Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The FAA's New Drone Rules Are Effective Today - Charles D'Alberto

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new comprehensive regulations go into effect today for routine non-recreational use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – more popularly known as “drones.”

The provisions of the new rule – formally known as Part 107 – are designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground. A summary is available here. (PDF)

The FAA has put several processes in place to help you take advantage of the rule.

Waivers: If your proposed operation doesn’t quite comply with Part 107 regulations, you’ll need to apply for a waiver of some restrictions. You’ll have to prove the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. Users must apply for these waivers at the online portal located at www.faa.gov/UAS

Airspace Authorization: You can fly your drone in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace without air traffic control authorization, but operations in any other airspace need air traffic approval. You must request access to controlled airspace via the electronic portal at www.faa.gov/UAS, not from individual air traffic facilities.

You may submit your requests starting today, but air traffic facilities will receive approved authorizations according to the following tentative schedule:

Class D & E Surface Area October 3, 2016
Class C October 31, 2016
Class B December 5, 2016

We will try to approve requests as soon as possible, but the actual time will vary depending on the complexity of an individual request and the volume of applications we receive. You should submit a request at least 90 days before you intend to fly in controlled airspace.

Aeronautical Knowledge Test. Testing centers nationwide can now administer the Aeronautical Knowledge Test required under Part 107. After you pass the test, you must complete an FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application to receive your remote pilot certificate at: https://iacra.faa.gov/IACRA/Default.aspx

It may take up to 48 hours for the website to record you passed the test. We expect to validate applications within 10 days. You will then receive instructions for printing a temporary airman certificate, which is good for 120 days. We will mail you a permanent Remote Pilot Certificate within 120 days.

The new regulations don’t apply to model aircraft operations that meet all the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (which is now codified in part 101), including the stipulation they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Monday, August 29, 2016

Japan's first passenger jet had a nightmare weekend - Charles D'Alberto

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Japan’s first ever homegrown passenger jet has had a bumpy few days.

The plane was forced to abort two consecutive test flights to the U.S. over the weekend because of problems with the air management system on board.

It’s the latest setback for the aircraft, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), which has already suffered repeated delays.

Built by Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., the MRJ is an effort by Japan to compete in the global plane-making industry. It’s the country’s first new commercial aircraft in more than 50 years (the last one was powered by turboprop rather than jet technology).

“We are in the process of finding out the details of the issue we faced during the last two days,” Mitsubishi said Monday. “We are inspecting what the cause is first, and then we will consider the next steps.”


The MRJ was meant to fly from Japan to the U.S. to carry out a series of flight tests.
The company has pushed back delivery plans for the MRJ four times in the past seven years. Its first customer, Japan’s ANA (ALNPY), placed its initial order in 2008, with deliveries scheduled to start in 2013. The airline now isn’t expected to receive the first plane until mid-2018.

Mitsubishi says the jet, which seats as many as 92 passengers, uses 20% less fuel than other aircraft in its class because of its efficient engines and aerodynamic design.

The MRJ puts Mitsubishi in competition with Brazilian plane maker Embraer (ERJ) and Canada’s Bombardier (BDRAF), which dominate the market for passenger jets with fewer than 100 seats.

Delays aren’t uncommon in bringing new planes to market. Industry giants Boeing (BA) and Airbus (EADSF) have both endured embarrassing setbacks on high-profile jets like the 787 Dreamliner and the A380.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Sunday, August 28, 2016

Southwest Airlines flight from New Orleans airport diverted after mid-air engine issue - Charles D'Alberto

NEW ORLEANS – A Southwest Airlines flight bound for Orlando, Florida, made an emergency landing Saturday morning due to a major problem with one of its two engines.

Flight 3472 from New Orleans diverted the airplane to Pensacola, Florida, after the pilot detected something had gone wrong with an engine, according to a Southwest statement.

The jet, a Boeing 737-700, landed in Pensacola around 9:40 a.m. CDT with no apparent injuries to the 99 passengers or five crew members on board, according to Southwest.

Pictures taken from the plane and posted online made it appear that part of the engine had blown apart, but Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said there was no explosion. He said Southwest will work with investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause.

