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MIRCE Science Events

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Category: General

17 September 2020: Rolls-Royce virtual reality engine training

Rolls-Royce has been using Librestream Onsight Connect to deliver online training to inspectors so they can carry out inspections of IP compressor blades on Trent 1000 engines. This action has helped customers like Air China avoid AOG situations during the pandemic. Hence, it expanded the use of its Virtual Reality (VR) training for customers in May in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding a program for the BR725 engine that powers Gulfstream G650 family aircraft. According to Rolls-Royce, customers just need an internet connection and the required VR equipment, which it ships to them, rather than shipping a full size training engine. The VR training lets users interact with the engine alone or the engine installed on an aircraft in a virtual hangar. RR first launched VR training as parts of its IntelligentEngine vision through a collaboration with Qatar Airways in April 2019. The airline is using the technology to train engineers on Trent XWB engines, which power the Airbus A350.


17 September 2020: AvAir Snaps Up Aerolíneas Argentinas' Surplus Inventory

Aerolíneas Argentinas , like most airlines operating worldwide, has felt the impact of the novel coronavirus and has explored ways to preserve liquidity in the business. AvAir, U.S.-based aftermarket inventory specialist has acquired surplus Airbus and Boeing parts stock of 45,000 line items of routable and consumable material from the airline that has retired its Airbus A340 aircraft fleet. In the wake of COVID-19, the airline saw a 97% decrease in income, and throughout the summer, has been linked with a multi-million-dollar cash injection from Argentina’s government, which already holds a majority stake in the carrier. Supply chain manager at the carrier, said the offloading of surplus stock to AvAir will allow it to monetise unused assets while providing additional liquidity for its operation when they need it most.  AvAir’s latest acquisition of surplus assets follows the addition of around 9,000 line items from Lufthansa Technik earlier this year. The agreement was comprised of overstock from the German MRO’s rotable spares inventory. In total, the items were valued at around $100 million. As of September 2020, AvAir estimates it has an inventory of around 26 million routable and consumable components available to buy, sell, exchange, loan, lease and consign. Pre-COVID-19, the company expanded its operations by opening a new 25,000 ft.2 warehouse at Dublin Airport in Ireland.

2 September 2020: Boeing Identifies Two Production-Related Structural Issues In Multiple 787s

Boeing is working to determine the cause and scope of two different manufacturing quality problems in its Boeing 787 production process that, when combined, make affected aircraft susceptible to structure failure at loads they should be able to withstand. Boeing prompted the manufacturer to recommend immediate inspections and, likely, repairs that would take about two weeks per airframe. Boeing did not publicly identity any of 8 known the operators or specific airframes affected by the issue, but they are from a batch produced sequentially in 2019. The problems were detected initially when an inspection revealed a problem with shims, which is a material added during assembly that fills gaps between structures or adjusts how pieces fit together to ensure tolerances are met. The composite material that makes up the 787 fuselage is extremely stiff when cured. Achieving the correct corner angle between the cured part and final shape is hard to control and predict, so shimming is usually required to make parts of the 787 fuselage sections mate together. In some 787s, Boeing found the shims are not the correct size. The second issue is an out-of-tolerance problem with the surface of the inner mould line. The defect areas in the problem aircraft exceeded the 0.005 in. tolerance limit for flatness. The eight aircraft flagged by Boeing have both defects. Neither problem on its own creates an immediate safety-of-flight issue, Boeing said. However, combined in the same physical location, the issues create a situation where the affected aircraft no longer meets limit load conditions, or the maximum load the design is expected to experience in service. Boeing is examining the rest of the fleet to determine the extent of each defect, but it has determined that all other aircraft meet limit-load requirements. 

31 August 2020: Troubled F-35 Autonomic Logistics System to be Replaced

Currently, F-35 users operate the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) that collects in-flight information for maintainers to predict part failures. This, the problem-plagued logistics system, has encountered numerous issues that range from directing unnecessary maintenance actions, taking too long to boot up and time-consuming data entry. For example, users told the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that electronic records are frequently corrupt or missing, resulting in ALIS signalling the jet should not fly. This occurs in cases where maintainers know the aircraft is safe for flight. Maintainers at one location told the GAO they experienced, as many as, 400 issues per week for one six-month period in 2019. Consequently, the Pentagon is in the early stages of replacing ALIS with a new, cloud-based network, and hopes to get it up and running by the end of 2022. The Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN) is intended to reduce workload and increase F-35 mission readiness rates by using a smaller, deployable, commercial and cloud-native architecture.  ODIN hardware is designed to have a 75% smaller footprint than the legacy system, and be approximately 94% lighter (50 lb, compared with 891 lb). Second radical difference between the two systems is F-35 prime contractor Lockheed owns ALIS development and the new network is being developed by the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). It is using agile software development tools that allow rapid updates and improvements like how Apple updates its iPhones, while Lockheed employs waterfall development that allows for updates every 12-18 months. In January, the JPO hit its first milestone by moving existing F-35 data into a new, integrated environment that will support applications.  

12 August 2020: Rolls-Royce Detected Trent XWB High-Time Wear Issue

During a scheduled overhaul Rolls-Royce has discovered cracks in the intermediate pressure (IP) compressor blades of higher-time Trent XWB-84 engines. They were found in the roots of a limited population of first-stage IP compressor blades of engines undergoing their first overhaul since entering service on the A350 in 2015 and 2016. It is expected that European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will make the IP compressor inspections the subject of an imminent airworthiness directive. According to RR “nothing has actually happened with any of these engines. There has been no abnormal operation, no vibration, and no in-flight shutdowns. It’s a case of ‘we have a problem and we need to find out where it’s coming from’. Now we have found it, we’ll have to make sure that we are effectively doing the right thing and scanning the fleet in the appropriate age and actually go to a repeat inspection regime.” Cracks were found in isolated blades in 20% of the approximately 100 higher time engines inspected to-date. The trouble-shooting team aims to complete a vibration survey and root-cause analysis by year’s end. In the meantime, affected engines will be retrofitted with new first-stage blades pending the longer-term development of a permanent fix.

