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Full-sized KAI KF-X mockup unveiled

Seoul has unveiled a full-sized mockup of the developmental Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-X fighter.

The dispaly shows the KF-X’s six wing hard points carrying mockups of two external fuel tanks, two bombs, and two short-range Diehl IRIS-T missiles. Its right cheek station carries a mockup of the Lockheed Martin Sniper targeting pod, with four MBDA Meteor missiles on the aircraft’s belly.

Though the aircraft resembles the Lockheed Martin F-35A, it lacks several of the American type’s stealth qualities. The port for the 20mm cannon is exposed, for example, and the infrared search and track (IRST) sensor protrudes in front of the cockpit canopy, similar to the Eurofighter Typhoon.

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The KF-X is to enter service in 2026.

All images Greg Waldron

The aircraft’s Block I iteration will lack internal weapons carriage, but this is planned for subsequent production blocks.

Curiously, there is no mention of Seoul’s partner in the project, Indonesia, anywhere around the display. Jakarta is a 20% partner in the $7.2 billion programme, but has been trying to renegotiate its financial commitment.

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The rear of the KF-X mockup.

In September, Seoul completed the critical design review of the KF-X, setting the stage for the rollout of a prototype in the first half of 2021.

Powered by two General Electric F414 engines, the KF-X will operate its maiden sortie a year later in the first half of 2022, with operational deployment planned for 2026. It is planned for the type to be as capable as advanced versions of the F-16, and replace Northrop F-5s and McDonnell Douglas F-4s in Korean service.

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Condor prepares to reshape as it secures bridge funding

German carrier Condor is preparing restructuring initiatives as it emerges from the collapsed Thomas Cook Group, having been cleared by European regulators to receive a bridge loan to support its development.

The loan of €380 million is being provided by German state bank KfW.

Condor faces an “acute liquidity shortage” as a result of the Thomas Cook collapse, says the European Commission, and has had to write off “significant” claims with respect to other companies associated with the tour operator.

It adds that the backing for Condor – strictly limited to six months – will help with ensuring “orderly continuation” of flight services.

Condor will need to demonstrate its liquidity needs on a weekly basis, under the conditions of the loan, and new instalments will only be paid when prior liquidity is exhausted.

Once the six-month time limit is up, the airline must have already fully repaid the loan, or will undergo a comprehensive restructuring aimed at restoring itself to long-term viability. The German government has committed to these conditions.

“Such possible restructuring would be subject to the Commission’s assessment and approval,” says the regulator.

The Commission says its rules on rescue aid allow states to support companies in difficulty as long as the assistance meets certain criteria, including limits on time and scope.

Condor’s assistance from KfW will keep potential distortion of competition “to a minimum”, it states.

The airline says the loan will “secure” its operations over the traditionally-weak winter season.

Chief executive Ralf Teckentrup adds that the agreement is crucial to Condor’s future, and signifies the competitiveness “importance” of the carrier.

“A healthy Condor is also clearly in the interest of a functioning market,” he says. “Because we are not only an essential competitor in the tourism segment, but also important for the competitive aviation structure in Germany and Europe.”

Condor’s provisional administrator, Lucas Flother, says the airline’s management will develop a restructuring plan, under a protective process, to prepare the carrier for its future outside of the tour operator.

“I am confident that, at the end of this process, a new partner for Condor will be found, securing a sustainable future for the airline and enabling further growth,” he adds.

Condor states that its current booking situation is exceeding its expectations, and that it is in talks with tour operators for a “promising” summer 2020.

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UK sets out plans to overhaul airline insolvency process

New UK legislation is to be put forward to reform the airline insolvency process in order to protect and repatriate passengers more effectively, as well as enhance regulatory oversight of airlines in distress.

Details of the proposed bill have been disclosed by the UK government following the formal state opening of the country’s parliament on 14 October.

Reforms had been recommended by a government review conducted in the aftermath of Monarch Airlines’ collapse in October 2017, but have been lent greater urgency by the failure of Thomas Cook Group in September this year.

