Sikorsky X2 Files With Engaged Propeller

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Kerry Lynch

Sikorsky’s X2 Technology demonstrator recently completed two test flights with a fully engaged the propeller for the first time. The helicopter reached speeds of 52 knots in one test and 42 knots with the propeller providing forward thrust in the second flight. The demonstrator is designed to fly at 250 knots, about twice the speed of current helicopters.

The demonstrator has accumulated more than three hours of flight time at the Sikorsky facility in Horseheads, N.Y. The aircraft will be relocated to Sikorsky’s Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. this month for continued flight-testing that will lead up to the 250-knot design goal.

The X2 Technology demonstrator incorporates a range of new technologies, as well as a counter-rotating coaxial rotor, to achieve record speeds yet retain low-speed handling, efficient hovering and autorotation safety. In addition to the rotor, the demonstrator is equipped with fly-by-wire controls, hub drag reduction, active vibration controls and an integrated auxiliary propulsion system. Sikorsky said it is “maturing the technology” for use in a range of missions such as rapid air medical response, reconnaissance and special operations.

“The program is progressing extremely well both technologically and from a future applicability standpoint,” said Mark Miller, vice president of research and engineering at Sikorsky. “Certainly we’ve got much more to do, but interest continues to grow among both the military and commercial sectors in how this technology might improve current operations and enable new missions that today are simply not possible with the current helicopter flight limitations.”

File photo credit: Sikorsky

Anglo-French Summit Raises Defense Bar

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Douglas Barrie/London
Michael Taverna/Paris

British and French politicians have their sights set on closer defense cooperation, and the outcome could be profound.

The two nations may work together on their next generation of military communications satellites. In addition, they will examine the potential for collaborating on unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV), as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned air vehicles.

Until now, the U.K. has shied away from involvement in significant European UCAV work, instead pursuing a “twin-track strategy” based on national research and development work with Washington.

Discussing the potential for European UCAV collaboration, Andrew Brookes, aerospace analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank, says that while the “aspiration may be admirable” there remains a basic issue: “Can we share the technology?” London and Washington have in place agreements covering stealth technology that constrain U.K. collaboration with other nations.

Brookes is skeptical about Britain’s ability to afford a national development for an operational UCAV. He says London has two choices: opt for a U.S. acquisition or pursue involvement in a European effort. The funding levels for national work will merely support keeping the Defense Ministry at an “informed customer status.”

Indications that the latter approach may once again be gaining traction emerged in the margins of last week’s summit between British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

British industry executives flag the ambitious tenor of the defense and security declaration resulting from the summit, and the emphasis on developing proposals that are emerging from the Anglo-French High-Level Working Group on defense cooperation. This was established in June 2006, and one of its initial successes has been to foster joint work on guided-weapons projects.

The declaration includes the intent to “continue to broaden and deepen our defense industrial cooperation.” It adds: “In the mid to long term, [the U.K. and France] assess the scope for collaboration on unmanned air vehicles (Istar and UCAS).”

In the intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (Istar) arena, BAE Systems is leading the ministry- and industry-funded Mantis medium-altitude long-endurance ­demonstrator.

This unmanned combat air systems (UCAS) and Istar UAV work will be advanced by “undertaking a detailed joint study to map out the key elements of any collaborative program and establishing concrete discussions between our industries,” the document says.

At the propulsion level, Rolls-Royce and Snecma already have a joint venture—set up in 2001—looking at future military needs. This built on initial work in the 1990s between the two companies. Originally targeted at a next generation of manned combat platforms, the venture will likely provide a base for UCAV-related collaboration within an Anglo-French context.

There is also a relative state of churn in London’s UCAV aspirations. The in-service date of a UCAV for the Royal Air Force has been moved to beyond 2025 from 2018-20. This aligns the U.K. requirement better with French time­scales, rather than U.S. ones. The French air force is looking to introduce a UCAV as part of its Future Combat Air System in 2030.

Later this year, the French defense ministry will begin a study into how it advances its UCAV plan beyond the present stage of the Neuron demonstrator program, which France is leading with the participation of five other nations.

Arguably, the U.K. UCAV requirement is also more akin to that of the French air force’s, given the two services’ relatively similar size and the likely mix of legacy and low-observable platforms that the two will operate in the coming decades.

France previously tried to involve the U.K. in collaborative UCAV work, notably around the European Technology Acquisition Program at the start of this decade. While the U.K. did participate in ETAP work, for the most part it avoided UCAV-related areas, especially regarding LO design and technology. This is understood to have been partly because of bilateral pacts with the U.S. concerning stealth technology.

