Flight Safety Information [January 1, 2019] [No. 001]

Flight Safety Information
Top Flight Safety Information   

January 1, 2019  –  No. 001


In This Issue
Incident: Canada A320 near Edmonton on Dec 18th 2018, mountain waves and engine power
Incident: ANZ A320 at Melbourne on Dec 28th 2018, flaps problem
Incident: American B763 over Gulf of Mexico on Dec 28th 2018, loss of cabin pressure
Incident: JAC SF34 near Kagoshima on Dec 26th 2018, engine problem twice
Incident: Canada B38M over Pacific on Dec 24th 2018, hydraulic quantity decreasing
Embraer ERJ-145LR – Runway Excursion (Louisiana)
Piper PA-23 Apache – Fatal Accident (Michigan)
Korean Air Airbus A220-300 (CS300) suffers engine failure, returns to Busan, South Korea
LIBIK Fire Suppression Kits for the Cabin and Flight Deck
Alleged unruly airline passenger released from custody
Pakistan national airline fires pilots and 47 others for fake school degrees
Helicopter Insurance Premiums Could Double
Gulfstream Makes First International Deliveries Of All-New G500
SIU buying 5 planes for aviation programs
First BOEING 777X flight test airplane comes together
The KC-135 Tanker Could Become the First U.S. Warplane To Serve 100 Years
LIFESTAR Air Medical Program Upgrades to New Helicopter
Flight Of The Concordski
Space Missions to Watch in 2019
High Altitude Flying Course
Get ahead with AQS – IOSA Auditor Training
Cabin Accident Investigation from SCSI
Position Available: Deputy Director of Safety

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Incident: Canada A320 near Edmonton on Dec 18th 2018, mountain waves and engine power
An Air Canada Airbus A320-200, registration C-FDCA performing flight AC-244 from Vancouver,BC to Edmonton,AB (Canada) with 145 people on board, was enroute at FL350 about 120nm southwest of Edmonton when the crew reduced engine power in anticipation of mountain wave turbulence. After the turbulence subsided the crew increased engine power again, however, the left hand engine (CFM56) ran roughly. The crew reduced the engine to idle thrust, declared PAN PAN PAN and requested priority on descent. After the descent all engine parameters returned to normal, the left hand engine was increased to 50% power. The aircraft continued for a safe landing with emergency services on stand by.



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Incident: ANZ A320 at Melbourne on Dec 28th 2018, flaps problem
An ANZ Air New Zealand Airbus A320-200, registration ZK-OJH performing flight NZ-891 from Christchurch (New Zealand) to Melbourne,VI (Australia), was on final approach to Melbourne’s runway 27 when the crew went around from about 1000 feet AGL due to a flaps problem. The crew worked the related checklists, positioned for an approach to the longer runway 34 and performed a safe landing on runway 34 at a normal speed.

The occurrence aircraft was able to depart for the return flight after 90 minutes on the ground.


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Incident: American B763 over Gulf of Mexico on Dec 28th 2018, loss of cabin pressure
An American Airlines Boeing 767-300, registration N379AA performing flight AA-1157 from Cancun (Mexico) to Miami,FL (USA), was enroute at FL390 about 180nm northeast of Cancun and 280nm southwest of Miami, when the right hand pack developed an overtemperature and failed. While the crew was still working the checklists to reset the pack, a cabin altitude alert activated despite the left pack still operating, the passenger oxygen masks deployed. The crew initiated an emergency descent to 10,000 feet and continued to Miami where the aircraft landed safely on schedule.

The occurrence aircraft returned to service about 46 hours after landing in Miami.



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Incident: JAC SF34 near Kagoshima on Dec 26th 2018, engine problem twice
A JAC Japan Air Commuter Saab 340B, registration JA002C performing flight 3X-3687 from Kagoshima to Matsuyama (Japan) with 22 passengers, was climbing out of Kagoshima when the crew decided to return to Kagoshima due to an engine problem. The aircraft landed safely.

The flight was cancelled.

The aircraft remained on the ground for about 2.5 hours for repairs, then departed for flight 3X-3809 to Wadomari (Japan) with 35 passengers but again needed to return to Kagoshima due to the same problem. The flight and return flight were cancelled, too.


