Monday, October 31, 2016

Latest Chinese Airpower To Debut at Zhuhai Airshow

China’s J-20 stealth fighter will make its public debut at the Zhuhai airshow.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will be showcasing a number of new platforms at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, which will be held next week at Zhuhai airbase near Guangdong. They include Chengdu J-10B multirole fighter, the Xi’an H-6K bomber and the Shaanxi KJ-500 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft. A spokesman from the PLAAF has confirmed that the J-20 stealth fighter will also appear, flown by test pilots.

A pair of LRIP J-20s sporting a new two-tone dark gray splinter camouflage have been observed carrying out maneuvers and formation flying over Chengdu Aircraft Corporation’s facilities. The type is in low-rate initial production (LRIP).

Meanwhile, the appearance of the J-10B confirms that the type has entered PLAAF service. The aircraft that is in Zhuhai carries tail serials for the PLAAF’s 2nd Air Division, 5th Regiment based at Guilin, Guangxi. Photos of J-10Bs in PLAAF colors have been appearing since late 2014, but with tail serials either blurred or edited out altogether, precluding identification of their unit.

The J-10B’s differences from the earlier J-10A includes a Diverterless Supersonic Inlet (DSI) for reduced radar cross-section; a longer nose radome possibly housing an improved radar; an electro-optic targeting sensor (IRST); and a new ECM/EW suite; plus other avionics improvements. The J-10B in the static display will have a full range of weapons displayed alongside the aircraft, including air-to-ground precision guided bombs, missiles and associated targeting pods, as well as ECM pods.

The KJ-500 is an AEW platform based on the Shaanxi Y-9 turboprop, which is also now in service with the PLAAF. It has a radar dish fitted atop the fuselage, similar to the PLAAF’s KJ-2000 AEW aircraft based on the Il-76. Chinese state media has said the phased array radar is designed by the No. 38 Research Institute under the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC).

The KJ-500 entered service with the PLAAF in early 2015 and has since reportedly entered service with the PLA Navy’s aviation regiments as well. It is not clear if the KJ-500 will replace or complement the older KJ-200 AEW that is based on the older Y-8 turboprop, which mounts a dorsal balance-beam radar array.

A number of new unmanned aircraft systems will also be at Zhuhai. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) will showcase the CH-5 Medium-Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV that made its maiden flight in August 2015. CASC says that the CH-5 has a wingspan of 21 meters (69 ft), an mtow of 3.3 metric tons, a payload of one metric ton; and an endurance of up to 40 hours.

(Mike Yeo - AINOnline News)

Leonardo Sells Five More AW169s in Brazil

Leonardo’s order book for the AW169 medium twin has more than 150 entries.
(Leonardo Helicopters)

Leonardo Helicopters signed a sales deal earlier this month for five of its new AW169 medium twins for a customer in Brazil, boosting its total order book—including firms orders, framework agreements and options for the model—to more than 150. Of that total, more than 20 are destined for operators in Brazil, Leonardo noted. These orders are distributed across multiple customers. Overall, the company claims a 50-percent market share of the multi-engine executive/private helicopter market. The AW169 is part of a family of medium-class helicopters fielded by the company that share a common cockpit layout, design philosophy and maintenance/training concept.

The AW169 is powered by two Fadec Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210A turboshafts in the 1,000 shp class. With a 222-cu-ft main cabin, the helicopter can carry up to 10 passengers and two pilots. Baggage capacity is 50 cu ft.

Avionics equipment includes modern glass cockpit with three 10-inch by 8-inch LCDs, four-axis, dual-duplex digital autopilot, dual SBAS GPS with WAAS and EGNOS capability, ADS-B OUT, TCAS II, HTAWS, synthetic vision, enhanced vision, satcom, weather radar, NVG compatibility and many more options.

(Mark Huber - AINOnline News)

Ikhana’s High-gross Twin Otters to Reach Market by Early 2017

With 1,500 pounds more useful load, an Ikhana-modified DHC-6 has greater utility.
(Ikhana Aircraft Services) 

Murrieta, Calif.-based Ikhana Aircraft Services continues its work on a high-gross-weight, Part 23 commuter category STC for Twin Otter Series 300 and 400 turboprops, most recently starting FAA flight tests just ahead of this year’s convention. The mods, known as the DHC-6-300HG and DHC-6-400HG, raise the maximum takeoff weight for each model to 14,000 from 12,500 pounds.

In the 300 series, the increased weight capability comes primarily via a switch from 620-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-27s to fully-rated 750-shp PT6A-34s. Although Canada’s Viking Air already uses -34s in the new-build 400 series airplanes it markets, those engines are de-rated to 620 hp. The Ikhana mod essentially restores them to their maximum horsepower rating.

Other changes include a switch to new Raisbeck Hartzell swept four-blade propellers for reduced noise, along with some aerodynamic, systems and structural modifications, including those to accommodate more robust landing gear for the added weight.

Ikhana president and CEO John Zublin told AIN that he hoped to gain the certification by the end of the year, or possibly in the first part of next year. Zublin explained that the company has developed the new flight test program with a considerable amount of information gleaned from a restricted STC it earned in 2009, and that he expected the standard STC to require roughly 100 flight hours. While the restricted STC raises mtow to 14,000 pounds for special missions such as search-and-rescue, forestry, mining and scientific operations, the Part 23 STC allows for passenger transport and involves a far more complex process.

“It’s a huge, huge undertaking,” he said. “That’s why it’s taken us as long as it has.” In fact, just before last year’s NBAA Convention, Zublin told AIN that he expected to gain the STC during the first half of the year. “Some of the delays had to do with negotiations with the FAA over some of the complexities of how to do this,” added Zublin. “This is not done routinely. To my knowledge there is only one other aircraft that has gone from a normal category to a commuter category. That was the King Air, and it was definitely not as large a project, mainly because you’re [now] talking about a 19-passenger aircraft, which is what we have. So this is a different kettle of fish.”

Zublin sees a strong demand for commuter airline uses for the more powerful Twin Otter due to its ability to carry more passengers and/or full fuel on a given route. And operators choosing to install standard floats, which add about 1,000 pounds to the empty weight of the airplane, or amphibious floats, which add roughly 1,500 pounds, will pay no weight penalty.

“The advantage of this STC would be to allow you to put on floats, still get your full passenger load and adjust your fuel as you need it for normal operations,” he explained. “What we’re finding, worldwide, is in countries that don’t have developed landing infrastructure, [operators] are resorting to their waterways.”

Meanwhile, for private operations, the extra weight allowance can also accommodate various sorts of interior extras normally associated with VIP applications. “These VIP configurations are used for people who have resort islands and special needs to get into remote areas, and they want to do it in as luxurious a manner as possible,” said Zublin. “We’ve had several VIP-type operators who have called us routinely asking the status of this.”

Asked about customer numbers, the Ikhana chief executive explained that he has not yet solicited orders. He prefers, he said, to eliminate all uncertainties associated with the flight testing and pursue sales following the completion of that process. Zublin believes he has an accurate idea of the market potential, however, based on a global pool of Series 300 candidates that numbers between 250 and 300 and on a survey Ikhana conducted of several operators accounting for 124 airplanes. “We had one operator who indicated they weren’t sure they were interested at the time, and everyone else was extremely interested in the program and signing non-binding letters of intent,” he reported. Although the study did not address Series 400 operators, Zublin said that several of those operators have expressed interest as well.

Of course, Ikhana will welcome demand from operators of both series as it looks to recoup a program investment of some $5 million within a reasonable time period. For operators, the cost of the mod runs from between roughly $600,000 to as high as $1.5 million, depending on the extent of work a particular airplane needs.

Separately, Ikhana has begun work on a program to re-engine the Twin Otter with GE H80-series turboprops, each of which would produce 850 shp and potentially allow for still a higher gross weight.

(Gregory Polek - AINOnline News)

Jet Aviation Starts First VIP B777 completion

Jet Aviation announced several key developments this week at NBAA 2016, ranging from widebody jet completion projects to infrastructure improvements. In the former category, the company revealed that its Basel completions center took delivery in mid-October of the first of two VIP 777-300ERs for which it will design and install the interiors, marking its first 777 completions.