While the UK’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, referred to an aviation bill during her formal opening speech, in which she read the government’s list of proposed legislation, she mentioned only that the bill would provide for the “effective and efficient management” of UK airspace.

But the government has detailed accompanying airline insolvency legislation which aims to “strike a better balance” between strong consumer protection and the interests of taxpayers.

The inability to use the Thomas Cook Airlines fleet for repatriation emerged as a particular issue in the days after the collapse, forcing the Civil Aviation Authority to enlist multiple carriers to source sufficient capacity.

Under the proposed legislation the authority would be able to “mitigate the impacts” of a future failure, says the government.

The changes will provide the CAA with the ability to grant a temporary airline operating licence allowing the carrier to continue repatriating passengers after insolvency.

Introduction of a special administration regime, for airlines and tour companies, will keep aircraft flying long enough for passengers to be fully repatriated and supported.

The CAA’s remit will be extended to apply to repatriation of passengers whether they are protected or not under the ATOL air travel scheme, which was set up in 1973 to refund and return passengers in the event of an airline failure.

But the government cautions that there is no “silver bullet solution” and that a transition period might be necessary to enable the industry to adapt.

The broader aviation bill – aside from the insolvency amendments – will additionally provide powers to direct an airport to prepare and submit proposals to the CAA to change airspace design, to make flights more efficient.

Air traffic control licensing frameworks will be modernised and police will be given additional powers to tackle unlawful use of unmanned aircraft.

Despite the legislative declaration, the UK government does not command a majority in the lower house of parliament, which means the likelihood of progress for the proposed aviation bill is uncertain.

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ROKAF F-35As in show debut amid order talk

The Lockheed Martin F-35A appears likely to secure a 20 aircraft follow up order from Seoul, as the type makes its ADEX debut in the livery of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).

One example is in the show’s static display, with three jets to appear in the flying display during the opening ceremony.

This is the second public unveiling of ROKAF F-35As in South Korea, following a previous display in September. Seoul has taken delivery of eight examples out of an order for 40.

Last week, official news agency Yonhap reported that Seoul’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration will earmark W4 trillion ($3.4 billion) to obtain 20 new fighters from 2021, as a continuation of the previous F-X III competition.

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Seoul has received eight of 40 F-35As on order.

Greg Waldron

During a pre-show media briefing, Korean defence official Lee Sangcheol had this to say about the F-35A’s chances in the potential 20-jet deal: “I cannot clearly confirm it yet, but that’s the way I think it will unfold. That is my personal opinion.”

Reports in Korea have suggested that the F-35A is all but guaranteed to be selected. This is in contrast to the hard fought competition that characterized the first instalment of F-X III, which pitted the F-35A against Boeing’s conceptual F-15 Silent Eagle and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

F-X III was originally for 60 aircraft, but when the F-35A decision was announced the number ordered was 40.

When contacted by FlightGlobal, Boeing indicated that it is also potentially interested in the deal.

“We look forward to working with [DAPA] and the Republic of Korea Air Force, as they review requirements for a next generation fighter. The Boeing F-15’s payload, performance and persistence make it a compelling option for Korea’s next generation fighter force structure, as is evidenced by the significant investment in the platform by air forces around the world,” it says.

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SriLankan MRO unit conducts line maintenance on SIA’s 787s

SriLankan Engineering will be providing line maintenance to Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 787-10s that operate to Male in the Maldives.

This also marks the MRO unit’s first time performing maintenance on a 787.

SriLankan Engineering has a maintenance base at Male and has provided similar services to SIA’s Airbus aircraft that operates to the city.

Two batches of engineers trained with SIA’s MRO training arm for three months before being authorised to undertake third-party maintenance for the 787s.

SriLankan Engineering states that it now has four engineers in its Maldives unit that can work on the Boeing aircraft.

Cirium’s schedules data indicates that SIA operates daily flights from Singapore to Male with 787s.

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Runway described as ‘skating rink’ before 767 roll-out spin

Pilots of an Embraer regional aircraft landing on an icy runway at Halifax warned that it was like a “skating rink” before the following flight, a Boeing 767-300ER, spun on the same runway as it rolled out.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada says the Embraer had landed on runway 23 some 7-8min before the Air Canada 767, and informed Halifax tower controllers that braking action was “very poor”.

