What’s Trending in Aerospace – February 7, 2021

By Staff Writer | February 7, 2021
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Check out the Feb. 7 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.


Airbus Sites Prepare for A321XLR Transition to Major Component Assembly Phase

Subassembly of the A321XLR centre wing box began at Airbus’ Nantes site in France. (Airbus)

Airbus provided several updates around the A321XLR’s upcoming entry-into-service, with sites in France and Germany gearing up for the new aircraft’s major component assembly phase.

According to a Feb. 2 press release, while all major sections of the A321XLR contain significant design changes versus the current A321neo/A321LR baseline aircraft, the major component assembly with extensive design and manufacturing differences is the center and aft fuselage

“The production of components for the first A321XLR flight-test aircraft is progressing through the sites all across the world, for large and small components as well as systems,” Gary O’Donnell, head of the A321XLR program, said in the release. “In parallel, many parts are already being tested and demonstrated – on both the aircraft structure and on the systems side – to validate the functionality of all those first aircraft components.”

Alaska Airlines Introduces New VeriFLY Mobile Health Passport

Alaska Airlines rolled out a new mobile application, VeriFLY, that can expedite check-in and verification processes for international travelers arriving in the United States.

International travelers arriving in the U.S. have been required since early January to provide proof of a negative COVID test, under a new order issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Tests must be performed within three days of entry into the U.S.

Alaska is using VeriFLY to provide passengers with a digital health passport storing their documentation and allowing for real-time verification of COVID-related credentials.

“Similar to Alaska Airlines’ Pre-Clear program, the app allows for real-time verification of COVID-related credentials, like health questionnaires and diagnostic lab results,” Alaska said in a Feb. 4 press release. “Although proof of a negative COVID test is mandatory for travelers to enter into the country, usage of VeriFLY is not. Alaska Airlines guests will have the option to use the app for faster verification but will still be obligated to present the essential health documents as required by the CDC’s order regardless.”


SITA Launches COVID Passport

SITA is launching a solution for airlines, airports, governments, and passengers to share information on tests of vaccines before traveling. (SITA)

SITA is launching a solution for airlines, airports, governments, and passengers to share information on tests of vaccines before traveling, according to a Feb. 4 press release.

The project, Health Protect, can integrate with other travel pass or health passport schemes. It also uses Advance passenger Processing (APP), which lets authorities make decisions about passenger travel at check-in, according to the release.

“We’re excited for the potential of SITA Health Protect to bridge the gap between airlines resuming normal operations and governments’ strong focus on keeping control of COVID-19,” David Lavorel, CEO of airports and borders at SITA, said in a press statement. “Recovery from COVID-19 will take time and is complex but we believe that SITA can play a key role in enabling a safer, simpler travel experience for passengers.”

Health Protect will launch at Milan Malpensa Airport.


AERO Vodochody AEROSPACE Gets FreeFlight Radar Altimeters

FreeFlight Systems is providing radar altimeter upgrades to a fleet of Czech Republic-based AERO Vodochody Aerospace operated L-39NG trainer and light combat fleet. (FreeFlight Systems)

Czech Republic-based AERO Vodochody AEROSPACE’s military trainers and light combat L-39NG aircraft will now be equipped with FreeFlight Systems RA-4500 Radar Altimeters, according to a Feb. 1 press release.

“We have worked hard to create a Radar Altimeter system that provides the most accurate AG information and pilot control for operational safety,” Tim Taylor, CEO & President of FreeFlight Systems, said in a press statement. “The AERO Vodochody L-39NG is an outstanding military aircraft that is intended to provide enhanced flight training capabilities and we look forward to working with AERO to ensure optimal support of these units.”

Boeing Announces First Flight of F-15EX in Anticipation of Early Delivery of First Two Planes

The Boeing F-15EX fighter jet demonstrates a vertical “Viking” departure during its first flight on Feb. 2 (Boeing)

Boeing‘s F-15EX fighter had its first flight on Feb. 2 in anticipation of “early delivery” of the first two jets to the U.S. Air Force later this quarter, the company said.

Matt “Phat” Giese, Boeing’s chief test pilot, flew the plane for 90 minutes before returning to land at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Boeing said.

Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager, said in a statement on Feb. 2 that the F-15EX “is capable of incorporating the latest advanced battle management systems, sensors and weapons due to the jet’s digital airframe design and open mission systems architecture.”