The projects were commissioned by Boeing on behalf of a government client in Asia. Boeing Business Jets president David Longridge noted Jet Aviation has “a demonstrated capability to fit exceptional widebody interiors that combine beautiful design and craftsmanship with cutting-edge engineering and technology.”

The company also announced signing a service agreement with Singapore-based Zetta Jet to provide maintenance and handling services for the charter operator through Jet Aviation’s global MRO and FBO network. “We were looking for a strong business aviation partner who understands our needs as a 24/7 private charter operator, and on whom we know we can rely for dedicated local and international services,” said Geoffery Cassidy, Zetta Jet managing director. Zetta Jet, which specializes in trans-Pacific charter, owns and operates an all-Bombardier fleet of more than 20 jets.

Helping support its Zetta agreement, the Basel-based company is commemorating the commencement of a third hangar at its MRO and FBO facility at Singapore Seletar Aerospace Park, scheduled for completion in November 2017. The facility will add more than 40,000 sq ft of hangar space—enough to accommodate two BBJs or five Gulfstream 550s—and more than 4,000 sq ft of shop space.

Additionally, Jet Aviation is celebrating the Crystal Award from Rockwell Collins bestowed on its St. Louis facility as the industry leader in Venue CMS installations. Rockwell Collins also cited the company for the STCs it developed for FANS installations on Bombardier Challengers. All told, the facility has completed more than 35 FANS installations across a variety of airframes.

(James Wynbrandt - AINOnline News)

Gulfstream Promotes Anderson To Lead Long Beach Site

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5165) N245BD operated by Evolo Ventures LLC arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on October 12. 2016. (Photo by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream Aerospace named Thomas Anderson to lead its operations in Long Beach, Calif. Anderson, who was promoted into the role of v-p and general manager at Gulfstream Long Beach, will steer all aspects of the site. Gulfstream Long Beach employs nearly 800 workers, who provide completions for the G650/650ER and G550, as well as maintenance services on all Gulfstreams.

Anderson most recently was director of product support at the facility. During his 14-year tenure with Gulfstream, he has held positions both at Gulfstream facilities in Savannah, Ga., as well as Long Beach. These include director of final phase operations for the G550/G450, senior manager of final phase operations, manager of the premium furniture woodshop and manager of final phase.

In his new position, Anderson succeeds Beck Johnson, who retired. He reports to Dennis Stuligross, Gulfstream senior v-p of operations, and Derek Zimmerman, president of Gulfstream product support.

(Kerry Lynch - AINOnline News)

Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet Gets FAA Nod

The culmination of “a few good ideas” and “a lot of big dreams,” Cirrus’s single-engine SF50 Vision jet has received its working papers and is set to enter service next month.
(Cirrus Aircraft)

Cirrus Aircraft received full FAA type certification for its $1.96 million, single-engine SF50 Vision jet on Friday, the Duluth, Minn.-based aircraft manufacturer announced on Monday morning at NBAA 2016. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta congratulated Cirrus on receiving the SF50’s type certificate, calling the aircraft “a step forward in technology and safety.”

“My brother and I started with a few good ideas, but more importantly a lot of big dreams back 32 years ago,” Cirrus CEO and co-founder Dale Klapmeier said at the show. “A decade ago we announced that we were going to build a jet. Today, we are there. We are a jet company.”

Customer deliveries are slated to begin in December, and Cirrus initially plans to ramp up to one aircraft delivery per week in 2017, said Pat Waddick, Cirrus president for innovation and operations. Cirrus currently has 10 SF50s in final assembly, and Waddick told AIN that plans are in place to increase the production rate beyond that number. The company is already planning for SF50 production expansion in Duluth and finishing the build-out of its training, design and delivery center in Knoxville, Tenn.

The SF50 has a top cruise speed of 300 knots, a maximum altitude of 28,000 feet and a maximum range of 1,250 nm at 240 knots. The aircraft features the Cirrus Perspective Touch avionics system, based on the Garmin G3000 system, and is powered by an 1,840-pound-thrust Williams International F33-5A with dual-channel Fadec. The SF50 is the first business jet to be equipped with a whole-airframe parachute recovery system.

Cirrus initially announced plans for the SF50 in 2006, but the program was subject to several starts and stops as the company went through ownership changes and the industry experienced depressed delivery levels. It currently claims 600 deposit holders for the SF50.

Initially, customers will receive company-conducted type rating training in company-owned aircraft before a certified level-D simulator comes online during the third quarter of next year. The initial type rating course is designed to take 10 days; however, customers begin preparing for it up to 12 months in advance with a basic flight skills assessment, followed by online learning and avionics familiarization closer to the actual coursework. After completion of type rating training, Cirrus will make mentor pilots available consistent with customer needs and insurer requirements.

Cirrus is also rolling out a customer support program for the aircraft that initially will include 12 service centers in the U.S., mobile support teams and the Jet Stream ownership program.

(Mark Huber - AINOnline News)

Cessna Selects Hemisphere Suppliers, Boosts Longitude

Hemisphere (c/n E700-741001) N9722L.
(Photo by David McIntosh)
Textron Aviation announced yesterday that it is returning to a Honeywell cockpit, has chosen to stick with the Snecma Silvercrest engine and that it will incorporate a Textron Aviation-designed fly-by-wire system based on Thales components for its Hemisphere large-cabin jet. The choice of Honeywell’s Primus Epic avionics suite with touchscreen controls marks the company’s first selection of a Honeywell cockpit since the original Citation X and Sovereign.

The company first gave a glimpse into its plans for its new Citation Hemisphere last year at NBAA 2015, and at this year’s show it is providing a more detailed look into the 4,500-nm twinjet. It is debuting a full-scale cabin mock-up of the Hemisphere, which will firmly plant the company in the large aircraft market, this week at its static display at Orlando Executive Airport.

The flight deck will provide a trans-­oceanic-capable flight management system along with SmartView synthetic vision and enhanced vision system for lower minimums approaches. The Hemisphere will include Textron Aviation’s proprietary LinxUs maintenance and diagnostic reporting system through Honeywell’s satellite communications and connectivity capabilities.

Snecma’s Silvercrest engine, which will provide more than 12,000 pounds of thrust for the Hemisphere, also was selected to power Dassault Aviation’s Falcon 5X. It had originally been slated to power the Citation Longitude, but then was replaced with Honeywell HTF7700L turbofans. While the Silvercrest development program has suffered delays, Textron Aviation noted that the engine incorporates the latest in technology to offer “unrivaled performance in its category in terms of propulsion efficiency, reliability and environmental friendliness.” This includes a fuel consumption that is up to 15 percent less than other engines in the category.

The full fly-by-wire system, the first for any Citation business jet, will include active control sidesticks. Textron Aviation will integrate the system, with Thales providing flight control computers and remote electronic units. Thales also provides the fly-by-wire technology for the Longitude’s rudder and spoiler systems.

The Hemisphere cabin mockup on view just a year after Textron Aviation unveiled the aircraft “should leave no doubt as to our intention to expand our segment leadership position,” said Textron Aviation president and CEO Scott Ernest. The company plans to fly the Hemisphere in 2019, with entry into service following fairly quickly in 2020.

Meanwhile, Textron Aviation’s first entrance into the super-midsize market, the Citation Longitude, arrived at the NBAA show on Saturday with newly announced improved performance numbers. Performance has been improved over the original projections, with range stretching by 100 nm, to 3,500 nm, and full fuel payload increasing by 100 pounds, to 1,600 pounds.

“Increases for both range and payload on the Longitude will bring even more value to our customers, particularly for popular non-stop routes, including New York to Paris, London to Dubai and Singapore to Sydney,” said Michael Thacker, senior v-p, engineering.

This boosted performance comes just a few weeks after the Longitude completed its first flight, kicking off a busy flight test campaign that is expected to culminate in certification next year. The Longitude will provide seating for up to 12 passengers, with a stand-up flat floor that is 72 inches tall and 77 inches wide.

Cessna’s new super-midsize jet is fitted with Garmin’s touchscreen-controlled G5000 flight deck, which will incorporate a head-up display with enhanced vision, although Textron Aviation hasn’t yet announced vendors for these products.

