is instead pinning its hopes on what it calls a "rising tide" of rotary usage in Asia.

    "Unlike the mature markets in Europe and North America, there is still a huge potential [here] for replacement, refurbishment and training as well as new sales," he notes.
    Bell is confident that its existing footprint in the region will be key to further sales. Rehman says there are still hundreds of decades-old Bell 206 JetRangers flying in many countries across Asia, bringing what he sees as an untapped replacement market in the training, law enforcement and personal transport sectors.

    "Incumbency makes a big difference in the replacement market," he says.
    Rehman also asserts that Bell's 525, currently in final testing (the second test aircraft flew on 21 December), will bring "new energy" into the rotary market. He cited the its ability to deliver the first ever fly-by-wire capability allied to sophisticated safety and avionics as being key factors to high end purchasers of a rotary aircraft. 

    "The 525 is part of our future," he says, noting that the region holds significant potential for the aircraft to be equipped with VVIP interiors – for which the 525 is particularly suitable, and which has resulted in 70 letters of intent (LOIs) to date.

    In the entry-level market, Bell has also put considerable energy into its new Model 505, which made its first flight late in 2014. Since then Bell has taken more than 300 LOIs for the type, to be used for training, personal transport and similar roles.

    Rehman says these strong order books as evidence that although the O&G market was not buoyant, the move towards the purchase of new, efficient, low-maintenance and multi-mission capable aircraft was helping compensate for that across the region.

    "Buyers like government agencies and large companies are all looking to stretch their dollar further. One example is the Australian New South Wales Police that took a Bell 412 for both tactical and response use – policing and lifesaving," he says.

    Rehman also underlines that sale of aircraft is just part of Bell's operation.
    "With our new Singapore Service Center 'mothership' serving the region, we have a reinvigorated offering. Our main aim is to provide customer satisfaction, and we just happen to sell helicopters," he says.

    Posted By Charles D'Alberto

    F-35 fighter jet’s capabilities far outweigh deficiencies: US Marines - Charles D'Alberto

     Lieutenant-General John Davis, deputy commandant for aviation at the US Marine Corps, with a mockup of a F-35 fighter jet. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

    SINGAPORE: Despite heavy criticism over its design, the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet is combat-ready, insisted Lieutenant-General John Davis, deputy commandant for aviation at the US Marine Corps, on Wednesday (Feb 17) at the Singapore Airshow.

    The F-35B model was declared operationally capable by the US Marine Corps in July last year, and manufacturer Lockheed Martin told Channel NewsAsia that it expects the US to do the same for the F-35A model in August this year.

    The F-35 has been beset by a slew of technical issues ranging from unreliable software to defective ejector seats, since production first started in 2006. Early in February, the Pentagon released a report flagging numerous deficiencies in the jet.

    “There's a lot of stuff in the press, but even reading that (Pentagon) report, I don't think I'm making a mistake,” said Lt-Gen Davis.

    “Its operational capabilities far outweigh any deficiencies … And deficiencies in a fifth-generation aircraft still make it vastly superior to a fourth-generation one.”

    He added that the US Marines are planning to add 420 more F-35s to its fleet.

    A mock-up of the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

    Lockheed Martin’s F-35 director of business development Steve Over said the company was continually working to iron out any deficiencies in the jet's development programme. He also touted the F-35 as a cost-effective alternative.

    “We know that every country buying airplanes wants to get their best value for dollar, so allow me to quote Lieutenant-General Christopher Bogdan, head of the US F-35 programme: ‘In 2019, we are going to have the F-35, with all its remarkable capabilities, be available for less than or equal to the cost of other fourth-generation airplane’,” said Mr Over.

    The jet will be priced from US$80 million to US$85 million, he added, noting that Lockheed Martin has “taken innovative steps to get there”, and will work to drive the cost down even more.


    The cockpit of the fifth-generation F-35 (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

    Touted by Lockheed Martin as the most versatile and lethal fighter of all time, the supersonic stealth F-35 is equipped to handle “today’s developing advanced threat systems” which fourth-generation airplanes - still in use by the likes of the US and Singapore air forces - may not be able to deal with, said Mr Over.

    This is due to features such as stealth-covered weaponry, advanced sensors for a pack of F-35s to do battle together, as well as an automated cockpit "that gives the pilot an almost omniscient perspective of the battlespace around him,” said Mr Over.

