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IndiGo nixes reports of rift between major shareholders

IndiGo chief executive Ronojoy Dutta has dismissed as “baseless speculation” reports of a rift between its two major shareholders, Rahul Bhatia and Rakesh Gangwal.

He took the extroadinary step of issuing a lengthy statement on 18 May to address several reports circulating in the Indian media that the two shareholders are taking legal advice to resolve a dispute.

“These reports have in turn fuelled further speculation as to what those areas of disagreements could be including future direction of the company, management changes, control issues and the like. I would like to forcefully address these baseless speculations as they are not in the best interests of our shareholders, our employees and the travelling public,” Dutta says.

Some reports claim that Gangwal’s RG Group has been seeking to amend a shareholder agreement with Bhatia’s InterGlobe Group to allow it to take control of the airline. In the statement, however, Gangwal forcefully batted away that suggestion.

“I am categorically and clearly stating that there is no interest or desire whatsoever on the part of the RG Group to take control of the company,” he says. “Also, to put to rest the messaging on the fact that the RG Group is attempting to renegotiate the Shareholders Agreement, I am placing on record that the RG Group stands by the current [agreement] which, in any case, expires this October.”

IndiGo’s last annual report showed that Gangwal and his family control around 37% of the airline, while InterGlobe holds a similarly-sized stake.

Dutta also addressed the airline’s recent management changes, urging the press not to confuse them as a “sign of dissonance at the top”. He adds that the two major shareholders and the board worked together in making those changes, and that it is a natural process given the evolution of the airline.

“I deeply resent and wish to dispel all attempts to portray us as a fractured team at IndiGo,” he adds. “The truth is that we are all very much united in vision, purpose and direction as we move forward to build a world class [airline].”


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P&W and CFM boost output despite supply-chain stress

The two major narrowbody aircraft engine makers have successfully accelerated production in recent months, though they are still battling with supply-chain stress. CFM International and competitor Pratt & Whitney (P&W) more than doubled output of their latest-generation turbofans – CFM’s Leap and P&W’s PW1000G – in the first quarter of 2019 versus the same period a year ago.

CFM shipped 424 Leap engines in the first quarter, up from 186 in the corresponding period of 2018. The engine maker, jointly owned by GE Aviation and Safran, expects to hand over more than 1,800 of the powerplants in 2019, up from 1,118 in 2018.

CFM makes the Leap-1B, the only available engine for the Boeing 737 Max, and the Leap-1A, one of two options for the Airbus A320neo family of aircraft.

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FlightGlobal

One upside to the 737 Max grounding has been to provide CFM with an opportunity to catch up on delayed deliveries. The episode, however, threatens financial consequences – and not just for Boeing. Both GE and Safran executives are warning investors that the 737 Max grounding, which took effect in mid-March, will begin pinching profits in the second quarter.

FINANCIAL FALLOUT

Safran disclosed the potential effect on 28 April, with executives saying during an earnings call that the grounding, should it continue, could cost the company €200 million ($224 million) in lost revenue during the second quarter. That figure reflects money Safran would have collected if Boeing were still delivering 737 Max narrowbodies to customers; Safran collects about 50% of revenue from new aircraft engines prior to aircraft delivery, and 50% upon delivery.

Two days later, GE chief executive Lawrence Culp said his company faces the same risk: “We probably have something in that same range as a headwind with respect… to our own side of the [CFM joint venture] in the second quarter.”

Though Boeing responded to the 737 Max grounding by trimming 737 production by 19%, from 52 to 42 aircraft per month, CFM has kept Leap-1B output at previous levels. Executives say doing so will give the supply chain breathing room, helping CFM to recover from Leap delivery delays.

As of late April, Leap deliveries to Airbus were on time, but deliveries to Boeing were two weeks late, Culp said, adding: “We expect to be back on schedule in the second quarter.”

P&W has likewise accelerated production of its PW1000G line of geared turbofans (GTFs) despite high-profile engine issues last year and supply-chain pressures.

GTFs power Airbus A220s, A320neo-family aircraft and Embraer E-Jets, along with the in-development Irkut MC-21 and Mitsubishi Aircraft MRJ.

In the first quarter of 2019, P&W delivered 189 large commercial aircraft engines, including GTFs and International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500s, the previous-generation engine that powers A320ceos. P&W partly owns IAE.

