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Onboard the A350 during ‘Airline 1′

Over the last two weeks A350 MSN5 F-WWYV has been undertaking Airline 1. The 110,000 kilometre route proving campaign mirrors airline service, testing and hopefully accelerating the maturity of the aircraft by measuring its performance against KPIs such as dispatch reliability.

With major testing already complete, Airline 1 is the last major milestone before the Airbus applies for certification. Following certification the first four A350-900s will be delivered, in order, to Qatar Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Finnair and TAM.

“The concept is simple: to operate and test the aircraft as much as possible in an operational environment, use the maintenance and support systems that our customers would have, capture their findings as soon as possible, and fix small issues quickly,” says Didier Evrard, Head of the A350XWB Programme.

While MSN5 arrived in Perth from Doha today on the final leg of Airline 1, over the last two weeks the campaign has already brought the aircraft to Sydney and Hong Kong where av journalist Will Horton and I were lucky enough to take a look ground and in the sky. Enjoy the tour.

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A350 arrives in Australia, Airbus confirms 420-minute ETOPS

Airbus A350 world tour landed in Sydney this morning at 06:36. The fifth test aircraft MSN5 which is undertaking the three week long route proving campaign touched down after flying direct from Johannesburg in a little over 12 hours. MSN5 was unrestricted by ETOPS operations as they were test flights carrying only crew and Airbus technical staff.

After approximately seven hours on the ground where it was shown off to Qantas, Virgin Australia and local media it rotated off Sydney’s runway 16R for Auckland at 14:21. It will continue to Chile on Wednesday evening.

While on the ground A350 project test pilot Frank Chapman confirmed a long unconfirmed rumour that Airbus was indeed pursuing 420 minute ETOPS approval for all members of the A350 family. 420 minute approval – 7 hours flying time from a suitable diversion – would deliver the A350 the ability to operate virtually anywhere in the world unrestricted, except over the south pole.

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Feature image by Jaryd Stock, other images by Carry-on. Original post updated 10 August, 22:00. 

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Thai Retires the A300

Almost 37 years after the love affair began Thai Airways marked the end of A300 operations last week with the retirement of its final three A300s HS-TAT, -TAW and -TAZ.

Thai took its first A300B4-2C in October 1977, eventually operating 33 of the type. This later included the A300-600 and A300-600R which entered the fleet in 1985 and 1988 respectively. It took one of the last -600R passenger models off the production line in December 1998.

Images courtesy of Thai Airways, and hspit and panuwutp on Instagram.

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75 years and a new PC-24

What better way to celebrate your 75th anniversary than rolling out your first jet aircraft. Yesterday in celebration of the milestone anniversary and Swiss National Day, Pilatus rolled out its new Williams International FJ-44-4A powered PC-24 line CN: P01 at Buochs airfield.

The slightly delayed rollout kicks off a two-year type certification campaign with first flight tentatively scheduled for March 2015.

Three aircraft will eventually be involved in the certification campaign. The first prototype, pictured, registered HB-VXA will be used to develop the flight envelope. Of the design process to date Pilatus Chairman, Oscar Schwenk says “the design is OK as far as we can tell, but you only find out for sure when you are airborne. We want to open all corners of the envelope and see what happens.”

“When you are building an aircraft, every day is a compromise. Either you are too heavy, or not fast enough or you are not innovative enough on the avionics” – Oscar Schwenk, Pilatus Chairman.

A second aircraft to be used in avionics and system testing will roll out in February, while a third will follow in Summer 2015. The aircraft remains too heavy, within the never exceed weight, but outside the specs initially promised, with work on weight reduction continuing.

Certification is expected in 2017 with production spots sold out for next three years. Locally, the RFDS has ordered 3 PC-24s with an option on one additional aircraft for its Western Australian division.

e5f1b4a158569bb8d87dc2faf746f8ff-DSC_2521All images courtesy of Pilatus.