Textron Aviation isn’t ignoring the lighter end of the market–earlier this year it introduced its competitor in the turboprop-­single market, the Denali–although activity has slowed somewhat in the light jet arena. “It’s pretty simple,” Ernest explained. “When you look at the market and areas of growth in the light jets from the CJ4 on down, there’s an incremental piece of growth but not substantial with respect to where the market is going.

“The investment in midsize and large jets has got the potential to continue to grow from now through 2025. We can’t just say the market is tough now and not invest. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the Latitude and Longitude, and we wouldn’t be where we’re at on the Hemisphere. When you look at where others are investing, we’re ahead of the curve.”

(Kerry Lynch - AINOnline News) 

Southwest flight attendants ratify contract

A majority of Southwest Airlines Co.’s 14,000-plus flight attendants who cast a ballot approved a new labor agreement on Monday after a close vote on the controversial deal.

The flight attendants of Dallas-based Southwest, represented by the Transport Workers Union Local 556, voted to ratify the tentative agreement that both parties reached in September 2016, according to news releases from the union and the airline.

The new contract includes a ratification bonus and annual wage rate increases over the life of the contract.

The union reported that 53.9 percent of those who cast ballots voted in favor of the contract agreement, and 89.2 percent of eligible Southwest flight attendants voted.

“We are pleased to report that a majority of our members have voted to accept the industry-leading tentative agreement reached with Southwest Airlines management,” Audrey Stone, TWU Local 556 president and lead negotiator, said in a statement issued after the vote count.

As a result of the vote, the wage increases and work rule changes secured in the agreement will go into effect Nov. 1, including 12.45 percent total wage increases compounded over the next two years and a 15.9 percent bonus.

The vote to ratify the agreement comes 15 months after a failed contract vote by the same group, which overwhelmingly rejected the earlier contract proposal by 87 percent in July 2015, setting up this second tentative agreement.

“I am thrilled that our flight attendant team voted to ratify this agreement,” said Southwest management representative Sonya Lacore, vice president of cabin services. “Through this new contract, we now have the opportunity to provide further recognition for the many contributions that our flight attendants make to the success of Southwest Airlines.”

Next up on the airline's labor front, Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association will finish voting on their second attempt at ratifying a tentative agreement on Nov. 7.

A spokesman for the pilots association told the Dallas Business Journal today that the group does not have a comment on the flight attendant vote, and does not believe the flight attendants' vote result will affect how individual pilots will vote on their own contract.

(Bill Hethcock - Dallas Business Journal)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bombardier Looks for CSeries Jet Orders: Can It Land Spirit Airlines?

Spirit Airlines is considering adding Bombardier's CSeries jet to its fleet. Could an order from Spirit help Bombardier start to recoup its massive investment in this ambitious aircraft program?

Earlier this year, struggling jet maker Bombardier finally met its long-standing goal of lining up 300 firm orders for its brand-new CSeries jet. Its biggest coup was securing an order from airline giant Delta Air Lines for 75 CS100 jets, with options for another 50.

However, Bombardier had to offer a huge discount of 65% to 70% to land the Delta deal. At those prices, it will lose money. The company needs to bring in more CSeries orders in the coming years to fill out its backlog -- without conceding so much on price that it continues losing money on the CSeries program indefinitely.

Fast-growing U.S. budget carrier Spirit Airlines -- which currently flies an all-Airbus fleet -- has recently expressed interest in the CSeries jet. Could Spirit be the source of Bombardier's next big CSeries order?

Time to make a profit

After landing firm orders for 120 CSeries jets from Delta Air Lines and Air Canada earlier this year, Bombardier announced that it would record a special "onerous contract" charge of about $500 million.

In large part, this reflects a normal cost of doing business. Aircraft production costs decline over time as production processes become more efficient, so it's typical for early delivery slots to be sold below cost. Additionally, it's important for a new aircraft program to be backed by a few marquee customers to build credibility with other airlines and ensure that the necessary spare parts pools and maintenance expertise will be available.

Still, at the reported sub-$30 million price per aircraft that Delta negotiated, it would be very hard for Bombardier to turn a profit even with normalized production costs.

Right now, Bombardier has a little more than 300 unfilled firm CSeries orders (after excluding orders that are likely to be canceled). That's enough to fill most of its production capacity during the planned 2016-2020 production ramp period.

Bombardier needs to sell a lot of CSeries jets in the next few years. Image source: Bombardier.

By the end of 2020, Bombardier should reach a CSeries production rate of about 120 aircraft per year. It needs to gather a lot of orders in the next few years to fill all of those production slots. (It took eight years to line up the first several hundred CSeries orders.) Bombardier also needs to sell these slots at prices that will generate positive cash flow so that it can start to recoup its massive investment in the CSeries program.

Is Spirit Airlines a good prospect?

Spirit Airlines has been studying the CSeries jet since earlier this year, according to Bloomberg. During the company's earnings call last week, one analyst asked about the company's potential interest in adding CSeries jets to its fleet.

Spirit Airlines CEO Bob Fornaro responded that the company needs to place another major aircraft order relatively soon. Spirit plans to grow capacity 15% to 20% annually for at least the next five years -- and it will have plenty of room left for growth thereafter. Yet based on its current fleet plan, annual growth would drift down toward 10% by 2019 or 2020 -- and the carrier has no orders beyond 2021.

According to Fornaro, other manufacturers are likely to be aggressive in competing with Airbus for Spirit Airlines' business. Indeed, Airbus has a near-monopoly on the ultra-low cost carrier segment. Rivals like Bombardier can't afford to concede that whole market to Airbus, given that it will account for much of the airline industry's growth in the coming years.

The CSeries would also fit well with Spirit's current strategy. After a multiyear push toward flying larger planes (which typically have lower costs per seat) and focusing its growth in big cities, Spirit Airlines has started to seek out smaller markets where it will face less competition. To serve those routes appropriately, it is extending the life of its fleet of 145-seat Airbus A319s.

Spirit is starting to use its A319s to serve smaller markets that it once ignored. Image source: Spirit Airlines.

In many ways, Bombardier's CSeries jets would be a more logical fit for these routes. The CS100 is somewhat smaller than the A319 while the CS300 is roughly comparable in size, and both models are significantly more fuel efficient than the A319. Furthermore, availability should start to improve around the time when Spirit will need more planes.

The downside is that adding a second aircraft type would increase complexity and training costs. Yet while most low-cost airlines stick to a uniform fleet, some have diversified into a second aircraft type successfully -- including Fornaro's former company, AirTran Airways.

Beating Airbus is a long shot

While Spirit Airlines is wisely studying the CSeries jet, it is more likely to use that as bargaining leverage with Airbus than to actually place an order with Bombardier. Spirit is a key customer for Airbus, given its leading position among U.S. ultra-low cost carriers. If Airbus allows Bombardier to gain a foothold, it could ultimately end up losing out on hundreds of future orders.

As a result, Airbus would probably be willing to sell A319neos at cost to maintain its exclusive relationship with Spirit Airlines. Bombardier wouldn't be able to match that price without taking more big losses, given Airbus' much greater manufacturing scale. And while the A319neo isn't as efficient as the CSeries jets, it's close enough that it would be hard to justify the additional complexity of operating a mixed fleet.

Bombardier has built a great airplane. But Boeing and Airbus are fierce competitors. If Bombardier's CSeries jet is to succeed, it probably won't be by peeling away customers like Spirit Airlines that have an entrenched single fleet type.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motly Fool)

Chinese Planemaker Chases Xi’s Dream to Challenge Airbus, Boeing

China has a dream of challenging the duopoly of Airbus Group SE and Boeing Co. in the global market for air planes. That ambition is slowly taking shape in a hangar in Shanghai.

The state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd., locally known as COMAC, is building the 168-seat, single-aisle aircraft C919, betting the model would help the plane-maker break into the big league. It’s banking on expertise gained from its smaller 90-seat jet, the ARJ21, which has won commercial orders worth at least $2 billion, mostly from local companies.

Despite delays to the C919 program -- the first test flight has been postponed at least twice since 2014 -- COMAC’s message to the world: Watch this space. The builder says it has already got commitments from 21 customers for 517 planes. At the Zhuhai Air Show this week, COMAC is set to showcase the aircraft with a mock-up and could announce more interest from prospective buyers.

