Cessna marks 50th anniversary of first Citation flight

Textron Aviation is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the maiden flight of the original Cessna Citation business jet – the first model in what has become the largest business jet family in the world.

The prototype, branded the Citation 500, lifted off from Wichita’s Municipal airport (now Wichita Dwight D Eisenhower National airport) on 15 September 1969 for a 1h 45min sortie, piloted by Milt Sills and J L LeSueur. US certification was awarded in September 1971, leading to first deliveries in January 1972.

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Textron Aviation

Cessna unveiled a mock-up of the light business jet in October 1968, originally calling it the Fanjet 500. The concept was to offer a growing population of business travellers an aircraft that was a quieter, simpler, safer and less expensive option than other business jets on the market, that also gave pilots of twin-engined turboprops an easy transition.

At a price of about $695,000, the six-seat Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-1B-powered Citation had a maximum cruise speed of 350kt (650km/h) and a range of 1,330nm (2,430km).

“The same vision that led to the creation of the original Citation 50 years ago still guides us today,” says Ron Draper, president and chief executive of Textron Aviation, Cessna’s parent company.

“We are building on our history as an industry leader and investing in the future to continue to exceed customer expectations,” he adds.

Cessna has delivered more than 7,500 Citation models worldwide. The current family line-up includes the M2 entry-level jet, CJ3+ and CJ4 light jets, superlight XLS+, midsize Sovereign+ and Latitude. The Longitude super-midsize business jet is scheduled to enter service before year-end.


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Airbus marks 50th anniversary with flypast

Airbus kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations in style today with a flypast over its Toulouse headquarters.

The date is significant for the European manufacturer as it was this day in 1969 that the original Airbus partnership agreement was signed at the Paris air show in Le Bourget, signalling the launch of the A300B programme.

Airbus

A formation of Airbus family aircraft, including the A220, A320 Family, A330neo, A350 XWB, A380 and BelugaXL, along with Dassault Alpha Jets of the Patrouille de France, flew over Toulouse city this morning and completed a flypast over Blagnac airport where Airbus is based.

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The “50 years of Airbus” celebrations in Toulouse will be covered on flightglobal.com. Read our online special report celebrating the manufacturer’s big birthday here

Updated to reflect date and video


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BOAC 747 retrojet marks British Airways centenary

The first of a series of British Airways aircraft painted in retro colour schemes has made its debut today at the airline’s London Heathrow base.

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The Boeing 747-400 (registration G-BYGC), arrived from Dublin earlier today adorned in the BOAC scheme worn by the BA predecessor airline during the 1960s and early 1970s. The aircraft is one of an expected five aircraft that the airline is repainting during 2019 as it marks the 100th anniversary of airline operations in the UK.

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Max Kingsley-Jones/FlightGlobal

BA is planning to put the BOAC-liveried 747 into service tomorrow on flight BA117 to New York JFK. After its return to Heathrow, it is then due to fly to Chicago on 20 February.

Other 747-400s are expected to be painted in earlier British Airways schemes such as the blue/grey “Landor” colours of the 1980s and the Negus & Negus-designed red, white and blue “Union Jack” scheme introduced in 1973 when BA was formed in its current guise. An Airbus A319 is also believed to be set for a makeover, into the 1960s colours of BEA.

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Although the 747-400 arrived a long time after BOAC and BEA merged to form BA in 1973-4, G-BYGC is not the first jumbo jet to appear in BOAC colours. The airline’s original 747-100s, operated by British Airways from the 1970s into the 1990s, were flown by BOAC when they were first introduced (below). BA says the BOAC livery will remain in place on the 747-400 until it retires in 2023.

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An-225 marks 30 years as world’s largest aircraft

Antonov is marking the 30th anniversary of the maiden flight of its unique An-225, as it prepares to surrender – possibly – its title of the world’s largest aircraft to another six-engined giant.

For three decades the ‘Mriya’ – the Ukrainian word for ‘vision’ or ‘dream’ – has reigned undisputed, setting several world records.

The An-225 was developed from the four-engined An-124, modified with a stretched fuselage, broader 88.4m wingspan and six Ivchenko-Progress D-18 turbofans capable of delivering over 136t of thrust.

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It also featured a characteristic twin vertical fin to provide stability and greater rudder authority during the key operations for which the aircraft was designed – the ‘piggy-back’ transport of outsize payloads up to 250t, notably the Soviet Union’s Energia launch vehicle and Buran space shuttle orbiter.

Flight International reported the roll-out of the An-225 at Kiev in its final issue of 1988, by which time the aircraft had conducted its first flight having lifted off on 21 December.

Full details of the aircraft remained sketchy – the magazine relied photographs of a model to estimate the size of the undercarriage. The An-225 has 32 wheels including 14 on each main-gear assembly.

Like the An-124, the An-225 is loaded through a nose visor, lowering itself for ease of access through a process which Antonov calls the “tantsi slona”, the Ukrainian phrase for “elephant’s dance”.

Development of the aircraft took only three-and-a-half years, according to Antonov and, in its early stages of operation, the An-225 made appearances at the Paris and Farnborough air shows.