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Airbus

Executives speaking during P&W parent United Technologies’ first-quarter earnings call in April said shipments of GTFs, including spare engines, more than doubled year on year in the first quarter. The company does not disclose shipments by engine type, but Cirium Fleets Analyzer shows Airbus to have delivered fewer than 10 V2500-powered A320s in the first quarter – suggesting P&W delivered about 170 GTFs in the first three months of 2019.

RAMPING UP

Like CFM, P&W has been working feverishly to meet airframers’ aggressive narrowbody output goals. Airbus produced an average of 46 A320-family aircraft per month in the first four months of 2019, but plans to increase that rate to 60 per month by the middle of the year and 63 per month in 2021.

P&W has suffered PW1100G production and operational problems, including four in-flight failures that prompted the company to halt deliveries for several weeks in early 2018. That issue stemmed from modifications P&W made to the knife-edge seals on the PW1100G’s high-pressure compressor.

P&W has since been working to recover, and United Technologies chief executive Greg Hayes says the company is “confident we’re going to meet the customer requirements this year and next year with the capacity that we’ve added”.

Regardless, Hayes made clear that P&W’s production lines are running at full capacity, leaving the company unable – at least in the short term – to meet any new demand that might arise.

He specifically cited bottlenecks in the casting and forging of engine components; new capacity from a recently opened fifth forging line in Georgia is already spoken for. “Trying to get additional capacity into the supply chain on the casting front is very, very difficult,” Hayes says. “That fifth press is almost fully utilised in terms of the volume we see today.”


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Boeing completes software update, tests for 737 Max

Boeing has completed the software update development of the troubled Boeing 737 Max, and is now working the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to schedule its certification test flight.

No timeline has been given, but the aircraft manufacturer says that it has also wrapped up simulator testing, and its engineering test flight for the 737 Max.

To date, Boeing has flown the updated manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) software — implicated in two recent fatal crashes — for more than 360 hours on 207 flights.

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Boeing

“We are now providing additional information to address [FAA] requests that include additional detail on how pilots interact with the airplane controls and displays in different flight scenarios,” adds Boeing.

Boeing’s statement comes a day after US lawmakers grilled FAA acting chief Dan Elwell about the FAA’s certification and oversight of both Boeing and the 737 Max.

Elwell sat before a House Transportation Committee panel, where he admitted that pilots should have known more about the MCAS.

The 737 Max, the subject of multiple high-level investigations, remains grounded worldwide, after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.

Crash investigations have focused on the MCAS software, implicating it as a contributory factor to the crashes.

A preliminary investigation report into the 10 March crash of an Ethiopian 737 Max 8 said the aircraft crashed after flight control software pushed the aircraft’s nose down. The pilots followed procedures laid out by Boeing and the FAA to address such a scenario, officials said.

Five months earlier, a Lion Air 737 Max 8 crashed following similar circumstances.


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ATSB asks ICAO to review lighting guidance for wide runways

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has recommended that ICAO review its guidance for centreline lighting on runways wider than 50m after completing its investigation into a runway excursion incident at Darwin airport on 6 December 2016.

The incident involved a Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800, registered VH-VUI, that was operating a scheduled flight from Melbourne to Darwin, and saw the aircraft receive minor damage.

The ATSB says that the flight crew established and were able to maintain clear visual reference of the airport’s 60m-wide runway 29 until they encountered heavy rain shortly before reaching the threshold.

“Under the influence of a light but increasing crosswind, the aircraft drifted right without the flight crew being able to discern the extent of the drift,” it adds in its final report.

As a result, the aircraft landed 21m to the right of the runway centreline and left the sealed service, destroying six runway lights. The aircraft’s tyres sustained some damage, while ground debris damaged the rear fuselage of the aircraft.

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Photograph shows damage to runway lighting and tracks from landing gear of Boeing 737 that veered off runway 29 at Darwin International airport

Source: ATSB

A key safety issue identified was the absence of centreline lighting on runway 29/11, providing “very limited visual cues for maintaining runway alignment during night landings in reduced visibility,” the ATSB says.

Further analysis by the bureau of similar incidents found that Category I runways wider than 50m without centreline lighting are “over-represented in veer-off occurrences involving transport category aircraft landing in low visibility conditions.”

ICAO’s Annex 14 recommends that Category I runways wider than 50m have centreline lighting installed, but does not make it mandatory, which it identified as a safety issue.