The passenger jet project is part of an ambitious plan by President Xi Jinping to transform China from a maker of sneakers, apparels and toys into one that can compete with the likes of Airbus and Boeing. Getting the C919 from the design board to the skies is crucial for Xi, who has identified aerospace among sectors that could help accelerate modernization of the economy to resemble Japan and Germany.
Good Case

“Domestic airplane manufacturing is a good case of the country’s ambition to secure a foothold at the very top of the global value chain,” said Liu Yuanchun, executive dean of the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China in Beijing. “There’s still some serious groundwork to do to eventually realize its ambition of mastering sophisticated design and manufacturing processes.”

Aerospace ranks third after information technology and robotics on the priority list of Xi’s master plan “Made in China 2025” unveiled last year. For aviation manufacturing, Beijing has set its eyes on developing wide-body passenger jets, heavy helicopters and various types of engines, in cooperation with global partners.

The Zhuhai Air Show will also feature the newly formed Aero Engine Corp. of China, which has plans to build engines for aircraft.

COMAC kicked off research and development on the C919 in 2008 as soon as the establishment of the company. The mission was to realize the dream of building and flying a large commercial aircraft -- hailed as the “flower” and “pearl” of modern manufacturing and embodiment of the nation’s technological standing.

The aircraft maker counts as many as 16 global corporations as suppliers, including General Electric Co. and Honeywell International Inc., and has set up at least 16 joint ventures for avionics, flight control, power, fuel and landing gear, according to COMAC, which estimates the market potential for the plane at as much as 650 billion yuan ($96 billion).

The C919 is in good shape for the test flight and the developer sees no reason for another delay, a representative for COMAC said, without providing a date. Since the work has just started, it’s too early to talk about competing with the majors as they are in a different league, he said.

Though the goal may be decades away, the plane-maker may already have a playbook to count on. The Advanced Regional Jet ARJ21, which took 13 years to design, build and bring to market, has been flying since June. With a maximum range of about 1,380 miles and powered by GE engines, the jet competes with those of Bombardier Inc. and Embraer SA. China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-listed company, was the latest customer, agreeing to purchase 60 ARJ21s in a July deal worth about $2.3 billion at list prices.

China may eventually pull it off with the C919, but the aircraft may be initially confined only to the domestic market and to some interest from a few developing countries, said Shukor Yusof, a founder of aviation consulting firm Endau Analytics in Malaysia. Safety concerns may deter the world’s top airlines from opting for the jet, he said.

“After a few upgrades, it should be able to show the world that it’s a serious aircraft,” Shukor said. “In order to achieve the comfort level for airlines, especially first-tier airlines, it could take more than two decades.”

For the C919, once ready and safe, China could prove to be a captive market. The nation, set to surpass the U.S. to become the world’s largest aviation market by passengers by 2024, will have 1.3 billion travelers by 2035, according to the International Air Transport Association. The country may need 6,810 new aircraft valued at $1.03 trillion in the next two decades to meet rising demand for air travel, Boeing estimated in September.

“At some point, China cannot simply rely on imports from Boeing and Airbus for its aircraft demand,” Renmin University’s Liu said. “Making its own plane elevates China’s status and is a key component of propelling China’s economic growth in the future.”

(Bloomberg Business News)

Arrestor beds help prevent disaster on Pence's campaign jet

(Associated Press)

A field of aerated cement blocks that crumble under the weight of an aircraft helped prevent Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence's campaign plane from barreling off a runway and onto a busy parkway nearby.

Arrestor beds have been installed at dozens of airports across the country in recent years, including in Chicago, in Boston, in Washington, D.C., and at the New York area's three major airports.

The system has been compared to driving a vehicle into gradually deepening snow, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates LaGuardia Airport, where Pence's plane landed Thursday night. The collapsible blocks slope upward gradually from the ground to approximately 30 inches and can safely stop an aircraft traveling at up to 80 mph, officials said.

There had been 10 previous incidents since 1999 in the U.S. in which the beds stopped aircraft that overran runways, including three at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration says.

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said Friday it was a good thing the arrestor beds, called the engineered materials arrestor system, were in place at LaGuardia.

"We're very fortunate that this runway has the EMAS on it," Sumwalt said.

Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye said the system was relatively close to the Grand Central Parkway.

"It would have been hundreds of feet away, if I had to guess, and fortunately that was not in play tonight," he said.

The Boeing 737 carrying Pence, 36 other passengers and 11 crew members made a hard landing in a rainstorm. The pilot slammed on the brakes, and the plane, marked with running mate Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, began to slide sideways. When the plane stopped in the middle of the arrestor bed, passengers could smell burning rubber. No one was injured.

The drama was captured on a recording of air traffic controller communications, posted on the website

"Eastern stop! Stop, Eastern!" a controller said, referring to the Trump plane, before immediately relaying instructions to an incoming JetBlue plane to abort a landing.

Trump acquired part of the old Eastern Air Lines in 1989 and ran it as a shuttle service until 1992. Thursday's flight was a charter operated by a recently reformed Eastern Air Lines, a company spokesman said.

"We have an issue on the airport," the controller said. "We have an emergency at the airport."

The jet came to rest amid the arrestor beds at LaGuardia's Runway 22.

Sumwalt said the plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were recovered and would be analyzed. He said investigators will interview the flight crew and the crews of other flights that landed on the runway successfully to determine "what was different about this particular flight."

The Port Authority assisted in developing the arrestor bed technology, along with the University of Dayton, in Ohio, and Engineered Arresting Systems Corporation, of Logan Township, New Jersey.

The company, a subsidiary of Zodiac Aerospace, has been manufacturing arresting equipment for military aircraft for more than 70 years, vice president Kevin Quan said. It was asked by the FAA to help develop the arresting beds in the 1990s.

The first bed was installed at Kennedy Airport in 1996, and there has never been a failure, Quan said.

"We're 11 for 11," he said.

The Air Line Pilots Association says it has long been a proponent of the beds, comparing them to "seat belts, life preservers and other safety protections."

(Frank Eltman - Associated Press)

Searching for Boeing 777 Orders: Are There Any Good Prospects?

Boeing will need to reduce its 777 production plans again unless it starts to see a steady stream of orders.

With the troubled 787 Dreamliner program finally starting to turn a profit, Boeing's most pressing challenge now is filling its open delivery slots for the current-generation 777 over the next few years. In the past two years, order activity for the 777 has slowed dramatically.

Boeing's management has admitted that it will be hard for the company to meet its order goals for the 777. However, Boeing isn't conceding yet. Let's take a look at whether it has a realistic chance of getting the orders it needs to avoid another deep production cut.

Order activity grinds to a halt

Since the beginning of 2015, a combination of low oil prices, currency volatility, and subpar global growth has taken a big bite out of the wide-body market. For example, Boeing only won 38 firm orders for the current-generation 777 in 2015, compared to a goal of 40 to 60.

As a result, Boeing admitted last year that it might have to reduce 777 production to seven per month from the current rate of 8.3 per month. In early 2016, it confirmed that it would cut production to that level at the beginning of 2017. Moreover, Boeing plans to deliver just 5.5 units per month in 2018 and 2019, as it will start building some 777Xs on the same production line by then.

Yet as 2016 progressed, analysts started to doubt that even this reduced target was achievable. As of the end of September, Boeing had just six new net orders for the 777 this year. Last week, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg acknowledged that Boeing may have to reduce deliveries to as little as 3.5 per month in 2018 and 2019.

Based on Muilenberg's comments, there are about 40 open slots for the current-generation 777 in the 2017-2018 period, assuming no further production cuts. In addition, Boeing would probably need another 100 orders for 2019 and beyond.

A year-end order flurry?

Still, there have been some hopeful signs. Earlier this month, Qatar Airways ordered 10 more 777-300ERs. Just this week, SWISS ordered a single additional 777-300ER. That brings the year-to-date order total to 17.

More orders could potentially be finalized soon. Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) announced last month that it plans to add 15 more 777-300ERs to its fleet. Boeing hasn't reported an order from Saudia yet, so it's not clear whether these are all new orders.