4 August 2020: Wiring Fixes Require Before B737 MAX Can Return

Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) proposed to include separating wire bundles deemed to be noncompliant with regulations and conducting “readiness” flights, in order to clear Boeing 737 MAXs for service to ensure the long-grounded aircraft are airworthy. The wire-bundle issue, discovered during regulators’ comprehensive review of the MAX’s design and certification, concerns horizontal stabiliser trim arm and control wiring that runs the length of the aircraft. The FAA found that the wiring needs to be separated in 12 places to meet 2007 regulatory changes put in place to prevent wiring failures from creating hazards. The agency ordered Boeing to fix the issue on new-production MAXs and develop instructions for in-service aircraft. Numerous MAX operators planned to take advantage of the ongoing grounding and make the wiring changes before returning their MAXs to revenue flying, using service instructions Boeing issued on June 10. What was not clear: whether the FAA would require operators to address the issue before the MAXs flew again or give them the flexibility of a longer window for compliance, which is typical for many airworthiness directives. Now is confirmed that the wiring work is one of several steps that must be completed on each existing MAX before returning to revenue service.

30 July 2020: Cathay Pacific Moving 60 Aircraft To Storage

Cathay Pacific has confirmed it will park aircraft while they are not flying in locations beyond Hong Kong’s humid climate. They will be using Alice Springs in Australia for the first batch of aircraft and are in discussions with facilities in other suitable locations, in line with “prudent operational and asset management considerations. In addition to its humid climate, Hong Kong is also approaching the typhoon season that starts in August. The first Cathay aircraft, an A330-300 registered B-HLV, was sent to Alice Springs (ASP) July 28. The world’s oldest flying A330, B-HLJ was also retired July 25, after 24 years and clocking 63,900 flight hours and 26,983 cycles. The decision follows the carrier group’s move to adjust passenger flight capacity to 7% of pre-COVID schedule in July and 10% for August. 

27 July 2020: Regulators Order Inspections After Downtime Is Linked To B737 Engine Incidents

The Federal Aviation Authorities (FAA) of US, issued an emergency airworthiness directive regarding storage-related corrosion of Boeing-supplied valves on certain CFM56 engines, as they have been linked to four engine shutdowns. According to FAA, “Corrosion of the engine bleed-air fifth-stage check-valve internal parts during aeroplane storage may cause the valve to stick in the open position. If this valve opens normally at takeoff power, it may become stuck in the open position during flight and fail to close when power is reduced at top of descent, resulting in an unrecoverable compressor stall and the inability to restart the engine.” The directive requires any aircraft that has not “operated in flight” for at least seven consecutive days to be inspected (estimated 1,140 aircraft). The check includes manually rotating valve flapper plates, checking bushings for cracks and ensuring certain parts are not rubbing together. Australian and Europeans regulators immediately adopted the U.S. directive.  It applies to B737-300s/400s/500/600/700/800/900s powered by CFM International CFM56-3s and CFM56-7s. Boeing provides the bleed-air system for the engines, which directs air from the engine compressor to support other aircraft systems. Boeing alerted operators of the issue on July 9. The sudden removal of thousands of aircraft for extended periods during the COVID-19 pandemic, triggered downturn has created numerous challenges for operators and manufacturers. Typical storage guidance from airframe and engine OEMs assumes aircraft will be parked for months at a time and in conditions conducive to minimising corrosion. However, airlines have been forced to park aircraft at airfields all over the world, not just in dry, arid storage facilities, waiting out the pandemic’s demand variations. In many cases, airlines realised guidance provided by suppliers did not cover the middle ground of parking aircraft for short periods. Manufacturers have been working to fill that gap and remind operators that environmental conditions, from humidity to failure to protect openings on aircraft from wildlife, can affect airworthiness.


23 July 2020: The Shifting Sands of Widebody Storage due to COVID-19

To avoid the humid conditions of their home regions airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines are sending excess aircraft to the Australian desert for storage. Most of these are widebodies, prompting the question of how many will ever return to passenger service. It is estimated that the global fleet will lose about 800 aircraft early due to the Covid-19 crisis. This may include up to a third of the Airbus A380 fleet as well as older widebodies such as the A340 and Boeing 747. Predictions are that at the start of 2021, airline fleets across the world will look very different following reductions in size and variety as airlines focus on operating fewer numbers of smaller, younger, proven and more efficient aircraft. 

22 July 2020: Boeing to Service Etihad’s 787 Fleet

Etihad took delivery of its first B787 in 2014 and to date has 38 of the aircraft family in-service, comprised of 30 -9 variants and eight -10s. Following the signing of a strategic partnership in late 2019 between Boeing and Etihad Airways encompassing operational reliability, maintenance and on-board experience, Boeing’s after market division will now provide maintenance support to the airline’s fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft. Under the terms of the component services program signed Boeing Global Services will aid maintenance on more than 300 operational critical parts found on the 787.  Also, it will provide a landing gear exchange program including aircraft on ground coverage and high value airframe components and digital products to optimise Etihad’s maintenance activities. In total, the commercial and technical agreements in place are valued at approximately $215 million. The aim of this maintenance agreement is to ensure better reliability and efficiency of Etihad’s operation.

 15 July 2020: Air France Retired its Remaining A380

The current pandemic has severely impacted international travel demand, particularly the large-cabin segment of the market. The A380, as the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft, has been more negatively impacted than any other type, with several national flag carriers recently announcing full retirements of their A380 fleets. Air France, the first European airline to operate the aircraft, retired its last A380 in June, having once operated as many as 10. Pre-pandemic, it had intended to phase them out by 2022. Lufthansa, which has already offloaded half its 14 A380s, does not expect to fly the remaining airframes until at least 2022 and meanwhile will keep them in deep storage. Outside of Europe, the future of the aircraft in the fleets of Etihad, Qatar Airways and Thai Airways has also been the subject of discussion since the COVID-19 outbreak. A380 entered service only in 2007 and as of May 2020 there were approximately 228 of the aircraft in service with 14 operators, according to Airbus.

10 July 2020: COVID-19 caused a reduction in Rolls-Royce's engine flying hours by 80%

Large scale aircraft fleet grounding in the wake of COVID-19 contributed to a reduction in Rolls-Royce's engine flying hours by as much as 80% in the first half of 2020 which in turn led to a fall in aftermarket services output. This was due to wide body engine flying hours falling by approximately 50% in the first half of 2020, compared to the prior year period with an approximate 75% decline in the second quarter. RR says that following a company low point in April when flying hours were down 80% year-on-year, there were marginal recoveries during the following two months with air traffic picking up in China, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. As a result of COVID-19 lowering medium-term customer demand RR will be reducing staff by nearly one fifth with nearly 9,000 staff from its 52,000-strong workforce. The company’s outlook forecasts that wide body engine flying hours will remain down by as much as 55% this year in comparison to 2019 levels, while indicating these engines flying hours would rise to 70% of 2019 levels by 2022.

