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Russia’s first stealth fighter jet had to abort a takeoff at Moscow’s International Aviation and Space Show on Sunday because of what officials said was a malfunction in the right engine.
The T-50 did not leave the runway and was slowed by a brake parachute.
The twin-engined T-50 jet was traveling at 60 miles per hour (100 kph) when the pilot decided to abort takeoff because of a right engine malfunction, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing a representative of United Aircraft Building Corp., a state-controlled holding that incorporates top Russian aircraft-makers,
The T-50, which made its maiden flight in January 2010, had been kept out of the public eye before its debut at the air show on Wednesday during a visit by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The fighter is intended to match the U.S. F-22 Raptor, which entered service in 2005.
The T-50 still lacks new engines and state-of-the art equipment, and its serial production is only expected to begin in 2015 at the most optimistic forecast. Two T-50s are currently undergoing tests, and another pair is expected to join them later this year.
Russia has signed deals with India to cooperate on the aircraft’s development, and hopes that the Indian air force will become a major customer for the plane.
The six-day air show at the Zhukovsky air base outside of Moscow wrapped up on Sunday.
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The Pentagon has approved the requirement for an “endurance upgrade” to the U.S. Navy’s Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system, with a larger air vehicle to provide increased payload and range to support special operations forces.
After also evaluating the Boeing A160T Hummingbird and Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-Max unmanned helicopters, the program office has recommended using the Bell 407 airframe, Capt. Patrick Smith, the Navy’s Fire Scout program manager, said Aug. 17 at the AUVSI International show in Washington.
The program office’s recommendation has yet to be endorsed by Navy leadership, but Northrop and Bell are already jointly developing an unmanned version of the civil Bell 407 light turbine helicopter, called the Fire-X, which first flew in December.
“The MQ-8C endurance upgrade package started as a joint urgent operational need statement from Special Operations Command. The requirement was validated [on Aug. 16] by the office of the secretary of defense,” Smith says.
“Our recommendation is to go with the 407 airframe, based on the time frame limitations,” he says. The requirement is to develop the larger MQ-8C within 24 months, for deployment in 2014, with plans to acquire 28 air vehicles over three years.
Plans to arm the basic MQ-8B Fire Scout, which is based on a Schweizer 333 helicopter, also have been approved. The rapid deployment capability program calls for fielding within 18 months, possibly on the Littoral Combat Ship, Smith says.
The Navy has selected a laser-guided 70 mm rocket, BAE Systems’ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), as the initial weapon because it has existing safety approval for deployment on ships.
“Northrop Grumman will conduct a demonstration of Raytheon’s Griffin later this month, and we would like to become weapon-agnostic,” he says. Griffin is a 35-lb. tube-launched laser-guided mini-missile.
The Navy, meanwhile, has confirmed that an MQ-8B that went down over Libya on June 21 while operating from the USS Halyburton was “lost to enemy fire.” Communications and radar contact was lost while the aircraft was flying below cloud cover in an area where other allied aircraft had already come under heavy anti-aircraft fire.
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Boeing is looking at expansive and more modest changes to the 777 widebody to keep the product viable, but a strategy decision is not likely soon, says Air Lease Corp. Chairman and CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy.
Boeing is already in talks with potential customers about the so-called 777X, says Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Jim Albaugh.
Some of the proposals being looked at include a brand-new engine to replace the GE90, which General Electric would first have to develop, Udvar-Hazy says.
Also on the agenda are potentially a new wing, or, at least, aerodynamic improvements.
Udvar-Hazy says the options range from major changes to a Band-Aid approach to keep the aircraft competitive versus the Airbus A350-1000.
Some options are “extremely costly, in terms of development and would involve significant redesign of the airplane,” he says.
The near-term focus for Boeing will be on getting the 787 into customer hands, he adds, so, “I don’t think Boeing is going to come to any quick decision.”
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The U.S. Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are setting up an engineering review board to investigate the loss of the second, and final, Hypersonic Test Vehicle (HTV-2) shortly after launch from Vandenberg AFB, California, on Aug 11.
Contact with the vehicle was lost around nine minutes into the flight. In accordance with loss-of-signal precautions the HTV-2 destroyed itself before completing a third of its planned 30-min Mach 20 gliding flight towards a target area near the Kwajalein Atoll.
In its first statement on the failed test, Darpa says “the Minotaur IV vehicle successfully inserted the aircraft into the desired trajectory. Separation of the vehicle was confirmed by rocket cam and the aircraft transitioned to Mach 20 aerodynamic flight. This transition represents a critical knowledge and control point in maneuvering atmospheric hypersonic flight. More than nine minutes of data was collected before an anomaly caused loss of signal. Initial indications are that the aircraft impacted the Pacific Ocean along the planned flight path.”
