Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - April 28, 2016

April 28, 2016

Lockheed believes it has found the cause of stability issues in the radar software for the F-35 that required the system to randomly reboot during operation.  Officials report that a software patch has increased the average interval between reboots from four hours to every ten hours.

Speaking at a hearing this past week, U.S. Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told senior Pentagon officials that the F-35 program had "been a scandal and the cost overruns have been disgraceful," adding that "it's a textbook example of why this Committee has placed such a high priority on reforming the broken defense acquisition system."

The U.S. has sent two F-22 fighters to Romania for the first time, placing them within range of Russian naval facilities in Crimea.

Japan's X-2 Shinshin technology demonstrator flew for the first time this past week.  The X-2 is a sub-scale demonstrator, intended to learn-out key technologies for a possible future fighter program.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Space Highlights - April 27, 2016

April 27, 2016

India's ISRO has begun countdown for a planned April 28th launch of its IRNSS-1G navigation satellite.

A second EU Sentinel radar imaging satellite was launched from French Guiana aboard a Soyuz booster.  The Sentinel satellites are expected to monitor shipping lanes as well as investigating evidence for landslides and other subsidence on land.

Russia's GLONASS-M navigation satellite has been delivered for launch preparation.  The satellite is expected to be sent into orbit in May.

U.S. policy makers continue to debate current bans on the use of India's PSLV booster, as well as a ban on the use of retired ICBMs for satellite launch, both seen as measures to protect the U.S. launch industry from outside competition.  The counter argument is that greater access to the PSLV and other small boosters would improve the business case for small satellite developers.

China is moving forward with plans to land a rover on Mars by 2020.

Detailed studies from the final orbits of the ESA's Venus Express orbiter, which plunged into the atmosphere of Venus in 2014, reveal that although the surface temperature across most of Venus can top 850 F (450 C), the poles of Venus are actually far cooler, with surface temperatures of -250 F (-150 C).  The studies also indicate that the polar atmosphere is far less dense than expected.

NASA is evaluating whether there might be enough fuel on board the Dawn spacecraft to send it to a third asteroid after its mission at Ceres is completed.  Dawn has already mapped the surface of the asteroid Vesta, and is currently in orbit around Ceres, the largest of the asteroids.

Scientists are struggling to understand the origin of "halos" that have been seen around craters in the Vega Terra region of Pluto.  The bright rings are composed of methane ice - but have not been observed in other regions of the dwarf planet.

NASA team that supported last year's flyby of Pluto has officially proposed extending the New Horizons mission to perform a flyby of a second Kuiper Belt object, beyond Pluto's orbit.  The spacecraft is already on coarse to intercept 2014 MU69 in January 2019, but telemetry and ground support for the flyby still need to be officially approved by the agency.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wide Body Report - April 26, 2016

April 26, 2016

A Pakistani International Airline Boeing 777, en route from Manchester, UK to New York made an emergency landing at Shannon Airport after smoke was reported in a lavatory.

Another Boeing 777, a Cathay Pacific flight en route from Hong Kong to London made an emergency landing at Chongqing, China after reporting low oil pressure readings in one of its engines.

The FAA has ordered that "urgent", mandatory repairs be made on all Boeing 787 jets equipped with GE GEnx-1B PIP2 engines, requiring them to retrofit the anti-icing system on 176 Dreamliners.  The FAA edict affects 44-percent of the Dreamliner fleet.  The FAA order cites a risk of ice accumulation on the fan blades, which resulted in an in-flight shut-down and emergency landing of a Japan Air Lines (JAL) 787 in January.  In the JAL incident, one of the airplane's two engines shut-down due to ice accumulation and could not be restarted.  The pilots made a successful emergency landing on one engine.

Airbus has completed painting the first Thai Airways A350, in preparation for delivery in mid-2016.

Airbus plans to slow production of its A380 super-jumbo airliner, beginning in 2017, as a result of slow sales.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Single Aisle News - April 25, 2016

April 25, 2016

The first C-Series to fly for Swiss International Airlines is exptected to enter revenue service on July 15th, with the airplane to be formally delivered by Bombardier at the end of June.

TD Securities has downgraded its rating for Bombardier's stock, in response to a 27 percent increase in the stock's price during the past week.  The increase was fueled largely by speculation that Delta Airlines may shortly be placing a large order for the C-Series aircraft.

