Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trump effort to stoke fear over Boeing laughed off by experts

Workers assemble Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the company's massive assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., on Dec. 19, 2013.
(Bruce Smith -  Associated Press)

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article97237802.html#storylink=cpy


For over a year, Donald Trump has had a message for voters whose livelihood depends on the aircraft industry, specifically aviation giant Boeing – elect me, or your jobs are moving to China.

Aircraft industry analysts say that claim is unfounded – “side-splittingly hilarious,” in the words of Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group, which studies a wide range of aviation-related industries.

“They’re an embarrassing misunderstanding of the aircraft industry,” he said of Trump’s claims.

Yet Trump continues to raise the idea of Boeing leaving the United States. “Oh, don’t worry; if I’m president it won’t happen,” the Republican presidential nominee said last month at a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “If I’m president, Boeing will be very happy – believe me.”

Trump’s favorite example of what might be lost has been Boeing’s “big, big […] beautiful” facility in North Charleston, S.C. The company’s new plant employs more than 7,500 South Carolinians.

“All of a sudden you’re gonna be reading a big front-page story, all over the place, that Boeing is going to leave South Carolina, they’re going to make all their planes in China. Because that’s what they do,” he said in South Carolina ahead of its Republican primary in February, warning that China would bully the U.S. by devaluing its currency.

Aboulafia, however, says there’s one big flaw in Trump’s argument: South Carolina is the very place where Boeing is outsourcing jobs – from its facilities in Washington state.

“He’s standing at the very center of where the jobs are shifting and he’s saying they’re going somewhere else completely,” Aboulafia said. “If there was someone in that crowd who wasn’t confused, tell them to call me and tell me what the hell they’re thinking.”

The South Carolina site has expanded from manufacturing the 787 to designing and producing parts for the 737 MAX and the upcoming 777X. The North Charleston site houses the 787 Dreamliner final assembly and delivery facility, and delivered its 100th Dreamliner in February. It has a rapidly expanding research center with over 400 engineers.

“The South Carolina facility is new, brand new. It’s a huge tectonic shift (from previous production in Seattle) – so the idea of saying, ‘Nope this isn’t the future; China is the future,’ is ridiculous,” Aboulafia said.

Adam Pilarski, vice president of aviation consulting group Avitas Inc., said when he heard Trump’s claims about Boeing, his reaction was, “Are you kidding me?”

“These statements about moving jobs don’t make sense. Obviously he doesn’t know much about this industry,” he said, adding that Trump’s one-size-fits-all approach to manufacturing doesn’t work in the aerospace sector.
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“Aviation is different,” he said. “In order to produce stuff, you need a huge amount of supervision, not to mention the processes the FAA has for being approved – it’s very, very labor-intensive in terms of regulatory authority.”

Pilarski, who has observed the aviation industry in China for 30 years, said that while it’s possible to bring all that supervision overseas, it would be hugely expensive compared to staying in the U.S.

Boeing’s new plant in China, which has been one of Trump’s favorite talking points, is unlikely to make a large difference to U.S. jobs.
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“That’s a completion facility, which is basically installing carpets and some light paint work. This is not aircraft building,” Aboulafia said, adding that the lack of intellectual property protections makes China unappealing for high-level aircraft work, anyway. It was announced in September that the new plant would install interiors and paint exteriors on Boeing 737 airliners.

“That interior work is not that critical since it doesn’t create a huge value – that’s not where the new technology is,” Pilarski said.

There is another, glaring reason that aviation experts say Trump’s old-fashioned focus on labor is completely off: robots.

“Automation is moving jobs back to the U.S. very fast,” Aboulafia said.

He cited the example of the Boeing 777X, which, starting next year, will be manufactured using robots to make wing skins and spars, a main structural component running the length of the wing. Making a single full-length piece would save on manufacturing costs. In contrast, the composite wing span of the 787 is made in three sections by Mitsubishi in Japan.

“Composite materials are very capital intensive, not labor intensive, and it’s increasingly heavily automated, so what jobs there are depend on a high-level skill set,” Aboulafia said, adding that those jobs are going to be based in the U.S. as aircraft production becomes more automated – making Trump’s Boeing example irrelevant in the long run.