8 July 2020: SpaceX delays Starlink launch again due to weather

SpaceX postponed the launch of more Starlink communications satellites from Florida when a line of storms neared the launch pad. The Falcon 9 rocket had been scheduled for liftoff at 11:59 a.m. from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket was topped with 57 Starlink spacecraft for Elon Musk's SpaceX, along with two small Earth observation satellites for Seattle-based BlackSky Global. SpaceX delayed plans for launching the mission on June 25 and 26, when the company said it needed additional time for prelaunch checkouts. Eventually, SpaceX aims to launch thousands of Starlink satellites to establish global, high-speed broadband Internet service. 

6 July 2020: Emergency Landing After Windscreen Cracks by Ruili B737-800

According to the airline, flight DR6558 departed Xi’an (XIY) for Kunming (KMG) at 10:16 p.m. and the crew reported the malfunction of the heating element at 10:45 p.m. noting sparks and later cracks appearing on the windscreen. The pilots conducted an accelerated descent, dropping around 18,000 feet within six minutes. The aircraft diverted and landed at Chongqing (DAX) at 11:35 p.m. where the 178 passengers were transferred to another aircraft, which arrived at KMG at 6.01 a.m. According to Aviation Week Fleet Data Services, the seven-year-old aircraft is leased from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and is one of 20 B737s that LCC Ruili operates. A Civil Aviation Administration of China investigation revealed that a damaged and corroded seal resulted in electrical arcing, causing a difference between temperature and pressure between the aircraft and the atmosphere that led to the windshield bursting out of the fuselage

6 July 20: EASA Mandate Targets Trent 1000 Low-Pressure Turbine Disc Issue

European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) plans to mandate inspections of certain Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 low-pressure turbine (LPT) discs following word from the manufacturer that contact between the parts and nearby seals can lead to cracks. Calls are for operators of Boeing 787s with Trent 1000 “Package C” variants and are related to the to inspection of  LPT stage 3 and 4 disc seal fins for cracks. According to EASA “Analysis of certain [LPT] discs in service has determined that, due to rubbing contact with interstage static seals, cracks may initiate in the front seal fins which could lead to cracks in the disc of the affected parts.” On 29 June Rolls-Royce issued a service bulletin recommending fluorescent penetrant inspections of the fins during the next engine refurbishment shop visit. Discs with cracked fins must be replaced. The issue is not related to Rolls’ ongoing program to address high-pressure turbine blade durability issues that have plagued much of the Trent 1000-powered 787 fleet for several years.

5 July 2020: Rocket Lab lost Electron Rocket 4 min after Lift-off

Rocket Lab launched the two-stage, liquid-fuelled Electron rocket at 5:19 p.m. EDT on July 4 from the company’s launch complex on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. The booster’s first stage separated as planned 2 min. 38 sec. after lift-off and the second stage ignited for what was intended to be a 6-min. 21 sec. burn. However, about 4 min. into the burn, the booster “experienced an issue that caused the complete loss of the vehicle and unfortunately the payloads,” founder and CEO Peter Beck said in a video posted on Twitter. The rocket was carrying seven satellites on a rideshare mission for Canon, Planet and a UK-based start-up called In-Space Missions. The largest of the satellites was Canon’s 147-lb. CE-SAT-1B Earth-imaging spacecraft. Electron entered commercial service in November 2018 following a pair of test flights, the first of which ended before the rocket reached orbit due to a problem with ground tracking equipment. Prior to this mission, the rocket had successfully reached orbit 11 times and deployed 53 satellites.  

17 June 2020: Covid-19 Pandemic Phenomena: Tail Strikes, Off-Course Flying by Near-Empty Jets

While the plunge in travel, due to Covid-19 pandemic,  has in many ways eased pressure on roads and the aviation system, it has at times had the opposite effect on safety. The rate of highway deaths has actually risen as motorists speed on empty roads. And the drop in airline passengers has triggered an unusual spate of incidents that are challenging flight safety, according to publicly available reports as well as government, industry and union officials. One nearly empty passenger jet “climbed like a rocket,” prompting the pilots to exceed their assigned altitude. Others have scraped their tails on takeoff, gone off course or strayed close enough to other aircraft to prompt mid-air collision alerts. Moreover, the slow rise in air traffic is creating its own demands as parked aircraft are restored to service and pilots who may have missed training sessions are recalled. The Commercial Aviation Safety Team, comprised of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, unions and airline officials, last month issued more than 50 warnings to carriers on the unusual factors they need to monitor more closely during the recent industry disruptions. They include tracking safety data related to unusually light aircraft, the stresses from employees fearing they could become infected by Covid-19 and possible fuel contamination on planes that were parked. Details of incidents have begun to trickle out through NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System, which posts anonymous field reports after validating their authenticity. They include pilots reporting that unusually light airliners behaved unexpectedly, such as climbing so fast that they exceeded assigned altitudes or couldn’t maintain cabin air pressure. Others said the boarding process went so fast they forgot to finish safety paperwork. Thousands of airliners are parked, some of them on runways at major airports. Normal flight routines are being disrupted. Training is being postponed. And airline crews face the looming threat of infection and a loss of job security.

16 June 2020: FAA Recommends Boeing 777 Autothrottle Wiring Repair

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in USA, is urging Boeing 777 operators to change the grounding wires to eliminate the risk of uncommanded throttle advances while aircraft are on the ground. “The majority of events occurred during taxi, and in one event the autothrottles advanced after landing before the speed brakes were retracted,” the FAA said in a non-mandatory special airworthiness information bulletin issued June 11. “Investigation revealed that these events were probably caused by a short between grounding wires to the [takeoff/go-around] switches. When this occurs, the aircraft senses the . . . switches have been pushed, the autothrottles activate in [thrust-reference] mode and the thrust levers advance to set takeoff thrust.” In March 2019 Boeing issued a flight-crew bulletin that explains how pilots can monitor thrust-lever movement and prevent uncommanded changes. According to FAA this issue is not severe enough to warrant a mandatory change via an airworthiness directive.