It has issued a safety recommended that ICAO review the effectiveness of its recommendation due to the high number of veer-offs from those runways.


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Clearer details emerge of Superjet’s fatal bounce sequence

Newly-emerged video images of the Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 accident at Moscow Sheremetyevo have provided the clearest indication of the increasing severity of the landing bounces which eventually resulted in the destruction of the aircraft.

The images indicate that the aircraft may have touched down initially some 700m from the threshold of runway 24L after returning to the airport, following a lightning strike, on 5 May.

After this apparent touchdown the video images suggest the aircraft entered a shallow bounce but pitched to a flat or slightly nose-down attitude before a second runway contact at about 900m, as it passed the A8 taxiway.

The aircraft oscillates again, from nose-up on the second bounce to nose-down as it strikes the runway at around 1,100m, before pitching up into a relatively high third bounce which carries it over the A7 taxiway intersection.

Images then suggest the aircraft pitches nose-down before partially recovering to a flatter attitude just before the final hard impact at about 1,300m, appearing to be banked slightly to the right resulting in a touchdown on its right-hand main landing-gear.

Both landing-gear assemblies then appear to collapse and the aircraft slides for a few moments before a clear ignition.

Given that the aircraft came to rest in the vicinity of the A2 taxiway, it must have slid – while burning – for about 1km before veering off the runway and stopping, whereupon the jet was evacuated.

The images were shown on Russia’s NTV television channel.

Investigators are still probing the full extent of the incident on the aircraft’s control systems over the final 20min of its aborted flight to Murmansk, in order to understand the circumstances which led to the bounced landing. Forty-one of the 78 occupants did not survive the accident.


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Lilium unveils five-seat electric air taxi

German start-up Lilium has revealed the initial prototype of its developmental five-seat electric-powered Lilium Jet air taxi, hot on the heels of the aircraft’s first flight earlier this month.

That maiden sortie took place on 4 May at Oberpfaffenhofen in southern Germany and lasted around 1min, with the jet in a low, untethered hover.

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Lilium

Powered by 36 tilting electric fans – 24 on the wings and 12 on the nose – the Lilium Jet can take off and land vertically, and then transition to a horizontal cruise phase.

It features no tail or rudders, instead relying on the distributed propulsion system for directional control.

Although Lilium says that the aircraft will be capable of autonomous flight, it expects the jet to enter service with a pilot on board for “regulatory and acceptance” reasons, allowing it to carry four passengers.

Lilium claims a top speed of 161kt (300km/h) and a range of 161nm (300km) for the aircraft – substantially higher than competitors in the air taxi market, who are designing aircraft for short, intra-urban journeys.

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Lilium

This, says the company, is due to the fixed-wing configuration, which does not rely for lift on the ducted fans that feature on designs from Airbus Helicopters and Bell.

As a result “it will require less than 10% of its maximum 2,000hp [1,490kW] during cruise flight”, says Lilium, enabling “affordable high-speed connections across entire regions”.

Daniel Wiegand, co-founder and chief executive, says: “Today we are taking another huge step towards making urban air mobility a reality. In less than two years we have been able to design, build and successfully fly an aircraft that will serve as our template for mass production.”

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Lilium

Lilium’s prototype is unmanned and remotely piloted from the ground. Leandro Bigarella, head of flight test, says: “While a maiden flight is always a moment of truth for a business, the Lilium Jet performed exactly as expected and responded well to our inputs.

“Our flight-test program will now continue with increasingly complex manoeuvres as we look towards our next big goal of achieving transition flight.”

Lilium expects the aircraft and its underlying physical and software infrastructure to be operational by 2025, although trials will begin earlier in a number of undisclosed locations.

Initial flight testing will be carried out using the remotely-piloted prototype and a second, manned vehicle will follow later. Certification is forecast for the early 2020s, with European regulators already involved in the process.

Previous proof of concept flights were conducted in 2017 using a two-seat prototype.


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Air Canada in talks to acquire Transat AT

Air Canada has entered exclusive negotiations to acquire Transat AT, the parent of Montreal-based leisure carrier Air Transat.

Canada’s largest carrier said on 16 May the proposed transaction is valued at C$520 million ($387 million) or C$13 per Transat share, and will create a “a Montreal-based global travel services company in leisure, tourism and travel distribution operating across Canada and internationally”.

