Saturday, October 31, 2015
The World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines
Somerset, UK: Patrick Stephens Limited, 1998
Category: Aviation History
First produced in 1986, with its fourth edition published in 1998, The World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines was in many ways a direct predecessor to Bill Gunston's later book, The Development of Jet and Turbine Aero Engines - despite the overlap in publication dates between the two (the latter being first produced in 1995 and continuing with new editions through 2006). Much of the same text was carried over from the earlier Encyclopedia into the later work.
Where the two books differ, is in their coverage and explanation for the developmental history for jet engines. This subject was completely omitted from the earlier work, making The World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines a less compelling story. My advice for someone perusing through the used book market would be to gravitate towards the newer Development of Jet and Turbine Aero Engines as a more complete volume.
Friday, October 30, 2015
October 30, 2015
News reports suggest that the latest classified documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden confirm that Chinese hackers have successfully gained access to sensitive data surrounding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Russia and India are reportedly finalizing terms for the sale of Russia's new PAK-FA fighter. According to the unconfirmed reports, India will take deliver of 154 of the new stealth jets.
News reports suggest that India and France have concluded terms for the sale of 36 Rafale fighters to India. Under the reported terms of the sale, Dassault would agree to invest 50% of the contract value for the jet into related Indian industries.
After years of opposing further development of the airplane, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has closed a deal for the delivery of 100 Mk 1A versions of the Tejas (formerly Light Combat Aircraft) fighter. According to various reports, the addition of the Israeli-developed EL/M-2052 AESA radar as part of the proposed avionics package for the Mk 1A variant was a key element in the decision to reverse IAF opposition and purchase the fighter. AESA radar technology roughly doubles radar detection and tracking range as compared to traditional radar technology, and also allows for more targets to be simultaneously tracked. Only 20 copies of the Mk 1 version of the Tejas - which had a conventional, mechanically scanned radar system, were purchased. Another version of the EL/M-2052 radar is also expected to be part of an ongoing upgrade package for 61 Indian Jaguar fighters.
F-35 program head Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan has cautioned that although the U.S. was offering some flexibility regarding the ability of Israeli contractors to upgrade the F-35 fighters procured by Israel, that there would still be some items that the U.S. would prevent Israel from upgrading on its own. The comments came as Israeli and U.S. defense officials were scheduled to meet in Washington.
The Pentagon announced this past week that Northrop Grumman had won the contest to produce the LRS-B (long range strike bomber), beating out a combined team from Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Despite the announcement, few details surrounding the new airplane have been released. Not even the engine for the new airplane has been named. The U.S. Air Force is proposing to build 100 of the new stealth bombers under an $80 billion program. Analysts have already warned, however, that the government will find it increasingly difficult to simultaneously fund multiple large programs of this scale - including the LRS-B and F-35 - in succeeding years.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
October 29, 2015
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to launch its 11th GPS IIF satellite on Friday of this week. This will be the second-to-last member of the GPS IIF family.
NASA's Cassini space probe made its closest approach yet this week to Saturn's moon Enceladus, traveling close enough to pass through the vapors sent out by the moon's geysers.
The European Space Agency has selected Oxia Planum as the landing sight for the first European Mars rover, due to be sent on its way to the red planet in 2018. The site was selected for its clay deposits, which hold the potential to preserve evidence for any organic particles that may have been deposited in sediment millions of years ago.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been lowered into a closer orbit as it continues its mapping mission for the dwarf planet Ceres.
The ESA's Rosetta probe has confirmed the presence of molecular oxygen in the cloud of gas surrounding the nucleus of comet 67P. This marks the first time that molecular oxygen has been confirmed in the gas surrounding a comet. Previous surveys have confirmed water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide in the coma of a comet, but not oxygen. Scientists involved in the program are calling it the most surprising discovery to date.
NASA has released new images from the New Horizons mission, including images of Pluto's tiniest moon, Kerberos as well as a striking image of a crescent Pluto.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
October 28, 2015
Boeing has announced that it intends to reduce its production rate for the 777 airline, as the 787 begins to turn the corner towards becoming a profitable product. Boeing has been producing the 777 at an accelerated rate for the past several years to help cover losses due to 787 development and during early 787 production. The announcement from Boeing comes after Delta's CEO commented during an earnings teleconference regarding the falling cost for second-hand 777s, a comment that was seen as undercutting Boeing's ability to obtain top dollar for new-production aircraft. A production cut in the 777 was also seen as inevitable as Boeing prepares to switch-over to prodution of the new 777X in 2020.
Boeing has revealed that the deferred production cost balance for the 787 Dreamliner has risen to $28.3 billion in the 3rd quarter of 2015, up from $27.7 billion in the second quarter. The balance represents the amount of total investment and profit loss that has been absorbed from development of the 787 through its initial ramp up in production.
EVA Air has announced an order for 24 Boeing 787-10 airlines, and 2 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, after evaluating both the 787 and the Airbus A350. Taiwan's EVA Air currently operates a mix of Boeing and Airbus aircraft.
