Friday, November 12, 2010

Tarco Airlines plane crashes at Darfur, Sudan

A plane crashed while attempting to land in Darfur, western Sudan, killing at least one woman though most passengers walked away with minor or no injuries, according to a local government official.

The Tarco Airlines plane was carrying 44 passengers and six crew members when it took off west from Khartoum, Sudan, for Zalingei. An explosion erupted in the aircraft's side as it was touching down at 4:20 p.m. local time Thursday at the airport, said Abdullah Mohammed al-Amin, a commissioner for the district of Zalingei.

"Nothing is clear, at the moment, as for the reasons behind the explosion," said al-Amin, who was at the scene and talked to authorities involved in the investigation and recovery operations.

In addition to the woman who was killed, one person was seriously injured, and four others suffered minor injuries, according to al-Amin. The governor of the west Darfur state planned to accompany the body back to Khartoum, added al-Amin.

Previous media reports had put the death toll as high as 15, with news agency AFP citing hospital sources as saying six people were killed.

The full plane carried passengers were coming back to Darfur to join their families in celebrating Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that commemorates the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son for God, according to al-Amin.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boeing Dreamliner makes emergency landing during test flight

A Boeing 787 jetliner on a test flight over Texas made an emergency landing on Tuesday after smoke was detected in the main cabin, the latest setback in development of the new plane.

The plane landed safely in Laredo and the crew was evacuated, Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter said. Boeing is still gathering information about the incident, she said.

The smoke appeared in the rear cabin of the plane, farthest from the cockpit, said Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

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"The pilot landed and advised he was declaring an emergency," said Lunsford, who added that the airport fire department was called to the scene. He said the FAA would look into the incident.

Boeing said one person suffered a minor injury as the crew of 30 to 40 people were being evacuated down exit slides.

The 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, is made of composite material designed to make it lighter and more fuel-efficient, but Boeing has run into a series of delays in developing the big, two-aisle passenger plane.

Boeing has said it will deliver the first production models of the 787 to Japan's All Nippon Airways in the middle of the first quarter of next year - about three years behind schedule.

Development of the aircraft has been pushed back several times by snags including availability of Rolls-Royce engines and supplier workmanship issues. The company halted test flights last summer after finding that some parts in the tail were not properly installed.

It was unclear whether Tuesday's incident would add to the delays.

Boeing is conducting flight tests with several 787s, some with Rolls-Royce engines, which will be the first models delivered to airlines, and others with General Electric engines.

The company said last month it had completed takeoff and handling tests for the initial version of the plane but that more testing was needed for 787s with GE engines.

Boeing is relying on suppliers from around the country and the world to build components for the plane. The company has taken 847 orders from 56 customers.

The Dreamliner involved in the Texas landing has made 179 test flights spanning more than 558 hours, according to Boeing's website.

Monday, November 8, 2010

If it ain't a Boeing, I'm not going

The investigation now underway into Qantas's A380s is one of the most complex detective stories ever to unfold in the aviation world.

Qantas is going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that there is no repeat of last Thursday's uncontained engine failure on one of its A380s just after it left Singapore for Sydney.

"Uncontained engine failure" is technical talk for an explosion that ripped apart the engine casing, sending hot metal fragments into the wing at high speed. It's not yet known whether it was good luck or good design that prevented a fuel explosion that could have killed all 466 people aboard.

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In fact the explosion did damage the aircraft's hydraulics and cut some of the control lines to another of the plane's engines, which could not be shut down normally after the plane returned to Singapore.

The fact that the engine type, the new-technology Rolls Royce Trent 900, was developed and built by the British manufacturer with a fearsome reputation for reliability simply adds to the intrigue that has gripped the aviation industry.

So does that fact that the only other A380 operators using the Trent 900 design, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, cleared their A380s to fly again after inspections that took less than 24 hours.

About 70 per cent of the airlines that have ordered the A380 have chosen the Trent 900 engine option; the rest, such as the world's biggest A380 operator Emirates, have gone for the Engine Alliance GP7000, developed by an American joint venture between aero engine manufacturers General Electric and Pratt and Whitney.

Whatever the cause of the fault that is eventually tracked down by the forensic engineering now underway, the people who are paying for the tickets to fly in these mega-machines are already forming opinions based on their own prejudices.

"If it ain't a Boeing, I'm not going" was one of the many cliches wheeled out this week – the irony being that even though there are more Boeings than Airbuses in the skies, Airbus in the past few years has been decisively outselling Boeing in the airline marketplace.

Recommended reading:
* Air France A380 grounded for fourth time due to fueling problem
* Qantas A380 Airbus fly passengers over Antarctica
* Qantas A380 passengers tarmac ordeal

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cirrus SR22 crashed in Agua Dulce, Los Angeles

A small plane crashed and burst into flames Thursday in a horse corral in northern Los Angeles County, killing at least two people and three horses, a fire official said.

The single-engine Cirrus SR22 went down at about 12:10 p.m. behind a barn in Agua Dulce, county fire Inspector Matt Levesque said. The plane caught fire but was quickly doused, he said.

The plane had departed from Van Nuys Airport and was headed to Parker, Ariz., when it went down, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The crash site was about a mile west of the Agua Dulce Airpark.

Fire Inspector Don Kunitomi said two people were confirmed dead but it was not known if anyone else was aboard due to the state of the wreck. Fire officials earlier reported four people dead.

Three horses in the corral were killed and a fourth was injured, Levesque said.

Neighbor Scott Strickland told KCAL-TV he was inside his house when he heard a big explosion, then ran to the crash site.

"The two horses are on fire and I just see smoke everywhere," Strickland said. "I saw somebody yell `grab a gun.' Somebody grabbed a gun, came over and put the horse out of his misery 'cause he was just on fire, you couldn't do much after that," he said.

The cause of the crash was under investigation. The skies were overcast at the time of the crash, Gregor said.

The plane was registered to a Calabasas company, Gregor said. He would not provide the name until the FAA confirms the owners were notified.

The high-desert area about 30 miles north of Los Angeles is flanked by forest and the urban communities of Santa Clarita and Palmdale. It is near Vasquez Rocks, a local rock formation often used as a filming location for movies and TV shows.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

84 F-15 fighter jets and 72 Black Hawk Heli for Saudi Arabia

Got oil, got new jets and helicopters.

The Obama administration will soon notify Congress of an arms package for Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion, U.S. officials said on Monday, a potentially record-breaking deal that may help counter Iran's growing regional muscle.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he expected the Saudis to initially commit to $30 billion in purchases, but that could double.

The package would include 84 new Boeing Co F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to another 70 of them. It also involved 72 Black Hawk helicopters built by Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

"It's massive," said Andrew Exum, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security, calling the long-anticipated deal a "shot-in-the-arm" for the U.S. defense industry.

"What the United States is trying to do here is pretty clear. (It is) basically trying to work by, with, and through our partners in the region to balance against Iran," he said.

The regional buildup comes amid deepening international concern about Iran's moves to bolter its military muscle, including advances in its nuclear program the West believes is aimed at developing atomic bombs -- accusations Iran denies.

The United States has also flagged concern about Iran's growing missile capabilities, and has been quietly helping Arab states boost their missile defenses.

The Saudi package, Exum said, had to be viewed in the context of other deals in the region. He cited the expected sale of a missile defense system manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp to the United Arab Emirates.

Earlier on Monday, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said he expected Congress would receive official notification of the long-anticipated Saudi deal within the next week or so.

Lapan declined to comment on details, however, saying Congress needed to be notified first.


