Sunday, April 30, 2017

Memorial Day

Tonight Israel will mark the beginning of Yom HaZikaron - Memorial Day, for those who might not have known. It is a day when the whole nation pays its respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure Israel's freedom. On this day, when the sirens wail, all of Israel will come to a standstill. Buses, cars, pedestrians, all stop. The drivers stand at attention beside their vehicles. It is a day to remember, in a world where memory has become a fleeting thing, so easily discarded or lost.

I see in the news that the roll of those who have died in the line of duty, defending Israel, has grown by 60 in the past year, to 23,544. But the statistics do not convey the full story. In a small nation, where everyone has known friends or family who were lost, every statistic was personal, they were all felt by someone. The reminders are everywhere. As in the poem by the late Yehuda Amichai,
Mr. Beringer, whose son
fell at the Canal that strangers dug
so that ships could cross the desert,
crosses my path at Jaffa Gate. 
He has grown very thin, has lost
the weight of his son.
That's why he floats so lightly in the alleys
and gets caught in my heart like little twigs
that drift away.
Tomorrow night, will commence Independence Day - Yom HaAtzmaut in Israel, when Israelis and Jews around the world will celebrate Israel's modern day rebirth. It is a celebration with inflatable hammers and silly string. But before there can be an Independence Day in Israel, there must always be a Memorial Day.  In Israel, there cannot be one without the other.

[1] From: "Seven Laments for the War-Dead" by Yehuda Amichai, in: The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, ed. and trans. by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell (New York, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1986).

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fighter Jet Times - April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017

As part of the first deployment of the F-35 to Europe, U.S. Air Force F-35As have arrived in Estonia for NATO wargames, in what many are interpreting as a signal to Russia.

For the fourth time in the same week, U.S. fighters were scrambled to intercept Russian strategic bombers off of the Alaskan coast.

Three additional F-35 fighters arrived in Israel this past weekend, complimenting the two aircraft delivered last December.  Israel has a total of 50 F-35s on order.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report cautioning legislators not to rush into a multiyear block-buy for the F-35 fighter, as has been recently proposed, until the terms for such a contract have been settled between the Pentagon and the airframe and engine manufacturer.

The GAO has also issued a study warning that the cost for correcting software problems with the F-35's avionics are likely to be much higher than the $532 million cited by the Pentagon, and could easily total $1.7 billion before the Block 3F software becomes operational.  Many of the weapons systems and sensor integration algorithms on the F-35 require the Block 3F software to become operational.

Boeing has elected to withdraw as a contender to replace Belgium's F-16 fighter fleet, citing an "unfair" competition.  Lockheed Martin's F-35 is widely expected to win the Belgian contract.

The RAF has deployed four Eurofighter Typhoons to Romania as part of a four-month NATO deployment.

The third Dassault Rafale fighter destined for Qatar has made its first flight.  The Qatari aircraft have a different avionics suite from their French counterparts, and are expected to undergo extensive testing prior to their delivery in 2018.

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E crashed while attempting to land on the USS Carl Vinson, south of the Philippines.  The pilot ejected safely and was recovered aboard the carrier.  The cause of the crash has not been announced.

North Korea has announced its "largest ever" live fire exercise, after the U.S. warned North Korea against conducting additional ballistic missile or nuclear weapons tests.

China has launched its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, amid considerable fanfare.  The vessel will join an existing carrier which China purchased from Russia.

Analysts have continued to ridicule Iran's purported Qaher F-313 "stealth fighter", pointing out that the tire pressure for the aircraft - which is clearly stenciled on the outside of the "prototype" shown taxiing in recent videos - is indicative of a lightweight airplane with very limited fuel and payload capacity.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Space Highlights - April 26, 2017

April 26, 2017

Among the microsatellites that were piggy-backed onto a recent supply launch for the International Space Station, was a satellite to measure plasma characteristics built by students at Aalto University in Finland, as well as a series of satellites intended to take measurements of the Earth's upper atmosphere designed by students at a high school in Israel, and the University of Colorado in Boulder, among others.