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Incident: Canada B38M over Pacific on Dec 24th 2018, hydraulic quantity decreasing
An Air Canada Boeing 737-8 MAX, registration C-FSCY performing flight AC-535 from Vancouver,BC (Canada) to Kahului,HI (USA) with 167 passengers and 6 crew, was enroute over the Pacific Ocean about 2 hours into the flight when the crew noticed the hydraulic quantity A had reduced to 67% and was degrading. The crew consulted with dispatch and maintenance, a decision to continue the flight was reached, the crew should report the situation within an hour again. 30 minutes later the quantity had reduced another percent, and another 30 minutes later the quantity had reduced to 65%. In the following discussion with dispatch and maintenance the decision was made to return to Vancouver. The aircraft landed safely back in Vancouver about 3 hours after the decision to return.

The Canadian TSB reported the operator’s maintenance is investigating the causes.

A replacement Boeing 737-8 MAX registration C-FSOC reached Kahului with a delay of about 10 hours.


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Embraer ERJ-145LR – Runway Excursion (Louisiana)

Date: 31-DEC-2018
Time: 00:06 LT
Type: Embraer ERJ-145LR
Owner/operator: ExpressJet Airlines, op. for American Eagle
Registration: N687JS
C/n / msn: 14500846
Fatalities: Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 14
Other fatalities: 0
Aircraft damage: Unknown
Location: Alexandria International Airport, LA (AEX/KAEX) –    United States of America
Phase: Landing
Nature: Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, TX (DFW/KDFW)
Destination airport: Alexandria International Airport, LA (AEX/KAEX)

American Airlines flight 3826 suffered a runway excursion after landing at Alexandria International Airport, Louisiana, USA.
The aircraft became stuck with the right main landing gear in the soft ground.
All fourteen passengers and crew on board were safely deplaned at the site.
The aircraft was subsequently towed back onto the paved surface and to the apron.


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Piper PA-23 Apache – Fatal Accident (Michigan)

Date: 30-DEC-2018
Time: 19:45 LT
Type: Piper PA-23 Apache
Owner/operator: Private
Registration: N2146P *
C/n / msn: 23-748
Fatalities: Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities: 0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location: North of Beaver Island Airport (KSJX), Peaine, Michigan –    United States of America
Phase: Take off
Nature: Private
Departure airport: Beaver Island (KSJX)
Destination airport:

The aircraft impacted heavily wooded terrain in the area off Buff Kett Road in Beaver Island, near Beaver Island Airport (KSJX), Peaine Township, Michigan.
The aircraft sustained unreported damage and there is a one at least one fatality.
The Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office said they heard a loud explosion near the airport. The US Coast Guard helped in an extensive search to find the plane.


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Korean Air Airbus A220-300 (CS300) suffers engine failure, returns to Busan, South Korea

Date: 26-DEC-2018
Time: c. 13:20 LT
Type: Airbus A220-300
Owner/operator: Korean Air
Registration: HL8314
C/n / msn: 55035
Fatalities: Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 64
Other fatalities: 0
Aircraft damage: Minor
Location: c 193 km E of Busan, South Korea –    Pacific Ocean
Phase: En route
Nature: International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport: Busan (PUS/RKPK)
Destination airport: Nagoya (NGO/RJGG)

Korean Air flight KE753, an Airbus A220-300, returned to land at Busan, South Korea after suffering an engine failure.
The aircraft departed Busan Airport at 13:01 hours local time (04:01 UTC) on a regular flight to Nagoya, Japan.
The flight crew stopped the climb at about FL290 while some 193 km from Busan over the Sea of Japan after the aircraft suffered a failure of the no.1 engine (PW1524G). The aircraft returned and landed safely back at Busan at 14:00 hours.

Photos from the incident aircraft show damage to all blades of the last Low Pressure Turbine (LPT) stage of the engine.


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Alleged unruly airline passenger released from custody

Ahmed Khassim from Mississauga, Ont., is alleged to have been drunk and disorderly aboard an Air Canada flight Sunday night, forcing the crew to make an unscheduled landing at St. John’s International Airport where he was arrested by Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers. He has since been charged under the federal Aeronautics Act.

Ahmed Khassim, 29, facing two charges after Air Canada flight was forced to land in St. John’s

A Mississauga man who was arrested after his flight to Switzerland was forced to land in St. John’s Sunday night has been released from custody.

Twenty-nine-year-old Ahmed Khassim appeared in provincial court Monday morning, where he was charged with one offence under the Aeronautics Act. The court heard a second charge was in the process of being filed.

Khassim was a passenger on board Air Canada flight 878 from Toronto, headed to Zurich, Switzerland, when he allegedly became drunk and disruptive.

