Volocopter gets key EASA approval

Urban air mobility company Volocopter has received a Design Organisation Approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), as it makes progress towards certification and commercial deployment.

EASA approval means that Volocopter is able to speed up its product development process, with fewer steps needed to get commercial certification. EASA will be exercising its surveillance on the company as a whole, with its involvement reduced to fewer steps.

Volocopter is also the first eVTOL firm to receive EASA’s Design Organisation Approval in the area of VTOL.

Volocopter states that its initial approval “will be continuously expanded with further privileges”.

“These privileges can eventually include elements such as issuing approvals of changes or even issuing a permit to fly for its test aircraft allowing to conduct engineering and certification flight test of Volocopter’s commercial air taxi,” the company states.

Other EASA Design Organisation Approval holders include Airbus, BAE Systems, Leonardo, as well as Lufthansa Technik.


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​Korean Air in support deal for A-10 tank killer

Korean Airlines Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) has received a $213 million contract to support US Air Force Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes deployed to South Korea.

The contract covers ten years to 31 December 2029, according the US Department of Defense.

A-10s deployed to Korea are based at Osan, south of Seoul. KAL-ASD will perform support work at its MRO facility in Busan. The company also supports other USAF aircraft.

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The A-10’s GAU-8/A 30mm cannon fires 4,200 rounds per minute.

Greg Waldron

South Korea’s other major aerospace firm, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), is also involved in retrofitting new wings to the legacy type.

The USAF introduced the A-10 in 1976 as a close air support aircraft. It is heavily armed, with one 30mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun and up to 7,200kg (16,000lb) of mixed ordnance, according to Boeing.

A-10 production ended in 1984, but the Enhanced Wing Assembly replacement programme was designed to prolong the lifespan of the aircraft into the late 2030s. Wings from that programme are supposed to last for 10,000h of flight before needing a depot inspection.


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Boeing looks at laser-range finder for KC-46A refuelling boom

Boeing is researching adding a laser-range finder to the KC-46A Pegasus’ problem-plagued refuelling boom camera system.

The laser-range-finder retrofit onto the boom cameras, known as the remote vision system (RVS), would give operators additional information about the true distance between the end of the KC-46A’s boom and a receiving aircraft’s receptacle during in-flight refuelling, says Will Roper, assistant secretary of the US Air Force (USAF) for acquisition, technology and logistics at the Reagan National Defense Forum on 7 December.

“I am very pleased that Boeing has leaped forward on that kind of research,” says Roper. “They are looking at where they can install the laser-range finder, how they can run the wiring and cabling through it.”

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KC-46A Pegasus refuelling F-15

US Air Force

The addition of a laser-range finder is some ways off, however.

“We’ve got another turn before that design is tightened up to where we can proceed with it,” says Roper. “It is that kind of thinking that is going to get the RVS problem solved – thinking outside the original design, which did not include that laser-range finder.”

The KC-46A in-flight refuelling tanker’s original RVS cameras had two problems: a distorted three-dimensional video feed which makes it difficult for operators to perceive distances; and a problem automatically adjusting to changing lighting conditions, which causes the screen to washout in certain scenarios.

“There is… a rubber sheet effect where some parts get stretched, some parts get compressed, so that the reality that the operator sees on the screen is not the same as the one outside the plane,” says Roper.

Boeing is trying to straighten out the warping problem using algorithms that remap the video feed’s pixels to the correct locations, he says.

The company is also working with scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing to model potential fixes to the RVS, says Roper.

“The remote visual system — I am going to worry about it each day until we have a validated design,” he says. “One thing I am very happy about, we’ve got some of the best visual experts at the Air Force Research Lab and they are creating a model, a simulator of the RVS, [that] we can work through design iterations with Boeing, ahead of them putting engineering investment time on them.”


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Armenian authority placed under closer EU safety monitoring

Armenia’s civil aviation regulator has been placed under increased monitoring by European safety authorities as part of a revision of the European Commission airline blacklist.

In its update the Commission has not specified the reasons for its concerns with the Armenian organisation.

The revision has also lifted restrictions on carriers from Gabon, after the safety situation in the African state improved.

New European transport commissioner Adina Valean says Gabon has been released after more than a decade on the blacklist.

