14.12.2009
FLUG REVUE

News Update 14 December 2009 - News in Brief

Our weekly news roundup from around the aerospace industry.

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In November 2009, Air Berlin improved its revenue per available seat kilometer (ASK) to 5.24 Eurocents, i.e. an increase of 1.7 percent over the corresponding month of the previous year (November 2008: 5.15 Eurocents). With a total of 2,150,645 passengers (including those travelling on the acquired TUIfly routes), the number of passengers transported remained at the previous year's level (-0.1 percent). In November 2008, Air Berlin transported 2,151,873 passengers (including those travelling on the acquired TUIfly routes). Fleet capacity utilization for November 2009 decreased slightly (-0.8 percentage points) to 71.9 percent (November 2008: 72.7 percent). Capacity increased by 1.1 percent over the corresponding month of the previous year.
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On 6 December, Boeing acquired the first on-orbit signals from the third of six Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellites. The signals indicate that the spacecraft is healthy and ready to begin orbital maneuvers and operational testing. WGS is the latest U.S. Department of Defense satellite communications system. A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket launched the WGS-3 satellite at 8:47 p.m. Eastern time on Dec. 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A ground station in Dongara, Australia, received the satellite's first signals 58 minutes later at 9:45 p.m. Eastern time. Boeing's Mission Control Center in El Segundo, Calif., confirmed that the satellite is functioning normally. Following a series of orbital maneuvers and on-orbit tests over the West Coast of the United States, WGS-3 will be placed into geosynchronous Earth orbit over the Atlantic Ocean. The satellite joins WGS-1, which entered service over the Pacific Ocean in April 2008, and WGS-2, which began operations over the Middle East in August 2009. The WGS-1 and WGS-2 satellites meet and, in some cases, exceed Air Force mission requirements. Together, the three WGS satellites will provide assured access to high-data-rate communications for U.S. forces and allies around the world.
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Raytheon has been awarded a contract by the United Kingdom's NATS, formerly National Air Traffic Services, to conduct software modeling and field trials of technology that minimizes the effects of wind turbines on radar signals. "We are developing this much-needed technology with NATS to eliminate potential radar blackout zones near wind farms and enable the U.K. to continue its progress in developing safe, renewable energy resources," said Andy Zogg, Raytheon Network Centric Systems vice president of Command and Control Systems. "This contract award is a strong endorsement of our leap-ahead technology and will enable our customer to move forward with its greening of energy production." Wind farm turbines create a Doppler effect as they rotate, creating a potential radar blackout zone. The Raytheon solution uses hardware and software to detect the turbines on radar systems, which eliminates interference with radar displays.
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Eurocopter announced the purchase of two EC225s by the French Defense Ministry for the country's navy. The two EC225s ordered by the French Armament Procurement Agency (DGA) will be the first to be operated by the French Navy. The helicopters, which will be used to perform search and rescue (SAR) missions off the coast of Brittany, are slated for delivery in the first half of 2010 and will be assigned to the Lanvéoc naval air station in the Finistère region. They are destined to replace the navy's Super-Frelon helicopters, which are near the end of their service life, and will be operated until such time as the first NH90 NFH helicopters enter service at the base in late 2011.
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The C-5M Super Galaxy team has completed another stage of operational test and evaluation with the conclusion of surge operations at Dover AFB.The surge operations consisted of 31 days of delivering essential cargo and flying sorties nonstop, from Dover AFB to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, without refueling to test wartime contingency operations. "Our maintainers spent the last 12 months training for this big game. Not only are they hitting a home run with regards to operational test and evaluation, but they hit a grand slam during the surge. The C-5M is a strategic airlift revolution -- proven by successful completion of the Dover to Incirlik surge," said Maj. Stephanie Halcrow, the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, who had the responsibility for preparing the C-5M aircraft and personnel for operational test and evaluation. During the surge period, the C-5M flew 34 sorties and moved 3.8 million pounds of cargo while saving time and fuel. Traditional C-5B Galaxy sorties include fuel stops at Rota Naval Air Station, Spain, which the C-5M bypassed as part of the operational test and evaluation. This direct flight to Incirlik AB saved more than 365 hours, 289 of those on the ground, and approximately 1.3 million pounds of fuel.
