-Those Fantastic Flying Machines-


Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.— Socrates


Search This Blog

Featured Videos


Monday, October 24, 2011

Boeing 747-246B

F1 Mirage Ultra Low High Speed Fly By

Boeing Dreamliner Composite Repairs Questioned by U.S. Watchdog

Boeing Dreamliner Composite Repairs Questioned by U.S. Watchdog

Members of the media look at a Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner for All Nippon Airways Co. in a hanger at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan. The Dreamliner faces four “safety-related concerns” about repairs to the composites used for the fuselage and wings, the GAO said. Photo: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg
Boeing Co. (BA)’s new 787 Dreamliner, set to fly its first paying passengers next week, faces four “safety-related concerns” about repairs to the composites used for the fuselage and wings, a U.S. agency said.
A review of the Dreamliner, the first airliner built with carbon-fiber reinforced composite plastics instead of metal, was released Oct. 20 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO identified four concerns: limited information on the behavior of airplane composite structures; technical issues with the materials’ unique properties; standards for repairs; and training and awareness.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certified the 787 in August following 20 months of flight tests, after requiring that Boeing take extra steps to demonstrate its safety. The GAO was asked by three members of Congress to review the FAA’s certification process and planned oversight once the model enters service, and consulted experts on repair and maintenance.
“None of the experts believed these concerns posed extraordinary safety risks or were insurmountable,” the GAO said in its report. Still, while the FAA is taking action to address the matters, “until these composite airplanes enter service, it is unclear if these actions will be sufficient,” the report said.
The 250-seat Dreamliner uses the lighter-weight composites, new engines and the first all-electric system to help it fly farther with less fuel.

Charter Flight

Chicago-based Boeing delivered the plane last month to its first customer, Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways Co., more than three years late after Boeing struggled with the new materials and manufacturing processes. The Dreamliner is scheduled for a charter flight from Tokyo toHong Kong on Oct. 26 and will enter regular service the following week.
“Regardless of the materials we use, Boeing employs the same rigorous methods to deliver products that are safe for the flying public and efficient for airlines,” said Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman in Seattle. “Composite materials have been used in commercial airplanes for decades.
‘‘The concerns in the GAO report are limited to support activities,’’ which already are being addressed through an industrywide effort involving regulators, manufacturers, operators and maintenance and repair organizations, Birtel said.
Boeing has used composites for other airliners before, including the 777, though never for the whole fuselage and wings as in the 787.

Repairs Different

The Dreamliner’s fuselage is made of reinforced carbon fibers spun around a barrel mold and baked, so repairs will be handled differently than with traditional aircraft that are built of riveted aluminum panels.
‘‘The FAA conducts a rigorous certification process for every new airplane that ensures it meets the highest levels of safety, and the FAA has certified commercial aircraft that use composite materials for decades,’’ the agency said yesterday in a statement. ‘‘In addition to the extensive certification requirements, the FAA’s robust safety oversight system is designed to detect and correct any issues that may emerge during actual flight.’’
The GAO’s review was requested by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, Representative Donna Edwards of Maryland and Representative Jerry Costello of Illinois, all Democrats.
They wrote a letter to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt on Oct. 20, asking that he explain what ‘‘practical and proactive’’ steps are being taken to ensure ‘‘robust oversight’’ of the 787’s maintenance and repair.

Training Personnel

As the model enters service, the FAA will need to train more personnel to deal with composites and certify more repair centers to handle work on the new planes, the GAO report said. Boeing has orders for about 800 of the 787s from carriers around the world, making it the company’s fastest-selling new plane ever.
‘‘Composite-built aircraft present opportunities as well as unique and complex challenges, and we need to make sure the FAA is addressing all of these challenges appropriately,” Johnson said yesterday in a statement.
All Nippon Airways’s first Dreamliner already suffered some slight surface damage to the engine cowling when it hit a passenger boarding bridge earlier this month, Flightglobal reported Oct. 19. The plane resumed regular flight tests with the carrier in Japan after the company did some checks, the trade publication said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Susanna Ray in Seattle at sray7@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cathay Pacific Debuts 747-8F

Cathay Pacific Debuts 747-8F
Yesterday marked the ceremonial delivery of Cathay Pacific's first 747-8F. 747-8 Program Chief Elizabeth Lund and Cathay Pacific Cargo Director Nick Rhodes were on hand for certificate signing, ribbon cutting, and discussions of the program and what the 747-8F will do for Cathay.

The star of the show, however, was B-LJA (msn: 39238), unveiled dramatically to an eager crowd at the Future of Flight Museum, located at the northwest corner of Paine Field. B-LJA is painted in a special "Hong Kong Trader" color scheme designed to harken back to when Cathay first launched 747 main-deck cargo operations in the early 1980s. Cathay's first freighter was a 747-200B, VR-HVY (msn: 22306) christened "Hong Kong Trader," it served with Cathay until 2008.

