Monday, February 29, 2016

Single Aisle News - February 29, 2016

February 29, 2016

Embraer officially rolled out its first prototype for the E190-E2 E-Jet, which will be powered by a version of the same Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (TM) engines as Bombardier's C-Series.

Embraer has announced that its E195-E2 E-Jet, the largest member of the E-Jet family, will feature extended wing tips intended to provide an additional 450 nm range.

Republic Airways, one of the largest customers to order Bombardier's new C-Series aircraft, has announced a restructuring plan in its bankruptcy court filings that calls for its regional jet operations to be consolidated around the Embraer E170/E175 - likely eliminating plans to acquire the C-Series.  With 40 aircraft on firm order, Republic was the only U.S. airline to order the C-Series.

The Canadian government is considering a bailout plan for Bombardier that would form a separate joint venture between Bombardier, the Quebec government, and the Canadian national government, with each holding a one-third stake in the C-Series program.

IndiGo is expected to take delivery of its first A320 NEO in March.  A total of 24 A320 NEOs are expected to be delivered to IndiGo within the next 12 months.

Qantas as announced that the airline expects to take delivery of its first A320 NEO at the end of 2017.

An oil pump reportedly failed on a Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engine during flight tests of Airbus' A320 NEO, during a windmill test during which the engine was intentionally shut down and allowed to turn due to drag during flight.  The oil pump failure reportedly occurred when a bearing siezed up.  A Pratt & Whitney spokesman pointed out that "These are the types of things you find in routine flight testing."

In a reversal of its previous strategy, Boeing has announced that it is going forward with the smallest member of the 737 MAX family, the 737 MAX-7.  Only two customers had placed orders for the smaller version of the airplane.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review: Air Combat: An Oral History of Fighter Pilots

Robert F. Dorr
Air Combat: An Oral History of Fighter Pilots
New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2006
Category: U.S. Air Force - History

Rating: 5-Stars

For those who enjoy first-hand accounts from the cockpit, Robert Dorr brings us a collection from some of the best.  Chronicling stories of U.S. fighter aviation from Pearl Harbor to the War on Terror, Dorr has collected an array of stories that illustrate the common threads that have connected the world of fighter aviation across six decades of flight.

Each chapter is devoted to a particular story or incident, beginning with the background leading up to the engagement, followed by the pilot's description of the events as they took place, and concluding with a description of the aircraft involved.  From Zeros to MiGs, from piston powered warbirds to the first jet-on-jet aerial duel, Dorr provides an assortment of stories that leave you hungry for more.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - February 25, 2015

February 25, 2016

Japan announced that it had concluded ground tests of its X-2 fighter demonstrator this week, with the completion of taxi tests.  The X-2, or Shinshin as it is also known, is expected to complete its first flight test any day now.

Speaking at this past week's Singapore Airshow, industry analysts have pointed out that nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, which have purchased Russian-built, Flanker fighters in the past, have shown little appetite for paying significantly more for a T-50 stealth fighter which utilizes the same radar and engines already available today on the latest Su-35 Flanker.

Despite the lack of export orders, Russia's state-run press continues to herald the virtues of the PAK-FA, recently claiming that the T-50 prototype fighter had set a new climb rate record of 384 meters per second.  No explanation was provided for what conditions this climb rate was achieved under, nor what the more practical "time to altitude" statistics were for the new airplane.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has reaffirmed that the F-35 program is currently on-track for achieving its cost targets and production ramp-up over the next few years.

Responding to U.S. Air Force deployment of F-22 stealth fighters over Syria during past months, critics have suggested that the F-22 was too expensive to be wasted in air-to-ground operations against poorly armed ISIS targets.

Chinese newspapers claim that during the recent deployment of U.S. F-22 fighters to South Korea, that Chinese radar stations were able to track the F-22s over the East China Sea.

Saudi Arabia has deployed F-15 fighters to Turkey as part of a series of joint military exercises that some have warned could be a prelude to Saudi intervention in Syria.

