Check out the Dec. 20 edition of What's Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines happening across the global aerospace industry.

Commercial Aviation 


New Senate FAA Investigation Report Uncovers More Boeing Influence on 737 MAX Certification

Boeing 737 MAX cockpit. (Boeing)

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, released the Committee’s investigation report on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), looking into information about the 737 MAX certification process from multiple "whistleblowers," according to a Dec. 18 press release.

“Twenty months ago, the Commerce Committee launched an investigation into FAA safety oversight. We have received disclosures from more than 50 whistleblowers, conducted numerous FAA staff interviews, and reviewed over 15,000 pages of relevant documents,” said Wicker. “Our findings are troubling. The report details a number of significant examples of lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership in the FAA. It is clear that the agency requires consistent oversight to ensure their work to protect the flying public is executed fully and correctly.”

The Committee provided a brief overview of some of the report's findings, including the following:

  • FAA senior managers have not been held accountable for failure to develop and deliver adequate training in flight standards, despite repeated findings of deficiencies over several decades.
  • The FAA continues to retaliate against whistleblowers instead of welcoming their disclosures in the interest of safety.
  • The Department of Transportation Office of General Counsel (DOT OGC) failed to produce relevant documents requested by Chairman Wicker as required by Article I, Section I of the Constitution.
  • The FAA repeatedly permitted Southwest Airlines to continue operating dozens of aircraft in an unknown airworthiness condition for several years. These flights put millions of passengers at risk.
  • During 737 MAX recertification testing, Boeing inappropriately influenced FAA human factor simulator testing of pilot reaction times involving a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) failure.
  • FAA senior leaders may have obstructed a DOT OIG review of the 737 MAX crashes.


UPS Delivers First U.S. COVID-19 Vaccines to Worldport

UPS completed the first flights of COVID-19 vaccines to its global hub in Louisville, Kentucky on Dec. 13. (UPS)

UPS provided air cargo flights for the transportation of the first COVID-19 vaccines to its global hub, Worldport, in Louisville, Kentucky on Dec. 13.

"Capt. Houston Mills, UPS pilot & U.S. Marines veteran, just flew the 1st U.S. COVID-19 vaccines to Worldport, our global Airplane hub in Louisville, KY.Tomorrow, we will deliver the vaccines across the country," Carol Tomé, CEO of UPS said in a Dec. 13 tweet.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines will originate from storage sites in Michigan and Wisconsin, before being transported to Worldport, where they will be expedited to select destinations, including hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities, according to UPS.

“This is the moment of truth we’ve been waiting for at UPS,” said Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare. “We have spent months strategizing with Operation Warp Speed officials and our healthcare customers on efficient vaccine logistics, and the time has arrived to put the plan into action.”



Boeing, University of Arizona Demonstrate How to Kill COVID-19 on Flight Deck Surfaces

Boeing and the University of Arizona put an age-old technique, thermal disinfection, to use in the fight against COVID-19. (Boeing)

Researchers from the University of Arizona have been working with Boeing to demonstrate how the use of thermal disinfection can effectively eliminate the presence of SARS-CoV-2 on aircraft flight deck surfaces.

According to Boeing, the flight deck is one of the most challenging areas to sanitize using traditional chemical disinfectants. This is especially true in areas with sensitive electronic equipment. Boeing's flight decks are designed to withstand temperatures up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (about 70 degrees Celsius), making thermal disinfection an optimal sanitization method.

"We're basically cooking the virus," Dr. Charles Gerba, University of Arizona microbiologist and infectious disease expert, said in a Dec. 15 press release. "Thermal disinfection is one of the oldest ways to kill disease-causing micro-organisms. It's used by microbiologists in our laboratory every day."

Boeing completed the testing as part of its Confident Travel Initiative (CTI) to enhance the well-being of passengers and crews during the COVID-19 pandemic. This testing was conducted in a protected laboratory environment at the university using flight deck parts and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, this fall.