It’s rare for Southwest or any other major airline to have such serious engine trouble, said Michael Boyd, president of airline consulting firm Boyd International.

“It’s a one-off, almost unheard of,” Boyd said Saturday. “Southwest has an outstanding safety record because it spends a lot of money on maintenance.”lexypic1-png

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Thursday, August 25, 2016

WORLDS FASTEST HELICOPTER Eurocopter X3 Hybrid Helicopter - Charles D'Alberto

The Eurocopter X3 (X-Cubed) is an experimental high-speed compound helicopter under development by Eurocopter. On June, 20th 2013 a Bloomberg L.P. special video report stated that the X3 is the World’s Fastest Helicopter by reaching a top speed of 472 km/h on several test flights.

The X3 demonstrator is based on a Eurocopter EC155 helicopter with the addition of short span wings each fitted with a tractor propeller. The tractor propellers are gear driven from the two main turboshaft engines which also drive the five-bladed main rotor. The helicopter is designed to prove the concept of a high-speed helicopter which depends on the slowing down of the rotor speed to avoid drag from the advancing blade tip, and to avoid retreating blade stall by unloading the rotor while a small wing[2] is intended to provide up to 80% lift instead.

The X3 first flew on 6 September 2010 from French Délégation Générale de l’Armement facility at Istres-Le Tubé Air Base. On 12 May 2011 the X3 flew at a speed of 430 km/h (267 mph) for several minutes.

Conventional helicopters use tail rotors to counter the torque effect of the main rotor. The starboard propeller of the X3 has a higher rotational speed than the port to counter the torque effect

Eurocopter intends to demonstrate the X3 in the USA in summer 2012. A product using X3 technology may come in 2020.

On May 12, 2011 it demonstrated a speed of 232 knots (267 mph; 430 km/h).

On June 7, 2013 it demonstrated a speed of 255 knots (293 mph; 472 km/h)[10][11] beating Sikorsky X2’s world record, becoming the fastest compound helicopter as of June 2013.
General characteristics

Crew: 2
Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines, 1,693 kW (2,270 hp) each
Propellers: 2-bladed five-bladed tractor propellers gear driven from main engines.

Maximum speed: 472 km/h; 293 mph (255 kn) at roughly 10,000 ft (3,048 m)
Cruising speed: 407 km/h (253 mph; 220 kn)
Service ceiling: 3,810 m (12,500 ft)
Rate of climb: 25 m/s (5,000 ft/min)

Radio-controlled helicopters (also RC helicopters) are model aircraft which are distinct from RC airplanes because of the differences in construction, aerodynamics, and flight training. Several basic designs of RC helicopters exist, of which some (such as those with collective pitch, meaning blades which rotate on their longitudinal axis to vary or reverse lift so the pitch can be altered and can therefore change the angle of attack) are more maneuverable than others. The more maneuverable designs are often harder to fly, but benefit from greater aerobatic capabilities.

Flight controls allow pilots to control the collective and throttle (usually linked together), the cyclic controls (pitch and roll), and the tail rotor (yaw). Controlling these in unison enables the helicopter to perform most[citation needed] of the same maneuvres as full-sized helicopters, such as hovering and backwards flight, and many that full-sized helicopters cannot, such as inverted flight (where collective pitch control provides negative blade pitch to hold heli up inverted, and pitch/yaw controls must be reversed by pilot).

A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally. These attributes allow helicopters to be used in congested or isolated areas where fixed-wing aircraft would usually not be able to take off or land. The capability to hover efficiently for extended periods of time allows a helicopter to accomplish tasks that fixed-wing aircraft and other forms of vertical takeoff and landing aircraft cannot perform.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

U.S. Marines use Cobra attack helicopters to pound ISIS in Libya - Charles D'Alberto

Fighting against the Islamic State group in Libya intensified this weekend as U.S. Marines flying AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters flew over the city of Sirte to provide close-air support for friendly militias on the ground.

Between Friday and Sunday, U.S. airstrikes destroyed 25 enemy fighting positions and two supply trucks, according to a statement from U.S. Africa Command.