Its crew then told ground controllers, on a separate frequency, that the runway was “very, very icy – it’s basically a skating rink”.

The tower controller advised a Bombardier turboprop crew, on approach to runway 32, that the Embraer pilots had reported “poor” braking action on runway 23, and told the Halifax terminal controller about the Embraer crew’s remarks.

This terminal controller then informed the 767 pilots that the Embraer crews had described the runway as “very slippery – he barely got stopped towards the end of it”.

The inquiry into the incident, on 4 March this year, points out that the phrase “very poor” – consistent with braking condition terminology – was “not relayed” to the crew.

Although air navigation service Nav Canada permits use of plain language, the inquiry states: “Use of standard phraseology between pilots and air traffic controllers may help reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding the degree to which a runway may be contaminated.”

The 767 crew had originally planned to land on runway 32 but opted for runway 23 owing to its greater length and its precision-approach system with lower minimums.

But the wind situation meant that the aircraft would face a crosswind from the right of 17kt, gusting to 26kt, and a tailwind of 10kt gusting to 15kt.

After receiving the terminal controller’s remarks, relayed from the Embraer pilots, the 767 crew prepared for an “aggressive” deceleration early in the landing roll, through reverse-thrust and autobraking, says the inquiry, to reduce exposure to the slippery far end of the runway.

The 767 landed within the first third of the runway at around 140kt but braking action was observed to become nil as the aircraft slowed, and the jet began to slide as it reached 15kt.

Asymmetric reverse-thrust to correct the “weathervaning” – the tendency to yaw owing to crosswind pressure on the vertical fin – could not prevent the aircraft being pushed sideways, and its nose-wheel rolled into the snow off the right edge of the runway.

“This caused the forward motion of the aircraft to be translated into a slow sideways drift and clockwise rotation on the icy runway,” says the inquiry, and the aircraft spun 180° before coming to rest.

Halifax airport has since upgraded its weather information system, which doubles the number of sensors – previously three in the centreline of each runway – and automatically refreshes on the airfield maintenance supervisor’s portable electronic device.

Air Canada is also modernising its runway condition reporting system to include options for automatic condition updates.

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Croatia Airlines in line for state support to stabilise carrier

In the aftermath of the collapse of Slovenia’s Adria Airways, the neighbouring Croatian government is seeking to avert a similar risk to flag carrier Croatia Airlines after setting out conditions for a capital injection.

Prime minister Andrej Plenkovic has set out the conditions in relation to an initial Kn100 million ($14.8 million), which it describes as the “first part” of a Kn250 million advance necessary to stabilise operations at the airline.

Croatia Airlines had disclosed on 19 September that the government had approved a decision on creating prerequisites for a Kn250 million recapitalisation.

Plenkovic recently cautioned that the Croatian carrier needed to be “financially ready” for the next stage and that the government had embarked on a strategic partnership process for the carrier.

The recapitalisation and partnership process is intended to support expansion of the airline’s network, renew its fleet, and develop its technical services, he adds.

He says the decision is being made to avoid disruption to Croatia Airlines’ activities and the possible impact on the Croatian economy.

The ministry of transport has formally requested an initial Kn100 million from the finance ministry, and will be tasked with monitoring the spending of this allocated funding.

Croatia Airlines will be obliged to submit to the transport ministry a report on expenditure – which will need to include statements of purpose and copies of invoices – and this ministry will, in turn, be required to provide the finance ministry with an assessment of whether the funds have been spent appropriately.

Plenkovic says the government believes Croatia “needs a national carrier” to provide connectivity and to strengthen trade and tourism.

Stabilisation of the company is intended to precede an effort to provide further funding by the state as well as “other interested investors”, says the government.

Croatia Airlines, as Adria was, is a member of Star Alliance. Its fleet is similar to Adria’s and the two airlines’ capital base airports are just 120km apart.

The flag-carrier’s activities are highly seasonal, it says, with more than half its passengers transported in the third quarter. Competition in the summer season is strong with almost 100 carriers operating in the Croatian market compared with around 15 in the winter.