The two companies will negotiate during a 30-day exclusivity period, during which they are expected to finalise a definitive agreement, says Transat.

Air Canada says it has the funding required to complete the deal, which will allow the carrier to grow its Montreal hub. The transaction remains subject to finalisation of definitive agreements, due diligence, and regulatory and shareholder approvals.

“A combination with Transat represents a great opportunity for stakeholders of both companies,” states Air Canada chief executive Calin Rovinescu, citing the “increased job security and growth prospects” from which employees will benefit.

The deal includes Transat’s accommodation and travel package operations, along with real estate investments for resorts in Mexico. Air Canada has retained Morgan Stanley as its financial adviser. The announcement of the sale comes two days after private equity firm Onex announced its plan to purchase Calgary-based WestJet, the second largest carrier in Canada.

Transat AT chairman Jean-Marc Eustache first disclosed during the annual shareholders meeting in April that a special committee of independent directors was reviewing bids from multiple suitors to buy the company.

Air Canada’s proposed acquisition comes at a time when Transat seeks to return to profit through 2022 by investing in new aircraft and land for accommodations. Transat reported an adjusted operating loss of C$37.7 million for the first quarter amid higher costs in investments and fuel expenses. Revenues remained stable at around C$648 million for the first quarter of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018, but the company has not forecast whether revenue could offset costs in the second quarter. Air Transat posted a C$45 million operating loss in 2018 amid a jump in fuel prices and fluctuation in the value of the Canadian dollar.

Air Transat in May took delivery of the first of 15 Airbus A321LRs as part of its fleet renewal programme to replace older aircraft including six A310s it has in service. The A321LRs will be deployed on its longer international flights to Europe, the Caribbean, along with Central and South America.

The airline has a fleet of 39 in-service aircraft, Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer shows. It has 16 more on order, comprising 14 A321LRs and two A321neos.


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Southwest eyes new gates at its Denver concourse

Southwest Airlines has requested to operate out of all 16 new gates that will be added to its concourse at Denver International airport, as part of an aggressive growth plan at the Mile High City.

Dallas-based Southwest already leases 24 gates on concourse C at Denver, and has expressed interest in the 16 additional gates that are coming as part of an ongoing expansion of the airport.

“We’d like all of them,” Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly told reporters at the airline’s annual shareholders meeting in Denver on 15 May. “It would put us at 40 gates. With our productivity we can do a lot of flights with that… We try to manage our costs carefully and we won’t commit to that real estate unless we were certain we are going to use it.”

Denver airport plans to add 39 gates across its three concourses, as part of a $3.5 billion programme. An airport spokesperson tells FlightGlobal that the airport is in talks with “a number of carriers” on leasing the new gates.

“While gate assignments are not final yet, we do anticipate the gate expansion project will provide more gates for our existing carriers and also help DEN attract new airlines, including international carriers,” she says.

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Denver airport is adding gates (the green extensions) to all three of its concourses

Denver airport

Alaska Airlines and Spirit Airlines also operate out of concourse C, but both airlines have a significantly smaller presence compared with Southwest at Denver. The airline is the second largest carrier at the airport, after United Airlines. However, Southwest carries the largest share of origin and destination traffic from the airport, Cirium schedules data show.

Denver is Southwest’s second largest city in terms of capacity after Chicago Midway. “Denver is this remarkable success story for us,” says Kelly. “It’s a large growing and thriving community that is driving travel on its own.”

The airline will break ground in the coming months on a new $100 million maintenance hangar in Denver, supporting its presence in the Mile High City. The hangar, which can accommodate three Boeing 737s, will be completed by end-2020, says Kelly. External space outside the hangar will take up to eight more 737s.

The facility will be home to 75 technical operations employees based in Denver, part of the carrier’s 2,000-strong workforce in the city.

Kelly says the new hangar makes “perfect sense” for the airline, given the airline’s volume of flights in Denver. The facility will support the airline’s routine daily maintenance work, while heavy checks will still largely be performed at its base in Dallas.


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Boeing sold no new commercial aircraft in April

Boeing landed no new commercial aircraft orders in April and slashed its 737 backlog by 171 aircraft amid the collapse of Indian carrier Jet Airways.

Chicago-based Boeing’s April deliveries also slowed to a trickle as the 737 Max remains grounded.