The first Cathay 747-8F to be physically delivered and potentially enter service is expected to be B-LJE (msn: 39242), which may be delivered in the next few days. Several more Cathay 747-8Fs are on the flight line at Paine Field being readied for delivery, while one more is in the final assembly position in the factory. Altogether Cathay has ten 747-8Fs on order, with delivery through the end of 2012. The -8Fs will be used exclusively on trans-Pacific routes from Hong Kong, with services to other destinations operated by a mix of 747-400Fs, -400ERFs and -400BCFs in the Cathay fleet. Beginning in 2014 Cathay will begin taking delivery of new 777Fs, which are being acquired to serve intra-Asia routes.

Photographer: Alex Kwanten

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

F-35B Sea Trials Showcase Promising Results

F-35B Sea Trials Showcase Promising Results

Published: October 18, 2011
Text Size

Aboard the USS Wasp: The sleek, angular plane pulls up to the flight line. The jet's single engine rumbles slowly while waiting for the high-sign to takeoff.

Once the member of the deck crew threw his thumbs up, the jet's center fan -- which gives the F-35 the ability to take off from smaller carriers and land vertically on those same ships -- whirred to life. The sound from the fan, once fully spooled up, combined with the roar from the F135 engine was deafening even from the upper decks where I stood.
Suddenly -- with almost no warning -- the jet jumps up from the flight line, hurtles down the short runway and roars hard toward the blue sky in a burst of heat, noise and smoke. In a few short minutes, it was gone.

After taking a lazy loop over the ocean after takeoff, the jet banked hard toward the ship and made what seemed to be an incredibly low pass over the control tower. After making that pass, the F-35B circled back again, but this time to begin the vertical landing maneuver.

As the fighter came back toward the ship, the center fan spun back to life again, bringing the jet to a virtual stop in mid-flight. The F-35B hovered over the landing zone, air bellowing from the engine and center fan and throwing up massive sea spray around the deck and surrounding area near the landing zone below.

The vertical landing evoked sense of controlled chaos. The fighter hovered and then seemed to just settle down on the deck, its landing gear making a dull thump sound once it touched down. The gentle motion didn't seem to match the violent whine of the engine and the heat from the fan that you could feel in your chest.

Like the takeoff minutes before, the landing was over in minutes. The center fan shut down almost immediately, the engine throttled back down to a dull buzz and the deck crew scrambled all around the jet -- getting it ready to do it all over again.

I watched the F-35B test jet do that twice today, and as we moved below decks to talk to program officials, I could hear the fighter making more passes over the ship.

These flight test were the culmination of an important few weeks for the F-35B, beginning with the first ever sea-based, vertical landing of the jet earlier this month.

Since that landing, program officials have addressed a handful of small issues with the two F-35B test jets, Col. Roger Cordell, director of the F-35 Integrated Test Facility, said.

Program engineers corrected a fuel leak in one of the jets, BF-2, early on during the flight trials, Cordell said, in addition to a few other minor anomalies. They were quickly corrected and did not affect the testing schedule set by the program office, he added.

When asked for his assessment of the fighter's progress during the sea trials, Cordell was clear: "We are running where we intended to crawl."

Using the AV-8B Harrier as an example, Cordell said that Marine pilots had to "fight" the Harrier's control systems to fly it safely and correctly. The intuitive controls of the F-35B, he said, eliminates that problem and lets pilots concentrate "on fighting the enemy."

Program officials here added the fighter's progress during the trials came as no surprise, claiming the jet's overall performance was never in doubt.

Less than a year ago, then Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the F-35B under a two-year probation, pointing to cost growth and schedule delays. The fighter's performance during these sea tests may pacify some of the program's critics. But doubt over the F-35B persist at some of the highest levels inside the Pentagon.

New Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey gave a less-than-ringing endorsement of the program during his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee last week.

Given the tremendous budget pressures the department was now under, Depmsey questioned whether DoD could afford to buy all three versions of the F-35. Along with the Marine Corps' F-35B, other versions for the Air Force and the Navy are also being built.

But one strike group commander told me that no matter how much money the Pentagon can save by killing the F-35B, the Marine Corps cannot afford to lose the fighter from the arsenal.

By getting the JSF on the decks of the Marines fleet of amphibious ships, those forces can take "the next step to respond" to any kind of combat scenario "across the full spectrum of operations," Rear Adm. Kevin Scott, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Two, said.

With the jet, Scott said he could push his forces farther and respond faster than he could with the current fleet of attack jets and helicopters at his disposal.

Scott wouldn't speculate on what would happen if the F-35B did not make it into the arsenal. The one-star simply said he and his troops would do the job they were assigned with whatever assets they've got. But he said the F-35B would make his job, and that of his fellow combat commanders, a lot easier.