16.03.2009
FLUG REVUE

News Update 16 March 2009News Update 16 March 2009 - News in Brief

Short stories from around the aerospace industry

Kurzmeldungen
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Boeing and Mexicana Group announced a lease agreement for 25 Boeing 717-200 to be used by its MexicanaClick operation. Under a multi-year arrangement, MexicanaClick will begin receiving the 717s from Boeing Capital Corporation in March, making Mexicana the first North American 717 operator outside the U.S. Boeing Capital is the world's largest lease provider of the modern, fuel-efficient twin jet. In addition to the airplanes, Boeing through its Commercial Aviation Services group will provide training for flight crew, cabin crew and maintenance staff as well as spare parts provisioning. In total this approach represents a comprehensive Boeing solution to Mexicana Group's fleet renewal needs. "With these 25 airplanes, we give a strong boost to MexicanaClick and a better way to improve the passengers' experience and the airline's operating efficiency to maintain its leadership both in quality of equipment as well as on-board services," said Manuel Borja, Mexicana Group director general.
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Passengers' needs are to be put first under new measures designed to improve air passenger experience and the economic regulation of airports, unveiled by UK Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon. Under the plans, the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), will be given a new primary duty to promote the interests of passengers. Air passengers will also get a new champion - 'Passenger Focus' - who will represent them as they do for rail and bus users. The CAA will also be given a new secondary duty to ensure that airports meet their environmental obligations. The CAA will not be asked to develop its own environmental policies but will be tasked with ensuring that the economic regulation of airports is consistent with existing environmental obligations placed on airports. Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon said: "I want to put passengers at the heart of how our airports are run – this will help ensure that that we get the most efficient and competitive aviation sector possible. The CAA has told us that their current duties lack clarity. They ask them to further the interests of both airlines and passengers, without saying who comes first. Today I am removing that lack of clarity - the passenger must come first.“
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Delta Air Lines and Midwest Airlines announced a multi-faceted alliance agreement that will include reciprocity between the two airlines' frequent flyer programs, new joint marketing efforts and expanded access to airport lounges throughout North America. The agreement extends Midwest's long-standing marketing agreement with Northwest Airlines to the new Delta Air Lines, which acquired Northwest last year. Under the new agreement, Midwest and Delta frequent flyers will be able to earn or redeem frequent flyer miles on either airline's network through the Delta SkyMiles, Northwest WorldPerks and Midwest Miles programs. The addition of Delta's route system to the previously available Northwest network increases to 379 the number of frequent flyer destinations available to Midwest customers. It is expected that the new codeshare arrangement will go into effect in June 2009, while the frequent flyer portion of the agreement will go into effect later this year. As part of the agreement, both airlines have agreed to engage in expanded marketing and advertising campaigns to promote the new alliance with their frequent flyers. It will also expand the existing Midwest-Northwest airport club membership agreement to include Delta Sky Clubs in the near future.
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ESA has announced three candidate Earth Explorer mission concepts to progress to the next phase of consolidation. This selection is part of the user-driven process that will lead to the launch of the Agency's seventh Earth Explorer satellite in the 2016 time frame. ESA's Programme Board for Earth Observation decided on three Earth Explorer missions that will undergo Feasibility Studies. The decision was based on recommendations made by ESA's Earth Science Advisory Committee (ESAC) following the Earth Explorer User Consultation Meeting held in Lisbon, Portugal in January. This decision means that the BIOMASS, CoReH2O and PREMIER missions now go through to the next stage of consolidation. The BIOMASS mission aims to determine, for the first time and in a consistent manner, the distribution and temporal changes of forest biomass at a global scale. Data from the BIOMASS mission will reduce current uncertainties in the calculations of carbon stocks and fluxes associated with the terrestrial biosphere. This is of crucial importance since deforestation is providing a net source of carbon to the atmosphere - a factor affecting climate change. BIOMASS will therefore advance our understanding of the carbon cycle and its role in controlling the climate. COld REgions Hydrology High-resolution Observatory (CoReH2O) is the first satellite mission dedicated specifically to measuring fresh water stored in snow on land surfaces and in snow accumulation on glaciers and ice sheets. The amount of water held in snow is an important component of the water cycle - though presently poorly understood. Since climate change is impacting the amount of snow and ice present it also has a critical impact on water resources. The objective of the Process Exploration through Measurements of Infrared and millimetre-wave Emitted Radiation (PREMIER) mission is to quantify processes controlling global atmospheric composition in the mid- to upper-troposphere and lower stratosphere, which is between 5 and 25 km above the surface of the Earth. The composition and dynamics of the atmosphere at the boundary between the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere has an important impact on chemical exchanges and the Earth's radiative balance. The mission aims to improve chemistry-climate models that are needed to accurately predict future changes in climate on decadal to century time scales.
