Friday, April 29, 2016

Avalanche fears over unauthorised Everest helicopter flights - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto

Helicopter firms are carrying out unauthorised sightseeing flights over the upper reaches of Mount Everest, Nepalese officials say.

Sherpas have expressed concerns that vibrations caused by the helicopters could trigger avalanches.
Tourist flights are not allowed to places above Base Camp which is at an altitude of 5,364 metres (17,600ft).

But helicopter companies say they only overfly sights like the Khumbu Icefall and their flights are allowed.

There has been no expedition on Everest for the past two years because of a series of disasters.
Sixteen Sherpas died on their way to Camp One in an icefall in 2014. At least 18 climbers died at Base Camp after a major earthquake triggered a huge avalanche last year.

After the 2014 disaster, authorities moved the climbing route to the middle of the Khumbu Icefall.
It is a treacherous section that mountaineers must cross on their way up to the summit of Everest.

Climbing season

Sherpas are currently transporting expedition equipment to higher camps for the current climbing season.

“The sightseeing helicopters are hovering above the Khumbu Icefall and making things difficult for us,” said Pasang Kaji Sherpa, a mountain guide with a military expedition team now on Everest.
“We worry that the vibrations caused by helicopters can crack ice blocks and snow packs on mountains overlooking the Khumbu Icefall.

“There is a deep-seated fear among Sherpa porters that they may be hit by avalanches this year as well and these helicopters are increasing fears,” Pasang Kaji Sherpa added.

After the BBC started to investigate whether sightseeing helicopters were permitted to fly to places like the Khumbu Icefall, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) issued a circular to all airlines warning them not to conduct such flights.

“We have made it clear in the circular that sightseeing flights are simply not allowed in places higher than the base camp,” said Rajan Pokhrel, Deputy Director General of CAAN.

“Only rescue flights during emergencies are allowed in those areas and sometimes we allow special projects like skydiving when recommended by other government authorities.”

Mr Pokhrel said his office had also heard the Sherpas’ concerns.

Airline defence

However, airline officials say there is no such danger.

“We fly 2,340 feet from above the ground and maintain at least 1km distance from the mountains so there is no way the vibration can cause avalanche,” said Pabitra Karki, chairman of Airlines Operators Association Nepal (AOAN).

“We use the French-made Ecureil helicopters for sightseeing which are very light and we carry two to three passengers in each flight.”

AOAN officials say there are around half a dozen sightseeing flights per week during the climbing season.

But other sources at Base Camp said such flights were becoming more frequent.

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About 20 helicopters are operated by six companies in Nepal but only a handful of pilots are qualified to fly to high altitudes.

Alarm and concern

“For Sherpa climbers, especially those carrying equipment for expedition teams, helicopters flying overhead in higher areas is a mentally torturous experience,” says Phurba Namgyal Sherpa, general secretary of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association.

“The fragile snow and ice conditions could be disturbed at any time by the rotors of helicopters and that could spell disaster for us.

“This is an issue we have been discussing for quite some time now but we are not sure where to lodge the complaint.”

Scaling Mount Everest is the dream of many climbers who are prepared to pay a lot of money to reach the summit.

Aviation experts say part of the problem is how such flights are policed by the authorities.

Officials from CAAN admitted they were not on the ground to monitor such flights but relied on other government agencies based there.

“Just because we are not there does not mean we don’t get to know what happens up there,” Mr Pokhrel cautioned.

In addition, the Department of Tourism has allowed helicopters to transport ropes and other gear up to Camp One to fix the route, after expedition operators complained that the earthquake had made the Khumbu Icefall more difficult to cross.

“We fear that such a concession may be misused for more sightseeing and other commercial purposes and increase the risk of avalanche in the region,” said Phurba Namgyal Sherpa.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Helicopter carrying at least 13 people crashes near Bergen in Norway - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto

Several people have been found dead after a helicopter crashed west of the Norwegian city of Bergen with 13 on board, local media report.

There were initial reports of people in the sea, but a rescue official told broadcaster NRK that there were no signs of any survivors.

The helicopter was “totally destroyed”. Photos from the scene show thick smoke coming from an area of rocky islets.

It was flying from the Gullfaks oil field to Bergen.

The western city is a centre for the North Sea oil and gas industry.

The helicopter, a Eurocopter 225, came down near the small island of Turoy, just west of the village of Solsvik.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing the helicopter’s rotary blade come loose and sheer off in a different direction.

Some wreckage was found on the island, and parts of the hull are in the sea, local media said.
All passengers on the helicopter were employees of the oil company Statoil, reports say.

Service company CHC Helicopter confirmed that there had been “an incident involving one of our aircraft in the Norwegian sector”.