The senior defense official said the U.S.-Saudi arms deal also included 70 of Boeing's Apache helicopters and 36 Little Birds.

If approved, the Saudi deal would provide a huge boost to Boeing Co's defense unit, which had several key programs axed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year.

"This transaction shows that there may still be a lot of life in the F-15 fighter and other Boeing legacy aircraft programs," said defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute.

"The Saudi sale by itself will make a big difference to the company's revenues for at least the next five years," Thompson said.

Boeing share were up 36 cents at $64.20 in mid-afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Upon congressional notification, lawmakers get 30 days to object to the deal. But notifications are usually not sent unless lawmakers have already broadly agreed to the sale.

Saudi Arabia was the biggest buyer of U.S. weapons during a four-year span of 2005 through 2008, with $11.2 billion in deals, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Conviasa Airlines plane crash in Puerto Ordaz

A plane owned by Venezuela's state-run airline Conviasa crashed on Monday during a domestic flight with about 50 people on board, but at least 23 survived, witnesses and authorities said.

The ATR-42 plane was en route between the Caribbean island of Margarita and the southern industrial city Puerto Ordaz when it came down.

"We still don't know the exact cause," local governor Francisco Rangel Gomez told state TV, adding that the pilot had radioed warning the plane was in difficulty.

A Reuters witness at a nearby Puerto Ordaz hospital said 30 survivors -- and two corpses -- had been brought in from the crash site where wreckage was still smoldering after the mid-morning accident, hampering rescue efforts.

Gomez put the number of survivors at least 23. He said 51 people were on the Conviasa flight, while Transport Minister Francisco Garces earlier had said 47 were on board.

ATR, which makes 40-70 seat twin-engined turboprops, is a joint venture between Airbus parent company EADS and Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica.

Officials said the plane crashed on land belonging to Sidor, which has a large mill near Ciudad Guayana, but without causing any injuries or damage to installations.

"The plane fell on a waste area where they put barrels of unused steel materials," governor Gomez said.

In the last major crash in Venezuela in 2008, a plane belonging to private local airline Santa Barbara with 46 passengers on board crashed into mountains, with no survivors.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Alrosa Mirny Air jet crash landing

A Russian passenger plane carrying 81 people has made a "miracle" crash landing at a deserted air strip in Siberia after a complete mid-flight power failure, officials says.

The Tupolev (TU-154) airliner en route to Moscow on Tuesday was forced to glide down from its cruising altitude with no working navigation gear and at a high speed after its wing flaps failed, the general prosecutor's office said yesterday.

The 72 passengers, including three children, and nine crew members were in shock but unhurt after the pilot guided his plane down onto the defunct runway, overgrown with weeds, television images showed.

"After its electrical equipment failed, the crew was forced to land the plane. The landing was manual, without radio contact," the prosecutors' office said in a statement.

Forced down at the tiny air strip built for helicopter use, the passenger liner overshot the tarmac, tearing through 200 metres of forest brush before coming to rest, it said.

The plane, operated by Alrosa Mirny Air Enterprise, which belongs to diamond monopoly Alrosa, now lies sunk in a bog beyond the disused air field, near the village of Izhma in Russia's far northern Komi region, 1500 kilometres from Moscow.

Local blogs and twitter pages buzzed with calls for Russia to award the airliner's pilot a medal for his "miraculous" and "heroic" landing.

Meanwhile, the ITAR-TASS news agency said all of the stranded passengers had Wednesday safely made it to Moscow on another flight -- except for one couple who preferred to travel by train after their ordeal.

Friday, September 3, 2010

UPS cargo plane crashes in Dubai

A Boeing 747-400 cargo plane operated by United Parcel Service Inc crashed shortly after takeoff into a military compound near Dubai's airport on Friday, killing two crew members, authorities said.

U.S. parcel delivery company UPS confirmed the crash of the plane, which was en route to Cologne, Germany.

"I saw the plane suddenly dive down into the base and heard a huge explosion," said a nearby resident.

A government source familiar with the initial crash report said the plane had taken off from Dubai International Airport at 6:40 p.m. (1440 GMT) and was diverted to a military compound after reporting trouble.

The aircraft caught fire, hit a covered parking lot, then bounced and crashed, the source said, adding that there were no injuries on the ground. Smoke was billowing from the base, a Reuters witness reported.

The United Arab Emirates civil aviation authority said the bodies of the two crew members were recovered.

Saif al-Suwaidi, general manager of civil aviation, told Dubai TV that flights had not been affected at Dubai's airport, the busiest in the Middle East.

"The pilot reported fire and smoke in the cockpit and was instructed to return to Dubai. After failing to land at the airport, the plane disappeared from radar screens and was found later (at the crash site)," Suwaidi said.

Boeing said on its website it would send a team to provide technical support to the investigation upon invitation from the authorities.

GE Aviation spokesman Rick Kennedy said plane was running GE CF6-80C2 engines. GE Aviation, a unit of General Electric Co said it is sending investigators to the scene.

"It is unusual to lose an aircraft on take-off, particularly once airborne. Crashes in this phase of flight are not common. Without more information it is difficult to speculate what happened," said Paul Hayes, director of air safety at UK-based aviation consultancy Ascend.

Both UPS and the Boeing 747-400 have relatively good safety records, he added.

Initially, Al Arabiya television had reported the plane had hit a busy highway, but later reports indicated it did not hit the road.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Henan Airlines plane crashed in Yichun City, northeast China

Forty-two people were killed and 49 injured when a passenger plane overshot the runway at an airport in northeast China on Tuesday evening, state media reported.

The aircraft belonging to regional Henan Airlines overshot the runway at an airport in Yichun City, a city in Heilongjiang Province, at around 9.35 p.m. local time. A total of 96 people were believed to be on board, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Heilongjiang provincial civil aviation authorities said the Embraer E190 aircraft, with tail number VD8387, skidded off the end of the runway as it was landing at the airport. It broke into two and caught fire.

The fire that engulfed the aircraft after the crash was put out about two and a half hours after the accident, Xinhua reported.

The Henan Airlines aircraft had departed the provincial capital of Harbin at 9.51 p.m. local time, but it was not immediately clear if Yichun City was its destination. The airline website did not specify Yichun City as one of its regular destinations.

Rescue operations are continuing.

Agni Air plane crashed in Makwanpur district in Nepal

A Nepal Army team has reached the incident site in Makwanpur district in central Nepal, where the Agni Air plane crashed early Tuesday morning, and has started collecting the dead bodies.

Saroj Dhakal, chief of Central Division Headquarters, said the 35-men army team found body parts scattered elsewhere and the plane broken into pieces.

Meanwhile, following the slight improvement in weather, a Nepal Army helicopter has left the capital Kathmandu for Makwanpur to carry out rescue operation of the Agni Air.

According to the Army's Public Relations Directorate, a MI-17 helicopter, doctors and trained rescuers flew to Makwanpur, where the Lukla-bound plane, returning to Kathmandu after it could not land there due to bad weather, crashed near a local school Tuesday morning.

A total of 14 people -- six foreigners, five Nepali people and three crew members -- were feared dead in the incident.

Officials of Nepal Police, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal are also in the team. The chopper could not fly to the crash site earlier due to the inclement weather.

It is said that there is a little chance of survivors as the plane has broken into pieces and a plume of smoke is rising from the crash site.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

North Korea Air force jet crashes in China

A small aircraft crashed in northeastern China close to the border with North Korea, killing its pilot and fueling speculation Wednesday about its origin.