The U.K. has been carrying out ­LO-related UCAV work since the late 1990s. At the end of 2004, it also began to collaborate with the U.S. on the J-UCAS Coalition Warfare System Demonstration, known in the U.K. as Project Churchill. This 54-month program examines UCAV concepts of operation and interoperability issues in a coalition environment.

The second element of the U.K.’s “twin-track” approach was the December 2006 launch of the Taranis UCAV technology demonstrator program. This BAE Systems-led project will result in a prototype UCAV airframe being test-flown in 2010. In parallel, the U.K. is continuing other classified research related to LO UCAV technology, including into air vehicle design concepts beyond that of the present Taranis configuration.

The shift in when the British Defense Ministry aims to be able to field a UCAV—combined with the impact this has had on the timing of follow-on phases to Taranis—has caused friction with BAE Systems. Industry is eager to build on Taranis, sustaining the development by moving ahead quickly with a follow-on program. The change in when a UCAV is anticipated to become part of the RAF’s deep-strike capability has meant there is less urgency within the ministry for immediately funding the next stage.

A further industrial hurdle to closer Anglo-French work with regard to UCAV technology is related to whether BAE and Dassault could accommodate each other’s aspirations in this area.

Another issue is whether the impetus survives a likely change in the U.K. government in 2010, with the probable election of the traditionally Euro-skeptic and more pro-U.S. Conservative Party.

One noteworthy historical point: Wrangling over the industrial lead is what marred the development of Europe’s previous generation of combat aircraft. The outcome was French withdrawal from a then five-nation European program and the eventual emergence of the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon.

Last week’s decision to study the potential for jointly pursuing the two countries’ milsat communications requirements may have been prompted partly by a recent French decision to sell off its Syracuse III system to a private operator, as the British did with its Skynet 4. The French sale-and-leaseback arrangement could be accompanied eventually by a joint purchase of a next-generation system in partnership with the U.K., under the same sort of private financing initiative that Britain used to fund its new Skynet 5 network.

The French already purchase Skynet 5 and related capacity from the system’s owner/operator EADS/Paradigm; and both France and Britain supply capacity to NATO, in cooperation with Italy. Still not clear is whether the sale and leaseback and fourth-generation system purchase would be linked, and whether it might involve other countries, notably Italy, which is carrying a French payload on its Sicral 2. A request for proposals for Syracuse III has yet to be issued.

Neuron photo: Dassault Aviation

Public Flying Debut For ICON A5 At Oshkosh

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Frances Fiorino

ICON Aircraft, buoyed by a new round of financing, is flying the A5 amphibian light sport aircraft to EAA Air Venture 2009 for its first public flight demonstration.

The ICON A5 prototype is scheduled to arrive Wittman Regional Airport at Oshkosh, Wisc., on July 27, the opening day of the show, and flying demos to follow on July 31 at a seaplane base near the field.

The Los-Angeles-based aircraft manufacturer announced July 9 that it secured additional investment capital, of an undisclosed amount, that would carry Phase 2 of the A5 flight test program through 2009.

On Jan. 26, ICON completed Phase 1. In 27 flights, the aircraft was tested across the full performance envelope, from minimum weight to gross weight in various sea states, across all flap settings and up to a density altitude of 5,000 ft. All flights terminated on water, in part to help verify handling qualities. The aircraft can also fly off land.

On May 26, the A5 prototype completed a series of hydrostatic and hydrodynamic tests, which verified basic hull performance for seaplane operators. Tests also expanded the flight envelope into higher winds, rougher sea states and advanced maneuvering, according to ICON.

Phase 2 testing aims to refine aerodynamic and handling qualities, according to ICON.

The two-seat A5 has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,430 lb. and a 430-530-lb. useful load. It will fly at a maximum of 105 kt., and with a 20-gal. fuel tank capacity, it has a 300-mi. range. (Performance figures are estimates.)

ICON says the prototype, powered by a single 100-hp. Rotax 912 ULS engine, has been operating on 91-octane automobile fuel and has averaged five gal./hr. fuel consumption. It can also use aviation fuel.

Standard equipment on the carbon fiber airframe will include retractable landing gear, folding wings (manual), GPS moving map and analog flight instrumentation. Optional equipment includes glass multifunction display and airplane parachute.

ICON CEO Kirk Hawkins, a former fighter pilot, says there has been strong demand for the aircraft, with a $40-million plus backlog and a position list of over 400. A standard equipped aircraft is priced at $139,000, and requires a $5,000 deposit that is refundable and fully transferrable.

