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AircraftNews.Com http://www.aircraftnews.com Breaking Aircraft News and Views Mon, 15 Feb 2010 09:03:15 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.4 en hourly 1 Cessna talks sense http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/02/15/cessna-talks-sense/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/02/15/cessna-talks-sense/#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2010 08:48:21 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1122 Cessna ExcellIn yet another demonstration of why they are the top GA Manufacturer Cessna has recently addressed the challenges and realities of the global aviation market place. Drawing on the history of Detroit and the automotive industry Cessna has called attention to the fundamentals of Aircraft Manufacture. The problems of Globalisation and costs invite broad input and consideration. Despite the advances of robots and technology aircraft are still very labor intensive to manufacture and any manufacture who ignores this does so at their peril. The new strategy is to optimize the research, design, resourcing, manufacture, assembly and development cycle. Cessna looks to stay on the leading edge by grasping the nettle.Could Wichita be the Detroit of aircraft?
The Wichita Eagle
Wichita’s business jetmakers sometimes think about Detroit. Not that many years ago, U.S. automakers weren’t too concerned about emerging foreign competitors.
Productivity was poor, costs were out of control, and they became complacent, said Cessna Aircraft CEO Jack Pelton. Eventually, they lost their dominance.
Wichita, as the Air Capital of the World, can’t be in denial that what happened in Detroit could never happen here, Pelton said. “We have to work to make sure we don’t fall victim to similar circumstances,” Pelton said.
With the entrance of Brazil-based Embraer, where labor costs are lower, price competition is fierce. Honda also is entering the business jet market and many expect other global competitors will too someday.
Wichita companies can compete, but “we’ve got to get to this cost issue,” Pelton said. It also will help as planemakers struggle through a down economy.
The aviation industry is in a “global sourcing environment,” leaders of the industry said recently.
“I don’t think we can think about the world in any other way,” said Spirit AeroSystems CEO Jeff Turner.
It’s a controversial issue with unions and others who worry about high-paying manufacturing jobs leaving the U.S. But the executives of Wichita’s manufacturers spoke openly about the issue at a panel discussion, with analysts and in Eagle interviews over the past several weeks.
“It’s about competitiveness. It’s about quality. And it’s about cost,” said Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture. “And in the end, how does the business persevere, survive and thrive.” As CEOs, their primary job is to keep their companies healthy. “If that means we have to go wherever to find the resources to get the job done — capital resources, people resources — and get it done cost effectively, we’re going to do that,” Turner said. Company leaders, however, say outsourcing isn’t something to be feared. Instead, Wichita’s aviation industry must focus on how best to utilize the highly technical, highly skilled work force that’s here and how to increase productivity. “We’ve got to be really good at the things we’re good at, do it at the places that make the most sense, and have a highly integrated supply network that has its headquarters and its key capacity in a place like Wichita,” Turner said. Wichita must change the way it views its aviation industry, the executives say. “The Air Capital can’t continue to operate as if it’s the center of the aerospace universe but must recognize it’s a ‘node’ in a vast global network that builds and buys aircraft,” Turner said.
Wichita planemakers are working with suppliers to bring down the cost of building an airplane. They’re working internally as well. Everything is on the table. Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft are consolidating facilities. Both are shifting some work to Mexico. Bombardier also has a plant there. Cessna is shifting parts work from its Columbus, Ga., plant and some from Wichita to its facility in Chihuahua, Mexico. Moving that work cuts labor costs by 50 percent, officials from Textron, Cessna’s parent company, told analysts last week.. “When you think about the back room, a lot of the subassembly, a lot of the more labor-intensive work, a lot of that is what we’re moving and, frankly, we have to move that to more cost-competitive places,” Scott Donnelly, president and CEO of Textron, said. Cessna will continue to make further assessments as time goes by, Donnelly said, although Pelton said Friday that the company doesn’t have a plan to move more work beyond what it has announced. Like any of its Cessna facilities, its Mexican factory must be productive, Pelton said. Long term, “the assumption is they will have a learning curve and get to a reasonable level of productivity,” Pelton said. “We’ll have to see.” Boisture acknowledges that moving work from Wichita is a controversial subject. “Everybody wants everything to stay here,” he said. “That’s an understandable emotion, until you look at your shareholders or your board and say, ‘Yes, I can be here, but here’s my margin.’ ” Suddenly, “you become an enterprise that can’t attract and allocate capital because you’re not efficient enough with (it). “Be careful what we ask for when we want everything to stay in one place, because that may not give our enterprises the economic answer that we all want in the long run.”

