State-owned Indonesian Aerospace (IAe), also known as Dirgantara Indonesia, has received certification for its N219 commuter aircraft. A type certificate was officially issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on 18 December, the transport ministry said in a statement on 28 December.
The ministry plans to order the small regional turboprop for flight calibration purposes and for providing air transport services to remote regions, among others. It states: “The Minister of Transportation hopes that this achievement will motivate Dirgantara Indonesia to continue to innovate, because technical improvements are still needed in the next generation of aircraft so that they can compete with foreign-made aircraft and have high [commercial value].” The same statement indicates that the aircraft has been undergoing certification since February 2014 and the three-year validity on the certification period was extended twice, on 8 February 2017 and 11 February 2020.
According to the ministry, each aircraft is fitted with two Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6A engines and can carry up to 19 passengers. Following the type certification, IAe has plans for the N219 to enter the commercialisation phase in 2021, it states in a 28 December evening update posted on its official Twitter account. English-language media Jakarta Globe reported on 11 December that the aircraft type completed its final test flight that day. According to the report, Indonesia’s minister for research and technology Bambang Brodjonegoro said the final test flight would clear the way for a commercial aircraft licence for the N219 to fly commercial routes in the country.
Cirium fleets data shows that IAe has two prototypes. PK-XDT (MSN 001) was rolled out in November 2015 and launched its first flight in August 2017. PK-XDP (MSN 002) was rolled out in September 2018 and its first flight was in December that year. The local government of the semi-autonomous Aceh province most recently showed interest in the programme, placing in December 2019 an LOI to order four examples.
Domestic airline Aviastar Mandiri has by far shown the greatest support for the programme, placing in October 2018 an LOI for 20 orders, adding to an April 2015 LOI for 20 orders and 10 options. Other LOIs – for eight orders by national private charterer Air Born and 10 orders and options for five by for Jakarta-based Trigana Air – also date back to April 2015. Defunct airlines Merpati and Nusantara Buana Air had lapsed LOIs to order 20 examples each, placed in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Nusantara also had options for another 10.
The refrigerant needed to maintain some doses during distribution is regulated as a dangerous good for aviation transport The large amounts of dry ice needed to speed Covid-19 vaccine candidates to pandemic-weary populations will call for special attention from airlines and safety regulators. Dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide, is a critical part of plans to transport the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, which must be kept at ultracold temperatures. Pfizer expects to ship 50 million doses world-wide by the end of the year. The vaccine was the first to be authorized in the West, receiving clearance for emergency use in the U.K. last week. It is under review by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. Widely used as a refrigerant, dry ice is classified as a dangerous good by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the U.S. Department of Transportation because it changes to gas form as it breaks down, a process called sublimation. Shippers must use ventilated containers that allow the gas to release, to prevent pressure from building up and rupturing the packaging. The gas can also displace oxygen in confined spaces with poor ventilation, creating a suffocation hazard, though the risk is minimal under normal cabin ventilation, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. “If oxygen levels get down below 19%, that could cause a hazard to people and animals,” said Delmer Billings, technical director for the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council, a nonprofit trade group that promotes safe transportation of hazardous materials. “If you deplete oxygen sufficiently, it could cause unconsciousness, even death,” he added. Air carriers involved in vaccine transport efforts are asking aviation regulators to increase the amount of dry ice they are allowed to carry on flights hauling vaccines as they work with drugmakers and governments to set up distribution channels. Restrictions on the amount of the material on planes are typically based on aircraft ventilation rates and factors such as the size of the plane and whether it is used for passenger or cargo flights, said Robert Coyle, senior vice president of pharma and healthcare strategy at freight forwarder Kuehne + Nagel International AG. On Thursday, Delta Air Lines Inc. said it had received FAA approval to double the allowed load of dry ice on its Airbus A330 and A350 wide-body jets, and six times the prior allowed load for shipments using a special suitcase-sized storage container that Pfizer designed. Delta has done trial runs with vaccine cargoes from Europe and to Latin America, and within the U.S., all on cargo-only flights. United Airlines Holdings Inc. secured FAA approval last month to boost its dry-ice allowance to 15,000 pounds from 3,000 pounds, for chartered cargo flights between Brussels International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport to support distribution of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. A United spokeswoman said the airline “has effective procedures in place to ensure we safely handle all the hazardous materials we are permitted to carry on board our aircraft.” Extremely cold with a surface temperature of about minus-78 degrees Celsius, dry ice has long been used to ship medicine, pharmaceutical products and perishable food such as meat or ice cream. “When packaged and stored properly, it poses no risk,” said Rafael Teixeira, president of World Courier and ICS, a specialty logistics provider owned by drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp. The scale of the Covid-19 vaccine distribution effort is unprecedented, involving billions of doses with strict temperature-control requirements that are expected to strain cold-chain shipping networks. The Pfizer and BioNTech shots must be kept at minus-70 degrees Celsius—colder than the average annual temperature at the South Pole and lower than some other vaccine candidates require. Moderna Inc.’s shot, the other leading front-runner, must be shipped and stored at a below-freezing temperature that most home or medical freezers can accommodate. Makers of dry ice are bracing for an expected demand surge. Logistics providers have been building “freezer farms” with hundreds of portable units that store pharmaceuticals at ultralow temperatures. Plymouth, Minn.-based Pelican BioThermal LLC, which makes packaging that typically uses engineered materials to maintain temperatures, has tested and approved the use of dry ice in its systems to provide the sub-frozen temperatures needed to maintain the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines. The company is also ramping up global production of its large shipping containers that can hold full pallets of goods on rising demand from pharmaceutical companies looking to ship vaccines. “There are a lot of investments bhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/for-airlines-dry-ice-in-vaccine-transport-demands-special-attention-11607370720eing made right now to get this done,” said Ira Smith, director of Pelican’s rental program in the Americas.
