Sunday, February 28, 2010

Martin Jetpack - World's First Commercial Jetpack

The Martin Aircraft Company has created the first jetpack that will be commercially available.

The jetpack has a height of five feet, width of five-and-a-half feet and a length of five feet, and features a dual-propeller construction that uses fans to provide lift instead of jets of exhaust gas.
Martin Jetpack - World's First Commercial Jetpack

The company's chief executive, Richard Lauder, expects the jetpacks will be sold to a variety of different buyers--from emergency service personnel and private users to the military.

Its fuel capacity is five gallons, but its consumption is ten gallons an hour, which results in an operation time of around 30 minutes on a full tank. FAA regulations limit the maximum speed to 63 mph, which means the furthest a pack can travel on one tank is about 31.5 miles. When empty, the Jetpack weighs 250 pounds and can carry a pilot of over 280 pounds.

Martin Jetpack - World's First Commercial Jetpack
The jetpack complies with FAA Ultralight Regulations, and though users will not need a pilot's license to fly the equipment, they will be required to complete Martin's training program before receiving their jetpack. Training for the first ten owners will be held in New Zealand, where the company is headquartered.

Safety features include an internal roll cage, parachute, a proposed "minimal avoidance curve," and no tail rotor or exposed rotors that are often the cause of light helicopter accidents.

The company intends to manufacture 500 packs a year and sell them for 50,000 pounds (around $76,000) each.

See the jetpack in action below:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Guardian UAV for drug traffic-monitoring

Over-water developmental tests of the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) first Guardian UAV at Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Calif., were completed on Feb. 11 after “a flawless 8-hr. flight”. In light of this success, all back-up flights previously scheduled have been canceled and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) crews are currently preparing the aircraft for transit to Florida, with an expected arrival date of Feb. 22 and first-flight date of Feb. 25.

The prototype maritime variant, distinguished by a belly-mounted APS-134 SeaVue surveillance radar, is aimed at drug traffic-monitoring. The radar provides inverse synthetic aperture and synthetic aperture imaging as well as weather and target detection and search-and-rescue transponder modes. The UAV will be used initially by CBP in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard to test its reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting acquisition capabilities in coastal waters. CBP says the Guardian will eventually support joint counter-narcotics operations against drug-running “fast boats” and difficult-to-detect semi-submersible craft.

With a second vehicle due for delivery for trials next month, GA-ASI is optimistic additional Guardian systems can follow the initial deployment. CBP has a strategic plan for up to 18 Predator-type vehicles, of which at least six will be for maritime missions.

Gray Eagle - New Predator Variants

Weapons tests of the Army’s MQ-1C Sky Warrior, a heavily modified derivative of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) Predator A, were successfully completed following the last live firings of nine Hellfire P+ missiles. A post-test review identified “minor technical and desired fixes,” and that an “ updated software release will be verification-tested in March from GA-ASI El Mirage flight operations facility.”

The MQ-1C, soon to be redesignated the Gray Eagle —currently also known as the Army’s extended range/multipurpose (ER/MP) unmanned aircraft system —is being fast-tracked into service with newly formed quick reaction capability (QRC) units in Iraq and Afghanistan. The updated release will be used to support soldier training prior to a limited user test scheduled for May, and subsequent fielding slated for July .

The weapons tests, which began at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Center at China Lake in late November, are part of preparations to arm aircraft for a second quick-reaction unit, QRC-2. The first QRC unit was created during Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance surge and is deployed in Iraq with four unarmed aircraft providing long-endurance, wide-area reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and communications relay capability.

GA-ASI says it also “preparing proposals” to support low-rate initial production of the MQ-1C following the Army’s Feb. 2 announcement that the UAV had successfully completed the Milestone C review. The San Diego-based manufacturer now expects a contract award in March for 26 aircraft to be delivered in 2012.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Air France A380 grounded for fourth time due to fuelling problem

The first A380 superjumbo operated by Air France was forced to turn back to New York mid-flight yesterday because of a fuelling problem, the plane's fourth glitch in as many months, the airline said.

"The fault involves a problem in the fuel system," an Air France spokeswoman said, confirming that the A380 turned back to New York on Monday morning and was grounded there.