10 June 2020: Airlines Struggling With Proper Cleaning Procedures for COVID-19

A pilot for an unnamed airline filed a NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System report in mid-May detailing an onboard smoke event. “[An] air carrier captain reported smelling a burning smell during cruise,” the report’s summary says. “Post-flight maintenance briefing advised the pilots that alcohol from wipes may be shorting out wires.” The unnamed airline reported that the issue had turned up on “several” aircraft. Aircraft manufacturers have published procedures on how to clean aircraft and what products to use for years. Events such as SARS and the current COVID-19 pandemic have prompted them to issue reminders and, as lessons are learned, provide updates. However, some operators are still struggling to follow procedures. An Air Line Pilots Association report issued in mid-May cited reports of non-compliance at 16 U.S. carriers and one in Canada. Most of the issues concern the frequency and thoroughness of aircraft-interior disinfecting and the materials being used. A common example is pilots being provided with hand wipes that are not on the Environmental Protection Agency’s E-list, which tracks products known to work against the novel coronavirus. In US the FAA and other regulators are hesitant to mandate aircraft-cleaning protocols, referring instead to health agency guidance, which focuses largely on aircraft cabins. Instructions on cleaning flight decks, such as in the International Civil Aviation Organisation guidance on protecting cargo pilots issued May 11, refer to manufacturers’ recommendations.

9 June 2020 U.S. Air Force Investigates Hypersonic Test Mishap

According to Aviation Week a scramjet-powered missile developed under the joint DARPA/U.S. Air Force Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) program was destroyed in a recent test accident. The missile is believed to have inadvertently separated from a B-52 carrier aircraft during a captive-carry flight test, according to sources familiar with the evaluation. The cause of the mishap, which is thought to have involved an aircraft from the Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, California, is under investigation, but DARPA, the developing agency declined to provide any details. Aviation Week understands that pieces of the instrumented test article recovered after the accident suggests the mishap potentially occurred over land, rather than during transit for a wet dress rehearsal or live fire test over the Pacific range.   

4 June 2020: Airbus E-Delivers New Helicopters to Helitrans

Norway’s Helitrans is the first customer to take delivery of new Airbus helicopters using the OEM’s e-Delivery process devised to comply with Covid-19 health and safety restrictions. This Trondheim-based company formally accepted two new H125s into its fleet without the need for physical meetings or travel. The e-Delivery system relies on the customer accepting flight-test and inspection findings conducted by authorised Airbus staff in place of their own employees who usually perform those tasks, which include an expanded test flight, video inspection of the helicopter, loose object check, disinfection, and verification of aircraft documentation. Results were presented via online videoconference with Airbus representatives, dealer Østnes, and Helitrans, enabling the formal transfer of title to take place. The helicopters were then transported by road to Norway to be received by the customer at Trondheim.

2 June 2020: FAA Rule Targets Inaccurate Boeing 777 Fuel-Quantity Systems

The U.S. Federal Aviation Authorities (FAA ) will request operators  of B777 to validate the accuracy of fuel-quantity check systems following reports that inaccurate tank status data caused aircraft to depart with too little fuel for their planned missions, leading to at least 10 diversions. The issue affects centre wing tank (CWT) fuel quality indication systems (FQIS) data, the FAA explained in an airworthiness directive set for publication June 3. An FQIS “design flaw” causes the FQIS display to inaccurate amount of the fuel in the CWT. The FQIS reports the amount of fuel, via weight, in fuel tanks, and fuelling systems rely on this figure when adding fuel. If the FQIS overstates the amount of fuel onboard when fuelling starts, too little fuel can be loaded. According to FAA, “Comparing the fuel volume upload with the final fuel load mass, which also accounts for the remaining fuel in the tanks from previous flight, is not an easy calculation and is prone to significant inaccuracies”.  Onboard fuel management systems report fuel-quantity anomalies within the first several hours of a flight. Discrepancies trigger advisory messages that prompt crews to monitor the aircraft’s fuel system. In some cases, a misstated fuel load combined with a crew’s decision to continue flying can lead to diversions. The FAA said that it knows of “at least” 25 in-service events linked to fuel-quantity inaccuracies. Sixteen of the flights opted to continue, but 10 of those were forced to divert before reaching their destinations because of low-fuel conditions. While Boeing is developing a permanent fix for the FQIS problem, the FAA will require operators to perform a new FQIS validation process, the “refuelling station door cycling procedure,” within 30 days and following any CWT refuelling. The issue does not affect other tanks. Documentation of each check must be provided to flight crews, so they are aware that the validation has been done. The FAA also is requiring operators to document their general FQIS validation procedures and submit them to the agency.

2 June 2020 Fuel And Fuel Tanks In Parked Aircraft Require Additional Inspections

In this COVID-19 environment thousands of aircraft are parked and the chance of the fuel contamination is higher than normal. Fuel microbes thrive in heat and humidity, and if fuel becomes contaminated it can corrode fuel tanks and cause wing structure damage.  Hence, the fuel testing must be carried out more frequently in the current circumstances, especially on those aircraft standing idle in hot and humid places. Aircraft in tropical areas, much of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Australasia, are considered to be at higher risk of microbiological contamination, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Tests that used to be done at least once per year now need to be done about every other week, according to Conidia Bioscience corporation, which develops fuel tests for various industries. In addition to increased testing, operators are ramping-up fuel tank borescope or visual inspections for aircraft in a temporary parked situation. As operators or maintenance organisations run an aircraft to make sure the systems are working, the aircraft uses some fuel. This can leave residue in the tanks, which can cause problems. Any moisture in the fuel tank, due to heat or humidity, can cause contamination, The fungi has the ability to stick to the tank, so even if the fuel is free of contamination, parked aircraft in hot or humid areas face increased microbial contamination, which requires the extra inspections. For example, EasyJet has increased testing from once per year to once every 14 days, and the airline is testing in 21 locations instead of one. For many operators, the more frequent testing means more samples to be send the laboratory, which is where many test providers still process samples. To take fuel test samples, send them to labs, and wait for the results ordinarily takes 4-10 days. Today, when aircraft are scattered around airfields away from home bases, the process inevitably takes longer and requires more resources.

