20.04.2009
FLUG REVUE

News Update 20 April 2009 - News in Brief

Our weekly news roundup from around the aerospace industry.

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Due to the crisis in the air transport sector, Air France expects to have reduced staff numbers by between 2,500 and 3,000 by 2011 without making redundancies. Air France will do this by suspending hiring, by not replacing staff taking retirement and by not renewing temporary contracts. Employees wishing to make a career move outside the company will receive individual assistance.
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Boeing announced that a fourth U.S. Army unit has fielded the CH-47F Chinook helicopter. Company B, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, is based at Fort Bragg, N.C.
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The ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system (UAS), a joint effort of Boeing and its subsidiary Insitu, last week flew its 150,000th hour in service with the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Forces, U.S. Navy, U.S. Special Operations Command, Australian Army and Canadian Forces. ScanEagle has provided persistent in-theater intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to the joint forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004. The long-endurance, fully autonomous ScanEagle UAS carries inertially stabilized electro-optical and infrared cameras that allow the operator to track both stationary and moving targets. Capable of flying above 16,000 feet and loitering over the battlefield for more than 24 hours, the platform provides persistent low-altitude ISR.
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GE Aviation has been awarded a multi-year contract extension from the U.S. Army that provides for the continued production of T700 turboshaft engines in support of both Army and Navy Black Hawk series helicopters through 2014. Under this arrangement, GE will provide its T700 engine family supporting the upgrade of existing aircraft platforms and also ship engines for new installations. If exercised completely, this contract allows for the potential for up to an additional 3,700 T700 engines (-701D/-701E/-401C variants). As a result of this signing, 293 engines ordered in September 2008 have now been defined (deliveries 4th quarter 2008 & 1Q 2009) and three new orders were awarded for 211 engines (deliveries 2009-2011).
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French Polynesia-based Air Tahiti took delivery of its 25th ATR aircraft, an ATR 72-500, in a ceremony held at the Final Assembly Line of the European turboprop manufacturer in Toulouse. With this delivery the airline, which operates ATR aircraft since 1986, counts today a fleet of 3 ATR 42-500s and 7 ATR 72-500s. Air Tahiti is also one of the launch customers of the new ATR '-600 series' aircraft, with an order for 3 ATR 42-600s and 2 ATR 72-600s which will start to be delivered in spring 2011. Air Tahiti will become at the same time the first operator of ATR '-600s' in the South Pacific.
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Eurocopter and its Brazilian subsidiary Helibras announced the introduction of the first flight simulator for helicopters in Latin America at the Latin America Aerospace & Defense (LAAD) show in Rio de Janeiro. The flight simulator which will be operational in two years time in the state of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, will be designed to recreate the cockpit environment and missions of a EC725 helicopter. It will be used notably to train the pilots who will fly the 50 military EC725 helicopters that will be built for the first time on Helibras' assembly lines in Itajubá, in the state of Minas Gerais. The simulators will improve flight safety by providing optimal training regardless of weather conditions and aircraft availability and simulating the toughest missions in complete safety.
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The International Space Station module formerly known as Node 3 has a new name. After more than a million online responses, the node will be called "Tranquility." The name Tranquility was chosen from thousands of suggestions submitted by participants on NASA's Web site, www.nasa.gov. The "Help Name Node 3" poll asked people to vote for the module's name either by choosing one of four options listed by NASA or offering their own suggestion. Tranquility was one of the top 10 suggestions submitted by respondents to the poll, which ended March 20.
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NASA and TTTech have signed a "Space Act Agreement". The objective of this partnership is to support NASA's technology needs for design of highly dependable integrated embedded systems. This agreement is in line with NASA's strategy to establish partnerships with the private sector in order to encourage innovation and advance space exploration. The collaboration between NASA and TTTech will result in an open Ethernet-based standard suitable for deployment in upcoming NASA programs and space systems. TTTech has developed a new network technology named TTEthernet, combining commercial available Ethernet infrastructure with TTTech's time-triggered services. Commercially available products, technologies and standards such as TTEthernet help to protect system design investments and can generate significant savings in capital-intensive programs over very long life-cycles. TTEthernet's focus is on mission-critical, safe and secure applications in various industries, including commercial aerospace, space and defense applications. TTEthernet's scalability also enables deployment in high-volume cross-industry applications, such as telecommunications, automotive or medical electronics, which can take advantage of the most advanced validation and verification procedures used in aerospace applications.