Russia has deployed an additional five MiG-29 fighters to an air base in Armenia, near the Turkish border, in an apparent response to the ongoing Turkish-Saudi military exercise.

Syrian opposition groups are claiming that Israeli fighter-bombers recently struck a shipment of Syrian missiles intended for Hezbollah, in an air strike on the outskirts of Damascus.

In response to recent reports of a pending sale of Russian Su-30 fighters to Iran, U.S. officials have emphasized that any such sale would be a violation of United Nations rulings, which prohibit the sale of heavy weapons to Iran for another five years.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Space Highlights - February 24, 2016

February 24, 2016

India is planning to launch its first satellite to feature electric propulsion, the GSAT-9 communications satellite, due for launch this coming July.

SpaceX has successfully test fired its first stage rocket motor, in preparation for the launch of the SES-9 communications satellite later this week.  SpaceX intends to attempt another vertical landing for its first-stage booster following the launch - something that they have been successful at only once so far.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft continues to release stunning images of Saturn and its moons, with the release this week of an image depicting three of Saturn's moons - Tethys, Enceladus, and Mimas - alongside Saturn's rings.

Using data obtained by the Cassini space probe's fly-bys of Jupiter and Saturn to accurately track planetary locations and velocities, researchers are constructing models to identify the possible location of the recently hypothesized "Planet 9".  The likely existence of a ninth planet was postulated based upon the trajectories of multiple Kuiper Belt objects, whose trajectories appear to have been disturbed by a large planet beyond Pluto.

China has announced plans to send an orbiter and rover to Mars during the 2020 launch window.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is preparing for the launch of its Trace Gas Orbiter aboard a Russian Proton booster this March.  The Trace Gas Orbiter is part of the ESA's ExoMars mission, and will include both an orbiter and a lander aimed at evaluating trace elements in the Martian atmosphere.

Researchers studying images captured of the asteroid Vesta by the Dawn spacecraft two years ago believe they have an explanation for why the surface of Vesta appears to show few signs of the late heavy bombardment (LHB) that is readily evident on Earth's moon and other planetary bodies.  According to recent models, the crust of Vesta appears to have been subject to recent pummeling by smaller rocks, which on the soft surface of Vesta, erased most of the craters that would otherwise have been left by the LHB.

Studies of the data revealed by the New Horizons spacecraft suggest that Pluto's largest moon, Charon may once have hosted a large, subsurface ocean composed of liquid water.  As the ocean cooled and froze, it would have expanded, fracturing Charon's icy surface, and explaining the 1,100 mile (1,800 km) long chasm that has been photographed by the New Horizons probe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wide Body Report - February 23, 2016

February 23, 2016

General Electric Aviation has assembled the first GE9X test engine, which will eventually power the 777X airliner.

Market analysts point to the higher-priced, higher-margin 787-10 model as key for Boeing to eventually achieve profitability for the Dreamliner family of products.

Philippine Airlines has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for the purchase of six A350-900s, with another six on option.

A month after signing an agreement for the delivery of 118 aircraft to Iran, an Airbus A350 made a symbolic landing in Tehran.  Iran currently has sixteen A350s on order.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Single Aisle News - February 22, 2016

February 22, 2016

Air Canada has signed a letter of intent for the purchase of 45 Bombardier C-Series aircraft, with options on another 30 aircraft.  This order follows a similar order by Air Canada last December for 61 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

The government of Quebec, which has invested heavily in the C-Series program, announced that it was dropping a lawsuit against Air Canada shortly after Air Canada announced a letter of intent for the purchase of the C-Series.  Quebec had filed suit to recover maintenance work that Air Canada had out-sourced overseas.  As part of its C-Series order, however, Air Canada agreed that all C-Series heavy maintenance would be contracted locally, in Quebec.

As part of a cost-cutting effort, Bombardier has announced plans to reduce its global work force by a tenth over the next two years, eliminating some 7,000 jobs worldwide.  The cuts are expected to affect both its aircraft and locomotive businesses, as the manufacturer struggles to return to profitability.

Boeing's second 737 MAX prototype has emerged from the factory.  The first flight for the new prototype is expected by mid-March.

