11.05.2009
FLUG REVUE

News Update 11 May 2009 - News in Brief

Our weekly news roundup from around the aerospace industry.

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For the period from January to April 2009, Air Berlin welcomed a total of 7,636,014 passengers on board, i.e. 5.4 percent less than in the corresponding period of the previous year (2008: 8,073,735 passengers). This decline is in part due to the accumulated capacity decreasing by three percent. For the first four months of 2009, fleet capacity utilization decreased by 1.9 percentage points to 72.8 percent.
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EADS Defence & Security (DS) and Indian engineering giant Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Mumbai, will join forces in the fields of defence technology. During a signing ceremony in Mumbai, EADS DS and L&T announced the planned formation of a joint venture company for defence electronics in India, based in Talegaon near Pune. The new company will aim at design, development, manufacturing and related services in the fields of electronic warfare, radar, military avionics and mobile systems (such as modular bridges) for military applications. The formation of the joint venture is subject to approval by the Indian Government. A. M. Naik, Chairman and Managing Director of L&T said: .For over two decades, L&T has been a major supplier of critical systems to India.s defence forces. These include a wide range of products like weapon launchers, naval systems, radar systems, etc. We welcome the formation of this joint venture that will create opportunities for development of state-of-the-art defence electronic products and systems for the Indian defence forces and for the rest of the world..
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Icejet, the Icelandic private jet operator has moved quickly to optimise its business having taken the strategic decision to base four of its five Dornier 328 Jets at airports in Europe.   One of its 14-seat Envoy aircraft is now based in Le Bourget in Paris; a second has gone to Riga in the Baltic States and two aircraft – including its 19-seat corporate shuttle version – last month arrived at their new home at Oxford Airport in the UK. Icejet, now in its fourth year, is looking to sell two of its 328Jets, yet offering an AOC management package, keeping them close to their. They will also continue to be supported through ICEFBO and Hangar One, at Reykavik Airport, which is an EASA 145 organization
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Boeing and Turkish Airlines have signed an order for five Boeing 777-300ER (Extended Range) airplanes valued at $1.36 billion at current list prices. This is the first time Turkish Airlines has purchased new 777s directly from Boeing. The airline currently operates a fleet of 65 Boeing airplanes including Next-Generation 737s and leased 777-300ERs. "The 777-300ER will provide Turkish Airlines with exceptional fuel economy, efficiency and reliability, combined with unmatched levels of payload and range," said Aldo Basile, vice president of Sales for Europe, Russia and Central Asia, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "It will also help Turkey build on its position as a rapidly growing market of international importance."
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Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's PWR-9221FJ dual-mode ramjet engine successfully completed its first ground test at Mach 4 flight conditions at Arnold Engineering Development Center, Tullahoma, Tenn. A dual-mode ramjet engine is a key technology for developing reusable hypersonic vehicles. “Successful demonstration of the dual-mode ramjet engine integrated with a variable geometry inlet and exhaust nozzle sets the stage for future turbine-based, combined-cycle propulsion and flight demonstration opportunities," said Cal DeFreese, program manager, Falcon Combined-Cycle Engine Technology (FaCET), Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. "Current testing is focused on validating the operability and robustness of the dual-mode ramjet design during simulated transitions from turbojet to ramjet propulsion modes." A dual-mode ramjet engine is designed to operate as both a ramjet at moderate supersonic speeds (up to Mach 5) and a scramjet at hypersonic speeds (greater than Mach 5). This broad range of operational capability is required for turbine-based, combined-cycle propulsion that would enable a vehicle to take off from and land on a conventional runway, and travel at speeds up to Mach 6.
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The Australien defence minister announced that Defence has taken the first steps in a $A5 billion project to acquire a manned Maritime Patrol and Response Aircraft by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States Navy (USN) to cooperatively develop upgrades to the P-8A Poseidon aircraft and support systems. The manned aircraft, to be acquired under Project AIR7000 Phase 2, in conjunction with the Multi-mission Unmanned Aerial System, to be acquired under Project AIR 7000 Phase 1. Australian Defence will collaborate in Spiral One, the first in a series of improvements planned through the life of the P-8A. Through participation in the P-8A Spiral One cooperative development program, Defence seeks to gain information on the P-8A to support the acquisition and through life support decisions, provide opportunities for Australian industry, and influence the direction of P-8A improvements. The 2009 Defence White Paper detailed the Government's plans to acquire eight new maritime patrol aircraft to replace the capability currently provided by the AP-3C Orion aircraft, when that aircraft is retired in 2018 after 30-years of RAAF service.
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"A potent and flexible air combat capability is a cornerstone of Australia's defence posture. Control of the air over our territory and maritime approaches is critical to all other operations in the defence of Australia," said the Minister for Defence, the Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP. "The White Paper will ensure Air Force maintains its regional air superiority through the acquisition of around 100 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, along with the Super Hornets as a part of the bridging air combat capability. These aircraft will significantly enhance Australia's deterrence, and provide a robust offensive capability should circumstances necessitate," Mr Fitzgibbon said. Through the combination of highly skilled people, multirole combat fighters and assets such as Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft, advanced weapons, air-to-air refuelling aircraft and command, control and surveillance capabilities, the Air Force will continue to offer the Government air superiority, maritime strike, long-range strategic strike, offensive air support and close air support capability options. Australia's future Air Force will include a balance of conventional and uninhabited aerial platforms that will enhance the future anti-submarine warfare capability of Air Force and significantly enhance Australia's maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance coverage. The White Paper also strengthens and rebalances the Air Force's strategic (inter-theatre) and operational (intra-theatre) air-lift capability through the acquisition of new aircraft.