Boeing says the China plant will have no impact on the facilities mentioned by Trump.

“We have no plans to close our commercial airplane assembly plants in either Washington state or South Carolina,” Boeing spokesman Tim Neale said in a statement.

The Trump campaign did not respond to McClatchy’s request for comment.

While he’s doled out dire warnings for Boeing’s future, Trump has also benefited from the company. It was one of the biggest gainers in his portfolio in 2015, earning him $3.96 million on 65,000 shares of the aerospace giant, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Trump is also a fan of its products. His now-famous Trump-emblazoned private jet is a Boeing 757 he purchased from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011 for $100 million.

(Vera Bergengruen - The Charlotte Observer)

Lawmakers to Navy: Leave Marine One Upkeep in Connecticut

 (Associated Press)


Connecticut's congressional delegation is urging the U.S. Navy to suspend any possible plans to shift maintenance of the Marine One presidential helicopter fleet from Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford to a facility in Florida.

Members of the state's all-Democratic delegation sent a letter Monday to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus urging him to hold off on any relocation pending a "thorough review of all direct and indirect costs" of a possible relocation.

The delegation says no other facility has the expertise to maintain the helicopters. They say the fleet has been supported and maintained by about 85 workers in Stratford over the past four decades.

Sikorsky was acquired by Maryland-based Lockheed Martin in 2015.

Negotiations concerning the Marine One contract between Lockheed Martin and the Navy recently fell through.



(Associated Press / Military.com)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Alaska Airlines breaks ground on $40M Anchorage hangar

Alaska Airlines formally broke ground Monday on construction of a $40 million aircraft maintenance hangar in Anchorage.

Officials with the Seattle-based airline say the planned 105,000-square-foot structure is part of a $100 million investment in Alaska that includes new cargo planes and rural terminal improvements.

On Monday, airline officials and state and local officials were on hand to unveil the design for the Anchorage hangar, which will be nearly three times the size of the current structure. Officials also dug shovels into a rectangle of soil at the facility’s future site.

Construction is slated for completion in summer 2018. The project is expected to employ 150 at the height of construction.

Anchorage-based architecture firm McCool Carlson Green and general contractor Kiewit were brought in to design and build the hangar.


(The Seattle Times / Associated Press)

Boeing tanker moves into production with $2.8 billion contract

 (Boeing)


The U.S. Air Force awarded The Boeing Co. a $2.8 billion contract for production of two batches of refueling tankers, moving along a program that has to this point been hampered by delays and cost overruns for the Chicago aircraft manufacturer.

Under the contract, which is being managed out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Boeing will deliver two low-rate initial production lots of seven and 12 KC-46A tankers. The Air Force is seeking 179 of these planes to replace about a third of its aging tanker fleet.

Richard Aboulafia, a Fairfax-based aviation consultant at the Teal Group said with this contract "removes a lot of the remaining risk on the program — better late than never.”

The risk Aboulafia speaks of is largely related to the cost overruns Boeing has had to shoulder at various stages of the development of the program. Boeing won the contract for the tanker in February 2011 and did so by bidding very aggressively for a fixed-price contract. Boeing has had to take several charges totaling more than $1.5 billion as a result of this arrangement.

Boeing's worst days with the program seem to be behind it, though Aboulafia said the company isn't completely out of the woods.

Further challenges could hit the company if "transitioning to production costs more than anticipated" or "there is some kind of glitch that shows up when producing,” he said. These are "not nearly as severe as the challenges associated with making an aircraft meet the mission requirement, but still, they’re there.”

Wright-Patt announced earlier this year that Col. John Newberry was taking over as system program manager for the KC-46 Pegasus development program. In that role he oversees the remainder of the test process and initial production deliveries by Boeing of the new air tanker.

Wright-Patt is Ohio’s largest single site employer, with more than 26,000 workers and supporting roughly 60,000 jobs locally when you factor in the defense contractors and other companies that are here because of the Air Force presence. Wright-Patt alone accounts for more than $4 billion in economic impact locally each year.