ICON says the current economic crisis has pushed production start by nine months, with deliveries scheduled to start in the third quarter, 2011.

Photo credit: ICON

Continental e Star Alliance ganham imunidade antitruste

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O Departamento de Transportes dos Estados Unidos (DOT), órgão similar à brasileira Anac, concedeu imunidade antitruste à Star Alliance e à Continental Airlines, que poderá entrar na aliança global de aviação e ainda integrar uma joint-venture transatlântica com a Air Canada, Lufthansa e United Airlines. A imunidade inclui ainda outras integrantes da aliança, como Austrian, BMI, LOT, SAS, Swiss e Tap.

Com a imunidade, as companhias aéreas podem acordar tarifas, capacidade e horários, e fazer marketing conjunto para os revendedores. No Brasil, por exemplo, a Continental planeja dividir escritórios com a Unietd Airlines.

Algumas rotas ficaram de fora da imunidade, como a ligação de Chicago e Washington para Frankfut e de Toronto para Chiacgo e San Francisco. Nesses casos, não pode haver acordo prévio de preços.

A Continental Airlines deve ingressar na Star Alliance em 24 de outubro.

Crise na aviação revela declínio de investimento em TI

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Segundo pesquisa feita em conjunto pela provedora de conteúdo Sita e a publicação Airline Business, os investimentos em Tecnologia da Informação (TI) pelas companhias aéreas vão alcançar o nível mais baixo da história este ano.

Os dados revelam que apenas 1,7% da receita das empresas será direcionada para operações envolvendo a área. Um dos motivos é a redução de custos em um cenário de US$ 10,4 bilhões de perdas registrados no ano passado, e uma previsão de mais US$ 9 bilhões este ano, segundo a Associação Internacional de Transportes Aéreos (Iata).

Cerca de 72% das aéreas que responderam à pesquisa pretendem negociar os contratos com os fornecedores de TI e 70% irão investir em soluções que reduzam os custos globais da companhia. A maior parte delas colocou em prática medidas como racionalização de fornecedores de TI, consolidação de infraestrutura e terceirização.

Segundo o presidente do board da Sita e Chief information officer (CIO) da British Airways, Paul Coby, “a queda no investimento em TI pelas companhias aéreas é uma resposta direta aos US$ 80 bilhões de receita da indústria que devem desaparecer devido à redução na demanda de passageiros”. O dirigente considera que este é momento de maior desafio da indústria de transporte aéreo. “Não devemos ficar surpresos pela sobrevivência ser o principal objetivo de muitas empresas. A maior parte dos investimentos em TI tem sido colocada em segundo plano. Nenhum dos envolvidos na gerência de empresas aéreas e aeroportos entende isso como uma necessidade absoluta nesse momento”, completou ele.

Pela primeira vez, 100% dos pesquisados disseram que vendem tickets on-line e que está claro que as empresas aéreas tornaram as vendas pela internet o canal de distribuição mais importante. Cerca de 60% das empresas têm capacidade de realizar check-in por meio da web e a expectativa é de que chegue a 92% nos próximos três anos.

O foco em tecnologias de auto-atendimento eficientes também se reflete no uso dos quiosques, com 74% de todas as companhias pesquisadas planejando aumentar o número desses pontos para realização de check-in ou de novas funcionalidades.
Participaram do estudo 116 empresas, sendo 11% classificadas como low cost, e 27% responsáveis pelo transporte de mais de 20 milhões de passageiros.

Esquadrão Pelicano participa de evento na Inglaterra

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TripulaçãoDez militares do Esquadrão Pelicano decolaram no último domingo a tarde com destino a cidade de Fairford, na Inglaterra, para participar do RIAT 2009 (Royal International Air Tattoo), considerado a maior feira de aviação militar do mundo.

Os militares vão representar o Brasil no evento que reúne mais de 300 aviões e um público estimado de 170 mil pessoas.Os Pelicanos participarão com a moderna aeronave SC-105 Amazonas, a mesma empregada nas buscas do Air France 447, no começo de junho. A tripulação brasileira vai expor equipamentos usados em sua aeronave para busca no mar e interagir com militares de outros países. É a primeira vez que o Esquadrão participa de um evento deste porte.

Para o evento, o SC-105 foi especialmente adesivado com um pelicano estilizado, dando um toque personalizado a aeronave. O retorno dos militares está previsto para o dia 20 deste mês.

aeronave estilizada

aeronave estilizada 2

tripulação SAR

Fonte: 2º/10º GAV