Court documents allege Khassim “engaged in behaviour (that) endangered the safety and security of an aircraft in flight or of persons on board by intentionally interfering with the performance of the duties of crew members.”

His second charge is similar, alleging he “lessened the ability of crew members to perform their duties.”

Khassim told the court he was on his way to Kenya to visit relatives.
“I haven’t seen them in 12 years. I planned the flight a year ago,” he told Judge James Walsh, saying he had planned to return from Kenya March 30.

Khassim was released on a $5,000 cash deposit and is under orders to be of good behaviour, report to RNC headquarters within 24 hours for fingerprinting and photos, and to reside at his Mississauga address, except for his trip to Kenya. Walsh told Khassim he would only be released once he had provided the court with the details of his return flight to Canada.

Khassim is scheduled to make his next appearance in court – or have a lawyer represent him – Feb. 13.

“For a trial, do you think I could do it in Toronto?” he asked the judge.
“For a trial, no. If you plead not guilty, it has to be here. If you plead guilty, it can be dealt with in Ontario,” Walsh explained.

If convicted, Khassim could be facing a hefty sentence: the maximum punishment for each of his charges is a $100,000 fine and five years in jail.

That’s in addition to any compensation Air Canada – which has been known to claim compensation for passengers who delay flights through deliberate acts – may claim. Costs involved in an unexpected landing are estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Almost a year ago, another flight to Zurich was forced to land in Newfoundland due to an unruly passenger. A flight to the largest Swiss city from New York landed in Gander last Jan. 13 after a 24-year-old man allegedly became unruly. He was also charged.
A passenger video of Khassim’s arrest was posted on Twitter. In it, RNC officers are seen boarding the plane and are directed to Khassim, who is sitting in a window seat, by flight crew. The officers place handcuffs on him and are heard reading him his charge as they escort him off the aircraft.


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Pakistan national airline fires pilots and 47 others for fake school degrees

The three former Pakistan International Airlines pilots were among 50 employees who lost their jobs for holding fraudulent high school degrees

Pakistan’s national flag carrier has fired 50 employees, including three pilots, for holding fake high school degrees in the latest embarrassing mishap to hit the troubled airline.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which was considered a global leader in commercial aviation until the 1970s, has been plagued by myriad controversies in recent years and is saddled with billions of dollars of debt.

A Pakistan International Airlines at new Islamabad International Airport. Photo: Xinhua
PIA spokesman Mashood Tajwar confirmed the sackings and said at least six additional pilots had been fired recently on the same grounds.

The airline has cancelled the pilots’ licences, he added, without specifying what the other PIA staff who were sacked did for the airline.

PIA was widely mocked in 2016 for sacrificing a goat next to a turboprop ATR plane to ward off bad luck, weeks after one of its planes crashed killing 47 people in one of Pakistan’s worst air disasters.

Last year it had to apologise after forgetting two corpses due to be transferred to Pakistan from New York.

And in 2013 one of its pilots was jailed in Britain for being drunk before he was due to fly from the English city of Leeds to Islamabad with 156 people on board.

PIA employees have also been periodically investigated for drug-smuggling, especially after drugs were seized from a Dubai-bound flight in 2016.


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Helicopter Insurance Premiums Could Double

Helicopter owners are in for major sticker shock when they receive their next insurance premium bill, particularly private pilots and small commercial operator. So counsels Matt Drummelsmith, president of insurance brokerage Aviation Specialty Insurance. Drummelsmith said premiums are in some cases even doubling, while some carriers are dropping customers and others are refusing to underwrite entire policies.
Drummelsmith says the carnage “already is in full swing” and no one is immune. “It doesn’t matter what you size, scope, or experience is,” he said. “Some carriers are not even quoting at this point and those that are are taking a much harder look at pilots and operations. Things that could be underwritten six to eight months ago are now being declined, the policies that are being written have heavy restrictions, and some premiums are even doubling. It’s a much harder process,” especially for new helicopter buyers, cautioned Drummelsmith.

A low-time pilot in a Robinson R44 could easily face premiums of up to $20,000 a year in this environment, he notes. Drummelsmith said the premium increases are being fueled by ballooning accident settlement costs that now can run into nine figures, especially with EMS operators. “Carriers don’t want any new liability in this segment,” he said. “And they quote accordingly.”