The plane had no passengers on board at the time and was returning to Paris for servicing, she added.

Air France started flying the giant double-decker jet, the world's largest passenger plane, on November 23. The same plane was grounded three times last year for technical glitches, one of which also involved the fuel system.

The company has a second A380 in service on its route from Paris to Johannesburg and has ordered 10 more.

Recommended reading:
* Qantas A380 Airbus fly passengers over Antarctica
* Qantas A380 passengers tarmac ordeal

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Photo gallery of Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Inside View of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Inside View of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Inside View of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Inside View of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Inside View of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Inside View of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Inside View of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Inside Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Inside View of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

Recommended reading:
* Boeing 747-8 Freighter maiden flight

Monday, February 8, 2010

Boeing 747-8 Freighter maiden flight

US aerospace giant Boeing's newest version of its 747 jumbo jet took to the skies for the first time yesterday, the company said.

The 747-8 is Boeing's answer to the A380, the super-jumbo aircraft made by European rival Airbus.
Boeing 747-8 Freighter maiden flight

Boeing claims the high-capacity 747-8 Freighter will give cargo operators the lowest operating costs and best economics of any freighter plane while providing enhanced environmental performance.

It provides customers with 16 per cent more revenue cargo volume compared with the 747-400 freighter, the company says.

A commercial passenger version, the 747-8 Intercontinental, is also under development.

Boeing 747-8 Freighter maiden flight
The 747-8 Freighter destined for launch customer Cargolux, a Luxembourg-based cargo airline, taxied down a runway at Paine Field Airport in Everett, Washington state, and lifted off at 12.39pm, a Boeing webcast showed.

The airport is home to the Boeing manufacturing plant for the 747, 767, 777, and the new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, whose advanced technologies the new 747-8 shares.

Pilots Mark Feuerstein and Thomas Imrich have about "three to four hours to test out this airplane for the first time", a Boeing spokesman said on the video.

They may decide to cut the flight short because the take-off had been delayed by inclement weather and they would want to land before nightfall, the spokesman said.

Like the 787 Dreamliner program, the 747-8 program has been plagued by delays due to production problems and a machinists' strike.

First deliveries, initially slated for late last year, are now set for the fourth quarter of this year.

The 787 Dreamliner made its first flight on December 15, more than two years behind the original schedule.

The designation 747-8 was chosen to reflect 787 Dreamliner technologies, the Chicago-based aerospace giant said.

The 747-8 Freighter "performed well" in taxi tests on Saturday, the last functional test before the aircraft's first flight, said Mo Yahyavi, 747 program vice-president and general manager of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"Based on early indications, the airplane is ready to fly."

Boeing highlights that this latest fuel-efficient version of its popular jumbo jet is the only large plane that fits existing airport infrastructure.

The 747-8 Intercontinental is 16 per cent more fuel efficient than the 747-400 and 11 per cent more fuel efficient than the A380, the super jumbo plane made by European rival Airbus, the company says.

Boeing launched the 747-8 plane on November 14, 2005, with firm orders for 18 747-8 Freighters; 10 from Cargolux and eight from Nippon Cargo Airlines of Japan.

The company said that through January it had 76 orders for the 747-8 Freighters, including from Cathay Pacific Airways and Dubai Aerospace Enterprise. The listed price range was $US301.5 million ($349.4 million) to $US304.5 million.

For the 747-8 Intercontinental, Boeing reported 32 orders: Lufthansa (20), Business Jet/VIP customers (seven), and Korean Air (five). The passenger aircraft was priced between $US293 and $US308 million.

Recommended reading:
* Boeing's 787 Dreamliner maiden flight

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

US Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Darmstadt, Germany

blackhawk_crashed_darmstadt_germanyA U.S. military Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Germany on Wednesday, killing three crew members, U.S. Army public affairs specialist Bruce Anderson said.

A police officer in the German state of Hesse put the crash site near Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt, near a helicopter landing site in Mannheim.

Names of the victims were being withheld pending notification of relatives, Anderson said.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, he said.

The state of Hesse is in west-central Germany.

