Check out the Jan. 31 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the latest headlines and updates happening across the global aerospace industry.


Hainan Airlines Parent HNA Group Applies for Bankruptcy, Reorganization

HNA Group, parent company of Hainan Airlines, published a statement to its website on Jan. 29 acknowledging it had received notice of a court filing against debts it owes to a creditor.

“On 29th of January 2021, HNA Group received a formal notice from the Hainan High People’s Court. The main content of the notice is: a creditor has filed an application for the initiation of reorganization procedure against our company, on grounds that we cannot pay off due debts to the creditor,” HNA Group said in the statement.

“HNA Group will comply with the court’s instructions of judicial review in accordance with law, promote the debts disposition actively, support the court to protect the legal rights and interests of creditors in accordance with law, and safeguard our normal business to be operated successfully,” the statement reads.

According to a Jan. 29 article published by The Wall Street Journal, HNA Group last publicly reported owing the equivalent of roughly $76 billion in total short-term borrowings and long-term debt at the end of June 2019, according to data compiled by S&P Capital IQ.

Hainan Airlines operates a fleet of approximately 220 aircraft.



American Airlines Reports $8.9 Billion Loss for 2020

American Airlines published its fourth quarter and full-year 2020 results in a Jan. 28 press release, noting the international carrier suffered a full-year net loss of $8.9 billion last year due to the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on passenger air travel.

“Our fourth-quarter financial results close out the most challenging year in our company’s history,” said American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker.

“As we look to the year ahead, 2021 will be a year of recovery. While we don’t know exactly when passenger demand will return, as vaccine distribution takes hold and travel restrictions are lifted, we will be ready. We are confident that the actions we have taken to improve our customer experience, enhance our network and increase our efficiency position us well for the future,” Parker said.

In 2020, American Airlines retired a total of five aircraft types, including the Embraer 190, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Airbus A330 and Bombardier CRJ200, “along with a number of older regional aircraft,” according to the release.

American also placed certain older Boeing 737-800 aircraft into temporary storage. These changes removed more than 150 aircraft from the fleet and brought forward significant cost savings and efficiencies associated with operating fewer aircraft types, giving American the youngest fleet among the U.S. network carriers.




Honeywell Forge Gains Two New Airline Customers

GOL Airlines of Brazil and Sky Regional Airlines of Canada will now be using Honeywell Forge software, which claims to increase operational efficiencies and decrease costs associated with factors such as fuel burn, according to a Jan. 27 press release. This software is used by over 10,000 aircraft worldwide.

“By using connectivity to help analyze and track aircraft while they are in route, pilots can better adjust flight plans for greater efficiency, and operators now have more data at their disposal to make smart decisions,” John Peterson, vice president and general manager of software and services at Honeywell Connected Enterprise and Aerospace, said in a press statement. “The results are enhanced safety, better operations and improved operating results.”

Honeywell Forge can chart efficient flight paths, store historical information on airports, and adjust for changing variables, according to the release.





New Report Suggests Long Term COVID Impact on Aviation

According to Oliver Wyman’s Global Fleet & Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) Forecast 2021-2031, the impact of COVID-19 on aviation will lead to a smaller global in-service aircraft fleet by 2031.

“COVID has created a long list of challenges never seen before in modern commercial aviation,” Tom Cooper, Oliver Wyman’s vice president and one of the authors of the report, said in a press statement. “It will take the next few years for the fleet to adjust and return to stable growth, but even after 10 years, the industry will never fully regain all that it has lost from the pandemic. Right now, with many airlines still burning through millions of dollars each day, the focus must be cash flow management.”

Fewer aircraft will result in fewer direct flights and less frequent routes, according to a Jan. 28 press release announcing the report. According to the report, airlines are projected to reach 2019 levels of operation.


Sikorsky, Boeing Detail Updated Defiant X Offering For Army’s FLRAA Competition

Sikorsky-Boeing’s Defiant X.

Sikorsky and Boeing on Jan. 25 detailed their new Defiant X aircraft, the company’s updated offering for the Army’s Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) competition to find a UH-60 Black Hawk replacement.

The co-axial rigid rotor Defiant X builds on the SB>1 Defiant technology demonstrator platform the company has flown for several years, and includes enhancements to the design “to reduce thermal signature and improve aerodynamic handling” and “fly-by-wire flight controls integrated with autonomy capability.”

“Defiant X is the best fit for the Army mission. We’ve really optimized our design based on both the Army’s requirements but also leveraging and building on all of the test data that we’ve generated to date,” Heather McBryan, Boeing’s sales and marketing director for Future Vertical Lift, told reporters during a press conference. “All of that has led to Defiant X, and the biggest move is going from a tech demonstrator to a combat-ready weapon system.”