China's official Xinhua news agency said in several brief dispatches that the plane, which went down Tuesday afternoon at Lagu Township in Fushun County, "might be" from North Korea. It confirmed the death of the pilot and the destruction of a residential house on the ground, but added no one else was hurt. Xinhua said that the Chinese government is communicating with Pyongyang about the incident.

The crash location in Liaoning province is about 200 kilometers (120 miles) away from a North Korean air base in the border town of Sinuiju, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

An employee at Songgang Iron Ore, a company near the crash site, told CNN there was a large security presence in the area, with armed police officers and special forces agents cordoning off the crash site.

Photographs of the wreckage purportedly taken by an eyewitness have been circulating on Chinese websites, showing the North Korean air force emblem on the fuselage beneath the tail. Military enthusiasts online have identified the aircraft as a Russian-built MiG jet but differed on the specific model, with some calling it a MiG-21 fighter and others claiming it to be a MiG-15 trainer

Yonhap quoted unnamed sources in South Korea as saying the plane's pilot may have been trying to defect from North Korea to Russia, losing direction en route and killing himself on impact of the ensuing crash. Chinese commentators have speculated that the plane may have run out of fuel.

An official at the Liaoning provincial foreign affairs office declined to comment, while the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing referred journalists to the Xinhua news report.

$12.4 billion Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite launches into orbit

An Atlas 5 rocket carrying a national security communications satellite is in orbit after an early morning launch.

The rocket launched at 7:07 a.m. Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It took into space the first of a series of new satellites that will be used for advanced military data.

The Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, made by Lockheed Martin, has 10 times more capacity and moves data six times more efficiently than the five Milstar II communications satellites currently in use. The higher data rates can send video, battlefield maps, targeting data and other communications in real time.

The program will put six satellites into orbit over the next decade at a cost of $12.4 billion.

Monday, August 16, 2010

AIRES plane crashed at San Andres Island

A Boeing 737 jetliner belonging to AIRES airline with 131 passengers aboard crashed on landing and broke into three pieces at a Colombian island in the Caribbean early Monday. The region's governor said it was a miracle that only one person died.

Colombian Air Force Col. David Barrero said officials were investigating reports the plane had been hit by lightning before crashing at 1:49 a.m. (3:49 a.m. EDT; 0649 GMT) while landing at San Andres Island, a resort island of 78,000 people about 120 miles (190 kilometers) east of the Nicaraguan coast.

San Andres Gov. Pedro Gallardo said 125 passengers and six crew members had been aboard, but the only person killed was Amar Fernandez de Barreto, 65. At least five people were reported injured.

"It was a miracle and we have to give thanks to God," the governor said.

Barrero, commander of the Caribbean Air Group, said by telephone from San Andres that "the skill of the pilot kept the plane from colliding with the airport."

Barrero said the 7,545-foot (2,300-meter) runway had been closed because parts of the plane were still scattered across it.

The AIRES jet had left the Colombian capital of Bogota at about midnight.

Police Gen. Orlando Paez said by telephone that a group of police officers who had been waiting at the airport for the plane to take them back to the Colombian mainland aided in rescuing the victims.

Monday, August 2, 2010


The HondaJet is the first venture into aviation for Honda, more commonly known for its cars and motorcycles, with the brand saying that it incorporates many technological advances in aviation design.

Among them are engines that are mounted above the wing instead of below, which Honda says significantly reduces drag (improving fuel efficiency), cuts noise pollution on the ground and creates additional space in the aircraft cabin.


Honda says that the factory for the new jet will be completed in early 2011 so that the aircraft can be delivered to its first customers in the third quarter of 2012 with a price tag of $US4.5 million ($5 million).





Sunday, August 1, 2010

Aerion Supersonic Business Jet

Nevada-based Aerion Corporation is championing the comeback of supersonic air travel in the form of a new executive jet. The company says it has already received $US4 billion in orders for the Aerion Supersonic Business Jet, which it expects to be launched in 2014.

Aerion Supersonic Business Jet

Aerion Supersonic Business Jet

Aerion Supersonic Business Jet

Aerion Supersonic Business Jet

Aerion Supersonic Business Jet

At its top speed, the company says the jet will shave about three hours off the flight time between Paris and New York.

In theory, you could take-off from Paris at 8am and touch down in New York in time for a breakfast meeting.

Cessna is also building a jet called the Cessna Citation X. It is claimed to be the fastest civilian aircraft in the sky, cruising just shy of the sound barrier at Mach .92.

The Aerion Supersonic Business Jet

Cost: Starting from $US80 million, depending on the fitout

Maximum speed: Mach 1.8, (1030 knots / 1909 km/h)

Cruising speed: Mach 1.7 (966 knots / 1790 km/h)

Paris-New York: 4:14 hours

Seating: 12 passengers ( a 50-seat version is in the works)

Crew: 2

Expected launch date: 2014

Friday, July 30, 2010

Taranis - Britain latest unmanned combat air vehicles

The UK Ministry of Defence's "combat aircraft of the future" -- a state-of-the-art jet capable of deploying weapons and bringing back intelligence without human guidance -- made its long-awaited debut at a ceremony Monday.


Named after the Celtic god of thunder, the Taranis comes equipped with advanced stealth technology. Unlike the current generation of propeller-driven unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV), the Taranis would therefore be able to carry missiles into regions where the military does not have air dominance.


Initially budgeted at 125 million pounds, the Taranis was originally scheduled to enter ground testing last year in time for military use this year. Instead, the aircraft set producers BAE Systems back an estimated 143 million pounds, and flight testing is expected to commence next year.

Taranis "is a prelude to the next generation of fighting capability," Nigel Whitehead, group managing director of programs and support at BAE, told the Financial Times. "If we are not on top of that, there will be no future for UK aircraft capability."

Though the use of UCAVs and other automation of weaponry is a growing military trend as part of a way to reduce budgets, the Taranis' debut has its share of detractors.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Airblue plane crashed near Islamabad

No one survived the crash of a Pakistani passenger plane that went down in the outskirts of the capital Islamabad Wednesday morning with 152 people on board, officials said.

Rescuers worked in heavy rains to recover bodies from the wreckage, as officials launched an investigation to determine why the accident occurred. Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said 115 bodies have been taken to area hospitals.

Initially, Kaira and Interior Minister Rehman Malik reported survivors in the crash. Kaira said there were eight survivors and Malik said there were six.

But Kaira said the initial information received from the scene was incorrect, and both men later said no one survived the crash.

Hours ago, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's ambassador to the United Kingdom, said crews combing through the debris had recovered a so-called "black box" -- which is actually orange -- that is either the craft's flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder. Information from the recorder will help authorities determine the cause of the tragedy.

But Kaira later told reporters that the "black box" has not been recovered.

The Airblue plane was headed to Islamabad from the sea port city of Karachi when it crashed in a hillside while trying to land, said Pervez George, a spokesman for the country's civil aviation authority.

The Airbus A321 was carrying 146 passengers and six crew members, George and AirBlue said. The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan said two of the people aboard were American citizens.

Raheel Ahmed, an AirBlue representative, told CNN that among the passengers, 110 were male, 29 were female, five children and two infants. Ahmed said the pilot was Capt.
Pervez Iqbal Chauhdary, one of the airline's top pilots with 35 years and more than 25,000 hours of flying experience.

Malik, appearing on Pakistani TV, said the plane was at 2,600 feet as it approached Islamabad but went back up to 3,000 feet before eventually crashing.