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Esterline Corporation announced that its Advanced Sensors operation has been chosen by Rolls-Royce to partner on its Trent XWB engine program. The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB is the sole engine currently available to power all variants of the new Airbus A350 XWB family of aircraft. To date, Rolls-Royce has received over 1,000 orders for Trent XWB engines. Robert W. Cremin, Esterline's Chief Executive Officer, said Esterline will be responsible for the supply of approximately 30 separate components in the sensors package. At least 75% of these components "...will be produced in-house at our Advanced Sensors facilities, including our U.K.-based Weston Aerospace operation, our France-based Auxitrol operation, our U.S.-based Norwich Aero operation, and our new facility in Mexico," he said. The balance of the package will be procured from strategic suppliers to Esterline. The first Esterline-supplied Trent XWB components are scheduled for delivery to Rolls-Royce in early 2010. Initial ground testing of the Trent XWB is due to commence in late 2010, with entry into service of the new Airbus airliner scheduled for 2013.
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Embraer signed a contract to modernize 12 Brazilian Navy jets – nine AF-1s (single-seat) and three AF-1As (two-seat). The ceremony took place during the seventh edition of the Latin America Aero and Defence (LAAD) trade fair, which is being held at Riocentro, April 14-17, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. This is the first largescale program between the Company and the Navy, and its sole objective is to technologically upgrade the 12 aircraft. The 12 airplanes that will be modernized are known, worldwide, as the A-4 Skyhawk. This upgrading will fully restore the operating capacity of the Navy's 1st Intercept and Attack Plane Squadron, for their joint mission with the naval and navy air force groups in the Nation's defense. The program includes restoring the aircraft and their current systems, as well as implementing new avionics, radar, power production, and autonomous oxygen generating systems.
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The EADS Board of Directors has appointed Bodo Uebber as Chairman of the Board of Directors. Mr. Uebber, who has been member of the EADS Board of Directors since 2007, has succeeded Rüdiger Grube effective 14 April 2009. Mr. Grube resigned from his current position due to his new responsibility as CEO of Deutsche Bahn. Furthermore, the EADS Board of Directors has proposed the appointment of a new Board Member, Wilfried Porth (Member of the Management Board of Daimler AG), to fill the Board vacancy left by Mr. Grube's departure.
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The global economic crisis continues to have a firm grip on international air transportation. However, Frankfurt Airport's (FRA) percentage change in passenger figures in March compared to February 2009 did not worsen. In February 2009 FRA experienced a 9.8 percent year-on year drop in passenger traffic, taking into account the leap-year effect; in March 2009 FRA served 9.2 percent fewer passengers. A total of 4.03 million passengers used FRA in the reporting month. Aircraft movements slipped by 3.2 percent to 38,913 takeoffs and landings. In February 2009 movements dropped by 6.1 percent, even after adjusting for the leap-year effect. With 152,784 metric tons of airfreight and airmail in March 2009, FRA experienced a 21.2 percent year-on-year decline in cargo. In February 2009 FRA registered a 25.4 percent fall in cargo traffic. Cumulative figures for the first quarter of 2009 show that FRA welcomed 10.9 million passengers, a decline of 10.9 percent compared to the same period last year. Aircraft movements were down by 6.5 percent during the same period to 108,754 takeoffs and landings. Cargo volume sank by 23.3 percent to 406,954 metric tons.