31 May 2020: SpaceX  Delivers Astronauts to ISS, for the first time

The first SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule to carry astronauts conducted a flawless approach and docking at the International  Space Station (ISS) May 31, completing a 19-hr. journey as part of a key demonstration mission in advance of commercial flight services.  So far, Crew Dragon’s Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2) flight test, the first with astronauts aboard, has gone extremely smoothly, according to SpaceX and NASA, which are conducting the mission jointly. Astronauts, Hurley and Behnken lifted off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 3:22 p.m. EDT on 30 May, marking the first time a private company has launched people into orbit and the first launch of astronauts from the U.S. since the space shuttles were retired in 2011. Both astronauts are test pilots and veterans of two shuttle missions, began their first full day in orbit with a 4:45 a.m. EDT wakeup call from SpaceX, which revived the tradition of using music to rouse the crew. For Hurley and Behnken it was “Planet Caravan” by Black Sabbath. After reaching orbit, Dragon Endeavour conducted five phasing burns to synchronise its flight path with the station’s, then began a slow approach, first from behind and then from directly in front of the orbital outpost. After astronauts performed a manual flight test, the capsule’s autopilot resumed control, driving it into the station’s Node 2 Harmony forward docking port at 10:16 a.m. EDT as the station sailed 262 mi. over the northern border of China and Mongolia. During the next two hours, Dragon Endeavour was integrated into the space station’s power, environmental control and communications systems, and two astronauts transferred into the ongoing Expedition 63 crew. The station with half of the usual six-member resident crew,  the result of U.S., purchased rides on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft coming to an end. Pending the results of Demo-2, it will be up to SpaceX to pick up crew ferry flights, possibly as early as Aug. 30, and return the station to full staffing.

22 May 2020: PIA Pakistan International Airlines flight accident in Karachi

An Airbus aircraft A320-214 (registration AP-BLD) was operating a domestic flight from Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan. It was PIA Pakistan International Airlines PK8303. The aeroplane was high on approach. During the communication with ATC it can be heard the PM (pilot monitoring) of the flight saying "we are comfortable now (?), we can make it“ : the aeroplane was between 3000 and 3500 ft at 5 NM final. All communications between ATC and pilots can be listened to here. During one of the communications, the read back of the clearance to land (which was basically a "roger Pakistan 8303"), it can be heard a "MASTER WARNING": there is no evidence yet of what was that about and how the crew reacted to it. The approach was continued. The aeroplane then touched the runway and went around. From an inspection to the Runway, the aeroplane touched down on the engines; the scrapes are clearly visible on the runway and also on the aeroplane, from a picture taken by a spotter close to the airport. Based on the Airbus A320 design and geometry, the only way to touch on the engine is to have the landing gear retracted.  Shortly after lift-off both engines failed, most probably because of having scraped the runway. This can be confirmed by the PM saying "we lost engines" and shortly after with a "mayday" call. The aeroplane flown a left visual circuit and was cleared to land for any of the runway 25 but, without engine power didn't managed to reach the runway and crashed over some buildings, slightly short of Runway 25L. Only 2 passengers survived. 

20 May 2020: Air France Brings Forward A380 Retirements

In the context of the current COVID-19 crisis and its impact on anticipated activity levels, the Air France-KLM group announces today the definitive end of Air France Airbus A380 operations. The group had previously planned to phase out its super-jumbo fleet by the end of 2022 as part of a broader strategy of rationalising and simplifying its fleet in a bid to improve competitiveness and profitability. Five of the A380s in the fleet are owned by Air France or on finance leases, while four are on operating leases. According to Aviation Week Network’s FleetDiscovery database, all nine aircraft are in storage: 5 at Charles De Gaulle (CDG) in Paris; 2 at Tarbes–Lourdes–Pyrénées (LDE) in southwest France; and 2 at Spain’s Teruel Airport (TEV).  The overall impact of the A380 phase-out to amount to a write-down of €500 million ($550 million) and the group said that would be booked in the second quarter of 2020 as a non-current cost/expense. Air France said the A380s will be replaced by A350s and Boeing 787s.  

30 April 2020: Volcanic Eruption triggered by rain!

Scientists from the University of Miami in the USA, have used information from satellites, including the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, to discover that a period of heavy rainfall may have triggered the four month-long eruption of Kilauea volcano in 2018, in Hawaii, USA. The eruption generated around 320 000 Olympic-sized swimming pools’ worth of lava that reshaped the landscape, destroyed hundreds of homes and caused the collapse of the summit caldera, which was one of the most destructive in volcano’s recorded history. In a paper published recently in Nature, the authors, Jamie Farquharson and Falk Amelung suggested that heavy rainfall may have been the culprit. In the months prior the eruption, Hawaii was inundated by an unusually prolonged period of heavy, and at times extreme, rainfall. The rainwater would have found its way through the pores of the volcanic rock and increased the pressure within, decreasing the rigidity of the rock and allowing magma to rise to the surface.  Authors stated that, “We knew that changes in the water content in the Earth's subsurface can trigger earthquakes and landslides. Now we know that it can also trigger volcanic eruptions. Under pressure from magma, wet rock breaks easier than dry rock. It is as simple as that.” Using a combination of ground-based and satellite measurements of rainfall, They modelled the fluid pressure within the volcano's edifice over time (a factor that can directly influence the tendency for mechanical failure in the ground) ultimately driving volcanic activity. This is not an entirely new theory, but it was previously thought that this could only happen at shallow depths. Here, the scientists conclude that the rain increased pore pressure deep down, at depths of up to 3 km. The results highlighted that fluid pressure was at its highest in almost half a century immediately prior to the eruption, the fact they propose facilitated magma movement beneath the volcano. Their hypothesis also explains why there was relatively little widespread uplift around the volcano in the prior months. Normally, the ground inflates, or ‘uplift’ before an eruption as the magma chamber swells. Authors used radar information from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 ESA mission to see that the amount of inflation was low. This lack of substantial inflation suggested that the intrusion–eruption could not only have been triggered by an influx of fresh magma from depth, but that it was caused by a weakening of the rift zone. A fact that must be considered when assessing volcanic hazards is that increasing extreme weather patterns associated with ongoing anthropogenic climate change could also increase the potential for rainfall-triggered volcanic activity. The Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission is a constellation of two identical radar satellites offering the capability to monitor ground deformation with the technique of interferometry and provides the capability to image part of the globe in the same geometry every six days. 