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Iridium is pleased to announce that on Wednesday, March 4, 2009, the company completed the replacement of the operational Iridium satellite lost in the collision three weeks ago with a non-operational Russian satellite. The unique architecture of Iridium's fully-meshed network of 66 satellites enabled the continuity of service to Iridium's customers while one of Iridium's in-orbit spares was prepared and maneuvered into the constellation. Iridium, along with many other commercial space operators, has been engaged for some time with the U.S. government in an effort to improve assessment and warning in venues such as the Commercial and Foreign Entities program, direct interaction with the U.S. Strategic Command and the National Space Security Office, and with industry organizations such as the Satellite Industry Association. While these have been useful efforts, Iridium believes this incident has demonstrated the need for even more aggressive action, and the company supports enhanced actions to increase the margin of safety for space operations.
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Max-Viz announces the incorporation of 11 EVS-1000 infrared sensor systemonto the AgustaWestland's Grand (AW109) helicopters. Initial deliveries have been completed to the Swiss air-rescue operator Rega. Elliott Troutman (President) of Max-Viz stated, “We are pleased by the inclusion of Max-Viz EVS products as an integral technology on this truly next-generation AgustaWestland design. The integration of EVS in addition to SVS, TAWS, and NVG applications for Rega will provide them with an unprecedented level of situational awareness within their demanding operational area”.
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Delta Air Lines issued the following memo to its more than 70,000 employees worldwide from CEO Richard Anderson and President Edward H. Bastian: The worsening global economy continues to place additional pressure on the airline industry. In just the few months since we last announced capacity reductions, revenues have weakened, particularly in international markets. Once again, we must move quickly to adjust our capacity and stay in front of demand changes. This morning at an investor conference in New York, we will announce plans to reduce international capacity an additional 10% beginning in September. These reductions will be targeted to areas where we've seen the most revenue weakness – the Atlantic and Pacific networks. Trans-Atlantic capacity this winter will be down 11 – 13% and trans-Pacific down 12 – 14% compared to winter 2008. To achieve these capacity changes, we will exit low performing markets, down-gauge certain routes, adjust frequencies, and move some markets to seasonal service. We remain focused on our goal to build a diversified, profitable worldwide network. To this end, even as we reduce our Atlantic and Pacific capacity, our Latin America capacity will be up slightly in the fourth quarter, as we take advantage of targeted growth opportunities through new routes and increased frequencies. These reductions are in addition to the December announcement to reduce systemwide 2009 capacity by 6 - 8% year over year. As a result of the voluntary programs just concluded, nearly 2,100 of our colleagues will be voluntarily leaving over then next several months. While these voluntary reductions met our overall target, there are certain positions and geographic locations where we fell short of achieving the goals of the voluntary programs. With the additional capacity reductions noted above, we again must reassess our staffing needs. As in the past, voluntary programs are always our first consideration to adjust staffing needs.
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Boeing announced that it will promote the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as the next-generation fighter for the Hellenic Republic (Greece). "We are pleased to offer the Hellenic Air Force the advanced combat capability of the Block II Super Hornet," said Dan Korte, vice president and general manager of Global Strike Systems for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. "In addition, we look forward to furthering long-term partnerships with the Hellenic government and aerospace industry."
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Boeing has delivered an operational flight trainer (OFT) to Australia for the Project Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) program. The OFT, which the customer accepted on Feb. 27, is the first segment of the Wedgetail program to be delivered to Australia. The Wedgetail aircraft is a derivative of the commercial 737-700 and the OFT is based on the proven technology of the Next-Generation 737 simulator platforms. The motion-based flight simulator was designed, built and installed by Thales and managed under a subcontract by Boeing Defence Australia.
