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Serbian firm Engine Development and Production (EDePro), is developing a lightweight rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the X-01 Strsljen (Hornet), which is designed to carry a variety of equipment for use in military and civilian operations.

The development of the aircraft began back in 2012 and was driven by customer requirements and market demands. The X-01 Hornet drone will be fully customisable, with a modified air-launched Spider anti-armour missile as one option, and a 12.7 mm machine gun, another. Further options include radar guidance and jamming systems, surveillance apparatus and the means to detect dangerous levels of radiation. 

Constructed from carbon fibre, lightweight steel and aluminium, the projected performance is a top speed of 180 km/h and a cruising speed of 160 km/h, as well as an endurance of up to four hours and a ceiling of 13,000 ft.

The aircraft will have an empty weight of 400 kg with a payload capacity (a mix of fuel and mission systems) of up to 350 kg.

EDePro hope to begin tests on the vehicle in the next few months, with transmission system and gearbox testing planned for mid-2017 and hovering tests scheduled for the autumn.

On March 2nd 2017, The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approved long awaited rules permitting the use of single-engine turbine aircraft (SET) airplanes at night or in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), for commercial operations in Europe.

Formerly, neither cargo or charter commercial operators were allowed to operate any single-engine aircraft in these conditions but the new rules now lifts those restrictions for turbine-powered aircraft.

The publication of these new rules in the EU’s Official Journal is the result of industry and regulators pushing for two decades for Europe to be aligned with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) standards for commercial turbine aircraft operations.

General aviation groups feel these new rule will contribute commercially and economically to the general aviation industry, by opening up markets across Europe. 

According to data recently released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) increasing numbers of possible sightings of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) or drones, have been reported to air traffic control facilities. Between February and September 2016, 1,274 sightings were reported, which is up by 45% (874 sightings) over the same period in 2015.

One of the FAA’s top priorities is to safely integrate drones into the national airspace system but to do this, operators must know where it’s legal for them to fly. To this end, the FAA offers a free app and details of operation rules can be found on their website, as the operators of illegal flights can be fined and/or face criminal charges.

While the reports of sightings may have increased and have even included claims by pilots of drone strikes, up to now the FAA have not been able to conclusively confirm any incident of a civil aircraft colliding with a civil drone. All reports to date have been found to be impacts with other objects, or bird strikes and have not involved a drone. 

  • FAA operating rules can be found here.
  • Details of the App can be found here.

United States President Donald Trump was among those who attended the Boeing ceremony on February 17 in South Carolina, where the first 787-10 widebody airliner was rolled out.  Next step for the 787-10 is the flight-test phase in advance of planned first deliveries for 2018.

Trump was introduced by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and delivered a speech emphasizing his “America first” philosophy.  Trump also made references to the Boeing 747-8 that will serve as the new Air Force One, around 2023.

The roll-out ceremony was strategically planned two days after production workers in South Carolina voted against joining the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers.  This means, South Carolina production workers will remain a non-union shop. 

The 787-10 widebody seats up to 330 passengers and is 18 feet longer than the 787-9 Dreamliner.  Boeing currently has 149 orders from nine different airline customers for this particular aircraft.

According to a recent poll the majority of Americans, regardless of gender, political affiliation and age group, strongly oppose privatization of the United States air traffic control system. 

The survey was conducted between January 30 and February 5, taking into account 800 randomly selected, likely voters.  Global Strategy Group conducted the survey and the Alliance for Aviation Across America paid for it. 

Voters surveyed were evenly split on the merits of privatizing government services generally but the ratio of those who oppose air traffic control system privatization to those who do not was more than 2:1.  Overall, almost 90% of the surveyed respondents said they had a positive view of the job done by the Federal Aviation Administration in operating the air traffic control system.

This poll should encourage ‘Americans Against Air Traffic Privatization’, who are a coalition of liberal advocacy groups that oppose a move to ATC privatization and who apparently have an online petition signed by 130,000 people that it will deliver to Congress.

Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) a principal of the coalition, who sits on the Republican-controlled House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.stated:

“Americans know that the only so-called innovations that the airlines have made in recent years are corporate consolidations that have resulted in fare increases and the introduction of hidden fees for everything from aisle seats to checked bags to stale coffee. Americans already dread the experience of air travel, and giving the airlines yet more power over the aviation system will not make flying any better or easier.”

The United States Helicopter Safety Team’s (USHST) 2016 accident rate findings show accident rates for the U.S. civil helicopter industry decreased, as aviation safety messages took center stage. 

Preliminary data shows that the 2016 accident rate was a little over 3 per 100,000 flight hours.  In 2015, this number was closer to 4 per 100,000 flight hours.  Overall, the helicopter industry has seen decreases in helicopter accidents for years now, beginning in 2013.  Although the fatal accident rate has remained pretty stagnant year-over-year, it was far lower than the goal set by USHST for 2016.

From 2016 through 2019, the USHST will focus on reducing fatal accidents in the civil helicopter community.  This is an industry and government initiative aiming to significantly reduce fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours by 2019. 

The data for 2016 is only preliminary and two more adjustments will probably be made to the annual rates.  Next month, the FAA’s next Aerospace Forecast will be released and the numbers could be adjusted if they differ from previous numbers.  Additionally, a final adjustment can be made after September 2017 when the FAA’s 2016 General Aviation and Part 135 Activity Survey is published.  

