What’s Trending in Aerospace – February 21, 2021

By Staff Writer | February 21, 2021
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Check out the Feb. 21 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.


Perseverance Makes Touchdown on Mars!

NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance, landed on Mars on Thursday at 3:55 EST after a 203-day journey traveling over 293 million miles.

NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance, landed on Mars on Thursday at 3:55 EST after a 203-day journey traveling over 293 million miles. The rover’s mission is to collect samples from Mars and bring them back to Earth. 

“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk, said in a press statement. “The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration. The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.”

Perseverance was launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Flordia on July 30, 2020. It will complete a two-year investigation of Mars’ Jezero Crater focusing on the ancient lakebed and river delta, according to NASA. The samples Perseverance collects will help scientists search for definitive signs of past life. 

“Because of today’s exciting events, the first pristine samples from carefully documented locations on another planet are another step closer to being returned to Earth,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA, said. “Perseverance is the first step in bringing back rock and regolith from Mars. We don’t know what these pristine samples from Mars will tell us. But what they could tell us is monumental – including that life might have once existed beyond Earth.”


United Airlines Flight 328 Experiences Engine Failure

A video of the Flight UAL 328 captured by one of the passengers onboard shows what the engine failure looked like as they returned to their airport.

Flight UA328, a Boeing 777 operated by United Airlines from Denver to Hawaii, experienced an engine failure shortly after taking off from Denver International Airport on Feb. 21, according to a statement published to the airline’s Twitter profile shortly after a video of the engine captured by one of the passengers onboard went viral on social media.

“Flight UA328 from Denver to Honolulu experienced an engine failure shortly after departure, returned safely to Denver and was met by emergency crews as a precaution,” United said. “There are no reported injuries onboard. We are in contact with the FAA, NTSB and local law enforcement.”

The engine failure lead to debris from the aircraft falling throughout “soccer fields, homes and yards in a Denver suburb,” according to a Feb. 20 CNN report covering the incident.

American Airlines Partners with JetBlue Under New Alliance


JetBlue and American Airlines have established a new alliance designed to expand flight options and streamline the travel process for passengers flying from the Boston and New York City region airports.

“With access to JetBlue’s and American’s schedules , you’ll have more options when traveling to, from or through Boston and the NYC area—and more flights to choose from than any single airline for some of your favorite routes, like Los Angeles to the NYC area, Miami to the NYC area or Boston, DC to Boston, and more,” the airline wrote in an update posted to its website last week.

The new alliance will launch nearly 80 codeshare flights along with new routes launched by American to Colombia and Chile using a Boeing 777-200, according to a Feb. 18 press release.


Two Boeing Directors Retire from Board 

Arthur D. Collins Jr. and Susan C. Schwab, directors Boeing’s board, will be retiring and will not stand for reelection at the company’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders, Boeing announced in a Feb. 17 press release. The release also announced chairs to six board committees. 

“We are grateful for Art and Susan’s distinguished service on our board,” Boeing Chairman Larry Kellner, said in a press statement. “Boeing has benefited enormously from their committed and dedicated service.”

The six directors named to committee chairs include Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., chair of the Aerospace Safety Committee, Akhil Johri, chair of the Audit Committee, Lynn Good, chair of the Compensation Committee, Robert Bradway, chair of the Finance Committee, Ronald Williams, chair of the Governance, Organization and Nominating Committee, and Adm. John Richardson, chair of the Special Programs Committee, accord to the release. 



Air Côte d’Ivoire Gets First A320neo

The first A320neo was delivered to Air Côte d’Ivoire, Ivory Coast’s flagship carrier based in Abidjan. (Airbus)

The first A320neo was delivered to Air Côte d’Ivoire, Ivory Coast’s flagship carrier based in Abidjan, according to a Feb. 18 press release. This delivery marks the first A320neo operator in the West-African region. 

The A320neo will be deployed to serve Senegal, Gabon, and Cameroon, according to the release. 

The aircraft also completed a flight from Toulouse carrying 1 ton of humanitarian goods intended to go to local NGOs in Abidjan. 




US Air Force and CAPE Conducting Tactical Aircraft Study, May Involve Clean Sheet for F-16 Replacement

The Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 (Lockheed Martin).

As Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin conducts a Global Force Posture Review, the U.S. Air Force and the Pentagon’s Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) will run a tactical aircraft (TACAIR) study to inform needed fighter capabilities and numbers for the Air Force fiscal 2023 budget submission, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown said on Feb. 17.

