IrAero crew let unauthorised person handle An-24 in flight

Russian federal investigators are to decide whether to pursue a criminal case against an Antonov An-24 crew after an unauthorised person was permitted to sit at the controls and handle the aircraft during a domestic flight.

The IrAero An-24RV had been operating a service from Batagay-Alyta’s Sakkyryr airport to Yakutsk on 31 August.

Russian air transport regulator Rosaviatsia says it investigated video footage of a woman seated in the first officer’s position with her hands on the control wheel.

It describes the event as a “serious incident” and, having completed its probe, states that the crew of the aircraft (RA-08824) committed a “gross violation” of civil aviation rules.

Rosaviatsia says the crew admitted to the cockpit an individual who was not connected with the operation of the aircraft, and provided this “unauthorised” person with “the ability to control the aircraft during flight”.

“The flight crew’s irresponsible attitude to their official duties jeopardised passengers on board,” adds the regulator.

It states that IrAero exercised “inadequate control” over its crews’ activities and argues that it illustrates weakness in the airline’s safety-management system.

The inquiry also found that an occupant of the aircraft did not have a ticket before the An-24 departed Sakkyryr.

Rosaviatsia says it has submitted the results of its probe to the federal Investigative Committee, in order for it to consider whether to initiate criminal proceedings against the crew.

Russia was the scene of one of air transport’s most notorious fatal accidents, involving an Aeroflot Airbus A310-300 in 1994. The crew lost control of the aircraft after allowing the daughter and son of the relief pilot to handle the control column, resulting in undetected disengagement of the autopilot.


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JCAB acquires Citation Longitude for flight inspection missions

Textron Aviation has sold a Cessna Citation Longitude to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB). Scheduled for delivery in 2021, the super-midsize business jet will be configured for flight inspection and calibration missions, joining JCAB’s fleet of five Citation CJ4 light-twins in service.

Bob Gibbs, Textron Aviation’s vice-president, defence and special missions sales, says adding the 3,500nm (6,480km)-range Longitude to its line-up will enable the bureau to “expand its mission profile”.

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Textron Aviation

“The enhanced performance, large cabin and advanced capabilities of the aircraft give JCAB a new level of efficiency and productivity in maintaining the operational integrity of its airports and airways,” says Gibbs.

Powered by pair of 7,670lb (34.1kN)-thrust Honeywell HTF7700L turbofans, the clean-sheet Garmin G5000-equipped Longitude has a cruise speed of 480kt (890km/h), and a full fuel payload of 726kg (1,600lb).

The JCAB’s Longitude will be equipped with UNIFIS 3000-G2 flight inspection equipment, designed by Oslo-based Norwegian Special Mission. This tool allows the aircraft to perform “critical verification” of navigation aids such as Instrument Landing System Category I, II, and III approaches, ground-based augmentation systems and tactical air navigation systems, says Textron.

Longitude type certification was awarded by the US Federal Aviation Administration in September and Textron delivered the first example to an unnamed customer in October.


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New Air Tanzania Dash 8-400 seized before delivery flight

Tanzania’s foreign ministry has disclosed that Air Tanzania’s latest De Havilland Dash 8-400 has been seized in Canada before its delivery flight to the carrier’s base.

The aircraft has been impounded “just days” before it was due to be flown to Tanzania, says the office of foreign affairs minister Palamagamba John Kabudi.

It marks the latest development in a bizarre legal battle, centred on a compensation issue, with an individual identified as Hermanus Steyn who was behind the detention of an Airbus A220 in August.

Previous interventions have also attempted to impound Boeing 787s.

Kabudi’s office says he has expressed “regret” over the latest seizure which follows a lawsuit filed against the country in a Canadian court.

He has summoned the Canadian ambassador, the office adds, to explain why the Canadian government is “allowing” such judicial actions to take place.

Air Tanzania has five Dash 8-400s on order, through the Tanzanian government, of which three have already been delivered.