Mongolia's first communications satellite has been announced - with the Asia Broadcast Satellite re-branding its ABS 2A satellite as the Mongol-Sat1.  The ABS 2A was manufactured by Boeing and was launched in January.

The Cassini spacecraft has made its final, close fly-by of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, passing within 608 miles of the moon's surface.

NASA has released images of a giant canyon on the surface of Saturn's moon Tethys, as captured by the Cassini spacecraft during a recent encounter.

NASA's Opportunity rover is leaving behind "Cape Tribulation", the promitory on the edge of a crater that it has been exploring for the past several months, to head towards "Perserverance Valley" - which is believed to be a dry, ancient riverbed that cuts into the wall of the crater.

Researchers have assembled a detailed map for one of the candidate landing sites for NASA's next planned Mars rover, scheduled to touch down in 2020.

A photograph recently released from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter depicts the landing platform for the Opportunity Mars rover, still visible in the center of the small crater where the lander came to rest in 2004.

Researchers have identified an exoplanet some 40 light years from Earth, which some scientists have suggested could be a good candidate for searching for alien life.  The planet orbits a red dwarf star that is "very quiet", unlike Proxima B, for example, which also hosts a planet in its habitable zone but which is known to have an active history of intense flares.

Recent computer simulations of galaxy formation continue to provide evidence for the existence of dark matter, indicating that without its presence, galaxies would not exist as we see them today.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Wide Body Report - April 25, 2017

April 25, 2017

Boeing has revealed details of the planned interior arrangement for its 777-9, part of its 777X family of aircraft currently under development.

A Boeing 777-300ER flown by Air India has been grounded in New Delhi, pending repairs, due to a hydraulic system failure.

Philippine Airlines expects to receive an additional two Boeing 777s at year-end.  The new aircraft will be the 9th and 10th Boeing 777 delivered to PAL.

An Air Canada pilot safely landed a Boeing 777 at London's Heathrow Airport, despite losing a wheel prior to landing.  The airplane was flying from Montreal to London, and the pilot was apparantly unaware of the missing tire until shortly after the airplane had already landed.

Air France has taken delivery of its second Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Oman Air has taken delivery of its sixth Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Ethiopian Airlines has assigned its latest Airbus A350-900 airline to its Addis Ababa-to-Abuja route.

Singapore Airlines has announced plans to deploy the Airbus A350-900 on its India-to-Singapore routes later this year.  The airplanes will replace older Boeing 777s servicing India.

Finnair has finalized the terms of its Airbus A350-900 sale-and-leaseback arrangment with GE Capital Aviation Services.

Single Aisle News - April 24, 2017

April 24, 2017

SWISS' decision to renew its fleet around the Bombardier C-Series was driven, at least in part, around the need to select an aircraft that could provide service to the London City Airport, where strict noise regulations and a short runway length have historically limited airline options.

Mexico's Interjet has taken delivery of its first Airbus A320 NEO aircraft, equipped with LEAP-1A engines.  Interjet has another two A320 NEOs on order.

Virgin America has taken delivery of the first A321 NEO to be delivered to a customer.  Virgin America has a total of 30 A320 NEO family aircraft on order, all powered by CFM International LEAP-1A engines.

Market analysts have suggested that, despite its dissatisfaction with Airbus' late delivery schedule for the A320 NEO, that Qatar Airways is unlikely to operate the Boeing 737 MAX on its own routes - contrary to the threats and posturing of its chief executive.  Any 737s purchased would likely be diverted to other, local airlines that Qatar has invested in.

Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney has launched a fleetwide retrofit of a more durable air seal for its PW1100G engine, to resolve existing maintenance issues.  The retrofit centers around the number-3 bearing compartment, and can be installed during a single shift.