“One of the areas I am looking, we’re pushing through is a TACAIR study for the United States Air Force to look at what is the right force mix,” Brown told the Defense Writers Group. “There is a need for fifth-gen capabilty. There’s a need for NGAD [Next Generation Air Dominance] and that particular capability to remain competitive against our adversaries, and then there’s a mix for a low-end fight. I don’t know it would actually be F-16. I’d want to be able to build something new and different that’s not the F-16, that has some of those capabilities but gets there faster, uses a digital approach.”

Brown said that such an F-16 replacement could be a clean sheet design.

NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Drone Program Reaches Initial Operational Capability

The Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) platform, which includes a modified version of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk drone, has reached initial operational capability (IOC), NATO said on Monday Feb. 15

The milestone for AGS was achieved after receiving the fifth and final RQ-4D surveillance drone, which will be operated by NATO forces to provide worldwide imaging data and improve surveillance for member nations.

“IOC represents a culmination of collective efforts across several international organizations. Since its inception each group has played a crucial role to take NATO AGS from concept to reality. This also demonstrates NATO’s commitment to our collective defense and our commitment to developing cutting-edge technologies and information dominance over our adversaries,” U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Houston Cantwell, the NATO AGS Force Commander, said in a statement.

Business & GA

Jet It Goes to Canada

Jet It, the private jet company, is expanding operations to Canada, according to a Feb. 18 press release. It will also be partnering with Skyservice Business Aviation for aircraft management and operations. 

“Skyservice is the premier operator in Canada with the best facilities, one of the largest managed fleets in North America and they have a focused commitment to service for the full range of their capabilities,” Glenn Gonzales, Jet It CEO, said in a press statement. “By aligning with Skyservice, our clients will be assured a high level of service reaching across the country. They have an enthusiastic staff and an impeccable safety record spanning more than 35 years. As an aviation company run by Aviators, safety and service are our top priorities, and no one in Canada is better than Skyservice. We are honored to have Skyservice support our Canadian expansion.” 

Jeremi Austin is joining the Jet It team as a direct sales operation for Canada, according to the release. 

“Canadians are looking for a bespoke travel experience at an economical rate and access to business aviation for the entire day,” Austin said. “They want consistency at an expected price. The rapid growth of Jet It in the United States proves that Jet It is providing private travelers with a higher quality of life and with Jet It Canada this smart and refined way to travel is available to Canadians.”

The Jet It service operates on a fixed hourly rate of $2,200 CAD with no extra fees, according to the release. Customers can rent the jet for the day and only pay for the time occupied. 

The company now has a fleet of 10 airplanes and 65 employees in the U.S. 



FAA to Implement Las Vegas Metroplex Project

McCarran International Airport will see new approach and departure procedures among other new ATM upgrades under a new FAA NextGen metroplex project coming to the region.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will begin implementing the Las Vegas Metroplex project this week, the agency said in a Feb. 18 press release.

The comprehensive project will use satellite navigation to move air traffic more safely and efficiently through the area. New routes for McCarran International Airport, Henderson Executive Airport, and North Las Vegas Airport will be more direct, automatically separated from each other and have efficient climb and descent profiles. It is one of 11 Metroplex projects nationwide.

Community involvement was a critical part of the project’s environmental process. The FAA conducted a thorough environmental review and extensive public engagement for the project, including 11 public workshops in 2017 and 2019.The agency also held four public comment periods totaling more than 120 days, and evaluated and responded to more than 140 comments.

Skyguide Looks to Frequentis for Communications System 

Skyguide is looking to Frequentis’ VCS3020X next-generation IT voice communication system to implement its virtual center strategy, according to a Feb. 19 press release. 

”In the future virtual center operations will allow us to react much faster and more efficiently to rapid changes in the volume of air traffic,” Alex Bristol, CEO Skyguide, said in the press release. 

The VCS3020X system will provide flexibility, cost savings, cybersecurity, and increased safety to Skyguide, according to the release. 

“Frequentis provides an enterprise architecture Air Traffic Control (ATC) system, with exceptionally high availability, flexibility, and unrivaled performance,” Hannu Juurakko, Frequentis Vice President ATM Civil and Chairman of the ATM Executive team, said in a press statement. “Frequentis is proud to continue a long-lasting commitment to Skyguide for a common future in virtual centers.” 

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