Darpa HTV-2 program manager Air Force Maj. Chris Schulz says “we know how to boost the aircraft to near space. We know how to insert the aircraft into atmospheric hypersonic flight. We do not yet know how to achieve the desired control during the aerodynamic phase of flight. It’s vexing; I’m confident there is a solution. We have to find it.”
HTV-2 was designed to demonstrate the high lift-to-drag aerodynamics and high-temperature materials needed for sustained hypersonic flight, with the goal of validating technology for a vehicle able to reach anywhere in the world in 60 min.
The Aug. 11 test was a repeat of the first HTV-2 flight last April which ended when a control anomaly developed at around the same point in the flight. The second vehicle was modified with a sturdier flight control system as a result of investigations into the loss of the first HTV-2, though it is not yet known if these changes had any impact on controllability or if the second loss was due to unrelated causes.
Data from the review board will “inform policy, acquisition and operational decisions for future Conventional Prompt Global Strike programs—the goal of which, ultimately, is to have the capability to reach anywhere in the world in less than one hour,” says Darpa in the statement.
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A piece of debris from NASA’s space shuttle Columbia has been discovered in Texas, eight years after the 2003 disaster that destroyed the spacecraft and killed its seven-astronaut crew during re-entry, NASA officials confirmed on Aug. 2.
The debris was discovered last week in eastern Texas. It is a round aluminum power reactant storage and distribution tank from Columbia, which disintegrated over Texas as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere near the end of a 16-day science mission.
The tank was discovered in an exposed area of Lake Nacogdoches, in Nacogdoches, Texas, about 160 miles northeast of Houston.
“The only reason it’s exposed is because there’s a drought going on and the tank was under the lake,” Lisa Malone, a NASA spokeswoman at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, told SPACE.com. “The tank itself is full of mud.”
Nacogdoches police informed NASA of the find and sent pictures for identification. NASA engineers who work on the shuttle’s power reactant storage and distribution systems were able to confirm the piece belonged to Columbia.
“One of the guys had been here more than 30 years and recognized it, and said, ‘That’s one of the tanks,’” Malone said.
The piece was one of 16 tanks on the shuttle that stored supercold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The spherical tank, about 40 inches (1 meter) in diameter, will eventually be shipped back to Kennedy Space Center, where NASA stores all the collected debris from Columbia in a climate controlled area in the giant Vehicle Assembly Building.
“We’re working the plans and details out right now as to how we would get it shipped back here,” Malone said. “We do want to collect the debris items and keep them in one place.”
To date, about 38-40 percent of the Columbia orbiter‘s wreckage has been recovered. The remainder was either burned up during reentry or is still where it landed in Texas and Louisiana.
“From time to time throughout the year we do get phone calls and emails from people about items they think are debris,” Malone said.
The 2003 disaster was traced back to a hole that was punched into one of Columbia‘s wings by a piece of debris from its fuel tank during launch, according to the findings of a review board that investigated the accident. The hole rendered the orbiter unable to withstand the intense heat of re-entry, causing the vehicle to disintegrate.
Discoveries of debris from the wreck can still serve to reopen old wounds.
“It always makes you think about the accident and Columbia and the crew of course,” Malone said. “It always does serve as a reminder.”
Columbia was carrying commander Rick Husband, pilot William McCool, mission specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, and Laurel Clark, payload commander Michael Anderson, and payload specialist Ilan Ramon, who was Israel’s first astronaut.
Following the catastrophe, NASA upgraded equipment and processes to protect against a similar failure. All post-Columbia shuttles flew with external tanks that had been redesigned to diminish the amount of debris from their insulating foam that fell off during liftoff.
As a further precaution, recent crews conducted thorough inspections of their orbiters’ heat shields once in orbit to make sure they hadn’t sustained any damage that would endanger them during landing.
The Columbia accident was the second disaster in the history of the 30-year space shuttle program. It followed the 1986 destruction of the shuttle Challenger and its crew. Exceptionally cold weather at Challenger’s Florida launch site that day caused a failure in an O-ring seal on one of the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters that ultimately pulled apart the vehicle.
Last month NASA retired its remaining three space shuttle orbiters. The shuttle Atlantis landed July 21 to finish the 135th and final mission of the shuttle program. Now Atlantis and its siblings Discovery and Endeavour will be retired to museums, while NASA embarks on a new program to build vehicles for deep space exploration.
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July 31, Sunday, two Delta Air Lines planes collided on the taxiway at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the fourth incident in four months involving the carrier’s aircraft.