In his own practice, Drummelsmith gives the example of the difficulty obtaining insurance for a client with a Bell 429 that is dual-pilot, professionally flown. “This client should have been a slam dunk for any carrier out there,” he said. Instead, Drummelsmith needed to find several carriers to take on portions of the policy. He said policies for large helicopters now sometimes need as many as five carriers to share the risk.

While premiums that double are on the extreme end of the spectrum, Drummelsmith warns that even good operators with good safety records are in for pain. “Low-risk Part 91 operators will likely see increases of between five to ten percent, while an EMS operator with 15 to 20 claims of any kind, which is not all that uncommon, will easily see premium increases above 20 percent,” he said. New buyers who operate single pilot will take the biggest hits. Drummelsmith says that those operators can get insurance, but with large deductibles, sometimes as much as $250,000. Even then companies are increasingly reluctant to insure for anywhere near full hull value, sometimes leaving aircraft owners with an insured exposure equivalent to 15 to 25 percent of the aircraft’s value.

Ironically, the premium increases come at a time when the overall accident rate, particularly the fatal accident rate, for helicopters is trending down dramatically. But, Drummelsmith insists, that doesn’t matter. “Even if accidents are down, it doesn’t mean they aren’t severe; insurance companies base premiums not on the count, but on the amount of the claims paid,” Drummelsmith said, noting that individual helicopter accidents now can trigger settlements up to $500 million. Those potential liabilities are driving some insurers from the marketplace.

It’s already happening in Europe he said, noting that nine European aviation insurance syndicates closed their doors or merged in recent years and two more carriers closed in the U.S., including W.R. Berkley. “Smaller carriers, mainly of aviation insurance, don’t have the capacity to write policies with ten to thirty million dollar limits anymore,” Drummelsmith said, “and big carriers don’t want to be hit with writing a massive check.” The situation overall is creating “a hell of a lot more work for people in the brokerage world,” he said. “We spend most of our time just trying to keep clients in comparable policies at a reasonable rate.”

While larger settlements are driving some of the rate increases, so is the downturn in the lucrative medium and large helicopter operator segment that services the offshore energy industry. With substantially fewer helicopters flying in that market, the aggregate amount of premiums paid has declined and insurers need to make that money back on the remainder of helicopters flying, a spokesman for one helicopter OEM told AIN.

The impact of all of this could be substantial on both the used and new helicopter market, said Jason Kmiecik, acting president of HeliValue$, the helicopter sales tracking and valuation firm.

“This is going to put a large hurt on some operators,” he said, possibly to the point of forcing some operators out of business, and depressing helicopter prices. “This market does not need any more machines for sale than it already has,” he said.

Drummelsmith thinks the rate hikes are temporary, but there really is no effective way an operator can shield from the impact. “Once the market normalizes, it will be back to a buyer’s market,” he said.


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Gulfstream Makes First International Deliveries Of All-New G500

International Launch Customer Qatar Executive Continues Expansion Of Gulfstream Fleet

SAVANNAH, Ga., Dec. 31, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. today announced it recently made the first international deliveries of the clean-sheet, record-breaking Gulfstream G500. Qatar Airways received two G500 aircraft at Gulfstream’s Savannah headquarters. The aircraft will join the five Gulfstream G650ER aircraft already in service with Qatar Executive, the airline’s executive charter business.

The all-new G500 earned its U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type and production certificates in July 2018 and entered service in September. The Qatar Civil Aviation Authority validated the U.S. type certificate in October.

En route to FAA certification, the G500 toured the world to give customers firsthand access to the aircraft, its Symmetry Flight Deck™ and class-leading interior. During the tour, the G500 flew nearly 130,000 nautical miles/240,760 kilometers and set 22 city-pair speed records, all in addition to the flying required for certification. In total, the G500 has already achieved nearly 30 city-pair speed records.

“Gulfstream and Qatar Executive have been good partners since we announced the G500 and their intention to be its international launch customer,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “We are proud to deliver these aircraft just four years later and after the most rigorous flight-test program Gulfstream has conducted. Qatar Executive’s world-renowned executive charter service is gaining mature, high-performing aircraft that set new standards in safety and comfort.”

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said, “We are truly delighted to be the international launch customer for the all-new Gulfstream G500 jet. This state-of-the-art aircraft will set a new industry benchmark and will offer our passengers an unrivaled flying experience.

“Qatar Executive and Gulfstream share a special and strong relationship, one which has grown over the years based on confidence and mutual understanding. This relationship emphasizes Qatar Executive’s commitment to provide an industry-leading product and service.”