Papua New Guinea flag carrier Air Niugini has firmed up an order for four Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

The Turkish-German airline SunExpress has announced that it is exercising options for ten Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.  The airline previously had firm orders placed for fifteen 737 MAX-8 aircraft.

China's Okay Airways has placed an order for eleven Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, including eight 737 MAX-8 and three 737 MAX-9 versions.  The airline also placed an order for one 737-900ER aircraft.

Qatar Airways has announced that it will seek compensation for delays in the delivery of its first Airbus A320 NEO aircraft.

VietJet Air has signed an agreement with Pratt & Whitney Aircraft for the supply of PW1100G Geared Turbofan (TM) engines to equip the 63 Airbus A320 NEO family aircraft that the airline has on order.

Lion Air has finalized the terms for the supply and maintenance of CFM International LEAP-1A engines to equip the 174 Airbus A320 NEO aircraft that it has on order.

Mitsubishi Aircraft has won its first order from a leasing company, with the announcement that U.S.-based Aerolease Aviation has signed a letter of intent for the delivery of ten Mitsubishi Regional Jets, with another ten aircraft on option.

Russian industry officials have identified Iran as a leading sales candidate for the Irkut MC-21 airliner now under development.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Book Review: Advanced Tactical Fighter to F-22 Raptor

David C. Aronstein, Michael J. Hirschberg and Albert C. Piccirillo
Advanced Tactical Fighter to F-22 Raptor
Reston, VA: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1998
Category: U.S. Air Force - Aircraft

Rating: 5-Stars

The F-22 set a standard for air dominance that no fighter either before, or since is likely to ever come close to approaching.  Relative to its peers, the F-22 combines superior thrust-to-weight ratio with extremely low wing loading, to deliver an advantage in acceleration, maximum speed, and turn rate, together with advantages in sensors and low observables technology.  Taken together, the F-22 dominates any opponent either existing or on the drawing board to a degree that no other air superiority platform has ever done before.

Advanced Tactical Fighter to F-22 Raptor tells the story of the F-22 from the pre-development studies, through the development phase, to the eventual fly-off between the YF-22 and YF-23.  This is the story of this remarkable airplane from the point of view of the engineering professional, with attention paid to the many trade studies and technology development programs that contributed to its eventual success.  The book chronicles the wind tunnel studies, weapons integration, engine test and development program, avionics integration, and many more elements that were part of this program.

This combination makes this book unparalleled in the retelling of the F-22 saga.  This is not a picture book, although it does include a wide number of black-and-white illustrations detailing the test schedule and design decisions that had to be made.  Rather, this is a unique look, that conveys just how vast and comprehensive a modern fighter development program is.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - February 18, 2016

February 18, 2016

The United States deployed four F-22 fighters to South Korea this past week, in what is being read as an indication of Washington's displeasure over North Korea's recent nuclear test, and ballistic missile test.

Although a solution has been identified, corrections to the F-35 ejection seat - which prevents pilots below 62 kg (136 lb) from flying the new airplane - are expected to take over a year to validate and implement throughout the fleet.

Israel Aerospace Industries has been directed to produce an additional 40 F-35 wing sets this next year.  IAI's state-of-the-art wing manufacturing facility is expected to produce 800 wing sets over the next decade.

Kuwait is expected to finalize a deal for 28 Eurofighter Typhoon fighters next week, during a state visit to Italy.

The U.S. State Department has officially approved the sale of an additional eight F-16s to Pakistan.  However, the deal must also pass Congressional review, with some members of Congress pledging to block the sale.

Iran has reportedly negotiated a large purchase of Su-30 fighters from Russia, in addition to the previously announced S-300 surface-to-air missile sale.  As part of the arrangement Iran is expected to set up a local assembly line to build and maintain the aircraft.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Space Highlights - February 17, 2016

February 17, 2016

The European Space Agency successfully launched its Sentinel-3A oceanic monitoring satellite this past week aboard a Russian Rokot booster.