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The construction of the Berlin Brandenburg International (BBI) airport and the growth of freight traffic at Leipzig/Halle provide a unique investment opportunity for American businesses in both regions respectively. Germany Trade & Invest will be conducting a road show in the USA from April 21-23, which will consist of stops in Chicago, New York, and Boston to promote the region's expansive growth potential as a new European passenger and cargo hub to potential investors. With construction well underway and completion slated for 2011, the EUR 2.2 billion BBI will consolidate three airports into one modern facility. The airport will be equipped to handle the new jumbo Airbus A380 and will offer optimal conveniences and connections to passengers and businesses alike. It will have the capacity for more direct flights to and from both the Americas and Asia, making it an ideal passenger traffic hub. BBI is expected to accommodate up to 45 million passengers. This is a timely project, as Berlin's airports reported their busiest year to date in 2008. Leipzig/Halle, which already serves as DHL's European headquarters, will complement BBI, offering express freight handling services. Several companies are currently profiting from the airport's facilities, including BMW, Porsche, Amazon, Dow Chemical, Dell, and Future Electronics, all having operations nearby. As a result, the airport posted astronomical growth figures - up 336.8 percent in 2008. Wolfgang Tiefensee, Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs and Federal Government Commissioner for the New Federal States: "Both airports embody the forward-looking development of Eastern Germany. We are setting new global standards with the Berlin Brandenburg International airport. With this highly modern traffic hub, the capital region will be even more attractive for international companies interested in establishing their European headquarters here. At the same time, the Leipzig/Halle airport has quickly established itself as an important international freight hub by posting enormous growth figures."
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Northrop Grumman marked the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the T-38 Talon, the world's first -- and most-produced -- supersonic jet trainer, with a tribute to the aircraft's past and a look ahead to its future on April 10. Employees and dignitaries gathered at the El Segundo headquarters of the company's Aerospace Systems sector to celebrate the golden anniversary of the T-38's first flight, noting the storied history of the aircraft and its ongoing significance to the training of U.S. Air force pilots. In 1956, the former Northrop Corporation won the U.S. Air Force contract to develop an advanced supersonic trainer. The first test flight of the developmental YT-38 occurred on April 10, 1959. The company produced 1,187 T-38s between 1959 and 1972, the year the program ended. Approximately half of those aircraft remain in service today with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, NASA and air forces around the world. Northrop Grumman has continued to upgrade the components of the aircraft, including producing replacement wings and installing new structural components.
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Rheinmetall AG of Düsseldorf and Britain's BAE Systems have agreed to cooperate on an advanced radar system for Germany's ARED project, specifically designed for extensive airspace coverage. Starting in 2012, the German government plans to install a total of six radar systems, which will eventually cover the entire country from the Alps to the sea. It issued a request for tenders at the beginning of February 2009; the contract volume, spread over five years, comes to over €100 million. Set to supersede the country's current outdated technology, the system will substantially improve air safety throughout German airspace as well as integrating a special friend/foe recognition capability. If Rheinmetall wins the order, the company will serve as prime contractor for the entire ground infrastructure, including integration and installation of the systems. BAE Systems will be in charge of the Commander SL radar sensor technology.
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New Dawn Satellite Company, a joint venture between Intelsat and a South African investor group led by Convergence Partners, has awarded Arianespace the launch contract to deliver the Intelsat New Dawn satellite into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). This new contract is the 6th signed in 2009 by Arianespace with the major satellite operators. The launch is planned for the end of 2010, using an Ariane 5 or Soyuz launcher from the Guiana Space Center, Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. The Intelsat New Dawn satellite will be the 50th Intelsat satellite orbited by the European launcher. This contract is in addition to the agreement signed by Intelsat and Arianespace in December 2008.
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Following the successful launch of the GOCE satellite on March 17, the sophisticated Electrostatic Gravity Gradiometer for measuring the terrestrial gravitational field and main payload instrument, was gradually activated from April 3 to 7 for in-orbit acceptance tests. Thales Alenia Space developed the sophisticated Electrostatic Gravity Gradiometer for measuring the terrestrial gravitational field, and relies on a set of six ultra sensitive capacitive sensors. The six high-tech, very-high-precision accelerometers that are the heart of this instrument perfectly withstood the launch, and the instrument's performance is fully in line with forecasts. GOCE, the first satellite in the European Space Agency's Earth Explorer family, is designed to map the Earth's gravitational field in three dimensions, to a degree of accuracy never before achieved. The satellite and its main instrument, the gradiometer, were integrated by Thales Alenia Space, industrial prime contractor for the project. The six ultrasensitive accelerometers were produced by French aerospace research agency Onera in Chatillon.