Upon becoming the international launch customer for the G500 in 2014, Qatar Airways established an agreement for up to 30 Gulfstream aircraft, a combination of firm orders and options that includes the flagship G650ER, the G500 and its sister ship, the Gulfstream G600.

Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), designs, develops, manufactures, markets, services and supports the world’s most technologically advanced business-jet aircraft. Gulfstream has produced more than 2,800 aircraft for customers around the world since 1958. To meet the diverse transportation needs of the future, Gulfstream offers a comprehensive fleet of aircraft, comprising the Gulfstream G280™, the Gulfstream G550™, the Gulfstream G500™, the Gulfstream G600™, the Gulfstream G650™ and the Gulfstream G650ER™. We invite you to visit our website for more information and photos at www.gulfstreamnews.com.

More information about General Dynamics is available at www.generaldynamics.com.


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SIU buying 5 planes for aviation programs

CARBONDALE – Southern Illinois University Carbondale is going to get some new flying classrooms.

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that the university is about to spend more than $2 million to purchase five new Cessna 172 planes to teach students how to fly. The chair of the school’s aviation programs, Mike Burgener, says the planes will replace eight decades-old aircraft that are becoming outdated and expensive to maintain.

The new Cessnas are four-seat, single-engine planes that cruise at about 140 mph. Burgener says they will be used in private pilot certification courses, instrument certifications and for single-engine time building.

School officials also say that student flight fees will pay for the planes.


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First BOEING 777X flight test airplane comes together

At 252 feet long (77 meters) from nose to tail, the 777X is the longest passenger jet Boeing has ever produced.

Boeing’s longest passenger jet to fly in 2019

Boeing has brought together the major fuselage sections and turned on the power to the first 777X airplane that will take to the skies in 2019.

In a major production milestone called ‘final body join,’ Boeing teams connected the airplane’s nose, mid and aft sections in the company’s factory in Everett, Wash. The jet now measures 252 feet long (77 meters) from nose to tail, making it the longest passenger jet the manufacturer has ever produced.

“The 777X is a new airplane and a new production system,” said Josh Binder, vice president and general manager of the 777X. “With the 777X, the production system was integrated into the development program sooner than any other airplane, and the team is doing a great job of hitting our milestones as expected.”

The 777X builds on the market-leading 777 and the 787 Dreamliner to offer airlines the largest and most-efficient twin-engine jet in the world. The airplane provides 12 percent lower fuel consumption and 10 percent lower operating costs than competing airplanes.

The 777X achieves the unprecedented performance through the introduction of the latest technologies such as the most fuel-efficient commercial engine ever, the GE9X, and a fourth-generation all-new composite wing design that provides lift and efficiency. With the extension of a set of folding, raked wingtips, the airplane’s wing spans 235 feet (72 meters).

By adding folding wingtips, the 777X’s wingspan has been increased to enhance the aerodynamic efficiency of the wing, reducing engine thrust and fuel use. Additionally, the folding wingtips allow the 777X to maintain airport compatibility with the existing 777 family, adding value for customers.

The first 777X introduced will be the 777-9 model, which can seat 400 to 425 passengers in a standard configuration and offer a range of 7,600 nautical miles (14,075 km). Boeing is building on the passenger-preferred interior of today’s 777 innovations to create a passenger experience like no other. Passengers will enjoy windows that are larger and located higher on the fuselage than the current 777, along with a wider cabin, new lighting and enhanced architecture.

The first 777X test airplane for static ground testing was completed in September 2018. Three additional flight test airplanes will be built after flight test #1.

The 777X first flight is scheduled for 2019. First delivery is slated for 2020.

For information about the 777X, go to http://www.boeing.com/777x/reveal/. To date, Boeing has won 340 orders and commitments for the 777X from several airlines, including All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.


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The KC-135 Tanker Could Become the First U.S. Warplane To Serve 100 Years

The humble tanker first entered service in 1956.

It’s the B-52 that’s most often the butt of jokes about its age, with onlookers noting that airmen could be working on the same planes their grandfathers flew. But another long-serving aircraft could hit the century mark: It’s now looking like the KC-135 tanker fleet could mark 100 years in the air before its replacement is finally ready.

Tankers are an essential component of American airpower. They supply U.S. and allied warplanes and support aircraft with the gas to cross oceans and fly longer over battlefields.