The aviation industry and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are currently working their way through a proverbial forest of ramifications after President Trump’s recent executive orders that called for a 60-day halt of new rules for a regulatory view.  Additionally, there is a requirement that two regulations must be rescinded for every single issue found.

In a memorandum submitted from Reince Preibus, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, officials were instructed to hold off from publishing new rules, even the ones sent to the Office of the Federal Register. However, although this memo instructed them to withdraw those already sent to the Federal Register, there were exceptions for “emergency situations or other urgent circumstances related to health, safety, financial or national security matters.”

There is speculation that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is developing agency specific instructions on how to implement the orders, because although a regulatory review is typical during any administration turnover, this new review has created a lot of confusion.  Questions been asked about whether the review is applicable to all regulations, especially safety regulations such as Airworthiness Directives. Aviation experts have noted that there haven’t been any new Airworthiness Directions issued by the FAA since the inauguration on January 20.

These Airworthiness Directives are usually the last step in the safety regulatory process. Aircraft operators and airlines first receive manufacturer bulletins about the problems, (so they are not unaware of serious safety problems) but often wait for final FAA notices to act.

In the fourth quarter of last year Bell Helicopter’s commercial deliveries fell by over 1/3, but Textron, Bell’s parent company, reported executives are starting to see things turn around.

In the fourth quarter of 2016 Bell delivered 35 commercial helicopters, down from 56 at the same time last year.  This dip, in addition to a softening on the military side, caused Bell revenue to drop from $1.035 billion to $887 million in the quarter.  Overall for the year, revenues were down from $3.454 billion in 2015 to $3.239 billion in 2016.

Textron chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly recently said that on the commercial side of the business it was a difficult period in the market with multiple quarters of low order flow.  He followed this by saying order activity started to pick back up in the back half of 2016.  Donnelly cited that the company is seeing a strong conversion of letters of intent to orders on its new 505 Jet Ranger X.

Overall, Bell is looking forward to restart flight tests for its 525 Relentless early this year.  This flight-test program was sidelined after FTV1 broke up in flight on July 6.

On December 29, 2016, Ohio businessman John T. Fleming crashed his 2012 CJ4 shortly after taking off, killing himself, his wife, his sons, his neighbor and his neighbor’s daughter.  Now, the NTSB’s preliminary report is saying he had only received his type rating in the jet weeks before crashing it into Lake Erie. 

The report’s initial findings show Fleming passed his CE-525S single pilot check-ride on December 8 after training in the aircraft.  Fleming went on to complete a FlightSafety International training course in a simulator a little over a week later.

The group of family and friends were returning to Columbus after going to a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game.  After investigating Fleming’s communications with ATC at KBKL, it appears he received an IFR clearance for a route to Ohio State University Airport around 10:50pm, receiving taxi clearance to Runway 24R.  The NTSB report claimed the pilot then received a takeoff clearance and was told to turn right to a heading of 330 degrees and maintain 2,000 feet.  It is then reported that Fleming did not respond to a handoff to Cleveland Departure.  Data indicates the aircraft began the right turn, climbing to about 2,925 feet and five seconds later entered a descending right turn into the final data point. 

The aircraft was missing for days as harsh weather conditions delayed the search efforts.  Investigators are still working to complete their report as the cockpit voice recorder is currently under analysis.

The AAIB reported recently in a special bulletin that a failed bearing led to the recent incident involving a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter operating in the North Sea.

The S-92’s tail rotor pitch change shaft double row angular contact bearing was found in a “severely distressed condition” with signs of extreme wear, as well as signs of overheating.  Aviation investigators found that the barrel-shaped rollers seized to the inner member, amongst other things.  These aviation experts found the torsional load caused the primary piston rod to fracture inside the servo, leading to the separation of the secondary piston sleeve causing the loss of tail rotor control.

The bulletin went on to describe that the aircraft was descending to land on the West Franklin helideck, the aircraft yawed to the right and rolled to the left causing landing gear to contact the helideck at the same time.  The helicopter rotated more than 180 degrees before the operators were able to land the helicopter and shut it down.

Sikorsky quickly issued an alert service bulletin after the incident occurred, requiring all operators to perform a one-time inspection of the TRPCS and bearing assembly for ratcheting, binding and/or rough turning.  Additionally, the company is requiring operators to use S-92 HUMS ground station software to review tail rotor gearbox condition indicators on a reduced interval.

There were no injuries in the incident.

In 2016 Boeing, a United States airframer, disclosed it booked 669 net orders.  While these net orders equated to a value of about $94.1 billion, the company fell short of the 740-order goal that had been set for the year.

On the flip side, Boeing delivered 748 commercial jets last year, which did fall within its forecast of 745 - 750 deliveries.

Overall it was a successful year for Boeing, reporting 550 net orders for the 737 family.  The company also won orders for seventeen 747s, twenty six 767s, seventeen 777s and fifty eight 787s.  Aviation experts say that even with 180 cancelled orders in 2016, the fact that there were fifty eight orders for the 787 is a feat in itself when you consider all of the battery issues.

Additionally, 2017 appears to have commenced on a positive note, with Boeing announcing that India’s Spicejet have placed a new order for 100 737 Max 8’s. This is over and above a previously released contract for 43 jets.