Boeing is examining a slightly larger version of it its smallest 737 MAX family member, the MAX-7, featuring more seats and range, in a bid to defend its marketplace against Bombardier's C-Series.  It is also being reported that Boeing has been offering additional discounts on its smallest 737 MAX aircraft, in a bid to keep the C-Series from gaining a foothold in the market.

Norwegian Air expects its first Airbus A320 NEO aircraft to be delayed by 2-3 months, while the airplane's engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney sorts through teething issues with entry into service.  Airbus has also temporarily reduced its A320 production rate while the engine's start-up issues are sorted out.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - April 21, 2016

April 21, 2016

Congress has directed the U.S. Air Force to investigate the cost of restarting the production line for the F-22 Raptor.  Previous studies have suggested that restarting F-22 production would cost $2 billion - just to rebuild tooling and requalify manufacturing processes.

A new report by the Government Accountability Office suggests that software glitches with the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), which is intended to schedule maintenance and clear each individual aircraft for flight each day, could threaten a fleetwide grounding of the F-35.

Conflicting accounts have reported that the terms for India's purchase of 36 Rafale fighters had either been "finalized" or would be completed "soon".  Terms for the arrangement have been in negotiation since April 2015.

The Obama administration is expected to announce approval for the sale of 36 F-15E Strike Eagles to Qatar and 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to Kuwait during President Obama's tour of the Persian Gulf states later this month.

South Korea is expected to select an engine provider for its KF-X fighter, now in the early stages of development, by the end of April.  GE Aircraft and Eurojet Turbo are both contenders for the contract.

Iran is reportedly negotiating a deal for Russian-produced Su-30SM fighters, to compliment the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles already on order.

The U.S. has formally protested the "unsafe and unprofessional air intercept" of a Russian fighter, which intercepted a U.S. RC-135 surveillance aircraft over the Baltic Sea this past week, passing within 50 feet of the U.S. aircraft before performing a barrel roll overhead.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Space Highlights - April 20, 2016

April 20, 2016

India's ISRO plans to launch India's seventh and final GPS satellite on April 28th.

Northrop Grumman is one of three industry teams being funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) to develop a small, reusable launch vehicle, suitable for placing small satellites into orbit.  The Northrop Grumman concept revolves around a reusable, unmanned space plane, labeled the XS-1.  Boeing and Masten Space Systems are developing competing designs under the first phase of DARPA funding.

NASA has confirmed that the Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn, has detected traces of interstellar dust.  The grains differ in composition from those that originate from within our solar system, reflecting a more uniform, cosmic distribution of elements than the water-rich particles ordinarily detected by Cassini.

NASA has released additional images detailing fractures in the crust of Saturn's moon Enceladus: the fault lines caused by tectonic activity in the moon's icy crust.

The first images have been released from the ESA's ExoMars spacecraft, which has begun its seven-month journey to the red planet.

New images from the Dawn spacecraft feature the Haulani Crater, with evidence of landslides along the crater's rim and bright features that may indicate sub-surface chemistry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wide Body Report - April 19, 2016

April 19, 2016

GE Aviation has rolled out additional footage of its prototype GE9X engine for the new Boeing 777X - the largest jet engine in the world with an 11-foot fan diameter.  The GE9X is expected to see a fourth-generation composite fan blade.  GE Aviation was the first to introduce composite fan blades with the GE90, back in the 1990s, and is still the only engine manufacturer to feature composite fan blades in production today.

United Airlines Flight 870, flying a 787 Dreamliner bound from Sydney to San Francisco, was aborted due to an "unusual odor" in the cabin.  The flight was subsequently rescheduled for the next day so that maintenance could be performed.  No explanation for the source of the odor was provided.

Airbus completed the wing-body join of its first prototype A350-1000 airliner - a stretched version of the A350-900 already in production, which is aimed at competing with the Boeing 777.

Oman Air has opened talks into purchasing its next long-haul airliner, evaluating both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 as candidates.

Emirates, the largest operator of the Airbus A380 super-jumbo airliner, has placed an order for an additional two aircraft.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Single Aisle News - April 18, 2016

April 18, 2016

AirBaltic has increased its firm order of C-Series aircraft from 13 to 20, converting its seven options into firm orders.

Media reports suggest that Bombardier is close to making a landmark deal with Delta Airlines for up to 125 C-Series aircraft.  If true, this would be the largest single order to date for the new airplane.