The Competition is no longer the ‘guys across the street’
The move to put work in lower-cost countries is a direct response to high labor costs and finding less-expensive places to build parts of planes, Boisture said. “It’s no more complicated than that,” Boisture said. The price of an airplane can’t rise fast enough to cover cost increases, Boisture said. “This is a company whose costs are constantly increasing, and the market is not paying us back at the rate they’re increasing,” Boisture said. In the past, Wichita business jetmakers Cessna, Bombardier Learjet and Hawker Beechcraft primarily competed with one another, so costs were similar. In the future, literally “it’s not going to be the guys across the street,” said Textron’s Donnelly. There’s every reason to believe new competitors will have lower cost structures, he said. In addition, the majority of the orders for business jets are coming from global customers. And that’s expected to grow. “That means we’re building stuff in the wrong place, because we’re going to be selling it, servicing it and delivering it on the other side of the word,” Boisture said. That will take some flexibility to figure out what that means for the companies in the future, he said.
outsourcing is not a “zero-sum game,” Spirit’s Turner said, although it can feel that way in the current down cycle. Spirit has been a big recipient of outsourcing. It’s facilities do work for Boeing, Airbus, Sikorsky, Gulfstream, Hawker Beechcraft and others. Airbus turned to Spirit because the Wichita company was on its list of low-cost locations, Turner said. On the other hand, Spirit is outsourcing work as well.

“You’re going to see an ebb and flow as time goes on with those supply networks,” as the value of the dollar improves and productivity of sites improve, Turner said. Some things will be done in-house, some not.

With all the projects Spirit has in the works with customers around the world, the Wichita facility can’t do everything, Turner said. “We’d have a terrible time trying to design, build and ship everything out of Wichita,” Turner said. Expectations, needs Long-term, the market will return and grow. Historically, each up cycle has been more robust than the previous one. “We ultimately have a growth industry,” Turner said.
Eventually, the companies will need a trained work force. They’re expecting a labor shortage when the economy turns around. Long-term, Cessna expects Sedgwick County will face a shortage of enough labor to support all its work, Pelton said. Cessna has an aging work force, and the number of employees eligible for retirement over the next 10 years is high, Pelton said. A work force shortage might sound bizarre considering thousands of Wichita workers were laid off in the past year. But a shortage followed the downturn in the early part of the last decade, Turner said. “It’s going to happen.”

Training is vital. Laid-off workers should be receiving stipends so they can get technical training today, Turner said. “It’s the knowledge of our workers that make the difference,” Turner said. There’s no time to train and retrain when the market is booming. The city and state must work to protect aviation jobs in other ways. In a speech at last week’s Wichita Aero Club luncheon, Gov. Mark Parkinson implored members of Wichita’s aircraft industry to keep jobs in Wichita if they can. Parkinson said he recognizes that some states and areas are working hard to woo jobs by offering lucrative incentive packages. But if the incentives from Kansas are even close, he urged them to keep the work here.

Cessna’s Pelton said Parkinson should have added one thing. He should have said that those incentives are a wake-up call for Wichita and for Kansas. Kansas must be sure it can stand on its own and compete.
“It’s not about the state throwing a lot of money at us,” Pelton said. “It’s about having capabilities in place.”

Keeping the aviation industry competitive is a skilled labor force, competitive labor rates and tax policies and treatments that support an industrial climate, he said. School systems must be able to support the industry, and the state must support the National Institute for Aviation Research and the work force training center, Turner added. There are a lot of ingredients, Pelton said. Wichita must be a dynamic place willing to change, Turner said. “This aviation industry is an absolute jewel for Wichita, south-central Kansas and for Kansas,” Turner said. “We ought to have some serious strategies on how to keep it healthy.”
From: http://www.kansas.com/101/story/1180737.html?storylink=omni_popular#ixzz0fakuJre5

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Moon hits the dust http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/02/02/moon-hits-the-dust/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/02/02/moon-hits-the-dust/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2010 09:15:39 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1118
GO ARES I-X!! NASA photo

GO ARES I-X!! NASA photo

To no one’s great surprise, on Monday President Obama canceled the Man on the Moon program started by his predecessor Present Bush the younger. It always looked like a forlorn hope. Common comments were that it was under funded and motivated by the wrong impulses. Some very uncharitable persons suggested it was more about getting some good vibes by appealing to public pride in past achievements to counter adverse vibes from other directions.
In its place President Obama has directed NASA to develop a more focused and creative cost effective interplanetary explorations strategy.
Some have said the decision is long over due and that the previous plan was sub optimal. It has for instance been recently suggested that a better plan would be to aim for the colonization of one of the moons of Mars as a first step in the extensive exploration of Mars which seems generally regarded as the next major step in man’s further exploration of the solar system.

