777X first flight delayed to 2020
The first flight of the new Boeing 777X has been pushed out to early 2020 due to development issues with the aircraft’s General Electric GE9X turbofan engines, Boeing disclosed in its second-quarter financial results.
A statement said: “The 777X programme is progressing well through pre-flight testing. While the company is still targeting late 2020 for the first delivery of the 777X, there is a significant risk to this schedule given engine challenges, which are delaying the first flight until early 2020.”
Boeing rolled out the first 777- 9 flight test aircraft, N779XW (c/n 64240), at Everett in March 2019 and originally planned to fly the aircraft in June. However, a problem with the stator vane in the second stage of the GE9X’s high-pressure compressor discovered during early reliability testing has forced a redesign that will push back engine certification into the autumn and, in turn, the expected first flight date into early next year.
Despite the delay, Boeing insists it is still planning for the 777-9 to achieve type certification and entry into service by the end of 2020. This looks to be an ambitious timescale, and at the very least would involve an aggressive flight testing schedule. Two of the four 777-9 flight test aircraft are out on the ramp at Everett, with N779HW having undergone static engine runs and initial taxiing trials. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said this static and taxiing test work is being conducted to reduce risk and take out some of the pressure on the flight test schedule.
However, Emirates, which will be one of the first customers to receive the 777-9, has already said it is assuming a January 2021 service entry date at the earliest. The first of 150 777Xs for the Gulf carrier is in assembly, the airline recently tweeting pictures of the jet on the Everett production line.
India orders a mix of 1,000 Russian air-to-air missiles
Reports from New Delhi and Moscow, including a press release from Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, suggest India has agreed to purchase at least 1,000 new air-to-air missiles for use by the Indian Air Force fleets of MiG-21 Bison, MiG-29UPG Fulcrum and Su- 30MKI Flanker fighters. Numbers mentioned include 300 of both the R-27 (AA-10 Alamo) infraredguided (IR) or semi-active radarguided, medium-to-long-range missiles and 300 R-73E (AA-11 Archer) IR-guided, short-range missiles. The balance of the order, which in total is said to be valued at some $700 million, is to be made up of 400 R-77 (AA- 12 Adder) active radar-guided, medium-range missiles. India has long planned to integrate the R-73E with its Dassault Rafale fighters and there are rumours that some of the new Russian missiles may be used to arm the Indian Air Force’s Mirage 2000H fighters.
First European Airbus A330MRTT
The first Airbus A330-243MRTT for the Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) was seen in full colours at Airbus’ airfield at Getafe outside Madrid, Spain on August 2, 2019. It had arrived from Manchester, England where it had been painted by Air Livery. The aircraft, c/n 1930, was still registered as EC-340 and used the radio callsign AED354 but will become M-001 with the MRTTs’ operator, the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu/ Royal Netherlands Air Force). The A330MRTT will be known as the KC-30M by the KLu. The programme was initially launched in July 2016 by The Netherlands and Luxembourg. Germany and Norway joined the programme in 2017 and Belgium in early 2018; other European nations are still welcome to join the programme. The Multinational Multirole Fleet Programme was signed in July 2016 covering the acquisition of 8 A330MRTTs and options for up to three additional aircraft - the fleet will be owned by NATO and operated in a pooling arrangement. Roberto Yáñez
737 MAX testing continues
Boeing plans to submit software updates for the 737 MAX to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for assessment and approval soon. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg told the Jefferies 2019 Global Industrials Conference in New York the company will send the certification package for the updated Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System “in the September timeframe”. The company is working towards a return of the 737 MAX to service “early in the fourth quarter”, Muilenburg said, adding the company continues to work with customers on training materials and simulator sessions related to the software updates. Many 737 MAX operators have pushed back their schedules for the aircraft to November. A Boeing statement added the final software package will be submitted to the FAA for approval once all certification requirements are met. Reports say more than 500 test flights with the new software have been conducted. The company has reduced monthly 737 MAX output to 42 aircraft per month, but Muilenburg did not rule out the possibility production might stop completely if the grounding continued for a prolonged period. He said: “If [the process of] regulatory approval extends significantly and return to service is significantly delayed, then we would consider lower production rates or a temporary shutdown of the production line.”