Boeing took 207 737s off its books in the first four months of 2019, though 36 737 orders equate to a net reduction of 171 737s in the four-month period, according to Boeing’s figures.

Boeing also took 10 787s off its backlog in April.

Including 737 and 787 reductions, Boeing’s total backlog of all aircraft types declined by 119 between January and April.

The reduction largely reflects Jet Airways’ suspension of flights in April, which prompted Boeing to remove 210 aircraft from its books. Jet had orders for 737s and 787s, according to Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer.

Though Boeing’s order book shows it received four new 737 orders in April, the entry actually reflects the transfer of delivery slots. Boeing Capital gave up four 737 Max slots to an existing customer that previously held later delivery slots, and Boeing logging the transfer as new orders. However, Boeing Capital’s 737 orders declined by four as a result, meaning Boeing’s year-to-date total of 737 orders actually declined by four in April.

Including cancellations and other backlog reductions, Boeing’s orders this year declined by 119 aircraft. That figure includes the reduction of the 737 backlog by 171 aircraft, plus orders for four 767s, 20 777s and 28 787s, it says.

The company’s commercial aircraft backlog stood at 5,582 aircraft at the end of April, including 4,439 737s, 21 747s, 103 767s, 435 777s and 584 787s.

In April, Boeing delivered only 23 aircraft, roughly half as many as it delivered in April 2018. The decline largely reflects the March grounding of the 737 Max.

Last month’s deliveries included nine 737NGs, one 747, one 777 and 12 787s, it says.

Story updated to correct the number of 737s Boeing removed from its backlog in the first four months of 2019 and to explain the transfer of a customer’s delivery slots for four 737s.


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​Australia takes its Tigers to sea

The Australian Army has entered a new era with the deployment of four Airbus Helicopters Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters (ARH) aboard the navy’s HMAS Canberra as part of the vessel’s voyage through Southeast Asia.

While the deployment marks the third time that the combat rotorcraft has been operated from the Canberra, it is the first occasion that an operational unit has done so. With 80 army personnel – of whom 12 are flight crew – the army and navy are focused on developing a seaborne attack helicopter capability.

FlightGlobal toured the Canberra recently as it visited Singapore as part of the Biennial IMDEX naval show. It was among a flotilla of some two dozen warships, also including the JS Izumo – a “flat-top” that Japan will upgrade for operations with the Lockheed Martin F-35B.

For the Southeast Asia cruise, the Australian vessel also carries a pair of NH Industries MRH90 helicopters.

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Royal Australian Navy

The Tigers did not originally deploy with the ship when it sailed from Australia. Instead, they were transported from their base in Darwin to Kuala Lumpur’s Subang International airport in Malaysia aboard Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing C-17s. The strategic transport can accommodate two of the helicopters, in addition to other equipment and personnel. The ARHs were then flown to the ship in Port Klang.

Lieutenant Colonel Dan Bartle is commanding officer of the army’s 1st Aviation Regiment, which includes the 162nd Attack Squadron from which the four Tigers and their personnel are drawn. While he is embarked primarily in a supervisory role, he has long experience as a Tiger pilot.

“You won’t find too many pilots who dislike the Tiger,” he says. “Maintainers love it as well, as do the guys who re-arm and refuel it for us.”

Bartle has spent his career in the army, and this is the first time he has deployed aboard Canberra.

Each with a displacement of 27,000t – greater than the UK Royal Navy’s former Invincible-class aircraft carriers – the Canberra and sister ship HMAS Adelaide can deploy over 1,000 personnel by helicopters or landing craft that launch from its well dock. A long, steep ramp and an elevator allows vehicles such as trucks and jeeps to travel between the well dock and the vessel’s large hangar deck.

Roughly half the hangar deck is earmarked for helicopters, with the remainder for vehicles. Two elevators provide access to the flightdeck, with the largest able to accommodate a Boeing CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter.

Given their size, the elevators can easily accommodate the much smaller Tigers, even with their rotor blades unfolded. However, the blades are kept folded when the helicopters are being moved within the hangar. Bartle says that procedures and processes for moving the ARH around the ship are quite advanced, following previous trial work.

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Royal Australian Navy

Canberra’s flight deck is 202m (662ft) long and 32m wide, with six helicopter landing spots. The navy says it can handle simultaneous take offs and landings for six MRH90s, or four Chinooks.

The vessel also features a ski-jump ramp. This is a vestige of the basis for the Canberra’s design: Spain’s amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I, which operates the Boeing AV-8B Harrier.