Airbus is preparing to flight test the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 - the new engine slated for the Airbus A350-1000 - aboard an A380 flying testbed. The A350-1000 is a larger, stretched version of the A350-900 currently in production, featuring an all-new wing, larger maximum take-off weight and greater range.
Saudi Arabian Airlines is reportedly evaluating an A380 purchase as its fleet of 747s approaches retirement. The state airline will be retiring four 747s in coming years, and is reportedly evaluating both the Airbus A380 and various models of the Boeing 777.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
October 27, 2015
AirBaltic's CEO Martin Gauss has sought reassurances from Bombardier regarding both the delivery schedule and future production plans for the Bombardier C-Series. AirBaltic is expected to be the launch customer for the larger CS300 model, currently scheduled for delivery in September 2016.
Luxemburg's Luxair is expected to decide in 2016 whether to buy the Bombardier C-Series or Embraer E2 E-Jet to replace its fleet of Boeing 737-700 aircraft.
The recent election win of the Liberal Party in the Canadian parliament will also likely be a setback for plans to expand Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport. The proposed runway expansion has been opposed by several Liberal Party members, and is key to plans by Porter Airlines to expand its service to the airport, utilizing the new C-Series airline. Currently, only turboprops are allowed to fly out of the downtown Toronto airport, but Porter has been attempting to leverage the reduced noise level of the C-Series with its Geared TurboFan(TM) to have that rule overturned.
The maiden flight for Japan's first Mitsubishi Regional Jet has been delayed by two weeks to repair a faulty pedal in the airplane's cockpit. The first flight is now expected to take place during the second week of November.
Oman Air has placed 20 firm orders for Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, including 6 previous orders for the Boeing 737 NG which were converted to MAX orders.
Boeing has powered-up the cockpit for its first 737 MAX prototype, which was modeled to resemble the 787 Dreamliner cockpit.
Russia's Sukhoi has obtained its second Western order for its Superjet regional airliner, with an order for 15 from CityJet. Analysts remain divided, however, as to whether the Superjet can continue to obtain orders after more fuel efficient aircraft such as the Embraer E-Jet E2 enter service in coming years.
Monday, October 26, 2015
Turbojet History and Development 1930-1960 - Volume 2
Wiltshire, UK: Crowood Press, 2007
Category: Aviation History
Whereas the first volume in Anthony Kay's Turbjet History focused on jet engine development in the UK and Germany, the second volume covers developments in the U.S., Soviet Union, France, and elsewhere.
Again, this is a huge subject to try and cover, and the amount of detail that Kay can go into on U.S. jet engine development, for example, will naturally pale next to that provided by more dedicated texts such as James St. Peter's History of Aircraft Gas Turbine Engine Development in the United States. It nonetheless accurately portrays the early days of jet engine development in both the United States, and the many would-be contenders that attempted - and often failed - to make a lasting impression in this hugely competitive market.
A couple points bear mentioning that stand out from this book. The first, is the degree to which the early jet engine developers throughout the world relied heavily on the designs and technologies developed by the very first jet engine developers in the UK and Germany. The earliest jet engine designs to be manufactured by both the United States and Soviet Union, for example, were engines developed by Rolls-Royce and subsequently built under license in the United States or duplicated by the Soviet Union. The early development work in Germany, meanwhile, would go on to inform both U.S. and Soviet development of axial-flow compressors.
An excellent example of this flow of knowledge and experience is afforded by post-war developments in France. At the end of World War II, Germany had multiple development houses pursing jet engine technologies and development. The developers at BMW, however, were behind their counterparts at Junkers and Heinkel by the end of the war, and were consequently overlooked by U.S. and Soviet officials who combed through post-war Germany to recruit German engineers to work on their own post-war programs. The French government was therefore able to recruit the jet engine development team from BMW to develop the Atar engine - the turbojet that would power French fighters and bombers throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The continued success of France's Snecma, which exists to this day, would have been unthinkable without this early injection of jet engine experience.
The other element that stands out from Anthony Kay's work is the diverse pattern of jet engine development undertaken within the post-war Soviet Union. While the very first Soviet jet fighter engines were direct duplicates of Rolls-Royce designs produced by Klimov, independent development work at Tumansky (much of it informed by German experience in axial-flow compressors) would eventually supercede the more limited stable of designs offered by Klimov. Copying British designs allowed the Russians to get a head start on jet aviation. But to develop a next generation of technology of their own required that the Soviet developers learn-out the design process themselves - the hard way, with all of the painful lessons that this entailed.
Taken together, Anthony Kay's book provides an important addition to the historical record on a subject that merits more attention that it is generally awarded.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Turbojet History and Development 1930-1960 - Volume 1
Wiltshire, UK: Crowood Press, 2007
Category: Aviation History
Anthony Kay has made a noble attempt to capture the opening chapters to the jet engine revolution that reshaped modern aviation. This is a huge story to attempt to tackle, and Kay's book comes as close to anyone's to taking it all in.