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Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services North America (Vector) the world's largest independent provider of helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) has delivered a shortened and modified Sikorsky S61 helicopter to Billings Flying Services (Billings); a family-owned and operated company with a 20-year history in the aviation industry. The aircraft successfully underwent hover checks and test flights, and was handed over to Billing on 4 March 2009. Al Blain, President of Billings says, “Billings Flying Service is very pleased with the quality of workmanship provided by Vector, and with the project coming in on budget, and ahead of schedule. The Vector team was great to work with over the entire scope of the project, and due to the exceptional job they performed, we know this modified S61 is going to be a valuable asset to our operations. Congratulations on a job well-done!"  
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Bombardier Aerospace welcomed Grupo Mexicana and its regional subsidiary MexicanaLink to the family of more than 50 airlines which operate Bombardier's CRJ Series family of regional jets. An inauguration ceremony and press conference, hosted by Grupo Mexicana at their facilities in Guadalajara, was attended by Mexican President, Felipe Calderón, as well as many other local dignitaries and guests. Gastón Azcárraga, Chairman of the Board and Manuel Borja, Chief Executive Officer of Grupo Mexicana, along with Rod Sheridan, Vice President, Asset Management and Fernando Rodriguez, Sales Director (The Americas) of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft were also present. One of MexicanaLink's recently acquired previously owned CRJ200 aircraft was on static display and many guests took the opportunity to tour it. MexicanaLink will operate 13 previously owned CRJ200 aircraft acquired from a third party. Based in Guadalajara, the airline will start service on March 16 with two CRJ200 aircraft. MexicanaLink will initially operate several routes from Guadalajara.
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AAI Corporation announced it will unveil the Mark 4.7, the newest addition to its family of Aerosonde small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS), at the 2009 Australian International Air Show in Avalon, Victoria (Hall C, booth 3K17) on March 10, 2009. The aircraft successfully completed test flights at Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz., during February. The Mark 4.7 aircraft's design leverages the current trend toward miniaturization of sensor technology; it carries a multi-sensor payload combining high-fidelity electro-optic, infrared and laser range finder/pointer capabilities, as well as a common data link. The aircraft also builds upon the proven features of the Aerosonde Mark 4.4 by using the same power plant and avionics, while incorporating a larger wing and fuselage that enable the system to conduct endurance missions in excess of 12 hours. The Mark 4.7 is compatible with AAI's Expeditionary Ground Control Station for fast, easy setup and launch, as well as with AAI's NATO standardization agreement 4586-compliant One System(r) Ground Control Station. In addition, the system deploys a newly integrated launch and recovery system for space-constrained field and shipboard operations.
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NASA has completed a successful test firing of the igniter that will be used to start the Ares I rocket first stage motor. The March 10 test paves the way for the initial ground test of the Ares I first stage later this year. Ares I is the first launch vehicle in NASA's Constellation Program family of space vehicles that will transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, the moon and beyond in coming decades. "This successful test represents a milestone in our continuing development of the Ares I first stage," said Alex Priskos, first stage manager for the Ares Projects at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "We continue to design a robust propulsion system that will provide a safe and reliable means of transportation for NASA's future missions of exploration." The test, conducted at ATK Launch Systems test facilities near Promontory, Utah, generated a flame almost 200 feet in length. Initial data showed the igniter performed as expected. ATK Launch Systems, a division of Alliant Techsystems of Brigham City, Utah, is the prime contractor for the Ares I first stage.
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About 3.3 million passengers used FRA in February 2009, a decline of 13.3 percent year-on-year - or only about 9.8 percent when adjusting for the leap-year. Cargo throughput shrank by 25.4 percent (adjusted figure about 22.9 percent) to 129,962 metric tons of airfreight and airmail. Aircraft movements dropped by 9.5 percent (adjusted figure 6.1 percent) to 34,393 takeoffs and landings. However, reduced traffic volume had a positive effect on flight punctuality, with FRA recording a new peak figure of 83.2 percent for flights departing and arriving on time.
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With proven capability and experience in Deep Maintenance and Through-Life-Support (TLS) to large military fixed-wing aircraft, “Team Aero” members Australian Aerospace, Lockheed Martin and StandardAero have been selected as the contractors for the Through Life Support (TLS) of the RAAF's fleet of C130J Hercules transports. Air Vice Marshall Colin Thorne Head of Aerospace Systems Division today signed a contract to formalise the agreement with Team Aero at the Australian International Air Show in Avalon, Victoria. Team Aero will undertake a five-year rolling contract with the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) through to life-of-type of the 12 C130Js to 2030. Under the new arrangement, Australian Aerospace will work closely with the DMO, RAAF and partners Lockheed Martin and StandardAero, the latter being the current C130J engine maintenance provider. Renewal of the five-year rolling contract will be linked to demonstrated performance and cost containment, with an eye to: improved delivery of services; performance-based, longterm, support arrangements; relationship with the Commonwealth; price disclosure; and meaningful transfer of risk.