    Lt-Gen Davis, meanwhile, described the F-35 as "not like any system out there”.
    “Our captains and majors flying the airplane are very pleased with what they’ve got, and we are doing with four airplanes what other guys would have to do with 13,” he added. “If my son goes into combat, I’d want him in an F-35.”

    A mockup of the F-35 is on display at the Airshow, which runs till Sunday Feb 21. There is also a flight simulator, albeit for trade days only (till Feb 19).

    Singapore officially announced its interest in procuring F-35 jets in 2013, but has yet to place an order.

    “Singapore has been a great client and a great customer,” said Mr Over. “As a Security Cooperative Participant since 2004, they have had a front row seat at the table as we’ve been developing the airplane, and they’ve been able to carefully study the plane and decide when and or if the plane makes sense for them in the future.”

    Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in December last year that the nation was still evaluating its interest and “in no hurry” to decide, with the army’s current capabilities serving its needs.

    The bulk of the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s fleet is made up of fourth-generation F-16s - sixty of which Lockheed Martin has also been commissioned to upgrade to the tune of over S$1 billion. It was announced in December last year that the American defence contractor is expected to complete work on the F-16s by mid-2023. 

    Posted By Charles D'Alberto

    Tuesday, February 16, 2016

    Israeli engineers made a helicopter-hovercraft drone that can carry more than 1,100 pounds - Charles D'Alberto

    U.S. Air Force to send F-15 jets to Finland - Charles D'Alberto

    The U.S. Air Force will send six F-15s to Finland this spring for exercises that will operate out of a base about 100 miles from the border with Russia, military officials say.
    The six jets from the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Oregon will fly training missions with Finnish forces as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which the United States initiated in 2014 to reassure NATO allies after Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
    The United States requested the exercises, said Maj. Sheryll I. Klinkel of U.S. Air Forces Europe. Though Finland is not part of NATO, it shares an 813-mile border with Russia and has worked with the United States several times in the past few years.
    "Most of that training has been flown from Norway, Sweden and other neighboring nations. However, we have never had F-15s conduct a training deployment to Finland," Klinkel said.
    Russia's increasingly aggressive behavior over the past several years has prompted several countries across Europe to re-examine their defense capabilities and expand cooperation with other nations who share their concerns, according to Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow of Russian studies at the Council for Foreign Relations.

    "This is a strong trend in Scandinavia in particular, where countries like Norway and Denmark, which have been in NATO for decades, and others, like Sweden and Finland, which are traditionally neutral, are asking themselves: How can we work together if we come under pressure from Russia?" Sestanovich said. "And they are asking the U.S.: Will you help us send a message to Moscow?"
    About 100 airmen from the Oregon base will accompany the jets for the May 9 to 22 deployment, said Master Sgt. Jennifer D. Shirar of the Oregon Air National Guard. The U.S. troops will operate out of Kuopio, Finland, which is about 100 miles west of the border with Russia.
    The exercise was first reported last week by Finnish public broadcaster YLE, which called it large by Finnish standards.
    "A training session of U.S. military aircraft of this scale has not previously taken place in Finland," YLE reported.
    The May deployment is just the latest of U.S. aircraft to Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve. F-22s, A-10s and F-16s have been part of previous exercises along with F-15s.
    News of the Finland deployment comes just days after the Department of Defense announced it was quadrupling money $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative in an effort to deter Russian aggression against NATO allies.
    Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev highlighted the strained relationship between his nation and the West on Saturday at the Munich Security Conference.
    "NATO's policy with regard to Russia has remained unfriendly and opaque. One could go as far as to say that we have slid back to a new Cold War," Medvedev said. "Almost on an everyday basis we are called one of the most terrible threats either to NATO as a whole or to Europe, or to the United States."
    NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove, told CNN that the allied group does not agree with Medvedev's assessment.
    "We at NATO do not want to see a Cold War," he said. "We do not talk about it. It's not what we want to happen or anticipate to happen. ... We're a defensive alliance who are arraying ourselves to face a challenge ... [from] a nation that has once again decided it will use force to change internationally recognized borders and so we take those appropriate actions to be able to assure, defend and deter."
    Tensions between the West and Russia have increased in recent years, in large part -- at least in the view of the West -- because of Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its support for separatists elsewhere in eastern Ukraine.
    But the increased in military cooperation between the United States and various European nations is also a direct result of other Russian military activities such as its intervention in Syria and stepped-up submarine presence in Scandinavian waters, Sestanovich said.
    "European governments don't like what they see, and they are trying to tell the Russians to cool it," he said.
    Posted By Charles D'Alberto