Volume 1 of Anthony Kay's Turbojet History focuses on the United Kingdom (Rolls-Royce) and Germany, the two co-originators of the jet engine. A couple of points in this story are deserving of additional mention. First, is that in the years preceding World War II, developers in the UK had a clear advantage. Frank Whittle's conceptual design work and early rig testing should have placed British developers well ahead of the Germans in the successful development of a practical jet engine. What happened of course, as many of us know, is that the British authorities and British industry failed to grasp the significance of Whittle's concepts. Rather than press onward to capitalize on Whittle's early work, the small team of engineers and technicians at Power Jets struggled to secure the necessary resources to convert their ideas into a functional engine. The fact that they succeeded at all was the product of dogged determination - not brilliant leadership on the part of British aviation authorities at the time. In contrast, German industry, and in particular Ernst Heinkel recognized early-on the potential behind the jet engine concept and provided Hans von Ohain with all of the resources necessary to overtake the earlier British development work.
The second, most striking point was the divergent reaction between the British and German industry and government officials once the first jet engines produced by Sir Frank Whittle and Hans von Ohain had actually flown. In the UK, government bureaucrats conspired to bring the jet engine under the full ownership and control of state-owned interests at Rolls-Royce, centralizing all future development for jet engines in the UK. Germany, on the other hand, saw an explosion of competing design houses that attempted to replicate the early success of Hans von Ohain's jet engine, and improve upon it. Although the first jet aircraft to fly had been produce by Heinkel, the first practical, production jet fighters would be produced by Messerschmidt, flying on engines produced by Junkers - with competing engines under development by a team at BMW.
The modern, jet-powered world of aviation that we know today owes its origins to the early jet engine developers in the UK and Germany. Every other jet engine developer to follow would begin their journey as a student of the accomplishments and hard-won lessons of these early developers. To this end, Anthony Kay's book offers an essential window into a chapter of aviation history that is too often neglected.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
The History of Aircraft Gas Turbine Engine Development in the United States - A Tradition of Excellence
Atlanta, GA: International Gas Turbine Institute, 1999
Category: Aviation History
The development of the gas turbine has been pivotal to the development of modern aviation - yet has under-appreciated by many, even within the aerospace industry. The technology that goes into a modern jet engine evolved across decades of development, on a road marked by both stunning successes and tragic failures. This book attempts to chronicle not only the development of the U.S. jet engine industry, but also the evolution of the underlying technology that goes into the modern jet engine.
The book begins with the humble beginnings of U.S. jet engine manufacture, which drew heavily on designs developed previously by Rolls-Royce in the U.K., and built subsequently under license in the U.S. In those early days of the jet engine, it seemed as if every aircraft and engine manufacturer expected to be part of the new jet engine age. Lockheed - best known as an aircraft developer - had their own jet engine division. Curtiss-Wright, which had developed both aircraft and piston-powered engines during World War II, likewise had its own jet engine department. One by one, however, virtually all of these early developers fell to the wayside, leaving a handful of dedicated jet engine manufacturers in this highly competitive field.
A good example of the lessons of these early attempts is afforded by Westinghouse Aviation. As a manufacturer of steam turbines for power generation, Westinghouse (like General Electric) had a natural advantage at the dawn of the jet age. Westinghouse developed the J30 - the first successful jet engine to be designed independently by a U.S. manufacturer. For the first half-decade of jet engine development, it appeared as if Westinghouse was on its way to becoming a leading player in this market, winning one contract after another for the supply of jet engines for U.S. Navy fighter aircraft. All of this came tumbling down, however, when Westinghouse failed to deliver on the J40 - an engine slated to power a host of new U.S. Navy fighters during the 1950s. As the new, higher-thrust engines demanded ever increasing compression ratios, Westinghouse discovered that they had failed to invest in the underlying technologies necessary to remain competitive. Westinghouse subsequently exited the jet engine market, never to return.
James St. Peter's historic survey consequently chronicles just how complex and challenging the design of a jet engine truly is. Today, there are only two manufacturers for high thrust, high performance jet engines remaining in the United States - plus two other manufacturers best known in the smaller, business jet marketplace. These consist of General Electric and Pratt & Whitney Aircraft on the high-thrust end of the market, with Honeywell (formerly Garrett) and Rolls-Royce's North American Division (formerly Allison) in the business jet engine market. To this day, the development of a modern, high performance jet engine constitutes a technical challenge which few in the world have the resources to master.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Sword and Shield of Zion
Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2013
Category: Israel Air Force - Strategic Study
Unlike most of the books on the Israeli air force, which can be classified as either historical in orientation or biographical, David Rodman's book serves as a strategic survey: a more scholarly and less intimate approach to the subject of Israel's air force. As such, it focuses on the application of Israeli air power to various Middle East wars, evaluating the effectiveness and contribution made to Israel's defense.