The retention of the ski-jump has in no small way contributed to speculation that Australia may one day operate the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B from its vessels. However, the more prosaic explanation is that it was simply cheaper to leave the ski-jump as opposed to engineering it out of the design. It is understood that it would take a large amount of work on the deck and other facilities to accommodate fighters.

Despite the ship’s size it can still be a very challenging work environment, packed as it is with troops, helicopters and vehicles. During FlightGlobal’s visit the Canberra was relatively quiet, with tour groups from other navies exploring the vessel, while the crew prepared for an evening reception. Bartle says it is a different story when flight operations are under way and especially when the ship is offloading troops from its well dock.

“When we’re offloading it can be extremely noisy and busy,” he says. “You could be run over and not even be noticed. It’s potentially very dangerous.”

One challenge involves conducting flight operations while the well dock is open to embark or disembark troops.

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Royal Australian Navy

“It’s super-complex for the ship, because obviously the ideal conditions for the back [of the ship] and well dock are that there aren’t giant waves crashing in, and that must be balanced against our needs to take off and land, so that we can simultaneously conduct surface assault and air assault. That’s the art.”

Flight operations from the ship are a complicated ballet. A big focus of the current deployment is working with weapons on the deck. A typical load-out for the Tiger’s four hardpoints comprises launchers for 7.62in unguided rockets, four Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and a fuel tank.

This configuration provides a 3h endurance and offers the means to engage “soft” targets such as personnel and most vehicles with the ARH’s gun or rockets, along with “hard” targets, such as main battle tanks, with the Hellfire.

In response to a question about using the ARH’s 30mm cannon to engage a tank, Bartle says: “I’d think you’d create difficulties for them in sights, sensors, and aerials, but you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. That’s what the Hellfires are for.”

Apart from attacking targets on land, Bartle adds that the Tiger would also be an effective way for a large ship such as the Canberra to observe and, if necessary, engage small boats.

The joint army-navy team has practised taking weapons from a magazine deep inside the ship and moving them up to the flightdeck where they are loaded. The team in charge of the flightdeck must remain aware of which aircraft are coming in and departing, and their specific requirements.

A flight of three Tigers returning from a mission, for example, will need to be quickly refuelled and rearmed. It is key to have deck personnel briefed, and for weapons and fuel to be ready. There could also be a change of flightcrew. In such a scenario the weapons are loaded first, followed by fuel, with the crew swapped last.

When Tigers were first embarked the time for this exercise was 90min, but with practice this has been reduced to 30min – roughly the same time that the activity requires while operating on land.

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Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

Another area where standard operating procedures are being developed is how to safely deal with a piece of live ordnance that has malfunctioned and failed to detach from a returning Tiger.

It is also important to look after the deck crew’s wellbeing. In tropical waters off North Australia and in Southeast Asia the flight deck can get extremely hot. Bartle says the heat is especially searing when the ship is under way and travelling with the wind. To help with this, the ship has powerful air-conditioning in most compartments. This includes a break room just off the flight deck where the flight crew can cool off. There also are plenty of drinking fountains located around the ship.

Training crews to work in such an environment safely takes several weeks. A day after FlightGlobal’s visit, two sailors were due to take a final exam that involved dealing with a simulated helicopter crash on the ship’s deck. Only after passing will they be allowed to work on the flight deck without supervision.

On the cruise the Tigers are “flying every available day,” says Bartle. That said, even the Australian navy and army are subject to the well-known challenges of operating rotorcraft in Southeast Asia.

“We fly every day we are able,” he says. “It’s a very complex air space and sea space, so we’ve appreciated the support from the commanding officer of the ship and of his crew to give us the flying window. Obviously, there are territorial waters… it’s quite a difficult part of the world to just take off and fly on a given day, owing to the convergence of territorial waters and airspace.”

Based in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia’s 22-strong Tiger fleet is used to operating in hot, challenging conditions. However, a shipborne deployment adds an extra corrosion concern. No significant maintenance issues with the Tiger have been observed due to sea operations, although the type’s cannon – which is made of metal – has required more work than normal.

Bartle says the size of Australia’s military means that joint operations are essential, and believes that every member of the nation’s army will at some point serve on a naval vessel.

“We work together, have a go, debrief it, improve systems, and then try again,” he says.


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