On the seventh anniversary of the Columbia disaster, President Obama unveiled a sweeping change of course for the nation’s space program Monday, putting an end to NASA’s post-Columbia moon program and shifting development and operation of new rockets and capsules from the government to private industry.

Requesting some $19 billion for NASA in fiscal 2011, the administration announced plans to pump an additional $6 billion into NASA’s budget over the next five years to kick-start development of a new commercial manned spaceflight capability, including some $500 million in 2011.

A launch tower being built for the Ares I rocket, part of NASA’s now-canceled Constellation program, stands at the Kennedy Space Center with the program’s target–the moon–visible in the remote distance.
(Credit: CBS News)

Over that same five years, some $7.8 billion will be earmarked for new technology development, including autonomous rendezvous, orbital fuel transfer systems, and closed-loop life support systems. Another $3.1 billion will support development of new propulsion technologies needed by future heavy-lift rockets. And $3 billion will go to pay for a series of robotic missions to the moon and beyond to test systems needed for eventual manned flights.

“Imagine trips to Mars that take weeks instead of nearly a year, people fanning out across the inner solar system, exploring the moon, asteroids, and Mars nearly simultaneously in a steady stream of firsts,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told reporters. “And imagine all of this being done collaboratively with nations around the world. That is what the president’s plan for NASA will enable, once we develop the new capabilities to make it a reality.”

No timetables were established for human flights beyond low-Earth orbit, with deputies saying the focus instead will be on enabling technology development and innovation.

As for commercial flights to and from the International Space Station, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said she hoped a new private-sector launch system, possibly including modified versions of technology developed for the canceled moon program, could be available by around 2016 if not earlier.

“We will try to accelerate and use the great minds of industry to get a competition going, and I’m sure they’ll want to beat that,” she said.

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, chief architect of the now-canceled moon program, told CBS News the shift to commercial space operations was a profound mistake.

“I’m one of the biggest proponents of commercial spaceflight that there is, but it doesn’t yet exist,” he said. “I would like an enlightened government policy to help bring it about, but I don’t believe you get there by destroying all your government capability so there’s no option but for the government to do whatever necessary to get the ‘commercial operators’ to succeed. That’s not the way to do it.

“Basically, you’re burning the bridge behind you. Even if it’s successful, now what you’ve done is you’ve created not a space program for the United States, you’ve created a capability to get to low-Earth orbit but there’s nothing to do there because there’s no government program,” Griffin said. “Where’s the market?”

Griffin said, “For the U.S. government to deliberately give up its lead in something that is fundamentally an enterprise of governments…for the United States to give up something that’s an important part of our national identity in favor of outsourcing it to commercial enterprises when and as they come into being is bizarre.”

George Bush’s post-Columbia initiative to finish the International Space Station and retire the shuttle by the end of 2010 remains intact, with just five more missions planned for NASA’s iconic winged spaceships. Funding is available to support operations through the end of the year–or early 2011 if necessary.
NASA dims lights for Constellation program (photos)

The new budget also extends operation of the space station through at least 2020 and increases funding for science and utilization.

But as expected, it halts development of the Ares family of rockets and the Orion crew capsules NASA was designing to carry astronauts to the station and back to the moon by the early 2020s as part of the Bush administration’s Constellation program.

The cancellation of Constellation and the near-term shift to commercial launch operations is a “more radical (plan) than I expected,” said John Logsdon, a space policy analyst at George Washington University.

“It represents a fundamental shift in the way NASA goes about doing business, from being the direct designer of our space capabilities and then having industry build NASA designs to being the customer of what industry builds,” he said. “Even NASA people use the analogy to the air mail contracts the government signed in the ’30s. It’s going to be a very different way of doing business.”

The Obama administration concluded the Constellation program, which has cost taxpayers more than $9 billion so far, “was over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies,” according to a budget summary.

“Using a broad range of criteria, an independent review panel determined that even if fully funded, NASA’s program to repeat many of the achievements of the Apollo era…was the least attractive approach to space exploration as compared to potential alternatives.”

The independent review, chaired by aerospace executive Norman Augustine, concluded last fall that the Constellation program, hobbled by previous budget reductions under the Bush and Obama administrations, was not workable without an additional $3 billion a year in restored funding.

The panel outlined a variety of alternatives and favored a so-called “flexible path” approach that called for relying on private industry for manned flights to and from low-Earth orbit while NASA focused on development of a new heavy-lift rocket and eventual flights to a variety of possible deep space targets, including the moon, asteroids, and even the moons of Mars.

The budget unveiled Monday said the Constellation program took money away from other NASA programs, “including robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observations.”

The new budget cancels Constellation and replaces it with a focus on preparing a more capable approach to space exploration, including:


Research and development to support future heavy-lift rocket systems that will increase the capability of future exploration and lower operations costs.