Although it might be tempting to compare a survey such as this to historical texts, it clearly is not. It provides none of the human story and context that most historical texts are known for, and focuses exclusively on the facts and figures of how air power was employed and what the strategic outcome was. In this sense, this book is best compared to the various strategic studies published over the years by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv Univeristy - books such as Ariel Levite's Offense and Defense in Israeli Military Doctrine (1989), or Karen L. Puschel's U.S.-Israeli Strategic Cooperation in the Post-Cold War Era (1992).
Compared to some of the aforementioned, earlier publications published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Sword and Shield of Zion extends the context for Israel's application of air power to include the 2006 Lebanon War - bringing this story into the 21st century. Where it falls short, however, is in its presentation of new insight or statistical fact. Most of the insights highlighted by Rodman's book will already be well known to any student of Middle East history or Israeli air power. The pivotal roles played by the Israeli Air Force in the 1967 and 1973 wars have already been covered in great detail by a variety of sources. Which ultimately, is why I had to give this book an "average" rating rather than a higher score. There are still a lot of invaluable facts to be gleaned from between its pages, including statistics for sorties flown in various Middle East wars, and the break-down between air-to-air and air-to-ground operations. It's not a bad strategic survey - just not an exceptional one.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
October 22, 2015
The U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force are expected to formally launch studies next year to explore alternatives for their respective 6th generation, F/A-XX and Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter programs.
Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan has confirmed that updates to the F135 engine that powers the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will have been incorporated across the entire F-35 fleet by June of next year. The updates are intended to correct a design shortfall that led to an engine fire that temporarily grounded the fleet last year.
The recent election win by Canada's Liberal Party is expected to spell the end for plans to equip the Canadian air force with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Liberal Party ran on a platform that called for the termination of Canada's planned buy of the F-35, advocating the purchase of a non-stealthy, less expensive fighter instead.
Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has called for a cut in the total number of F-35s that will eventually be purchased. Despite delays and cost overruns, the armed forces have so far been reluctant to reduce the total number of aircraft planned under the program - continuing to quote a total buy of 2,443 aircraft between the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
A U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C crashed shortly after take-off from a British Air Base at Lakenheath. The U.S. Embassy in London and USMC have confirmed the death of the pilot. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
India and France have reportedly closed on the final terms of a deal for the sale of 36 Rafale fighters to India. Under the reported terms, France will invest 50% of the contract value into related industries in India.
Japanese fighter jet scrambles to intercept Chinese aircraft approaching Japanese air space reached a record high this year during the July thru September time period, with 117 scramble alerts - up from 103 during the same period last year.
The Russian Ministery of Defense has released a video depicting the intercept of a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone over Syria by a Russian Su-30 fighter.
Turkish officials have provided images of the wreckage from the drone that was shot down by Turkish aircraft late last week, after it had strayed into Turkish airspace from Syria. The wreckage appears to match the known details for the Russian-made Orlan 10 drone, although Russian officials have denied losing any aircraft in the region.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
October 21, 2015
Officials continue to puzzle over the purpose and mission of a Russian satellite that has been parked in geosynchronous orbit between two existing Intelsat communications satellites. The Russian spacecraft was launched in September 2014 and seven months later moved into position between Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 901. U.S. Defense Department officials have indicated that the satellite has come within five kilometers of another satellite on three separate occasions since its launch. Russian officials have described the object as a "relay" satellite, and given it the name "Luch" - although the "Luch" class of Russian satellites are all low earth orbit satellites, not geosynchronous satellites.
NASA has announced plans to publicly release daily photographs of earth from the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) aboard the Deap Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft. DSCOVR is located at the L1 Lagrange Point - between the earth and the sun - which allows it to continually monitor the sunlit side of earth.
The Cassini space probe has captured fresh images of Enceladus' polar region as part of a series of close-encounters that the space probe is expected to make during its final months of operation. Enceladus was recently demonstrated to contain a global ocean below its icy exterior - making it a prime candidate for future space missions in search of primitive life.
A new study has suggested that when asteroids and comets impact Ceres - the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter - that the impacted material will likely remain trapped on the asteroid surface instead of being ejected back into space. This would suggest that the surface of Ceres would likely consist of a collection of captured material representing billions of years of collisions. These studies - based on impact tests - may help to explain the relatively uniform, "bland" surface of Ceres, as recently observed by the Dawn space probe.
NASA has released photographs of a pitted region on Pluto's surface, as captured by the New Horizons spacecraft. Scientists have theorized that the pits may have been caused by the evaporation of nitrogen ice, although additional study will be needed to understand the process.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
October 20, 2015
British Airway's first Boeing 787-9, delivered just two weeks ago, is expected to enter revenue service on the London-to-Delhi route on October 25th.
Despite having delivered more than 300 aircraft, and with more on the way, analysts are nonetheless growing skeptical as to whether Boeing can ever turn the corner on the all-composite 787 Dreamliner and achieve a profit for the new airplane.