Delta Flight 2207, which was scheduled for Minneapolis, and Flight 1777, headed to Atlanta, had a “taxiway incursion,” said Delta spokeswoman Chris Kelly Singley. She didn’t know the full extent of the damage to the aircraft.
After the incident, which occurred about 7:30 p.m. local time, the passengers of both planes were removed and rescheduled on other Delta flights or those of another airlines last night and this morning, Kelly Singley said. No injuries were reported, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.
“Delta’s No. 1 priority is safety,” Kelly Singley said in a telephone interview.
Earlier this month, a Delta wide-body plane struck the tail of a smaller jet from regional partner Atlantic Southeast Airlines as they prepared for takeoff from Boston’s Logan Airport.
In April, a Bombardier CRJ-700 from Delta’s Comair unit was clipped by the wing of an Air France Airbus SAS A380 superjumbo at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, spinning the smaller plane and 66 occupants through 90 degrees.
A month later, the wing of a Delta Boeing 737 struck the tail of another at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Delta’s hometown hub.
“Each of the incidents is being looked at individually, and by no means do we believe we have a trend,” said Kelly Singley.
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Blood tests on F-22 Raptor fighter pilots after they reported “hypoxia-like symptoms” during flight have turned up chemicals from oil fumes, burned antifreeze and propane.
But if the Air Force believes that might be a cause of pilots’ symptoms, it’s not saying, reports the Air Force Times. Carbon monoxide also is suspect in the incidents, but it leaves the blood quickly. Many of the troubled flights originated at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
From the Air Force Times:
“There is a lot of nasty stuff getting pumped into the pilots’ bloodstream through what they’re breathing from that OBOGS [On-Board Oxygen Generation System]. That’s fact,” one former F-22 pilot said. “How bad it is, what type it is, exactly how much of it, how long – all these things have not been answered.”
The blood tests were performed after each of the 14 incidents in which pilots reported various cognitive dysfunctions and other symptoms of hypoxia. One couldn’t remember how to change radio frequencies. Another scraped trees on his final approach to the runway – and later could not recall the incident.
“These guys are getting tested for toxins and they’ve [gotten] toxins out of their bloodstreams,” the source said. “One of the guys was expelling propane.”
This source, along with the others, requested anonymity for fear of retribution.
The Raptor fleet was mostly grounded in May, months after Capt. Jeff Haney died in a so far unexplained crash north of Anchorage. The Air Force said it was investigating the F-22s’ onboard oxygen supply system.
Sources said that in Haney’s last few radio calls before his jet disappeared, he sounded drunk, a classic sign of hypoxia. Haney was known as a prodigiously skilled aviator who was in line to attend the elite Air Force Weapons School.
F-22 Raptor pilots have been training in simulators since May, but they will have to be retrained in the actual jets if the grounding extends beyond 210 days, a former pilot said.
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AirVenture — The first Zeppelin to fly in the U.S. skies since the Hindenburg crashed in flames 74 years ago is here to give joyrides.
But the two are worlds apart, in technology, time and safety.
The Hindenburg, the first regularly scheduled aerial passenger service between the U.S. and Europe, was a an 803 ft long behemoth with a gas capacity of 706 million cu ft, and sleeping berths for 72 passengers. It was operated by a crew of 40 officers and men, and up to 12 stewards and kitchen staff. It was kept aloft by hydrogen, which was ultimately its downfall.
The Farmers Insurance Zeppelin NT here this week, built by the revived ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik company in Friedrichschafen, Germany, is just over a quarter the length of the Hindenburg, at 246 ft, and carries up to 12 passengers and two crew. Most importantly, it is filled with 290,000 cu ft of non-flammable hydrogen. It is powered by three 200-hp variable pitch, vectoring Lycoming piston engines, two on the hull and the third at the rear.
Unlike the well-known Goodyear airships, which are inflated bags known as blimps, the Zeppelin NT is a semi-dirigible with a structure of graphite reinforced plastic and three longitudinal aluminum girders that carry the motors and passenger gondola.
In that respect the new Zeppelins also differ from those of the past, which had a rigid skeleton covered in fabric that enclosed the decks and lounges and accommodated the huge gasbags.
Earlier this year, Goodyear committed to replace its famous blimps with three of the new Zeppelins, which will be assembled near Akron, Ohio. Each will cost about $21 million each, with technical support, and the first is slated for delivery in 2014. Interestingly, Goodyear worked with Zeppelin 90 years ago to introduce the rigid airships U.S.S. Macon and U.S.S. Akron to the U.S. Navy.
The Farmers Zeppelin, which is usually based in San Francisco and operated by Airship Adventures of California, will be giving rides at AirVenture through July 31.