The U.S. launched its NROL-45 spy satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base this past week, aboard a Delta IV booster.

Japan has delayed the launch of an X-Ray observatory until the end of the week due to bad weather.

NASA has released additional images Saturn's moon Tethys as a the Cassini space probe continues to wind down its mission.

A new study suggests that the amount of mass that Saturn's volcanic moon Enceladus ejects into Saturn's magnetosphere is roughly equivalent to the mass escaping from the planet's atmosphere.

NASA has released a geological map of Pluto's "heart" region, compiled from photographs captured by the New Horizons spacecraft.  The map uses color-coding to identfy terrains of different origin.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Wide Body Report - February 16, 2016

February 16, 2016

A Russian Boeing 777-200, operated by Orenair, made an emergency landing shortly after take-off while en route from the Dominican Republic to Moscow, due to an engine fire.  No passengers were injured, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Boeing is expected to face an audit from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) surrounding its accounting for the costs and expected sales for the 787 Dreamliner and 747 jumbo jet.  The probe is in response to a whistle-blower's complaint.

Philippine Air is reportedly close to confirming a deal with Airbus for half a dozen A350-900 aircraft.  This deal reportedly may involve a lease arrangement, rather than a direct buy, however.

Airbus has begun final assembly of its first A350-1000 prototype, with the joining of fuselage sections taking place at Toulouse.

Malaysia Airlines has delayed plans to sell some of its A380 jumbo jets, electing instead to keep all six until at least 2018.  The airline had previously examined selling the aircraft to cut costs as part of a restructuring plan.

NASA has proposed a series of civil X-planes to be built in the next several years to advance key technologies, including a low-sonic-boom test vehicle and an ob-round fuselage section for future airline applications.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Single Aisle News - February 15, 2016

February 15, 2016

Executives at Canada's WestJet Airlines have ruled out a C-Series buy, saying that the airplane is too small for its mainline operations, and too large for its Encore regional carrier - which relies on Bombardier Q400 turboprops.

British Airways' chief executive, Willie Walsh has signaled that the carrier is contemplating a buy of C-Series aircraft to bolster its regional fleet at Iberia Express.

Canada's federal government has reportedly come out with a six-point checklist for steps that Bombardier would need to take before a bailout from Canada's national government could be approved.  The list includes changes in the company's family-dominated governance system.

The provincial government of Quebec, meanwhile, is reportedly considering a follow-on aid package for Bombardier, after already investing $1.3 billion.

The first Embraer E190 E2 prototype is expected to roll-out next week.

Mitsubishi Aircraft has resumed flight test of its MRJ90 prototype, following structural improvements on the airframe.  The prototype had been grounded since November, while its wing and wing-fuselage structure was reinforced.

Lufthansa has taken delivery of its second Pratt & Whitney powered A320 NEO.  However, the airline will only use the airplane on internal, German routes until engine issues are corrected.  Pratt & Whitney has pledged to resolve the engine issues, which require a longer engine start-up time, by April.

The first A321 NEO prototype flew last week, using the CFM International LEAP-1A engine.

Despite questions about engine start-up issues, the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G has entered service exceeding its fuel efficiency guarantees - a first for commercial jet engines.

The dominance of the A320 NEO in the single aisle market may force Boeing to invest in an all-new design sooner than it had planned.

Morocco's state airline, Royal Air Maroc appears to have selected the Boeing 737 MAX for its next single aisle order - based on the appearance of the airline's insignia together with dozens of others on the first 737 MAX prototype.  The airline has not officially announced the sale, however.

Russia's Perm Engine Co. has assembled an additional three PD-14 engines (engines seven through nine of the test program), and has entered flight test with the new engine type.  The PD-14 is being developed as a Russian-built alternative to the PW1400G engines that will equip the first models of the Irkut MC-21 aircraft.  First flight aboard the MC-21 is slated for 2018.