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The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took delivery of the first maritime variant of the Predator B unmanned aircraft system (UAS). At a ceremony in Palmdale, California, CBP, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and General Atomics Aeronatuical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) unveiled the prototype maritime variant Predator B, known as Guardian. To support future mission requirements, CBP in partnership with the USCG is exploring a maritime variant of its Predator B UAS to increase reconnaissance, surveillance, and targeting acquisition capabilities in maritime operating environments.  For this purpose, GA-ASI, the manufacturer of the Predator B UAS, modified a CBP Predator B aircraft to become the Guardian.“The Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System has proven its value to homeland security over the nation's land borders, the Great Lakes region, and in support of DHS hurricane and flood response operations,” said Michael Kostelnik, Assistant Commissioner for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine. “With the introduction of the Guardian, maritime variant of the Predator B, DHS now has a powerful tool and force multiplier to increase maritime domain awareness and confront threats to our borders.”
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Raytheon demonstrated the capability to employ the AIM-9X Sidewinder advanced infrared-guided air-to-air missile to attack surface targets. During a Sept. 23 test, an AIM-9X fired from a U.S. Air Force F-16C fighter sank a rapidly moving target boat in the Gulf of Mexico. "With a software upgrade, AIM-9X retains its air-to-air capabilities and gains an air-to-surface capability," said Harry Schulte, Raytheon Missile Systems vice president of Air Warfare Systems. "AIM-9X now has the potential to take on an additional mission at a very affordable cost."
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Alenia Aeronautica delivered the first of two ATR 42MP Maritime Patrol aircraft to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) as part of the contract signed in March 2007. The second aircraft is currently being converted and will be delivered to the customer in 2010. The contract also covers the provision of pilot and operator training on the basic aircraft (at the ATR Training Centre in Toulouse) as well as on the MP configuration of the aircraft and the mission system (at the Alenia Aeronautica Training Centre at the Caselle South site in Turin). At the customer's request, training will take place in Nigeria from 2010 onwards, in order to allow NAF to benefit from full use of the aircraft as quickly as possible.
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Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC) announced it received Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) Type Certification for the Hawker 4000 super-midsize business jet on Nov. 30, 2009. The Hawker 4000 is the world's most advanced business jet based on its innovative composite construction. Deliveries of the flagship aircraft into China are scheduled to begin during the first quarter of 2010.
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The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Program is on track for initial operational test and evaluation in 2011. "The E-2D System Development and Demonstration (SDD) Program is going very well," said Culmo. "We've successfully completed 94 percent of the SDD Program, and flight tests to date have produced excellent results. We have a strong Advanced Hawkeye Team, dedicated to ensuring that we continue to meet, or exceed, all major program milestones and performance criteria." Culmo noted that the company is on-track to deliver three pilot production E-2Ds to the U.S. Navy in 2010 and that manufacturing of the first two Low-Rate Initial Production aircraft is also progressing well.
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In November 2009 traffic development at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) received another strong push forward. "Traffic during the past month has impressively confirmed a clear growth trend and has even partly exceeded our expectations. Frankfurt Airport's traffic figures are climbing noticeably," explained Fraport executive board chairman Dr. Stefan Schulte. In the reporting month, Fraport AG registered 3.9 million passengers at its Frankfurt intercontinental hub, only 0.2 percent fewer than in November 2008. "Thus, Frankfurt Airport's passenger volume almost reached last year's level. Group-wide, Fraport even recorded a 3.3 percent jump in passenger traffic," Schulte said with satisfaction. The growth driver at FRA was intercontinental flights, with routes to America and Asia experiencing particularly strong growth again. November's figures continued to diminish the traffic decline at FRA in 2009. Following the double-digit drop in passenger figures at the beginning of the year, the January-to-November 2009 period registered a total of about 47.1 million passengers or a drop of 5.3 percent.
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Boeing successfully completed the first engine runs for the 747-8 Freighter. The milestone marks another step in the 747 program's steady progress in preparing for flight test. Engine runs began slightly before 10 a.m. (PST) Tuesday. During initial engine runs, the engines are started and operated at various power settings to ensure all systems perform as expected. The engine run test began with the auxiliary power system providing power to start the first of four General Electric GEnx-2B engines. The remaining three engines were started using the cross-bleed function.
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Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance rolled out the first U.S. Customs & Border Protection Agency (CBP) UH-60 A-A to L recapitalization aircraft at its Chase Field Operations Center in Texas. A major aviation facility for Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance, the Chase Field Operations Center also has become a pivotal location for aircraft overhaul, repair and upgrades for the U.S. Department of Defense, other U.S. government agencies, and allied foreign militaries around the world. Based largely on the success of the H-60 Recapitalization and Upgrade Program started seven years ago at the Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD), it has proven to be one of the most effective and productive fleet maintenance programs ever accomplished by the U.S. Army.