Silk Way Group has placed an order for 10 Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft.  Silk Way is an Azerbaijan-based conglomerate of aviation-related companies, which includes both cargo and passenger airlines.

Air Lease has signed a contract to place two Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft with MIAT Mongolian Airlines.

Russia's United Engine Corporation has committed to spending some $390 million to upgrade its facilities and prepare for production of its PD-14 engine.  The PD-14 is being offered as a local, Russian-made alternative to the Pratt & Whitney PW1400G Geared TurboFan (GTF) engine that will power the initial versions of the Irkut MC-21 airline, now under development.

Chinese officials report that Comac has completed all ground tests necessary prior to first flight of the C919 airliner.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fighter Jet Times - April 20, 2017

April 20, 2017

Six U.S. Air Force F-35A fighters have been deployed to RAF Lakenheath for NATO wargames - the first time that the U.S. has deployed the fighter to Europe since it officialy became operational.  An additional two F-35As are expected to join them, after repairing a fuel valve glitch that delayed their deployment.

British officials have expressed concerns over plans to have RAF F-35 fighters serviced at a NATO depot in Turkey.  Uncertainty over Turkey's political future has led some officials to call for an alternative overhaul site.  Turkey was designated by the U.S. Joint Program Office to provide "deep maintenance" for the F-35's F135 engines for European based aircraft.  Other deep maintenance sites are to be set up in Australia and the United States.

Norway has begun tests of the braking parachute that is currently being developed to support European F-35s.  The tests are being carried out at U.S. facilities in California.

A retired U.S. Marine Corps Major who helped design the training syllabus for F-35 pilots has suggested that the F-35 failed to impress during earlier training engagements with legacy F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 fighters largely because the pilots were unaccustomed to the features of the new airplane.  He added that "If you try to fight it like a fighter it isn’t, you’re going to have terrible results."

The U.S. Air Force remains indecisive regarding whether to retire its F-15C fleet in the mid-2020s, or pay for the expensive structural refurbishment that would be needed to keep the aircraft flying.

The U.S. Air Force has authorized a Service Life Extension Program for the F-16 that will keep the newest F-16 airframes - purchased in the 1990s - flying into the 2040s.

Media sources claim that Russia has begun flight testing an integrated avionics suite aboard its PAK-FA stealth fighter - a key step towards making the aircraft operational.

Russia has reportedly begun development of a long range interceptor to replace its aging MiG-31 fleet.  The MiG-31 Foxhound is a derivative of the MiG-25 Foxbat - a high speed interceptor that lacks the agility of such fighters as the Su-27.

Japanese fighters were scrambled at a record pace in 2016, with 1,168 scramble orders issued in response to Chinese activity in the air space surrounding Japan.  In 2015, there were only 873 such intercept orders made.

Chinese J-11 (Su-27) fighters have been deployed to a man-made island in the South China Sea for the first time in nearly a year.

India is expected to help fund the maintenance and eventual replacement of Bangladesh's small fleet of MiG-29 fighters.

Rolls-Royce is reportedly working with India's DRDO to help develop new jet engine technologies for possible application to future Indian fighter programs.

Iran has released a video of its purported Qaher F-313 stealth fighter undergoing taxi tests.  The Qaher F-313 was first unveiled as a fiberglass mockup in 2013 - in a form that was clearly unflyable, with an cockpit canopy that couldn't close over the ejection seat.  The latest video depicts a slightly larger aircraft taxiing under its own power, but no take-offs occuring.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Space Highlights - April 19, 2017

April 19, 2017

China has launched its highest capacity communications satellite yet, the Shijian 13 - also known as Chinasat 16 - which was launched into orbit by a Long March 3B rocket.

An Atlas V rocket has sent a payload on its way to the International Space Station, which in addition to space station supplies includes 36 experimental microsatellites.  The collection of small satellites were largely sponsored as university experiments, including for example, the first such Australian-built satellite to be launched in 15 years.