China's three largest state-run airlines have continued to hold back from ordering larger numbers of the new Comac C919 airline until further progress is made in the ambitious development program.  The three airlines are currently obligated to take only five C919 aircraft each.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Book Review: Modern Israeli Air Power

Thomas Newdick and Ofer Zidon
Modern Israeli Air Power: Aircraft and Units of the Israeli Air Force
Houston, TX: Harpia Publishing, 2013
Category: Israel Air Force - Aircraft

Rating: 3-Stars

This book makes only passing mention of Israeli air force experience during the 20th century, focusing instead on the 21st century, and on documenting current Israeli aircraft, squadrons, and air bases.  Illustrated with a wide assortment of photographs, plus a selection of aircraft side-views, the book documents Israeli squadron badges and aircraft roles in the early 21st century.

What this book lacks is a level of depth - either technical or historical - to properly place the photography into perspective.  Any air force can look impressive when you only look at the pictures.  It's the operational element that sets the Israeli air force apart.  Modern Israeli Air Power isn't a bad book for the new reader, for whom this might be their first introduction to the Israeli air force.  But it has been vastly overshadowed by volumes such as Bill Norton's Air War on the Edge: an encyclopedic volume which provides both the technical background for each aircraft as well as their operational history.

Again, not a bad first book on the IDF/AF, just not a great one.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - February 12, 2016

February 12, 2016

The US Air Force is contemplating a delay in declaring Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the F-35, due to issues with the airplane's complex software.  IOC is scheduled to be announced in August of 2016.  Currently the airplane's software suite needs to be rebooted once every four hours, and there are also faults in the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) that is expected to manage the airplane's maintenance and spares schedule.

The Pentagon has revealed a new funding profile that would cut twenty F-35 fighters from the procurement package over the next five years, to make room for other priorities such as air refueling tankers and the development of a new bomber.  As proposed, the reduced fighter buy would eventually be made up in later years.

The U.S. Navy is seeking an additional 16 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to maintain fleet strength, in response to the proposed slow-down in F-35 deliveries.

A first batch of European-built, advanced short-range air-to-air missiles (ASRAAM) have been delivered to the U.S. for flight tests aboard the UK's F-35B fighters.

A high-level Russian delegation has arrived in India to continue talks on developing an Indian derivative of the PAK-FA stealth fighter now under development.  India has already contributed $290 million towards the program, but additional funding has been put on hold over cost and performance concerns surrounding the program.

Israel's Rafael is expected to receive a $500 million contract to supply Litening targeting pods and Spice 250 precision-guided bombs to India.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has unveiled a suite of new technologies slated for flight test aboard its X-2 prototype, including a new radar-absorbing carbon-fiber composite, and an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

Japan's X-2 fighter demonstrator began taxi tests this past week, in preparation for first flight later this month.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Space Highlights - February 10, 2015

February 10, 2016

North Korea has successfully placed another satellite into orbit this past week - although the satellite is reportedly tumbling in orbit and incapable of useful function.

SpaceX is planning its next launch attempt for February 24th, when it plans to place the SES-9 commercial broadcasting satellite into orbit.

NASA has completed installation of the 18 primary mirrors for the James Webb Space Telescope.  The telescope is expected to be launched into space in October 2018, where the mirrors will unfold into a 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) wide structure: the largest telescope ever launched into space.

NASA has released a 360-degree video survey from the Curiosity rover, as the robotic explorer investigates a Martian sand dune.

215 years after it was first discovered by telescope, the Dawn spacecraft has settled into its final, lower orbit around Ceres.

Gravitational measurements taken from the Rosetta spacecraft indicate that comet 67P, which it is currently in orbit around, is highly porous all the way down to its core, with roughly four times more dust than ice by mass, and twice as much dust as ice by volume.

Researchers poring through the images supplied by the New Horizons spacecraft have discovered water ice "hills" that appear to be "floating" on top of the nitrogen ice glaciers that make up the Sputnik Planum.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wide Body Report - February 9, 2016

February 9, 2016

Officials at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have agreed to the first carbon dioxide emissions standards for new and existing airplanes.  The new standards are expected to go into effect in 2020, and remain to be approved by the UN aviation agency's governing council.