Two A220-300s are in service with the carrier but the airline is to take another pair under an order with Airbus placed in October.


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Solar-powered Hawk30 completes 1.5h second flight

HAPSMobile’s Hawk30 solar-powered, high-altitude platform completed its second test flight in the last two months when it touched down after a 1.5h flight at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Southern California.

The flying-wing unmanned air vehicle (UAV) flew on 23 October to an undisclosed higher altitude than its inaugural flight back in September, says HAPSMobile on 8 November.

During the flight, the aircraft successfully completed two dozen test points, including 180-degree turns and additional testing of avionics, electrical power and propulsion performance. The flight test also simulated a “precise landing control on the runway, similar to its commercial operation concept,” says the company.

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Hawk30 during second test flight

HAPSMobile

HAPSMobile is majority-owned by telecommunications firm SoftBank of Japan and minority-owned by UAV manufacturer AeroVironment. HAPS stands for “high-altitude platform station.” The Hawk30 was built by AeroVironment in Simi Valley, California.

The Hawk30 is intended to be used as a long-endurance, high-flying pseudo satellite which would carry telecommunications equipment and beam down cellular connectivity to devices, such as mobile phones, drones, internet of things hardware. HAPSMobile claims the UAV should be able to transmit cellular data over an area of about 3.14 million ha (7.76 million acres).

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HAPSMobile Hawk30 in second test flight

HAPSMobile

The aircraft is designed to fly up to 6 months nonstop in the stratosphere, which is about 65,000ft. It is propelled by 10 electric motors and carries lithium ion batteries, which are recharged by solar panels that cover the topside of its 78m (256ft)-long wing body.

It was not disclosed how many more test flights would be conducted at Armstrong Flight Research Center, though HAPSMobile says it plans to soon pack up and ship Hawk30 to the Hawaiian island of Lanai for further testing in the Pan-Pacific UAS Test Range Complex.

“Seeing the Hawk30 fly gracefully, even under greater turbulence at higher altitudes, has given us confidence for future flights,” says Junichi Miyakawa, chief technology officer at SoftBank and chief executive officer at HAPSMobile. “We’ll carefully verify the data from this test and move forward with preparations to conduct stratospheric flight tests.”

The firm says it “is accelerating preparations to perform stratospheric test flights at Lanai within the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.”

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HAPSMobile Hawk30 indoors

SoftBank


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Qantas 787 arrives in Sydney after non-stop flight from JFK

Qantas’s first Project Sunrise test flight has arrived in Sydney, the non-stop Boeing 787-9 touching down on runway 16R some 19h 16min after becoming airborne from New York JFK.

Project Sunrise is the airline’s initiative to open nonstop services to the Australian east coast from New York and London from around 2022-23.

Although these services will use either Airbus A350 or Boeing 777X jets, three Qantas 787 delivery flights will be used during the fourth quarter of this year to gather data on ultra-long-haul services for the carrier.

The first of these 787s – a General Electric GEnx-powered twinjet, VH-ZHI – took off from JFK’s runway 31L shortly before 21:30 on 18 October.

Designated as flight QF7879 the aircraft transported just 49 passengers and crew, and no cargo, in order to give it the necessary range.

It carried a maximum fuel load of 101t and Qantas expected the aircraft to land with 6t on board. The airline says it departed at 233t.

The jet had been delivered from Boeing’s Seattle facility and transferred to Los Angeles before flying to New York ahead of the Project Sunrise test.

It departed JFK about 3h behind the regular QF12 service which operates to Sydney via Los Angeles – a 787 conducting the first sector before an Airbus A380 picks up the transpacific leg.

The QF12 flight arrived in Los Angeles while the Project Sunrise aircraft was still in the vicinity of Missouri. But the connection time meant that, by the time the A380 took off for Sydney, it had been caught by the non-stop 787 which effectively shadowed it across the ocean.