10 April 2020 Rolls Royce Scrambles To Adjust To Coronavirus Crisis

Coronavirus was still a distant problem to most Europeans at the beginning of March. Italy was only in the early foothills of its grisly climb to about 1,000 deaths per day and national lockdowns were not in place. Similarly, industry has not yet understood the impact the virus would have. For example, Rolls Royce was forecasting that contracted engine flying hours would increase by 8-9% in 2020 and that the number of shop visits would rise from just under 1000 in 2019 to 1100-1200 this year. Less than a month later that expectation has been trashed, as Rolls Royce reported a 50% reduction in its widebody engine flying hours for March and a 25% fall for the first quarter. Even further, the British OEM also warned of “an expected further deterioration in April and beyond,” 

7 April 2020: The U.S. Space Force delays GPS 3 launch to minimise COVID-19 exposure

The U.S. Space Force will reschedule the April 29 launch of the third GPS III satellite as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The third GPS III will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, sometime after June 30, according to the Space and Missile Systems Centre.   “We do not make this decision lightly, however, given our GPS constellation remains strong, we have the opportunity to make a deliberate decision to maintain our mission assurance posture, without introducing additional health risk to personnel or mission risk to the launch,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, the head of the Space and Missile Systems Center and the program executive officer for space. “As the COVID-19 pandemic is a threat to national security, likewise, rescheduling the launch is in the interest of national security.” The National Reconnaissance Office's Don't Stop Me Now mission is on pause, though it still anticipates launching into orbit aboard an Electron rocket from Rocket Lab's New Zealand launch site. According to Thompson, the GPS constellation is currently in a healthy position with 31 satellites in orbit, allowing the Space Force to delay the launch without resulting in gaps to coverage or capability. The second GPS III satellite was officially declared ready for military use March 24. The Space Force said it is taking efforts to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 while ensuring it is able to launch three GPS III satellites in 2020 as planned. “Some of the steps include procedural and facility modifications at the GPS III Launch and Checkout Capability (LCC) operations centre and reducing the onsite crew size to provide adequate physical distancing, per CDC guidelines,” said Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems Division Chief Col. Edward Byrne. “Once these efforts are completed, and the crews have rehearsed and are deemed proficient and ready to execute under these modified conditions, we fully intend to return to our launch cadence for deploying GPS III satellites.” The Space Force was able to successfully complete its first launch ever on March 26 from Cape Canaveral while reducing the number of on site personnel and practising social distancing.

20 March 2020: UK Declared F-35 Operational Despite from Availability, Infrastructure, Logistics and Security Issues, Auditors Say

The UK Ministry of Defence declared the F-35 operational even though the fleet was suffering from availability, infrastructure, logistics and security issues, auditors have revealed. The UK National Audit Office (NAO) found that the December 2018 initial operating capability (IOC) from land bases was granted with 67 exceptions, with almost one-third of those still yet to be resolved more than a year later. It is not clear on how many criteria IOC (Land) was judged. In its report studying how new capabilities are delivered into front-line operations, the NAO reported that in the run-up to the milestone there had been delays in the provision of synthetic training facilities. This impacted the availability of pilots and maintainers, while operational availability of the aircraft “hampered the ability to deliver training.” The report appears to confirm the reasons behind a 34-day flying break by the UK-based fleet in the late summer of 2018 reported by Aerospace DAILY. Plans to use simulators for training have been frustrated by “technical difficulties and delays in security vetting.” The NAO said the UK Ministry of Defense is able to use exemptions when bringing a new capability into service. Capabilities that do not meet specifications but are deemed good enough would be given an exemption. The NAO also says that IOC acceptance criteria for the F-35 was not finalized “until several years” after business case approval in the second half of 2017. 

4 March 2020: Northrop Grumman is DARPA’s  Commercial Partner for Servicing Satellite

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency selected Northrop Grumman as its commercial partner for the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program. Thus, under the agreement, DARPA will provide the robotics payload for a Mission Robotic Vehicle that will be used to service satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit. The payload was developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. It consists of two dexterous robotic manipulator arms, along with several tools and sensors. Northrop Grumman’s SpaceLogistics division will provide the bus technologies it developed for the MEV. The agreement comes on the heels of Northrop Grumman’s successful operation of its first satellite servicing Mission Extension Vehicle. The MEV-1 launched in October 2019 and last month docked in-orbit with an Intelsat communications satellite in an effort to keep the spacecraft in operation for an additional five years. DARPA seeks to bring dexterous on-orbit servicing to spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit and to establish that inspection, repair, life extension, and improvement of valuable GEO assets can be made possible and even routine. The company is developing life-extension services for satellites known as Mission Extension Pods. The pods augment the propulsion system of aging satellites and provide six years of life extension. The vehicle that will be developed with DARPA will be used to install these platforms on existing in-orbit commercial and government satellites to extend their service lives.

25 February 2020: B737 MAXs To Get Nacelle Panel Work Before Service Return

To ensure that engine-control wiring has adequate protection from electromagnetic interference the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a raft directive for Boeing 737 MAXs that requires inspections and modifications to be made before further flight. This was prompted by Boeing’s review of the MAX following two fatal accidents and the model’s March 2019 grounding, affects composite engine nacelle panels. During production, gaps were left in protective foil lining inside some thumbnail and mid-strut fairing panels, located on top of the engine, meant to shield wires located just below. The FAA directive will apply to all MAXs. Boeing’s bulletin listed a subset of aircraft by serial number built from February 2018 through June 2019 that it believes have the issue. The FAA draft rule stats that, “Excessive rework of the surface of the metallic (aluminium foil) inner layer of those panels can result in cuts to that layer, This metallic layer functions as part of the shielding for aircraft wiring, including wiring associated with the engine control systems. Cuts to the metallic layer, depending on their size and location, could create the potential for [high intensity radiated fields] exposure or lightning attachment to induce spurious signals onto the underlying airplane wiring, including wiring associated with the engine control systems. Such spurious signals could cause a loss of engine thrust control.” Boeing is covering all work under warranty. The manufacturer also plans to modify aircraft it has in storage awaiting delivery to customers.