Researchers combing throught data supplied by the Cassini spacecraft have concluded that the oceans on Saturn's moon, Enceladus contain the necessary chemical ingredients to support life.  Cassini sampled gases released by hydrothermal geysers, which provided a chemical trace for the oceans hidden beneath the icy exterior of the moon.

As part of its grand finale, before plunging into the depths of Saturn's atmosphere, the Cassini spacecraft is expected to fly between Saturn and its rings for the first time - providing new data on the rings' structure and composition.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified a region of Mars marked by mysterious secondary craters - which feature a raised-relief structure not normally seen.  The unusual contours point to an unusual soil composition at the time of the impact, possibly involving some amount of water on the surface.

New images released from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal newly identified lakes and gullies that once cut across ancient craters on the Martian surface.

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has detected a distribution of metal particles and ions in the upper atmosphere of Mars which underscore differences between the Martian environment - where there is no strong magnetic field - and Earth - where a planetary magnetic field deflects charged metal ions.

Landslides on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres, as documented by the Dawn spacecraft, point to an underlying icy crust.

New observations from the Dawn spacecraft confirm that Ceres does have a thin atmosphere - but that the composition and density changes during the orbit of the dwarf planet, and with the intensity of solar activity at any given time.

The New Horizons spacecraft, now half way between Pluto and its next fly-by target, has been placed in a five-month slumber to reduce wear on the spacecraft.

Scientists have confirmed the identification of the smallest exoplanet known to have an atmosphere.  The planet, located 39 light years away, is only slightly larger than the Earth.  Traces of water and methane have been identified in the atmosphere of the planet, which orbits closely around a red dwarf star.

Researchers searching for exoplanets have identified a large planet, three times the size of Jupiter, in orbit around a star 21,000 light years away, using a new technique known as gravitational microlensing.  The researchers hope to use this method to eventually locate smaller planets closer to Earth.

A group of researchers has identified a "bridge" of dark matter connecting distant galaxies.  If confirmed, this finding could help to explain the large-scale structure among galaxy clusters witnessed in the universe.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wide Body Report - April 18, 2017

April 18, 2017

Norsk Titanium is expected to deliver the first FAA-approved titanium 3D printed parts to Boeing, for introduction into the 787 Dreamliner.  Boeing officials are advertising that 3D printed parts could save them up to $3 million per airplane.

Boeing's 787-10 prototype will be heading to Seattle for additional testing.  The 787-10 is the largest member of the Dreamliner family.

Boeing successfully delivered 32 787 Dreamliners during the first quarter of 2017.

Iran Air is expected to receive its first Boeing 777-300ER a year earlier than planned, taking advantage of an airplane that had been scheduled for delivery to Turkish Airlines, but which was sidelined after the Turkish carrier renegotiated its delivery schedule.

Lufthansa has completed its first commercial flight introducing the Airbus A350-900 on its Mumbai route.

In a blow to Airbus, Delta has announced that it is reviewing its standing, $14 billion wide body order with the European aircraft manufacturer, over concerns that the wide body market is already over-saturated with capacity.

Ethiopian Airlines has announced plans to launch Airbus A350 operations on its Mumbai route.  The airline currently has three A350-900s in operation, with another 11 on order.

Airbus' A350-1000 prototype has completed noise testing.  The A350-1000 is a stretched model with an all-new wing, aimed at competing against the Boeing 777 for higher-capacity long-haul routes.

Russia and China have officially launched a joint program to develop the proposed Comac C929 wide body airline, aimed at customer deliveries starting in 2027.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Single Aisle News - April 17, 2017

April 17, 2017

In response to a public outcry, Bombardier has announced that it will defer the executive pay increases announced previously, which would have increased the pay-out to its top six executives by some 50%.  Bombardier has received government loans from the province of Quebec, and has been seeking similar assistance from Canada's federal government, to help transition the C-Series from development to production.

Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney has ordered preventative inspections of C-Series geared turbofan (GTF) engines, in response to difficulties encountered with the GTF engine for the Airbus A320 NEO.