"It came from the city toward the Margalla Hills. It was raining heavily," said area resident Ahsan Mukhtar, who saw the plane go down. "It shattered into pieces as soon as it crashed. A burst of flames came off, but the rain put out the fire."

The Margalla Hills are a series of small hills north of the capital.

Officials do not know if weather played a factor in the crash. Pakistan is in the midst of the annual monsoon season, when rain sweeps across the subcontinent from June until September.

Airblue, a private airline company, offers flights within Pakistan, as well as to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom. It makes a fuel stop in Turkey when it is flying from Manchester, England.

"The aircraft was absolutely airworthy. There was nothing technically wrong," said Taheel Ahmed, a spokesman for the airline.

Airbus issued a statement saying the Airbus A321 was delivered from the production line in 2000, leased to Airblue in 2006, and had accumulated about 34,000 flight hours in some 13,500 flights.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lufthansa Cargo flight MD-11 crashes

A Lufthansa cargo plane crashed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, and two pilots aboard were injured, the German company confirmed.

Lufthansa Cargo said the MD-11 plane was traveling from Frankfurt, Germany when it crashed at 11:38 a.m. local time (4:38 a.m. ET). The cause of the crash was under investigation.

A company spokesman said the plane was on fire but the blaze was under control. The craft had been carrying 80 tons of cargo.

Lufthansa said it did not know the extent of the pilots' injuries but both were being treated in a hospital.

The plane crashed at King Khalid International Airport. It was not yet clear what freight was on the plane and whether customers were affected.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Airshow CF-18 Jet Fighter Crashes

A CANADIAN Forces pilot has survived after ejecting from a fighter jet moments before it crashed during practice for an airshow.

The pilot was admitted to a hospital in Alberta. Captain Brian Bews was performing low-flying manoeuvres in the CF-18 fighter jet when he ejected and parachuted to the ground.

Airshow CF-18 Jet Fighter Crashes

Witnesses said his plane appeared to stall while he was practising a run for the airshow at Lethbridge County Airport.

Airshow CF-18 Jet Fighter Crashes

The fighter jet burst into flames on impact. Canadian newspapers reported Captain Bews, 36, was alert and speaking in hospital after the crash.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Virgin Galactic Spacecraft Makes 1st Crewed Flight

Virgin Galactic SpacecraftA company working to send tourists on suborbital flights says it has tested its spacecraft with a crew for the first time.

Virgin Galactic says the craft remained attached to a specially designed airplane throughout a six-hour flight over California's Mojave desert Thursday.

On its website, the company congratulated the crew and said "Objectives achieved." It says the two crew members evaluated all of the spaceship's systems and functions.

Virgin Galactic says the flight test program will run through 2011 before it starts commercial operations.

Recommended reading
* VSS Enterprise maiden flight
* VSS Enterprise - SpaceShipTwo Unveiled

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Solar Impulse started 24-hour test flight

A solar-powered aircraft which one day hopes to circle the globe has started a 24-hour test flight in Switzerland.

Solar Impulse took off shortly before 5 am GMT, Wednesday from an airfield in Payerne, 80 miles northeast of Geneva.

The plane is being piloted by Andre Borschberg who will fly the plane to a height of nearly 28,000 feet (8,500 meters) throughout the day.

During the evening the plane will slowly descend to an altitude of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) where it will remain for the rest of the night, before Borschberg attempts a dawn landing.

Solar Impulse has a wingspan of over 63 meters -- the same as an Airbus A340 -- and is nearly 22 meters long. It weighs 1,600 kilograms and has nearly 12,000 solar cells attached to its wings and horizontal stabilizers.

The plane is also equipped with four electric engines and has a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour.

"The goal of the project is to have a solar-powered plane flying day and night without fuel," co-founder of the project, Bertrand Piccard said.

The Swiss adventurer, who piloted the first non-stop balloon flight around the world in 1999 in the Breitling Orbiter III said the test flight was "crucial for the credibility of the project."

The challenge to fly a solar plane around the world was officially announced in 2003.
If the 24-hour flight is successful, a second airplane will be designed to fly much further next year, with the aim of flying across continents and the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2012, the team hope to fly Solar Impulse around the world in five stages.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Predator drone UAV deployed on U.S. Customs Border Patrol mission

The Homeland Security Department will use unmanned surveillance aircraft and other technological upgrades in its ongoing effort to protect the southern border of the United States.

The department said Wednesday it has obtained Federal Aviation Administration permission to operate unmanned planes along the Texas border and throughout the Gulf Coast region. Customs and Border Protection will base a surveillance drone at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station in Texas.

Homeland Security also said it is working with the Office of National Drug Control Policy on "Project Roadrunner," a license plate recognition system designed to seek out possible drug traffickers.

And the department is collaborating with the Justice Department to improve information sharing between state, local and federal law enforcement agencies.

In a speech at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, a Washington think tank, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also announced a new partnership with the Major Cities Chiefs Association. The agreement would allow non-border cities to provide more assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies that are on the border.

Recommended reading:
* Guardian UAV for drug traffic-monitoring

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Putin boasts new Sukhoi T-50 better than F-22 Raptor

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin climbed into the cockpit of Sukhoi T-50, Russia's newest fighter jet on Thursday and said it would trump a U.S.-built rival, the F-22 Raptor.

Putin watched a test flight of a "fifth-generation" stealth fighter, dubbed the T-50 and billed as Russia's first all-new warplane since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"This machine will be superior to our main competitor, the F-22, in terms of manoeuvrability, weaponry and range," Putin told the pilot after the flight, according to an account on the government website.

Putin said the plane would cost up to three times less than similar aircraft in the West and could remain in service for 30 to 35 years with upgrades, according to the report.

Successful development of the fighter, built by Sukhoi, is crucial to showing Russia can challenge U.S. technology and modernise its military after a period of post-Soviet decay.

Russia also plans to manufacture T-50s jointly with India.

The F-22 raptor stealth fighter first flew in 1997 and is the only fifth-generation fighter in service. Fifth-generation aircraft have advanced flight and weapons control systems and can cruise at supersonic speeds.

According to the government website, the test pilot told Putin the controls of the T-50 allowed the pilot to operate most of the plane's systems without taking his hands off the joystick, which he said would be very useful under high forces of gravity.

"I know, I've flown," Putin replied. Sukhoi has said the plane should be ready for use in 2015.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches

Friday's test launch of the Falcon 9 rocket was "essentially a bullseye," SpaceX officials said after the rocket successfully pushed past the earth's atmosphere and deposited a mock-up of its Dragon space capsule in orbit.

The successful launch is the latest step toward commercial space ventures that could eventually ferry astronauts and cargo to the international space station.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, sent out the technical details of the successful launch, which he said performed its mission to deposit the Dragon mock-up into a 155-mile (250-km) orbit to near perfection.

"Nominal shutdown and orbit was almost exactly 250 km," Musk said in a written statement. "Telemetry showed essentially a bullseye: 126;0.2% on perigee and 126;1% on apogee."

The capsule is expected to orbit for about a year and eventually burn up in the atmosphere.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden congratulated the SpaceX team.

"Space X's accomplishment is an important milestone in the commercial transportation effort and puts the company a step closer to providing cargo services to the International Space Station," he said.

Former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart was high on the launch's possibilities.
"As a former Apollo astronaut, I think it's safe to say that SpaceX and the other commercial developers embody the 21st century version of the Apollo frontier spirit. It's enormously gratifying to see them succeed today," he said.