The strikes were conducted in part by Marine Corps Cobras flying from the Amphibious Assault Ship Wasp, which has been floating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea for the past several weeks, according to a defense official familiar with the operation.

The strikes over the weekend marked the first time defense officials have disclosed using the AH-1W Cobras for strikes in Libya. The Cobras can loiter overhead to provide precise fire support for close-quarters urban warfare.

Known as Operation Odyssey Lighting, the U.S. air campaign in Libya began with strikes in Sirte on Aug. 1 and have involved at least 74 attacks since then, AFRICOM officials say. Most were launched by unmanned aircraft and Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers that are currently deployed aboard the Wasp with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

AFRICOM said the strikes were conducted “at the request of, and in coordination with, the Libyan Government of National Accord,” which is a fledgling political body emerging from Libya’s two-year-old civil war.

But that fragile government, known as the GNA, suffered a blow Monday when the Libyan parliament voted “no confidence” in the GNA, which is supported by both the United States and the United Nations.

The Islamic State exploited the chaos in Libya to set up a base of operations in 2015 in the coastal city of Sirte. American officials several months ago estimated that ISIS had up to 6,000 fighters in Libya, but more recently U.S. officials’ say only several hundred remain in Sirte.

Local reports suggest ISIS has lost control over most of the city during the past several weeks of fighting.

The airstrikes mark the most significant U.S. military operation in Libya since the American-led air campaign in 2011 that ousted its leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

U.S. military officials will not say whether there are U.S. troops on the ground in Libya. Small “contact teams” of special operations troops have gone in and out of Libya in recent months to gather intelligence and forge alliances with local militias, officials say.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Two police officers injured after helicopter crashes at wilson airport - Charles D'Alberto

Nairobi, Kenya: Two police officers were injured after a chopper they were using for a training mission crashed within Wilson Airport, Nairobi. The chopper was taking off from the airport for a training session with an instructor and a trainee when it went down. It is not clear what caused the accident. Pictures of the chopper after the crash show its tail broken.

Those on board sustained non-life threatening injuries in the 1 pm incident and were taken to hospital. Officials said the helicopter reg 5Y-COP was in good condition at the time of the incident. Emergency services were mobilized at the scene after the incident which also affected the taking off and landing of planes.

The Bell type is one of the choppers that are available for police operations and the accident takes the National Police Service back as it will take long to replace or repair it.

The wreckage was preserved as investigators moved to the site to probe it. Police recently purchased a new helicopter and two other MI-17 helicopters are being refurbished to improve police ability to quickly move troops to any trouble spot and generally improve their mobility.

The National Police- both regular and Administration Police air wing currently has 14 aircrafts- six fixed wing and eight helicopters that provide air support to ground forces including tactical reconnaissance, night reconnaissance, air observation, and casualty evacuation, especially in remote areas.

The Agusta Westlands, an Italian Company was paid Sh683 million in the 2014/2015 financial year for the helicopter that can cruise up to 300kph

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Saturday, August 20, 2016

The refined and attractive AgustaWestland AW009 - Charles D'Alberto

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The refined and attractive AgustaWestland AW009 is a cost-effective, multi-mission capable, light single-engine helicopter – an evolution of the rugged SW-4.

The mission-proven Rolls-Royce M250-C20R/2 (SP) engine ensures reliable, high performance; an optional M250-C30P engine upgrade will provide enhanced power handling for the most demanding mission.

An advanced ‘Genesys’ avionics display is now standard in every AW009 to ensure excellent situational awareness; pilots experience an intuitive, easy to fly platform with excellent range and endurance – essential for demanding training, law enforcement, passenger transport and utility operations.

The AW009 flying qualities and high inherent safety make it also an optimum helicopter to transport up to 5 people: 1 pilot and up to 4 passengers.

Leading features

The spacious cabin provides passengers with excellent comfort, ample legroom and individual adjustable crashworthy seats

Superior external visibility for pilots and passengers
Two rear sliding doors and two forward hinged doors allow for easy access
Spacious baggage compartment with direct external access of 0.85 m3 / 30 ft3 volume and internal length of 1.47 m / 4.81 ft
High Max Range and Endurance in light single engine helicopters class (up to MTOW=1,800 kg / 3,968 lb).