"Passenger and crew safety are our top priorities — that extends from the cabin to the flight deck," said Michael Delaney, who leads Boeing's Confident Travel Initiative (CTI) efforts. "Thermal disinfection could deliver another valuable tool to destroy COVID-19 on sensitive and difficult-to-reach components that protect pilots."

Check out video footage from the research initiative here.

Business & General Aviation 

Gulfstream Delivers First G600 Certified by EASA

The first EASA-certified Gulfstream G600 has been delivered to an undisclosed operator in Europe. (Gulfstream)

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. in a Dec. 16 press release announced delivery of the first G600 certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to an undisclosed operator based in Europe.

“We are glad our customers in Europe can now register their G600 on the continent and easily experience the advanced technology and cabin comfort of the aircraft,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “Pilots have told us the Symmetry Flight Deck is a joy to fly, and customers are reaping the benefits of the award-winning Gulfstream cabin, with its advanced ergonomics, flexibility and health benefits. With the latest range increase—the third for the G600—customers in Europe.”

After a recently announced range boost, the G600 can now travel 6,600 nautical miles/12,223 kilometers at its long-range cruise of Mach 0.85 and 5,600 nm/10,371 km at its high-speed cruise of Mach 0.90.

Embraer Completes First Praetor 500 Conversion in Europe

Embraer completed its first Praetor 500 conversion in Europe. (Embraer)

Embraer announced the completion of the first European conversion of a Legacy 450 to a Praetor 500 for an undisclosed customer. The conversion was performed at the Embraer Executive Jets Service Center at Le Bourget International Airport, in Paris, France.

“These conversions are only made possible by the expertise of structures and avionics specialists, mechanics, logistics teams, and engineers from Embraer operations around the globe,” said Johann Bordais, President & CEO, Embraer Service & Support. “Per Embraer’s strategy for the future, we are consistently investing in and expanding our portfolio, focused on offering our customers the industry’s best services and support.”

The full process to convert a Legacy 450 (2,900 nautical miles range) into a Praetor 500 (3,340 nautical miles range) requires replacement of the level-sensing wiring in the fuel tanks, moving the over-wing gravity fueling ports and re-location of the fuel-measurement system, according to Embraer. There were also adjustments made to the flight control systems, including a new avionics load for the aircraft's Pro Line Fusion flight deck.




Lockheed Martin ARRW Hypersonic Flight Demonstration Planned This Month

Members of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon Instrumented Measurement Vehicle 2 test team make final preparations prior to a captive-carry test flight of the prototype hypersonic weapon at Edwards AFB, Calif. on Aug. 8 (U.S. Air Force.).

The U.S. Air Force plans to hold a flight demonstration of the AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) by Lockheed Martin this month.

“We’re hoping that our flight demonstrator for our hypersonic weapon will be successful this month and that we’ll get into production next year,” Air Force Acquisition Chief Will Roper told the Air Force Association Doolittle Forum on Dec. 15.

If that happens, ARRW would become the U.S.’ first fielded hypersonic weapon. Roper said on Dec. 15 that, while the Air Force is looking to lure commercial companies, including start-ups, to provide advanced technologies for military use, the service has not turned its back on traditional defense firms.

Check out the full story as first published in Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics International.



Romanian Air Force Tap Elbit Systems for IAR-99 Upgrade

Avioane Craiova S.A., a Romanian company, awarded a four year $27 million contract to Elbit Systems for an upgrade of the Romanian Air Force’s (RoAF) IAR-99 Standard trainer aircraft, according to a Dec. 14 press release. The upgrade will help transition RoAF pilots to advanced fighter aircraft like the F-16. 

The contract will equip the IAR-99 Standard aircraft with advanced avionics systems, close air support, and air to air capabilities, according to the release. Elbit Systems will also be providing integrated logistic support. 

“We are honored to provide continued support for the RoAF,” Yoram Shmuely, General Manager of Elbit Systems Aerospace, said in a press statement. “This upgrade program follows a range of technologies delivered by Elbit Systems to the RoAF in collaboration with Romanian companies, including large scale upgrades for various fixed-wing aircraft as well as the supply of advanced capabilities for rotary-wing aircraft.” 