Recommended reading:
* Air Berlin Boeing 737-800 overshoots Dortmund runway

Australia Heron UAV

The first Australian-leased Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle will shortly begin operations supporting Australian troops in Afghanistan. For the past four months, a small Royal Australian Air Force detachment has been preparing for the delivery of the Australian Heron, by working with the Canadian Heron detachment at Kandahar airfield, drawing on the Canadians operational knowledge, experience and facilities.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pilot-less A160 Black Hawk Drone

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. is launching a $1 billion venture featuring a pilot-less Black Hawk helicopter as military demand rises for technology to fight two wars.

The Stratford-based helicopter maker and military contractor announced Monday the creation of Sikorsky Innovations, intended to speed the transformation of the mechanical helicopter into a computerized aircraft.

It also will promote projects that are now designing helicopters to fly faster, simulate vision and monitor their own performance.

The Black Hawk is a military workhorse, used in Afghanistan, Iraq, Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989 and the Gulf War in 1991. It's also part of military packages sold to other nations and has been used in civilian missions such as rescuing snowbound mountain climbers.

The Black Hawk helicopter, used for air assault and medical evacuation, was featured in the book and movie, "Black Hawk Down," chronicling a battle in Somalia in 1993 when two helicopters were shot down, killing 18 soldiers.

Some of the deadliest crashes involving five Black Hawk helicopters in Iraq killed 51 soldiers between 2003 and 2007. The helicopter is relied upon in Afghanistan, a mountainous nation with long stretches of desert and few decent roads.

Unmanned war planes are not recent, but are drawing interest from commanders trying to reduce casualties while not relenting in combat.

"The new thing here is to apply technologies in small airplanes and rotorcraft to the 20,000-pound Black Hawk," said Chris Van Buiten, director of Sikorsky Innovations. "It ups the stakes."

Mark Miller, vice president of research and engineering at the subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., said officials want to harness Sikorsky's rapid growth -- revenue and profit have more than doubled over the past five years -- with technological advances that are remaking helicopters.

Sikorsky Innovations can now "change the game" in the manufacturer's next generation of helicopters, he said.

"It will be chartered with doing things quicker, faster and bringing new technology to markets," Miller said.

Sikorsky will design and build an "optionally piloted helicopter" to resupply troops or engage in battle. It will give commanders a choice between operating a Black Hawk with one pilot or two or none.

"We'll let it adapt to the mission," Van Buiten said.

Sikorsky is jumping into a lucrative and growing market. Steven Zaloga, a senior analyst at Teal Group Corp. in Fairfax, Va., said unmanned aerial vehicles represent "one of the few dynamic markets" in the aerospace industry hit hard in the recession.

The Teal Group estimates the global market for unmanned aerial vehicle hardware will rise from $2.9 billion this year to $5.5 billion in 2019, Zaloga said.

Mark Tattershall, director of marketing and business development at Kaman Corp., a Bloomfield, Conn.-based aerospace manufacturer, said Kaman and Lockheed Martin Corp. demonstrated an unmanned cargo helicopter in Utah last week.

"To control something that's within sight is one challenge," he said. "To control something on the other side of a mountain and have it safely put down a load successfully and safely is a big challenge."

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has developed the A160, which is now being tested by the Army and its network of researchers.

Phil Hunt, a program manager at the agency, said challenges include unmanned aircraft seeing and avoiding other aircraft in federally-regulated or military airspace and the potential dangers of carrying weapons at the time of a crash.

Sikorsky Innovations, which over 10 years will spend $1 billion from Sikorsky and its customers, also is researching technologies that would vastly increase a helicopter's speed, enable helicopters to use computers to see through dust storms kicked up during takeoffs and landings, allow helicopters to gather data about their own condition and tailor the performance for quieter and more comfortable rides if necessary.

"We can allow a helicopter to morph itself for each function," Miller said.

Recommended reading:
* MQ-1C Sky Warrior
* RQ-170 Sentinel Drone - Beast of Kandahar
* MQ-1 Predator Drone

Monday, February 1, 2010

MQ-1C Sky Warrior

After completing a 24-hour mission, an MQ-1C Sky Warrior aircraft makes a landing (see photo below). The Sky Warrior aircraft has the ability to remain airborne for up to 24 hours straight to conduct continuous missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Recommended reading:
* RQ-170 Sentinel Drone - Beast of Kandahar
* MQ-1 Predator Drone