NASA hopes companies such as SpaceX can take over transportation to the international space station.

"It's time for NASA to hand that over to commercial industry who can then optimize the technology and make it more reliable, make it much lower cost and make it much more routine," said Musk in an interview with CNN last month.

Musk says he believes the United States is at the beginning of a profound, fundamental renaissance in space exploration, perhaps greater than when President Kennedy declared the United States was going to the moon during the infancy of the space program.

"If the country executes and the administration and Congress execute in that direction, the impact of these changes will be on par, perhaps even greater, than ... the task that Kennedy put us on to," he said.

This push toward the privatization of space is part of President Obama's blueprint to allow NASA to do bigger and better things with its budget, such as a mission to Mars.

NASA has been flying shuttles in low Earth orbit and going to and from the space station for 30 years. The administration would like to see whether private companies can do it cheaper and more efficiently, as the shuttle program is about to fly into retirement.

NASA selected SpaceX and another company, Orbital Sciences, to each develop an orbital vehicle because the United States will not have its own way to get to the space station. The United States will be renting space from the Russians aboard their Soyuz spacecraft.

"They're standing on NASA's shoulders, so they're designing rockets based on the experience we've had for 50 years or more, going into space," said George Musser, editor of the Scientific American.

"And any enterprise that learns from past experience will hopefully do better," he said.

But the competition is rabid. SpaceX is the first company to reach the launchpad. So far, its spent almost $400 million to get there.

"They probably hate each other's guts, but the competition is really good for space and for all of us," said Musser.

"Ultimately, what do we want from this? We want to get into space cheaply, so our kids and grandkids someday can go into space and explore the planets," he said.
But SpaceX acknowledges there will be failures, as there have been since the the beginning of aviation.

"This is an all-new rocket. There's a lot that can go wrong, and during the test phase -- that's why you have a test phase, because things may go wrong," he said.

Ken Bowersox is a vice president for SpaceX. In his previous life, he flew five space shuttle missions as a commander and pilot. He also lived on the space station for more than five months as its commander.

"Either way, we're going to learn something," he said. "If we have a problem, we can move forward accepting a higher level of risk. That's how we can be more cost-effective.

If all goes as planned after a series of test flights, Musk says SpaceX will be ready to begin flying cargo to the space station next year. If NASA awards SpaceX a contract, Musk says they can begin ferrying astronauts to the space station within three years. He says his company is profitable, but his motivations go beyond dollars.

"We want to see a future where we are exploring the stars, where we're going to other planets, where we're doing the great things that we read about in science fiction and in the movies," Musk said.

Recommended reading:
* China to launch 2nd lunar probe

Sunday, May 30, 2010

X-51A Waverider set a record for hypersonic flight

X-51A WaveriderAn experimental aircraft has set a record for hypersonic flight, flying more than 3 minutes at Mach 6 – six times the speed of sound.

The X-51A Waverider was released from a B-52 Stratofortress off the southern California coast Wednesday morning, the Air Force reported on its website. Its scramjet engine accelerated the vehicle to Mach 6, and it flew autonomously for 200 seconds before losing acceleration. At that point the test was terminated.

The Air Force said the previous record for a hypersonic scramjet burn was 12 seconds.

"We are ecstatic to have accomplished many of the X-51A test points during its first hypersonic mission," said Charlie Brink, an X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

"We equate this leap in engine technology as equivalent to the post-World War II jump from propeller-driven aircraft to jet engines," Brink said.

The Waverider was built for the Air Force by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Boeing Co.

Joe Vogel, Boeing's director of hypersonics, said, "This is a new world record and sets the foundation for several hypersonic applications, including access to space, reconnaissance, strike, global reach and commercial transportation."

Four X-51A cruisers have been built for the Air Force, and the remaining three will be tested this fall.

"No test is perfect," Brink said, "and I'm sure we will find anomalies that we will need to address before the next flight."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Aircruise Airship

Design company Seymourpowell has unveiled a new transport concept, the Aircruise - a giant, vertical airship powered by natural energy and designed to carry travellers in style and luxury.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bullet 580 Airship from E Green Technologies

The latest in aviation technology is from the distant past. Airships are back, in the shape of the huge Bullet 580. The 76-metre long Bullet is the world's largest airship, taking more than six hours to inflate, says manufacturer E Green Technologies.

Bullet 580 Airship

The airship can stay at high altitude for long periods, offering near-space experiences for scientists, and offering a remote communication and observation base, monitor military situations and keeping watch on oil spills, bushfires or even pirates.

E Green says its new airship "offers cost-efficient operations versus fixed-wing aircraft". It will cost $8 million, or can be rented for $500,000 a month.

The first test flight is due to take place later this year.

E-Green chairman Michael Lawson said the new airship wasn't your typical blimp.

"Airships have undergone surprisingly little evolution throughout their more than 150-year history," he said.

"Our airships are radically different designs that move beyond the performance limitations of traditional blimps or zeppelins by combining advanced technology with simple construction and the ability to fuel with algae, protecting our environment."

Mr Lawson told MSNBC that hard landings are a far more comfortable experience that than normal planes.

"If you hit a hard landing with any of our airships, it's just going to kind of bounce," he said.

Airships or blimps were widely used before the 1940s, which was followed by numerous accidents, including the 1937 Hindenburg explosion that killed 37 people.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Afriqiyah Airways Flight 8U771 in Tripoli, Libya

One person -- believed to be a 10-year-old boy -- survived a passenger plane crash in Libya that was feared to have killed more than 100 people, an official said Wednesday.

The boy was undergoing surgery at a hospital in the Libyan capital of Tripoli after the Afriqiyah Airways plane that left Johannesburg crashed as it neared the end of its flight.

The Dutch Foreign ministry said it had a representative at the hospital waiting to identify the boy, believed to be a Dutch national. He apparently suffered bone injuries.

The plane was carrying 93 passengers and 11 crew members when it crashed while trying to land at the Tripoli International Airport.

The president of the European Parliament said about 100 people perished, and Libya's state news agency said 96 bodies had been recovered.

Nicky Knapp, a representative of the Airports Company South Africa, provided the breakdown in the destinations of the passengers aboard: seven to London, 32 to Brussels, 42 to Dusseldorf, one to Paris, and 11 to Libya. She was speaking on behalf of Afriqiyah Airways.

The plane, an Airbus A330-200, was at the tail end of its nearly nine-hour-long flight when it crashed.

"We express our sincere regret and sadness on behalf of the airline. As well, we would like to express our condolences to the relatives and friends of those who had passengers on Flight 8U771 destined for Tripoli late last night, due to arrive around 6 o'clock this morning," she said.

Calling the incident a tragedy, Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament said "some 100 people have died no doubt from many countries around the world."

He said the child's survival "given this tragic event, is truly a miracle."

The Dutch Royal Touring Club said 61 of 62 Dutch passengers on the plane died.

A Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman said the government was trying to get more information about those aboard.

The British Foreign Office said it was looking into whether British nationals were on board the flight.

At the crash site, workers with surgical masks combed through the smoldering wreckage that spilled over a large area. A wheel lay atop a pile of bags. Two green airline seats sat upright and intact amid burned parts of the aircraft.

Officials recovered the plane's flight data recorder, which investigators use to piece together a flight's last minutes.

The Tripoli-based Afriqiyah (Arabic for "African") operates flights to four continents. The planes in the fleet carry the logo 9.9.99 -- the date when the African Union was formed.

The Airbus that crashed is one of three Airbus 330-200s that the airline owns.