Ohio is the No. 1 supplier to Boeing, which has an office in Dayton and spends more than $11 billion with at least 375 suppliers in the state, including many in the Dayton region.

Among the local suppliers for Boeing are UTC Aerospace Landing Systems in Troy, which has 700 employees.

In addition to large national employers like UTC, the Dayton area also is home to Boeing suppliers such as Projects Unlimited Inc., which has about 165 workers. Also, Centerville-based SelectTech Services provides support in structural engineering, while Boeing uses Troy-based Dare Electronics for devices that monitor voltage or perform sensing or control functions.


In Middletown, Magellan Aerospace has about 120 employees and makes a variety of products for Boeing such as exhaust systems for the 767, large access doors on the new KC-46 tanker and F-15 engine shrouds.

Among the other local suppliers listed by Boeing are Dayton Aerospace in Beavercreek, Konecranes in Springfield and Esterline Corp. in Xenia, as well as Renegade Materials Corp. in Springboro that supplies polyimide composite materials for aircraft and was named a top supplier for Boeing in the 2015 supplier awards.


James Bach - Dayton Business Journal)

Will Boeing Beef Up Its Orders for Wide-Body Planes?

As of August 16, Boeing Co. has taken net orders totaling 38 for its four wide-body jets: the 747, 767, 777 and 787. The company guided full-year orders for all its commercial planes at 535 and wide-body orders totaling 215. To date, the company has booked 335 orders, of which 297 are for the narrow-body 737.

With just over a quarter of the year remaining, Boeing has taken orders for less than 20% of the wide-body planes it has forecast. The company has begun walking back its planned increase of 787 production, currently 12 per month, to 14 per month by the end of the decade. In Boeing’s conference call discussing second-quarter results, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said:

"Our principle here is to keep wide body supply and demand in balance. And we’re confident in the 787 program across that span of scenarios, and we’re going to continue to work campaigns to fill out to the 14 a month rate step-up, and we’ll evaluate timelines and decisions around that. But you can be very confident that whatever we decide, we’re going to keep supply and demand in balance."

In what may be an even more important decision, the company is now planning to reduce production of the current model 777 from 8.3 per month to 7.0 per month early next year, with an eye to reducing the rate to 5.5 per month in 2018. The 777 Classic, as it’s called, is a bridge to production of the new 777X, which is due for production in 2020. Last month the president of the company’s commercial division said that orders for the 777 Classic are “pretty solid” through the third quarter of 2017. According to Aviation Week, 777 production is about 55% sold for 2018 and 30% sold for 2019.

Boeing’s Chief financial officer told a conference audience earlier this month that over the next couple of months the company will have more insight into orders for the 777 Classic, “We’ll either solidify those orders and be able to [match the bridge plan], or we’ll modify the production rate, at least through that bridge.”

Through August 16, Boeing’s backlog of orders totaled 5,697 commercial jets, of which 4,404 are orders for the 737. The 777 backlog is 476, including both the Classic and the 777X, of which just 170 are orders for the Classic.


At a production rate of seven per month that backlog will last two years, but that leaves Boeing with no backlog until the 777X is in production. The company has admitted it needs 40 to 50 new orders per year for the 777 in order to bridge the production gap between the new and old versions of the plane. So far this year it has taken eight new orders.

(Paul Ausick - 24/7 Wall St.)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Five Reasons Boeing's Big Bet On Air Force Tankers Will Pay Off Handsomely

 A Boeing KC-46A tanker refuels a C-17 airlifter (also built by Boeing) during Air Force testing in July. Aerial refueling greatly extends the reach of joint and coalition aircraft. The KC-46A will be able to refuel three fighter-size aircraft in flight at the same time.
 (U.S. Air Force / Boeing)

The Air Force announced Thursday that it has awarded the Boeing Company a $2.8 billion contract for the first two production lots of KC-46 Pegasus aerial-refueling tankers totaling 19 aircraft. The award follows an August 12 “Milestone C” approval by the Pentagon’s top weapons purchaser signaling that the tanker has surmounted development obstacles and is considered ready for production. Boeing will begin delivering the first production planes to the Air Force in about a year.