The KC-135 Stratotanker first joined the Air Force in 1956. A modified Boeing 707 civilian airliner, the KC-135 was equipped with internal tanks capable of holding 200,000 pounds of aviation fuel and a midair refueling boom. The result was an aircraft that has refueled U.S. and allied fighters, bombers, and support aircraft in every conflict and theater since the Vietnam War. Hundreds of KC-135s were built between 1956 and 1965.  According to Pentagon figures, the U.S. Air Force currently flies 153 KC-135s, while the Air National Guard operates 172 such planes and the Air Force reserve flies another 72.

The Air Force is currently preparing to purchase 179 new KC-46 Pegasus tankers, which is a new plane derived from the Boeing 767. However, USAF won’t be buying enough of the Pegasus to replace all KC-135s.

There’s another tanker project, tentatively named “KC-Z,” allegedly set to enter service in the 2030-2035 timeframe. KC-Z could use a new, low-observable airframe, making it more difficult for enemies to detect with radar. There is also the possibility the future tanker will be optionally manned or unmanned. However, given the difficulties involved in building the KC-46, including long delays and cost overruns, a brand new tanker could be postponed into the 2040s.

No matter what happens with the new planes, it now appears likely that at least a few KC-135s, and perhaps many of them, will reach the century mark. It seems ridiculous to imagine an aircraft produced a hundred years ago, in 1918, could be useful to U.S. Air Force today. But an aircraft produced in 1956 indeed will still have value in 2056.

As long as the airframes are sound (and flying tanker missions doesn’t stress aircraft airframes the way fighter missions do) and the aircraft are provided with necessary safety, avionics, and perhaps even engine upgrades, there may not necessarily be anything wrong with a tanker built during the Eisenhower administration flying in the mid-21st century.


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LIFESTAR Air Medical Program Upgrades to New Helicopter

AMARILLO, TX- Med-Trans Corporation is upgrading the Amarillo-based LIFESTAR air medical transport program with a new Airbus Helicopter H135 P3 aircraft with the very latest in safety and aviation technology.

In addition, Med-Trans and the Northwest Texas Healthcare System (NWTHS) are transitioning LIFESTAR into a broad-based community-based program to better serve growing healthcare needs in rural areas of the Panhandle and surrounding states. NWTHS will transition its employees operating the LIFESTAR program to Med-Trans, which specializes in operating air medical transport systems with a 26-state footprint.

“This all-new medically-equipped helicopter and the medical and flight crews who will transport patients strengthens the commitment of Med-Trans and NWTHS to care for the rapidly evolving health care needs in the rural areas surrounding Amarillo,” said Med-Trans President Rob Hamilton. “Together our two organizations are building on a solid record of evolving our programs in direct response to expanding demand in rural areas.”

“LIFESTAR has 25 year legacy of providing high-quality patient care, setting the standard for air medical transport in our region. This new model will further allow LIFESTAR to continue to grow and provide our patients with the best care possible”, said Northwest CEO Ryan Chandler.


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Flight Of The Concordski

A TU-144 is rolled out during a ceremony at the Tupolev test airfield in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow. Photo: Reuters

Its maiden flight lasted for a little over half an hour and failed to reach the Mach speed it was engineered for. But when the Tupolev Tu-144 successfully took to the air on December 31, 1968, it gave the Soviet Union bragging rights as the first to put a supersonic airliner into flight, beating its Western competitor by two months.

The sky appeared to be limit for the Concordski, the moniker given to the Soviet world-beater in a nod to its similarities to its luxurious rival, the Concorde.

In a costly Cold War battle for technological supremacy that played out alongside the space race, the Tu-144 bested its British-French rival again in June 1969, when it reached supersonic speeds.

The two aircraft were similar in appearance. Each featured a variant of the delta wing, and a downward sloping needle nose that drew comparisons to a swan’s neck. The most striking visual difference was the pair of canards, or winglets, behind the cockpit of the Soviet aircraft. Under their heat-resistant skins, designed to withstand airspeeds above Mach 2, the differences were more evident.

The Tupolev was slightly longer (65.7 meters vs. 61.7) and heavier and, once a suitable and more powerful engine configuration was settled upon, could reach a higher maximum speed. The Concorde boasted more advanced engine and braking systems, and state-of-the-art air-intake and wing-shaping systems that were controlled by computer.

A Tu-144 is displayed during the International Paris Air Show on June 4, 1975, at Le Bourget airport.

The Soviet plane was designed to carry 140 passengers, whereas the Concorde was fitted for 92 to 120 passengers. The Tu-144’s crew of three could rely on one feature lacking in the Concorde — ejection seats (not available for passengers).