With a glut of used wide-body airplanes now entering the market, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson has predicted that Boeing will need to slow its production rate for new 777 aircraft.
Two minutes after take-off, parts of the right, inner engine fell off from a Boeing 747 operated by Iran's Mahan Air. No injuries were reported. Outside analysts have attributed the event to a lack of maintenance and spare parts at the Iranian airline.
Qatar Airways is reportedly interested in buying a stretched version of the A350-1000. Qatar currently has 60 Boeing 777X aircraft on order, but has signaled that it would be interested in the Airbus competitor if it can offer more seating and longer range.
Malaysian Airlines Berhad plans to replace its A380s with A350-900s on its twice-daily Kuala Lumpur-London route, starting in the fourth quarter of 2017. The airline has had difficulty filling its A380 flights, and is looking for an alternative route or customer that could make better use of the A380's capacity.
Monday, October 19, 2015
October 19, 2015
Bombardier has reaffirmed that the C-Series has completed more than 90-percent of its certification tests, and is on-track to be certified this year.
Some analysts are predicting that Bombardier will be unable to raise the investor funds needed to complete C-Series development and transition into production, unless the Bombardier-Beaudoin family is willing to reduce its 53-percent voting control over the company.
Bombardier is in talks with Air Canada and JetBlue Airways regarding a possible C-Series order, as the manufacturer struggles to make good on its commitment to accumulate at least 300 firm orders prior to first C-Series delivery. The C-Series has amassed at total of 243 firm orders to-date.
Officials at Embraer say that the firm remains committed to developing the re-engined E-Jet E2 aircraft, despite reports in some news sources suggesting that Bombardier has offered to transition to production of the C-Series as a cooperative joint-venture between the two manufacturers.
Mitsubishi has narrowed the window for first flight of its Mitsubishi Regional Jet to sometime between October 26th and October 30th. The manufacturer plans to complete the majority of its flight testing will be performed in the United States, at Moses Lake - south of Seattle.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
The Development of Jet and Turbine Aero Engines
Somerset, UK: Patrick Stephens Limited, 2006 (4th Edition)
Category: Aerospace Engineering / Aviation History
Bill Gunston has been the most prolific aviation author in the UK for much of the past fifty years. Most of the books that he writes clearly fall into the historical aviation category, although some - such as this one - straddle between the world of aircraft design and aircraft history.
This particular book is divided into two parts: the first on "How Gas Turbines Work" and the second devoted to "The Historical Story." At face value, someone might expect the first half of the book to closely mirror Klaus Huenecke's book, Jet Engines: Fundamentals of Theory, Design and Operation - and in fact, Bill Gunston does cover some of the same territory, reviewing the different components of the gas turbine and how each functions. In practice, however, Gunston's book is less detailed than Huenecke's book on this score - with fewer diagrams and even less mathematics (if that was possible).
Gunston's book therefore serves a complimentary function, fleshing in the historical context that books by Huenecke and others of a more engineering-oriented bent, often leave out. The fact that The Development of Jet and Turbine Aero Engines is now in its 4th edition (the first came out back in 1995) speaks to the enduring role of this book in fulfilling a gap in the available literature.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Jet Engines: Fundamentals of Theory, Design and Operation
Wiltshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1997
Category: Aerospace Engineering
Much like Huenecke's book on Modern Combat Aircraft Design, Jet Engines provides an illustrated introduction to the principals of jet engine operation, analysis and manufacture, without delving into the detailed mathematics required to carry out a design study. The chapters cover the individual components, such as the intake, the compressor, the combustor, turbine, and the nozzle, as well as airframe integration, providing a selection of illustrations to convey the essential theory and mechanical design of the propulsion system.
The chapter on compressors, for example, explains the differences between a centrifugal and axial compressor, provides photographs and illustrations for how a typical compressor is assembled, explains the theory behind compresor row velocity triangles, and even provides an example compressor map: illustrating the relationship between the corrected airflow, and the compressor pressure ratio. The book therefore provides the principals behind compressor operation without getting bogged down into all of the mathematics that would be necessary to perform an actual design or trade studies.
Huenecke's book ultimately succeeds at what it was intended to be: an introduction to jet engine operations for the non-engineer. The text is readable, and the illustrations help to convey the physical principals being described. It is not an engine design text - but it was also not intended to be. It is therefore an appropriate introduction to a subject that has been otherwise neglected in the non-engineering literature.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Israeli Air Force de Havilland Mosquito
Erlangen, Germany: AirDOC, 2006
Category: Israel Air Force - History
The story of the de Havilland Mosquito in Israeli service has been largely forgotten by most. Twin-engined, the Mosquito lacked the elegance of the Spitfires and Mustangs that made up the majority of the Israeli fighter fleet during the early 1950s. Within a few years the piston-powered aircraft of Israel's early air force would be superseded by jet-powered fighters, and for many, largely forgotten.