Iran Air also hopes to acquire 15 new 777-300ERs. It reached a tentative agreement with Boeing earlier this year and the U.S. government has now approved the sale. However, lining up financing remains a major obstacle due to ongoing financial sanctions against Iran. There's also a lot of political opposition within the U.S. to doing business with Iran, so the deal could potentially be torpedoed at any moment.

Time to replace those 747s!

Aside from these already-rumored potential sales, Boeing could look to current operators of the 747-400 for new 777 orders. The in-service fleet of 747s has been shrinking rapidly. Rising maintenance costs and declining availability of spare parts could encourage airlines to accelerate their 747 retirements.
Many of the top operators of passenger 747s have already ordered enough planes to replace their 747 fleets. But some -- such as KLM, China Airlines, and Thai Airways -- might need to order a few more planes to replace the last of their 747s.

There are also a lot of active 747-400 freighters, and many of their operators haven't planned for their replacement yet. The 747 offers some unique advantages over the 777 as a freighter, due to its nose-loading capabilities. Moreover, fuel efficiency is less of a concern for cargo airlines. Nevertheless, Boeing could potentially pick up a few 777F orders as 747 replacements, especially if fuel prices rise in the next year or two.

Will Emirates order more 777s?

Middle Eastern airline giant Emirates is by far the largest 777 customer in the world, accounting for more than 10% of all orders for the current-generation models. As of last year, it was looking at ordering up to 15 additional current-generation 777s, but it hasn't pulled the trigger yet.

If Emirates sees incremental growth opportunities in the next year or two, it could order more 777s for delivery in 2018 or 2019. It could even replace some of its older 777s just to keep its fleet age young. This year, it is retiring nine 777s.

A fleet refresh could be aided by the growing market for secondhand 777-300ERs. For example, British Airways is interested in acquiring some used 777-300ERs to help replace its aging 747 fleet, rather than buying any more new 777s.

Anybody else?

FedEx could be another source of incremental orders for Boeing's 777F in the coming years. In fact, the company plans to buy at least 7 777Fs that are not in Boeing's firm order book yet. It could order even more if rising fuel prices or maintenance costs make it advisable to accelerate the retirement of its older three-engine MD-10s and MD-11s.

Boeing could also nab some orders in emerging markets if air travel demand grows faster than expected, as the 777 is one of the few wide-body models available on relatively short notice.

The bottom line is that aside from potential orders of about 15 planes each from Iran Air, Saudia, and Emirates, there aren't many prospects for big 777 orders out there. There are a large number of potential sale opportunities, but they are mostly for deals of a few airplanes each -- or even just one, as in the case of the recent SWISS order.

Unless Boeing has an amazing success rate in closing these deals, it's not going to get enough orders to maintain the current production plan. That said, if it can seal the relatively large Iran Air and Saudia deals in the next few months, Boeing should at least be able to avoid the worst-case scenario of reducing deliveries all the way to 3.5 per month in 2018 and 2019.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Boeing names new leader for 777X program

Eric Lindblad, seen here giving a tour of Boeing’s massive new 777X composite wing center in May, will step up to head the new jet program in January.
(Ken Lambert - The Seattle Times) 

The head of Boeing’s 777X program, Bob Feldmann, will retire in January and will be succeeded by his deputy, Eric Lindblad.

Boeing announced internally Friday that 777X vice president and general manager Bob Feldmann will retire in January and will be succeeded by his deputy, Eric Lindblad.

Lindblad, 55, will be responsible for taking the new widebody jet through its final development phase and entry into service with airlines in 2020.

A 31-year Boeing veteran, Lindblad headed creation of the 777X wing center in Everett, the centerpiece of the the new airplane program. Before that, he was vice president of manufacturing operations for the highly successful 737 program in Renton.

Feldmann, 62, started his career in 1976 as an engineer with McDonnell Douglas working on the F/A-18 fighter. He later led development of the Navy’s EA-18G Growler and then moved to Renton to lead the P-8 Poseidon anti-sub aircraft program.

In 2011, Feldmann moved to the commercial airplane side, where he was general manager of the new 737 MAX before his appointment in 2013 to lead the 777X program.

(Dominic Gates - The Seattle Times)

Air Force One Isn’t the Only 747 With a President Onboard

Sorry, Obama: Here are some other nations whose heads of state also command the iconic jet.

Boeing Co. received a lifeline for its sales-challenged 747 jumbo jet when United Parcel Service Inc. agreed to buy at least 14 freighter versions. The company has warned that the program could be at risk and halved production this year, to six annually.

One bright spot for the 747-8, the newest and largest version, is the U.S. Air Force, which chose it to transport America’s commander-in-chief. The president currently travels aboard two heavily modified Boeing 747-200 aircraft, which are military jets with the designation VC-25. However, when the president steps aboard, the call sign changes to Air Force One.

While the Pentagon plans to replace those planes with two of the newer version in 2024, what many may not know is that the U.S. is hardly the only country to make the famous plane the transport of choice for its head of state.

Here are seven other countries with their own version of Air Force One.


The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is one of the world’s wealthiest people and passionate about both cars and airplanes. Among the royal fleet, the sultan has a 747-400 and often flies it himself, a fact noted by President Barack Obama during a 2013 state visit. 


China's president typically travels abroad on a Boeing 747-400, one that has been converted from commercial use. Most of the 747s are flown by Air China. In 2002, that country reportedly found more than two dozen listening devices aboard a government-owned 767 that had been sent to a refurbishment center in San Antonio, Tex. The plane had been planned as a presidential transport but was converted to commercial use.


When they travel abroad, India’s prime minister and president fly an Air India 747-400 operated by the Indian Air Force. When either is aboard, the call sign is Air India One. The government plans to replace the 747 for transporting heads of state with two Boeing 777-300ERs, acquired from Air India, dedicated full-time to VIP transport.


The Japan Air Self-Defense Force has two Boeing 747-400s that fly in tandem to transport the prime minister, emperor, and other high-ranking government officials. When airborne, the planes’ call signs are Air Force One and Air Force Two. Japan is replacing the 747s with new Boeing 777-300ERs in 2019, after 28 years with the 747s.

Saudi Arabia

The kingdom operates four 747s, including the SP “special performance” version, which was built until 1989. The 747SP is the shortest version of the 747, and the reduced weight afforded a longer range for its era, more than 7,000 nautical miles.

South Korea

The Republic of Korea has a 747-400 for presidential travel.

United Arab Emirates

The royal families of the Emirates fly aboard several 747s, including the latest 747-8. The first orders date to 1989.


A Yemen Airways 747SP used by the government was destroyed by fire following a gun battle at the airport in Aden in March 2015. War-racked Yemen replaced it with a Boeing 757.

(Justin Bachman- Bloomberg News)

No injuries after plane fire, evacuation at Chicago airport

(Associated Press)

Flames and heavy black smoke poured from the side of an American Airlines jet that aborted takeoff and caught fire on the runway at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Friday, forcing 170 crew and passengers to evacuate and resulting in eight injuries, authorities said.

Pilots on American Airlines Flight 383 bound for Miami reported an engine-related mechanical issue, according to airline spokeswoman Leslie Scott. She said seven passengers and a flight attendant with minor injuries were taken to a hospital to be evaluated.

Footage from the scene showed the Boeing 767-323(ER) (33084/906) N345AN, which appeared to be damaged on its rear and along its right side, sitting on the runway with flames underneath and shooting from one side along with plumes of smoke. The right wing was drooping toward the ground and appeared to have partially melted.

Passengers came down emergency slides, hurrying across grass next to the runway as emergency vehicles surrounded the plane.

Buses were sent to pick up the passengers and bring them back to the terminal, the airline said. The passengers were to be placed on another flight to Miami Friday evening.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating, said in a statement that the plane made an emergency stop around 2:35 p.m. after experiencing a problem during takeoff. An earlier FAA statement said the plane had blown a tire.

The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation into the incident, with investigators expected to arrive on the scene Friday evening, spokesman Keith Holloway said.

The Chicago Fire Department tweeted that there was an extra-alarm emergency response at the airport. Fire officials couldn't immediately be reached for further comment.

Passenger Sarah Ahmed told WLS-TV the plane was almost in the air when she heard a loud bang and saw a fire out the window.