Cathay Pacific has announced its first scheduled flight for its new A350 fleet, to occur on May 1st, on a flight between Manila and Hong Kong.  Delivery of the first A350 was originally expected to occur this month, but has been delayed due to supplier issues at Airbus.

China Eastern Airlines is expected to announce a substantial order for long-range aircraft during the next several months, as part of an announced plan to expand its fleet by 69% within the next five years.  The airline currently flies a mixed fleet of Boeing and Airbus aircraft, with a large contingent of single-aisle aircraft already on order.  However, the airline currently has only 16 long-haul aircraft on order.

Engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce has announced a reduction in the dividends that it pays out for the first time in over two decades.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Single Aisle News - February 8, 2016

February 8, 2016

An analysis of last year's sales shows that the Airbus A320 NEO out-sold the Boeing 737 MAX-8 by a 1.8-to-1 ratio, while the A321 NEO out-sold the 737 MAX-9 by a 3.1-to-1 ratio.  Overall, the NEO family of aircraft out-sold the MAX by a 2.1-to-1 ratio during 2015.

Airbus is readjusting the delivery schedules for its A320 NEO aircraft, sliding the overall schedule by roughly two months on average, primarily due to delays in engine deliveries.

Airbus has elected not to use the Pratt & Whitney engine on its first flight test for the A321 NEO model, switching instead to the CFM LEAP-1A engine to make the first flight test.  Pratt & Whitney is currently struggling to meet production deliveries for the A320 NEO model, as well as working to resolve issues with engine start-up times.  Currently, Pratt & Whitney's PW1100G requires a slow engine start-up, to protect certain components from damage.  In response, CFM International has touted its LEAP-1A engine as having no more than a 50-second start-up time at the beginning of each flight.  The LEAP-1A however, has not yet been certified by regulatory authorities, and is several months behind the overall flight test schedule for the PW1100G.

India's SpiceJet is reportedly evaluating both the A320 NEO and Boeing 737 MAX for an upcoming order for single aisle aircraft.  SpiceJet currently flies a small, all-Boeing fleet, but has signalled that it would be willing to switch future orders to Airbus if the pricing is right and if Airbus can guarantee delivery schedule.

Canadian government officials have hinted that any aid from Canada's federal government, unlike previous aid packages from the provincial government in Quebec, would be tied to changes in Bombardier's two-tier stock system - which guarantees that members of the corporation's founding family retain at least a 50-percent share over the business.  Bombardier has been struggling to maintain its stock value in the face of delays and cost overruns to C-Series development.

GE Aviation has filed petitions with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office challenging five patents granted to United Technologies surrounding the gear-drive on its Geared Turbofan (TM) engine.  This has been seen by some as an indication that after years of deriding Pratt & Whitney's Geared Turbofan (TM) design, GE may be finally advancing its own design for a geared engine.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Book Review: Aircraft Gas Turbine Engine Technology

Irwin E. Treager
Aircraft Gas Turbine Engine Technology, 3rd Edition
Columbus, OH:  Glencoe, 2001
Category: Aerospace Engineering

Rating: 3-Stars

The first thing to remember about this book, is that it was not originally aimed at an aerospace engineering audience.  As the preface to the book suggests, this book was "written and published for the aircraft technician."  Although it does cover some of the basic engineering principals of jet engine technology, it does not go into any of the depth of a dedicated engineering text such as Gas Turbine Theory, or into the practicalities of the iterative design process such as Aircraft Engine Design.

I nonetheless have to recommend this book as a supplement to the engineering student that might not otherwise have a close look at the actual mechanics that go into the workings of a jet engine.  Theory and mathematical principals are still important, but it is also necessary to have an appreciation for the different components that go into making up a functional jet engine: what they are, what they look like, and how they interact.  Ideas which sound good on paper, may not make the same sense when contemplating their mechanical implementation.  Understanding how a compressor or turbine rotor is manufactured and assembled, for example, is an essential part of turning the theories of jet engine operation into practical reality.  Short of working directly for a major engine manufacturer, or having direct access to a jet engine overhaul shop, this text is as close as many engineering students can come to appreciating everything that goes into making these complex, and marvelous machines function.