 

737 Max Confusion

Announcing the introduction of a 200-seat version of its 189 seat 737 Max 8 that will really only seat 199 caused Boeing’s Commercial Airplane team quite some confusion at Farnborough last week.

The amusing exchange kicked off when a reporter asked, what should we call the new variant of Boeing’s re-engined narrowbody?

“Max 8,” replied Ray Conner, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. But isn’t that what Boeing already calls the 189-seat version? “The other one will be the -8,” Conner said. So what will the 200-seat version be called? “The Max 8,” replied Conner. Many in the audience looked at each other, perplexed. Conner continued, “Look, we’re not going to be doing the NG anymore, so [the 189-seater] is going to the be the 737-8. So the other is going to be the 737 Max 8.” Another baffled journo prodded further, so what will be the 200-seat variant be called? “Max 8,” said Conner. Himself now confused, Conner turned to his colleague Boeing’s chief salesman John Wojick for help, “Isn’t that right, you guys?” Now even Wojick seemed uncertain, cautiously replying “I don’t know if we’ve decided exactly what we’re going to call it.” The room proceeded to nod in silent agreement, and the briefing moved on. An hour later as proceedings wrapped up Conner returned to his muddled narrative. “Forget what I said about the name. We’ll go back and figure it out.”

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ANZ’s Black Bird in SYD

Air New Zealand brought its new 787-9 to Sydney for the first time today kicking off a series of ad hoc route proving flights before the aircraft enters commercial service.

The airline says “the 787-9 is schedule to operate between Auckland and Sydney on a surprise and delight basis from 9 August.” Ad hoc services to Perth will start in September ahead of the formal launch of scheduled services on 15 October.

Flightglobal’s comprehensive report on why the -9 is more than just a stretch of the -8 is well worth a read.

Feature image courtesy of Jaryd Stock.

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Rejected Takeoff – A350′s final test

Airbus A350-900 MSN1 has successfully conducted a maximum energy rejected takeoff test at Istres, the final major test of the A350 certification programme.

The test follows earlier high energy rejected takeoff testing conducted during May, and tests the case for the aircraft to safely stop after a rejection in a high speed, maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) situation with limited braking capability.

The aircraft is fitted with worn set of carbon brakes that must absorb the full kinetic energy of the aircraft. Certification criteria requires the aircraft to remain still, without fire fighting intervention for five minutes. Airbus says MSN1′s brakes reached a temperature of 1,400C as a result of the energy absorbed.

Maximum energy rejected takeoff testing is left to the end of any aircraft test campaign due to the high risk of damage to the aircraft.

After 540 test flights and 2,250 flight test hours, route proving flights – including a Sydney stop on August 4 – are now the last hurdle of the campaign before the aircraft is certified.

 

 

CASA’s vision deficiency

Another week, another inexplicable move by Australia’s beloved safety regulator. Relying on research into Colour Vision Disorder (CVD) – colour blindness – to which they can’t produce results, CASA has written to approximately 500 registered pilots, as well as 900 aviation operators employing vision affected pilots warning it is reviewing its research in the area.

CASA’s move is in response to medical research paper authored by Dougal B Watson and published in the Journal of Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, which analysed the lack of international uniformity in testing for CVD in 78 countries. The report argues that the lack of uniformity may lead to a trade in ‘aero-medical tourism’ with pilots pursuing licences in countries with less restrictive regulatory regimes.

Suggesting that pilots suffering from CVD may be unsafe walks a very fine discrimination line. Pilots suffering from colour deficiencies have been able to fly in Australia, following favourable rulings on two cases by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in 1987 and 1989.

Over the quarter decade of aviation operations following the rulings there has been no serious incident involving a licensed pilot suffering colour blindness in Australia. CASA’s sudden moves on the issue suggest this is more than the regular review, perhaps endorsements have slipped through the cracks resulting in the lack of uniformity the paper refers to.