Statoil has temporarily grounded all helicopters of the same type.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Joint Multi-role Demonstrators in Race to Starting Line - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto
Charles D’Alberto
WASHINGTON — In West Palm Beach, Florida, and Amarillo, Texas, two different aircraft are coming together in a sprint to the starting line of the Army’s much anticipated flight demonstrations of future helicopter concepts in 2017.

The Army plans to design and field a future vertical lift aircraft and is expected to kick off that program of record in the 2019 time frame. The expectation is to buy a new family of helicopters through a competition and field the new aircraft at some point in the early 2030s, although the Army has talked about speeding up that fielding timeline to the late 2020s.

But first the Army plans to demonstrate Joint Multi-Role (JMR) air vehicle capability at a 2017 flight demonstration in order to help the service fully define requirements for the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.

A Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin team is mating the entire wing — which is one big part — onto the fuselage in Texas of its advanced tiltrotor concept the V-280 Valor, according to Vince Tobin, Bell’s vice president for advanced tiltrotor systems.

Sikorsky and Boeing have all of its Defiant coaxial helicopter parts in fabrication, some have already been delivered to the final assembly facility in Florida, Pat Donnelly, Boeing’s program director, said. Notably, the fuselage is in California being assembled and the team plans to conduct flight loads verification before shipping it to Florida.

Bell’s Tobin said the nacelles, compartments that hold engines, fuel or other equipment, were mated to the wing in March and they “fit like a glove.”

In fact, assembly of parts has gone so smoothly due to the use of 3-D design and simulation that Tobin, a self-proclaimed superstitious man, said, “Knock on wood, I am sure there are challenges to come, but so far, from a structural perspective, it’s all good.”

Bell had similar luck when Spirit Aerosystems assembled the fuselage for the Valor last year using the 3-D design environment. “It basically came together almost perfectly, Chris Gehler, director of the company’s advanced tiltrotor programs, said in October 2015.

The 3-D tool, which was developed in the last two to three years, has the ability to “change the affordability cost curve on this thing, so your non-recurring tooling significantly reduces and front-end costs are reduced,” Gehler said.

Tobin said the tooling has also not caused any issues in the assembly process so far thanks to the 3-D simulations.

What’s left for Bell is to stuff the nacelles with gear boxes and engines and to get ready for restrained ground runs “by around this time next year,” Tobin said.

“The good news is everything to date is tracking as planned,” he added, and the aircraft should be ready for its first flight in the fall of 2017.

While Defiant is assembled, the Boeing-Sikorsky team is also testing all of its flight controls and software, electrical and hydraulic systems in its JMR System Integration Lab in Stratford, Connecticut, with real flight hardware, according to Doug Shidler, Sikorsky’s program director.

Raider, Sikorsky’s smaller version of Defiant using X2 technology, which is fully assembled and flying, has a similar SIL in Connecticut. The X2 technology demonstrated in 2010 was a 6,000-pound helicopter, Raider is 11,000 pounds and Defiant will weigh 30,000 pounds.

“The Systems Integration Lab is a very important part of our program for pre-flight and post-flight verification. It helps us ensure the best, most effective technology and capabilities are being brought to bear,” Shidler said. “The assembly and testing are proceeding well.”

It’s not yet clear whether the Army will first build medium-lift helicopters to replace UH-60 Black Hawks and AH-64 Apaches or if it will choose to prioritize building a light helicopter. The Army decided to retire its OH-58 Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopters in 2013.

Apaches are filling in on the armed scout mission, but it’s not an ideal solution as the helicopters are more expensive to operate — much like taking a Lamborghini to go grocery shopping.

Both teams building demonstrator aircraft believe their solutions are easily scalable no matter what direction the Army decides to go.

Sikorsky has proven that it can build helicopters with the same technology in different weight classes.

And Bell has even designed and flew a tiltrotor unmanned aircraft system several years ago for a now defunct Coast Guard program, according to Tobin.

“The beauty of tiltrotors is they are eminently scalable,” he said. “From a scaling perspective, it’s not really a challenge so we are ready to go” with whatever the Army decides, he added.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Neil deGrasse Tyson was wrong about falling helicopters - Charles D'Alberto

Last summer, Neil deGrasse Tyson caught the ire of helicopter enthusiasts all over the internet when he responded to an adorable video of a man driving his son to “get coffee.”
Spoiler alert: “Getting coffee” turned out to be a surprise helicopter ride.

Tyson, presumably concerned with the little boy’s safety, responded on Twitter:
Almost immediately, Tyson received a volley of tweets contradicting this statement.
One came from Destin Sandlin, the host of a popular YouTube channel called Smarter Every Day:

In reply, Tyson sent a video message to Sandlin:

“A little birdie told me you took interest in one of my tweets… Now I hear you know of a way to land a helicopter with a busted engine. Well, if so, I want to know about it.”

Destin took him up on the challenge, and rented a helicopter to demonstrate “autorotation,” the technique that pilots use to glide safely down to earth in case of engine failure.
That is, he rented a helicopter and asked the pilot to cut the engines — and filmed the whole thing.