Rolls-Royce M250-C20R/2 (SP) engine / Rolls-Royce M250-C30P optionally available


1 pilot + 4 passengers / 2 pilots + 3 passengers

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Saturday, August 13, 2016

F-22 Raptor grounded by 20,000 bees - Charles D'Alberto

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The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor may be the most advanced fighter jet in the world but even with $143 million-worth of stealth and supersonic capabilities, it proved to be no match for one unlikely adversary — a huge swarm of honey bees.

An F-22 aircraft from the 192nd Air Wing was temporarily grounded on June 11 after crew members at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia discovered nearly 20,000 bees hanging from the jet’s exhaust nozzle following flight operations.

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Honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine on June 11, 2016 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

“I was shocked like everyone else because it looked like a cloud of thousands of bees,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Baskin, 192nd Maintenance Squadron crew chief, in an Air Force press release.

Rather than try to clear the bees from the jet themselves, crew members realized that honey bees are at risk of extinction and contacted local beekeeper and retired US Navy veteran, Andy Westrich, who proclaimed the hive the largest he had ever seen after being escorted to the aircraft.

Westrich used vacuum hoses to wrangle the thousands of bees into several large buckets and safely relocate the colony.

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Before transporting the bees to their new home at a local beer production facility, Westrich took them to his house and found that the hive weighed nearly eight pounds in total, according to the Air Force release.

But how do nearly 20,000 bees, weighing a collective eight pounds find their way onto the exhaust pipe of a fighter jet?

They likely came from a much larger bee hive somewhere else on the base, according to Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Allen, 192nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance chief, who also happens to be a beekeeper.

“Bee hives are constantly growing and they eventually become overcrowded,” he said. “Around springtime, the bees will make a new queen, scout for a new location and take half of the hive with them to that location.”

According to Westrich, the queen likely landed on the F-22 to rest, and since honey bees do not leave the queen, they swarmed around the jet and eventually collected there.
The F-22 was able to resume flight operations once the bees were safely cleared.

A multi-role, fifth-generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor began taking part in combat missions against ISIS in September 2014 after years of cost overruns and mechanical issues.

It was originally designed and built to replace other fighter and ground attack aircraft in the U.S. military’s arsenal, but after years of cost overruns and mechanical issues, the Air Force acquired only 188 of them from aerospace maker Lockheed and doesn’t plan to have any more produced.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Friday, August 12, 2016

JetBlue turbulence puts 24 in hospital - Charles D'Alberto

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At least 22 customers and two crew members have been taken to a hospital for evaluation after a JetBlue flight experienced rough turbulence, according to Katherine McMillan, an airline spokeswoman.

“It was like a dream, people were flying out of their seatbelts and hitting their head on the ceiling, it was very scary,” passenger Rhonda Renee said. A flight attendant was assisted off the plane by medical personnel.

The flight was en route from Boston to Sacramento, and had to be diverted to Rapid City, South Dakota.

It’s believed that weather played a role in creating the bumpy flying conditions.
“There was a frontal boundary moving across the central plains that caused bad weather conditions in that region at the time of the turbulence,” said CNN weather producer Michael Guy.

JetBlue has sent a replacement aircraft to Rapid City to take the remaining passengers to Sacramento, the airline said in a statement.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Hectic day for Coastguards & paramedics, rescue helicopters coastguard attend six call outs - Charles D'Alberto

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Fishguard and St Davids coastguards, along with a rescue helicopter,were despatched to the Blue Lagoon, near Abereiddy where a man had jumped at the lagoon and sustained a spinal injury. One of six call outs they attended on Thursday. PIC HM Coastguards.

Fishguard coastguards had a hectic day on Thursday, attending a total of six call outs, including three helicopter evacuations, in one afternoon.

The first call came shortly after midday alerting rescue teams to a woman who had fallen and suffered a suspected broken leg on the coast path near Abereiddy.