What made the Mosquito's role during this transitional period unique, however, was its extraordinary range. The Mosquito was the only Israeli fighter-type aircraft with the range to reach the air bases of Israel's neighbors during the early 1950s. It consequently became Israel's first long-range reconnaissance aircraft, establishing a precedent, and an expectation among Israel's leadership for the kind of photographic intelligence that they should expect and demand.
This particular slim volume includes a side-by-side English and German text, together with a wide assortment of historical photos and illustrations. Although only 64 pages in length, author Shlomo Aloni nonetheless delivers the kind of first-hand interviews and perspectives that he is known for, helping to preserve this unique episode of aviation history. Despite how short the Mosquito's career in the Middle East happened to be, it nonetheless was part of the transitional saga between an Israeli air force formed largely by foreign volunteers at the time of the 1948 war, to become the independent, jet-powered fighting force that would dominate the skies over the Middle East during the 1960s and beyond.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
October 15, 2015
The F-35's heavier helmet - which provides it with a binocular helmet-mounted display - is expected to exacerbate the ongoing ejection seat issues for the airplane.
The U.S. Navy is proceeding with additional sea trials for the F-35C carrier variant aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Korea's Defense Minister is expected to ask the U.S. government to reconsider its decision to deny the transfer of key technologies associated with the F-35 fighter, as part of a proposed deal between the Korean government and Lockheed Martin.
Korea has reportedly reached out to European suppliers to assist in the development of key elements in the avionics package for their proposed KF-X fighter. Korean industry had previously hoped to leverage learning from participation in the F-35 program to jump-start the development of their own, indigenous stealth fighter.
Germany has temporarily suspended deliveries of the Eurofighter Typhoon following the discover of quality defects in the airplane's vertical stabilizer.
Russian news reports claim that Russian fighters have attempted to intercept U.S. aircraft operating over contested air space in Syria. The U.S. and Russia are reportedly close to an agreement on procedures to reduce the chances of an unintended clash between U.S. and Russian fighters in the region.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
October 14, 2015
NASA has confirmed that the first of its tiny, "CubeSat" satellites has successfully reached its intended orbit. The small Sentinel 2A satellite weights only five pounds and measures four inches across when fully collapsed. It was launched last week from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and carries an optical payload.
The last of 12 GPS IIF satellites has arrived at Cape Canaveral for preparation for launch.
Russia rolled out a Proton booster to launch a Turkish communications satellite at the end of the week. The Turksat 4B will be launched from Russia's Kazakhstan site on Friday.
Imagery from the New Horizons space probe has discovered a pale blue haze in the atmosphere of Pluto. Pluto's thin atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, but the presence of Tholin particles in the upper reaches of the atmosphere give it a blue haze - which from the surface would be most notable at sunset and sunrise. Scientists have also confirmed the detection of patches of water ice on Mars - much of it died red by the presence of Tholins.
The Cassini probe has begun a series of close-passes of Saturn's moon Enceladus - which is now known to harbor a global ocean of liquid water beneath its icy surface.
The European Space Agency has released new images of Mars' southern polar ice cap, captured by the Mars Express orbiter. The ice cap is composed of a mixture of water and carbon dioxide ices.
The Curiosity rover has identified small, round stones near its landing site at Gale Crater that appear to have been shaped by an ancient river that carried them downstream, billions of years ago.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
October 13, 2015
Updated findings released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board indicate that the GE90 engine that caught fire aboard a British Airways 777 in Las Vegas last month failed out of the eighth stage of the ten-stage high pressure compressor (HPC) spool. GE Aviation has revealed that the spool was one of the first ever made for that particular engine model. About 400 engines of this type are still flying. GE has announced that it is voluntarily inspecting 38 HPC spools of similar pedigree.
Ethiopian Airlines has announced plans to buy 15 to 20 Boeing 777X aircraft.
Officials at Qantas have announced that the extended range of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner will make non-stop flights from Perth, Australia to London possible, as well as flights from Melbourne to Dallas. Qantas has eight 787-9 aircraft on order.
Singapore Air plans to restart its longest duration routes with the delivery of the Airbus A350-900ULR in 2018. These include routes between Singapore and New York as well as Los Angeles. The routes were previously suspended as unprofitable when flying larger, four-engine aircraft.
Both Airbus and Boeing are expected to lose orders with the pending bankruptcy of Russia's largest carrier, Transaero. This includes orders for four A380s and commitments for the A330 NEO, as well as orders for four 747-8 passenger jets.
Lufthansa Technik has delivered the first of three Boeing 747-8 aircraft that are expected to be refitted by the airline for VIP service. The conversion process lasted over two years. Each VIP luxury transport is expected to be unique, featuring custom accomodations as ordered by the individual customers.
Monday, October 12, 2015
October 12, 2015
Bombardier officials have acknowledged that they recently approached Airbus with a proposal to spin-off the C-Series aircraft as a joint venture between the two manufacturers. Airbus officials have also acknowledged the talks and have indicated that they were "no longer being pursued."