Although the An-225’s maiden flight came seven weeks after the first, and only, flight of the Buran orbiter, the aircraft nevertheless demonstrated its ability to transport the shuttle with a flight on 3 May 1989.

Collapse of the Soviet Union, almost exactly three years after the first flight, and abandonment of the Buran shuttle programme left the future of the An-225 uncertain.

The sole aircraft was parked in 1994 and assembly of a second airframe was halted, the incomplete fuselage still mothballed at an Antonov facility in Kiev. While Antonov has previously indicated intentions to finish the second An-225, progress to this end has been virtually non-existent.

But the original An-225 (UR-82060) was given the opportunity to enter commercial service, following a seven-year refurbishment programme which led to restoration of flight testing at Kiev on 7 May 2001 and certification by the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee two weeks later on 23 May.

Antonov Airlines, the operator of the jet, claims that a single flight set 214 and 124 world records on 11 September 2001 when it transported a 253.8t cargo to an altitude of 10,570m (34,700ft). The aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of 640t.

Only two aircraft have exceeded the An-225’s wingspan. The Hughes H-4 Hercules, which briefly became airborne during its only flight in 1947, and the newly-developed twin-fuselage Stratolaunch, yet to fly, which has a 117m span and is also intended as a transport for space vehicles.

But while Stratolaunch is fitted with six Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, and its developer describes it as the world’s largest aircraft, it will be shorter than the An-225 and have a lower payload capacity at 227t – which means, in the giant aircraft stakes, the Ukrainian ‘dream’ lives on.


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Xiamen Max marks Boeing’s 2000th jet to China

Boeing has delivered its 2,000th aircraft to China, a 737 Max 8 for Xiamen Airlines.

The CFM International Leap-1B-powered jet sports a special logo commemorating the milestone. It is Xiamen Airlines’, an all-Boeing operator, eighth Max.

Boeing says it took four decades to deliver its first 1,000 aircraft to the Chinese market. The next 1,000 jets were however delivered over the past five years.

“The rapid pace continues as one in four Boeing-made commercial jet goes to a Chinese operator, either through direct purchase or lease,” it adds.

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Boeing

China’s commercial aircraft fleet is expected to more than double over the next 20 years. Boeing is forecasting demand for 7,690 new aircraft, valued at $1.2 trillion, by 2038. It also expects China to experience strong growth in the commercial services market with demand growing by $1.5 trillion over the next 20 years.

Chinese companies are also major industrial partners for Boeing, supplying parts for every of its aircraft type. This month, Boeing and Comac are set to deliver the first 737 Max from its completion and delivery centre in Zhoushan. The facility will handle interior work and painting of 737 Max aircraft for the Chinese market.

“We are deeply honoured to have achieved this delivery milestone in close partnership with our great partners in China. Our long-standing industrial relationship in this market has been mutually beneficial, fueling significant growth in Boeing’s business, the US economy, and the Chinese aviation industry,” says Boeing’s senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing Ihssane Mounir.


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Air Baltic marks Latvian centenary with A220 scheme

Air Baltic has revealed a colourful paint scheme on one of its Airbus A220 aircraft during a ceremony today at its Riga International Airport base.

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The twinjet has been adorned with a red and white scheme reflecting the colours of the Latvian flag, to mark the centenary of Air Baltic’s home nation. The unveiling was made at a ceremony attended by the president of the Republic of Latvia, Raimonds Vejonis.

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Air Baltic

Air Baltic says A220-300 YL-CSL will carry the flag of Latvia and the name of its capital city, Riga.

“We at Air Baltic perceive ourselves as ambassadors of Latvia, and we use every opportunity to spread the word about Latvia as a beautiful, successful and flourishing country,” says chief executive Martin Gauss.

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Challenger 600 marks 40 years in business

The company was Canadair and the aircraft was its Challenger 600, which made its first flight 40 years ago next month, on 8 November 1978. And that aviation icon who created the original concept – as the “LearStar 600” – was none other than Bill Lear. The Challenger – which become the first aviation asset in the Bombardier product line in August 1986 – was the programme that gave Canadair the right to play in the large-cabin business jet market, and spawned the Global series. It also, of course, was the baseline from which Canadair developed a small airliner to tap what many originally believed was a niche market for regional jets. The aircraft went on to rack up orders well into four digits.

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Boeing marks first big defense win in more than a decade with MQ-25A

After losing several big defence contracts over the past decade – resulting in consistently falling revenues – Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS) has finally notched a big win.

On 31 August, the US Navy awarded the Arlington, Virginia-based division an $805.3 million contract to develop four MQ-25A Stingray carrier-based unmanned refuelling aircraft.

The fixed-price, incentive-firm target contract provides for the design, development, fabrication, test, delivery and support of the MQ-25A unmanned air vehicles, including integration into the carrier air wing for an initial operational capability by 2024. The USN could ultimately buy as many as 72 of UAVs for a total spend of as much as $13 billion.