Airbus expects that the "teething" issues with the A320 NEO, and its Geared TurboFan (TM) engine to be resolved by mid-year, with officials at Pratt & Whitney - the maker of the engine - pledging to reduce the engine's start-up time by half.

Lufthansa flew one of its A320 NEO airlines on a route to London's Heathrow airport for the first time this past week, as the various airplane faults and engine start issues have been cleared up.

CFM International has delivered its first non-test version of its LEAP-1A engine to Airbus this past week.  CFM officials have continued to emphasize that their engines have been delivered on-schedule - in contrast to repeated delays at their competitor.  Other media reports, however, have also indicated that unlike CFM's competitor, the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G, which met its fuel burn guarantees, the LEAP-1A is expected to fall short.

The first production Boeing 737 MAX is expected to emerge from final assembly at Boeing's Renton facility later this month.

Boeing expects to begin flight testing the larger version of its 737 MAX later this week.

China's Comac has announced that the flight test program for its new C919 airline will be extended, resulting in first customer deliveries in 2019.  Although the first prototype was officially rolled out in November, it has yet to fly - as the manufacturer continues to install missing internal systems.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - April 14, 2016

April 14, 2016

A dozen USAF F-22 Raptors have arrived at RAF Lakenheath for a month-long series of drills with the RAF and other NATO allies.

The UK has received its fourth and final pre-operational, F-35 test aircraft.

The Royal Netherlands Air force has cleared its Douglas KDC-10 aerial tankers to refuel the F-35 stealth fighter, following successful trials.  The tanker certification was one of the requirements for accepting delivery of the first Dutch F-35 in May.

The Defense Department has reached an agreement with Pratt & Whitney for a $1.4 billion contract for the ninth low rate initial production (LRIP) batch of F135 engines.  The contract covers the delivery of 66 engines, as well as spares, extra parts, and support.

China has deployed 16 J-11 fighters to an air base on a disputed islands in the South China Sea.  The J-11 is China's designation for the Russian-designed Su-27 Flanker.

Two Russian Su-24 Fencer strike-jets made simulated low-level bombing runs on the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea.  U.S. officials have protested the low-level passes, which forced the Donald Cook to suspend helicopter operations to avoid a possible collision.  The Russian aircraft came within 30 feet of the U.S. warship.

Japanese officials expect the first flight test of their X-2 technology demonstrator to occur by the end of April.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Space Highlights - April 13, 2016

April 13, 2016

ISRO plans to launch India's next military surveillance satellite, the CartoSat-2C in May. The satellite carries a multispectral and panchromatic camera that is expected to have a resolution of 0.65 meters.  This will be India's third dedicated military surveillance satellite.

The first satellite to carry a D-STAR (Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio) payload is due to be launched on April 22nd aboard a European Ariane rocket.  The payload is being carried aboard the OUFTI-1 (Orbital Utility for Telecommunication Innovations) CubeSat - one of three such CubeSats developed by student teams under an ESA program.

China successfully launched the SJ-10 microgravity experimental satellite on April 6th.  The satellite carries 19 experimental payloads, including experiments in fluid physics, combustion, and fire safety.

Facebook plans on launching its first, dedicated internet communications satellite in the coming months.  Facebook has purchased channels on the upcoming AMOS-6 communications satellite, being built in Israel, to provide internet service to sub-Saharan Africa.

TerraBella, previously known as Skybox Imaging, has announced plans for the launch of 19 satellites in 2016 - 11 of which have already contracted launch vehicles.  The earth observation satellites will join two others already in orbit.  TerraBella is owned by Google, and will provide images for Google's mapping service, among other customers.

DARPA's experimental spaceplane, the XS-1 program, has entered Phase 2 of development.  The unmanned aircraft is expected to bring a small payload to near-orbital speeds, before releasing the satellite and rocket booster to complete the trip to orbit.  The sub-orbital spaceplane would then return and land for reuse.  The goal is to eventually be capable of launching a 3,000-lb payload.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) presented the first findings from its Akatsuki Venus orbiter this past week, revealing details of Venus' cloud patterns not previously seen.  The images include long-range infrared (LIR) and 2-micrometer infrared (IR2) images, providing detail not visible to ordinary cameras.

Officials at NASA have denied reports from French researchers, asserting that the trajectory of the Cassini space probe might have been perturbed by a hypothetical Planet Nine.