Recommended reading:
* Aero Union freight plane crashed in Monterrey, Mexico
* Indian Navy Jet crashed near Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad
* US Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Darmstadt, Germany
* Ethiopian Airline Flight 409 crashes off Beirut international airport

Monday, April 19, 2010

NATO F-16 fighters damaged by volcanic ash

A senior Western diplomat says several NATO F-16 fighters suffered engine damage after flying through the volcanic ash cloud covering large parts of Europe.

The official declined to provide more details on the military flights, except to say that glass-like deposits were found inside the planes' engines after they patrolled over European airspace.

Last week, two Finnish Air Force F-18 fighter-bombers suffered similar damage while flying through the ash plume that has paralyzed air traffic over much of Europe. Both landed safely, but their jet engines will require expensive overhauls.

Volcanic ash tends to stick to a jet engine's interior parts, such as the turbines, where it melts to form a glassy coating. This restricts air flow and heats up the engine, leading to engine failure.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Aero Union freight plane crashed in Monterrey, Mexico

Six people died, including a motorist on the ground, when a freight plane crashed as it was about to land in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, local authorities said on Wednesday.

The private Airbus A300-B4 crashed shortly before midnight on Tuesday, and pieces of the plane fell on airport land and a nearby road, said Jorge Camacho, director of the local civil protection.

Five people travelling on the plane were killed, as well as a car driver hit by debris, Camacho said, adding that the cause of the crash was as yet unknown.

The airport was functioning normally, he said.

The plane had taken off from Mexico City and was operated by Aero Union, Airbus said in a statement.

Aero Union freight plane crashed

Cathay Pacific pilot steer crippled Airbus A330 to safety

The Australian pilots of a Cathay Pacific flight who managed to steer an Airbus A330 to safety at Hong Kong's airport after both its engines malfunctioned, have been hailed as heroes by colleagues.

Cathay Pacific said in a statement the plane's left engine had shut down as the aircraft made its landing approach at Hong Kong's international airport yesterday with 309 passengers on a flight from Surabaya in Indonesia.

The right engine also began to "cut out inexplicably, leaving the [pilots] to cope with dips and surges in power and the prospect of the plane plunging into the sea short of [the airport]," the South China Morning Post reported.

The emergency landing caused all four tyres on the left side of the plane to deflate, while two on the right side also deflated, the airline said. Passengers were evacuated on emergency inflatable slides. There were eight injuries.

"It was an amazing piece of piloting in extremely testing circumstances," one colleague of the two Australian pilots was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying.

"One engine was shut down completely and the other was going on and of. They effectively landed the plane on half an engine."

The paper quoted another Cathay Pacific staff member as saying: "Their stories will come out in due course when the investigation is complete but what they did was nothing short of heroic. It's a miracle they managed to get the plane down safely."

Hong Kong's Civil Aviation department said it would investigate the "serious aircraft incident" and release a report in a month's time.

Recommended reading:
* Merpati airline Boeing 737 crashes

Monday, April 12, 2010

Merpati airline Boeing 737 crashes

A passenger jet carrying about 100 people has skidded off a runway and plunged into a river after landing in heavy rain in Indonesia.

Officials say at least 20 people are injured.

The Merpati airline Boeing 737 broke into pieces this morning as it bounced off the tarmac at Rendani domestic airport in Manokwari, West Papua, director general of civil aviation Herry Bhakti Singayuda said.

Passenger plane skids off runway in Indonesia

A jet carrying about 100 passengers skidded off the runway into a shallow river as it landed in Indonesia today, injuring about 20 people, officials said.

The Merpati airline Boeing 737 broke into pieces as it bounced off the tarmac at Rendani domestic airport in Manokwari, West Papua, director general of civil aviation Herry Bhakti Singayuda said.

"It skidded off the runway and part of its body landed in a river," he said, referring to a shallow waterway about 200 metres from the runway.

"All 103 passengers and six crew members are safe. Some are injured. They have been rushed to hospital."

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed that there were no Australians on board.

Bad weather including heavy rain and fog were suspected of playing a part in the crash although expert investigators had yet to arrive at the scene, he said.

Manokwari Hospital emergency unit nurse Benget Hutagalung said "about 20" people had been brought in with shattered limbs and head injuries.

Witnesses said the left wing broke off as the plane hurtled into trees at the end of the runway.

The body of the plane came to rest with the tail section in the river and the cockpit almost sheared off.

The plane was flying on a domestic route from Sorong, also in West Papua province, to Manokwari, a distance of about 340 kilometres.

Transport Ministry experts from the capital, Jakarta, were on their way to the rugged province in the far east of the country to investigate the crash, an official said.

The vast archipelago of Indonesia relies heavily on air transport but has one of Asia's worst air safety records.

Indonesian airlines have been attempting to recover from a poor safety record in recent years.

In August last year a Merpati aircraft disappeared in remote Papua. Its wreckage was found two days later and all 16 passengers and crew aboard were killed.

Three years ago 21 people, including five Australians, were killed when a Garuda plane crashed on the runway at Yogyakarta airport.

Last year 102 people were killed in two separate crashes involving Indonesian military aircraft.

Shortly after the Garuda crash, the European Union banned all Indonesia-registered aircraft from flying to Europe. The EU lifted the ban on Garuda in December last year, citing improvements in the airline's safety standards.

China to launch 2nd lunar probe

China will push ahead with its lunar exploration program despite the United States' decision to suspend its return to the moon, a senior space exploration scientist has said.

"China should not slow down its pace of lunar exploration even if other countries change their plans," said Ye Peijian, chief designer of the nation's first lunar probe, Chang'e-1.

The country plans to launch its second lunar probe, Chang'e-2, in the latter half of this year as well as send a lunar lander and rover by 2013, Ye said.

The latest signal of China's resolve in lunar exploration follows U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement in February that his administration was axing the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Constellation program, which former president George W. Bush started in 2004 to return Americans to the moon by 2020.

Instead, NASA was asked to focus on technologies to prepare for human missions to other destinations in the solar system.

Billions of dollars will be spent on new commercial spacecraft that could carry U.S. astronauts into low Earth orbit, on technology development, and extending the life of the International Space Station, media have reported.

The U.S. investment in new technology is expected to lay the foundation to support effective and affordable journeys to the moon and eventually to Mars.

Ye conceded the refocused efforts of the U.S. on Mars and Earth observation do represent a future trend.

The U.S. could postpone moon-landing plans because "they made it to the moon some 40 years ago and still hold the technological advantage", he said.

China stands a better chance of joining more international projects in the field with a smaller technological gap, he said.

The country should also explore Mars independently, Ye said.

Monday, April 5, 2010

X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle set for launch April 19

After a decade of development, the Air Force this month plans to launch a robotic spacecraft resembling a small space shuttle to conduct technology tests in orbit and then glide home to a California runway.

The ultimate purpose of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and details about the craft, which has been passed between several government agencies, however, remain a mystery as it is prepared for launch April 19 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"As long as you're confused you're in good shape," said defense analyst John Pike, director of "I looked into this a couple of years ago – the entire sort of hypersonic, suborbital, scramjet nest of programs – of which there are upwards of a dozen. The more I studied it the less I understood it."

The quietly scheduled launch culminates the project's long and expensive journey from NASA to the Pentagon's research and development arm and then to a secretive Air Force unit.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the X-37 program, but the current total has not been released.

The launch date, landing sites and a fact sheet were released by Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Angie I. Blair. She said more information would be released soon, but questions on cost and other matters submitted by e-mail weren't answered by Friday.