"The plane comes to a screeching stop," she told the TV station. "People are yelling, 'Open the door! Open the door!' Everyone's screaming and jumping on top of each other to open the door."

(Associated Press)

Boeing-Comac JV selects Zhoushan for 737 completion site

Boeing 737s will be completed and delivered to Chinese customers from the island-city of Zhoushan on China’s mid-eastern coast under an agreement announced on 28 October.

The announced location of the 737 completion centre comes 13 months after the joint venture of Boeing and Comac was formed, with additional financial support from the Chinese government.

The timeline for building the facility and starting deliveries will “depend on discussions and final agreements with the Chinese government and our joint venture partner Comac”.

Boeing will continue building up the 737 fuselage sections and wings in Wichita, Kansas and Renton, Washington and assembling the structures together with engines and systems in Renton. The green aircraft then will fly to Zhoushan, where the Boeing-Comac joint venture will install interiors, paint the airframes and deliver the completed aircraft to Chinese customers.

The completion centre is the only one of its kind for Boeing located outside the USA. It will serve Boeing’s customers in what the company believes will be the fastest-growing market in the world for narrowbody aircraft over the next 20 years.

The selection comes three years after Zhoushan city officials decided to establish an aviation industrial park on the site of an 18-year-old airport with an 8,200ft runway. The airport is actually located on the island of Zhujiajianzhen, which is connected by bridge to the larger Zhoushan island.

(Stephen Trimble - FlightGlobal News)

Last Call For Quadjets: Will Boeing 747 Outlive Airbus A380?

UPS’ order Thursday for 14 firm and 14 option Boeing 747-8Fs raises an interesting question: as the era of four engine commercial jetliners draws to a close, which of the two last survivors will die first?

Before yesterday, the answer was clear. The real A380 order book (minus the ample number of zombie orders) was in bad shape, but the 747′s was worse. Nominally, it was a mere 15 planes (plus two unstated orders for the Air Force’s Air Force One presidential transport program), but in reality six were zombie orders (for Transaero and Arik Air).

That left just 11 planes, with production reduced in September to one every other month. In July, Boeing said in a regulatory filing, “It is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747.” But the UPS order will likely boost output, perhaps back to the one per month level.

In 2018 Airbus will reduce production that year to 12 A380s, and all will be for Emirates. That means the last non-Emirates A380 will almost certainly be delivered next year. After that, it’s just a question of how long Airbus feels like keeping a one-per-month program going for one customer, a problem shared by both quadjet manufacturers. In the long run, neither will want to take up all that factory space and other infrastructure just to support this modest level of output.

But the key difference between the two planes is that they are pursuing completely different markets. As a double-deck design, the A380 would not make a good cargo plane, and plans to create a freight version were cancelled years ago. By contrast, the 747-8I passenger version was killed by the 777-9X’s launch. The two Air Force One planes will be the last 747-8Is built. For future orders, the 747 is exposed solely to the cargo market.

UPS’ order is therefore intriguing. While the air cargo market has been in the doldrums for years, it still offers long-term growth. And as a cargo plane the 747-8F is unmatched in terms of range and payload. There are no new large cargo plane designs on the horizon, and used passenger 747s are aging and might not make for a cost-effective cargo conversion. Military planes are not adaptable for civil cargo use except for a few niche roles.

Purchased new, cargo planes can be operated 35 years or longer. We might see a stream of “final” 747-8F orders arrive as cargo operators take advantage of their last opportunity to order an irreplaceable long-term asset.

Right now, Teal Group’s forecast calls for the last A380 and the last 747 to be delivered the same year: 2019. But yesterday’s surprise UPS announcement implies that there may be more upside with the 747.

(Richard Aboulafia - Forbes)

Hypermach commercial supersonic business jet redesigned for full mach 5 hypersonic speed which gets attention of the US military

 (HyperMach Aerospace)

HyperMach Aerospace is about halfway through a two-year program to validate crucial technologies for both its newly renamed HyperStar supersonic business jet (SSBJ) and the airplane’s hybrid turbofan ramjet engines being developed by sister company SonicBlue Aerospace. Richard Lugg, who heads both companies, told AIN that 2016 and 2017 are “pivotal years” for its SSBJ, which was previously known as the SonicStar.

Additionally, HyperMach has once again revised the aircraft’s preliminary performance and specifications upward, to a top speed of Mach 5 at 80,000 feet and 7,000-nm range. In late 2012, it boosted the SSBJ’s top speed estimate to Mach 4.5 and range to 6,500 nm from its original Mach 3.6 and 6,000 nm, when it announced the project at the 2011 Paris Airshow.

It also increased the size of the airplane in late 2012 to seat up to 36 passengers from the initial 20; it has not made any further changes to the basic configuration since then. The updated and now-current HyperStar design has a larger swooped delta wing, redesigned V tail and a pair of more powerful engines, compared with the original design. Both the larger fuselage, which will now carry center tanks, and wing allow for more onboard fuel that in turn helps to stretch the airplane’s range.

HyperMach is now preparing to begin wind-tunnel testing of the HyperStar next year, with plans to begin hypersonic testing in May at a wind-tunnel facility in Europe. It is also slated to begin low-speed wind-tunnel tests in the U.S. in June and high-speed trials in Europe in April. The low- and high-speed analyses are slated to conclude later next year, while the hypersonic assessments are expected to take 30 months.

The high-speed wind-tunnel tests will also allow the company to further experiment with the electromagnetic drag reduction technology (EDRT) that it intends to use to mitigate, and possibly even eliminate, the sonic boom. With this core technology, a generated plasma ion field is pulsed around strategic fuselage, wing and tail surfaces to create active laminar flow control at the boundary layer interface. This changes the double pressure N-Shaped shockwave shape that emanates to the ground, dramatically reducing the over-pressure and mitigating the sonic boom. In addition, this plasma field will help reduce the heat on the HyperStar’s ceramic composite skin.

Lugg said that HyperMach engineers have demonstrated the EDRT flow control in a laboratory and found it be 90-percent effective at Mach 3.0 and above. The EDRT system, electrically powered by the additional overboard electricity from the H-Magjet engines, is a pulsed phased system, making it safe for aircraft occupants and certifiable under government regulation, according to the company.

To minimize cost and risk, HyperMach is taking an unusual step – planning to fly an unmanned scale model of the HyperStar in late 2018. This flight vehicle will be flown in supersonic corridors so it can be tested at speeds up to Mach 5, the company said. Not surprisingly, the U.S. military has expressed interest in this unmanned scale vehicle, though Lugg insisted that this program is sufficiently walled off to prevent the military from prohibiting development of the civil HyperStar.

Meanwhile, Portland, Maine-based SonicBlue is busy developing and testing the critical technology built into the SSBJ’s 76,000-pound-thrust H-Magjet 5500-X hybrid turbofan ramjet engines. Lugg said the company holds “major patents” for its “revolutionary propulsion technology,” which includes a superconducting turbo power core ring to generate the aircraft’s high electrical power requirements.

“The first engine stage produces more than 10 megawatts of power, driving the electromagnetic compressor and bypass fans,” he noted. “There are five turbine stages in H-Magjet, all producing multi-megawatts of power.”

It is developing an ion plasma injection combustor to provide the “highest efficiency and performance in combustion for significant thrust gains,” Lugg told AIN. “By electrically atomizing and controlling the ionization to the point of fuel combustion and a controlled flame front powered by an electric arc field with electricity directly from the engine, thrust improvement along with significant emissions reduction is gained.”

He added, “We have completed final detail design of the first stage turbine core for testing. Manufacturing of this first stage has begun and is expected to be finished next month, with testing on the rig as early as February. All five stages will be completed through 2018, with complete turbine core test in the fourth quarter of 2018.”

A full engine run is scheduled for 2019, and Lugg said that his company has spent the last year working with new industry partners and hiring team members for the superconducting turbine core.

First flight of the HyperStar is now expected in 2025, with certification and entry into service slated to follow in 2028, he said. Both estimates are three years later than what was announced previously.

HyperMach has begun to take orders for its SSBJ, and Lugg said he soon expects to close the company’s “first multi-aircraft unit order with a leading global private charter firm.” Current price of the HyperStar is $180 million, though that will escalate to $220 million sometime before the Paris Airshow in June.