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SkyTeam and Vietnam Airlines signed a preliminary agreement confirming the airline's first step towards full membership into the SkyTeam alliance. The agreement outlines Vietnam Airlines' intentions to undertake exclusive discussions to become a part of SkyTeam during the year 2010, pending fulfillment of the alliance's membership requirements. The signing ceremony took place in Hanoi, Vietnam, and was attended by Mr. Ho Nghia Dung, Vietnam's Minister of Transport, senior officials of the government and ministries of Vietnam, as well as leaders of Vietnam Airlines and of SkyTeam. Vietnam Airlines operates 64 routes to 20 domestic and 24 international destinations with a young fleet of 50 modern aircraft, serving more than 9 million passengers annually to popular cities, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Melbourne, Moscow, Paris, Seoul, Sydney and Tokyo. Vietnam Airlines will add 17 unique destinations to the SkyTeam network, including 14 cities in Vietnam. In 2006, Vietnam Airlines was officially accepted as a full member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
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Lockheed Martin has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract by SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation (SKY Perfect JSAT) of Japan to build its next geostationary communications satellite. Designated JCSAT-13, the satellite will be launched in 2013. JCSAT-13 will feature an all Ku-band payload incorporating 44 fixed high-power communication channels that will provide uplink and downlink coverage over Japan, Asia and Oceania. Additionally, two steerable antennas provide coverage for new and emerging markets as well as quick response coverage, spanning the visible Earth from the orbital slot to cover a geographic area upon short notice and, depending on capacity requirements, providing multiple transponders in each steerable beam. Extensive on-board switching allows for payload reconfiguration capability on orbit, allowing efficient use of the frequency plan.
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China launched a new member of its satellite navigation system on 14 April , the first of up to 10 such spacecraft scheduled to be added by the end of next year. The Compass G2 satellite lifted off at 1616 GMT from the Xichang launch base in southwestern China's Sichuan province, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. A Long March 3C booster deployed the navigation satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit with a high point of about 22,250 miles. China launched the first Compass satellite bound for a medium-altitude orbit two years ago. Compass G2 is the first geostationary satellite of the group.
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GE Aviation announces the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification of the flight management system (FMS) software Update 10.8 for Boeing Next-Generation 737s. The new software is standard fit for all 737 production airplanes starting February 2009. "GE's flight management system is an example of how we're helping operators to reduce costs, while improving performance as it relates to on-time arrivals and less fuel, emissions, noise and less through-life cost," said Lorraine Bolsinger, president and CEO of GE's Aviation Systems. "We continue to work with customers and government bodies around the world in order to implement the technology and procedures necessary to reduce an airplane's impact on the environment." GE's flight management system optimized descent is one of the most recent products to become ecomagination qualified.
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Southwest Airlines reported a first quarter 2009 net loss of $91 million, or $.12 loss per diluted share, compared to net income of $34 million, or $.05 per diluted share, for first quarter 2008. First quarter 2009 results included special charges totaling $71 million (net), relating to non-cash, mark-to-market and other items associated with a portion of the Company's fuel hedge portfolio. Refer to the reconciliation in the accompanying tables for further information regarding special items. Excluding special items, first quarter 2009 net loss was $20 million, or $.03 loss per diluted share, compared to net income of $43 million, or $.06 per diluted share, in first quarter 2008. The first quarter 2009 results, excluding special items, of $.03 loss per diluted share compares to Thomson's First Call mean estimate of $.01 loss per diluted share. Operating loss for first quarter 2009 was $50 million compared to operating income of $88 million in first quarter 2008. Excluding special items, operating income was $31 million in first quarter 2009 compared to $99 million for the same period last year. Gary C. Kelly, CEO, stated: "Our first quarter 2009 financial results are disappointing, but not surprising given the current economic environment. We face the toughest revenue environment in our history. A rapid weakening in passenger demand during first quarter, particularly among business travelers, led to our first quarter net loss. Although competitively strong and financially resilient, we are not immune to the challenges the worldwide recession is having on air travel.
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The Air Transport Association of America (ATA), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, reported that passenger revenue fell 23 percent in March 2009 versus the same month in 2008 - the fifth consecutive month in which passenger revenue has fallen from the prior year. March passenger traffic on U.S. airlines fell by 10 percent, while the overall cost to fly one mile fell by 13 percent. Declines extended beyond the mainland United States to transatlantic, transpacific and Latin markets. Compounding the softening demand for travel, U.S. airlines(3) saw cargo traffic - as measured by revenue ton miles - decline 21 percent year over year in February 2009, matching the decline measured in January and marking the seventh consecutive month of declining cargo traffic. Notably, cargo traffic in the Latin region fell 27 percent. Year-over-year results were also adversely affected because February 2008 consisted of 29 days. March 2009 cargo data is not yet available.