“You’re kind of right,” Destin responded, “if the rotor blade quits turning you are going to fall like a brick — but helicopter pilots have a physics trick to keep that from happening.
Helicopter blades fan the air downwards. When the blades stop moving, the air changes direction.
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A control called “the collective” allows helicopter pilots to readjust the tilt of their fans so they can adjust the blades to catch the movement of air. Much like a pinwheel, Destin explains in the video, the air keeps the blades rotating.

Pilots can use the air’s drag on the blades and difference of rotation speeds of the inside and outside of the blade, which move slower and faster, respectively, to find a place where the they can use the movement of the air to make a safe landing.

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“There’s a magic point along the blade where it no longer acts like a pinwheel, it acts like a fan,” Destin explains.

All helicopter pilots, he adds, are trained in autorotation — so it sounds like the little boy’s joy ride was probably pretty safe after all.

Your move, Dr. Tyson.

Watch the whole video here for a more in-depth explanation:

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Drunken driver ran roadblock, hit helicopter at serious crash scene - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto


“I really appreciate you keeping people like me off the street,” a 20-year-old man told troopers after drunkenly running a roadblock and crashing into a helicopter at the scene of a serious crash, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Troopers were already at the scene attending to a pedestrian who was hit by a Jeep on U.S. 192 near State Road 429.

At about 1:41 a.m., a vehicle driven by Cameron Brian Sunderly swerved through emergency vehicles set up as a roadblock and smashed into the tail rotor of the helicopter, investigators said.

When additional troopers arrived, they found a man close to tears pacing back and forth near the crash scene, an FHP incident report said.
I really appreciate you keeping people like me off the street. — Driver of car that hit helicopter, according to FHP.
The man, only identified as Chris, told the trooper that his friend had hit the helicopter as they were driving home from Applebee’s.

Sunderly was still inside the vehicle when the trooper approached him and asked if he’d been injured in the crash.

“I could immediately detect the obvious odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from his breath as he spoke,” the trooper said in the report.

Sunderly was incoherent and the trooper had to ask several times and explain in detail what a field sobriety test was before he agreed to do it, the report said.

As part of standard questioning, the trooper asked if Sunderly if he wore glasses or contacts. When the man said he wore contacts, the trooper asked if they changed the color of his eyes.

“No, blue all day, baby,” Sunderly replied, according to the report.

Sunderly was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, refusal to obey a police officer and reckless driving.

He was being held at the Orange County Jail in lieu of bonds totaling $1,600.
The pedestrian injured in the initial crash was taken to the hospital by other means. The person, who was not identified, was listed in critical condition.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I cant believe its been 30 years... We should never forget the destruction of Nuclear fallout #Chernobyl

Russia to supply a batch of Night Hunter helicopters to Iraq – Charles D’Alberto

Charles D'Alberto
Charles D’Alberto
Russia will supply a batch of Night Hunter helicopters to Iraq, a source from the defense industry told Interfax-AVN on April 18.

“A batch of about 20 Mil Mi-28NE dual-control vehicles is being prepared for shipping,” he said.

According to Russian Helicopters Holding, contracts for the delivery of Mil Mi-28NE helicopters have been signed with two countries, Algeria and Iraq.

Algeria has asked for the modernization of Mil Mi-28NE into a dual-control vehicle.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


The US has deployed 2 F-22 fighter jets to Russia’s backyard – Charles D’Alberto

Charles D'Alberto
Charles D’Alberto
A US Air Force F-22 Raptor flies over Alaskan terrain after refueling on January 5, 2013.
The US has deployed two of its most advanced fighter jets to Romania in order to better keep an eye on Russian activity in the Black Sea, the Air Force Times reports.

The two F-22 Raptors are part of a supporting US force that has been deployed to NATO member Romania. The aircraft are there as part of a mission intended to “bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe,” according to a US Air Force press release.

The F-22, the first truly operational fifth-generation fighter in the world, will be used to further increase interoperability between the US and fellow NATO nations as well as signal to Russia that the US will stand with NATO against any Russian aggression.

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These aircraft have the ability to project air dominance quickly, at great distances, to defeat any possible threat,” US Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray said of the F-22 deployment in Romania at a press conference.

The deployment comes soon after Russian military aircraft repeatedly buzzed a US naval ship that was in international waters in the Baltic Sea.

In response to that incident, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the ship would have been justified in shooting down the Russian aircraft.

The US decision to place the F-22s in Europe also comes on the heels of dire predictions concerning NATO readiness to defend the Baltics in the event of a Russian invasion of the NATO member states.

In February, the think tank RAND published a report estimating that, at current defense levels, Russia would be able to occupy the Baltics in just two days.