An excerpt from CASA’s letter to AOC holders:

“I write to you now, as the holder of an Air Operator’s Certificate who may employ one or more affected pilots, to encourage you to consider whether it is safe to allow those pilots to continue to exercise flight crew privileges under your AOC, subject only to the existing condition, and what adjustments to those arrangements you may consider to be appropriate, in the interests of safety, pending CASA’s further determination of the matter.”

CASA denies immediate implications, but it’s a move which may lead to a change in regulations and license suspension. As the air safety regulator it should continually review any safety matter. What remains inexplicable is CASA’s assertion that these pilots are suddenly unsafe, and in raging disregard for common sense, refuses to produce its own research endorsing its position. In this instance it seems CASA is blind.

The basics. Flight thru Instruments, US Navy 1945.

Flight thru Instruments

While doing some research for another story I came across perhaps the most incredible flight training manual I have ever read.

Produced by the US Navy in 1945 ‘Flight thru Instruments’ teaches basic aeronautical knowledge and instrument flying techniques through the use of elaborate illustrations - drawn entirely by hand. The magnificent illustrations possess an accuracy and richness unseen in many design studios, let alone flying textbooks.

Created in response to a US Government tender during the war, Harley Earl led a team General Motors ‘Graphic Engineering’ staff to create the instructional illustration book. Earl worked as a designer at GM between 1929 and 1959, rising to the postwar position of GM’s styling section. Throughout his career Earl drew inspiration from aeroplane aesthetics to introduce into the styling of cars for which he would become known as the ‘father of the tailfin’.

Some further digging and I found a full version; do yourself a favour this Sunday afternoon and revisit the basics of flight.

Image: APAS

The Southernmost Graveyard

When you think of aircraft graveyards your first thought is probably Victorville, California – the Walmart of second hand aircraft – not Alice Springs, home to the only aircraft graveyard in the Southern Hemisphere.

Last month, the Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage (APAS) facility – received its first resident an EMB-120 Brasilia. APAS is capable of holding 250 large aircraft up to Code E – A340-600 or B747 – size. Designed as a storage and aircraft on-sale facility, it also has the capability to break down aircraft that reach the end of their service life.

APAS markets itself as a local alternative to the graveyards on the US West Coast, APAS “offering significant fleet efficiencies and costs savings”, however airlines appear reluctant to park aircraft - it has been a three year wait for the Brasilia to arrive.

Alice Springs is seemingly perfect for a graveyard: an ATC tower that can offer 24 hour service if required, no curfew, no noise complaints, and it enjoys year round balmy 30+ degree, low humidity weather.

Yet many airlines in the region aren’t queuing for a park, continuing to send their retiring aircraft direct to Victorville.

Victorville is a Free Trade Zone – there’s no tariffs or quotas – and it is a 24/7 U.S. Customs port of entry. Alice Springs offers neither of these benefits. Pratt & Whitney, GE, Boeing and Federal Express all have large operations at SCLA, and the size of the operations drives economies of scale that makes parking, on-sale or aircraft recycling significantly cheaper. Meanwhile, recycling at Alice couldn’t be cheap. Any broken down aircraft components need to be shipped considerable distance from Alice Springs for processing.

At Victorville, Managing these functions has supported a very lucrative diversification for maintenance/support contractors who kick the tyres and undertake an engine run or two on the stored aircraft. You can have your fleet stripped and painted. While there is a limitless supply of material to support the training colleges that certify ~200 new AME’s per annum.

When the rain does come, Victorville’s storage conditions win out as the only aircraft storage facility in the world with a concrete surface – no aircraft tires will sink into rain-soaked ground. The APAS facility will remain red dirt for the foreseeable future.

Alice Springs may offer good infrastructure support, but it’s hard to see APAS’ competitive benefits. It’s a difficult business convincing airline execs to travel thousands of kilometres when they can go to Walmart.

Image: ABC News - Rob Herrick

Image: ABC News – Rob Herrick

 

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