A technology development and test program that aims to increase the capabilities and reduce the cost of future exploration activities. NASA, working with industry, will build, fly, and test in orbit key technologies such as automated, autonomous rendezvous and docking, closed-loop life support systems, in-orbit propellant transfer, and advanced in-space propulsion so that our future human and robotic exploration missions are both highly capable and affordable.

A series of robotic exploration missions to scout locations and demonstrate technologies to increase the safety and capability of future human missions and provide scientific dividends.

In a statement, Augustine said, “By allocating the technology resources highlighted in our report as being necessary, it will be possible to lay the foundation for travel beyond low-Earth-orbit…NASA will be able to focus on this true frontier and to regain its position as a cutting-edge research and development organization.

“This is obviously a demanding period from a budgetary standpoint. Importantly, the president’s proposed program seems to match means to ends, and should therefore be executable,” he said.

In a startling break with the past, the Obama administration ordered NASA to focus on a new initiative that would effectively outsource manned flight, turning to private industry to design and develop the rockets and spacecraft needed to carry U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.

Between the shuttle’s retirement and the emergence of a new manned rocket system, U.S., European, Japanese, and Canadian astronauts will be forced to hitch rides on Russian Soyuz rockets at more than $50 million a ticket.

“The budget funds NASA to contract with industry to provide astronaut transportation to the International Space Station as soon as possible, reducing the risk of relying solely on foreign crew transports for years to come,” the budget summary stated.

“A strengthened U.S. commercial space launch industry will bring needed competition, act as a catalyst for the development of other new businesses capitalizing on affordable access to space, help create thousands of new jobs, and help reduce the cost of human access to space.”

The only U.S. rockets currently flying that are powerful enough to step into the roll of crew transport in the near term are the Boeing-built Delta 4 and Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 boosters used to launch military, scientific, and commercial satellites. Neither family of rockets is certified to carry humans.

Other companies are in the process of developing new spacecraft to carry supplies to the space station after the shuttle’s retirement. But it remains to be seen how long it might take any of the commercial interests to develop, test, and deploy a manned rocket system.

It also is not yet clear what sort of control and oversight NASA will have in the new commercial arena, whether astronauts will remain government employees or private contractors, or how the agency’s decades of operational experience might be leveraged by commercial operators.

“I think the primary way it translates over is for the winners in this commercial competition to hire the people that have the institutional memory,” Logsdon said. “Second, we’re going to be an operating station until at least 2020. So there’s a core of operational folks inside NASA that will still be very much involved.”

Contractors already occupy key positions in mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and at other NASA facilities, but it’s not yet known how commercial manned space flights will be managed; who will have responsibility for mission design, safety, and execution; or how government facilities might be utilized.

Bolden and Garver provided no details into how the new program will be executed, but Bolden insisted safety will remain a top priority.

“NASA will set standards and processes to ensure that these commercially built and operated crew vehicles are safe,” he said. “No one cares about safety more than I. I flew on the space shuttle four times. I lost friends in the two space shuttle tragedies. So I give you my word these vehicles will be safe.”
William Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 115 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2’s flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of “Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia.” You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBSNews.com Space Place, where this story was first published.


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A400M still up in the air http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/01/23/a400m-still-up-in-the-air/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/01/23/a400m-still-up-in-the-air/#comments Sat, 23 Jan 2010 00:23:35 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1112 A400 1st FlightThe long running saga of the Airbus A400 moves slowly to what seems to be the only logical conclusion which is that the customers will have to cough up much more for considerably less. Various spokespersons for the interested parties have been talking tough but taking it all together there seems no other logical outcome. The customers particularly France and Germany have no other viable alternative and international affairs are moving in the direction of more and more requirements for foreign powers to intervene in global situations requiring massive airlift. If for instance Germany were to not go ahead with the a400 acquisition it would face enormous cost to refurbish its current fleet and still end up with a very much inferior product. The issue then seems to be simply one of who will cop how much of the cost overruns. Certainly there seems to be something systemic about the cost over runs as almost no modern aviation program has been finished on time and on budget. This is something which surely the responsible parties know and can plan for so one wonders if it is not just a game of very high stakes poker. Pressure Mounts for Deal for Airbus Military Plane


BERLIN — Military officials from the European countries with orders to buy the Airbus A400M military transport plane tried and failed again Friday to resolve differences over how to share billions of euros in cost overruns, but said they would resume negotiations this coming week in Berlin in the hope of meeting a Jan. 31 deadline.

Many of the participating countries need the aircraft urgently as they play a greater and more demanding role in peacekeeping missions. The repeated delays — the A400M is now more than four years behind schedule — represent a big setback for European military cooperation.