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Cessna announced it has delivered the 200th Citation Mustang, with the aircraft going to Maritime Air Charters. The event was marked with a brief ceremony at Cessna's Independence, Kan., facility. The current fleet of Citation Mustangs has accumulated more than 34,000 flight hours, and the high-time aircraft has logged nearly 1,000 hours. The Mustang is currently certified in 57 countries including the United States.
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The Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter Cooperative Avionics Test Bed ("CATBird") aircraft recently completed a two-week deployment to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where it demonstrated the robust qualities of avionics systems being developed for the F-35 Lightning II. The deployment included successful airborne testing of the F-35 Lightning II radar, electronic warfare and communications/navigation/identification systems and more than 2.8 million lines of mission systems flight software. The testing reduces hardware and software risks that cannot be retired in ground laboratories and individual sensor test beds before testing of the first mission systems equipped F-35 aircraft later this year.
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The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) stated that in the first three months of 2009, deliveries of general aviation airplanes totaled 462 units, a 41.1 percent drop from the same period last year, with industry billings falling 18.2 percent to $4.34 billion. “This is an extremely difficult time for our industry,” said GAMA President and CEO, Pete Bunce.  “We are dealing first and foremost with the severe negative effects of a worldwide economic downturn, but also with unwarranted criticism focused on the industry.  The result has been the cancellation of orders for new airplanes and the loss of more than 15,000 high-paying jobs for American workers over the last several months.  The reality is that the U.S. general aviation industry leads the world in innovation and remains one of the few American industries with a positive balance of trade.”   Bunce added, “We will continue to work with governments around the world to recognize that general aviation can play a key role in propelling the economic recovery.” The piston airplane segment was down 55.1 percent in the first quarter, with 179 units delivered as compared to 399 airplanes in the first three months of 2008.  The turboprop segment was the only segment that experienced growth in the first quarter with 92 units delivered, up from 89 units during the same period in 2008 for a 3.4 percent increase.  Business jet shipments fell 35.7 percent in the first quarter with 191 airplanes delivered, as compared to 297 business jets in the first quarter of 2008.
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Textron Defense Systems announced that it has been selected to provide thermal protection heat shields for the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The company spent more than three years refining its Avcoat ablative material for the Orion thermal protection system, leading up to the final selection by the NASA Orion Project Office and prime contractor Lockheed Martin on behalf of NASA's Constellation Program.
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Due to the current economic and aviation crisis and following specific customer requests for deferrals, Airbus is adapting its A380 aircraft delivery schedule for 2009/2010. According to the new plan, Airbus expects to deliver 14 double-decker aircraft in 2009 and more than 20 aircraft in 2010. Onward production rates and deliveries are dependent on airline demand and availability of customer financing. Airbus will take mitigating actions against the negative effects of the new A380-plan on free cash-flow of the company. There will be no significant impact on EBIT. Furthermore, Airbus also confirms its plan to deliver in 2009 about the same number of aircraft as in 2008, which was a record year for the company (483 aircraft).
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The Missile Defense Agency, supported by NASA and the commercial firm United Launch Alliance, on May 5 successfully launched the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) Advanced Technology Risk Reduction (ATRR) satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., at approximately 1:24 p.m. PDT (4:24 p.m. EDT). The satellite was launched aboard a Delta II 7920-10 launch vehicle. MDA, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Center Space Development and Test Wing, and NASA have overall mission management responsibility. STSS ATRR is a small experimental satellite that serves as a pathfinder for next-generation sensor technology for future MDA space missions. The program takes multiple approaches to reduce overall risk to the layered Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) through sensor testing, launch and space vehicle integration, resource protection and security planning, and launch site processing. MDA is pursuing a space-based sensor layer to detect missile launches, provide continuous target tracking, and pass track data to missile defense interceptors with the accuracy and timeliness necessary to enable successful target interception. Two developmental STSS demonstration satellites will also be launched aboard a single launch vehicle late this summer from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
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Customers onboard American Airlines Flight 172 from New York (JFK) to Brussels (BRU) on Thursday, May 7, were among the first to experience American's newly-reconfigured Boeing 757 international aircraft on a trans-Atlantic flight. American is in the process of reconfiguring 18 of its 124 Boeing 757s for use on international routes, and Thursday's JFK-to-Brussels flight is the first to make an international journey with the new configuration. Featuring new seats, new cabin interiors and updated inflight entertainment systems, the reconfiguration - slated for completion by the end of this year - will offer customers a comfortable international travel experience. "American Airlines fleet of Boeing 757 international aircraft will be well-suited to serve select international routes following the refurbishment initiative," said Lauri Curtis, American's Vice President - Onboard Service.