Last March, the Army selected Sikorsky-Boeing’s SB>1 Defiant and Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft to move onto the Competitive Demo and Risk Reduction phase for FLRAA after both had participated in the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator program to inform requirements since 2013.

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


AEI To Build Out Unmanned Tech Platform Starting With UAV Factory Acquisition

UAV Factory’s Penguin C MIL small tactical UAV. (UAV Factory)

AE Industrial Partners (AEI), which last year began building out a new space technology company through a series of acquisitions of small companies, on Thursday said it will be doing the same thing in the unmanned technology market.

AEI acquired Latvia-based UAV Factory, which develops and manufactures a small, person-sized fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), including the payloads, launcher, engine, ground control station and other components and accessories. The company has 125 employees and its UAVs are used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

UAV Factory also has an operation in Bend, Ore., where it does business development, flight support, gimbal manufacturing, and maintenance, repair and overhaul.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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


RAAF to Use Airbus SmartForce on KC-30A Fleet

The Royal Australian Air Force is using Airbus SmartForce digital services for the maintenance of their A330 MRTT Air Refueling Boom System. (Airbus)

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will be using Airbus’ SmartForce, a suite of services used to monitor aircraft data, for maintenance of the Air Refueling Boom System (ARBS) on its KC-30A fleet, according to a Jan. 28 release from Airbus.

“Since the launch of SmartForce in 2018, Airbus is fully committed to support the digital initiatives of our customers,” Stephan Miegel, Head of Military Aircraft Services at Airbus Defense and Space, said in a press statement. “Working collaboratively with them, we have signed five agreements for the co-development of new services and technologies. We are proud to see that military operators are increasingly joining us on our digital journey.”

The SmartForce will work with the Central Data System, which allows operators to use recorded flight data and provides recommended maintenance actions, according to the release.

“The introduction of the Central Data System has provided significant benefits in terms of increased availability of the ARBS,” Jake Adams, Northrop Grumman Australia KC-30A Program Manager, said in a press statement. “The recent agreement between Airbus and Northrop Grumman Australia ensures that the RAAF continues to benefit from this capability as well as providing the opportunity for ongoing collaboration and sharing of data and analytics to enhance the ARBS capability.”

Fighter Pilots Lead Training at BVLOS Drone Course

A specialized training course in the UK is using former Royal Navy fighter pilots and ex-Army Air Corps helicopter pilots to train drone pilots to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights in civilian airspace, according to a Jan. 28 press release. The course is led by Flyby Technology, a drone training company.

The course offers a month-long intensive program in Leicestershire teaching pilots to fly drones so far away they may be in other countries, according to the release.

“Yesterday, drones were all about taking photos and videos, today it’s about inspecting buildings, power lines and other infrastructure but tomorrow it will all be about operations beyond visual line of sight and we are now training these drone pilots of tomorrow,” Flyby Technology founder Jon Parker, a former RAF fighter pilot, said in a press statement. “They will be the best pilots in the world using the best technology and the best innovation to take aviation to the next level. In short, the skills needed to fly manned aircraft are being taken into the drone world to the extent that when they graduate Flyby pilots will receive their ‘wings’ and wear a uniform.”


Inmarsat Supplies Satellite Service to the UK’s Zero-Carbon Air Transportation Program

Inmarsat will provide satellite connectivity for the UK’s first zero carbon regional air transport network. (Inmarsat)

Satellite operator Inmarsat will provide connectivity services to a United Kingdom government initiative, Project HEART, which aims to build the U.K.’s first automated, zero-carbon regional air transportation network by 2025, according to a Jan. 25. press release.

Project HEART, which stands for “Hydrogen, Electric, and Automated Regional Transportation,” will develop hydrogen-powered, automated and remote piloting solutions for small aircraft carrying between 9 and 19 passengers, traveling a distance of fewer than 500 nautical miles.

Inmarsat will contribute satellite services to a hybrid connectivity solution that the U.K. government will use for remote “digital” co-piloting and critical communication in the aircraft cockpits. The network is also expected to include a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platform.

The UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) directs a consortium of U.K. technologies on the Project HEART initiative, which is funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Future Flight Challenge (FFC).


New EASA STC From Carlisle Interconnect Covers A320 Ka-band Upgrades

Carlisle Interconnect Technologies (CarlisleIT), a division of Carlisle Companies (CSL), has received a new Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the European Aviation Safety Association (EASA) for installation of Satellite and Communication (SATCOM) provisions on Airbus A320 series aircraft.

Their new STC provides installation of all aircraft structural provisions, outside aircraft equipment and electrical integration packages for the Honeywell JetWave Ka-band connectivity system. The installation package is certified for application on A319, A320, and A321 aircraft.