UK Selects BT & Altitude Angel for Project XCelerate 

The United Kingdom is creating its first commercial drone corridor in open and unrestricted airspace, Project XCelerate, and has selected BT and Altitude Angel along with other tech start-ups to deliver use cases and technology for the project, according to a Dec. 15 press release. 

“As drone numbers continue to rise, there is an urgent need to safely integrate commercial drones into global airspace alongside manned aviation,” Gerry McQuade, CEO of BT’s Enterprise unit, said in a press statement. “In showing how drones can deliver improved, potentially life-saving services to the public, we’re aiming to accelerate the adoption of fully automated drones in unrestricted UK airspace in a safe and responsible way.”

Project XCelerate will begin in the summer of 2021 with flight trials with manned aviation along the 8km-long corridor located south of Reading, Berkshire, according to the release. The use cases demonstrated in the project will include industries like healthcare, emergency services, and infrastructure. 

“Project XCelerate is bringing together experts and world leaders in their respective fields, something we’re very proud and excited to be a part of,” Richard Parker, Altitude Angel CEO and founder, said in a press statement. “Our Arrow technology is truly ground-breaking and the key enabler to the project and we’re pleased to be deploying it for maximum benefit in the UK first.”

Dronecloud, HeroTech8, Skyports, Angola, DkyBound Rescuer and DroneStream will also participate in the consortium, according to the release. 


Virgin Galactic Reviews Ignition Problems That Prevented Test Flight from Reaching Space

SpaceShipTwo Unity takes off for latest Dec. 12 test flight from New Mexico. (Virgin Galactic)

A Dec. 12 Virgin Galactic test flight failed to reach space after their SpaceShipTwo spacecraft's rocket motor experienced ignition problems, the company said in a Dec. 14 press release.

During the test flight, the rocket motor did not fire due to the ignition sequence not completing. Following this event, the pilots conducted a safe landing and return to Spaceport America, New Mexico as planned.

"The flight did not reach space as we had been planning. After being released from its mothership, the spaceship’s onboard computer that monitors the rocket motor lost connection. As designed, this triggered a fail-safe scenario that intentionally halted ignition of the rocket motor. Following this occurrence, our pilots flew back to Spaceport America and landed gracefully as usual," Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement following the flight.

Colglazier said the team is now focused on continuing the fight testing program, with a repeat of the Dec. 12 flight, followed by another test flight that will include mission specialists as passengers. The company's founder, Sir Richard Branson, will participate in a test flight next year following the flight featuring mission specialists.

"We look forward to sharing information on our next flight window in the near future," Colglazier said.

Check out images and B-roll from Virgin Galactic's latest test flight here.

Air Taxi

ADAC Luftrettung Invests in 2 VoloCity eVTOLs

Volocopter 2x flying at Helsinki international airport. Photo: Volocopter

ADAC Luftrettung has invested in two VoloCity electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft following the results of a feasibility study about multicopter use in rescue services, according to a Dec. 15 press release from Volocopter, the company that makes the aircraft. ADAC Luftretung will begin operations tests with the aircraft in 2023. 

"After the groundbreaking results of our feasibility study, we are expanding our technological lead with regards to integrating multicopters in rescue services. Volocopter is the only eVTOL on the market that is advanced enough to reliably plan a test program with for our purposes,” Frédéric Bruder, Managing Director of the non-profit ADAC Luftrettung, said in a press statement. “We are excited to have secured our right to receive amongst the first VoloCity multicopters upon receival of type certificate.” 

The operation tests by ADAC Luftrettung will be the first eVTOL test for emergency services, according to the release. Volocopter plans to launch its air taxi services as early as the next two years. 

“Our partnership with ADAC Luftrettung, Europe’s largest helicopter operator, clearly demonstrates the potential Volocopter multicopter technology brings across all areas of mobility— in this case as a new means to get medical help to more people, faster,” Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, said in a press statement. “By reserving their first two VoloCitys, ADAC Luftrettung are making a clear statement of confidence about our readiness to deliver and in our multicopter technology.” 

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