Coastguards from St Davids and Fishguard were dispatched and the walker was quickly found. However, due to her location, it soon became clear that it wasn’t going to be easy to evacuate her from the rocks.

Hectic day as Fishguard Coastguards, as well as paramedics, rescue helicopters lifeboats and St davids coastguard attend six call (From Western Telegraph)

The coastguard search and rescue helicopter was sent and winched the woman on board before taking her to Withybush Hospital.

While watching the excitement of the helicopter landing a young boy had fallen on rocks and cut his face. Coastguards were sent to his aid and helped paramedics who dealt with his injuries.

The teams left Abereiddy only to be immediately re-tasked to two swimmers in difficulty. One swimmer made it back to the beach exhausted and having swallowed seawater, the second was retrieved from rocks and escorted to safety, he was then attended to by paramedics.

Later that afternoon coastguards and the rescue helicopter were despatched to the Blue Lagoon, near Abereiddy where a man had jumped at the lagoon and sustained a spinal injury. He was airlifted to hospital by rescue 187.

Having just arrived back at station in Fishguard the crews were tasked again at 6.16pm, this time to Porthgain and a man who had fallen 30ft from the harbour wall on to the sand as the tide was out.

The casualty sustained numerous injuries and was airlifted by air ambulance heli med 57

Coastguards thanked members of the public at Porthgain and customers at the Sloop Inn and The Shed for their patience help and understanding.

At 8.09pm teams received their last call out of the day, they helped the RNLI lifeboat search the shoreline, following reports of a man and three children cut off by the tide. Nothing was found and coastguards and lifeboats were stood down.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Deputy Hit With Shrapnel In Helicopter Shooting - Charles D'Alberto

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Officials in northwestern Minnesota say a sheriff’s deputy was injured Monday morning by shrapnel in a shooting.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says the deputy was in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter when gunfire struck the vehicle’s cab, causing acrylic shrapnel to hit the deputy. Earlier in the day, dispatcher reports had suggested the deputy has been shot with a high-powered rifle.

The shooting happened around 10 a.m. in rural Fosston, near the border of the Polk and Clearwater counties.

The chopper was flying over a rural area of Clearwater County after being tipped off to some suspected drug activity.

Clearwater deputies quickly looked for a suspect and say they found 71-year-old Carstie Lee Clausen of Clearbrook, Minnesota, hiding in the woods. He was taken into custody.

The deputy was treated at a hospital and released, the sheriff’s office says.The incident is being investigated on the local, state and federal levels.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Monday, August 8, 2016

Orlando pilot arrested for reckless operation of helicopter - Charles D'Alberto

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The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department responded to reports of a low-flying helicopter in Kissimmee.

Deputies say it was seen in the area of West 192 on Saturday.

Thirty-one-year-old Thomas Vorstman of Orlando was arrested and charged with Operating an Aircraft in a Reckless Manner and Resisting Without Violence.

The sheriff’s department says that Vorstman was flying only a few feet above the tops of cars along the roadway.

They responded to Orlando HeliTours where the aircraft is registered and waited for Vorstman to return. Upon his return, he refused to power down the helicopter and wouldn’t get out to speak with authorities.

Five minutes later, he met with deputies and told them he “had a heavy load” and explained why he was flying low over traffic.

Vorstman was then fired from Orlando HeliTours and arrested.

He’s been booked into the Osceola County Jail.

Deputies notified the Federal Aviation Administration of the incident.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Helicopter crashes in Nepal, all 7 on board killed - Charles D'Alberto

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A helicopter crashed in a mountainous region of Nepal on Monday, killing all seven people on board, officials said.

Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority said efforts were being made to bring back the bodies from the crash site in the Chuchebhir area, located northwest of the capital, Kathmandu.

Earlier, rescue teams were sent to the area after villagers reported seeing smoke coming from the forested area.

Local news reports said the helicopter was sent to a village to pick up a 5-day-old infant who had fallen sick. He was accompanied by his mother and grandparents in the helicopter.