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles “Chuck” Yeager, the World War II fighter pilot ace and quintessential test pilot who showed he had the “right stuff” when in 1947 he became the first person to fly faster than sound, has died. He was 97.
Yeager died Monday (7 Dec 2020), his wife, Victoria Yeager, said on his Twitter account. “It is w/ profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9pm ET. An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever.”
Yeager’s death is “a tremendous loss to our nation,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “Gen. Yeager’s pioneering and innovative spirit advanced America’s abilities in the sky and set our nation’s dreams soaring into the jet age and the space age. He said, ‘You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done,’” Bridenstine said. “In an age of media-made heroes, he is the real deal,” Edwards Air Force Base historian Jim Young said in August 2006 at the unveiling of a bronze statue of Yeager.
He was “the most righteous of all those with the right stuff,” said Maj. Gen. Curtis Bedke, commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards. Yeager, from a small town in the hills of West Virginia, flew for more than 60 years, including piloting an X-15 to near 1,000 mph (1,609 kph) at Edwards in October 2002 at age 79. “Living to a ripe old age is not an end in itself. The trick is to enjoy the years remaining,” he said in “Yeager: An Autobiography.”
“I haven’t yet done everything, but by the time I’m finished, I won’t have missed much,” he wrote. “If I auger in (crash) tomorrow, it won’t be with a frown on my face. I’ve had a ball.” On Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager, then a 24-year-old captain, pushed an orange, bullet-shaped Bell X-1 rocket plane past 660 mph to break the sound barrier, at the time a daunting aviation milestone. “Sure, I was apprehensive,” he said in 1968. “When you’re fooling around with something you don’t know much about, there has to be apprehension. But you don’t let that affect your job.”
The modest Yeager said in 1947 he could have gone even faster had the plane carried more fuel. He said the ride “was nice, just like riding fast in a car.” Yeager nicknamed the rocket plane, and all his other aircraft, “Glamorous Glennis” for his wife, who died in 1990. Yeager’s feat was kept top secret for about a year when the world thought the British had broken the sound barrier first. “It wasn’t a matter of not having airplanes that would fly at speeds like this. It was a matter of keeping them from falling apart,” Yeager said.
Sixty-five years later to the minute, on Oct. 14, 2012, Yeager commemorated the feat, flying in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) above California’s Mojave Desert. His exploits were told in Tom Wolfe’s book “The Right Stuff,” and the 1983 film it inspired. Yeager was born Feb. 23, 1923, in Myra, a tiny community on the Mud River deep in an Appalachian hollow about 40 miles southwest of Charleston. The family later moved to Hamlin, the county seat. His father was an oil and gas driller and a farmer.
“What really strikes me looking over all those years is how lucky I was, how lucky, for example, to have been born in 1923 and not 1963 so that I came of age just as aviation itself was entering the modern era,” Yeager said in a December 1985 speech at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. “I was just a lucky kid who caught the right ride,” he said.
Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Corps after graduating from high school in 1941. He later regretted that his lack of a college education prevented him from becoming an astronaut. He started off as an aircraft mechanic and, despite becoming severely airsick during his first airplane ride, signed up for a program that allowed enlisted men to become pilots. Yeager shot down 13 German planes on 64 missions during World War II, including five on a single mission. He was once shot down over German-held France but escaped with the help of French partisans.
After World War II, he became a test pilot beginning at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Among the flights he made after breaking the sound barrier was one on Dec. 12. 1953, when he flew an X-1A to a record of more than 1,600 mph. He said he had gotten up at dawn that day and went hunting, bagging a goose before his flight. That night, he said, his family ate the goose for dinner. He returned to combat during the Vietnam War, flying several missions a month in twin-engine B-57 Canberras making bombing and strafing runs over South Vietnam.
Yeager also commanded Air Force fighter squadrons and wings, and the Aerospace Research Pilot School for military astronauts. “I’ve flown 341 types of military planes in every country in the world and logged about 18,000 hours,” he said in an interview in the January 2009 issue of Men’s Journal. “It might sound funny, but I’ve never owned an airplane in my life. If you’re willing to bleed, Uncle Sam will give you all the planes you want.”