Developing the Air Force’s next-generation aerial refueler from its 767 wide-body jetliner has proven harder than Boeing anticipated. When they bid aggressively to win the fixed-price development contract in 2011, Boeing executives figured they might not hit the $4.3 billion target price the Air Force had established, but they could avoid absorbing cost overruns above the ceiling price of $4.9 billion. The way the contract was written, the government would cover 60% of costs above the target price until the ceiling was reached, and then it was all Boeing’s money.

Although Boeing engineers ended up completing the program close to their planned schedule — they used up all six months of slack built into the plan, and then some — their cost estimates proved too optimistic. The Air Force says tanker development will eventually cost $6.4 billion, meaning Boeing (a contributor to my think tank) has had to cover over a billion dollars in unexpected expenses. However, that is a small price to pay for the aerial refueling franchise that Boeing has secured. Here are five reasons why Boeing’s bet on next-gen tankers is going to pay off handsomely for shareholders.

The current program is just the beginning. The Air Force has 450 Cold War tankers that it must replace. So the present $52 billion program to build 179 next-gen tankers by 2027 is just the beginning of what will be needed. According to the Pentagon’s latest aviation funding plan, “continued procurement of KC-46s beyond FY 2027 or the acquisition of a new tanker will be necessary beginning in FY 2028.” Having invested heavily in developing and sustaining that first tranche of tankers, the Air Force is unlikely to go looking for another plane before it commences follow-on buys in 2028. Add in likely sales to foreign customers, and Pegasus production will probably be worth over $100 billion to Boeing.

Most tanker revenues are generated after delivery. Military aircraft typically cost more to sustain over a multi-decade service life than they do to manufacture. Some of those post-production costs are items like fuel, but a big chunk consists of maintenance, spare parts, repairs, and the modifications necessitated by changing threats and technology. Boeing already does a booming business in aircraft services, and it will have the inside track to participate in sustaining Pegasus. So the long-term value of KC-46 to the company is more like $200 billion rather than $100 billion. The Air Force will insist on doing some sustainment organically, but it can’t afford to reproduce the infrastructure Boeing already has for supporting 767s.

Boeing has preserved a 60-year franchise in aerial refueling. By bidding aggressively to win KC-46, Boeing preserved one of its most valuable military franchises. All of the tankers in the current Air Force fleet were built by Boeing, and the venerable KC-135s that Pegasus initially will replace — last produced in 1965 — were themselves successors to the propeller-driven KC-97 tanker that Boeing derived from its B-29 bomber. In other words, Boeing has more experience with aerial refueling than any other company in the world, and preserving that franchise was crucial to the business strategy of its defense unit.

Militarized jetliners are becoming a core offering. With the gradual waning of legacy McDonnell Douglas aircraft lines, Boeing is placing renewed emphasis on leveraging its commercial transport expertise into military markets. It has sold earlier tanker versions of the 767 to Italy and Japan, radar planes based on the 737 to Australia, South Korea and Turkey, and a commercially derived maritime patrol aircraft called Poseidon to the Navy. To the extent that it can successfully adapt its jetliners to future military missions such as refueling, surveillance and intelligence gathering, it generates important synergies (not to mention opportunities) for the whole enterprise.

Airbus is blocked from becoming an Air Force supplier. One reason Boeing bid so aggressively to beat Airbus in the competition for the tanker program is that it didn’t know how much financial help its heavily subsidized rival would get from friendly European governments. The Air Force refused to take subsidies into account, even though the World Trade Organization has ruled that the plane Airbus was offering probably wouldn’t even exist in the absence of illegal “launch aid.” Boeing bet big to win the tanker in part because allowing Airbus to become a major supplier to the Air Force (Boeing’s biggest military customer) would have impaired the long-term outlook for its entire business.

