Brazil’s Gol begins buy on board sales

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By Brendan Sobie

Brazilian low-cost carrier Gol has begun introducing a buy-on-board programme in attempt to boost ancillary revenues.

Gol CEO Constantino de Oliveira Junior says the carrier began testing in flight food and beverage sales in May on seven of its domestic flights. He says the response has been positive and the carrier will now expand the programme to include its entire network.

“We started last month with a buy-on-board system on seven daily flights, which were very well received,” Oliveira tells ATI.

“The most important thing is not only the source of revenue in terms of buy-on-board but the customer satisfaction. They feel it really is adding value to the service.”

Gol’s buy-on-board program includes the sale of alcoholic drinks, coffees, sandwiches and chocolate bars. Oliveira says this gives the passengers the option beyond soft drinks and peanuts, which Gol provides for free.

The buy-on-board programme excludes flights operated under the Varig brand. Flights under the Varig brand, which are limited to four international destinations, have a full meal and beverage service.

Oliveira says Gol is also now selling car rentals, hotel stays and travel insurance on its website. The carrier is looking to generate more ancillary revenues and take advantage of its status as the largest e-commerce seller in Brazil. Gol says 79% of its sales are now made on the Internet.

NASA postpones testing of alternate Orion escape system

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By Rob Coppinger

NASA has postponed indefinitely the launch of its 20,450kg (45,000lb) 10m (33ft)-tall Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) flight-test vehicle from its Wallops Flight Test Facility in Virginia.

Planned for 25 June, the launch has been delayed at least four times since its original target of September 2008.

The MLAS test vehicle, designed by the NASA Engineering and Safety Center, is bullet shaped, has four solid rocket motors and a full-scale crew module simulator. It is an alternate launch abort system for the Orion crew exploration vehicle, which has a single motor system.

NASA Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) flight-test vehicle

Landing gear dispute reignites ahead of Bell 429’s approval

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By Niall O’Keeffe

A lawsuit alleging that Bell Helicopters’ newest model infringes a Eurocopter patent took a step forward on the eve of type certification by Transport Canada, despite claims that the design of the landing gear in question has been changed since the suit was filed.

Bell’s flight demonstrations at the Paris air show were disrupted when a French bailiff visited its pavilion to inspect the display model of the medium-light, twin-engined Bell 429 helicopter. According to Bell, the bailiff was acting for Eurocopter, which in May 2009 alleged patent infringement in a lawsuit filed with the Federal Court of Canada.

The lawsuit pertains to a “sled”-type landing gear that originally was part of the 429 model’s design, but which has been replaced by a “toe”-shaped gear similar to that deployed on the 407 model, says Bell.

Bell Helicopters
© Bell Helicopters

The Textron-owned helicopter manufacturer insists that the gear was replaced only because there were concerns that the legal process might delay deliveries of the 429 to customers. “We maintain that the original skid gear was not an infringement,” says Bell. Eurocopter declines to comment on the lawsuit.

Manufactured at Bell Canada’s site in Mirabel, the Bell 429 is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PWC207D engines and incorporates an all-graphite tail boom, an X-shaped composite tail rotor, a “mostly” composite airframe, a two-piece composite drive shaft, a composite horizontal stabiliser, and a glass cockpit.

It has a high-speed cruise of 150kt (277km/h) with skids or 153kt with the retractable landing gear due to be available from 2011. Bell considers the 429 to offer cabin size and performance comparable to those of the Eurocopter EC145.

Tiger gets aboard Australian C-17 transport

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By Craig Hoyle

The Royal Australian Air Force has conducted a trial loading of an Australian Army Eurocopter Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter aboard one of its Boeing C-17 strategic transports.

Performed at Amberley air base in Queensland earlier this month, the trial saw one aircraft winched aboard a C-17 and secured, requiring the removal of three of the Tiger’s main rotor blades and the barrel for its 30mm cannon.

All images © Australian Department of Defence

The air force’s Air Movements Training and Development Unit from Richmond air base in New South Wales was involved in the activity, which would support any future decision to deploy the Tiger on an international operation.