All seven occupants, including the pilot, were Nepalese nationals.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Friday, August 5, 2016

DHL Cargo plane crashes on to road in Italy after overshooting Bergamo airport runway - Charles D'Alberto

A cargo plane has overshot the runway at Bergamo’s Orio al Serio international airport and crashed into a road.
The airport in Italy’s Lombardy region was temporarily closed after the incident which happened at 4am Friday morning.

Dramatic pictures showed a 737-400 aircraft belonging to courier firm DHL wedged onto a road at the end of the runway.

The plane had landed at 4.07am after a flight from Paris Charles De Gaulle.
No one was reported to have been hurt in the crash with the crew escaping unharmed.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Emirates plane crash fire at Dubai airport: Charles D'Alberto

Flight EK521, which departed from Trivandrum International Airport in India, crash-landed with 300 passengers and crew on board
This is the moment an Emirates airline plane dramatically exploded into flames on the tarmac just moments after passengers had been evacuated following a crash landing.

The Boeing 777-300 jet crash-landed at the airport shortly after 1pm local time (10am UK time) with 300 passengers and crew on board.

It is believed a fire broke out on Flight EK521 in mid-air before the pilot sent out an emergency signal.

Miraculously, no passengers were seriously hurt and were safely evacuated just moments before eye-witness footage showed the plane burst into flames.

The three-hour flight took off from Trivandrum International Airport in India at around 6am UK time before the captain is understood to have sent out and emergency signal shortly before the plane was due to land.

No-one is believed to have been seriously injured and passengers have been safely evacuated.

Emirates said it is not yet known what caused the accident but confirmed there had been no fatalities.

Eye-witnesses described seeing huge plumes of smoke rising from the plane before it crashed down onto the runway.

Photographs of the incident posted on social media showed a
plane lying crumpled on its belly on the tarmac with black smoke
pouring from its upper section.

Dramatic video also showed the plane exploding in a ball of fire shortly after passengers were evacuated.

Emergency services are currently on the runway.

All departure flights from Dubai international, the world’s busiest airport for international travel, were delayed until further notice, authorities said.

An Emirates spokesman said: “Emirates can confirm that today, 3rd August 2016, flight EK521 travelling from Trivandrum International Airport in Thiruvananthapuram, India to Dubai has been involved in an accident at Dubai International Airport.

“There were 282 passengers and 18 crew on board.

“The Boeing 777 aircraft, departed at 10.19am from Trivandrum International Airport and was scheduled to land at 12.50pm at Dubai International Airport.

“We can confirm that there are no fatalities among our passengers and crew. All passengers and crew are accounted for and safe.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

F-35 fighters combat ready, Air Force says - Charles D'Alberto

The U.S. Air Force says the most expensive weapons system in its history is ready for combat.
The service said Tuesday that its version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35A Lightning, has reached IOC (Initial Operating Capability), meaning that it is developed enough and has passed the proper tests to be flown on combat missions.

“The declaration of initial operational capability marks an important milestone as the Air Force will operate the largest F-35 fleet in the world with more than 1,700 aircraft,” the F-35 program’s executive officer, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, said in a statement.

“The F-35 will form the backbone of air combat superiority for decades and enable warfighters to see adversaries first and take decisive action,” he said.

The designation marks a major milestone for the $400 billion program.

The single-engine F-35 fighter jet is touted as the future of military aviation; a lethal and versatile aircraft for three military branches that combines stealth capabilities, supersonic speed, extreme agility and state-of-the-art sensor fusion technology, according to Lockheed Martin, the plane’s primary contractor.

But the Joint Strike Fighter program has drawn sharp criticism after numerous hardware malfunctions and software glitches delayed the aircraft for more than three years and caused its budget to swell some $200 billion over initial estimates.

“Any progress that helps our warfighters maintain air dominance is a good thing, and this marks an important milestone for the Air Force and for our air combat capabilities,” Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, told CNN.

“However, the F-35 development process has also been rife with delays and cost overruns, wasting billions of taxpayer dollars,” said Duckworth, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who has worked to bring more oversight to the F-35 acquisition process.

In 2014, the entire fleet of F-35s was grounded following an engine fire during testing, and the program has experienced persistent software problems that have slowed mission testing and resulted in schedule delays.