    Monday, February 15, 2016

    Helicopter makes crash landing in Michigan U.P. - Charles D'Alberto

    MENOMINEE, Mich. — An experimental helicopter had to make an emergency landing in a residential area of Menominee the  Upper Peninsula.
    The pilot was flying alone and walked away without serious injury after the Friday morning crash. No one on the ground was hurt, and there was no major damage to property.
    Police say the helicopter lost power and struck tree tops and a power pole before making a hard landing on the street.
    The Eagle Herald reports the helicopter is owned by nearby Enstrom Helicopter Corp.
    Enstrom president and CEO Tracy Biegler says the pilot did a good job landing the copter.

    Friday, February 12, 2016

    This pilot of an F-16 was saved from ISIS by a quick-thinking tanker crew - Charles D'Alberto

    A KC-135 refuels an F-16
    An F-16 pilot flying over ISIS-held territory in 2015 suffered a malfunction of his fuel system and would have been forced to bail out if it weren’t for a KC-135 Stratotanker crew that offered to escort the jet home, the Air Force said in a press release.
    The KC-135 was tasked with refueling a flight of A-10s supporting ground pounders when an F-16 came for gas and declared an emergency.
    “We were in the area of responsibility and were already mated with some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were tasked with observing and providing close-air-support for our allies on the ground,” said Capt. Nathanial Beer, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds.”
    After the pilot completed his checklist, it became apparent that 80 percent of his fuel supply was trapped in the tanks and couldn’t get to the engine. The pilots would have to bail out over ISIS territory or try to make it back to allied airspace.
    The crew of the KC-135 poses for a photo in front of their aircraft.
    Five hundred pounds of fuel is very little in an F-16, so the KC-135 flew home with the fighter and topped off its gas every 15 minutes.
    “The first thought I had from reading the note from the deployed location was extreme pride for the crew in how they handled the emergency,” said Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg, 384th Air Refueling Squadron commander.
    “Knowing the risks to their own safety, they put the life of the F-16 pilot first and made what could’ve been an international tragedy, a feel-good news story. I’m sure they think it was not a big deal, however, that’s because they never want the glory or fame.”
    The KC-135 crew returned to their planned operation once the F-16 was safely home and were able to complete all of their scheduled missions despite the detour.
    Posted By Charles D'Alberto

    A H135 gets a makeover in Switzerland - Charles D'Alberto

    Swiss operator Air Zermatt became the first company to entirely retrofit their H135 helicopter in-house using the operator's own technicians. The process, employing a kit shipped from Airbus Helicopters in Germany, brought the former T2 aircraft to current T3 performance, and opens the door to other operator-led upgrades.

    When Airbus Helicopters launched its H135 helicopter in 2014, the manufacturer announced a retrofit option at the same time to upgrade its previous versions to current standards. The solution appealed to René Lauber, technical director at Air Zermatt. The company performs Emergency Medical Services operations in the mountains near the southern Swiss border, placing high and hot demands on their aircraft in the summer season. Air Zermatt’s 13-year-old T2, while a workhorse when it first entered service, is lower in performance levels compared to other competitors in its class today.

    “Air Zermatt needed performance for operations in the high mountains,” says Ralf Nicolai, sales promotion manager at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany. “When we introduced the upgrades to the H135 with a service bulletin, Air Zermatt was interested because the retrofit would give them exactly the performance they were looking for.”

    The process began with a learning curve for both parties, as the helicopter would be the first with Turbomeca engines to be retrofitted outside of Airbus Helicopters facilities. Frequent exchanges between the two companies ensured documentation and approvals were done correctly. In this particular case the starting point was a T2 version which had to be transformed into a T2+ and finally to a T3. In addition, the certification of some STC installations had to be extended to the T3 version as well.

    “After we signed the contract, there was never a discussion that Airbus Helicopters would do the retrofit,” says Lauber. “The advantage was always that our maintenance shop could do the retrofit itself. Airbus Helicopters delivered the parts and was always in contact. At the end, it was a great project.”