The F-22 deployment is not the only indication of US concern over a Russian drive to become a global power. In response to concerns that Russia has increased its submarine activity to Cold War levels, the US is will reopen a submarine-hunting base in Iceland because of Russia’s increase naval activity in the North Atlantic.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Even when sh*t is really going down #Just_Fly

Friday, April 22, 2016

Aeryon SkyRanger first UAV with FAA approval for nighttime commercial operation - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto
Charles D’Alberto

Aeryon Labs Inc., a leader in small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAVs), has announced that Toronto-based Industrial SkyWorks (ISW), a leader in aerial building inspections using unmanned technologies, is the first commercial operator to be approved for nighttime operations in the United States.

The Aeryon SkyRanger is named as the sUAS that will be deployed to capture the visual evidence of where a building is losing energy or needs repair, especially in areas that are difficult to access, such as a roof.

ISW has been successfully operating the Aeryon SkyRanger under the Tremco Roofing SkyBEAM brand in Canada over the past 18 months.

The SkyBEAM (Building Envelope Asset Mapping) UAS is used to fly around buildings capturing high-definition (HD) video and thermographic (infrared) imagery to locate energy leaks, rooftop damage, poor or missing window sealing or wet rooftop insulation, safety issues and other potential problems.

Infrared scanning is most effective at night, when the sun cannot affect the temperature of the building. Traditional infrared scans require technicians to walk rooftops at night, while other inspections dictate working from scaffolding or cranes.

SkyBEAM is safer, faster, more cost effective and more accurate than conventional methods of inspecting and mapping buildings.

“This recent exemption by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] is extremely positive for Industrial SkyWorks, Tremco Roofing and maintenance and for commercial operations in general,” said Aeryon Labs president and CEO, Dave Kroetsch. “We are excited that Industrial SkyWorks is the first commercial company to conduct nighttime inspections with the Aeryon SkyRanger in the U.S.

“Aeryon sUAS have been deployed for nighttime missions in search and rescue and other mission-critical applications for years and this shows that the market and the FAA continue to broaden the uses for the technology.”

“We appreciate the significance of this new approval,” said Michael Cohen, president, Industrial SkyWorks. “We regard this as an opportunity to help define best practices and set the standard for nighttime inspection applications. Working with Aeyron Labs will help demonstrate to the FAA and the broader UAS industry that unmanned aerial data capture continues to have many benefits for the commercial market.”

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

House Legislation Orders F-22 Restart Study - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto
Charles D’Alberto
WASHINGTON — Almost five years after Lockheed Martin shut down production of its F-22 stealth fighter jet, House legislation released Tuesday would direct the Air Force to look into restarting the assembly line.

At the direction of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Lockheed terminated F-22 production at its Marietta, Georgia, and Fort Worth, Texas, facilities after producing just 187 aircraft — far short of the original requirement for 749 jets. But in light of the growing perception that the US military is losing its technological edge to adversaries like Russia and China, Congress has expressed keen interest throughout this year’s budget season in restarting the line. The F-22 has also drawn attention recently from several high-profile deployments to Europe and the Middle East.

However, Air Force officials have consistently dubbed reviving the Raptor line as a nonstarter, citing the enormous cost of the project. A 2010 RAND study commissioned by the Air Force placed the cost to buy just 75 more F-22s at $17 billion in 2008 dollars.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


The First Helicopter - Charles D'Alberto

Helicopter (Aerial Screw)

Though the first actual helicopter wasn’t built until the 1940s, it is believed that Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches from the late fifteenth century were the predecessor to the modern day flying machine. As with many of da Vinci’s ideas, he never actually built and tested it – but his notes and drawings mapped out exactly how the device would operate.

Da Vinci scrawled next to his sketches of the screw-like machine the following description: "If this instrument made with a screw be well made – that is to say, made of linen of which the pores are stopped up with starch and be turned swiftly, the said screw will make its spiral in the air and it will rise high."

Also known as the "Helical Air Screw" or simply the "airscrew", the device was designed to compress air to obtain flight – similar to today’s helicopters. Da Vinci was a big proponent of the many possibilities offered by the screw shape, and he used the shape for other inventions and designs as well.

Da Vinci’s helicopter measured more than 15 feet in diameter and was made from reed, linen and wire. It was to be powered by four men standing on a central platform turning cranks to rotate the shaft. With enough rotation, da Vinci believed the invention would lift off the ground. Unfortunately, due to weight constrictions, modern scientists do not believe da Vinci’s invention would have been able to take flight.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lebanese military gets U.S., British aid for defending border with Syria - Charles D'Alberto

U.S. Charge d'Affaires and Interim Ambassador Richard H. Jones speaks during a ceremony reviewing three Huey II helicopters donated by the United States to the Lebanese armed forces, at the Beirut air base, Lebanon March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
U.S. Charge d’Affaires and Interim Ambassador Richard H. Jones speaks during a ceremony reviewing three Huey II helicopters donated by the United States to the Lebanese armed forces, at the Beirut air base, Lebanon March 31, 2016. 
Lebanese military gets U.S., British aid for defending border with Syria 

Lebanon’s armed forces acquired three U.S. helicopters worth $26 million on Thursday to help in efforts to stop Syria’s civil war spilling over its border, along with almost $29 million of British aid as EU countries also step up their support.