“The fighter’s digital backbone means it can serve as a testbed for future technology insertion, a key capability for the Air Force. Modern variants of the F-15 also include fly-by-wire flight controls, an all-new digital cockpit, modern AESA radar and the ADCP-II, the world’s fastest mission computer,” per Boeing. “The F-15EX, the most advanced version to date, features the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System  [EPAWSS] electronic warfare system to improve mission effectiveness and survivability for operators.”

Business & GA

2021 EBACE Exhibition Cancelled

The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) announced the cancellation of the 2021 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE2021) due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the air travel industry, in a Feb. 4 press release.

Both organizations are planning new, virtual EBACE programming from May 18-20, the previously planned dates for EBACE2021.“Although vaccination programs are ramping up, we are still in unchartered waters,” EBAA Secretary-General Athar Husain Khan said in the release. “We felt that, in May 2021, the safety of our exhibitors and attendees could not be guaranteed in the traditional EBACE format.”

Event Cancellations Extend Through June 2021 for NBAA

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) will cancel all in person events through June 2021, according to a Feb. 5 press release.

Events scheduled for this time include the 2021 Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE), the 2021 NBAA Maintenance Conference, and the 2021 NBAA White Plains Regional Forum.

“We are disappointed that we will be unable to offer a robust slate of in-person events in the first half of 2021,” NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said in a press statement. “That said, the safety and security of our event participants has always been a core value for the association, and that is central to our decision. As we did in 2020, we are exploring opportunities to gather the business aviation community through various online initiatives, and we will provide details as soon as they are available.”

Experimental Aircraft Association Forges Ahead with AirVenture 2021 Plans

An aerial view of the 2019 EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. EAA plans on bringing the annual air show back in 2021, after canceling in 2020 due to COVID.

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) provided an update to its members last week regarding plans for their annual AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

“We are in full preparation mode for this year’s fly-in, but circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 situation have caused some additional safeguards and procedures to be part of that planning,” the association said in a Feb. 4 press release.

The annual event will feature some venue changes with an emphasis on physical distancing and reduced seating capacities.

“We will be hosting AirVenture 2021, but there will be areas that will look different and areas where we’ll incorporate technology to limit touchpoints as we work with local and state health officials to establish and maintain the best possible standards for public events,” Jack J. Pelton, EAA’s CEO and Chairman said in a Feb. 4 press release. “Some areas may look different at Oshkosh this year, but the feeling will be the same as we gather to celebrate the world of flight.”

AirVenture is scheduled to occur July 26-Aug. 1.


Viasat Pushes ViaSat-3 Satellite Launch to 2022

The Viasat-3 constellation is to deliver three terabits per second of capacity. (Viasat)

Viasat has pushed back the launch of its first ViaSat-3 satellite, and does not expect to launch the satellite until early 2022. CEO Rick Baldridge said during the company’s third quarter (Q3) 2021 financial report call on Thursday that work on the program has been hindered by a wave of COVID-19 cases in Arizona.
Viasat is preparing to deliver the first satellite payload to Boeing, which will begin the final phase of the countdown to launch readiness.
“We continue to make really good progress on the program and we’re moving closer to delivery of the first payload. The record COVID spikes seen in the quarter, especially in Arizona where our payload facilities are located … haven’t worked in our favor. They’ve caused some intermittent work delays both internally and with our supply chain in the recent quarter,” Baldridge said.

SpaceX Launches Batch of Starlink Satellites, Targets Global Coverage in 2021

SpaceX launched an additional batch of 60 Starlink satellites early on Thursday morning to build up its satellite constellation to deliver low-latency broadband internet service from space.

A Falcon 9 rocket took off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 1:19 a.m. ET. After stage separation, the first stage booster landed on a drone ship about 8:30 into the mission, marking the booster’s fifth launch and recovery. The Starlink satellites were deployed one hour and six minutes after liftoff.

Beta testing is underway in parts of the United States, and recently expanded to parts of the United Kingdom and Canada. More than 10,000 users in the U.S. and abroad are using the service today, Starlink Services LLC, SpaceX’s subsidiary for Starlink, reported in an FCC filing posted on Thursday related to the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).


Positronic Acquired by Amphenol Corporation

Amphenol Corporation has acquired Positronic, the company announced in a Feb. 1 press release. Amphenol Corporation designs and manufactures electrical, electronic and fiber optic connectors and interconnect systems, antennas, sensors and sensor-based products and coaxial and high-speed specialty cable. Positronic manufactures electronic connector products.

“Positronic is a strong fit with Amphenol, aligning well with its technological expertise, manufacturing versatility, and customer support,” David Kean, General Manager for Positronic, said in a press statement. “As part of Amphenol, Positronic will continue to provide the connector products and services our customers demand.”


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