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Qantas

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says the Project Sunrise 787 landed just ahead of the A380, adding: “We saved a significant amount of total travel time by not having to stop.”

The distance between JFK and Sydney is around 8,700nm.

“Months of flight planning has gone in to determining the optimum flightpath, including running daily plans to establish wind and weather patterns,” says the carrier.

Four pilots crewed the flight, with two other pilots, who flew the aircraft to New York, in the cabin.

“Night flights usually start with dinner and then lights off,” says Joyce. “For this flight, we started with lunch and kept the lights on for the first six hours, to match the time of day at our destination. It means you start reducing the jet-lag straight away.”

Tests conducted during the flight included monitoring pilots’ brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness, as well as exercise classes for passengers.

“We know ultra-long-haul flights pose some extra challenges but that’s been true every time technology has allowed us to fly further,” says Joyce.

“The research we’re doing should give us better strategies for improving comfort and well-being along the way.”

Having completed the research flight, Qantas intends to put the 787-9 into normal commercial service on its regular network.


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First Project Sunrise 787 test flight nears Sydney

Qantas’s first Project Sunrise test flight is approaching Australia after the Boeing 787-9 departed New York JFK on a nonstop trial service to Sydney.

Project Sunrise is the airline’s initiative to open nonstop services to the Australian east coast from New York and London from around 2022-23.

Although these services will use either Airbus A350 or Boeing 777X jets, three Qantas 787 delivery flights will be used during the fourth quarter of this year to gather data on ultra-long-haul services for the carrier.

The first of these 787s – a General Electric GEnx-powered twinjet, VH-ZHI – took off from JFK’s runway 31L shortly before 21:30 on 18 October.

Designated as flight QF7879 the aircraft is transporting just 50 passengers and crew, and no cargo, in order to give it the necessary range.

It is carrying a maximum fuel load of 101t and Qantas expects the aircraft to land with 6t on board. The airline says it will depart at 233t.

The jet had been delivered from Boeing’s Seattle facility and transferred to Los Angeles before flying to New York ahead of the Project Sunrise test.

After taking off from JFK it reached the Pacific Ocean in the vicinity of Los Angeles after about 5h and, after being airborne for some 16.5h, passed New Caledonia, some 1,000nm distance from Sydney.

The distance between JFK and Sydney is around 8,700nm.

“Months of flight planning has gone in to determining the optimum flightpath, including running daily plans to establish wind and weather patterns,” says the carrier.

Four pilots will crew the flight, with two other pilots, who flew the aircraft to New York, in the cabin.

Once this research flight – expected to take 19.5h – is completed, it will enter normal commercial service with Qantas, the airline states.


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JAC flight attendant injured in ATR 42 ‘upset’

Japanese investigators are probing an in-flight upset involving an ATR 42-600 during which a flight attendant was injured.

The Japan Air Commuter turboprop (JA01JC) had taken off from Kagoshima for Tanegashima on 12 October.

Japan Transport Safety Board says the aircraft had been some 35nm north-north-west of Tanegashima, and was descending through 3,200m (10,500ft) when the incident occurred.

The preliminary notification states that the aircraft was “shaken”, but does not indicate whether this was due to turbulence or other circumstances.

Japan had been threatened by the approaching typhoon Hagibis on 12 October, although Tanegashima was located on the outer fringes of the storm.

Meteorological data for the airport at the time indicates good visibility and no adverse conditions, with winds from the north-west at about 18kt.

While the ATR was close to its destination, a cabin crew member suffered a fracture, and the pilots opted to return to Kagoshima where the aircraft landed some 40min after its departure.

Cirium fleets data shows the ATR 42-600 was delivered new to the regional carrier in January 2017.


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R-R acquires ex-Qantas 747 for flight testing new engines

Rolls-Royce has acquired a former Qantas Boeing 747-400 as part of a $70 million investment that will see the aircraft converted into a testbed for evaluating new engines and engine technology.