With many black-and-white assembly diagrams and exploded views, this book illustrates how each of these components is constructed, installed, and operated.  As such it forms a bridge between the theoretical and its practical implementation.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review: Advances in Aircraft Flight Control

Mark B. Tischler, Editor
Advances in Aircraft Flight Control
London, UK:  Taylor & Francis, 1996
Category: Aerospace Engineering

Rating: 4-Stars

This volume contains a unique portrait taken across a number of aircraft programs, both civil and military, providing insight into the oft neglected world of aircraft flight control.  Fly-by-wire control systems have become the expected norm today, making it easy to forget that this was not always the case - as well as disguising just how complex this discipline really is.  There are a host of phenomena, not all of which can be predicted analytically in advance, which must be fine tuned and learned-out in flight test.

Featuring articles written by a variety of corporate and government sponsors, this volume features a survey ranging from commercial airlines, such as the Airbus A320, to helicopters, to fighters and fighter prototypes - including the X-29, X-31, Europe's Experimental Aircraft Program (EAP), and Israel's Lavi.

None of the manufacturers care to release their many trade secrets into the public domain, but this volume does provide a cross section of the aircraft flight control discipline that is otherwise forgotten by many, even in the aviation industry.  Featuring a smattering of the basic mathematics of flight control, as well as graphs illustrating the differences between pre-flight predictions and flight test experiment, this collection offers a taste for what goes into making these marvelous flying machines flight-worthy.  This is not a book for the casual aviation reader.  But for those of us with the engineering background to appreciate it, this collection is a rare treat, even if flight controls don't happen to be our own particular area of concentration.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - February 4, 2016

February 4, 2016

The official report on F-35 deficiencies prepared by the Pentagon's chief weapons tester, and released last month to Congress, has been officially released to the public this past week.  The report outlines a series of shortcomings in the readiness of the aircraft, and raises questions about proposals for a multiyear "block buy" of 450 aircraft that has been proposed to begin in 2018.

Attempting to balance between competing budget demands, the US Air Force has proposed cutting five F-35 fighters from its 2017 procurement plan.

While the U.S. Air Force is contemplating a reduction in its F-35 production plans, the U.S. Navy has proposed an increase in its annual purchase of F-35Cs beginning in 2017.  As proposed, the acceleration in F-35C procurement would be accompanied by a drive to develop an unmanned mid-air refueling tanker to increase the carrier fleet's reach.

Russian media reports that progress has been made towards reaching an accommodation between Moscow and New Delhi, for development of an Indian version of the PAK-FA stealth fighter.  Negotiations have been stalled over the airplane's price, and concern over the abilities that it brings to the table.

Jet engine technology continues to be a sore point in China's defense modernization efforts, as acknowledged recently by Chinese officials.  The WS-10A Taihang, intended as a replacement for the Russian-produced AL-31F engine in Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighters, continues to suffer from reliability issues, and the Chinese air force remains largely reliant on Russian-supplied engines.

Russia has reportedly deployed its newest air-to-air fighter, the Su-35 to Syria for the first time.

Egypt has received a second batch of three Rafale fighters, out of a total of 24 on order.

A contract for 28 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, expected to be signed this past week by Kuwait, was delayed due to "procedural" reasons.  The contract is expected to firm up an order agreed to under a memorandum of understanding signed last September.

Documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden have revealed that the United States and UK hacked into Israeli fighter and drone surveillance feeds as part of a secret surveillance program carried out over the past eight years.  Utilizing British facilities located in Cyprus, the program also monitored Israeli ballistic missile tests.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Space Highlights - February 3, 2016

February 3, 2016

The United States and South Korea protested North Korea's announcement of an imminent satellite launch attempt this month.  North Korea has routinely advertised its ballistic missile test launches as satellite launch efforts.

In its second launch of the year, a Chinese Long March 3C placed a Beidou-3 navigation satellite into orbit.