Those are not decisions that would be taken lightly, he said, given there are 600 companies in the 737 MAX supply chain and hundreds of thousands of jobs affected. He added Boeing still plans to ramp up production to 57 aircraft per month next year, assuming the aircraft is cleared to fly again, but added this would be “paced by return to service approvals”. Boeing faces a $4 billion charge, which Muilenburg said would be “multi-year” with a variety of concessions including cash payments and preferential delivery positions and tailored service payments. The company made a $2.9 billion loss for the second quarter. Muilenburg added: “We know that it’ll take some time to rebuild public confidence.” Mark Broadbent
Hypersonic technology in the UK
The UK Defence Equipment and Support’s Technology Office recently confirmed an order for UK companies to investigate high-Mach, or hypersonic, engine technologies. The single source contract, valued at £10 million, will run for two years and involves Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Reaction Engines. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) said the contract, “will focus on enabling technologies for increased aircraft performance and capability”, specifically covering design studies, R&D, analysis and experimentation. Hypersonic aircraft are interesting for defence and security applications because of their extra speed enabling new capabilities such as decreased time to target, improved penetration in contested environments, and the ability to access previously unreachable areas. A DSTL statement said: “For a range of defence uses, speeds over Mach 4 are desirable and the ability to bridge the gap between required aircraft speed and propulsion system capability is a key enabler. This programme will address this capability gap by developing a variety of technological options and solutions.”
A joint statement by Rolls- Royce, Reaction Engines and BAE Systems said: “By bringing together acknowledged aerospace innovation capability from British companies, critical high-Mach propulsion technology elements will be developed, paving the way for a UK centre of excellence in this technology and contributing to meeting UK MoD future defence needs.” Reaction Engines, one of the partners in the project, has been designing and developing technologies for hypersonic propulsion for many years with its Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) project, which uses ultra-lightweight heat exchangers to stop engine components from overheating at high flight speeds. Reaction Engines says SABREclass engines will enable aircraft to fly over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere while also giving, “the potential to revolutionise what can be achieved with thermal management across a range of industries, from aerospace to motorsport, industrial processes, and the energy industry.” Mark Broadbent
F-16Vs for Bulgaria and Slovakia
The Bulgarian government approved the purchase of eight F-16V fighter aircraft, two two- and six single-seaters to replace the nation’s Voennovazdushni sili (VS/ Air Force) fleet of veteran MiG-29s on July 26. The parliament had already approved the purchase in an earlier vote but Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, a former commander of the VS, had vetoed the deal on July 22 saying: “Because of the shortened legislative procedure, a number of important issues such as prices, warranties, delivery times, penalties, indemnities, and so on, have remained unclear.”
In the vote overturning the veto, of the 201 votes cast, 73 were against the deal but 128 in favour. The first four are scheduled for delivery in 2023 with the other four arriving the following year. A few days later on July 31 the United States Department of Defense announced an order valued at $800 million for the delivery of 14 similar aircraft to Slovakia. Like the jets for Bulgaria the new aircraft will be built at Lockheed Martin’s new assembly plant at Greenville, South Carolina where F-16 production has moved to make room for F-35 work at the type’s former home, Fort Worth, Texas. Work under this Foreign Military Sales contract will be completed by January 2024. Interestingly Bulgaria has budgeted $1.26 billion for its eight jets whereas the deal for Slovakia’s 14 comes in at $800 million. It is not clear why Bulgaria is paying so much more for its aircraft although its determination to buy eight more in a second batch may have something to do with it.
Spain to upgrade Air Force Academy
Spain’s Council of Ministers has allocated €225 million to upgrade facilities and obtain 24 new aircraft for the country’s Academia General del Aire (AGA/General Air Academy) at San Javier, Murcia. The July 12, 2019 announcement says the programme will commence next year and be completed by December 31, 2022.
Plans call for an integrated pilot training system comprising 24 aircraft to replace the decades old CASA 101 (known as E.25s in Spain). The single engine jet trainers reach their out-of-service date in 2021 by which time some of the new aircraft and training systems must be in place to ensure continuity of training. The requirement is for two networked flight simulators, ground-based training systems, two cockpit procedures training devices, a ground-based emergency procedures trainer and a logistics support package. Spain prefers an off-theshelf system incorporating both the aircraft and groundbased systems. It believes that adopting such a package will allow the minimum number of aircraft and systems to be delivered in time to continue training with the new system in 2021. The selected training package will provide sufficient training to enable students to transition easily to types presently operated by the Ejército del Aire (Air Force), such as Eurofighter Typhoon, EF-18M Hornet, A400M Atlas and NH90 helicopter. Spain currently splits training time 50/50 between actual flying and using ground-based synthetic training aids.