    Besides the retrofit*, Air Zermatt took advantage of the downtime to improve other aspects of its aircraft as well, adding to what would ordinarily be about a one and a half month operation. From a kit of parts and components delivered from the Airbus Helicopters site at Donauwörth, along with manuals and service bulletins, the retrofit consisted of replacing the H135’s main rotor blades, both Turbomeca digital engine control units (DECU), horizontal stabilizer and some cockpit instruments. Because the main gearbox wasn't compatible with the T3 version, the MGB was replaced as well.

    “We upgraded the avionics and we did the 1,000-hour inspection at the same time,” says Lauber. “The biggest job on the retrofit itself was the modification of the air inlet covers. We were able to do this because we have a technician who is very experienced in composite work.”

    Because Air Zermatt’s maintenance crew is licensed for the 135 series of helicopters, there was no need for additional training to tackle the retrofit. “We know the helicopter very well, having flown it for more than 5,000 hours,” says Lauber. “We were already very experienced, so doing the retrofit was not a big problem. Ordinarily, any maintenance shop should be able to do it if they have experience on the H135 family.”

    Experience also counted at Airbus Helicopters’ end. Four separate teams in Donauwörth contributed to preparing the retrofit materials. “One of the most important teams is the service bulletin team,” says Nicolai. “Then the engineering department had to verify the configuration for this particular aircraft. No retrofit is 100 percent identical from one helicopter to another. That makes it more challenging. And then there is the executor, who brings all the parts from the MRO department in Germany, in connection with the technical support team.”

    The helicopter has now flown over 100 hours. “I can say today, we would do it again,” says Lauber. “It was one of the best work the technicians have ever done, and one of the best for everybody in our company.”

    The Air Zermatt crew responsible for the retrofit.

    Posted By Charles D'Alberto

    Boeing stock price tumbles on fraud report - Charles D'Alberto

    Boeing’s stock price is flirting with setting a one-day decline record on 11 February after a morning news report linked the company to a fraud investigation.

    The Bloomberg news report cited anonymous sources saying the US Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Boeing’s programme accounting methods on the 787 and 747-8.

    Boeing executives “typically do not comment on media inquiries of this nature”, a spokesman says.

    By mid-afternoon, Boeing’s stock price was trading around 7-9% lower and around $105-$106 each.

    If the stock doesn’t stay above $106 per share by evening, Boeing could record the worst one-day drop of market capitalisation in the company’s 100-year history.

    The 11 February decline comes only two weeks after an 8.7% stock price swoon when Boeing announced lower than expected guidance for revenues and deliveries this year.
    Boeing’s stock has lost around one-third of its value since reaching a historic peak on 21 February last year at $158.31.

    Boeing uses a standard programme accounting method to book revenues and costs on major commercial aircraft development programmes. The 787 programme has an accounting block spread over a production run of 1,300 aircraft. Boeing estimates costs and revenues over the entire block, and assigns an average operating margin for each aircraft that rolls out the factory.

    This means that aircraft delivered early in the production run show up on Boeing’s balance sheet with a profit, even though each costs significantly more to build than Boeing’s sale price. On the other hand, aircraft delivered late in the production run should be assembled more profitably than Boeing’s balance sheet would indicate, as the supply chain learns how to build the 787 faster and cheaper.

    But the 787 programme has not followed the usual pattern of Boeing’s historic development programmes. The first 370 787s delivered to date have cost Boeing nearly $30 billion more to produce than the sale price. By contrast, the 777 developed an inflation-adjusted $3 billion in production losses before the programme turned profitable.

    Boeing expects actual 787 production costs to break-even on a unit basis later this year, meaning the sale price roughly matches the amount it takes to build each aircraft.

    By that point, however, Boeing will have about 700 aircraft remaining in the accounting block. To recover the $30 billion already spent, Boeing must build each of the next 700 787s for an average cost of about $91 million, says Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis for the Teal Group.

    “Unless I’m doing my numbers wrong with my back-of-the-envelope math something’s got to change,” says Aboulafia, speaking on 10 February at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance. “This has made what should have been a fantastic peace of greatness a far more complicated one for Boeing, and the implications of this moving forward we don’t know.”

    Posted By Charles D'Alberto