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Nearly half of U.S. aerospace sales are exported and are a foundation for building key relationships and shared security and prosperity with important international allies and partners, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said Wednesday in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee. "We estimate nearly half of our workforce is dependent on aerospace exports," said Blakey. "As the industry becomes more global, a modernized export control system will help our industry compete in the international marketplace, grow jobs and expedite our economic recovery." Congress has been instrumental in recent export control modernization initiatives, including reducing licensing times at the State Department to an average of 15 days and ensuring FAA-certified components are not treated as military items. AIA supports a number of provisions to modernize the export control system, included in H.R. 2410. These include giving the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls more flexibility in using industry registration fees to improve the licensing process, improving the process to notify Congress of export sales, streamlining licensing of spare and replacement parts to NATO countries and returning jurisdiction for licensing commercial satellites to the Executive Branch. AIA is also encouraging the Senate to ratify the U.S.-UK and Australia Defense Trade Cooperation Treaties.
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ATR and the Algerian national airline Air Algérie announced the signature of a contract for the sale of 4 ATR 72-500s. This agreement, valued at some US $ 82 million, has been inked in Algiers in the presence of Mr. Amar Tou, Algeria's Minister of Transports. Deliveries of the aircraft will take place in 2010. These 4 ATR 72-500s, configured with 66 seats, will be equipped with Pratt & Whitney 127M engines as well as the latest technological innovations in navigational aids and communication instruments. With these new aircraft, Air Algérie, whose fleet already includes 8 ATR 72-500s, will be able to offer its passengers an optimized service, in particular increasing its flight frequencies and opening new routes inside the country and to neighboring countries.
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The U.S. Air Force X-51A WaveRider vehicle yesterday successfully made its first captive carry flight under the wing of a B-52 carry aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The X-51A is powered by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. The X-51A is expected to demonstrate hypersonic flight up to six times the speed of sound in test flights beginning early next year. The X-51A program is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), The Boeing Company and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. A captive carry flight, in which a test vehicle is attached to and carried by another aircraft, is a common approach for testing a new type of aircraft before it flies on its own.
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Emirates raised over $1.13 billion for the financing of six new Airbus A380 aircraft. Reflecting the airlines robust delivery schedule, Emirates will receive the first of these aircraft early next week, with a second arriving in late December and the remaining four A380's due for handover in 2010. These six aircraft will form part of the 53 Airbus A380 aircraft that Emirates currently has on firm order. Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline states that, “Emirates remains in a secure financial position despite the global financial crisis. We have never encountered difficulties in obtaining finance for our aircraft acquisition program, with both international and regional banks comfortable with our financial stability. As one of the world's most profitable airlines, Emirates has always honored its financial commitments and we continue to progress with our rigorous fleet and network expansion plans.” The financing for these six aircraft was arranged and funded under two separate finance agreements. The first agreement, covering three A380 aircraft, has been undertaken with Citibank, backed by a guarantee from the European Export Credit Agencies (ECAs). A second financing agreement has been arranged through Doric Asset Finance and covers the remaining three A380 aircraft.
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The Board of Directors of Thales met under the chairmanship of Luc Vigneron on 10 December 2009 and reviewed the Group's strategic prospects. A comprehensive review of the company's activities has been performed over the last few months. It has confirmed the wealth of Thales's technological portfolio, the quality of its staff throughout the world and the robustness of its customer base, and this has enabled Thales to overall withstand the world economic downturn well. However, important difficulties on several aerospace and security programmes have strongly impacted operational profitability and highlighted the necessity for a profound transformation of the operating processes used by the Group. Against this backdrop, and as the global environment continues to show depressed air traffic, government budgetary constraints and a weak dollar against the euro, Luc Vigneron presented his initiatives to bring Thales's operational performance closer to that of its European competitors and thereby strengthen the profitable growth of the Group in the medium term: 1. A systematic and comprehensive action to strengthen the control over bids and programme management; 2. A performance plan, from which Thales expects a productivity improvement of €1.3bn over the next 5 years. This productivity effort is a prerequisite to keep the Group's competitiveness and will mobilise everyone within the company; 3. A simplification of the organisation and management structures in order to foster reactivity, particularly on export markets. These initiatives will be deployed throughout the Group in the coming months.
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