When Yeager left Hamlin, he was already known as a daredevil. On later visits, he often buzzed the town. “I live just down the street from his mother,” said Gene Brewer, retired publisher of the weekly Lincoln Journal. “One day I climbed up on my roof with my 8 mm camera when he flew overhead. I thought he was going to take me off the roof. You can see the treetops in the bottom of the pictures.”
Yeager flew an F-80 under a Charleston bridge at 450 mph on Oct. 10, 1948, according to newspaper accounts. When he was asked to repeat the feat for photographers, Yeager replied: “You should never strafe the same place twice ’cause the gunners will be waiting for you.” Yeager never forgot his roots and West Virginia named bridges, schools and Charleston’s airport after him. “My beginnings back in West Virginia tell who I am to this day,” Yeager wrote. “My accomplishments as a test pilot tell more about luck, happenstance and a person’s destiny. But the guy who broke the sound barrier was the kid who swam the Mud River with a swiped watermelon or shot the head off a squirrel before going to school.” Yeager was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.
President Harry S. Truman awarded him the Collier air trophy in December 1948 for his breaking the sound barrier. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. Yeager retired from the Air Force in 1975 and moved to a ranch in Cedar Ridge in Northern California where he continued working as a consultant to the Air Force and Northrop Corp. and became well known to younger generations as a television pitchman for automotive parts and heat pumps.
He married Glennis Dickhouse of Oroville, California, on Feb. 26, 1945. She died of ovarian cancer in December 1990. They had four children: Donald, Michael, Sharon and Susan. Yeager married 45-year-old Victoria Scott D’Angelo in 2003. ___ On the Net: Yeager: http://www.chuckyeager.com/
Twelve months ago, on Oct. 17, 2019, PenAir Flight 3296 overran the runway while landing at the Dutch Harbor airport, resulting in one passenger killed and four others injured. Since then, Ravn Alaska, which owned PenAir along with sister companies Corvus Airlines and Hageland Aviation, declared bankruptcy and auctioned off or sold the bulk of its assets.
Company executives blamed Ravn’s failure on the coronavirus, but on the Flight 3296 anniversary, it is worth considering just what happened to PenAir in the single year it was owned by Ravn, and what we have learned since the accident that exposes problems within the company in the months leading up to the tragedy.
Soon after the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board released an investigative update detailing the flight crew’s minimal experience in the aircraft. Ravn stopped all flights of the Saab 2000 into Unalaska and Alaska Airlines dropped the lucrative Capacity Passenger Agreement (CPA) it had with Ravn. The loss of the CPA, which paid Ravn for the Unalaska flights at “predetermined rates plus a negotiated margin, regardless of the number of passengers on board or the revenue collected,” had serious financial ramifications for the company. Questions raised by the NTSB’s preliminary investigation, however, left Alaska Airlines with little choice.
According to the NTSB’s initial report, and heavily covered in the media, the pilot in command (PIC) for Flight 3296 had an estimated 20,000 hours total flight time, but only 101 hours in the Saab 2000 (the co-pilot, with 1,446 hours total time, had 147 hours in the aircraft). Under PenAir’s previous ownership by the Seybert family, PICs were required to have 300 hours minimum in the Saab 2000 before operating into Dutch Harbor. (Similar requirements have existed for other companies operating at the challenging airfield.)
Based on the PenAir Operations Manual, flight-time minimums could be waived if approved by the company Chief Pilot. While the existence of such a waiver has not been addressed publicly, one month after the accident, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that Chief Pilot Crystal Branchaud had been replaced and no longer held a position of operational control with PenAir. The extent to which she or any other management personnel played a role in assigning the PIC to Flight 3296 will likely receive serious attention in the accident’s final report.
Another area of significant interest for investigators will be the flight crew’s decision to land in turbulent weather conditions. In the report, the NTSB stated that when Flight 3296 first attempted to land on Runway 13, the winds were at 10 knots from 270 degrees. After initiating a go-around, the winds were reported at 16 knots, gusting to 30, from 290 degrees. While on final approach the second time, the winds were 24 knots from 300 degrees, providing almost a direct tailwind. The aircraft was configured for approach with 20 degrees of flaps both times.
Aircraft landing performance standards are based on multiple factors including weight and balance, wind and runway conditions. While Flight 3296′s weight and balance has not been released, it is possible to determine a conservative estimate of its total weight from available data. According to the manufacturer, the aircraft has a basic empty weight of about 30,500 pounds (this includes the three-member crew). Adding fuel for required reserves and Cold Bay as an alternate destination (about 2,000 pounds) and weight for 39 passengers at the FAA standard for summer adults (195 lbs x 39 = 7,605 pounds), a total weight of 40,105 pounds can be calculated. This excludes any baggage that may have been onboard.