“It is very good that we can recognise the efforts the aviation safety authorities in Gabon have made,” she adds.

Fifteen states remain subject to a blanket ban, along with six individual airlines, while three other carriers are under partial restrictions.

Next year the Commission and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency are to undertake two co-operation programmes intended to assist Angola and Mozambique with safety oversight improvement.


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Skyports secures funding for infrastructure expansion

UK Urban air mobility (UAM) infrastructure developer Skyports has secured £5.35 million ($7 million) in funding from what it calls “quality investors”, who share its vision of creating a global network of vertiports to support the nascent vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air taxi market.

“We have three great, influential partners on board who will help us drive the UAM market forward,” says Skyports co-founder and chief executive Duncan Walker.

German state railway company Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures firstly, is described by Walker as the country’s “largest infrastructure owner by a mile, with an amazing portfolio of land, railway stations, carparks and office blocks”. He says some of these sites could be “ideal locations” for potential vertiports across the country, where there is a growing interest from regulators and politicians in the UAM market.

“Germany has a thriving UAM industry with VTOL developers such as Lilium and Volocopter leading the charge, so there is a political drive to make it happen,” says Walker.

Skyports has already formed a partnership with Volocopter, with the pair hoping to launch commercial services in Singapore from 2022 with the start-up’s in-development VoloCity eVTOL aircraft. The companies conducted flight trials in the city state in October from Skyports’ first vertiport using the Volcopter’s two-seat X-2 prototype.

With its network of 26 airports worldwide, second investor Aeroport de Paris has a “huge skillset” in both airside and landside operations and “moving people seamlessly around their facilities”, says Walker. These skills will be vital “as we start to roll out commercial [UAM] operations in multiple markets,” he adds.

US venture capital firm Levitate has meanwhile made “a significant new investment” in Skyports , following its seed investment in the company in January 2018. The San Francisco-headquartered company “provides funding exclusively for UAM developers, so it has brilliant connections in this sectors”, says Walker.

“These strategic investors bring firepower and credibility to an emerging market, and their capital and influence in their respective fields will be a huge help in what has so far been an under-invested part of the UAM market,” says Walker.

Skyports says the UAM market is predicted to be worth around $1.5 trillion by 2040 – $850 billion of which will be taken up by passenger vehicles, and $400 billion by the transportation of goods by drone. While significant sums are being invested in vehicle technology – with around 200 projects believed to be under development – without the take-off and landing sites in place, the nascent UAM industry “will fail to realise its market and socio-economic potential”, says the company.

Following its “Singapore showcase” in October, Skyports has received substantial interest, Walker says from “landowners” in the state and other cities worldwide to create vertiports and UAM operations.

“It’s a good bet that Singapore will be our first base, but we are also in talks to develop a similar model in cities where there is an acute population density and high level of traffic congestion,” says Walter. These include cities in China, Europe, Malaysia, South Korea and the USA – notably San Francisco and Los Angeles, says Walter.


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A340 limit at Bogota averted worse windshear incident

Air France restrictions on Airbus A340 take-off runs from Bogota prevented a serious windshear departure incident from potentially becoming even more hazardous, investigators have disclosed.

French investigation authority BEA says an A340-300 (F-GLZO), departing Bogota’s runway 13R on 18 August 2017, encountered windshear on rotation after a headwind of 11kt rapidly switched to a tailwind of 12kt.

This tailwind increased to 25kt as the aircraft lifted off, causing the airspeed to decline from 138kt to 128kt – some 13kt below the lowest selectable speed, potentially exposing the aircraft to a stall. The A340 also experienced a downdraught of about 5kt.

Despite maintaining nose-up pitch of 13°, the aircraft remained at a height of just 5ft, and an automated windshear warning sounded.

The crew kept the thrust at the maximum take-off setting and the configuration unchanged – as required by the windshear checklist – and the aircraft’s angle-of-attack increased until the automatic stall-prevention system activated, remaining engaged for 4s.

BEA

BEA says the tailwind then started to decrease and the aircraft’s airspeed and climb rate increased. The A340 overflew the threshold at 58ft – above the 35ft necessitated by regulations – and it also maintained sufficient margin above obstacles. The windshear warning stopped 21s after lift-off, at 193ft, and the aircraft proceeded to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Air France had previously introduced an artificial shortening of the runway at Bogota in the aftermath of a prolonged take-off roll of a sister A340-300 (F-GLZU) which, in March 2017, lifted off just 140m from the opposite-direction threshold.