Military procurement ministers from the seven customer nations met until late into the night Thursday with top managers from Airbus and its parent company, European Aeronautic Defense & Space.

“We will meet again early next week here in Berlin,” a German defense ministry spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said Friday. “All of the participants do want a solution to this problem.” Two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations said they would likely take place Tuesday.

Alexander Reinhardt, a spokesman for EADS, said nailing down the critical details of how to finance the program remained a thorny issue.

“The negotiations have been difficult, as expected,” Mr. Reinhardt said. Seven countries — Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey — together ordered 180 A400Ms in 2003 for €20 billion, or $28.2 billion. Last year, EADS and Airbus asked them to help cover an additional €5.2 billion in costs and to accept significant delivery delays. The company has asked the countries to agree to an additional 25 percent payment, or around €5 billion, according to people with direct knowledge of the negotiations. The Airbus chief executive, Thomas O. Enders, warned this month that without an agreement soon, the project might have to be abandoned, placing as many as 40,000 European jobs at risk.

But while France said it would consider paying more, Germany has been more than reluctant. It has ordered 60 of the 180 aircraft, while France has ordered 50.
France was supposed to receive the first deliveries of the A400M transport aircraft late last year and Germany in 2010, but the plane made its first test flight only last month. Both countries will now have to wait several years more, according to the German Defense Ministry.

Germany, however, has little room to maneuver. With 4,300 German troops based in northern Afghanistan, Berlin needs access to such aircraft for transporting not only troops but also such heavy equipment as tanks, armored personnel carriers and helicopters. Without the A400M, it must either modernize at huge expense its Transall aircraft, which are more than 30 years old, or lease Russian Antonov aircraft.

“We want the A400M but not at any price,” the German defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, reiterated during an interview with the Bayernkurier newspaper to be published Saturday. “Our willingness to compromise has its limits.” Britain, too, is furious about the delays, especially given its big role in Afghanistan. The German Defense ministry official said that cost was not the only issue still on the table, but range and payload as well. The A400M is currently several tons over its specified weight.

An audit of the A400M program by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was commissioned last year by the governments, has blamed a significant portion of the cost over-runs on EADS and Airbus for failing to put proper budget controls in place. It also said the manufacturer had consistently underestimated development costs.

The auditor’s report, which was leaked to several European media this past week, estimated that the A400M was roughly €7.6 billion over budget.

EADS and Airbus have rejected the findings of the audit, but have so far failed to provide their own cost estimate for the program, now four years behind schedule.

EADS has already written off €2.4 billion in costs for a project that continues to expend cash at a rate of around €100 million each month.

The seven countries failed to meet an year-end 2009 deadline to agree on a new delivery schedule and financing arrangement for the contract, and last month set a new deadline of Jan. 31.

With the financial crisis and recession straining budgets across Europe, the governments have been reluctant to come up with more money.

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Reflections on the decade gone http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/01/10/reflections-on-the-decade-gone/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/01/10/reflections-on-the-decade-gone/#comments Sun, 10 Jan 2010 01:52:13 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1109 911 impactWhat do we look back on. Fuel shocks, peak oil, environmental concerns, civilian space travel, the spread of mass air transport, innovation, war, the rise of killing airborne Robots and terrorism. 9/11 was perhaps the most riveting and defining moment of the last decade with the most wide spread consequences. It was focusing and a watershed and yet its seeds were being sown for many of the preceding years. Osama wrought much more than he knew and we have not yet learned all that we must from this single event. To me one of the central facts is that air travel is not like anything else. It is perhaps outside electronic communications one of the most pivotal of world activities. While people are people there will be those who would do harm and those who would protect. Maybe the aviation community needs to be even more proactive than it has been in exploring the development and administration of aviation. Watching the rise and fall of airlines some of them state supported and others not (with the relevant states breathing many sighs of relief that they are not involved) it is tempting to conclude that some sort of stabilizing interventions at a multinational level are increasingly called for. Meaningful Dialogue between the players would be a good start.
Happy new year to all.

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The passing parade http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/01/03/the-passing-parade/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2010/01/03/the-passing-parade/#comments Sun, 03 Jan 2010 01:11:41 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1103 I was wondering what were the most important developments of the Decade. So perhaps for starters I will ask all those out in the blogosphere. What has been the essence of it all for the world, the West, the East and the developing world? In Oz it has been as usual a hectic end of the year but not too much pivotal stuff in the last month of Aviation. In the decade, lots of stuff but still sorting it out. Efficiency, Security (much madness still about) the end of piloted planes etc. Much to think about. More to come. Tell me your thoughts.