Embraer has contracted Panasonic to provide the inflight entertainment systems for its E2 E-Jets, currently under development.

Responding to delays in the development and deliveries of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, Japan's ANA has contracted for the lease of four Boeing 737-800s to help it fill the gap in its fleet coverage while it awaits MRJ deliveries.

Airbus has fallen behind during the first quarter in the order race against Boeing, as delivery delays for the A320 NEO hamper the manufacturer's ability to cement new orders.

Air New Zealand has unveiled its new economy seat design for its A320/A321 NEO fleet.

Iran's Aseman Airlines has signed a deal for the purchase of 30 Boeing 737 MAX airlines, in what is expected to be a test of the new U.S. administration's willingness to allow U.S. manufacturers to close business deals with Iran.

Boeing's first 737 MAX-9 made its first flight this past week, beginning the flight test program for what was once expected to be the largest member of the 737 MAX family.  Boeing has since rolled out plans for a slightly larger 737 MAX-10 model, to help it better compete with the Airbus A321 NEO.

Static durability tests have demonstrated that Russia's Irkut will need to reinforce the composite wing design of its MC-21 airliner, before it enters flight test.  The static test article reportedly failed its ultimate load test at slightly lower than the targeted safety margin.

Comac's C919 prototype has begun its high-speed taxi tests, one of the last steps before its anticipated first flight.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Fighter Jet Times - April 6, 2017

April 6, 2017

The U.S. Air Force has completed tests of the revised F-35 ejection seat, which should allow lightweight pilots to fly the aircraft.  The previous version of the ejection system placed lightweight pilots at increased risk of neck injury during an ejection.

Conflicting media reports suggest that Lockheed Martin is being offered a multiyear block buy for purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter, in return for Lockheed's agreement not to protest additional orders of the F/A-18 for the U.S. Navy.  U.S. government officials have declined to comment on the reports.

The recently retired Director of Test and Evaluation for the U.S. military has published his final report on the F-35 program, pointing out that "The Services have designated 276 deficiencies in combat performance as 'critical to correct' in Block 3F, but less than half of the critical deficiencies were addressed with attempted corrections."

Lockheed Martin has won a $500 million contract for the supply of spares for the F-35.

Brig. Gen. Eric Fick has been named as the new deputy director for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  Fick was formerly the U.S. Air Force's director of global reach programs.

The U.S. Air Force has finally certified the latest version of the Sidewinder heat seeking missile, the AIM-9X for use in the F-22 Raptor, but has still not integrated a helmet mounted display and sight into the stealth fighter - which would allow the aircraft to take advantage of the missile's high off-boresight capabilities.

An F-16C crashed two miles south of Joint Base Andrews, near Washington D.C.  The pilot ejected safely.  The cause of the crash is under investigation.

The U.S. Air Force is debating whether to retire its F-15C fleet earlier than had been planned, due to the high cost being projected to structurally refurbish the airplane.  The cost of refitting the aircraft is projected to be around $30-40 million per airplane, causing some to consider retiring the fleet in the 2020s rather than maintaining them past 2040 as previously planned.

The Japanese Air Self Defense Force has doubled the number of F-15 fighter intercept sorties over the past year, in response to increased Chinese incursions in the East China Sea, and the area surrounding islands that Japan claims as its own.

The U.S. is reportedly considering a new, broader arms package for Taiwan, possibly to include F-35 stealth fighters - a weapons system that the U.S. had previously refused to sell to Taiwan for fear of offending China.  Previous administrations had refused to sell additional F-16 fighters to Taiwan, let alone the United States' lastest stealth jet.

The Indian Air Force suffered the loss of 11 fighter jets over the past year, as its fleet continues to age and replacement plans are dragged out.