For Runway 13 at Dutch Harbor, PenAir’s company performance standards permitted a landing weight, with 20 degrees of flaps, of 40,628 pounds with zero wind, 35,402 pounds for 5 knots of tailwind and 29,955 pounds for 10 knots of tailwind. It recommended a reduction of 1,031 pounds for each additional knot of tailwind. There is thus no discernible calculation that would recommend landing on Runway 13 with the reported winds at the time of the crash at the aircraft’s approximate weight.
According to the NTSB, the flight crew reported touching down about 1,000 feet down the runway, with skid marks first appearing at about 1,840 feet. From there, the marks continued 200 feet before the aircraft crossed a grassy area, impacted the airport’s perimeter fence, crossed a ditch, hit a large rock and then crossed Ballyhoo Road. It was on the opposite shoulder of the road, over the rock seawall and nearly into the waters of Dutch Harbor, that Flight 3296 finally came to rest.
After the aircraft stopped and a desperate but ultimately unsuccessful effort was underway to save the life of passenger David Oltman, the flight crew waited with forward passengers for assistance in exiting. It was at that point, according to passenger Steve Ranney, that a brief verbal exchange occurred. “A passenger asked the captain why he landed,” explained Ranney in an email, “and he calmly said the computer showed he was within the safety margin.” According to Ranney, who was interviewed by NTSB investigators, neither the captain nor co-pilot spoke another word.
There is no onboard computer that calculates landing performance for the Saab 2000; the PIC could only have been referring to an app likely used on his company-issued iPad. “Electronic flight bags” are commonly utilized by pilots, but the use of any software for the purposes of formal flight planning in commercial operation would have to be approved by the FAA. When asked if PenAir had authorization to utilize performance calculation software, the FAA referred the question, as part of an ongoing investigation, to the NTSB. The NTSB would state only that “crew performance standards equipment procedures and a host of other factors” would be part of the investigation.
Decision-making is always an area of particular inquiry following a commercial crash, both on the part of the flight crew and company management. As investigators moved from the aircraft to the cockpit and back to the offices of PenAir, Ravn Air Group and even the FAA, there are other events in 2019 that may have garnered interest and point to further issues within the newly acquired company. In February last year, PenAir Flight 3298 suffered an engine loss about an hour after departing King Salmon. In a statement to ADN at the time, FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the aircraft “experienced engine trouble, so pilots shut it down.” The flight crew then returned to the village. In a subsequent Service Difficulty Report (SDR), the company reported a “right engine auto shutdown in flight, did not attempt restart. Troubleshooting in progress.” It is unknown what the final remedy was for that engine.
In July, PenAir Flight 2051 was en route from Anchorage to Dillingham when it suffered the loss of the right engine near its destination. As later detailed in a passenger complaint submitted to the FAA, the flight crew chose to turn around and fly all the way back to Anchorage on only one engine.
PenAir subsequently reported in an SDR that there was a “RT engine overtemp in cruise with auto shutdown” and that the engine was to be removed and replaced. Additionally, in a separate SDR the same day, the company reported a problem with the aircraft’s left engine, which went to “0 PU’s 5SEC.” The remedy was for that engine also to be replaced. No mention of the problems with the left engine nor the necessary replacement of both engines was passed on to the passenger who filed the complaint. Neither was an explanation provided for the flight crew’s decision to forgo immediate landing at the nearest suitable airport (as required by federal regulation 121.565).
FAA Safety Inspector David Friend wrote to the passenger, a licensed pilot from the Bristol Bay region, that “it has been determined that the flight crew acted within the scope of all applicable Federal Aviation Regulations and associated PenAir Operations Specifications.” In a subsequent Freedom of Information Act request I submitted for a deviation of 121.565 report, the FAA responded that nothing pertaining to my request existed.
Months later, in the days after the crash of Flight 3296, Ravn announced a shift to using Dash-8 aircraft on the route and company management initiated a concerted effort to deflect blame to the Saab 2000. In an October 25 town hall meeting, CEO Dave Pflieger said Ravn would “need to go through a multifaceted process to ensure it is safe to land Saabs in Unalaska before they can return to service there.” This negative sentiment was echoed by Ravn’s new management, which acquired the PenAir and Corvus Airlines certificates along with several Dash-8 aircraft in a private sale last summer. In a July interview with KUCB, that company’s CEO, Rob McKinney, responded to questions about safe operations in rural Alaska by commenting on the crash of Flight 3296. “The Saab 2000 has a narrower margin of safety,” he asserted, “so that… potentially was a contributory cause of that unfortunate accident last year.”
Both Pfleiger and McKinney’s assessments ran sharply counter to the more than two years of accident-free flying with the aircraft under the Seyberts’ ownership, including thousands of flights into Unalaska. Further, from the time the Saab 2000s were acquired by the Seyberts and long before they were put into service, there was extensive flight testing, upgrades, modifications and certifications required for their transition to Part 121. All of this was heavily supervised by the FAA. By the time PenAir was purchased by Ravn in October 2018, there was nothing left for the Saab 2000 to prove; the aircraft simply needed the company to assign pilots who were trained how to fly it.