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What you dont want http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/12/18/what-you-dont-want/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/12/18/what-you-dont-want/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2009 00:09:02 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1100
Predator takes off

Predator takes off

When you think about it, it makes sense in a way. If you are a terrorist you may be a bit short of manufacturing power and money especially when compared to the West and so it makes sense that you find a way to take over control of the UAVs that are shooting you up.
It may be cynical but to me the recent claim by the Military that they have plugged a security breach tells me that this is possible and will happen. What a Christmas present for the infidels that would be! Let the good old USofA build them and then take them over. A good bit of spying would help. I wonder how hard it would be.
Iraqi insurgents have reportedly intercepted live video feeds from the U.S. military’s Predator drones using a $25.95 Windows application that allows them to track the pilotless aircraft undetected.

Hackers working with Iraqi militants were able to determine which areas of the country were under surveillance by the U.S. military, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, adding that video feeds from drones in Afghanistan also appear to have been compromised.

Meanwhile, a senior Air Force officer said Wednesday that a wave of new surveillance aircraft, both manned and unmanned, were being deployed to Afghanistan to bolster ‘eyes in the sky’ protection for the influx of American troops ordered by President Obama.

This apparent security breach, which had been known in military and intelligence circles to be possible, arose because the Predator unmanned aerial vehicles do not use encryption in the final link to their operators on the ground.
From http://www.daemonnews.org/security/1509-predator-drones-hacked-in-iraq-operations.html

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A400 1st flight Imminent http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/12/07/a400-1st-flight-imminent/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/12/07/a400-1st-flight-imminent/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2009 00:47:01 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1097
A400M Military airlifter

A400M Military airlifter

Airbus Military this week hopes to finally fly the A400M military airlifter, kicking off a three-year effort to get the transport into the first customer’s hands.

Barring poor weather or technical issues, Airbus Military officials late this week expect to complete a roughly 3-hr. flight from the company’s facility here to demonstrate the aircraft’s basic handling characteristics.

The event has been a long time coming, owing, in part, to development delays with the engine and subsystems that have set the program back several years. The event marks the official beginning of a flight-test program that calls for 4,370 hr., says Eric Isorce, chief flight test engineer. About 60% of the effort will focus on military certification, the balance will be dedicated to gaining European Aviation Safety Agency approval.

Six crew will be onboard, backed by 50 engineers at each of the two main telemetry stations in Seville and Toulouse.

The aircraft will initially be flown in direct law with some dampening. After takeoff—rotation speed is projected to be 120 kt.—the aircraft will climb to a medium altitude and the gear will be retracted. At 10,000 ft. some basic performance checks will occur, the aircraft will be taken close to its maximum speed of around Mach 0.72, and then to its minimum speed, says Ed Strongman, Airbus’s chief military test pilot who will be at the controls. Afterward, flight controls will be shifted to normal law and further segments of the flight envelope will be explored before returning to Seville.

The flight will likely be followed by two days of data evaluation and inspections. Strongman expects the pace of flight trials to pick up early next year.

Ground trials by the flight-test department have been underway since Nov. 12 and already a number of system refinements have been identified. Some are needed for first flight, others can wait until further in the development. Still, Strongman says, preparations are “ahead of my expectations.”

One problem is nacelle heating when the airlifter is on the ground. Heat buildup is higher than anticipated—something already seen on the C-130 flying testbed. As a fix, engineers have determined that they can take some air off the high-pressure compressor for a nacelle ejector system to provide better ventilation at low power. The switchover, only needed on the ground at low speed and low wind, is now activated manually, but an automatic function is to be developed.

The exhaust gases are also overheating aft parts of the nacelle in some conditions. As an interim step, insulation and metal plate protection is being added. A more permanent fix is planned for the third flight-test aircraft.

On the other hand, engineers are seeing less heat buildup at the auxiliary power unit exhaust on the wing than expected, potentially allowing the exhaust to be shortened to reduce drag.

Tweaks are also being made to the engine settings. For now, high reverse power is limited to inboard engines. The ground-idle position may change for a better neutral-thrust position, Strongman says, noting that the issue will not affect first-flight plans. Overall, engines have shown “good response.”

As expected, in ground reverse the pitot static tubes are exposed to airflow that is leading to anomalous air speed indications, which is causing the information to be rejected by the flight-control computer. Airbus officials anticipated the anomaly and are assessing where to apply the needed software filter.

Airbus also had to refine the software controlling the anti-skid braking system, which, early on, showed poor characteristics. Initial trials also encountered the loss of tachometer data from some of the wheels. This is being addressed in the near term by strengthening connectors.

“We are solving problems very quickly,” Strongman notes. In one case, the TP400D turboprop engines had start-up difficulties, but the Europrop International engine consortium was able to deliver a software fix to the full authority digital flight control system overnight.