“This STC opens the door for our European customers to take advantage of an existing, qualified SATCOM installation solution for the Airbus A320 family of aircraft,” said Chris Rawley, product line manager, aircraft connectivity solutions at CarlisleIT.



Thales and H3 Dynamics Partner for Drone Remote ID System

In December 2020, H3 Dynamics and Thales jointly trialled a real-time autonomous drone flight monitoring system in an urban environment in Singapore. The trial combined H3 Dynamics’ DBX autonomous drone charging box and a drone electronically registered and identified using Thales’ Remote Identification tracker under the management and monitoring of the Thales UAS Airspace Management solution, pictured here. (Thales)

Thales and H3 Dynamics are working together to test a real-time autonomous drone flight monitoring system in Singapore, according to a Jan. 28 press release. The flight tests were conducted in an urban environment in Singapore and could advance beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights.

“We are proud to partner with Singapore’s H3 Dynamics, one of the world’s leading innovators in the drone automation space – to showcase our Remote Identification solution, with full integration of the Thales UAS Airspace Management solution,” Hervé Jarry, Chief Technical Officer at Thales in Singapore, said in a press statement. “The Remote ID tracker was designed and developed locally by expert teams in Singapore, supported by Thales experts in France, and this demonstration is a testimony to Thales’ commitment to supporting Singapore’s growing ambitions in the unmanned airspace sector. We look forward to bringing new solutions in this market, leveraging our established footprint and digital capabilities in Singapore.”

The system uses H3 Dynamics DBX autonomous drone charging box and Thales remote identification tracker, according to the release. The Thales Remote ID is compliant with ASTM international and ASD-STAN European standards and weighs less than 70 grams. It also uses an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) management system.

“For the first time in the world and in a live test conducted in Singapore, Thales and H3 Dynamics integrated autonomous drone docking stations with real-time drone tracking, and a world-class unmanned air traffic control system capable of being deployed today,” Taras Wankewycz, H3 Dynamics Founder and CEO, said in a press statement. “The broad coverage of Thales digital aviation capabilities, tied to our remote mission control and aerial data acquisition systems, places the combined system at the edge of drone technology and demonstrates the true potential of safe BVLOS operations.”

Air Taxi

Jaunt Air Mobility and Varon Vehicles Join Forces in Latin America

Jaunt Air Mobility and Varon Vehicles have formed a partnership to provide advanced air mobility to Latin America. (Jaunt)

Jaunt Air Mobility and Varon Vehicles have formed a partnership to provide advanced air mobility to Latin America, the companies announced in a press release published on Jan. 29. The partnership will utilize electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft from Jaunt Air Mobility and infrastructure in the form of vertiports from Varon Vehicles.

“This is what we call the Varon Vehicles Infrastructure Networks,” Felipe Varon, CEO and Founder, said in a press statement. “It’s a new form of mobility infrastructure. Technology now makes it possible to tap into unused low altitude airspace over cities and suburbs in an environmentally friendly manner to provide potentially disruptive transportation services and invaluable connectivity. We have chosen to start implementation in Colombia, where we’re working hand in hand with the Colombian civil aviation authority and a host of regional industry partners, as we bring together technologies, like Jaunt’s, for implementation.”

The effort will begin in 2021 with defining the transportation needs of Latin American cities and how the companies will work together to address those specific problems, according to the release.

“The Jaunt Journey aircraft will be one of the safest, quietest and most efficient aircraft; meeting the highest level of certification standards,” Simon Briceno, Chief Commercial Officer for Jaunt Air Mobility, said in a press statement. “Our patented Reduced rotor Operating Speed Aircraft offers inherent safety and a smooth comfortable ride for passengers. We are pleased to work with Varon Vehicles as they have developed a novel approach to address the challenges in Urban Air Mobility.”


Ferrovial and Lilium to Develop US Vertiport Network

Ferrovial, a global leading infrastructure operator, and Lilium, the German aviation company developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) jet aircraft and service, have signed a framework agreement to develop a network of at least 10 vertiports, according to a Jan. 27 press release.

The zero-carbon infrastructure and services will cover strategic locations in all major cities across Florida, Lilium said in the release. Overall, the partnership seeks to provide an efficient and environmentally friendly alternative transport network connecting locations across Florida.

The first location in South Florida will be announced within the next few months.

“Our strategy to bring high-speed transportation networks to an entire region is being brought to life in Florida, and Ferrovial is the ideal partner with their unrivaled expertise in airport construction and operations around the globe. Nearly all 20 million Floridians will live within 30 minutes of our vertiports and the 140 million annual visitors to the Sunshine State will have a high-speed option available to travel to their destinations,” Dr. Remo Gerber, Chief Operating Officer, Lilium said, commenting on the new partnership.

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