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The already lethal MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft system will soon bring even more punch to the enemy in the form of the Joint Direct Attack Munition. The results of the series of GBU-38 JDAM test drops at the China Lake test range in California are still being evaluated, but they mark a significant step in certifying the Reaper to carry the 500 pound version of the JDAM. Considering the Reaper's perfect 9 hits out of 9 drops, the way ahead looks clear. "This is a great success that adds another valuable weapon system to the warfighter's arsenal," said Col. Chris Coombs, 703rd Aeronautical Systems Group Commander. "Putting the JDAM on the Reaper significantly increases its lethality on the battlefield." Flight testing is only one part of the process, according to Colonel Coombs. After additional analysis, the group hopes to certify JDAM capability on the Reaper this July.
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Alenia Aermacchi has delivered to the Royal Malaysian Air Force its first two MB-339CM trainers. These two aircraft are part of an order for eight trainers placed by the RMAF in late 2006. Chief Test Pilot Cdr. Quirino Bucci and Test Pilot Cdr. Matteo Maurizio took off from the Alenia Aermacchi airfield in two MB-339CMs and landed at the RMAF base at Kuantan after a 12,000-kilometre delivery flight. The six remaining MB-339CM are expected to be delivered in the course of 2009. The Royal Malaysian Air Force will use the Alenia Aermacchi MB-339CM as Lead-In Fighter Trainers to prepare Malaysian pilots to fly new generation fighter aircraft in service with the RMAF.
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The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Infrared Search and Track (IRST) program has successfully completed a series of risk-reduction flight tests that demonstrated the compatibility and effectiveness of the IRST system on the Super Hornet strike fighter. IRST is a passive, long-range sensor system that searches for and detects IR emissions within its field of view. It can track several targets simultaneously and provide an effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when facing advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology. Boeing, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, and General Electric developed a prototype IRST sensor that was installed in the front section of a modified 480-gallon fuel tank. The U.S. Navy conducted six flight tests at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and four at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.
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Eurocopter is offering its customers around the world the opportunity to use an EC135 flight simulator at its site in Donauwörth (Germany). The flight simulator at the Donauwörth Training Academy serves to train helicopter pilots. It is an additional component of Eurocopter's global training concept, which is based on training solutions that further increase flight safety – a top priority at Eurocopter. “We have invested in the flight simulator in Donauwörth in order to be able to offer our national and international customers a leading-edge training platform. Simulators increase flight safety, as they provide an ideal training solution that is available irrespective of the weather or the availability of helicopters, and enable very demanding missions to be carried out at no risk,” says Dr. Wolfgang Schoder, CEO of Eurocopter Germany. The fully maneuverable flight simulator features a full motion system with six degrees of freedom. It has a visual-system field of view of 160° horizontal and 80° vertical and can visualize daylight, twilight and night conditions as well as any weather situation. Its mission spectrum includes, for example, rescue operations in high snowy mountains. Landscapes and buildings are displayed realistically in 3D. The simulator was developed by Eurocopter in collaboration with CAE and Indra.
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Raytheon has been awarded a contract to develop the NextGen Terminal Data Distribution System, which will make more efficient use of the crowded airspace in the U.S. The contract was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration. The Volpe Center provides key support to the Federal Aviation Administration on NextGen. The TDDS will automate flight information, resulting in improved capacity in the nation's airspace. It will facilitate the exchange of net-enabled data between disparate systems and integrate multiple data sources to better manage the airspace. It will be the first-of-its-kind terminal system applied in the FAA's System Wide Information Management program. The SWIM program will enable increased common situational awareness and improve the National Airspace Systems' ability to deliver the right information to the right place at the right time.