Bombardier officials said on Friday that the manufacturer was in advanced talks to close on a deal for additional C-Series sales with unidentified airlines in North America.
United Airlines has revealed that is plans to order a new fleet of 100-seat jetliners from either Bombardier or Embraer, provided that it can reach an agreement with its pilots for a two-year contract extension. The addition of the 100 seat airplanes would allow United to bring some routes currently flown by regional carriers back within the mainline carrier.
Kazakhstan's Air Astana has closed on a deal to lease three A321 NEOs and a single A320 NEO from AerCap. This would be in addition to the two A320 NEOs and five A321 NEOS that Air Astana has a previously announced lease arrangement for.
China's Comac has reached a deal with the state-run China Exim Bank to provide financing for sales of the C919 aircraft now under development. The agreement covers up to 50 billion yuan ($7.9 billion) in financing.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
British Secret Projects: Jet Fighters Since 1950
Hinkley, UK: Midland Publishing, 2000
Category: Aviation History
As one of the originators of the jet engine, it is only natural that the United Kingdom should have a rich history of jet aircraft design - many of which were actually built and flown as demonstrators or prototypes, and many more of which never made it that far. This book provides a survey of these aircraft - the ones that didn't quite make it into production or which were the forerunners of later, production fighters.
Drawing on original archives and preserved aircraft, this book chronicles the forerunners of such aircraft as the Harrier, the Panavia Tornado, the Eurofighter Typhoon, even the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. All of these aircraft had all, or at least part of their origins in the UK-developed concepts and flight test articles that preceded them. The Typhoon, for example, underwent a series of concept iterations - even prior to the flight of the British/German EAP (Experimental Aircraft Program) that was its most immediate and obvious predecessor. And British developers pioneered many of the concepts for vertical and short take-off and landing jet fighters that later influenced the design of the F-35.
Well written and laid out, with plenty of illustrations and photographs, Tony Buttler's volume has earned a well deserved place in preserving the aviation history that many of us take for granted today.
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Israeli Air Force Tayeset 119: Ha'Atalef - The Bat Squadron
Erlangen, Germany: AirDOC, 2007
Category: Israel Air Force - History
This thin, unusual volume is focused on the history of "Tayeset 119", Israel's 119th Fighter Squadron: the Bats. The Bat squadron was Israel's premier night fighter squadron, beginning with its formation in 1956 with the delivery of radar-equipped Meteor NF.13 fighters. These were augmented later by the Vautour IIN.
Where the Bat squadron came into its own, however, was with the delivery of the Mirage III in the 1960s. In 1964 the Bat squadron was re-commissioned as Israel's third Mirage fighter squadron. Most importantly, however, it was also designated as Israel's Mirage reconnaissance squadron. In the ensuing years, the pilots of the 119 would fly countless photo reconnaissance flights across hostile air space, penetrating at low altitude, and collecting the intelligence that would prove crucial to the successful execution of the opening attack on Egyptian air bases during the 1967 Six Day War.
It was during this period, under the leadership of legendary squadron commander Ran Ronen, that the Bat squadron became Israel's preeminent fighter squadron: the only squadron to survive the Six Day War without a single air combat loss. It is this historical context that makes the story of the 119 squadron so unique, and worthy of retelling.
This unusual book happens to be published in both English and German. A slim volume at only 64 pages long, it nonetheless packs an impressive collection of photographs, together with the kind of first-hand accounts and interviews that author Shlomo Aloni has been known for. It concludes with appendices detailing the aerial victories and losses ascribed to the squadron.
The 119 would go on to fly the F-4 Phantom beginning in 1970, and was eventually reformed to fly the F-16I at the turn of the century. The long history of the men of this squadron, their bravery, and their determination, has made this one of Israel's most famous combat units.
Friday, October 9, 2015
October 9, 2015
Russia has begun testing its KAB-250 - a small, precision guided bomb - aboard its Su-34 strike jet. The KAB-250 is seen as being the Russian counterpart to the U.S. Small Diameter Bomb, which was developed for incorporation into stealth jets that require weapons that could be carried internally.
The Indian Air Force has reportedly set a goal of acquiring over 100 multirole fighters in the same size and class as the 36 Rafale jets currently planned. The new aircraft are needed to update India's aging fighter fleet. However, insistance on Indian-produced content has led previous deals - such as the MMRCA contract that could have delivered up to 126 Rafale fighters - to fall through.
Questions continue to linger surrounding the viability of the deal that India signed with Russia in 2010, for the local production of of Russia's next-generation PAK-FA stealth fighter. Such basic questions as the per-unit cost of the new aircraft and many of its mission capabilities have still not been sorted out, raising questions about the merits of the deal.
Northrop has completed the center-fuselage section for the first F-35 expected to be delivered from Japan's final assembly line. The first four F-35s destined for delivery to Japan are expected to roll-out from Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant, but beginning with the fifth example, deliveries will begin from the final assembly line at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).