By winning the UAV tanker contract, Boeing beat proposals from Lockheed Martin and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Both of those companies chose to not build a prototype before the award was announced, while Boeing manufactured a full-scale and functional aircraft, which demonstrated carrier deck taxiing, but has not yet made its initial flight.

Boeing also hedged its bets by joining General Atomics’ bid as a subcontractor in an undeclared capacity, a sign of how hungry the manufacturer was to win this latest defence contract.

Boeing has been shut out of several big deals in recent years, including losing the contract to build the US Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber in 2015 to Northrop Grumman, and the Joint Strike Fighter to Lockheed Martin in 2001. As a result, defence revenues at the company have fallen bymore than a third, from $32.1 billion in 2007 to $21.1 billion in 2017.

“It was a high-priority win for Boeing,” says Phil Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at Teal Group. “It positions them in medium-altitude, long-endurance [unmanned aerial systems]. That’s an important market segment.”

Medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs are projected to be the second-largest segment of the unmanned aircraft market, worth $22.2 billion between 2017 and 2026, according to the Teal Group’s analysis. The largest segment will be unmanned combat aerial vehicles, worth $27.1 billion over the same period, it says.

The addition of the MQ-25 contract to BDS’s books, spread over the next five years, will not contribute much to the division’s top line on its own, says Finnegan. However, the win is part of a small yet growing rebound in its revenue performance. Boeing gave guidance in the second quarter that defence turnover would be $22-$23 billion in fiscal year 2018, a 4.3% increase over the previous year.

The recent bounce in revenue is due to a production contract for 28 F/A-18 Super Hornets for Kuwait, contracts for 18 additional F/A-18 Super Hornets and three P-8 Poseidon aircraft for the USN, and a multi-year contract for 58 of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotors it builds jointly with Bell.

Boeing plans to perform the MQ-25 work in St. Louis, Missouri where it manufactures the F/A-18, EA-18G and F-15. The UAV is being prepared for its first flight, although the company has not announced when that will take place.

The USN is interested in a carrier-based UAV tanker to extend the range of its manned aircraft, including the F-35C Lightning II, F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler. The service has become anxious about the range of its fighters because adversaries such as China and Russia have developed anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles that could force carriers to keep their distance from the battlespace.

Ultimately, it is not clear if the USN will fully embrace the MQ-25 concept and order a full complement of 72 aircraft, given its conservative reputation and the meandering legacy of the programme, which started in 2010 as the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike programme before evolving into an aerial refuelling mission.

“The navy has changed the concept multiple times, changed the focus of the program, and so there is a lot of scepticism about ultimately how much commitment there is and how many systems they will buy,” says Finnegan, noting, nonetheless: “It’s clearly important [to Boeing] even if the navy doesn’t buy a large number of systems.”


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Boeing marks 737 Max anniversary with 130-strong fleet

Boeing has passed the one-year anniversary of the 737 Max with a staggeringly large in-service fleet that has fulfilled promises of improved fuel efficiency while battling normal teething problems.

Boeing delivered 130 aircraft representing two versions of the 737 Max in the 12 months since first delivery to Lion Air’s Malaysia-based subsidiary last May, the company says in an online blog post.

The deliveries might have been even higher, but engine supplier CFM International fell several weeks behind on a planned ramp-up of Leap-1B engine production. CFM plans to catch up on deliveries in the third quarter.

The 130 deliveries of the 737 Max within a year is almost double the number of A320neo family aircraft that Airbus handed over to customers over its first year in operation. Airbus also faced supplier production shortfalls, involving cabin interiors and the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engine.

So far, the 28 737 Max operators have logged 118,006h on 41,797 flights that carried 6.5 million passengers, according to Boeing.

The 737 Max family enters the market facing a high bar for reliability, as the highly mature 737NG series operates with a mission dispatch rate over 99.7%.

“You’re bound to have some teething issues in the beginning,” wrote Boeing vice-president of marketing Randy Tinseth in his blog, without elaborating.

The fleet now stands at a mission dispatch rate of 99.4% and should improve to the 99.7% standard by the end of the year.

Boeing has sold 4,509 firm orders for the 737 Max family, including sales of 416 737 Max 10. Boeing does not break down the firm orders for the other three major variants of the 737 Max family, but the 737-8 version is by far the most popular.


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Mauritania Airlines delivery marks African debut for 737 Max

Mauritania Airlines International has become the first African operator of the Boeing 737 Max.

Boeing announced the delivery of the Mauritanian flag-carrier’s first 737 Max 8 today. The aircraft joins an all-Boeing jet fleet which includes two 737-500s and two 737NGs (one -700 and one -800). The airline also operates a single Embraer ERJ-145.

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“We are proud to be the first carrier in Africa to operate the 737 Max,” says the airline’s chief executive Mohamed Radhi Bennahi. “The introduction into the growing Mauritanian fleet will help to profitably grow our network as we introduce new routes to Europe and the Middle East.”

When Mauritania Airlines revealed the 737 Max 8 deal at the 2017 Paris air show, it said it planned to use the new Boeing twinjet to open routes to Paris and Jeddah.


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