The Lebanese armed forces have now received a total of nine Huey II multi-mission helicopters from the United States as part of $1.3 billion in security assistance given since 2004, U.S. interim Ambassador Richard H. Jones said.

“We have no plans to slow down or alter that level of support,” Jones said at Beirut’s military air base.

Fighting between Islamic State and al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militants often overlaps Lebanon’s mountainous northern border with Syria, where a civil war is now in its fifth year.

Fighters briefly overran the northern Lebanese town of Arsal in 2014 before withdrawing to the hills after clashes with the army. Fighting in the border area killed at least 32 Nusra and Islamic State fighters this week.

The helicopters will improve the army’s ability to quickly reinforce “remote areas of tension along the border in support of the army’s fight against terrorists”, Jones said.

Lebanon has a weak government and a number of nations support its armed forces, concerned that regional conflict and a power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia could again destabilise a country which emerged from its own civil war 26 years ago.

On a visit to Lebanon on Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced a further $22 million for border guard training through to 2019 and $6.5 million for general training of 5,000 Lebanese troops. “Lebanon is an important part of the front line against terrorism,” Hammond said.

“We are delighted by the way the UK support is being translated into strengthened border security and is enabling the armed forces to take the fight to Daesh and keep Lebanon safe from the incursions of Daesh,” he said, referring to Islamic State.

EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini, who visited Lebanon last week, said that Lebanon’s security was important for Europe’s safety too and the EU was willing to expand its support for the Lebanese armed forces.

In February Saudi Arabia suspended a $3 billion aid package for the Lebanese army in what an official called a response to Beirut’s failure to condemn attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

Lebanon’s Iranian-backed group Hezbollah is also a significant military presence in the country, with extensive combat experience. It fought Israel in an inconclusive 2006 war and is supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Monday, April 18, 2016

Helicopter Carrying 3 Crashes Near BWI Airport; No Fatalities - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto

A helicopter with three people on board crashed Saturday near Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

No one was seriously injured after a helicopter carrying workers who were inspecting power lines crashed near Baltimore’s airport Saturday, authorities said.

The helicopter went down in a wooded area near a stream by Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Maryland State Police said.
Police said the cause of the crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The pilot was identified as Owen J. Garnett of Montrose, Pennsylvania. His passengers were Kevin A. Tennis of Colora, Maryland, and Jordan M. Marsh of Monkton, Maryland. The Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter is owned by Sky River Helicopters of New Jersey.

None of the people reported serious injuries but were taken to the hospital as a precaution, state police said.

Baltimore Gas and Electric said the workers were checking electric transmission lines for the company when the crash occurred. One of the people is an employee for the company and the other two are contractors, the company said in a statement.

The crash helicopter caught fire after it went down, causing a brush fire in the area, police said. The crash occurred near the train tracks, leading to delays for some rail passengers.
Amtrak temporarily halted all service between Baltimore and Washington before resuming it Saturday afternoon.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


BREAKING NEWS: US to send 200 more troops, Apache helicopters to Iraq to fight ISIS - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto
Charles D’Alberto

The US will deploy 217 troops and Apache helicopters to Iraq as part of operations against jihadist group Islamic State, according to US defense officials. The additional troops will bring the US solider level in Iraq to 4,087.

Most of the additional troops will be US Army special forces, the Associated Press reported. The rest will include teams of trainers and advisers to be embedded with Iraqi security forces fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), meaning US advisers will be stationed near the battlefront as Iraqi units move toward Mosul. Iraq is attempting to retake Mosul, the nation’s second-largest city, from Islamic State control.

Maintenance personnel for the Apaches will also be included in the troop injection. The Apaches will be available for use in the push to regain Mosul.

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter indicated on April 16 that the US military will boost its operations against Islamic State.

“You should expect us, to see us, doing more,” Carter said, according to the New York Times. “It will be consistent with the same approach, but it’ll be across all the domains, right up to cyber.”

The US will also send as many as 200 special operations forces to advise and assist US-allied Syrian fighters battling Islamic State, NYT reported.

Carter said any additional US military forces in Iraq and Syria are not replacements for Iraqi security forces or Syrian fighters in opposition to Islamic State. Additionally, a US military spokesman in Iraq said last week that the initial phase of the US-led campaign against Islamic State was complete and that the campaign has moved to a new phase.

“During this phase, we will enable our partners to dismantle the enemy, fragment his forces, isolate his centers of gravity and liberate the terrain he holds,” said Col. Steven H. Warren.