While the massive space shuttles have been likened to cargo-hauling trucks, the X-37B is more like a sports car, with the equivalent trunk capacity.

Built by Boeing Co.'s Phantom Works, the 11,000-pound craft is 9 1/2 feet tall and just over 29 feet long, with a wingspan of less than 15 feet. It has two angled tail fins rather than a single vertical stabilizer.

Unlike the shuttle, it will be launched like a satellite, housed in a fairing atop an expendable Atlas V rocket, and deploy solar panels to provide electrical power in orbit.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Space shuttle Discovery set for launch April 5

Space shuttle Discovery set for launch April 5

Space Shuttle Discovery will launch April 5 on one of the last remaining shuttle flights to the International Space Station, mission managers said Sunday.

NASA managers said concerns over potential valve leaks had been settled and the shuttle was considered ready for the mission.

Discovery will blast off at 6:21 a.m. ET, according to NASA. The 13-day mission will provide the international space station with eight tons of science equipment and cargo, NASA said.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

VSS Enterprise maiden flight

British billionaire Richard Branson's dream of space travel that thousands of people can afford took a leap toward reality with the maiden flight of the world's first commercial spacecraft over California's Mojave Desert.

Branson's company Virgin Galactic announced Monday that the VSS Enterprise had successfully completed what it called a captive carry flight attached to a carrier plane.

The spacecraft's developer called it a "momentous day."

"The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program," said Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites, which built the spacecraft.

The VSS Enterprise remained attached to its carrier aircraft for the duration of the 2-hour, 54-minute flight, reaching an altitude of 45,000 feet, according to a statement from Virgin.

Eventually, the 60-foot long rocket plane will be taken 60,000 feet above the Earth by its carrier and fire rockets to propel itself into space.

The test-flight program is expected to continue through 2011, going first to a free glide and then to a powered flight before commercial flights begin.

"Seeing the finished spaceship in December was a major day for us but watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles Burt and his team have developed for us," Branson said.

"Today was another major step along that road and a testament to U.S. engineering and innovation," he said.

Virgin Galactic has envisioned one flight a week, with six tourists aboard. Each will pay $200,000 for the ride and train for at least three days before going. About 80,000 people have placed their names on the waiting list for seats.

"What we want to be able to do is bring space travel down to a price range where hundreds of thousands of people would be able to experience space, and they never dreamed that [they] could," Branson said last year.

He has said he hopes the technology will lead to a new form of Earth travel, jetting people across oceans and continents faster through suborbital routes.

Recommended reading:
* VSS Enterprise - SpaceShipTwo Unveiled

Friday, March 26, 2010

Comac C919

The Comac C919 is a planned 168-190 seat narrow-body airliner to be built by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac).

It will be the largest commercial airliner designed and built in China since the defunct Shanghai Y-10. Its first flight is expected to take place in 2014, with deliveries scheduled for 2016. The C919 forms part of China's long-term goal to break Airbus and Boeing's duopoly, and will compete against Airbus A320 family and the Boeing 737 Next Generation.

Comac C919

Recommended reading:
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* Airbus A400M may get canceled

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Avic AC313 helicopter

A heavy-lift AC313 helicopter, built by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic), can carry 27 passengers or up to 13.8 tonnes. The AC313 helicopter has a maximum range of 900km (560 miles)

Related link:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Airbus A350 XWB

The German government is ready to grant a 1.1 billion euro ($A1.62 billion) loan to develop the Airbus A350 extra wide body (XWB) long-haul passenger aircraft, a senior economics ministry official said yesterday.

Airbus A350 XWB

Airbus A350 XWB

Airbus A350 XWB

Airbus A350 XWB

Airbus A350 XWB

Airbus A350 XWB

"As far as we are concerned all pre-conditions have been met and the funds are available," said Peter Hintze, parliamentary state secretary at the ministry of economics.

His statement implied that the conditions were in line with World Trade Organisation rules.

Hintze said that "final issues" would have to be solved, notably how to divide up work between France and Germany on another project, the A30X, a potential successor to the A320.

"We want to be sure that (A30X) research and development will be done in Germany," he said.

The A30X's completion is widely expected to take place in Hamburg, northern Germany.

"We want an agreement quickly," he said. "We want to wind up the negotiations in spring."

Airbus, a division of the European aerospace giant EADS, intends to launch the A350 as a rival to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

The Airbus A350 XWB (extra-wide body) is described by the company as an eco-friendly passenger aircraft that can seat between 270 and 350 passengers.

Photos: Inside the Airbus A350 XWB

Able to run on less fuel than current planes, its development is supported by four partner nations -- Britain, France, Germany and Spain.

France has announced support of 1.4 billion euros for the 12-billion-euro programme and Britain around 400 million.

The Spanish government remains in discussions with Airbus over its funding offer but reports say it could be around 300 million euros.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

T-Hawk UAV

The T-Hawk is made by Honeywell Corp. and used by U.S. Army infantry in Iraq. The T-Hawk can zip up to 10,000 feet for up to 45 minutes. At 16.5 pounds it is lightweight.

T-Hawk UAV

Monday, March 22, 2010

RQ-7B Shadow UAV

This is being used in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Army battalions need tactical surveillance. It has flown hundreds of thousands of hours. A little more than 11 feet long, it weighs 375 pounds and has a wingspan of 14 feet. An infrared illuminator can laser-pinpoint targets for laser-guided missiles and bombs.

RQ-7B Shadow UAV

Related posts:
* RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wasp III

Used by U.S. Air Force Special Ops. The Wasp weighs one pound, and is a hand-launch flying wing is outfitted with a day and night camera. Electric, two-bladed propeller makes it sneaky quiet. Its inventory is classified.

Wasp III

Saturday, March 20, 2010

RQ-11 Raven

Made by AeroVironment, the Raven is the most prominent UAV with more than 7,000 units in service. Nearly every Army combat brigade in Afghanistan or Iraq has one. Three feet long and 4.2 pounds, the Raven is fitted with an electronically stabilized color video camera or an infrared video camera for night missions, which pan, tilt and zoom digitally.

RQ-11 Raven

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hermes 450/Watchkeeper UAV

Made by Elbit Systems of Israel, this drone furnishes target coordinates over Israeli battlefields, and provides reconnaissance for British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can hover for about 20 hours on its 34-foot wing, up to an altitude of 18,000 feet, providing real-time surveillance.

Hermes 450/Watchkeeper UAV

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Scan Eagle UAV

The Scan Eagle is in use by Marine Corps troops in Iraq and aboard U.S. Navy ships anywhere in the world. The device is about 40 pounds and four-feet long with a 10.2-foot wingspan, and is powered by a gasoline engine for 15 hours.

Scan Eagle UAV

MQ-5 Hunter

The MQ-5 Hunter is made by Northrup Grumman and flown by the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Hunter has been in service since the Balkans war, and was recently retrofitted in the MQ variant to run on heavy fuel and carry Viper Strike munitions.

MQ-5 Hunter

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* MQ-1C Sky Warrior

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hypersonic X-51 Waverider

The U.S. Air Force is gearing up for the first of four planned test flights of a hypersonic aircraft designed to operate for much longer durations and cover far greater distances than previous platforms of its type.