Eventually, the flight-test program will comprise five aircraft. Program officials still have a bit of margin to handle any glitches, but are downplaying the chance of recovering some of the schedule lost.
From http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_generic.jsp?channel=awst&id=news/A400MUPDATE120409.xml&headline=Airbus%20Military%20Poised%20For%20First%20Flight%20This%20Week

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Pigs might fly and they may not be White Elephants http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/11/30/pigs-might-fly-and-they-may-not-be-white-elephants/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/11/30/pigs-might-fly-and-they-may-not-be-white-elephants/#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2009 06:02:37 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1094
A400 prototype

A400 prototype

The trouble stricken Airbus A400 is said to be on the verge of its first flight after many months of delays. Most of these delays have been sheeted home to the engines which were virtually a clean sheet design but in reality they were a result of a very aggressive development plan and the very ambitious performance specifications. This must have been very embarrasing after the A380 debacle but their major competitor Boeing has been prevented from crowing because of the delays the initially much vaunted Dreamliner has suffered. The A400 delays have been very expensive and have lead to the project appearing frequently on the verge of being cancelled. There have certainly been very expensive consequences and losses, with the number of orders being cut and some even cancelled entirely.

If the new development schedule can be met it may still be that the aircraft will attract a wide market and come to be a mainstay of Military airlift.

The A400 is intended to carry up to nearly 40,000 kg 1800nm, cruise at up to 400 kts and take off from unprepared fields under 1000 m. It is planned to have a ferry range of 5000nm. Wow.

Airbus has said its long-delayed A400M military transport aircraft should be ready to make its first test flight around the 7th December.

The A400M, designed to replace ageing military cargo carriers, has been on order by several European air forces for many years, however, a series of technical problems has created delays.

The aircraft was due to enter service with air forces this year, but the date has now been put back to 2013.

French and German officials have already told Airbus it only has until the end of the year to prove that the project remains viable.

Earlier this month, South Africa cancelled a multi-billion dollar contract for the planes.

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Osprey in Afghanistan http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/11/22/osprey-in-afghanistan/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/11/22/osprey-in-afghanistan/#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2009 06:58:17 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1090
US MArines Osprey

US MArines Osprey

Higher And Higher
November 21, 2009: Now that the U.S. Marine Corps has a squadron of ten MV-22 tilt rotor transports in Afghanistan, these aircraft are being put to work by taking advantage of some unique capabilities. For example, MV-22s operate more effectively in the thin air of the mountains than the helicopters currently used. However, above 20,000 feet (6,500 meters), the MV-22s can only carry cargo, as there is no oxygen for passengers (although this can be arranged for special situations.)

The MV-22s, which fly higher and faster than the helicopters they replace, are less vulnerable to ground fire. MV-22s were only fired on a few times in Iraq, and none of the aircraft were hit. The high speed and altitude (at least 9,000 feet, or 3,000 meters), kept the aircraft out range of most enemy weapons. Helicopters fly lower and slower. To do otherwise would further reduce the range of a helicopter. A big advantage in Afghanistan is the higher speed (about twice that of helicopters), enabling reinforcements to reach their objective in a more timely fashion. MV-22s also have longer range than helicopters, meaning more of Afghanistan is within range of fast moving reinforcements (of troops and supplies.)

The MV-22s proved easier to maintain than the CH-46 aircraft they are replacing. The MV-22s needed 9.5 man hours of maintenance for each hour in the air, versus 24 hours of maintenance for each hour the CH-46s fly. These helicopters are all over twenty years old, which adds a few hours to their maintenance requirements. While the MV-22 required less maintenance than expected, the dust and sand in Iraq led to some engines being replaced earlier than expected. That problem has been tended to, so the MV-22s in Afghanistan will have less of a problem.

Some of the MV-22s sent to Afghanistan are equipped with a GAU-2B machine-gun fitted to the bottom of the aircraft. The GAU-2B is a remote control turret using a six-barrel 7.62mm machine-gun. This system has a rate of fire of 3,000 rounds per minute (50 per second), and max range of 1,500 meters. The system weighs a few hundred pounds and includes 4,000 rounds of ammo. A member of the crew uses a video game like interface to operate the gun.