The Western world got its first glimpse of the Soviet supersonic jet at the Paris Air Show in 1971, feeding anticipation over which plane would win the next leg of the race — being the first to carry passengers.

But two years later at the same show, the Tu-144 was the center of attention for all the wrong reasons. The Concorde had just finished its 30-minute display on June 3, 1973, when the Tu-144 took to the skies to show off its capabilities in half the allotted time. After pulling off a series of twists and turns, the Soviet airliner crashed, killing all six crew members and eight people on the ground.

Some speculated that the plane had crashed to avoid a collision with a French Mirage jet, which was alleged to have flown too close in an attempt to photograph the Tu-144’s unique canards.

Part of the fuselage of the Tu-144 lies in foreground amid ruins of houses of the village of Goussainville destroyed by debris from the plane crash in 1973.

The 1973 tragedy at the French air show signaled the beginning of the end for the Tu-144. It pushed back the Soviet program by four years, allowing the Concorde to leapfrog its Soviet competitor when it became the first to begin scheduled commercial passenger flights in 1976.

The Tu-144 did start transporting passengers in 1977, but praise was scant and complaints many, including cramped space and ear-splitting engine noise. The Tu-144 was also prone to mechanical malfunctions.

Concorde and Tu-144 at the Paris Air Show in 1973
Concorde and Tu-144 at the Paris Air Show in 1973

The Tu-144 flew only 55 roundtrip flights on its lone commercial route, between Moscow and Alma Ata (now Almaty), which was reportedly chosen by Aeroflot because it passed over largely underpopulated areas. The service proved unpopular and Aeroflot canceled it six months later.

Aeroflot officially terminated its ties with the Tu-144 after a modified model crashed on a test flight near Moscow in June 1978. In 1982, production of the Tu-144 came to an end, although the airliner remained in service as a cargo plane until 1983. All in all, the fleet of 16 aircraft completed a total of 102 commercial flights.

The Tu-144 is seen in December 1968 during a test-flight.

The Concorde enjoyed a more celebrated career ferrying the rich and famous around the world, including its popular New York-to-London route that could be completed in less than three hours.

On July 25, 2000, Concorde Air France Flight 4590 crashed on takeoff, killing 100 passengers and nine crew members. It proved too much to overcome, and the seven supersonic airliners each operated by Air France and British Airways were retired for good in 2003.


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Space Missions to Watch in 2019

Multiple trips to the Moon, physics satellites, and Europe’s long-awaited exoplanet explorer are among the space missions on tap for 2019..

ESA’s CHEOPS exoplanet mission will take to space in 2019.

What a busy year it has been! In 2018 we saw 112 successful space launches worldwide from eight countries, the most launches we’ve seen since 1990. SpaceX and China alone account for more than half of these, with 21 and 39 launches, respectively – a record for both. This past year we also saw Mars InSight arrive at the Red Planet, ESA’s BepiColombo mission head to Mercury, the launches of NASA’s exoplanet-hunting TESS mission and the Parker Solar Probe, and China’s bid to make the first ever landing on the lunar farside.

There’s far more to come. Here are the top space science missions we’re watching in 2019.

Lunar Ambitions
The New Year will see a multi-national armada of spacecraft return to the Moon.

An artist’s concept shows China’s Chang’e 5 sample return mission lifting off from the Moon.

China’s Chang’e 4 is set to make the first ever soft landing on the lunar farside in early January 2019, followed by the Chang’e 5 a sample return mission that should to occur by late 2019. The mission is a follow-on to the Queqiao orbital relay and the Chang’e 4 lander.

Key to its success is China’s heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket, which had problems with its first-stage engine during its second flight in July 2017. Chang’e 5 weighs in at a hefty 18,100 pound (8,200 kilogram) launch mass, which includes the lander, launch system, and sample return capsule – more than double that of Chang’e 4 – necessitating the larger carrier rocket.

ISRO rover
The Chandrayaan 2 rover on Earth.

Meanwhile, the Indian Space Research Organization is entering the lunar lander game in 2019 with its Chandrayaan 2 mission. This spacecraft will carry an orbiter, rover, and lander and is set to launch atop a Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle Mark III from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in India on January 30, 2019. Chandrayaan 2 will land near the Simpelius N and Manzinus C craters – the first soft landing for the south pole region of the Moon.