Speculation continues to surround the degree to which Japan's new E-2D AWACs aircraft may or may not be able to detect low-observable aircraft. The new E-2D model features a UHF-band radar that is expected to offer some measure of detection against small radar cross-sections, by virtue of its relatively long radar wavelength. Conventional stealth coatings and shaping techniques are expected to be less effective at longer radar wavelengths.
Norway has reaffirmed its plans to acquire 52 F-35 fighters, citing increased Russian activity in the arctic as justification for the purchase.
Lockheed Martin is exploring the possibility of eventually installing a fiber-optic laser aboard the F-35, once the technology becomes available. Fiber optic lasers offer a lower weight alternative for generating high power laser beams - with the potential to eventually offer a practical, airborne weapon in the next decade.
Tests of the F-35 ejection seat have revealed that the seat could prove fatal to lighter-weight pilots if not modified. As currently configured, the ejection seat is expected to be unsafe for pilots under 135 lb (61 kg). A redesign is being evaluated.
The Pentagon has revelaed that two U.S. F-16s were diverted on their way to an ISIL target at Raqqa, in Syria to avoid approaching Russian fighters in the same area.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has stated that Iraq would "welcome" the introduction of Russian air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq - potentially increasing the likelihood for a conflict between Russian and U.S. military aircraft operating in the same area. Putin's popularity in Shiite regions of Iraq has skyrocketed following Russian air strikes in Syria, which have been aimed at bolstering the minority, Shiite-aligned government of Assad.
At least four Russian cruise missiles, launched from warships in the Caspian Sea and intended for targets in Syria, have crash landed in Iran.
There are unconfirmed reports that China has also been offered a role in bolstering the Russian-led air campaign in Syria, against opponents of the Assad government.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
October 8, 2015
China launched its first high-resolution commercial imaging satellite this past week. The satellite was launched on October 7, aboard a Long March 2D booster, which placed a total of four satellites into orbit - including two satellites designed to provide video imaging, a technology demonstrator satellite, and China's first commercial, high-resolution earth-imaging satellite.
India launched its first astronomy satellite into space this week: an X-ray imaging satellite labeled as "Astrosat".
The United States is expected to launch the NROL-55 spy satellite on Thursday, October 8th, together with 13 small "cubesats" - each of which features a small experimental payload, four of which are sponsored by NASA.
Facebook has teamed up with Eutelsat to jointly fund a satellite that, among other functions, would provide free internet service to remote areas of Africa. The two expect to jointly lease the Amos-6 satellite from the Israeli company Spacecom, which expects to build and launch the satellite next year. Eutelsat will utilize much of the satellite's channels to expand its paid broadband connections in the region, while Facebook will access the remaining bandwidth to provide internet service too disadvantaged communities throughout Africa.
NASA has released a new photo-collage vista of the rugged martian landscape where the Curiosity rover will be headed towards in the next year.
New evidence from the Dawn spacecraft appears to indicate that the mysterious bright spots observed on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres are in fact produced by highly reflective salts - not ice, as some had assumed.
NASA has released a series of images of Pluto's moons, including its largest moon, Charon, as well as images of the smaller moons, Nix and Hydra. The images of Charon include a giant canyon that stretches nearly a third of the way across the surface of the moon.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
October 7, 2015
British Airways will be taking delivery of its first 787-9 Dreamliner this month, and will also be retiring its last 737. To commemorate the first 787-9 delivery, they have released a time-lapse film of the assembly of the airplane destined for British service.
Air France is seeking to renegotiate its 787-9 delivery plans, after announcing that the airline will reduce its long-haul fleet in coming months. Air France currently has thirteen 787-9s on order, plus another three on lease from AerCap.
The recent bankruptcy of Russia's second largest aerline, Transaero is expected to a significant impact on Boeing's 747 production line. Transero is one of the few airlines to have a standing order for the passenger version of Boeing's 747-8, with four aircraft on order. This represents nearly a third of the 15 remaining orders for the passenger version of the 747, including several VIP aircraft still on order.
Philippine Air Lines will be shifting to Boeing 777 aircraft for its Manila to New York route as it expands its inventory of 777 aircraft.
Emirates SkyCargo has added another Boeing 777 to its inventory, bringing its fleet to a total of thirteen Boeing 777Fs and two Boeing 747-400Fs.
Airbus has confirmed that it is on-schedule for first flight of its prototype A350-1000 by the end of 2016, with the first production delivery - to launch customer Qatar Airways - due the following year.
Emirates has announced that it will delay its down-select between the Airbus A350-900 and Boeing 787-10 until next year.
Airbus has switched from aluminum to a PEEK composite structure for the fittings taht connect the outer skin panels on its A350 cabin door. PEEK (polyether ether-ketone) is a thermo-plastic alternative for lower-temperature composite applications.
Emirates, the largest operator of the Airbus A380 super-jumbo airline, is stepping up its campaign to convince Airbus to develop a new-engine-option (NEO) version of the A380.