The marine MV-22s can carry 24 troops 700 kilometers (vertical take-off, level flight, landing, and return) at 400 kilometers an hour. The MV-22 is replacing the CH-46E helicopter, which can carry 12 troops 350 kilometers at a speed of 200 kilometers an hour. The MV-22 can carry a 10,000-pound external sling load 135 kilometers, while the CH-46E can carry 3,000 pounds only 90 kilometers.Osprey in transition
From http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htairmo/articles/20091121.aspx

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The Rayguns are coming http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/11/22/the-rayguns-are-coming/ http://www.aircraftnews.com/2009/11/22/the-rayguns-are-coming/#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2009 05:44:04 +0000 http://www.aircraftnews.com/?p=1082
Laser Avenger

Laser Avenger

Buck Rogers is not here yet but a number of significant milestones have been passed in recent months and it seems as if we are moving steadily to the point where robots will fight robots with wonder weapons and humans will watch. Presumably at some stage it will be necessary for the victors to incinerate or otherwise painfully excoriate some of the enemy in order to make the point but it will become progressively easier for risk averse nations, with populations that dislike being sent in to battle to be killed, to assert themselves over less well endowed competitors. The weapons race looks set to recapitulate the evolution of the Combat fighter jet which has now become so expensive even the richest of nations can only afford a small number. War will become more and more expensive so that less and less money is available for taking care of humanity. That figures if you look at recent global behavior.
The most recent example of the advances referred to here is the successful shooting down of 5 UAVs by ground based laser weapons (must have a spiffy euphemism or technical term: these are directed energy weapons) and other workers claim to have passed the so called critical 100 KWatt boundary with conventionally pumped solid state Lasers rather than the more toxic and difficult chemical lasers. Hang on for the ride.
A laser system built for the Air Force shot down five unmanned aircraft during a test in May at the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, Calif.

The Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments — or MATRIX — fired a 2½ kilowatt-class high energy laser that knocked down the aircraft, according to an Air Force Research Laboratory statement.

MATRIX “acquired, tracked” and destroyed the targets at “significant ranges,” the statement said. Scientists and engineers will design the laser system to protect the U.S. from enemy unmanned aircraft.

It was unclear how the laser brought down the aircraft or how big they were.

Boeing Directed Energy Systems built the MATRIX. The defense contractor has also developed the Airborne Laser — a Boeing 747 with a laser mounted on the nose designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Boeing also tested its Laser Avenger system at China Lake. The Humvee-mounted directed energy air defense system shot down another unmanned aircraft.

The Air Force Research Lab sponsored the test, which also was attended by Army and Navy officials.

“These tests validate the use of directed energy to negate potential hostile threats against the homeland,” Bill Baker, chief scientist of the Lab’s Directed Energy Directorate,

The 100-kilowatt target

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman has reported that it has fired a solid-state laser beam with a potency of 105.5 kilowatts.

For the ray-gun wing of the military-industrial complex, the 100-kilowatt threshold is a major milestone, marking the entry point to weapons-grade laser weapons. Adding to the appeal is that solid-state lasers are much more compact, and less noxious, than chemical laser systems such as the one in the works for the 747-centric Airborne Laser.

The technical details of Northrop’s achievement break down this way, starting with a modular, “building block” approach that bodes well for scalable systems, the company said:
For building blocks, the company utilizes “laser amplifier chains,” each producing approximately 15kW of power in a high-quality beam. Seven laser chains were combined to produce a single beam of 105.5 kW. The seven-chain JHPSSL laser demonstrator ran for more than five minutes, achieved electro-optical efficiency of 19.3 percent, reaching full power in less than 0.6 seconds, all with beam quality of better than 3.0.

Adding an eighth chain that the system was designed for would increase laser power to 120 kilowatts, Northrop says.

Where this test saw five minutes of continuous operation for the laser, altogether the system has been operated at above 100 kilowatts for a total duration of more than 85 minutes.

The efforts are part of the Pentagon’s Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program.

Even though 100 kilowatts has long been the “proof of principle” sought for weapons systems, Northrop says that “in fact, many militarily useful effects can be achieved by laser weapons of 25 kW or 50 kW, provided this energy is transmitted with good beam quality, as our system does.”

Of course, this is still a laboratory laser system and not a field-tested, ruggedized product. “It is still a little heavy and a little big,” Dan Wildt, vice president of Northrop’s directed energy systems program, told the LA Times.

That’s probably a significant understatement. Says Noah Shachtman at Wired’s Danger Room blog of the news from Northrop:

Does that mean energy weapons are a done deal? Hardly. There are still all sorts of technical issues–thermal management and miniaturization, to name two–that have to be handled first. Then, the ray gunners have to find the money. The National Academies figure it’ll take another $100 million to get battlefield lasers right.

In a separate post, Shachtman reports on what’s involved in getting specific laser systems ready to go over the next several years.

Earlier this year, Boeing said that it had used a “kilowatt-class” solid-state laser to shoot down a UAV from a ground-based system. The company hopes that the Airborne Laser, meanwhile, will do its first-ever aerial target shoot sometime in 2009.

High Energy Laser weapon

High Energy Laser weapon

From http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2009/11/airforce_laser_112109w/

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