For now, Alaska Airlines flies scheduled service into Cold Bay, with continuing service to Unalaska provided by Grant Aviation. Alaska Central Express offers both regular cargo flights and passenger charter service and other operators, including Dena’ina Airtaxi, Alaska Air Transit, Resolve Aviation and Security Aviation also fly passenger charters. The Saab 2000s, which were leased by PenAir, have been parked at Anchorage International by their Florida-based owner since Ravn’s collapse. They will likely be relocated to the Lower 48 for maintenance and storage in the near future.
The NTSB’s final report on Flight 3296 should be released early next year. What it will reveal about problematic risk management assessments at all levels of the company is of great interest to anyone following aviation safety in Alaska. And while the detrimental fallout from the subsequent pandemic can not be ignored, it must be noted that Ravn was the only Alaska aviation company of significant size to file for bankruptcy after the virus. Further, although Ravn destroyed numerous financial, professional and customer relationships, many other companies shouldered the pieces it left behind while still continuing to navigate the current uncertain economic landscape.
The easiest thing in the world would be to dismiss PenAir’s summer engine problems and the decisions leading up to the Unalaska crash, disregard how long Ravn’s $90 million worth of unpaid bills were accruing, pay no attention to the likely sky-high fleet insurance the company was paying and simply blame everything that happened to it on the coronavirus. But just like the transparent attempt to shift responsibility of the Flight 3296 tragedy onto the aircraft, this would also require a determination to blindly ignore so many events leading up to Ravn’s demise, including its 16 accidents and incidents over the previous ten years. It is worth noting the most recent of those was not Flight 3296, but rather a gear-up landing by Hageland Aviation in Fairbanks, four months before Ravn shut down. It was easy to miss that one when the company was so loudly insisting everything was COVID-19′s fault.
Southwest Airlines Co (NYSE: LUV) is asking its employees to agree to pay cuts for the first time through the end of next year. This notion is specific to union employees, and the airline has said is the trade-off to avoiding furloughs and future job cuts. Non-union salaries will already be cut by at least 10% until the beginning of 2022. And the Southwest CEO Gary Kelly is also already foregoing his salary entirely through 2021, with several senior-level executives taking a 20% pay cut.
While it is not news that the airlines as a whole have been one of the hardest-hit sectors throughout the pandemic, it remains unclear when they will see any degree of relief. Airline travel demand remains down 70% compared to a year ago despite receiving federal aid of $25 billion dollars earlier this year. Under the terms of the government package, all airlines were banned from laying off or furloughing any employees until October 1.
As October quickly crept up and federal aid restrictions lifted, the airlines began taking necessary measures to remain afloat. American Airlines Group Inc (NASDAQ: AAL) laid off roughly 19,000 employees and United Airlines laid off about 13,000 employees within the last week.
While another round of stimulus has been in talks, a formal package remains unapproved. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even asked the U.S. airline executives on Monday to hold off on further job cuts, promising that relief is on the way. The Southwest Airlines’ CEO has confirmed the company can avoid job losses if these terms are reached within the unions by the start of 2021, also noting “I feel like we have a moral obligation to them.”
Southwest stock remains down about 28% this year, outperforming its airline peers who have on average lost about 50% of their value in the last 8 months.
Covid-19 Vaccine Delivery Will Present Tough Challenge to Cargo Airlines
Inoculations for the new coronavirus will require thousands of extra flights, taxing stretched airlines
UPS is combining multiple refrigerators at its airport hubs to store vaccines in transit.