Australia’s Army Aviation has now received 11 of its 22 Tigers, according to Flight’s HeliCAS database, with the aircraft involved in the recent trials – A38-003 – having been received in March 2006.

The RAAF operates a fleet of four C-17s, assigned to its 36 Sqn at Amberley.

Bell Boeing looks at engine air particle separators as it bids to cut V-22 operating costs

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By Stephen Trimble

V-22 Osprey engine air particle separators (EAPS) may get a fundamental redesign as Bell Boeing seeks to slash the tiltrotor’s $11,000 per hour operating costs by about half.

Failures of the hydraulically powered EAPS system have caused catastrophic damage to three aircraft and are a leading source of wear and tear for the V-22’s Rolls-Royce AE1107C engines.

After attempting to improve the design of the EAPS hydraulic blower, programme officials are now discussing a switch to an electric motor, says Lt Col Rob Freeland, the US Marine Corps director for medium-lift requirements.

The programme has struggled to deal with the dangers inherent in the original design of the separators, which channelled leaking hydraulic fluid into the infrared suppressor at the base of the engine nacelle and ignited damaging fires.

Bell Helicopters
© Bell Helicopters

Bell Boeing’s initial solution was to channel leaking fluid away from the IR suppressor and to speed the automatic shutdown of the EAPS suppressor when leaks are detected. But shutting off the EAPS increases wear on the engine and more recently Bell Boeing engineers have discovered the source of the hydraulic leaking causing the EAPS problems.

According to a recent USMC aviation detachment newsletter, debris from impeller shaft splines drifts into a journal bearing, which knocks the impeller into the housing for the EAPS blower. That causes vibrations that lead to hydraulic line ruptures.

For a permanent solution, Bell Boeing has considered rerouteing the hydraulic lines outside the nacelles, or shifting to an electrically powered EAPS system, with the latter judged the “technically most appealing option”, the internal newsletter says.

The EAPS system is one of the main culprits for the V-22’s poor reliability record in Iraq. A new report by the Government Accountability Office criticises the tilrotor for its cost per flight hour and continued operational limitations in certain combat situations.

In addition to an EAPS redesign, the USMC hopes to cut V-22 operating costs by installing improved ice protection systems and negotiating a new performance-based logistics contract with Bell Boeing that should encourage the contractors to meet part reliability and supply chain maturity goals, says Freeland.

The GAO report recommended that the Department of Defense consider buying more helicopters and fewer tiltrotors due to the V-22’s operating costs.

Qantas receives second A330 for Australia’s KC-30 tanker conversion

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By Craig Hoyle

Qantas Defence Services has received its second of four Airbus A330-200s to be converted to a multi-role tanker transport standard for the Royal Australian Air Force.

Delivered to the company’s Brisbane airport facilities in Queensland on 25 June from Airbus Military’s Getafe site near Madrid in Spain, the aircraft will begin its transformation to the KC-30A configuration. This includes the addition of military equipment, under-wing hose and drogue refuelling pods and a refuelling boom mounted beneath its rear fuselage.

Qantas began converting its first A330 in June 2008, with this expected to be the first of five KC-30As – including a prototype now in advanced flight testing in Spain – to enter RAAF service from around mid-2010.

© Qantas Defence Services
Qantas received its first aircraft for modification in June 2008

In-country conversion of the first aircraft “is progressing well”, says Greg Combet, minister for defence personnel, materiel and science. The tanker is expected to leave Brisbane later this year for Getafe, where it will complete its “extensive certification and qualification flight-test programme”, he adds.

Airbus Military has recently conducted dry contacts between Australia’s prototype A330 tanker and a French air force Boeing C-135, and used the new type’s Cobham 905E under-wing pods to connect with Spanish air force Boeing EF-18 fighters (below). Data gathering and flight control law work on the configuration has now been successfully completed, says Combet.

© Airbus Military

The RAAF’s KC-30A fleet will be operated from Amberley air base, Queensland. The service lacks and in-flight refuelling capability, having retired its last Boeing 707-based tanker in June 2008.