Monday, November 15, 2010

Aviation News Roundup

Here is some news from the Aviation world that is not makeing too big a splash on the MSM.

Boeing 787 Troubles:
This latest in the long line of commercial haulers from Boeing was well on its way to certification and delivery to an actual paying customer however, all flight testing of the 6 test aircraft was suspended recently after a fire in the #2 test aircraft. This aircraft was on approach to land at an airport in Laredo, TX when the fire broke out in the aft electronics bay. The resulting load shedding to the redundant load center on the other side of the aircraft left the cockpit with a single flight instrument to land the aircraft. The pilot at the controls at the time of the fire: an FAA Test Pilot.

The reported source of the fire as a power distribution panel which are not like the power panels in my beloved S-3. These are highley specialized panels that are as much a computer with embedded programming on them as they are a circuit relay. The modern trend in aircraft is to be more reliant on electrical flight controls (Fly-by-Wire) instead of hydrolics or steel cables. So, there is a lot of dependance on the electricity generated onboard.

The fire was fierce enough to get insulation in the avionics bay to ignight and molten metal dripped onto the inside surface of the composite outter skin of the aircraft. That may comprimse the integreity of that material and a study of the damage is underway. The 787 structure is made mostly of composite materials so this may be one of those failures that derive a lot of knowledge from.

Airbus A380 Troubles
Airbus is also at witts end with an incident that occured late last month. A Quantas Airlines A380 experienced what is called an "uncontained engine failure". In plain speak this is an engine failure where part of the motor is ejected from the motor housing and into the aircraft. The wing in this case. The part went up through the bottom of the wing and severed hydrolic lines and electrical cables before exiting out of the top of the wing. Oh yeah, and a fuel line as well. They were very lucky that the path of that part did not include the fuel tank itself. And that is what makes an "uncontained" failure a big thing as opposed to say a simple engine failure where the parts stay inside the motor housing.

Here is a picture of the damage on the top of the wing, this is where the parts have exited the wing.
Picture stolen from some where on the internet, I forget now. Sorry.

That's a pretty ugly exit wound there folks. That discoloration in the hole on the right is a liquid leaking out that is significantly cooler than the wing itself. Like fuel. More pictures here from Airbus (they are ugly).

All operators of the A380 grounded their aircraft pending the results of the investigation which centered on an oil leak. Many of the operators have commenced to removing the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines which on inspection indicated an oil leak of some kind.

This was the second time in a very short period of time where a Rolls Royce motor has had this kind of failure (the uncontained type), the first being a test engine for the Boeing 787, a Trent 1000 motor. This engine was on a test stand when the failure occured. The 787 is offered with two different motors which operators can select so Boeing is not in a pickle over the problems over at Rolls Royce. Similarly Airbus sells the A380 with a different motor but customers decide which motor they want and they usually pick one from a manufacturer with whom they already have motors in other aircraft.

Eclipse back on its Feet
Eclipse 500 taken from the Eclipse website.

Good news from my home town, Albuquerque. Eclipse Aerospace took over ownership of the former Eclipse Aviation which went into bankruptcy. The new company has focused on getting a support and logistics train up and running for the 260 odd aircraft delivered before Eclipse went under. In a program they call "Total Eclipse" which the primary goal is to buy back aircraft, re-furbish them to a single production standard and then resell them.

They are doing gang busters in this effort having completed more than 50 aircraft and now there is talk of possibly opening the production line and building new aircraft. What a good deal that would be.

And that's not all, they have gained certification from the FAA for Flight into known Iceing conditions and for flight above 40,000 feet. These are big.

In a perfect world these guys get back to going strong and they can open the production line again. Whis is a wonderful concept for an aircraft and represents a fundemental change in building aircraft. Me things the previous owners bite off more than they could chew.

In other Eclipse news Sikorsky Aircraft recently bought an equity stake in Eclipse Aerospace giving Eclipse a much needed infusion of funding and major corporate stability. What is in the deal for Sikorsky? Who knows, maybe they want to make a tilt rotor version of the Eclipse 500 aircraft. Works for me.

USMC to "Harvest" more Bad Guys

The USMC deployed the first and only KC-130J aircraft with the "Harvest Hawk" modification installed. This modification gives this particular aircraft some teeth that your normal refueling aircraft does not have. The Harvest Hawk modification includes a 4th generation EO/IR Ball that gives them a great picture day and night of activity on the ground and a laser capability as well (for range finding and target desigination). The teeth in the system is the addition of 4 Hellfire missiles mounted on the outboard wing pylon and 10 each Griffen GPS guided Air to Surface missiles. The Griffen is a smaller sized missile than the Hellfire and uses the GPS to home in on a position. I knew nothing about them so I did a little digging, here is something on them. These are mounted on the Cargo Bay ramp allowing for the system to be removed in a case where the aircraft is needed for purley cargo purposes. A neat trick.

The Misguided Children have done what they do best: adapt, improvise, overcome and then kill the enmey.

China C919 to Compete with Boeing and Airbus

Huge air show over in China of all places, the Zhuahai Air show 2010. One of the exhibitors is Comac, the Chinese National Aircraft builder, the Airbus of China and just like Airbus they are owned by the government. Their big news, they are going into production on C919 single asile passenger aircraft. They announced that they have advanced orders for over a 100 aircraft and will deliver their first "revenue" aircraft in 2016. The aircraft will carry between 150 and 190 passengers and is designed to compete with the Boeing 737's and the Airbus A320's.

Picutre of a C919 full scale mock-up as displayed at Zhuahai 2010. Picture taken from

Comes with a pretty nifty glass cockpit and a Heads Up Display. This is interesting on two points, the first is that it is another government sponsered enterprise competing with Airbus. Like Airbus making a profit is secondary in their business planning. This is another massive Jobs program and more importantly it is their graduation onto the world stage of techonology. No longer do they only mass manufacture toys and trinkets. They are capable of making passenger aircraft all on their own.

Picture shows the C919 cockpit with HUD's and a line of Glass Flat Panels that seems to go on forever. Two of them in fact. The engine monitoring system are in flat planes also. Picture taken from

This brings up the second point, that is how much of this knowledge they learned at the hands of Boeing. Yes, Boeing had a huge hand in teaching the Chinese how to build that aircraft. Oh, they did not start out duplicating whole aircraft, but Boeing went to China many decades ago to get small parts manufactured for them in exchange for the many national airlines purchasing Boeing product. This over the years morphed into bigger and bigger parts. Whole sub assemblies of aircraft are now built there and the Chinese have turned all this gained knowledge into well, the C919.

I mentinoned in a post back last year that Boeing should have been spending all that money and energy to develop alternate suppliers in Mexico. It would have resulted in lower transportation costs and more importantly, they would not be using that knowledge against them. Oh well. Live and learn I say.

I'll have more Aviation news soon, there is a starteling Tanker Wars update coming.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

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