As of April 12, the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve had conducted a total of 11,539 airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria. Of that total, the US has conducted 8,825 of the strikes, according to the Pentagon.

The Pentagon also said will give $415 million to Kurdish peshmerga units in their efforts against IS in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurdish forces have surrounded Mosul from the north, east, and west.

Helping Iraqi forces retake Mosul will be a formidable challenge, US defense officials have said. On Monday, Secretary Carter will meet with top US military commanders in Iraq as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and Defense Minister Khalid Al-Obeidi, CBS News reported. He is also scheduled to speak by phone with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani.

After months of negotiations, Iraqi leaders only backed the addition of US forces on the condition that they assist Iraqi forces with specific capabilities needed to retake Mosul from IS, CBS News reported citing an anonymous senior defense official. Carter said the White House has fully supported Pentagon initiatives to boost the US-led campaign against IS.

“We’ve gotten approval from the White House every time the chairman and I have gone to ask for something that we’ve needed to accelerate going way back to last year,” Carter said, according to NYT, in reference to Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “So that isn’t really the issue for us, the issue for us is yet identifying more ways to accelerate the campaign.”

Mosul, a predominantly Sunni Muslim city, fell into IS control in the summer of 2014 and is a strategic center of the self-proclaimed Islamic State caliphate, along with the Syrian city of Raqqa. Last month, the Iraqi government announced an operation to retake Mosul from IS.

“The first phase of the Fatah [Conquest] Operation has been launched at dawn to liberate Nineveh [province], raising the Iraqi flag in several villages,” said the Iraq military in a statement late last month.

According to the Pentagon, it will take between eight and 12 Iraqi brigades – more than 20,000 troops – to gain control of Mosul. Last month, Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, testified at a congressional hearing that recapturing the city is still about a year away.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


India acquiring Stinger missiles for its new helicopters - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto
Charles D’Alberto
India to get hundreds of Stinger missiles for new helicopters – 

TUCSON, March 30 — India is acquiring hundreds of Stinger air-to-air missiles for its new combat helicopters.

The acquisition of 245 of the Raytheon missiles, together with launchers and engineering support, is part of a $3.1 billion Foreign Military Sales deal with the United States that includes combat helicopters, weapons, radars and electronic warfare suites.

“India joins nations around the globe who recognize that air-to-air Stinger can be a key component of attack and light attack helicopter mission configurations,” said Duane Gooden, Raytheon Land Warfare Systems vice president. “Stinger significantly improves the ability of the aircraft to successfully perform today’s missions while countering existing threats.”

The Stinger, which has a land launch capability, has been used in four military conflicts and has more than 270 fixed- and rotary-wing intercepts to its credit. A total of 19 countries use the weapon.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Airbus is interested in buying stake in Russian Helicopters - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto
Charles D’Alberto

Airbus is interested in buying stake in Russian Helicopters — minister

PARIS, April 15. The Russian government may sell a controlling stake in the Russian Helicopters company as part of its privatization and French companies, including Airbus are interested in buying it, Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev told reporters after a meeting with representatives of French business circles.

“Our French colleagues are interested in privatization of the Russian Helicopters holding. In particular it is the Airbus company,” he said.

The Minister said that Russia’s Industry and Trade Ministry will be in charge for the deal.
“As a rule, this kind of companies is sold to strategic investors,” Ulyukayev said.

According to him, Airbus has showed interest in the purchase but it is yet to be confirmed.
The Russian Helicopters company is part of state hi-tech corporation Rostec.

In March Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said that the stake may be sold already this year. According to him, Rostec plans either to the whole stake to a strategic investor in Russia or to sell 25% to a foreign investor.

In early March, in an interview with TASS, head of Russian state corporation Rostec Sergey Chemezov said that the corporation plans to finalize the deal by the end of the year. At the same time he dounted that it was necessary to sell whole 49% stake right away.

Russian Helicopters is the sole Russian rotorcraft designer and manufacturer with the capability to design, manufacture, service and test modern civilian and military helicopters.

The company includes design bureaus, helicopter assembly plants, components production, maintenance and repair enterprises, aircraft repair plants, and helicopter service companies providing after-sales support in Russia and abroad. The company accounts for about 35% and 50% of the global market of combat and medium military transport helicopters.

In addition to Russian Helicopters Rostec also plans to privatize stakes in KRET holding (specializes in electronic industry) and Schwabe (specializing in electro-optical products).

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


New week.. New Fire!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Drone hit British Airways plane approaching Heathrow Airport - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto
Charles D’Alberto

Drone hit British Airways plane approaching Heathrow Airport 

A plane approaching Heathrow Airport is believed to have hit a drone before it landed safely, the Metropolitan Police have said.

The British Airways flight from Geneva was hit as it approached the London airport at about 12:50 BST with 132 passengers and five crew on board.