The pandemic has revealed shortcomings in global supply chains and forced business to make logistics a bigger strategic priority. Successfully delivering Covid-19 vaccines will test manufacturers and shippers on what lessons have been learned. “If 50 million doses were available today, could we distribute them?” asked Glyn Hughes, head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association, a trade group. “The answer is almost certainly ‘No’, for every jurisdiction.” The air-cargo industry is making plans for delivering as many as 20 billion Covid-19 vaccination doses, even before regulators have approved any of the multiple treatments under development. Shippers say they are having to plan without knowing exactly how many vaccine doses they’ll have to ship, where they will be manufactured and how cold they have to be kept. Pharmaceutical companies and shippers say they expect the bulk of vaccine supplies to be transported by air. Cargo-airline executives are working on a delivery schedule that assumes initial batches become available during the traditional peak season for shipping that runs from fall through early February. Carriers such as FedEx Corp. FDX 0.44% and the DHL arm of Deutsche Post AG DPSGY 0.22% have started preparations such as introducing new temperature-monitoring systems to track future vaccine shipments. United Parcel Service Inc. UPS -0.41% and Deutsche Lufthansa AG are building “freezer farms” combining multiple refrigerators at their airport hubs to store vaccines in transit. Yet cargo flights are fast filling up through February with bookings for consumer electronics, apparel and industrial parts through the holiday season and new year, said airline executives. This year’s peak season is expected to include a lift from the delayed iPhone 5G from Apple Inc. and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 5. “We’re planning for the mother of all peaks,” said Don Colleran, president of FedEx’s express division, on an investor call last month. Airlines said they would make room for essential supplies such as vaccines, just as they have for personal protective equipment throughout the pandemic. Most of the potential vaccines have to be kept at a low constant temperature throughout the journey to prevent spoiling, according to cargo experts. These fall into two temperature ranges—around freezing and about minus 70 degrees Celsius—with very different transport and storage requirements. Pharma executives said spoilage rates for other vaccines during transport range from 5% to as much as 20% because of poor temperature control. “This is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the transportation industry,” Michael Steen, chief operating officer at Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc., said in an interview. Atlas is one of the largest cargo airlines, flying freight on behalf of customers including Amazon.com Inc. and DHL. Cargo executives said they expect it will take two years for a vaccine to reach all of the world’s population, with particular challenges in some emerging markets where infrastructure is limited. The air-cargo industry isn’t starting from scratch. Pharma products have been one of the fastest-growing and most profitable cargo types over the past decade. Shippers have developed increasingly sophisticated supply chains for vaccines in recent years, especially for the flu. Gene therapies, another booming area, already require transport and storage at very low temperatures. Planning flu-season vaccine deliveries typically starts months ahead and includes analyzing which routes and airports carry the highest risk for delays and spoilage, said Larry St. Onge, president of DHL’s life sciences and health care unit. DHL is applying that analysis to potential Covid-19 vaccines, which will have more-urgent delivery needs and far larger volume. IATA estimates transporting a single dose to the global population would require the equivalent of 8,000 fully-laden Boeing Co. 747 flights, based on dimensions for vials and packaging provided by pharma companies. A recent study by DHL and McKinsey & Co. pegged demand at 15,000 flights, while including syringes and protective equipment for medical staff would increase the cargo-space requirement. Pharma shipments already account for around 1.9% of global air-cargo volume, said IATA, and adding Covid-19 vaccines could double that share. Not every freighter jet is able to handle very cold cargo because of regulatory restrictions on how much dry ice they can transport to cool them, said executives. Air-cargo capacity is already tight, with flights flying fuller than before the pandemic started. International air-cargo capacity was down 32% in August from a year earlier while demand was only 14% lower. The pandemic-driven travel downturn has removed from service hundreds of passenger jets and the belly space that once carried cargo. More freighters are joining the fleet, with Atlas returning stored 747s from the desert and passenger airlines converting around 100 planes to carry freight in their cabins. Covid-19 vaccine makers such as Pfizer Inc. have already begun manufacturing doses to be ready for shipment should regulators authorize their use. However, the uncertainty over approval timing and shipping requirements has meant they have stopped short of booking space on cargo flights, said airline executives. The U.S. government last month outlined its initial plans for distributing vaccines domestically under its Operation Warp Speed program run by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. McKesson Corp. , one of the world’s largest drug wholesalers, has been contracted by CDC to ship some vaccine types in the U.S. It hasn’t detailed how they would be transported, and air-cargo executives said they haven’t signed any Covid-19 vaccine-related deals yet. McKesson declined to comment. President Trump said during the opening presidential debate last week that the military would support distribution of the vaccine. The Pentagon said it doesn’t expect to have to use military transport aircraft, except to very remote areas. “Our best military assessment is that there is sufficient U.S. commercial-transportation capacity to fully support vaccine distribution,” said a spokesman.
Beleaguered airline Virgin Atlantic is to test all of its cabin crew and pilots for COVID-19 at least once a month as part of measures to “instil confidence” in the safety of air travel. The airline, which is majority-owned by Sir Richard Branson, however, warned the move would do little to increase ticket sales without a system to replace draconian quarantine rules with mass COVID-19 passenger testing.
Pilots and cabin crew have been taking part in a trial of rapid pre-flight COVID-19 testing since September 30 on flights to Hong Kong and Shanghai. Both of these destinations require crew to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate before being allowed entry.
The plan is now to extend rapid testing to other destinations that require negative tests for crew members, as well as those where such requirements don’t currently exist. In effect, it would mean that all crew would be tested for COVID-19 at least once per month.
Testing would be mandatory for certain destinations. The move follows a similar initiative developed by shareholder Delta Air Lines. The Atlanta-based airline has now tested every member of staff for the novel Coronavirus and plans to roll-out mass rapid testing in the near future. Results from the mass-testing program, Delta claims, shows that cabin crew are less likely to succumb to COVID-19 than the general public. The airline put that down to safety measures like mandatory mask-wearing rules and enhanced aircraft cleaning.