A group of U.S. senators is urging the Trump administration to more vigorously promote the proposed sale of F-16 fighters and U.S.-built drones to India.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Space Highlights - April 5, 2017

April 5, 2017

After successfully launching a satellite last week aboard a used Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX successfully recovered the used booster a second time, and brought it back into port for refurbishment this week.

United Launch Alliance has won three launch contracts from the U.S. government - one each for the Delta 4, Atlas 5-551, and Atlas 5-401 launch vehicles.  The planned launches include the NROL-82 spy satellite, a weather satellite, and one undisclosed payload.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has completed 50,000 orbits of the red planet to date, accumulating a catalogue of some 90,000 images.

Evidence collected from NASA's Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft suggests that some 90 percent of the Martian atmosphere was lost to space over the span of a few hundred million years, leaving the Martian surface the dry, barren environment that we know today.

The Cassini spacecraft is expected to begin its "Grand Finale" this month, diving inside of Saturn's rings for the first time.  The spacecraft is also expected to have a final, close encounter with Saturn's largest moon, Titan, before burning up in Saturn's atmosphere.

The New Horizons spacecraft is now mid-way between Pluto and its next target: Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69.

Four objects have been flagged by researchers for follow-up study as possible candidates for the proposed Planet Nine.

A recent study into the orbits of the Milky Way galaxy's dwarf satellite galaxies suggests that these structures can be explained only if similarly sized, dark matter dwarf galaxies likewise exist to stabilize the observed orbits.

A group of researchers is preparing to use a global network of radio telescopes to peer into the inner regions of the Milky Way galaxy, in an attempt to produce the first ever "image" of the region surrounding the black hole at the center of the galaxy.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Wide Body Report - April 4, 2017

April 4, 2017

Kuwait Airways has received its sixth Boeing 777-300ER to be delivered during the past four months.  A total of ten such aircraft are expected to eventually join the Kuwait Airways fleet.

Production snags have delayed the delivery of two Boeing 777-300ER aircraft destined for United Airlines, due to the availability of seating on back order from France's Zodiac Aerospace.  The delayed aircraft are part of United Airlines' attempts to rebrand its cabins, and win back business travelers along high-volume routes to Asia.

Boeing's first 787-10 prototype made its first flight this past week, inaugurating the flight test program for the largest member of the Dreamliner family.

A Boeing 787 flown by Scoot clipped wing tips with an Emirates Airbus A380 at Singapore Changi International Airport.

Etihad Airways has commenced daily service with a Boeing 787-9 along its Abu Dhabi-Amman route.

British Airways has introduced the Boeing 787-9 along its London-Mumbai route.

Cathay Pacific has inaugurated service to Tel Aviv aboard the Airbus A350.

Triumph has been contracted to supply composite rudder components from its Thailand facility for the Airbus A350 over the next five years.

Singapore Airlines has launched service to Melbourne aboard the A350-900.

Lufthansa is counting on the Airbus A350-900 to turn its long-haul routes out of Munich, which have consistently lost money, profitable.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Single Aisle News - April 3, 2017

April 3, 2017

Bombardier has come under scrutiny for increasing executive bonuses by nearly 50 percent this past year, at a time when the company was accepting government loans from the province of Quebec to complete the transition into production for the C-Series.

Embraer's first E195-E2 prototype made its first flight this past week, joining the E190-E2 in flight test.  The E190-E2 and E195-E2 are powered by a version of the Pratt & Whitney Geared TurboFan (GTF) engine that also powers the Bombardier C-Series.

The first Airbus A319 NEO prototype made its first flight this past week, powered by a CFM International LEAP-1A engine.  The A319 NEO is the smallest member of the A320 NEO family.

Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney plans to reserve 13% of this year's production of Geared TurboFan engines to replace faulty units already delivered to A320 NEO customers.

A fourth Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) prototype has arrived in Washington state for flight test.

Mitsubishi Aircraft is debating over whether to send one of its MRJ prototypes to this year's Paris Air Show in June.

Garuda International expects to receive its first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the fourth quarter of 2017.