NASA is investigating the cause of an anomaly that led the Kepler space observatory to enter an "emergency mode" last week.  Among other things, the emergency mode uses fuel much faster than ordinary operations, reducing the useful life of the spacecraft.  Kepler has been the most successful exoplanet hunter yet sent into orbit, cataloging 1,013 confirmed exoplanets in 440 star systems.  Another 3,199 unconfirmed planet candidates await further investigation.

The New Horizons spacecraft has downloaded additional photographs of Pluto's largest moon, Charon.  The spacecraft is now headed towards its extended-mission target, Kuiper belt object 2014MU69, which it should reach in January 2019.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wide Body Report - April 12, 2016

April 12, 2016

GE Aircraft has begun ground testing of the GE9X engine, which will eventually power Boeing's new 777X, now under development.

The FAA has issued an airworthiness directive for the Boeing 787, directing that all flight manuals be revised to caution crews to avoid abrupt control responses to sudden apparent drops in airspeed.  The sudden drop in air speed could potentially be due to a known fault in the air speed indicator.

Qatar Airways has added a 2nd New York flight featuring its Airbus A350-900.

Airbus lost two orders for the A380 super-jumbo from Air Austral.  The aircraft had been ordered in a high-density, 840 seat configuration, but were removed from Airbus' official backlog last week.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Single Aisle News - April 11, 2016

April 11, 2016

Air Canada expects to firm up its order for the Bombardier C-Series within the next few weeks.  Air Canada announced its intention to purchase 45 CS300 aircraft earlier this year.  The order is expected to bring the C-Series to a total of 288 firm orders.

The planned bailout of Bombardier's C-Series program was identified by the 2016 U.S. National Trade Estimate (NTE) Report on Foreign Trade Barriers as being a government subsidy that "the United States will continue to monitor carefully."  Canadian government officials, meanwhile, have contended that the proposed bailout meets established criteria for government assistance under existing international trade agreements.

The first of two $500 million payments from the government of Quebec, aimed at shoring up Bombardier's C-Series program, has been delayed while the two parties continue to work out the final details for the government investment.

Delta Air Lines is reportedly nearing a decision on upgrading its fleet of single aisle aircraft, after receiving proposals from Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer.  Delta has a fleet of 116 MD-88s that will need to be replaced during the next decade.

Southwest Airlines expects to retire 118 Boeing 737-300 aircraft and 11 737-500s by the end of 2018, as it makes room for newer 737 models - including the 737 MAX family aircraft.

Analysts have warned that Boeing's stock values will continue to tumble until the airline comes forward with a plan for recapturing the single aisle market in which the Airbus A320 NEO has been dominating sales for the past few years.

India's GoAir plans to take delivery of its first A320 NEO in May.  The airline has 72 A320 NEO airplanes on order, which will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines.

Russia's S7 Airlines has reached a deal for the lease of at least three A321 NEOs and two A320 NEOs beginning in 2017.  The aircraft would be supplied by the U.S.-based Air Lease Corporation (ALC).

Embraer has started the engines for its first E190-E2 prototype on-wing for the first time.  The E190-E2 is powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1900G Geared TurboFan (TM) engines, derived from the PW1500G engine which powers the Bombardier C-Series.

Japan's Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) is expected to continue facing an uphill climb to certification, and market acceptance in a regional jet market already dominated by Embraer - whose E175-E2 regional jet is expected to use a derivative of the same PW1200G engines that power the MRJ.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - April 8, 2016

April 8, 2016

U.S. officials have suggested that the presence of the F-35 at upcoming air shows in Europe will send a pointed message to Russia and others about NATO's future warfighting capabilities.

Israel has been developing a plan to increase their ability to operate the F-35 autonomously from the U.S., including the installation of their own communications systems into Israeli F-35s, and the ability to perform most heavy maintenance in-country rather than relying in a depot in the U.S. or Europe.

With the final details of India's Rafale purchase continuing to be debated, U.S. manufacturers at Lockheed Martin and Boeing have made new proposals for assemblying F-16s and F/A-18s in India.

Kuwait has concluded its contract negotiations for a previously announced buy of 28 Eurofighter Typhoons.