20 February 2020: XMM- Newton Reveals Giant Flare from a Tiny Star

A star with a catalogue number J0331-27 is characterised as an L dwarf.  It has so little mass that it is only just above the boundary of actually being a star. If it had any less mass, it would not possess the internal conditions necessary to generate its own energy.  It is approximately 8 % of the Sun’s mass.  However, astronomers spotted the enormous X-ray flare in data recorded on 5 July 2008 by the European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC) onboard ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory. In a matter of minutes, the tiny star released more than ten times more energy of even the most intense flares suffered by the Sun. Flares are released when the magnetic field in a star’s atmosphere becomes unstable and collapses into a simpler configuration. In the process, it releases a large proportion of the energy that has been stored in it. This explosive release of energy creates a sudden brightening, the flare, and this is where the new observations present their biggest puzzle. Energy can only be placed in a star’s magnetic field by charged particles, which are also known as ionised material and created in high-temperature environments. As an L dwarf, however, J0331-27 has a low surface temperature for a star, just 2100K, compared to the roughly 6000K on the Sun. Astronomers did not think such a low temperature would be capable of generating enough charged particles to feed so much energy into the magnetic field. So the conundrum is: how a super flare is even possible on such a star. The super flare was discovered in the XMM-Newton data archive as part of a large research project led by Andrea De Luca of INAF – Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica in Milan, Italy. The project studied the temporal variability of around 400 000 sources detected by XMM-Newton over 13 years A number of similar stars had been seen to emit super flares in the optical part of the spectrum, but this is the first unambiguous detection of such an eruption at X-ray wavelengths. The wavelength is significant because it signals which part of the atmosphere the super flare is coming from: optical light comes from deeper in the star’s atmosphere, near its visible surface, whereas X-rays come from higher up in the atmosphere. Understanding the similarities and differences between this new, and so far unique, super flare on the L dwarf and previously observed flares, detected at all wavelengths on stars of higher mass is now a priority for the team. Stars that flare more frequently release less energy each time, while this L dwarf seems to release energy very rarely but then in a really big event. Why this might be the case is still an open question that needs further investigation. (Source ESA)

19 February 202: Boeing Finds Debris in Grounded 737 MAX Fuel Tanks

During routine maintenance, linked with keeping its stored aircraft as close to flight-ready as possible, debris was found in “multiple” 737 MAX. Consequently, Boeing is inspecting all  MAXs it has in storage and adding factory-floor precautions after discovering foreign object debris (FOD) in the fuel tank. Boeing plans to inspect all MAXs that are awaiting delivery to customers, adding yet another step to the return-to-service checklist that includes ensuring the aircraft are in airworthy condition and have updated--yet to be approved--flight control computer software.  While not related to the flight control system logic and pilot-training changes being mandated for the MAX in the wake of two fatal accidents within five months, the FOD issue adds to a list of Boeing production quality-control concerns that have generated headlines. Deliveries of the KC-46 tanker to the U.S. Air Force have been halted multiple due to FOD-related issues that Boeing called “embarrassing.” Findings of FOD in Boeing 787s built in Charleston triggered concerns about that program, which were raised during a mid-2019 U.S. congressional hearing on issues that led to the MAX grounding.

26 January 2020: Boeing 777X Starts Flight Test Campaign

WH001 will continue to conduct initial airworthiness, basic envelope expansion and flutter clearance testing.  Much of the testing will focus on the performance of the new 235.4-ft. span wing, of which almost 24 ft. is made up of the folding wing tip sections. The wing is Boeing’s fourth generation large composite design and incorporates a modified trailing edge variable camber system derived from the 787 as well as a maneuver load alleviation system to limit stresses on the wing and reduce structural weight. The folding tip feature, which performed as expected with rapid deployment and retraction before and after take-off, will also require a slightly greater-than-usual emphasis on ground testing. However, on landing the system is designed to automatically fold after touchdown as soon as ground speed slows below 50 kt. The folding wing tips are the first of their kind to feature on a commercial airliner and will be tested to ensure they meet a set of special certification conditions developed by the FAA. Tests will cover checks of additional safeguards to ensure against accidental retraction in flight or unlocking during take-off, as well as checking robust performance in gusting winds. Test standards for the wing tips are designed to conform with the same certification requirements as other moving surfaces such as ailerons and flaps.First deliveries of the 777-9 are expected to begin to launch customer Emirates in 2021.

25 January 2020: European Space Walking Record

Spacewalk, which lasted five hours and 55 minutes, was the last in a four-part series to extend the life of the particle physics detector that was not designed to be maintained in space. Installed on the outside of the International Space Station in 2011, the instrument out-performed its expected three-year mission time to provide researchers with invaluable data on cosmic rays that bombard Earth. When the cooling pumps for AMS-02 began to malfunction, plans were made to service the instrument in space and give it a new lease on life and science. During the first three spacewalks Luca and Drew replaced the old cooling system with a new one using a tube-tying technique known as swaging that was quite the feat to perform in space gloves. On this final spacewalk, where Drew held the lead role of EV1, the pair set out to check the tubes that connect the cooling system to the larger instrument for any leaks. When a leak was found in tube number five, Luca tightened this connection and waited around an hour before checking the tube again. Upon this second check, a leak was still present, but thankfully after retightening once more and waiting again the leak was overcome and the system was declared leak-free. In between these leak checks, the duo worked on get-ahead tasks, activities that often set the stage for future spacewalks, should the astronauts have extra time on their hands. Once all leaks were addressed, Luca and Drew wrapped things up by installing a mud flap between the new pump and vertical support beam before removing a cover known as a shower cap to expose the new radiator system. This maintenance task broke the European record for the most time spent spacewalking. He has now clocked in 33 hours and nine minutes, beating previous record holder Swedish ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang’s 31 hours and 54 minutes.

20 January 2020: Grounding Cost  Growing for Boeing 737 MAX

A new report this month shows that Boeing faced a bill of more than $8 billion in compensation for airlines alone. In December, when Boeing announced the MAX production halt, it was estimated that customer concessions alone could reach $11.7 through the end of the first quarter of 2020. For starters, new costs such as flight simulator training already are known but have yet to be publicly explained by Boeing. It is expected that simulator training likely will add almost $5 billion to the cost of the grounding, using Southwest [Airlines] as a benchmark for the 4,543 [737 MAXs] in backlog at the third quarter of 2019 and the 385 in existing fleets, all of which were sold before the grounding. Then there are costs for carrying the inventory of roughly 400 MAXs parked by Boeing, as well as potential further changes to the 3,100-aircraft program accounting block basis.  Also, there is the ongoing delay in aircraft certification and change in production cadence could generate another $3.6 billion charge to Boeing’s earnings. Several industry analysts and consultants also believe Boeing will have to support its supply chain financially to some degree, so providers are able to ramp-up MAX production rates again as efficiently as possible. Other costs loom, too, such as final compensation to victims’ families through legal action. Similarly, shareholder lawsuits may emerge that require spending to litigate. Last but not least, there will be additional costs from taking on more debt, which Boeing is expected to do rather than cut shareholder dividends.