The UK aircraft engine manufacturer took delivery of the 20-year-old 747 (VH-OJU) at a facility operated by flight test provider AeroTec in Moses Lake, Washington, the companies say on 15 October.

R-R has hired AeroTec to modify the 364-seat aircraft into a “flying digital hub” which will be used to test new engines for both business jets and commercial airliners, R-R says.

“The aircraft will be used to test current and future jet engine technology that will transform flight, reduce emissions and set new benchmarks for efficiency,” the company says. “New systems will obtain better data faster than ever before, and technologies will be tested at higher altitudes and faster speeds.”

AeroTec says it will transform the aircraft over a two-year period. Once complete, R-R will operate the 747-400 in addition to its other flying testbed, a modified 747-200, the engine maker says.

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A digital rendering of R-R’s 747-400 flying testbed following modifications by AeroTec

AeroTec

The work will enable AeroTec to expand its facilities and increase its Moses Lake workforce by 40 new jobs, AeroTec says. The company’s other major projects include assisting Mitsubishi Aircraft with certification of its SpaceJet M90.

R-R’s $70 million investment covers the cost of acquiring and converting the aircraft, which completed its work for Qantas with a passenger flight from Sydney to Los Angeles on 13 October.

Delivered new to the Australian airline in 2000, the R-R RB211-powered 747 had accumulated some 92,100h of flight and 9,400 cycles as of August, according to Cirium fleets data.

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The 747-400 that will become R-R’s flying testbed spent the last 18 years in passenger service with Qantas

Qantas

R-R has also invested £90 million ($114 million) in a ground-based test centre in Derby, UK called “Testbed 80”. That site will open in 2020, the company says.

R-R has in recent months stressed its focus on shaking up the aircraft engine market with new technology. While executives have a long-term eye on hybrid-electric technology, the company has been developing gas-powered UltraFan, a widebody-size, geared turbofan it says will be 10% more efficient than its Trent XWB, which powers the Airbus A350.

UltraFan’s core will have components made from ceramic-matrix composites and other advanced materials, and a fan with composite blades equipped with titanium leading edges, it has said.

R-R expects to run UltraFan for the first time in 2021 and anticipates service entry in the latter half of the next decade, it has said.


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Swiss gradually starts returning A220s to flight status

Swiss has started returning some of its Airbus A220s to flight status, following urgent engine checks triggered by another powerplant failure.

Restoration of A220 flight operations could be achieved on 17 October based on the carrier’s planning, according to Airbus.

A220 operators are being advised of low-pressure compressor speed limitations as well as one-off visual borescope inspections as part of a precautionary set of measures.

Airbus says they are being introduced until the root cause of the problems are identified.

The latest failure of the type’s Pratt & Whitney PW1500G engine, involving a Geneva-bound aircraft on 15 October, is the Swiss carrier’s third such incident since July.

In response, Swiss withdrew the A220 fleet from service while it carried out inspections.

Airbus says it “sincerely regrets this inconvenience” but says the first aircraft have already returned to service. It adds that it is providing “full support” to Pratt & Whitney and investigating authorities.

The US National Transportation Safety Board is leading the probe into the Swiss engine failures.

Swiss became the first operator of the A220 – then known as the Bombardier CSeries – after taking delivery of the initial customer aircraft, a CS100, in mid-2016. The CS100 has been redesignated the A220-100.

All three of the Swiss engine incidents have involved the larger model – the A220-300, previously the CS300 – of which Swiss started taking delivery in mid-2017.

Ninety A220s had been delivered worldwide by the end of September this year, including 29 to Swiss, the largest operator of the type.

Delta Air Lines has 25, all the -100 variant, while Air Baltic has just completed delivery of its initial batch of 20 A220-300s.

Korean Air has 10 A220-300s while another six are evenly distributed between EgyptAir, Air Tanzania and lessor GTLK.


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