The maiden flight of the X-51 Waverider aircraft — the first U.S. hypersonic vehicle to fly in six years — is scheduled to take place later in March. Boeing Defense, Space & Security Systems of St. Louis has been developing the aircraft since 2003 on behalf of the Air Force Research Laboratory and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The missile-shaped X-51 will be carried aloft under the wing of a B-52 bomber, Joe Vogel, Boeing's director of hypersonics, said in a Feb. 22 interview. It will be released from the jet over the Pacific Ocean and drop for four seconds until its rocket motor ignites and accelerates it to about 5,800 kilometers per hour, just shy of the widely accepted start of hypersonic flight at Mach 5, or about 6,100 kilometers per hour. At that point, its air-breathing scramjet — or supersonic combustion ramjet — engine, built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., will kick in, shooting the craft to Mach 6, or more than 7,400 kilometers per hour.

Grand plans for hypersonic vehicles have been around for decades, but their goals were often unrealistic and not matched by budgets, resulting in failure. The approach on X-51 has been to demonstrate the technologies that could one day enable things like single-stage-to-orbit vehicles.

"Theoretically you can probably get there someday, but trying to do it all at once with not enough money is very, very challenging," Vogel said.

Potential applications for hypersonic technology are superfast airplanes, missiles and reusable space launch vehicles, Vogel said. While the technology is not ready to ferry passengers from New York to Los Angeles in under an hour, such a scenario is not all that far-fetched, Vogel said. The upcoming demonstrations should show that the technology could be used in a next-generation missile program, he said.

Boeing has 42 people working on the X-51 program, down from a peak of about 90 people in 2007. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's team peaked around 60 people and is now down to nine people, Vogel said.

Boeing also built the United States' previous hypersonic flight demonstrator, the X-43A, on behalf of NASA. The X-43A program made two successful flights in 2004: an 11-second flight that reached Mach 7, and a 10-second flight that approached Mach 10 and set a new record for fastest flight by a jet-powered aircraft. Both vehicles were designed to plummet into the ocean and be destroyed.

Scramjet engines like those on the X-43A and X-51 must be accelerated to very high speeds to deliver compressed air to their combustion chambers. Both crafts rely on rocket propulsion to create this initial speed.

While the X-51 will not reach the top speed of its predecessor, it is intended to demonstrate more operationally realistic technologies, Vogel said. Whereas the X-43A used a highly energetic hydrogen fuel, the X-51 uses the same JP-7 fuel that powered the SR-71 surveillance aircraft, and its engine could be adapted to use other hydrocarbon-based fuels, he said. The X-51 is expected to fly about 900 kilometers under jet power in about five minutes, 30 times longer in duration than the X-43A flights.

Boeing has built four X-51 aircraft for the upcoming test campaign. Though none will be recovered after its test flight, their liquid-cooled scramjet engines have shown in ground testing to be very durable, Vogel said. The X-43A engine was not actively cooled and was not intended for reuse.

"This [the X-51] engine has been tested extensively in the laboratory, and it's come out and been reused multiple times," Vogel said. "In theory, if we had more time and more money and more space in the vehicle, we probably would have put a recovery system into it. Future vehicles could have a recovery system, and we have started looking at ways to recover the engine."

The government does not currently plan to support the X-51 program beyond the four identical flight tests, which should be complete by the fall, Vogel said. Boeing has proposed a next phase of the program to the government, but he declined to be specific.

Since 2003 the government has spent about $250 million on the X-51 program, Vogel said. Air Force Research Laboratory spokesman Derek Kaufman was unable to provide funding details by press time.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vulture UAV

Vulture UAV by Jim Wilson/Lockheed Martin

Class: High-Altitude

Habitat: A belt of relatively calm air around 55,000 feet

Behavior: Lockheed Martin’s design for Darpa’s Vulture program can stay aloft for five years, turning lazy circles above any patch of ground that needs continuous monitoring. A suite of day-and-night cameras can scan a 600-mile swath, sending data back to handlers on the ground. The craft will have to beat out species from a Boeing-led consortium and Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences for a second round of funding.

Notable Feature: The craft’s semiflexible structure bends instead of breaking when winds cause the long span to oscillate violently

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Embla UAV

Embla UAV by Aesir

Embla UAV

Class: Hovercraft

Habitat: Afghanistan and disaster zones, starting in June, according to British manufacturer Aesir. About the size and shape of a spare tire, the Embla lifts straight up from the ground without the need for a runway, making it more useful to combat soldiers stationed in rough terrain. Its diminutive size lets it zoom down urban canyons to find hard-to-reach enemy hideouts, and it can send video to a remote PDA-size controller, revealing potential ambushes. Loaded with explosives, it could even enter an enemy compound on a suicide mission. Yet it’s not exclusively a military breed—Embla’s maneuverability makes it a good scout in emergency scenarios too dangerous for humans to enter.

Behavior: The Embla can change direction on a dime, fly at 50 mph, and climb to 10,000 feet. It also has the ability to hover in place to, for instance, transmit encrypted HD video. Notable Feature: Whereas a ducted fan funnels air straight down to generate lift, the Embla’s turbine sucks air in through its top and forces it out through a skirt-like wing. This design bends the flow toward the ground. This makes Embla strong enough to carry cameras, weapons and sensors on its belly, oriented toward the terrain it’s watching.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ion Tiger UAV

Ion Tiger UAV by Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C.

Ion Tiger UAV

Class: Endurance

Habitat: European airfields, potentially, from which it could reach the Middle East, once the Navy perfects the fuel-cell technology inside. It could fly as low as 1,000 feet without being heard on the ground, or as high as 14,000 feet.

Behavior: Its ability to stay aloft for 24 hours allows the Ion Tiger to encroach on the terrain of much bigger birds, such as the Predator, and its small size lets it get closer to a target to shoot footage with its lighter, cheaper camera.

Notable Feature: Its carbon-wrapped aluminum hydrogen tanks weigh only about nine pounds each, which helps this UAV stay airborne longer.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Excalibur UAV

Excalibur UAV by McArdle Productions

Excalibur UAV

Class: Hunt-and-kill

Habitat: Future war zones, on land and at sea. If Aurora Flight Sciences can scale up the prototype, Excalibur could be deployed on the battlefield within five years.

Behavior: Unlike Air Force drones, which are flown by operators stateside and are in short supply, the Excalibur can be remotely operated from wherever it’s deployed—the mountains of Afghanistan or the helipad of a ship—providing immediate tactical support to Army, Navy and Marine troops. It can take off and land without a runway and flies at 30,000 feet. Fitted with 400 pounds of laser-guided munitions, including Hellfire missiles, the hybrid turbine-electric Excalibur strikes enemy targets up to 600 miles away from its handler. It can loiter and inspect the damage with a suite of infrared or electro-optical surveillance cameras and follow anyone who gets away.

Notable Feature: After takeoff, the jet engine pivots in-line with the fuselage, and the lift turbines retract inside the wing section for forward flight. It travels at a brisk 530 mph—twice as fast as a helicopter.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

S-100 Camcopter UAV

S-100 Camcopter UAV by Franz Pfluegl/Schiebel.

S-100 Camcopter UAV

Class: Hovercraft

Habitat: Warships, borders, forest fires, mob scenes

Behavior: Made by Austrian electronics manufacturer Schiebel, the helicopter can take off and land autonomously from a half-sized helipad and fly for six hours with a 75-pound payload at 120 knots. Fitted with its standard infrared and daytime cameras, it can hover at up to 18,000 feet and watch anything from troop movements to illegal border crossings to spreading forest fires.

Notable Feature: Separate controls for the vehicle and the cameras or payload allow for complex missions, such as deploying tear gas over a crowd.