BEA says this shortening, which limited the take-off weight of the type, potentially prevented a worse outcome from the windshear incident.

“Without this precautionary measure, the weight of the aircraft could have been greater,” it states, pointing out that the aircraft would then have been late reaching rotation speed if the windshear had occurred after the V1 decision speed.

While BEA’s analysis could not determine the additional distance that would have been required to reach rotation speed in such circumstances, the inquiry says: “Not being able to reach [rotation speed] before the end of the runway could have represented one of the undesired events for this serious incident if the precautionary measure had not been in force.

“This measure taken by [Air France] to reduce the risk of a long take-off therefore also reduced the risks associated with windshear at take-off.”

BEA says the weight restriction had forced the crew to wait for a fall in outside air temperature to 15C in order to carry out the flight will all the planned payload, and the A340 also experienced a substantial wait of 24min at the holding point for runway 13R after the pilots informed tower controllers that they could not take off during a storm.

During the wait the controllers communicated with two departing Avianca flights. Both reported rain at the end of the runway but the Air France crew was unable to follow these transmissions because they were conducted in Spanish.

With no detection of windshear, says BEA, the crew was relying on air traffic controller information to assess the risk during take-off. Controllers had wind data at the four runway thresholds but this information – the only hint of possible windshear – was not given to the crew during the take-off clearance.

“Once the aircraft had entered the windshear…the crew had little means available to them to restore safety margins and could only act on the aircraft’s pitch to prevent both stalling and collision with the ground or obstacles,” states the inquiry.

This means measures to reduce the risk associated with windshear primarily take place before any such encounter.

Air France published an internal directive, six days after the incident, requiring Bogota crews to ask the controller for threshold wind conditions and to take into account the most unfavourable wind before take-off. The carrier’s pilots also have the wind measurements at the four thresholds available via electronic flightbag.


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Aer Lingus revealed as customer for two more A330s

Aer Lingus has emerged as a customer for two more Airbus A330-300s, analysis of the airframer’s latest backlog figures has revealed.

Two A330-300s were ordered in December last year but allocated to an undisclosed customer.

Aer Lingus’s confirmed A330-300s orders totalled nine aircraft – all of which had been delivered – at the end of October this year.

But the IAG-owned Irish carrier’s total A330-300 agreement has since risen to 11 of the type, according to Airbus’s latest backlog figures.

Airbus no longer lists the two undisclosed A330-300s which had previously featured in its order totals.

Aer Lingus took delivery of another of the type on 29 November, bringing the number in its fleet to 10. Its A330s are fitted with General Electric CF6 powerplants.

Towards the end of last year the Irish airline had signalled that its long-haul fleet plan would focus on bringing in additional A330s, and particularly the -300 variant.


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SAS to switch Tokyo services to Haneda

Scandinavia’s SAS is to axe its service to Tokyo Narita from Copenhagen, in favour of shifting the flight to the Japanese capital’s Haneda airport.

SAS says the new Haneda route will commence in time for the summer 2020 season.

It will use Airbus A350-900s – the first of which has been newly-delivered to the carrier – for the service.

The airline insists the change will give passengers “better access” to downtown Tokyo, and provide greater connectivity to Japan through its Star Alliance partner All Nippon Airways.

SAS says it will drop the Copenhagen-Narita route, served by A340-300s, in order to make the switch.

The change will take place before the Olympic Games in Tokyo scheduled to begin in July next year.

Chief executive Rickard Gustafson says the new service will offer an “attractive timetable” and provide a “positive boost” for SAS customers.

Oneworld carrier Finnair, which operates to Narita, is similarly opening services to Haneda next year but will maintain the Narita connection.


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Philippine Airlines to add Perth service next year

Philippine Airlines will launch a four times weekly service between Manila and Perth in Western Australia in March.

This will be served by an Airbus A321neo with 168 seats, including 12 fully flat business class seats.

Cirium schedules data shows that Cebu Air and Qantas also fly between the Philippines and Australia. Passengers can connect from Manilla to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, all on Australia’s east coast.