After landing, the pilot reported an object – believed to be a drone – had struck the front of the Airbus A320
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Aviation police based at Heathrow have launched an investigation.

Police said no arrests have been made.

Are drones dangerous or harmless fun?

Drones pose ‘real threat’ to civil aviation

A British Airways spokesman said: “Our aircraft landed safely, was fully examined by our engineers and it was cleared to operate its next flight.”

The airline will give the police “every assistance with their investigation”, the spokesman added.
The incident follows a warning earlier this year by the head of the International Air Transport Association that drones flown by the general public are “a real and growing threat” to civilian aircraft.

Tony Tyler called for drone regulations to be put in place before any serious accidents occur.

In January, the UK Air Proximity Board – which investigates near-miss incidents in UK airspace – said there had been four serious near-misses at UK airports in August and September.

The category A incidents were reported at Stansted, Heathrow, London City and Manchester airports.

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  • 27 August 2015 – A DO328 aircraft flew within 50ft of a drone while approaching Manchester Aiport at 2,800ft
  • 13 September 2015 – A drone flew over the top of a B737 aircraft while at 4,000ft, missing it by about 5m, shortly after it left Stansted
  • 13 September 2015 – A silver drone with a “balloon-like” centre missed an E170 aircraft by about 20m, while the plane was approaching London City Airport over the Thames
  • 22 September 2015 – A “quadcopter-type drone” missed the right-hand side of a B777 plane by about 25m while at 2,000ft after it left Heathrow Airport

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Russia Intends to Create Helicopter Center in Cuba - Charles D'Alberto

Charles D'Alberto

Russia Intends to Create Helicopter Center in Cuba 

Cuba and Russia have had warm relations dating back to Soviet times.
Russia is in continued negotiations with Cuba about the creation of a center for the maintenance of Russian helicopters.

“We are considering the option of retrofitting the facilities available in Cuba for repair and maintenance of Mi-8 helicopters,” said Anatoly Punchuk, deputy director of the Federal Service for Technical Military Cooperation, who also heads the Russian delegation at the International Fair of Air and Space in Santiago, Chile.

The Russian official recalled that financial difficulties have limited Cuba in the purchase of new aircraft.

The holding company Russian Helicopters announced last November that once the necessary changes are made, the repair and maintenance of the Mi-8/17/171 models could be carried out in the military industrial enterprise Yuri Gagarin in Havana.

The company Russian Helicopters, which is part of the public corporation Rostec, is a world leader and the only developer and manufacturer of helicopters in the Slavic country.

Cuba and Russia have had warm relations dating back to Soviet times and currently cooperate on multiple projects related to energy and civil aviation. Just last Tuesday, Russia announced plans to invest 1.2 billion euros (US$1.35 billion) on the construction of Cuban thermal power plants.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto


Stealth Sunday #Just_Fly

Saturday, April 16, 2016

House Hunting By Helicopter Takes Off - Charles D'Alberto

Some luxury real estate agents take top clients up by helicopter to tour ranch lands, gated manses and other scenic listings
Charles D'Alberto

Airsickness bags, aviation headsets and Dramamine are the new essentials for a select group of real-estate agents, who take top clients up in helicopters to show multimillion-dollar listings.

“We don’t do it for just anyone—they have to be very well-qualified,” said Gwen Banta, a Los Angeles-based luxury broker who has flown clients over $11 million and $16 million homes in Lake Arrowhead and Mammoth Lakes, Calif. “You come in over the lake and get that view and they’re sold on the area before they ever touch ground.”
In cities like Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago, flying real-estate agents score points with high-value clients by gliding over snarled traffic, swooping low over gated manses, and scoping out neighborhoods (and potential next-door neighbors) in a matter of minutes.

Ranch brokers in the Rocky Mountains and Texas can cover thousands of acres in an afternoon, while delivering views of rivers, canyons, and the occasional grizzly bear.

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When we look at property anywhere, in central Florida or Idaho or Wyoming, we always use the helicopter because it gives you such a bird’s-eye view,” said Bernie Little, a commercial cattle owner who has a home in Ocala, Fla. and a ranch in Jackson, Wyo.

That view comes at a cost: Prices start at $650 to $800 an hour for a three-passenger Robinson R-44 Raven II helicopter and pilot. Sightseeing and catered lunches are often included. The broker usually foots the bill, including the cost of the helicopter and pilot.

“To provide something that a really wealthy person would appreciate is not an easy thing to do,” said Chris Feurer, CEO of Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty in Chicago, which began offering helicopter viewings of properties with a minimum $1.5 million purchase price last fall.

Mr. Feurer said that he has budgeted $100,000 for the helicopter service this year. Jameson brokers have used it to show luxury condominiums and equestrian estates—and as a perk for top clients. Attorney Janice Anderson sold her $1.6 million condo in the city’s South Loop and bought a new one on Lake Michigan for just under $900,000 with broker Lauren Schuh.

