X-59 QueSST production

Lockheed Martin announced in November that its Skunk Works facility had started building the first X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) research aircraft for the NASA Low Boom Flight Demonstrator programme. Scheduled to fly for the first time in 2021, the X-59 is designed to demonstrate an ability to fly at Mach 1.2 at 55,000ft while generating reduced sonic boom noise audible on the ground. Some of the technology that will be incorporated in the X-59’s design has already been tested at supersonic speed on a modified Boeing F-15. The reduction in the boom generated by the X-59 throughout its flight-test profile will be determined through comparison to a baseline series of supersonic flights currently being conducted by Boeing F/A-18s off the Texas coast. The objective of the QueSST programme is to make possible an airliner design that would be some 65dB. That would make it up to three orders of magnitude less noisy at ground level than Concorde, which generated 90dB. David C Isby

Composite recycling

Boeing has announced a partnership with the UK company ELG Carbon Fibre to recycle excess carbon fibre composites. Boeing said it had worked for several years to create an economically-viable way of collecting scrap material, but “technical barriers stood in the way of repurposing material that had already been cured for use in the aircraft manufacturing process”. ELG developed a proprietary method to reuse cured composites which vapourises the resin that holds carbon fibre layers together, leaving behind clean material. The process was tested in a pilot project using waste carbon from Boeing’s Composite Wing Center, where the 777X’s wings are produced, with the recycled material sold to companies in the electronics and automotive industries. Mark Broadbent

COMAC, Ali Baba and AVIC joint ventures

The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) announced in Beijing on November 21 that it was launching a joint venture with China’s Ali Baba Group to develop intelligent manufacturing techniques and technologies that could be applied to aircraft. The announcement said the goals include the collection and use of data to drive improvements in the process design, intelligent scheduling, precise logistics and distribution and transparent management decisionmaking. On the same day, COMAC announced it was setting up a joint venture with Aviation Industry Corporation of China’s Chengdu Aircraft Company to set up a design facility that will work on developing improved nose designs for commercial aircraft. David C Isby

SAA looks for equity partner

South African Airways (SAA) needs to find an equity partner and reduce its costs to stop massive financial losses, according to the Department of Public Enterprises, which took back oversight of the airline in August. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni expressed doubts an equity partner could be found as it would have to take responsibility for ZAR 21 billion of debt. SAA has received an additional ZAR 5 billion to prevent the recall of its ZAR 9.2 billion debt by March 2019. The airline has already used ZAR 14.5 billion out of ZAR 19.1 billion in government guarantees. SAA believes it will be profitable by 2021 after incurring losses of ZAR 5.2 billion in 2018/19 and ZAR 1.9 billion in 2019/20 but is still asking for extra funding to stay afloat. Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said many of SAA’s woes were due to state capture, but efforts are being made to weed out corrupt employees, as well as cut the airline’s losses. Guy Martin