The new route is one of Perth’s fastest growing sector, says Perth Airport chief executive Kevin Brown, and will add 70,000 seats annually to the market.

“We experienced a growth of 15% in the market this year, meaning 90,000 passengers travelled between Perth and the Philippines in 2019. Around 40% of that was visitors coming to Perth and Western Australia,” he says.

The number of Filipino students studying in Perth has also increased by more than 90% this year, the airport says.

In the background, Perth airport is undertaking a A$2.5 billion ($1.7 billion) investment programme over the next decade that includes plans for a new parallel runway.

Additional reporting by Simin Ngai


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Procuring services for the business aviation industry

Miles Bailey is director of sales and customer service for UK-based SmartFly, a global procurement agency for business aviation that seeks out the best deals for clients and helps them boost efficiency

How did you get into the aviation industry?

Aviation has been my life since I graduated in 2006. I studied Aviation Technology with Pilot Training at Leeds University, which set me up for the variety of roles I’ve held over the last 13 years. Although you’re now more likely to find me behind a desk than in a cockpit, flying is in my bones – at the weekends, you’ll find me at Bicester Gliding Centre, where I’m a volunteer tug pilot and instructor.

How has your career progressed?

I started out as a cadet pilot with West Atlantic Cargo, but decided I preferred working directly with customers to piloting. So I joined Bookajet, a busy brokerage based at Farnborough airport, tasked with managing flight requirements using a network of partners. From there, I held various roles in sales, business development and supply chain management at Gama Aviation, MoonJet Flight Support and Aviaa. I joined SmartFly at its inception earlier this year.

What are the highlights?

I’ve been fortunate to work with fantastic people and teams throughout my career. All the opportunities I have engaged with have been on the recommendation of others – which serves only to reinforce the vital importance of networking and maintaining personal relationships.

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SmartFly

What is SmartFly and how does it work?

SmartFly was originally formed as the outsourced procurement partner for the Luxaviation Group. Luxaviation was running procurement across 14 air operator certificates and realised it needed an independent agency to manage costs, and strategise what to spend and how to spend it. Now, SmartFly is committed to helping everyone, from individual aircraft owners to large operators, achieve the best value for their operation.

Procurement is about more than just pricing – it’s about service, value, time and strategy. Our customers still work directly with their suppliers – we just build those relationships for you. There’s nothing we don’t negotiate. For instance, one of our customers was having difficulty getting aircraft parts turned around quickly, which impacted their profit. We reduced that time from 28 to 21 days.

What are your responsibilities at the company?

I’m involved with attracting new business, developing strategy and products and looking after existing customers – although, as we’re a start-up, no two days are the same. I work closely with our procurement teams to keep them appraised of our customer requirements, ensuring they’re prepared when entering negotiations.

What are the challenges?

There’s a lot of global uncertainty around business aviation today. External pressure from regulators and increased market competition is causing margins to contract and prices to escalate, which is why having a partner like SmartFly is so important.

Aviation can be resistant to change. The prevailing mentality is “we can’t, because…” – which is the opposite of my “we can, if…” outlook!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It’s satisfying to see first-hand the results of our efforts. For example, for a recent customer of ours, we more than halved the number of contracted providers they were using, from 70 to 30. This reduction boosted efficiency and consistency and mitigated costs. Ultimately they could forecast much better and had improved visibility for the next 12 months, which is crucial in an uncertain market.

Each customer must be approached differently. Understanding how they operate and where they can benefit from outsourced procurement is great fun. As no two owners or operators are identical, there’s no “one size fits all” solution.

Lastly, I’m fortunate to travel regularly. Whilst this invariably is using scheduled transport, I’m occasionally able to fly myself to customer meetings – which certainly provides an ice-breaker!

How do you see the SmartFly service evolving?

As we gain more customers, our aggregated buying power will go from strength to strength. We’ll have better negotiating leverage and volume, ensuring our customers continue to access the best value propositions throughout the whole supply chain.

Several exciting product developments are in the pipeline within our services portfolio and in the way SmartFly will be embracing technology. The evolution of IT in private aviation over the past 10 years has been fascinating to watch, and I’m excited to be playing a part in it.

If you would like to feature in Working Week, or you know someone who would, email your pitch to kate.sarsfield@flightglobal.com

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