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Air components deployed on the Baltic Air-policing mission in the Lithuanian Air Force Aviation Base (Siauliai) rotated on May 1. Troops of the Royal Danish Air Force who provided security for the Baltic airspace transferred the mission to the Czech Air Contingent. This is the first time troops of the Czech Air Force will be conducting NATO Baltic Air-policing mission. Rotation ceremony at the LAF Aviation Base was attended by the Commander Czech Air Force, heads of missions of embassies of the Czech Republic in Lithuania and Latvia, Defence Attachés of Denmark and the Czech Republic, representatives of the Lithuanian Air Force, Aviation Base, Siauliai Municipality, and other guests. Czech Air Contingent comprises 75 members coming from different units of the Czech Armed Forces. Majority of them originally serve in 21 Tactical Air Base in Èáslav. Air Contingent will be led by Commander Maj. Miroslav Míka. He is in charge of 211 Tactical Air Squadron of 21 Tactical Air Base of the Air Force of the Czech Republic. Czech Air Contingent will also include up to eight troops and civilian personnel of the Armed Forces of Kingdom of Sweden. They will provide assistance in maintaining JAS-39 Gripen aircrafts the Czech Air Force has acquired from Sweden.
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The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) detachment at Mountain Home Air Force Base (MHAFB) in Idaho, United States, received the first batch of four Boeing F-15SG multi-role fighter aircraft. This marks the beginning of RSAF F-15 training at MHAFB. Prior to this, the RSAF pilots have been undergoing F-15 training with their USAF counterparts in Seymour Johnson Air Force base in North Carolina, United States. The delivery of the RSAF's F-15SG aircraft is another significant milestone in the RSAF's transformation into the 3rd Generation Air Force. Equipped with state-of-the-art avionics and a sophisticated integrated sensor suite, the F-15SG is the most advanced variant of the F-15 aircraft built to date.
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Boeing plans to develop and demonstrate an unmanned flying test bed for advanced air system technologies. The internally funded program, called Phantom Ray, will use the prototype vehicle that Boeing originally developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Navy Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) program. The Phantom Ray demonstrator is scheduled to make its first flight in December 2010. The aircraft will conduct 10 flights over a period of approximately six months, supporting missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; hunter/killer; and autonomous aerial refueling. The Boeing Phantom Works organization is employing rapid-prototyping techniques that facilitate the speed and agility needed to meet the 2010 flight schedule. "Boeing's goals for the Phantom Ray program clearly demonstrate our commitment to rapid prototyping and are an important part of the company's efforts to be a leader in the unmanned aircraft business," said Phantom Works President Darryl Davis. "We have mobilized our assets to continue the tremendous potential we developed under J-UCAS, and now will fully demonstrate that capability."
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Romania's flag carrier Tarom took delivery of its first ATR 72-500 aircraft. This follows the contract signed last year, valued at some US $ 37 million, for two ATR 72-500s. The airline currently operates a fleet of 7 ATR 42-500s, and will take delivery of its second new ATR 72-500 later this year. The ATR 72-500 aircraft delivered today is configured with 68-seats and powered with PW 127M engines. The aircraft is also equipped with the “Elegance cabin”, which features the most advanced technological enhancements in the field of passenger comfort in regional aviation.
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For Austrian Airlines, the traditionally weak first quarter was additionally burdened by a global slump in demand in 2009. This development could only be counteracted to a limited extent by targeted capacity adjustments. As a result of the revenue decline, the adjusted EBIT fell to EUR –70.3m, compared to EUR –44.9m in the first quarter of the previous year. The production and price-related decrease in fuel costs of EUR 17.5m to EUR 91.4m only marginally compensated for the drop in flight revenue of EUR –85.1m, to EUR 415.3m. In the period January-March 2009, EBIT amounted to EUR –77.0m, down from EUR –52.8m in the previous year. The financial result improved from EUR -15.6m to EUR –10.8m, due to the positive effects of declining interest rates. In the first three months of 2009, flight revenue fell to EUR 415.3m, a decrease of 17.0% compared to the flight revenue of EUR 500.4m generated in the first quarter of the previous year. This development can be attributed to the slump in demand and targeted production cutbacks. The included flight revenue of the charter segment, at EUR 27.2m, developed in a more stable manner (-8.7%). In contrast, cargo and mail revenue declined more drastically by EUR –12.2m, or –35.1%, compared to the first quarter of the previous year due to the current economic crisis. In spite of increased revenue from technical services, particularly as a consequence of the cooperation with Lufthansa Technik, as well as training activities, the 16.3% drop in operating revenue to EUR 454.7m was linked to a reduction in earnings from the disposal of tangible and intangible assets. In the first three months of 2009, the cash flow from operating activities amounted to EUR –13.8m, or EUR 57.6m below the level in the first quarter of 2008. In addition to changes in working capital, this development is chiefly related to the lower earnings compared to the previous year. On balance, an increase in the number of aircraft overhauls and the sale of securities led to a reduction in the cash flow from investing activities, which fell to EUR –6.2m in the period January-March 2009, down from EUR 5.9m in the comparable period of 2008.
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