The U.S. has moved its 12th and final GPS IIF satellite into the launch preparation area in anticipation of a launch later this week.

A Russian Proton booster successfully launched the Eutelsat 9B communications and relay satellite into orbit earlier this week.

NASA released a recent black-and-white image of Saturn captured by the Cassini space probe, that was filtered to capture wavelengths absorbed by methane gas is Saturn's atmosphere.  The image highlights bands and cloud patterns in Saturn's atmosphere.

A recent study from images of Saturn's rings suggests that the opacity of each ring was not necessarily an indication of the density of the ring at any particular location.  The density of Saturn's B-ring, for example, appeared to be consistent across the entire ring width, regardless of whether that segment of the ring was opaque or translucent.

The Curiosity rover recently snapped a "selfie" of itself perched at the edge of a Martian dune field that it is currently exploring.

A pair of researchers at Arizona State University have suggested that "cauliflower"-like patterns observed in Martian opaline silica formations by the Spirit rover are reminiscent of similar deposits on Earth that were formed by microbial life.

France has announced a cooperative venture with India to help land an Indian lander on Mars.  India's next Mars mission is scheduled for 2020, and would focus on sending an orbiter to the red planet.  A lander mission is expected to follow.

NASA has released a new "fly over" video of the dwarf planet Ceres, using images from the Dawn space probe.

NASA researchers have discovered evidence for far more water ice on Pluto than had been previously expected.  The evidence suggests that much of Pluto's water ice is masked by deposits of more volatile ices, formed from methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.  The smoothest and most youthful areas of Pluto - such as the "heart" region - also appear to be devoid of water ice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Wide Body Report - February 2, 2016

February 2, 2016

Swiss International Air Lines has taken delivery of the first of nine Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that it has on order.

Boeing has announced plans to boost its production of 737 aircraft to a record 57 aircraft per month between now and 2019, at the same time that it plans to reduce production of its 777 aircraft to 7 aircraft per month beginning in 2017, down from its current production rate of 8.3 per month.  The reduction in 777 production rates are being driven by reduced demand for the "classic" 777 model, ahead of the planned 777X production ramp-up in 2020.

Rolls-Royce signed a deal this past week with Norwegian Air for the supply of engines to equip the 19 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft that Norwegian currently has on order.  The deal will include both the Trent 1000 engines and a service contract for maintenance.

United Airlines will begin supplying daily service between Singapore and San Francisco as of June 1st, in the longest route yet assigned to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

The delivery of the first A350s to Cathay Pacific has been delayed due to late delivery of the custom business-class seats from Zodiac Aerospace.  Cathay Pacific is expected to receive 12 A350-900 aircraft this year.

The first A350-900 destined for China Airlines is in final assembly.  China Airlines has 14 A350-900s on order.

Al Nippon Airlines (ANA) has firmed-up a deal - which had been reported earlier - for three A380 super-jumbo aircraft.  The new aircraft are expected to replace some of ANA's aging 747s.  ANA has selected Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines to equip their aircraft.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Single Aisle News - February 1, 2016

February 1, 2016

Newly emerged from international sanctions, Iran Air placed an order this past week for 45 Airbus A320 aircraft - forestalling a possible buy of Bombardier C-Series airlines.  The A320 buy was part of a larger deal involving 118 Airbus aircraft, both used and new.  Bombardier shares fell below a dollar in response to the news - its lowest level since 1991 - amid fears of delisting.

The Airbus A320NEO made its inaugural passenger-carrying flight this past week, as Lufthansa's first airplane entered operational service, powered by Pratt & Whitney's PW1100G Geared TurboFan (TM) engines.

Boeing's prototype 737 MAX made its first flight this past Friday, powered by CFM International LEAP-1B engines, flying for two hours and forty seven minutes, and reaching a maximum speed of 250 knots and a maximum altitude of 20,000 ft.

Mitsubishi Aircraft reports that the first Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) prototype has completed its structural reinforcement and is expected to return to flight test in February.  The prototype had been grounded since its third flight in November while it underwent structural reinforcement of the wing and wing-fuselage section.