There were also setbacks at key milestones, including the start of the flight test program, delivery of the first production-ready aircraft and testing of critical missions systems, according to the GAO.

And a cloud of skepticism still hangs over the program, even with Tuesday’s announcement.

“This is nothing but a public relations stunt,” said Dan Grazier, a fellow of the Project On Government Oversight, a government watchdog group.

“The Air Force said their first F-35s would be combat ready in August 2016, so they are going to say they are today,” he said. “If they didn’t make this declaration now, the Air Force and the JSF program would be embarrassed at the very least and cause serious questions about future funding.”

To maintain and operate the Joint Strike Fighter program over the course of its lifetime, the Pentagon will invest nearly $1 trillion, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Despite a controversial history that has spanned more than 15 years, the Air Force’s certification that its variant of the F-35 is ready for combat marks the most significant sign, to date, that the next-generation aircraft is finally close to realizing its potential on the battlefield, according to Lockheed Martin.

“With the F-35A, the Air Force now has a fighter combining next-generation radar-evading stealth, supersonic speed, fighter agility and advanced logistical support with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history,” said Jeff Babione, the general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Program in a statement to CNN.

“It will provide airmen unprecedented lethality and survivability, a capability they will use to defend America and our allies for decades to come,” he said.

Originally conceived in 2001 to upgrade the U.S. military’s aging tactical fleet, the single-seat F-35 has slightly different forms and capabilities to meet the needs of each military branch.

The Marine Corps declared the first squadron of its F-35B variant ready for combat in July 2015 with the intention of upgrading and resolving the software issues that still plagued the aircraft at the time before its first planned deployment in 2017.

While the Air Force has had to wait more than a year longer than the Marines to reach the “combat ready” milestone, the significance of reaching this point in the development process is amplified due to the number of planes it has requested.

The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 of the 2,443 total F-35s ordered by the Pentagon.
And the service’s confidence in its version of the aircraft, despite pending tests and software upgrades, is evidence that the program has gotten back on track in recent years, according to Pentagon officials.

Officials have also pointed to the progress made by the Marines’ F-35 variant since it was declared combat ready as another sign that the program’s major problems are in the past.

It’s “ready to go right now,” said Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the head of Marine aviation, when asked last week if the F-35 could be deployed for combat missions if needed, adding that the aircraft could even fly missions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria if called upon.

“If we think we need to do that, we will,” Davis said. “We’re ready to do that.”
Last week, the Air Force’s F-35 variant completed its first successful air-to-air “kill” test, destroying a flying drone with a missile launched from the aircraft’s wing.

The F-35 also made its international debut in July at the Farnborough airshow in the United Kingdom.

It is intended for use by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and 10 foreign countries.

The Navy plans to declare its version of the F-35 ready for combat in 2018.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto



Monday, August 1, 2016

Russian helicopter shot down in Syria - Charles D'Alberto

A Russian helicopter has been shot down by rebels in Syria’s northern Idlib province, Russian officials say.

Defence officials say the Mi-8 transport aircraft had five people on board. Unconfirmed reports say at least four of them are now dead.

The helicopter was returning from delivering humanitarian aid to the city of Aleppo, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted officials as saying.

It is not clear which group brought the helicopter down.

An alliance of rebel groups, including hardline jihadist factions, is the dominant power in Idlib.

Russia has previously, though seldom, lost aircraft since it launched operations in support of the Syrian government at the end of September 2016.

In July, two Russian pilots were killed when their helicopter was shot down east of the city of Palmyra by so-called Islamic State (IS).

Pictures on social media purportedly of the latest Russian helicopter to be brought down showed burning wreckage and bodies, with armed men milling around.

Footage showed at least one body being dragged away.

Russia is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is supporting pro-government forces with air strikes on rebels.

Government forces cut off rebel-held eastern parts of Aleppo last month.

Russia and Syria announced the opening of what they called humanitarian corridors for civilians and rebels wanting to surrender, but few people are reported to have used them, fearing they would be targeted.

On Sunday, rebel groups south of Aleppo launched a push to try to break the siege, in what observers said was one of the biggest counter-offensives in months.

Posted By Charles D'Alberto