Portugal orders KC-390
Portugal announced an €827 million deal for the acquisition of five KC-390 aircraft, a flight simulator, electronic warfare systems, logistics support and personnel training on July 11, 2019. Minister of National Defense João Gomes Cravinho said the aircraft, with its intercontinental range and true multi-mission capabilities, exceeds the capabilities of the C-130H Hercules of which the Força Aérea Portuguesa (Portuguese Air Force) still operates five. The minister said that the new airlifters will replace the veteran Hercules, the oldest of which was ordered in 1976, and which he says are already at the end of their useful lives. He stated that they will receive sufficient upgrades until they can be replaced. He highlighted the “unique characteristics of the KC-390” which, he says, “set a new standard for strategic military transport, hitherto only possible with larger four-engine aircraft.” The first KC-390 is scheduled to be delivered in February 2023 with one of the remaining four arriving in Portugal in each of the following years.
Jackson Schneider, chief executive of Embraer Defense & Security said: “The Portuguese KC-390 will meet new interoperability requirements, in the areas of secure navigation, data and voice transmission, that will allow the KC-390 to integrate joint operations in multinational alliances in which Portugal is integrated … these requirements, developed in partnership with the Força Aérea Portuguesa, will enable the KC-390 to meet the needs of many other nations around the world.” Schneider went on to say: “The industrial partnership between Portugal and Embraer contributes to the development of engineering and the Portuguese aeronautics industry, representing more than €300 million in exports each year and thousands of highly skilled jobs.” Portugal is the largest international partner of the KC-390 programme. The type received its civil certification from Brazil’s National Aviation Agency (ANAC) in 2018 and is now in full serial production. Entry into service with the Força Aérea Brasileira (Brazilian Air Force) is expected to occur in the third quarter of 2019 with follow-on deliveries continuing thereafter.
Successful anti-poaching demo
Half a dozen suspected wildlife poachers were apprehended in South Africa’s Kruger National Park with the help of the Helix ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) aircraft, which carried out a month-long demonstration in the reserve. The Helix is being developed by Singapore-headquartered CADG into an optionally piloted vehicle, with the manned Helix I deployed to the Kruger between mid-May and late June. During this time, half a dozen suspected poachers were detected by the aircraft, mostly at night, and apprehended by rangers with tracker dogs.
The Helix was unveiled at the September 2018 Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition and has been flying for some time, having evolved from the Ultimate Aviation Viper 1000C unmanned aerial vehicle. The Helix II optionally piloted version is under development and should be ready to fly around year-end using avionics supplied by South Africa’s S-Plane. The Helix is based on the Ecarys ES-15 motor-glider and fitted with a Hensoldt Argos II HD camera and two hardpoints for other systems, with each hardpoint able to carry 80kg (176lb), including external fuel tanks. Data from the camera is sent to a ground control station. During the Kruger trials, the Argos II was able to track poachers whilst flying at an altitude of 10,000ft, at which point the aircraft was inaudible on the ground. The aircraft has an endurance of 8-10 hours – a Rotax 914F2 engine gives an operating speed of 57-167mph (93-270km/h). CADG is headquartered in Singapore but has offices in North America, the Middle East and Africa, providing aviation, logistics and procurement, engineering, construction and camp construction services, amongst others. Aviation services are rendered by sister company Ultimate Aviation, based in South Africa. Guy Martin
First success for M-346FA
Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo announced the sale of six of its M-346FA light attack aircraft to an un-disclosed customer on July 30, 2019. In the same press conference, he said the first international sale of the company’s M-345 basic/advanced trainer would be announced later in the year. Based on the M-346 advanced fighter trainer already sold to Italy, Israel, Poland and Singapore, the M-346FA derives from the M-346FT (fighter/ trainer) and benefits from the Grifo-346 multi-mode fire control radar which incorporates a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and Inverse SAR for air-to-air and air-to-surface target identification, tracking and targeting as well as a IFF (identification friend or foe) system and the capabilities bestowed by a tactical datalink and greater weapons capacity.
Madagascar’s military receives more aircraft
Madagascar’s military has seen a substantial overhaul of its aerial capabilities after taking delivery of nine second-hand fixed- and rotarywing aircraft. They were officially handed over by President Andry Rajoelina on June 24, along with Russian-made trucks and all-terrain vehicles. It appears all the aircraft were sourced via South Africa, with a former Money Aviation broker managing the deal, which included a CN235 transport, three AS350B2 helicopters and five Cessna 206 light aircraft.
The CN235 was previously flown by the Botswana Defence Force Air Wing (as OG1, msn C185), and later sold to Rampart Aviation (as N820CA) in February 2011. After its sale to the Togolese Air Force fell through, it was sold to Canada’s Avcorp in August 2013 and then to South Africa before being delivered to Madagascar as 5R-MUQ.