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Two Chinese Su-27 fighters penetrated Taiwan’s airspace June 29 and were turned back by Taiwan Air Force fighters. The incident is believed to be the first serious Chinese fighter incursion into Taiwan airspace since 1999.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed the incursion in a news release on Monday, but would not verify local Chinese-language media reports that the Su-27s were chasing a U.S. surveillance aircraft.
The U.S. Pacific Command did not respond to inquiries about the incident.
An MND source said it is not Taiwan’s duty to protect U.S. surveillance aircraft and the incident is not considered serious.
“There is a line between the two sides, and if any Chinese aircraft flies too close, we will respond,” he said. “If they cross the line, we treat it as a hostile act, but occasionally they fly close to the line, and to be honest, this happens all the time and is not a real problem.”
The June 29 incident was an “unintentional” and “inadvertent” incursion by Chinese fighter aircraft, he said. “The Chinese military has no intention of antagonizing Taiwan” because relations across the Strait are “calm” and there is “no reason for trouble.”
The news comes as Taipei pushes the U.S. to release 66 F-16C/D fighters. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last week that Washington would make a final decision on the fighters by Oct. 1.
Local media reports said the Su-27s were trying to catch a U-2 spy plane conducting a surveillance mission out of Osan Air Base, South Korea. The reports said the U-2 diverted to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, to avoid the Chinese fighters.
But surveillance aircraft specialist Chris Pocock was skeptical. There are only three U-2s based in East Asia, all at Osan, to watch North Korea, Pocock said.
“They may also fly southwards along the China coast as far as Taiwan, but not on a routine basis,” he said.
The aircraft might have been a Navy EP-3 Aries or Air Force RC-135, which operate at lower altitudes and have been harassed by Chinese fighters in the past.
In 2000, two Chinese J-8 fighters intercepted an Air Force RC-135 in international airspace above the East China Sea. A year later, a J-8 fighter collided with a Navy EP-3 Aries near Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
Despite Chinese complaints, the U.S. surveillance aircraft flies regular missions along China’s coastline. They stay in international airspace because straying into Chinese territory would make them easy targets for S-300PMU-1/2 and Hongqi-10 surface-to-air missiles.
During the Cold War, Taiwan’s Black Bat 34th Squadron flew similar missions with three P-3A Orion signals intelligence aircraft. As well, China shot down five U-2 spy planes operated by Taiwan’s Black Cat 35th Squadron over Chinese territory. Both programs were handled by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Taiwan will soon take delivery of 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft for anti-submarine patrols. The aircraft will replace aging Grumman S-2T Tracker anti-submarine aircraft. Taiwan technically has two squadrons of the S-2T, but sources say that only a handful are still operational.
Taiwan has attempted to procure signals intelligence aircraft in the past from the U.S., but procurement problems and budget delays have hampered the acquisition. Taiwan has one EC-130 for surveillance operations, but it is limited in mission scope.
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Alaska Airlines is interested in Boeing’s recently-announced re-engined 737 offering, though the carrier has yet to make any decisions about the type’s future in its fleet.
“We are very much in favour of lower fuel burn, and if Boeing can do this sooner rather than later, that’s a good a thing”, said Bill Ayer, CEO of Alaska parent Alaska Air Group during the company’s second quarter earnings call.
“We just learned about this, really, yesterday, like everybody else,” said Brandon Pederson, company CFO.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh said 20 July that he planned to recommend re-engining the 737 to the Boeing board of directors in August, with a formal authority to offer expected in the fourth quarter.
“We’re all in favour of saving money on our fuel bill, but in terms of how that affects our orderbook, our fleet, our capex, it’s just too early to tell,” Pederson added.
Initial estimates of the fuel burn improvement have spanned from 10-12% and as high as 15% depending on the final configuration that is selected.
Ayer also said “we will be very interested to learn more about this airplane and we look forward to taking delivery of some, if everything looks right in terms of the cost and the fuel burn and so forth”.
Boeing expects to firm the configuration of the new variant within three to four weeks as it concludes deliberations about the fan size of the CFM International Leap-X engine that will exclusively power the new aircraft, which is slated for an entry into service sometime mid-decade.
“We have a fleet plan and an orderbook with Boeing right now that we’re happy with in terms of numbers of airplanes and timing of airplanes, and I think the idea would be that this new airplane would just slot into that whenever it’s available”, he continued.
According to a filing with US regulators, Alaska said it is scheduled to take delivery of six 737-800s in 2012, three in 2013, one in 2014, and two in 2015.
It will also take delivery of six and seven 737-900ERs in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Alaska added the 737-900ER to its orderbook this past January.
The company also said in the filing that it has options for 42 more 737s.
Alaska exclusively operates the Boeing 737 in its fleet, operating the -400, -700, -800, and -900 variants.