(next BIG future)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Boeing may be building a new passenger plane that takes off and lands vertically

Boeing may be building a new commercial passenger plane that can take off and land vertically, according to a patent awarded to the company on Tuesday. 
The aircraft features two tilt-rotors on each wing that can rotate to a vertical or horizontal orientation, depending on the circumstances. Vertical would be used for takeoff and landing, much like a helicopter, and then once it is in flight, the rotors can be switched to horizontal so it can be flown like a normal airplane.
boeing vtol plane

(US Patent and Trademark Office)

Known as a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, it allows much more flexibility and longer range than a traditional helicopter may provide. The military has been using a VTOL aircraft known as the V-22 Osprey since 2007. That aircraft was built by Boeing and Bell.

Bell used its experience on the V-22 to develop its own civilian VTOL aircraft, called the BA609. Its partner AgustaWestland took over ownership of the project in 2011 and developed a prototype, though it can only carry nine people.

The new Boeing patent says the plane can carry at least 100 passengers as a regional commercial plane, be reconfigured for military use, or it can be used as a personal aircraft. While the military V-22 is powered by two Rolls Royce engines, the civilian version would be powered by four engines, each coupled to the aircraft's wings.

V22 Osprey tilt rotor
(V-22 with rotors tilted, condensation trailing from propeller tips.Peter Gronemann via Wikimedia Commons)

There are other noticeable differences to that of the V-22: The wings are much lower on the fuselage in the civilian patent images, and the aircraft's tail assembly is a traditional t-shape, instead of having the V-22's twin tailfin design.

The military's V-22 can carry 24 troops comfortably up to an altitude of 25,000 feet, and has a cruising speed of 277 mph. Boeing does not give those specifics in this latest patent.

As is usually the case with patent filings, there is a good chance this is something that could remain on the drawing board and never actually be built. Boeing first filed the patent in June 2014.

"Boeing files tons of patents so this might not even come to fruition," said Tom Kim, a spokesperson for Boeing. "I'm not saying it won't," he added, though he was unaware of the patent in question and said he would look into it.
boeing vtol plane
(US Patent and Trademark Office)

(Paul Szoldra - Business Insider)

Plane carrying Mike Pence skids off runway at LaGuardia

A plane carrying Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence skidded off a runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Thursday night, officials and witnesses said.

The Indiana governor is said to be OK. No injuries have been reported.

The plane made a rough impact upon landing and slipped off the runway at around 7:45 after the pilot attempted to slam on the breaks, according to passengers.

“We could feel the plane moving, and it was just not a natural landing that you experience,” recalled CNN reporter Elizabeth Landers, who was on the plane.

Others aboard the campaign jet said Pence immediately got up out of his seat and began checking people for injuries once the aircraft came to a stop.

“The governor stood up and made sure everyone was okay,” tweeted NBC reporter Vaughn Hillyard.

CBS News campaign reporter Alan He said Pence handled the bumpy landing like a pro.

“He was calm. He came back to check on the press,” he told the outlet. “We had no idea we had skidded off the runway until Gov. Pence came to the back of the plane and said we may have done that.”

Pence told reporters that mud had been splashed all over the front windows of the cockpit, making it hard for the pilots to see. He later took to Twitter to update everyone on the situation.

“So thankful everyone on our plane is safe,” he wrote. “Grateful for our first responders & the concern & prayers of so many. Back on the trail tomorrow!”
The plane — a Boeing 737 carrying more than 30 people, including Pence, his family, campaign staffers and members of the press — was coming from Fort Dodge, Iowa at the time of the incident.

Witnesses said it destroyed two tracks of concrete on the runway before finally coming to a screeching halt on a small patch of grass.

Passengers recalled smelling burning rubber upon landing.

“We seemed to be sliding for the distance of the landing and a burning smell became very obvious — like rubber,” Fox News producer Dan Gallo, who was also on board, said in an email to the outlet.

Pence’s running mate, Donald Trump, has reportedly been made aware of the incident.

“Mr. Trump did reach out to Governor Pence and is very glad everyone on board the plane is safe,” Stephanie Grisham, press tour director for the Trump campaign, said in a statement to NBC.

Pence had tweeted earlier in the evening about not being allowed to fly into LaGuardia due to a “ground hold.”

“A ground hold at LaGuardia led to some football on the tarmac in Iowa. #GameOn,” he wrote.

A senior federal official told ABC news that nothing unusual had been reported to air traffic control before the incident regarding either the flight or the plane. Constant rain throughout the day has made for slipper conditions, though.

(Chris Perez - MarketWatch)

Southwest weighs extra fees, just not on bags

The bags are safe. Beyond that, however, Southwest Airlines might start charging fees for other things in the foreseeable future.

CEO Gary Kelly told analysts and reporters Wednesday he has “no thought whatsoever” to starting charging bag or change fees. Southwest markets its lack of those fees to help it stand out against its more fee-heavy rivals.

“We have a unique and beloved position in the industry with this approach,” Kelly said. “We would be foolish to squander it.”

But as Southwest seeks to meet revenue goals it missed in 2016, Kelly said ancillary fees for other items may be on the menu as a potentially significant source of revenue.
Tammy Romo, chief financial officer, said fees for EarlyBird Check-In and Business Select to skip boarding lines have been successful.

“The EarlyBird, as an example, we’re continuing to see year-over-year growth in ancillary products such as that,” she said.

Kelly doesn’t expect to introduce the fees immediately because he wants the airline to execute other priorities first. After a technology glitch in July canceled thousands of flights, the airline begins shifting to a new reservation system in December in a migration that's expected to be completed by May.

“I don’t want our company to chase too many things simultaneously,” Kelly said. “We need to execute well.”

Asked what the fees might cover, Kelly said he would play the choices close to the vest until they are ready for introduction, to avoid giving ideas to his competitors.

“It’s just not ready for prime time,” Kelly said. “Driving growth in ancillaries per passengers is absolutely an objective that we have. I don’t know if we’ll be doing a lot of that in 2017.”

(Bart Jansen - Today In The Sky / USA Today)

Boeing warns 777 rate could drop to 3.5 per month

Boeing warned on 26 October that 777 production rates could further decline to effectively as low as 3.5 per month by late next year or early 2018, unless ongoing sales efforts lead to firm orders over the next few months.

Boeing still believes the sales outlook is healthy enough that a further production cut will not be necessary, but chairman, president and chief executive Dennis Muilenburg described to analysts on a third quarter earnings call on 26 October a worst-case scenario for one of the company’s most profitable programs.

Boeing has already announced plans to reduce 777 output from 8.3 per month to seven monthly next year. As the first 777-9 enters assembly in 2018, the effect of building test aircraft will lower output to an effective rate of to 5.5 per month in 2018. Another reduction of one or two per month may be necessary by late 2017, Muilenburg says.

Lowering the monthly to 3.5 represents a worst-case scenario. If Boeing is unable to sell another 777 for the next two years, more than 90% of available production slots in 2019 would be sold out at the 3.5 per month rate, Muilenburg says.

After setting a string of annual sales records from 2012 to 2014, demand for Boeing’s commercial aircraft has waned during the last two years. Airline customers are most “hesitant” about buying wide-body aircraft in the current market climate, says Muilenburg, who cites factors such as lower global economic output, geopolitical instability and less demand for sending cargo by air.

Boeing still expects yearly deliveries to rise to more than 900 commercial aircraft by 2019. That objective remains possible even if Boeing further reduces 777 output to 3.5 per month in 2018, as long as other planned rate increases continue.

Excluding another 777 rate cut, planned production rates today would have Boeing producing 954 aircraft in 2019, including announced plans to raise monthly output on the 737 to 57 and on the 787 to 14. Boeing also plans to continue building 2.5 767s and 0.5 747s per month in 2019.

The 777 production rate has been scrutinized for several years as Boeing manages a transition to a re-winged and re-engined 777X family in 2020. “We’re confident we’re going to be able to work our way through that in a profitable and effective manner,” Muilenburg says.

Building 777s at a rate of 3.5 per month, if necessary, will not affect an effective transition to the re-engined and re-winged 777X family in 2020.