As a thank you, Ms. Schuh took Ms. Anderson and her daughter for a victory lap over the city.
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Pilots and real-estate agents strategize in advance to plan aerial house tours. The pilot collects the coordinates of the different homes and neighborhoods the agent wants to show, and uses them to program the day’s flight plan. The agent uses Google-based mapping software on an iPad to identify what those properties will look like from 500 feet in the air. If a home that isn’t listed catches the client’s eye, the agent can pinpoint the location for future reference, while the pilot zooms in for a close-up.

“We can go really, really close—you can literally see people laying out on their decks,” said Lindsay Galbraith, a Sotheby’s International Realty agent based in West Hollywood.

Not all owners—or their neighbors—are ready for their close-up. “The sellers do not enjoy it when they’re home and there’s a helicopter flying low at close range,” said Ms. Galbraith.

Los Angeles’s luxury market is particularly suited for airborne house-hunting, with its jammed freeways, and the miles of hedgerows and high gates that shield high-end properties from view. From the sky, it’s easy to see which Malibu listings have a coveted dry beach, or one that disappears at high tide. A-list clients can check whether a gated estate is truly paparazzi-proof.

“No. 1 rule: What a helicopter can see from up here is what someone can see from a house on the hilltop with a big-angle lens,” said Ben Salem, an L.A. broker.
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Eager to snag lucrative commissions instead of hourly fees, some commercial pilots have gotten their own real-estate licenses. Marc Hennes, a helicopter pilot and real-estate agent based in Fort Lauderdale, starts by asking clients if they’d like to view luxury properties with the chopper doors on or off.

“We would come to almost a complete stop in midair—say you’re on the edge of a cliff, looking down,” said Phil Appleton, a consultant in the offshore oil and gas industry, who bought a $1.1 million beachfront condo in Fort Lauderdale after hovering in front of it—doors off—with Mr. Hennes.

Mr. Hennes, who sometimes brings a second pilot along, “because I can’t talk and point out properties while driving,” recently toured the site of a new luxury condominium with clients. “They couldn’t imagine what the views were like, so we flew right around the 12th story,” he said.

Elena Berman, an artist and wellness consultant, decided to list her $3.2 million lakeside home in California’s San Fernando Valley with John Mowatt, a pilot, flight instructor and real-estate agent, after he took her for a demo viewing in a Sikorsky S-76. Ms. Berman enjoyed the flight, if not the descent: “I had five minutes of nauseous time—you cannot look down so much.”

Mr. Mowatt, who co-founded Heli-Realtors in L.A., stocks the five helicopters he uses with airsickness wristbands and barf bags. Savvy brokers suggest Dramamine before boarding.
Viewings are occasionally delayed by bad weather or mechanical problems. One pilot had to make an emergency landing, turning a 45-minute viewing into a four-hour pit-stop. “The clients were a little frustrated,” said Heli-Realtors co-founder and broker Brett Lieberman.

More often, agents and pilots say, the helicopter is a great bonding tool. “A lot of these folks are pretty standoffish when they first meet us. As soon as you get them in the air and they see the beauty…they really lighten up,” said Mark Taylor, chief pilot and owner of Montana-based Rocky Mountain Rotors, who tours $40 million ranches with brokers such as Tim Murphy of Hall and Hall.

Mr. Murphy’s prospective buyers pay the aircraft fees themselves, which start at $1,400 an hour for a turbine helicopter. A client with an entourage—or a life insurance policy that prohibits single-engine helicopter flights—may require the twin-engine Bell 429 with seven passenger seats, for $4,650 an hour. An average tour can last five hours; two-day trips to view multiple ranches, with an overnight stay at a picturesque cabin, are not uncommon.

Mr. Taylor, who relies on remote webcams throughout Yellowstone to monitor flight conditions for his high-altitude tours, ups the wow factor by seeking out alpine waterfalls, lofty peaks and photogenic wildlife. While flying with Mr. Murphy and clients from London, Mr. Taylor spotted a grizzly bear and her cubs in a distant meadow. He flew over and did a low figure-eight around the bears, who rose up on cue.

“We always find cool stuff that just blows the mind of these people who come from the city,” Mr. Murphy said.

Kevin Meier, an agent with duPerier Land Man, flies his clients over hunting and fishing ranches across Texas, sometimes covering 500 miles in one day. A former wildlife biologist, Mr. Meier uses his helicopter tours to spotlight a recreational ranch’s key selling points:

rivers and creeks—essential for fly-fishing—or a well-antlered deer herd. Lunch is provided, on the fly. “The client said, ‘Hey, let’s go and grab some lunch—I see some Dairy Queen’,” Mr. Meier recalled.

The pilot landed in the parking lot.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto