Check out the Feb. 28 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.


US Airline Passenger Complaints Hit Record High in 2020, New Report Shows

The U.S. Department of Transportation published its full-year 2020 Air Travel Consumer Report on Thursday, Feb. 25. Passengers are shown here using a security checkpoint at Baltimore Washington International Airport in a photo posted to their Facebook page earlier this month.

On Feb. 25, the U.S. Department of Transportation published its full year 2020 Air Travel Consumer Report, with the agency reporting that it received the highest number of complaints on record from passengers last year.

In 2020, the Department received 102,550 complaints, the highest number on record. This is up 568.4 percent from the total of 15,342 received in 2019.  Of the 102,550 complaints received in 2020, 89,518 (87.29%) concerned refunds,” the report says.

Check out the full report here.







New Report Finds Weaknesses in Certification Process Hindered FAA Oversight of 737 MAX 8

The U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a 59-page report with analysis on a series of reviews related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) certification of the MAX and its safety oversight, including the Agency’s oversight of Boeing’s Organization Designation Authorization (ODA).

OIG’s report, originally requested by former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, found that while the FAA and Boeing followed an established certification process for the MAX, limitations in FAA’s guidance and processes that impacted certification and led to a significant misunderstanding of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), the flight control software identified as contributing to the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air accidents.

“We made 14 recommendations to improve the Agency’s aircraft certification process and oversight of the Boeing ODA. FAA concurred with all 14 of our recommendations and provided appropriate actions and planned completion dates,” OIG said in the report.

Check out the full report here.







Qantas Posts $7 Billion Revenue Loss From COVID in Latest Results

Qantas Airways will resume international flying in October, according to the Australian airline's first half results published on Feb. 25.

The Qantas Group attributed a $7 billion revenue reduction for the Australian carrier’s first half 2021 results on Feb. 25.

“These figures are stark but not surprising,” Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said in a press statement. “During the half we saw the second wave in Victoria and the strictest domestic travel restrictions since the pandemic began. Virtually all of our international flying and 70 per cent of domestic flying stopped, and with it went three-quarters of our revenue.”

Qantas expects to resume international flying in October to “22 of its 25 pre-COVID international destinations including Los Angeles, London, Singapore and Johannesburg,” the airline said.






KLM Cityhopper's First Embraer 195-E2 Lands at Schiphol Airport

The first Embraer 195-E2 from Brazil arrived at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on Feb. 25 for KLM Cityhopper

KLM Cityhopper, the regional subsidiary of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, received its first Embraer E-195-E2 jet at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on Feb. 25.

Seven new aircraft of this type will be joining the KLM Cityhopper fleet this year. KLM has ordered a total of 25, the airline said in a press release.

“Not only is the 195-E2 an economically attractive aircraft, it also fits perfectly within our Fly Responsibly sustainability approach. This will enable KLM to make its own operations and the sector as a whole more sustainable. Now, more than ever before, we’re committed to reducing the impact we have on our surroundings and our ecological footprint. At present, fleet renewal makes the biggest contribution towards reducing CO2 emissions," Warner Rootliep, Managing Director KLM Cityhopper, said in a press statement.






Panasonic Avionics is Adding Bandai Namco Videogames to In-flight Entertainment Systems

Pac-Man will be among the classic videogames added to Panasonic's in-flight entertainment systems under the new agreement with Bandai Namco Entertainment. (Panasonic Avionics)

Panasonic Avionics Corp. has a new partnership with Japanese multinational video game publisher and developer Bandai Namco Entertainment to expand their in-flight entertainment (IFE) portal, according to a Feb. 24 press release.

Airlines featuring IFE systems supplied by Panasonic Avionics will soon see a software update adding Bandai Namco's popular Dig Dug, Pac-Man and Galaga games.

“The COVID-19 pandemic that struck the world has greatly affected and changed our way of life. As the world comes together in overcoming the pandemic, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment has partnered with Panasonic Avionics to provide our universally acclaimed game content to be enjoyed in-flight, with hope of the day to come when travelers are free to enjoy the skies again," Naoki Katashima, Managing Director of Bandai Namco Entertainment said in a Feb. 24 press release.






SmartSky Networks Raises $32M in Financing 

SmartSky Networks has closed on more than $32 million in equity and debt funding, the company announced Monday. This funding comes as the company prepares to roll out its Air-to-Ground (ATG) aviation Wi-Fi connectivity service this year.

SmartSky’s office-grade inflight Wi-Fi service for business and commercial aviation uses the company’s scalable, single-beam-per-aircraft approach, which it said is backed by a substantial patent portfolio and years of flight testing. The company pitches its solution as one that enables b-directional connectivity without the latency of satellite-based solutions.

CEO David Helfgott called the funding a “display of confidence in the future of SmartSky’s groundbreaking technology and services.”

Helfgott was formerly CEO of satellite antenna tech company Phasor, which went bankrupt in May 2020. South Korean defense company Hanwha Systems acquired Phasor’s business assets in June, and Helfgott joined SmartSky in October 2020.







T-7A Red Hawk Advanced Trainer Production Begins 

Boeing-Saab's T-7A aircraft, shown here with drop-down access panels open, has begun production at the company's St. Louis production line. (Boeing)

The U.S. portion of the T-7 Red Hawk advanced trainer has entered into production, Boeing announced in a Feb. 23 press release. The training jet used by the Air Force was designed using 3D modeling and data management systems at Boeing. 

“The future of air dominance lies in the ability to move quickly, take smart risks and partner in new ways to get the job done,” Shelley Lavender, Boeing senior vice president of Strike,  Surveillance and Mobility, said in a press statement. “By creating aircraft and systems along a digital thread, we can accelerate build times and increase quality and affordability for our customers in a way that has never been done before.”

Boeing received a $9.2 billion contract in 2019 to supply 351 aircraft and 46 training simulators, according to the release.






GKN Aerospace to Build Composite V-tails for GA-ASI MQ-9B

MQ-9B SkyGuardian Drone (General Atomics Photo)

GKN Aerospace will manufacture advanced composite V-tails for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) in its Cowes facility in the UK, according to a Feb. 23 press release. The MQ-9B is used by the Royal Air Force (RAF), Belgian Defense, and Australian Defense Force. 

“We value our long relationship with GKN Aerospace as a strategic supplier of critical aerospace subsystems to support our global supply chain,” Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI, said in a press statement. “We are pleased to expand this relationship with composite structures manufactured in the UK. This will mean that not only the RAF’s Protector will have UK-manufactured tails, but the global MQ-9B fleet will also benefit from tails manufactured in the UK.”

GKN Aerospace and GA-ASI were already under a pre-production contract, according to the release. This new agreement will allow the full-rate production of V-tails from the Cowes facility.






Northrop Grumman Provides Updates on New Military Aircraft Communications Development

Northrop Grumman’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) gateway system recently reached 200,000 combat operational flight hours since its first deployment with the U.S. Air Force in 2008.

On Feb. 23, Northrop Grumman published a news release providing updates on some of the latest technological concepts and advancements the aerospace and defense manufacturer is developing for the airborne side of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) initiative.

According to DoD, JADC2 is an effort to integrate "sensors with shooters across all domains, commands and services," the release says.

"Northrop Grumman is also bringing forward a new family of gateway systems that are designed to enable communications and cross domain translations between multiple beyond line-of-sight and line-of-sight networks and datalinks—inclusive of 5th-to-4th generation capabilities. The development of these systems includes a focus on cyber-secure and integrated functions such as cloud computing, machine learning and secure and ethical artificial intelligence, among other capabilities," Northrop Grumman notes in the release.

Check out all of the JADC2 and related military aircraft avionics development efforts occurring at Northrop Grumman in the press release here.

Air Traffic Management 

The FAA is Hiring Air Traffic Controllers

Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) air traffic control tower. Photo: National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).

Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) air traffic control tower. (National Air Traffic Controllers Association)

The FAA is accepting applications nationwide from people with experience in controlling air traffic, such as former civilian and military controllers. The application period is Feb. 26 – Mar. 2, 2021.

The announcement is open to candidates who have maintained at least 52 consecutive weeks of air traffic control experience involving the full-time active separation of air traffic. The candidate must have an air traffic control certification or facility rating within five years of application while serving at any of the following:

  • An FAA air traffic control facility.
  • A civilian or military air traffic control facility of the Department of Defense.
  • A tower operating under contract with the FAA under Section 4712.

Check out the agency's full hiring announcement published last week here.







Hyundai Gets New UAM CTO

Hyundai Motor Group announced a new chief technology officer for its urban air mobility division, Ben Diachun, according to a Feb. 23 press release. 

"I have been fascinated by technology and air travel since I was a child and am thrilled to put my experience to work at the Urban Air Mobility Division," Diachun said in a press statement. "With an incredibly talented team and the manufacturing expertise of Hyundai Motor Group, we are well positioned to transform the human travel experience. I am honored to join this group and am excited for what we will accomplish together."

Diachun was previously CEO and president of Opener, an aerospace start-up based in California.







Joby Aviation to List on NYSE Through Merger With Reinvent Technology Partners

(Joby Aviation)

Joby Aviation has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Reinvent Technology Partners to become publicly traded with a common stock expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) upon the close of the transaction.

“In Joby we see a remarkable founder-led team that has quietly delivered the most advanced technology we’ve seen in this sector," Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn Co-Founder and Co-Lead Director of Reinvent Technology Partners, said in a Feb. 24 press release.

“With valuable strategic partnerships including Toyota and Uber, a compelling business model and an unparalleled track-record of executing against its targets, we believe Joby is well-positioned to create a transformative new human-centered mobility network," Hoffman added.

Joby recently agreed to new G1 certification conditions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, and plans to launch commercial services in 2024.







Schiebel UAS Receives Approval Certification from Austro Control

Schiebel will be conduction commercial drone flights, test flights, and pilot training.

Austro Control awarded Schiebel a light unmanned air system (UAS) operator certificate (LUC), according to a Feb. 25 press release. This marks the first operator in Europe to receive a LUC from Austro Control. 

“By issuing the first LUC in Europe to Schiebel, Austro Control has shown to be a reliable and innovative partner for the Austrian aviation industry when it comes to the fast and efficient implementation of new regulations,” Valerie Hackl, Managing Director Austro Control, said in a press statement. “With this Certificate, Austro Control provides Austrian companies such as Schiebel with an early competitive advantage and enables them to strengthen their international market position.” 

The LUC allows the company to self-authorize operations within guidelines in civil airspace without applying for additional authorizations, according to the release. Schiebel will be conduction commercial drone flights, test flights, and pilot training. 


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