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Lufthansa Technik Sofia has launched à second line for base maintenance services for Boåing and Airbus aircraft types with the arrival of an Airbus A320 of Ural Airlines. Lufthansa Technik Sofia, a joint venture between Lufthansa Technik AG (80%) and Bulgarian Aviation Group (20%) was opened in October 2008 and has already successfully accomplished two IL2-checks on Airbus A321 from Lufthansa. The third one will be finalized in the coming days. From July on Lufthansa Technik Sofia will include in its portfolio maintenance services for Boeing 737 Classic and Next Generation. “Since the official opening of the company on the 28th of October 2008 our employees have shown great performance”, said Bernd Freckmann, Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa Technik Sofia. “The turnaround time has been reduced remarkably with each aircraft due to constant learning from best practices as well as through the effective and strict implementation of lean principles – and not least due to the great support from other LHT facilities.”
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Alenia Aeronautica records with great satisfaction another important result reached by the Eurofighter programme in Italy: the Air Force's pilots have surpassed 10,000 flight hours on the Eurofighter Typhoon, the new-generation defence aircraft in service with two squadrons in Italy. The aircraft, that operates in Italy from Grosseto and Gioia del Colle air bases, has started being employed three years ago in missions of air police and quick-reaction alert for the airspace control, having inaugurated such operations during the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
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Airbus' A330/A340 aircraft Family has achieved a significant maintenance cost improvement due to the optimisation of scheduled maintenance programme intervals. These improvements comprise an extension of the 'A-check' interval from the existing 600 flight hours (FH) to 800 FH, as well as an extension of the Heavy Maintenance check interval from 10 to 12 years. The improvements have been incorporated in 'revision 11' of the A330 and A340 Maintenance Review Board Reports (MRBRs), which were recently approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada. Furthermore, the A330 Maintenance Planning Document (MPD) revision 16 and A340 MPD revision 17 have been updated accordingly. The benefits to operators are as follows: The A-check interval increase will result in a reduction from seven to five A-checks per year for a typical utilisation of 4,400 FH per year, thereby increasing aircraft availability. Meanwhile, the new 12-yearly Heavy-check interval will allow operators to synchronise the six-yearly Intermediate-check and 12-yearly Heavy-checks, leading to a reduction of one Heavy-check in the aircraft life.
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EASA pilots performed the first familiarization flights on Sukhoi Superjet 100 S/N's 95001 and 95003. The first prototype 95001 has been piloted by Philippe Castaigns, EASA/CEV* test pilot accompanied by Leonid Chikunov and Sergei Korostiev, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft tests-pilots and Fabrice Butin, EASA/CEV flight test engineer. The crew of 95003 consisted of EASA/CEV test pilot François Fabre, EASA/CEV flight test engineer Jean-Pierre Marre, as well as Alexander Yablontsev and Vadim Shirokikh. Familiarization flight is a part of EASA certification panel “Flight” work – a panel responsible for flight test campaign within EASA certification activity. This flight has been aimed for general familiarization with the aircraft and initial assessment of its handling qualities. 95001 and 95003 had been set into aft and forward center of gravity positions respectively. François Fabre explained, that “familiarization flight precedes the EASA certification flight test campaign and these two flights were a huge step forward in getting accustomed to these aircraft and setting the communication with SCAC team”.
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AgustaWestland announced that the first two AW139 medium twin helicopters owned by Sky Shuttle Helicopters Limited of Hong Kong have entered operational service. An official ceremony, celebrating the entry into service of the aircraft and the opening of a new helipad and passenger lounge at the Hong Kong Heliport, Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal. The ceremony was held on April 16 and was attended by various dignitaries from Hong Kong and Italy. The 12 seat-configured AW139 helicopters are used by Sky Shuttle Helicopters Limited to provide helicopter shuttle flights between Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen, delivering outstanding levels of performance, comfort and safety.
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