Last week, Air Canada also announced plans to roll-out mass rapid COVID-19 testing for staff members on a voluntary basis. The airline is using the Abbott rapid ID NOW testing system that can produce results in as little as 15-minutes. On Monday, the South African government had to clarify rules for flight crew entering the government after Emirates apparently cancelled some services over confusion with new COVID-19 travel restrictions. While passengers must present a negative test certificate dated within 72-hours of travel, this will no longer be a requirement for cabin crew. They won’t, however, now be allowed to leave their hotel rooms as part of preventative measures.
The prevailing view at Air Transport Action Group’s (ATAG) Global Sustainable Aviation Forum (29-30 September) was that the immediate future for decarbonization remains the adoption of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). Robin Hayes, CEO of US low-cost carrier JetBlue, says the airline chose SAFs as a focus for the next five to ten years, because new zero-emission aircraft will come later. JetBlue found that SAFs, which are already being used on flights from San Francisco, are a cost-effective way of reducing emissions, he adds.
Another way is having more efficient air traffic control in congested regions, he says, adding that JetBlue has noticed that fewer flight delays – in the current low traffic COVID-19 period – has resulted in lower fuel burn for each flight. JetBlue recently became the first US airline to achieve carbon neutrality for all domestic flights through the purchase of carbon offsets. Hayes say the airline did this because “customers, regulators and communities want [tangible] action now.”During the forum’s chief technology officers’ (CTO) panel, Safran CTO Stéphane Cueille said ATAG’s Waypoint 2050 target – of halving aviation’s global emissions by 2050 as compared to 2005 – is achievable.
France’s government has announced that it expects to see a regional aircraft – powered by either hybrid-electric or hydrogen technology – enter service around 2030 and see a more fuel-efficient Airbus A320 aircraft enter service from 2033-2035. Cueille says conventional turbine powered aircraft will still be the mainstay of the global commercial aircraft fleet in the early 2030s, so Safran is working to ensure the turbines are 100% compatible with alternative fuels like SAFs.Safran is also working on hydrogen-powered propulsion systems, Cueille says.
Paul Stein, Rolls-Royce CTO, says disruptive technologies are unlikely to arrive in the short term, and that it first aims for efficiency gains of about 10% using its upcoming UltraFan technology. Rolls-Royce also plans for its engines to be 100% compatible with SAFs, he adds. Rolls-Royce is also active in disruptive technologies including hydrogen, hybrid and battery-electric, Stein says. Early next year it will attempt to break the speed record for the world’s fastest zero-emission aircraft using its electric aircraft demonstrator ACCEL, he adds.
GE Aviation general manager advanced technology, Arjan Hegeman, says GE is working on a wide range of technologies, including allowing engines to utilize SAFs and aiming for double-digit efficiency improvements in its open-rotor engine technology. He also says GE is developing megawatt-scale power generation for electric motors. Raytheon Technologies head of technology and global engineering, Mark Russell, says the company is working on a wide range of carbon-cutting technologies, through improved efficiency, SAFs and hybrid-electric propulsion.
Airbus CTO Grazia Vittadini says hydrogen fuel can be used for about 50% of the journey to a carbon neutral industry.She says Airbus’ zero-emission hydrogen-powered aircraft will be available by 2035, but that SAFs will also play a part in the journey as well, she adds. ATR senior VP engineering and head of design organization, Stéphane Viala, says: “ATR has looked at battery technology, but it is not the way to go [as it is too heavy]. We are not carrying enough payload.”Viala says the only technology they are considering are those using hydrogen.He says they are looking at hydrogen fuel cells and burning hydrogen in turbines. A challenge we face is producing hydrogen in a ‘green way’ and at affordable cost, says Viala, adding that the other issue is developing the infrastructure to support a hydrogen-powered aviation industry.
Rolls-Royce has completed testing of the technology that will power the world’s fastest all-electric plane. All the technology has been tested on a full-scale replica of the plane’s core—called an ‘ionBird’—including a 500hp electric powertrain powerful enough to set world speed records and a battery with enough energy to supply 250 homes.The plane is part of a Rolls-Royce initiative called ACCEL, short for “Accelerating the Electrification of Flight”.
The ACCEL project team includes key partners YASA, the electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation start-up Electroflight.The team has been developing the technology while adhering to the UK Government’s social distancing and other health guidelines; the systems will soon be integrated into Rolls-Royce’s ‘Spirit of Innovation’ plane. There is a long history of iron-birds in aviation for testing propulsion systems ahead of flight; in this case Rolls-Royce named the test airframe “ionBird”, after the zero-emission energy source propelling the aircraft.
The dedicated team have tested each and every component of the system including running the propeller up to full speed (approximately 2,400 rpm) using the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for aircraft propulsion.When at full power during the flight-testing phase, it will propel the aircraft to more than 300 mph setting a new world speed record for electric flight.
More than 6,000 cells are packaged in the battery for maximum safety, minimum weight and full thermal protection.Since January, engineering and test pilots have spent many hours optimizing the system and developing operating procedures for electric flight. GBs of data—generated every hour of operation—are analyzed to improve performance wherever possible.