A South Korean F-16D crashed this past week during military drills between South Korea and the U.S.  Both pilots ejected safely.  The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Turkish fighter jets have carried out strikes against Kurdish rebels, targeting PKK positions in northern Iraq.  The air strikes come after the PKK claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack in Ankara that killed 37 people this past month.  The PKK operates primarily out of Syria and within Turkey - as opposed to Iraq's indigenous Pesh Merga Kurdish militia, which has been fighting ISIS gains in Iraq.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Space Highlights - April 6, 2016

April 6, 2016

China has successfully launched a retrievable research satellite aboard a Long March 2-D booster.  The SJ-10 satellite contains 19 experiments, which will be returned to earth by a reentry capsule.

India's ISRO and NASA are expected to jointly launch a satellite to study earthquakes.  The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite will combine instruments from both agencies, and will be launched in the 2020-21 time frame.

NASA has released a series of images from the Opportunity rover that capture the movement of a dust devil on Mars.

Cassini has supplied a series of fresh images of Saturn and its ring system, as the spacecraft continues to wind down its mission.

A team of French researchers claims to have collected additional evidence for the proposed Planet Nine, based on perturbations in the orbit of the Cassini space probe around Saturn.

The Rosetta spacecraft has supplied back-lit images of Comet 67/P, as the comet and space probe continue on their journey away from the sun.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Wide Body Report - April 5, 2016

April 5, 2016

Boeing is taking steps to eliminate 4,000 jobs worldwide, with the potential for more layoffs to follow as the company attempts to better balance its books and meet Wallstreet expectations.  The eventual job cuts could total as many as 8,000 by year end, or up to 10 percent of Boeing's work force.

Debris found on a Mozambique beach matches parts of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 - a Boeing 777 which disappeared en route to Beijing in what was widely believed to be a case of pilot suicide.

The FAA has issued a flight safety directive for all Boeing 787 aircraft, warning pilots of unreliable airspeed indications.  The problem, which has also afflicted other aircraft over the years, stems from water or ice ingestion in the airplane's airspeed indicators.

Airbus has released a new testing tool for inspecting the composite fuselage and wing panels of its A350 airlines.  Unlike conventional metal structures, which can be visually inspected for cracks, composite components require an ultrasonic inspection to detect delamination which could prematurely fail a part.

Airbus intends to offer an increased take-off weight option for its A350-900 aircraft beginning in 2020.

A Qantas A380 was forced to return to Sydney after an engine vibration issue caused it to abort its flight.  Qantas' A380s are equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Single Aisle News - April 4, 2016

April 4, 2016

Industry analysts are projecting that the C-Series will lose around $32 million each for the first 50 C-Series aircraft that are delivered, guaranteeing that the program continues to be a financial drain on Bombardier until at least 2018.

C-Series launch customer Swiss International Air Lines has reportedly been impressed by the maturity demonstrated during the past month of route-proving flights by Bombardier.

Lufthansa has accepted delivery of its second A320 NEO, after delaying formal acceptance while Airbus and Lufthansa were negotiating compensation for operational shortfalls with the initial production aircraft.

IndiGo has taken delivery of its third A320 NEO.  The airline aims to have an all-NEO fleet by 2022.

Czech Airlines has signed an agreement for delivery of seven A320 NEO aircraft, replacing a previous order for seven A320 CEO airlines still on order.  An engine selection has not been announced, although Czech Airlines' current A319 fleet if powered by CFM56 engines.

Boeing's 737 MAX has entered the crucial fuel-burn test phase of its flight test program, which will demonstrate how much benefit the new model achieves in practical application.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fighter Jet Times - April 1, 2016

April 1, 2016

The Defense Department's annual report on the progress of the F-35 program contends that the airplane's F135 engine has had "recurring manufacturing quality issues," reporting that quality defects  in "turbine blades and electronic control systems resulted in maintenance activity to remove suspect hardware from the operational fleet."

Officials from Lockheed and the Defense Department missed an end-of-March target for negotiating their next contract for F-35 fighter jets.  The negotiations have stalled over issues of price reductions demanded by the Pentagon, and profit margin increases demanded by Lockheed.

Russian officials have suggested that India's BrahMos supersonic cruise missile could potentially be installed on future versions of PAK-FA stealth fighters supplied to India. The announcement comes as Indian officials continue to debate India's involvement in the costly Russian development program.

France and Qatar have completed negotiations for the sale of 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets.  Qatar made a down payment for the aircraft in December.