The Google Lunar X prize competition to land on the Moon unfortunately saw its March 31, 2018, deadline pass with no claimants. The prize featured an award of $20 million for the first team to land on the Moon, drive 500 meters across its surface, and return pictures. Nevertheless, five teams remain committed to the goal and have either secured or are working to secure launch contracts to head to the Moon in 2019.

SpaceIL Presents: The Mission
SpaceIL Presents: The Mission

SpaceIL: This Israeli-based company plans to launch its Beresheet lunar lander (named for the first Hebrew word in the Book of Genesis) on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on February 13, 2019. The spacecraft will take about two and a half months to reach the Moon, through a slow cycle of elliptical raising orbits.

ALINA: Germany’s Autonomous Landing and Navigation module (ALINA) could bring two Audi lunar quattro rovers near the Apollo 17 Taurus-Littrow landing site in 2019. ALINA is operated by the Part-Time Scientists, and the company is working to secure a launch contract with SpaceX.

Moon Express: The sole remaining U.S. entry in the Google Lunar X prize competition, Moon Express still intends to field two missions in 2019: the MX-1E lander and the Lunar Outpost MX-3 lander. The company plans to launch these missions on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, which carried out several successful launches from the company’s Mahia New Zealand launch complex in 2018. MX-1E will carry a small optical telescope, a laser retro-reflector, and a Celestis memorial container.

Team Indus: Headquartered in Bangalore, India, this company is also looking to secure a launch contract in 2019. Two other teams, Synergy Moon and Hakuto, are looking to piggyback with Team Indus.

Another possible Moonbound mission is the Goonhilly Lunar Pathfinder, which would dispense nanosatellites into lunar orbit. The UK wants to field the Lunar Pathfinder in orbit around the Moon in time for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, but there’s no word on a launch date or a carrier for this mission.

Astronomy from Low-Earth Orbit
The European Space Agency’s long-awaited Characterizing Exoplanets Satellite (CHEOPS) may take to space in the October-November time frame. CHEOPS will employ a 13-inch (33-centimeter) telescope to make accurate measurements of the radii of known transiting exoplanets. CHEOPS will launch on a Soyuz rocket and carry out observations from a Sun-synchronous, low-Earth orbit.

We’ve been chasing the launch of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), as it was one of our featured space missions to watch for in 2018. ICON may not have reached space yet, but it sure has seen lots of the Earth this past year, as it attempted to launch from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before traveling back to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. ICON employs a Pegasus XL rocket deployed from NASA’s L1011 Stargazer aircraft to get into orbit. When it’s finally in space, ICON will explore the boundary where Earth and space weather converge.

China is often silent about its space aspirations, at least until missions are successfully in orbit. One such enigma is the small Tianyi-4 gamma-ray burst detector, possibly set to launch in 2019. China may also place its TianQin gravitational wave detector in space in 2019.

Another physics mission to watch is LARES 2. A followup to ESA’s 2012 Laser Relativity Satellite (LARES) mission, LARES 2 will launch on a Vega rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, in late 2019. Scientists worldwide will bounce lasers from ground-based observatories off of LARES 2’s retro-reflectors in an effort to measure the effect of relativistic frame-dragging on the satellite.

Russia may also (finally!) launch the Spektr RG X-ray observatory, a joint project with Germany. Though it sounds like something a James Bond villain might put into space, Spektr RG is built for X-ray astronomy, designed to observe in the medium- and high-energy X-ray bands using multiple instruments. The 6.5-year mission will survey the X-ray sky from the L2 Lagrangian point, beyond the Moon. Originally set to launch in 2017, it was plagued by technical setbacks; now it’s planned for launch in March.

And More…
Now for something completely different: Japan’s Astro Live Experiences (ALE) – a smallsat mission designed to create an artificial meteor shower – may take to space in 2019. Each ALE dispenser will carry 300 to 500 pellets, at a price tag of $16,000 a meteor. However, while the company plans to launch ALE-1 and ALE-2 in 2019, the first artificial meteor shower demonstrations won’t occur until 2020.

Also in 2019, SpaceX may carry out its first crewed Dragon flight in June. This would follow an uncrewed launch of the capsule that’s coming right up in January. The crewed flight would be the first time a private company has placed astronauts in Earth orbit. Not only that, the event would mark the first crewed launch from U.S. soil since the space shuttle Atlantis launched for the last time on July 8, 2011.

With all of the missions coming up, 2019 will be an exciting year in space for sure.


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