Rolls-Royce is committed to playing a leading role in reaching net zero carbon by 2050.The completion of ground-testing for the ACCEL project is a great achievement for the team and is another important step towards a world record attempt. This project is also helping to develop Rolls-Royce’s capabilities and ensure that we remain a leader in delivering the electrification of flight, an important part of our sustainability strategy.—Rob Watson, Director – Rolls-Royce Electrical
Bremont will be the official timing partner for the all-electric speed record attempt. The British luxury watch maker has also helped develop the design of the plane’s cockpit which will feature a stopwatch, while the company has machined canopy release parts at its Henley-on-Thames manufacturing facility.
The first flight is planned for later this year; the aim is to beat the current all-electric flight world record early next year. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.The ACCEL project is the first Rolls-Royce project to use offsetting to make the whole program carbon neutral.The company also hopes to inspire young people with the ACCEL project to consider STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
After being grounded in March 2019 following two fatal crashes, the Boeing 737 MAX is expected to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly again later this fall. Investigations pointed to a problem with the aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. This automated control system was designed to stabilize the plane and compensate for the more powerful engines used on the 737 MAX compared to previous versions.The FAA’s certification of the plane has come under fire because manufacturers can speed up the process by having only enhancements to a preapproved aircraft reviewed and certified. Ronnie R. Gipson Jr., an expert in aviation law and visiting professor at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, whose work was cited in the House Committee on transportation and infrastructure’s report on this issue, explains what happened and ways to improve these safety regulations.
What are the criticisms of the FAA certification process stemming from the 737 MAX crashes? The process for the certification of a transport category aircraft is a very involved and costly process. The aircraft manufacturers that go down this path have to be committed to spending hundreds of millions of dollars. It starts with an initial design, and the aircraft that is produced is then subjected to dynamic flight testing for compliance with all of the Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Once the airplane satisfies all those requirements, the aircraft is given an original type certificate by the FAA. The aircraft manufacturer is then allowed to produce aircraft and sell them.
As time goes on, technology advances and the manufacturer identifies ways to improve on that original design. So the manufacturer goes back to the FAA and says, “We want to take this initial design that we have and amend it because we made some changes.” At this point, the aircraft manufacturer files what’s called an amended type certificate application for a derivative aircraft from the baseline aircraft. For example, the original type certificate for the first 737 design was submitted to the FAA in 1967. That original design has had multiple derivative aircraft approved by the FAA, with the 737 MAX being the 13th version.In the amended type certification process, the regulatory authority focuses only on what’s changed.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the FAA just doesn’t have the manpower to oversee all the tests that go with an amended type certificate approval. Therefore, the FAA reviews most of the critical changes related to safety and delegates the noncritical changes for review to the manufacturers – in this case to a body in Boeing which consists essentially of Boeing employees.
And that’s what happened here. MCAS wasn’t necessarily presented as a change in the design impacting control in flight. As a result, the MCAS was not a priority for the FAA in the amended certificate approval process. The MCAS capabilities and what it was supposed to control were never fully revealed. That’s really where the problem started. It was with the narrative that was being presented to the FAA, and the lack of oversight in the amended type certificate process. The result was that the MCAS system that was initially presented to the FAA at the beginning of the amended type certificate process was not the same system that ended up in the aircraft (view chart in gallery).
How will the recent recertification for the 737 MAX ensure that the model is now safe? The FAA has had to backtrack and give the MCAS system the intense level of scrutiny that it deserved. The FAA has required the manufacturer to go back and make significant adjustments to the software, in addition to changes to the operator’s manual, which is what the pilots would see.
How can the certification process be improved?
I see two paths to take. First, for a transport category aircraft, regulations are changed so that the manufacturer can receive amended type certificates for only 20 years after the original type certificate has been issued by the FAA.Here’s how that would work: An aircraft manufacturer designs an aircraft for certification in the transport category and applies for the original type certificate in 2020. Once the original type certification is awarded in, say, 2025, then the manufacturer should have 20 years. That means that the manufacturer would have until the year 2045 to seek an amendment to that original type certificate. Beginning in 2046, if the aircraft manufacturer wants to make subsequent design changes, they have to start over and get a new original type certificate.The second component to resolving this problem would be to step in and review what areas the FAA can delegate oversight authority for system changes in an amended aircraft certification application review.
What are the obstacles to making these changes?
One would be money. The FAA has a budget, and these are very costly measures because the FAA will need more engineers and administrators. And for that to happen, Congress has to be prepared to spend the money to make that happen by increasing the FAA’s budget. There’s also going to be a cost to the industry. Implementing the proposal of a 20-year cap on the validity of that original type certificate is going to impose a greater financial cost on the aircraft manufacturers of transport category aircraft. They’re not going to have as much time to get a return on their investment for the aircraft that they produce. So the aircraft are going to end up costing more, which means the airlines are going to end up paying more for those planes. And that cost is going to trickle down to the flying public in those seats.