19 January 2020: SpaceX Crew Dragon Completed High-Altitude Abort Test

The last major milestone before a crewed flight test to the International Space Station (ISS) as early as March this year was successfully completed when a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center and intentionally shut down 85 sec. later, setting the stage for a 131,000 ft., (40 km) Mach 2.2 test of a Dragon capsule launch escape system. As planned, the rocket, which included a fully fuelled second stage, tumbled and broke apart in a fireball about 9 seconds later, showering debris over the Atlantic Ocean. The Crew Dragon capsule, which ignited its eight Super Draco thrusters as soon as the booster’s engines shut down, fired for 8 sec., keeping the spacecraft more than 0.5 mi. up and away from the rocket, simulating an inflight launch abort. Upon reaching apogee 2 min. 25 sec. after launch, Dragon jettisoned its unpressurized trunk section and used its smaller Draco thrusters to reorient its heat shield for atmospheric re-entry. At 4 min, 48 sec.  after launch, at an altitude of 20,000 ft., Dragon jettisoned a panel near its nosecone, allowing mortars to fire to deploy a pair of drogue parachutes. A minute later, with Dragon about 6,500 ft above the ocean, four main parachutes, each 116 ft. in diameter, unfurled, slowing Dragon’s descent to 20-25 ft. per sec. The capsule splashed down about  20 mi. offshore completing the flight test after less than 9 min.

13 January 2020: First Airbus BelugaXL Enters Service

European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certified Airbus’s first whale-shaped oversized air transport aircraft BelugaXL.  It is based on the Airbus A330-200 freighter and it incorporates several newly developed elements, including its lowered cockpit, a highly enlarged cargo bay structure, and a modified rear and tail section. Because it is 7 meters longer and 1 meter wider than the ST version, the XL allows for 30 percent extra transport capacity and can carry two A350 XWB wings while the ST can carry only one. The aircraft’s wingspan extends 60.3 meters, overall length stretches 63.1 meters, and its height tops 18.9 meters. Airbus plans to introduce a further five BelugaXLs by 2023, providing them with much-needed extra transport capacity it needs to support the ongoing production ramp-up of its commercial aircraft programs. The company delivered 863 aircraft to 99 customers in 2019, outpacing its previous output record set in 2018 by 8 percent and marking the 17th yearly production increase in a row, according to the company. Its backlog at the end of 2019 stood at 7,482 aircraft. Like its predecessor, the BelugaST, the BelugaXL will carry complete sections of Airbus aircraft from different production sites around Europe to the final assembly lines in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany. Two Rolls-Royce Trent 700 turbofan engines suspended on under wing pylons power the aircraft, which carries a range of 2,200 nautical miles (4,074 km) and a maximum payload of 51 tonnes.

13 January 2020: Piston Seals Linked Pratt A320neo Engine Failures

IndiGo airline reported that  fractured mid-turbine frame (MTF) piston seals have been linked about half of the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engine failures that damaged low-pressure turbines (LPTs). Providing an update on the A320neo engine s operators said the repetitive check is helping identify seals with excessive wear before the they fail, meaning that a number of engines have been removed based on this inspection. The long-term fix is a more durable blade, which Pratt has developed and is installing on new engines and making available to operators for the in-service fleet.  India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered India’s Go Air and Indigo to fast-track introduction of modified engines to eliminate the LPT blade-fracture risk and several other issues plaguing their A320neo fleets. In the meantime, mitigation measures are put in place, including the inspections, seals, and use of a less aggressive “alt-climb” procedure (at least a dozen engine failures to the practice) that should help in containing the engine failures on-wing. DGCA ordered in November to  IndiGo to ensure its entire fleet of PW1100G-JMs contain the modified standard by Jan. 31 following four in-flight shutdowns within a week. LPT failures leading to operational disruptions jumped in 2019, totalling 17 through July globally, including seven within India, compared to six and five, respectively, in all of 2018. The new update gives the airline until May 31, and said the number of engines it will need has climbed to 135 from 120, to account for engines removed following seal inspections “and other reasons,” DGCA said. “No aircraft with [an] unmodified engine in IndiGo’s fleet shall be allowed to fly after that,” it added. The LPT issue is one of several that has plagued PW1100G-JM operators, hitting Indian carriers particularly hard. Part of the reason is India’s demanding operating environment, which regularly exposes engines to sand, dust, and high ambient temperatures. IndiGo has 103 Pratt-powered A320neos in service and 49 on order.

8 January 2020: Ukraine International Airlines B737 Shot Down at Teheran Airport

Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) operated Boeing 737 was accidentally shoot down by missiles, killing all 176 people on board. Before the flight PS572 took off from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport that day, there was an Qatar Airways aircraft airborne with a further three Iranian air-companies taking off after flight PS752. The airport was fully operational and there was no suspension from Iran aviation authorities, no warnings. UIA operated five weekly services from Kiev to Tehran. PS572 on Jan. 8 used the same flight patterns like all other previous UIA flights.The crew followed instructions from the Air Traffic Control center in Tehran. It was a routine flight. Communication between cockpit and the airport continued until the very end.  Flight PS572 is UIA´s first fatal crash since the airline launched operations 27 years ago.

7 January 2020: A380 Program Moves into Operational Support - Aftermarket Phase

Early in 2019, Airbus accepted the harsh reality that the market for new A380s was too slow for production to be sustained beyond 2021. They now seem to have concluded that the second-hand market also is weaker than they thought. Thus, the program is moving to a phase where the keywords will be “dispatch reliability” and “spare parts,” rather than “new operator.” Lufthansa had just announced it would return six of its 14 A380s to Airbus in 2022 and 2023. Air France has begun retiring its A380 fleet, as they publicly criticized the aircraft’s performance, saying “This is the poorest operating aircraft in the fleet. We have enormous amounts of delays on this aircraft and this fleet has the highest rate of cancellations.” However, some of the operators (: Lufthansa and Qantas) have planned significant cabin upgrades, simultaneous with D checks. Airbus is keeping a close eye on the schedule for the first such 90-day-long overhaul. They will begin soon, as they are done every 12 years. The airframer wants the A380 D checks, a major event in an aircraft’s life—to be as smooth as possible. The outlook for the A380 leasing market is gloomy, as the