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PZL Mielec, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.'s affiliate in Poland, today celebrated the rollout of the first BLACK HAWK helicopter cabin produced at the facility. The event took place on the second anniversary of the acquisition of PZL Mielec. Employees, managers of PZL Mielec, representatives of Sikorsky Aircraft, and guests representing the local and regional authorities attended the ceremony. Among them were Janusz Chodorowski, Mayor of Mielec City, Andrzej Chrabaszcz, Governor of the Mielec County, and Krystyna Skowronska, a Member of Parliament representing the Mielec region. "The workforce at PZL Mielec has enthusiastically embraced this challenge, and today we are seeing the culmination of their efforts with the first of the initial group of 200 BLACK HAWK helicopter cabins to be built in Mielec rolling off the production line," said Janusz Zakrecki, President of PZL Mielec. "This cabin symbolizes the progress we have made, as well as the significant milestone leading us to the production of the S-70i BLACK HAWK helicopter."
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In the current negotiations between the Austrian Airlines management board, the unions GPA-djp and vida and also the Austrian Airlines Works Council for Commercial and Technical Personnel an important agreement concerning short-time working for the employees in this field has been achieved. The main foundations of the deal schedule a reduced working time of 80% and compensation of 90%, respectively 90 % working time at 95 % compensation. Public Employment Service Austria (AMS) funds are used to cover the differential to the greatest possible extent. Short-time working will initially last six months, with an option to extend this period. Some 2.600 employees will be comprised by this agreement. Considering a fair and social balance, the following jobholder groups are exempted: trainees, part-time workers (up to 50 % of normal working time), and employees with an income lower than 1.100 EUR. Additionally, the negotiation partners have agreed upon a reduction of pension fund contributions by 75 % for one year and an extension of the current collective agreement by two months from 1 November 2009 until 31 December, 2009.
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The upcoming 2009 summer schedule shall witness Lufthansa adjust its capacities by 0.5 per cent due to the decline in demand. The adjustment shall occur by cancelling certain frequencies and combining routes and flights. At the same time, Lufthansa will be investing in selected growth markets. Consequently, certain regions in the route network will be strategically expanded by introducing new connections. The summer schedule will include 206 destinations in 78 countries (in summer 2008 there were 207 destinations in 81 countries). The reduction of capacities by 0.5 per cent is being overcompensated by the successful launch of Lufthansa Italia. The offered capacity of seat kilometres in the overall Lufthansa route network in summer 2009 will therefore be increasing by 0.6 per cent in comparison with the previous year, respectively in European traffic by 1.5 per cent increase. Adjusted after the Lufthansa Italia growth, European traffic would drop by 2.2 per cent. The summer schedule also envisages a slight capacity in-crease of 0.2 per cent for the intercontinental connections, whereby an extraordinary item shall be taken into account. Changes to the seat configuration in the Boeing 747-400 fleet will mean that in the future an additional 22 Economy Class seats will be offered in this aircraft type. Adjusted after the increase of the seating offer, the offered capacity in inter-continental traffic would drop by 0.7 per cent. “We will continue to maintain our presence in all of the traffic areas and regions despite the weaker demand and the resulting reduction of the capacities”, stresses Thierry Antinori, Executive Vice President Marketing and Sales at Lufthansa Passenger Airlines. “While many are talking about the crisis, we are talking about the wishes of our custom-ers. We are optimising our offer of flights and are carefully and flexibly adjusting it to the corresponding demand for our routes. Thereby, we are deploying smaller aircraft in some areas and replacing non-stop flights with connecting flights in other areas, in order to continue to be able to provide our customers with a global network. At the same time, our portfolio is growing in important markets like Italy with the new Lufthansa Italia offer, with new destinations in certain growth markets in Eastern Europe and with additional connections in the Middle East and Europe.” Lufthansa plans to operate a total of 14,038 weekly flights during the summer schedule (14,224 flights in summer 2008). This represents a reduction of 1.3 per cent. With a total of 12,786 domestic German flights and European flights per week (12,972 flights in sum-mer 2008), the majority of the flights will be cancelled on the continental route network. In addition, there will be 1,274 intercontinental flights (1,258 flights in summer 2008). The 2009 summer schedule will begin on Sunday, 29 March and be valid until Saturday, 24 October 2009.