Such a reduction in output, however, would have a negative impact on operating margins as Boeing attempts to raise profits before special items above 15% on an annual basis by the end of the decade, Muilenburg says. But Boeing would attempt to offset that impact by other means, such as lowering costs, he adds.

(Stephen Trimble - FlightGlobal News)

Qantas Updates Livery


Qantas has revealed an update to its iconic Kangaroo logo as part of preparation for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner entering its fleet a year from now.

The change is only the fifth time the red-and-white image on the tail of Qantas aircraft has been updated since it was first introduced in 1944. The last update was in 2007 to coincide with the introduction of the Airbus A380 to the national carrier’s fleet.

Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce, revealed the new design together with the new Business Suites and Economy seats that will feature on the B787 to a hangar of around 1,000 employees and guests in Sydney.

“Since the image of a kangaroo first appeared on a Qantas aircraft more than 80 years ago, it’s come to represent the spirit of Australia. When passengers see the Qantas tail at airports around the world, it’s a symbol of home,” said Mr Joyce.

“We wanted to make sure our brand remained familiar but we also wanted it to be more modern and dynamic, like the 787 and like Qantas.

“When we looked at the history, we found that the logo has been updated around the time of a game-changing new aircraft joining the fleet. It’s a tradition that goes back to the Lockheed Constellation in 1947, the B747-300 in 1984 and the A380 in 2007.

“A fresh brand helps symbolise the new era Qantas is entering as we head towards our centenary. It’s an era of new destinations, new technology and a new standard of service,” added Mr Joyce.

The new design was overseen by Qantas consultant designer, Marc Newson, in partnership with Australian design agency Houston Group.

Marc Newson, who has helped design Qantas’ lounges, the A380 cabin and the iconic Skybed, said:

“Aircraft tails are fantastic canvas to work on and the Qantas logo is one of the most recognisable in the world. This re-design aims to retain the fundamental essence of the flying kangaroo but also move the brand forward.

“This new brand is more streamlined and the shading behind the kangaroo gives a better sense of movement and depth. A silver band now extends from the tail to the rear of the fuselage, to give a more premium feel.

“The typography for the word Qantas, which measures almost two metres high on the 787, has been carefully streamlined. And Qantas will appear on the aircraft’s belly, so you can tell when it’s the national carrier flying overhead,” Mr Newson added.

In another link to the airline’s heritage, the classic winged kangaroo that appeared on tails across three decades will feature under the cockpit window and incorporate the individual name of each aircraft.

The new design will gradually appear across the Qantas network from today, starting with digital assets, signage and advertising. Inventory of other items – such as pyjamas – has been run down in preparation for the new logo. Updating branding on aircraft will be sequenced with scheduled re-paints, to be completed in time for the airline’s centenary in 2020.

The updated brand follows the introduction of new cabin crew uniforms in 2014 and new pilot uniforms, unveiled earlier this year, that roll out today.

(Qantas Press Release)

As Airlines Throttle Back On Wide-Body Orders, Investors Face Choice On Boeing And Airbus

Combined they have an order book filled with 10,000-undelivered airplanes worth something in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion – yes, you read that right, ‘trillion” with a “t,” not “billion.”

That’s a very nice neighborhood.

So why are some analysts and investors turning sour on Boeing and Airbus, the duopoly with near-total control over the global market for commercial aircraft?

The easy answer is that they – and we all – have become spoiled by Airbus’ and Boeing’s outrageously large sales performance in recent years. And the recent sales slow-down should have been – but wasn’t – anticipated by analysts and investors who follow this chronically cyclical industry. Still, Boeing and Airbus are doing just fine by all historical measures.

But the more nuanced answer is that there’s been a big drop in sales of their biggest – and most profitable – wide-body planes, and the global slowdown in economic activity that’s behind the wide-body sales slowdown could be an indicator of much tougher times still ahead.

Pick which view you want to believe – and act upon it. Plenty of supposedly sophisticated and expert analysts and investors can be found on both sides of the argument – with more than a few others still trying to decide which way to bet.

Boeing shares shot up nearly 4.7 percent Wednesday after the company announced an unexpectedly large $2.28 billion third quarter profit. Clearly many investors were happily surprised. But the company’s revenue actually fell 7.5 percent in the quarter, to $23.9 billion, giving the bears a bit of confirmation that their worries are not misplaced.

Surprisingly, Airbus shares were up Wednesday, though “only” by 3.8 percent, to the dollar-equivalent of $60.43 after the company reported an 87 percent year-over-year drop in its third quarter earnings. In dollars, the European company showed a profit of about $54.5 million in the quarter, down from $797.3 billion a year earlier. Analysts attributed the big stock price increase to Airbus CEO Tom Enders’ declaration that the company will ship 670 total jetliners this year, at least 20 more than previously disclosed.

To reach that goal Airbus will have to deliver an unusually large number of planes in the fourth quarter to make up for delivery shortfalls earlier this year. Those shortfalls have been attributed to the delays in getting interior fixtures for A350s and A320neo narrow-body jets, but Enders indicated confidence that the company will catch up in the fourth quarter. Doing that would quickly erase a temporary but large hole in the company’s cash position. That’s because airplanes makers don’t recognize purchase payments until their planes are delivered to customers.

But the heart of the Boeing/Airbus story has little to do with the third quarter financial reports and production announcements issued Wednesday.

The real issue is that global demand for wide-body jets is sagging, even with Thursday morning’s news of a UPS order for 14 Boeing 747-8 cargo planes. That slowdown in demand important because those big planes are Boeing’s and Airbus’s primary profit drivers. Though each sells far more narrow-body planes than wide-bodies, intense competition between them keeps profit margins slim on narrow-body planes. Selling the big planes is where the big money is for both companies.

Boeing’s goal, for example, is to boost its corporate profit margin from around 10 percent today to around 15 percent by 2019. The only way it can get there is to sell more 777s and 787s, lots more. But the pace of orders for those big planes is slowing. It has sold only 17 777s this year. And its production line, currently cranking 100 777s a year, already is set to be dialed back to just 66 in 2018, and could be further reduced to 42 in 2018 if Boeing fails land another 40 to 50 more very soon. Similarly, plans to up the production rate of the 787 could fall through if a couple of big deals the company currently is working on go south.

UPS’ order for additional 747-8s could keep the dwindling production line for that famous but aged design going a couple more years. Currently Boeing is making just one 747 a month, and even at that low rate it was widely anticipated that production will peter out sometime in 2017 or 2018. Now the UPS order could become he bridge Boeing needs to keep its 747 production line in Everett, Wash., going long enough to win the expected Air Force contract for two new special-purpose 747s that will replace the two 25-year-old 747s that now serve as Air Force One. But after that, 747 production likely will end.

Airbus faces a similar drop in demand for its big, highly profitable wide-bodies (note: its gargantuan A380, which even its best customers have determined to be too big to ever produce profits for them, is all-but un-sellable anymore will never turn a profit for Airbus). The slackening demand for wide-bodies happens to coincide with a time when Airbus is not taking in much cash from the delivery of its new A350. Because of it supply chain issues, Airbus has shipped less than half of those it had planned to ship by this point. And that has created a cash flow short-fall and undermines airlines’ confidence in the plane.

Such production short falls are common early on in the life cycle of brand-new models like the A350. But coming now, as Asian carriers that had driven the airplane buying boom of the last six years are scaling back their ambitions, it has created a painful, albeit temporary, cash problem for Airbus.

Of course, the drop in demand should have been predictable. Since the very early days of commercial aviation there’s been a saying that “airlines order planes when times are great and manufacturers deliver them when times are bad.” That’s because commercial aviation is a chronically cyclical business, subject to the big swings in national, regional and, increasingly, global economies. By the time airlines clean up their balance sheets enough to place lots of airplane orders, travel demand typically is at its pea.

By the time the manufacturers can start delivering those ordered planes, the travel demand and economic cycles are waning. Typically that leads to the cancellation or re-scheduling of the delivery of a third of so of the planes ordered during buying spree.

Boeing and Airbus both have seen much tougher times than they’re currently experiencing as airlines’ throttle back on their demand for new planes, especially big ones. But it’s clear that the party that’s been going on in the airplane-making business the last six years is winding down.

(Dan Reed - Forbes)