Croatia Airlines, as a result, turned in an operating loss of nearly Kn80 million for the first half of this year despite a profitable second quarter.

Its short-term assets totalled Kn285 million compared with short-term liabilities of nearly Kn745 million.

Adria Airways had been privatised three years before its collapse at the end of September. Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004 and its government had been unable to intervene on Adria’s behalf, owing to EU state-aid restrictions, after providing previous support to the airline. Croatia joined the EU in 2013.

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Injuries after Silverstone Fokker 50 veers off Nairobi runway

Investigators have commenced a probe into an accident at Wilson airport, in western Nairobi, involving a Silverstone Air Services Fokker 50 turboprop.

The aircraft had been departing Wilson for Mombasa and onwards to Lamu at around 09:00 on 11 October.

Kenya Airports Authority says the aircraft “veered off the runway” during take-off. It came to rest on rough ground, in a patch of bushes, suffering substantial damage.

Two of the 55 occupants – comprising 50 passengers and five crew members – were injured, says the authority.

“We are currently working with the relevant authorities to assess the situation,” says Silverstone Air.

It identifies the Fokker 50 involved as 5Y-IZO, which Cirium fleets data lists as a 1992 airframe originally delivered to Icelandair. It was leased by Silverstone in March last year.

Meteorological data from Wilson airport indicates good visibility and no adverse weather conditions.

Silverstone Air operates a mixed fleet which also includes Bombardier turboprops, and serves several domestic routes.

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German inquiry details A321’s close brush with glider

German investigators have released preliminary details of a serious airprox incident in which an Airbus A321 passed close to a glider while descending towards Hamburg.

The German-operated aircraft – operating a service from Frankfurt on 23 July, with 170 passengers and five crew members – had been preparing for an ILS approach to runway 23.

Investigation authority BFU says the jet, under Bremen radar control, was descending at 910ft/min through 3,600ft towards its cleared altitude of 3,000ft, and banked some 25° to the left as it turned towards the west.

BFU says the aircraft suddenly came into conflict with a Rolladen-Schneider LS4 glider.

The A321 crew estimated the glider was 100ft above and 50-100m to the left of the jet, although flight data sourced by BFU puts the separation at 50m horizontally and 200ft vertically.

BFU says the glider pilot had been flying north-west at about 3,600ft when the Airbus “unexpectedly” appeared just below and to the right.

“She had not seen the Airbus beforehand and therefore could not avoid it,” adds the inquiry.

BFU says the glider was one of a pair launched from Lubeck-Blankensee, the other being situated around 1.5nm further north-west at the time.

The A321 continued its approach to Hamburg and the glider subsequently returned to its launch point.

BFU says the encounter took place in Class E airspace, which is shared by traffic operating under visual and instrument flight rules.

There was good visibility with no significant cloud below 5,000ft, and the sun was low in the west at the time of the incident. BFU says there is a transponder requirement only for powered aircraft above 5,000ft.

While BFU has not identified the German carrier involved, under the country’s privacy regulations, Cirium routes data indicates that only Lufthansa serves the Frankfurt-Hamburg sector.

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SyberJet launches SJ30i flight-test campaign

SyberJet Aircraft has launched the flight-test campaign for its SJ30i, with the light business jet (N50SJ) making its maiden sortie on 9 October from the airframer’s San Antonio, Texas base.

“We’ve now kicked off the SJ30i’s 18-month certification test programme, which will culminate in an amended type certificate and immediate deliveries in early 2021,” says SyberJet.

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SyberJet Aircraft

The SJ30i is an updated version of the SJ30-2, which was certificated in 2005 by its former owner Emivest Aerospace. Four examples were delivered and remain in service.

The Williams International FJ44-2A-powered SJ30i features a redesigned, lightweight interior and a bespoke flightdeck called SyberVision. Based on the Honeywell Epic 2.0 cockpit, the suite offers a host of features including four 12in displays, SmartView synthetic vision, a moving map display, graphical flight planning and dual flight management systems.

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