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Ryanair on 12 March condemned the EU's proposal to waive the 'use it or lose it' rule in relation to airport slots as high fare airlines continue to reduce capacity at slot controlled airports.  The Commission's proposal would mean that it would no longer be mandatory for these airlines to operate and use their slots in order to retain them and could prevent Ryanair, the only airline increasing its traffic in Europe, from using them. Reacting to the EU's proposal, Ryanair's Deputy Chief Executive, Michael Cawley said; “This is protectionism of the worst type and will lead to further state and EU support for inefficient, high cost airlines which don't have the cost base to support growth or even the maintenance of existing services.  The Commission's proposal will ensure that these inefficient, high cost airlines can hold on to valuable slots at slot coordinated airports without using them and essentially block any plans by Ryanair to grow at these airports.  This is bad for aviation, airports and, above all, consumers as it reverses Europe back to its old regulated ways in aviation when inefficient, monopolistic, state run airlines blocked more efficient operators from competing on a level playing field. Ryanair is set to grow by 9 million passengers this year, much of which will be at slot coordinated airports.  Our path to reduce fares and increase passenger traffic should not be blocked by the inefficient, high fares airlines aided and abetted by the EU Commission's misguided decision to allow them to hold on to slots without operating them. 
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Boeing marked a key milestone at its C-17 final assembly facility in Long Beach -- the "major join" ceremony for the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) consortium's first C-17 Globemaster III. The unique SAC approach to shared use of the strategic airlifter was hailed as a model for the future acquisition and management of defense capabilities for NATO and European Union (EU) missions. During major join, the C-17 airlifter's four major sections -- the forward, center and aft fuselages and wing assembly -- are integrated, and the aircraft begins to look like a C-17 for the first time. Hundreds of C-17 employees looked on as senior members of SAC and representatives of the government of the Republic of Hungary, NATO, and Boeing drove ceremonial rivets into the aircraft's fuselage. Hungarian Minister of Defense Dr. Imre Szekeres played a special symbolic role in the ceremony, since Hungary has agreed to both host the Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) at Pápa Air Base, where a total of three C-17s will be based, and to register the aircraft under the Hungarian flag.
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JSC Kazan Helicopter Plant expects to receive in the upcoming Federal Target Program (FTP) for the development of civil aviation technology in Russia until 2020 three billion rubles, including 1.5 billion rubles provided [by] the State, [and] 1.5 billion rubles provided [by] OPK Oboronprom, [according to] Tass. The funds will be directed towards the completion and launch in serial production of the Mi-38. Previously, the Mi-38 project was included in the same Federal Target Program, but with little financing.
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The Italian Air Force took delivery of the first two MB-339CD upgraded to Batch 2 standard. Piloted by 61st Wing instructors Capt. Mauro Macrino, Capt. Michele Diamore, Lt. Luca Galli and Lt. Giuliano Graziosi, the two aircraft took off from the Alenia Aermacchi airfield at Venegono and landed at Lecce Air Force Base. The aircraft delivered are part of the ITAF contract covering the overhaul and upgrade of 14 MB-339CD Batch 1 advanced trainers in use with the Italian Air Force since 1997. The deliveries of the aircraft reconfigured under this contract will continue throughout 2009, in accordance with the schedule agreed with the Italian Air Force.
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EADS North America delivered the initial three UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters to the District of Columbia National Guard, providing new-generation aircraft for a range of aviation support missions in the nation's capital area. These helicopters were accepted during a ceremony at the Washington, D.C. Armory, and are the first of 16 Lakotas to be operated in the region. The D.C. National Guard will receive a total of eight UH-72As, with a similar number assigned to the Military District of Washington. All 16 will be based at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, and are capable of operating from this Army facility as well as from the Washington, D.C. Armory.
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As a precautionary measure based on expert technical advice all Nimrods that have not been fitted with replacement fuel seals and engine bay hot air ducts are to temporarily cease flying after 31 March 2009, Minister for the Armed Forces Bob Ainsworth has announced today, Monday 9 March 2009. This also means that all Nimrods operating overseas will be temporarily withdrawn until early summer. Arrangements have been put in place to ensure that an effective surveillance capability overseas is continued by other UK and coalition assets. This decision has come about following recommendations to improve the safety of the fleet made by the Board of Inquiry into the tragic loss of 14 personnel as a result of the Nimrod XV230 crash on 2 September 2006. Following on from this work the Nimrod fleet is currently undergoing modifications to replace a number of fuel seals and the engine bay hot air ducts. These programmes were due to complete by 31 March 2009 but unfortunately, although some aircraft have been fitted with the replacement parts and will continue to fly, problems with the provision of replacement fuel seals mean that both programmes will be delayed beyond that date.
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