One of the AS350B2s (ZS-RHW, msn 1327) was acquired by South Africa’s Savannah Helicopters and flown by Netcare 911 for several years whilst another (ZT-RCC, msn 7061) was manufactured in 2010 and bought by Savannah Helicopters in 2017. It was flown in Indonesia as PK-TUA before being delivered to South Africa and then Madagascar in May.
The aircraft will be used for transport, medical evacuation and troop transport duties, amongst others. They were displayed during the June 26 Independence Day parade alongside a recently acquired BK 117 helicopter, which was also sourced from South Africa.
The BK 117 (ZS-HRK, msn 7184) was built in 1988 and previously operated by the UK’s McAlpine Helicopters (as G-HMBB) in the 1990s and ADAC Luftrettung in Germany (as D-HBRE) until being sold to South Africa’s Aeronautic Solutions around 2015.
Before the delivery of the fleet of second-hand aircraft from South Africa, Madagascar’s military had a limited aerial capability, with its inventory comprising several light aircraft and transports, including CASA C212s, Cessna Skymasters, Socata MS885 Super Rallye and Sauper Aviation J300 Joker aircraft.
General Maryanne Miller, Air Mobility Command commander, ordered the temporary removal of 123 of 450 Total Force C-130 Hercules from service on August 7 after atypical cracks were discovered on the lower centre wing joint or ‘rainbow fitting’ during programmed depot maintenance. The cracks are referred to as atypical because of their location, a place where cracks have not previously been observed on C-130s. Rainbow fittings add structural support to the wings where, over the last several years, fatigue cracks have been common.
In consultation with aircraft maintenance and engineering experts, General Miller directed an immediate time compliance technical order (TCTO) inspection to identify and correct any cracking to ensure airworthiness of these C-130 aircraft. In accordance with the TCTO, in-depth visual and modified non-destructive inspections of the wing box will be conducted on affected C-130H and C-130J aircraft that have not received the extended service life centre wing box and have more than 15,000 equivalent flight hours.
If cracking is identified during the eight-hour inspection, a depotlevel replacement of the rainbow fitting will be required. Aircraft that are inspected and determined to have no cracking will be immediately returned to service.
AMC said it had assessed the situation and the temporary removal of service would not impact ongoing C-130 support to overseas contingency operations.
Spokeswoman Alexandra Soika said 23 aircraft had been inspected on August 8, no defects were found and the aircraft had been returned to service.
Qantas to operate A321 freighter conversion
Qantas will be the launch operator of the Airbus A321 passenger to freighter (P2F) conversion under a new air freight agreement with Australia Post. The airline’s cargo division, Qantas Freight, will from October 2020introduce up to three A321P2Fs for the network used for the postal service.
Each A321P2F will add nearly 50% more cargo capacity, or 9,000kg (19,841lb) more payload, compared to the Boeing 737- 300F freighters currently used by Qantas Freight for the Australia Post services, Qantas said.
The A321P2F operation is part of a new and expanded seven-year agreement between Australia Post and Qantas, whose partnership goes back to the early 1920s when Qantas first started flying airmail.
Qantas Group Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce said moving to the A321P2F has been driven by a need to meet increased demand for next day deliveries thanks to e-commerce. Australia Post said the A321P2F would enable the service to, “build flexibility into the air freight network to manage increased volumes and demand”.
The A321P2F was launched by EFW, jointly owned by Airbus and ST Aerospace, in 2015.
Royal Air Force discloses LANCA
The Royal Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) are working on a conceptual unmanned combat aircraft called the Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) to provide, DSTL said, “increased protection, survivability and information for the manned aircraft” and an “unmanned combat air fleet in the future”.
The DSTL-managed project to develop LANCA is known as Mosquito. Contracts for a first phase of the project covering the design, development manufacture and support of a prototype vehicle have been awarded to three teams: Blue Bear Systems Research, Boeing Defence UK, and a consortium called Team Blackdawn, made up of Northrop Grumman UK, Bombardier Belfast and Callen- Lenz.
After a 12-month first phase, two teams will be selected for Project Mosquito Phase 2 to mature designs, complete manufacturing of the technology demonstrator and undertake a limited flight test programme.
Initial flight tests of the demonstrator air vehicle could take place as early as 2022, the DSTL said.
The DSTL said the LANCA concept originated in the organisation in 2015 and was subsequently brought into the RCO as part of the Future Combat Air Systems Technology Initiative (FCASTI) to develop key technologies for next-generation fighter aircraft.
The DSTL said the aim of LANCA within the wider FCASTI framework is to, “explore the utility and feasibility of unmanned capability adjuncts to existing and future fast jet aircraft, specifically those that offer substantial reductions in traditional cost and development timelines”.