With the announcement on Thursday that KC-46 production will now commence, though, it is easier to step back and see the wisdom of Boeing’s tanker bet. One thing that has allowed America’s biggest exporter to survive while most of its former rivals in the aircraft business have disappeared is the ability to think and plan for the long term. Aircraft development and demand cycles extend over many years, so staying ahead requires being able to look beyond quarterly earnings calls. The smart bet that Boeing made on the Air Force’s next-generation tanker will still be paying dividends to shareholders and stakeholders alike long after all the executives engaged in the decision are retired and gone.


(Loren Thompson - Forbes)

Navy F-35C Landed So Precisely, It Tore Up a Runway

 
F-35 practices a carrier landing.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Dane Wiedmann)


Before seven of the Navy’s carrier-variant F-35 Joint Strike Fighters embarked aboard the carrier USS George Washington for a third and final round of developmental testing, they completed a required ashore training period, practicing landings at Choctaw Naval Outlying Field near Pensacola, Florida.

The landings went well — maybe a little too well.

“They were landing in the same spot on the runway every time, tearing up where the hook touches down,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of Naval Air Forces, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. “So we quickly realized, we needed to either fix the runway or adjust, put some variants in the system. So that’s how precise this new system is.”

The new system in question is called Delta Flight Path, a built-in F-35C technology that controls glide slope and minimizes the number of variables pilots must monitor as they complete arrested carrier landings. A parallel system known as MAGIC CARPET, short for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, is being developed for use with the Navy’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Together, these systems may allow carriers to operate with fewer tankers, leaving more room for other aircraft, Shoemaker said.

Military.com reported on the implications of this new landing technology from the carrier George Washington earlier this week, as the first operational pilot-instructors with Strike Fighter Squadron 101, out of Oceana, Virginia, began daytime carrier qualifications on the aircraft. On Thursday, Shoemaker had an update on the ongoing carrier tests.

Of about 100 F-35C arrested landings were completed on the carrier, he said, 80 percent engaged the No. 3 wire, meaning the aircraft had touched down at the ideal spot. As of Monday, there had been zero so-called bolters, when the aircraft misses an arresting wire and must circle the carrier for another attempt.

“I think that’s going to give us the ability to look at the way we work up and expand the number of sorties. I think it will change the way we operate around the ship … in terms of the number of tankers you have to have up, daytime and nighttime,” he said. “I think that will give us a lot of flexibility in the air wing in the way we use those strike fighters.”

Tankers, or in-air refueling aircraft, must be ready when aircraft make arrested landings in case they run low on fuel during landing attempts. Fewer bolters, therefore, means a reduced tanker requirement.

“Right now, we configure maybe six to eight tankers aboard the ship,” Shoemaker said. “I don’t think we need … that many. That will give us flexibility on our strike fighter numbers, increase the Growler numbers, which I know we’re going to do, and probably E-2D [Advanced Hawkeye carrier-launched radar aircraft] as well.”

The F-35C’s last developmental testing phase is set to wrap up Aug. 23. MAGIC CARPET is expected to be introduced to the fleet in 2019, officials have said.


(Hope Hodge Seck - DoD Buzz)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Boeing execs: Dreamliner has 'hit its stride' as strong sales, China deals fuel growth

Jet Aviation Flight Services Boeing 787-8(BBJ) (35309/143) 2-DEER, ex-N28MS rests on the ramp at Victorville (VCV/KVCV) on August 10, 2016.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Senior Boeing officials argued Wednesday that the jet-maker's Dreamliner 787 has put its early troubles behind it after more than 100 million people have flown aboard the wide-body jet.

"We fully acknowledge a challenging entry into service of the 787, but the 787 is now hitting its stride, " Bob Michael, a senior marketing manager at Boeing, told reporters at a special briefing on the manufacturer's Dreamliner program.

"Some 120 markets are now connected non-stop thanks to the 787," he added, citing the Dreamliner's greater range and fuel efficiency as driving factors.

Michael said the Chicago-based aircraft maker currently has 1,161 orders for Dreamliners on its books from 65 different customers.

That includes 153 orders for the 787-10 variation of the jet, he said, including 10 Dreamliners sold to unidentified super wealthy buyers or VIPs.

Michael said that 15 percent of the deals involve leasing companies, which build jet portfolios and eventually lease them to airlines as immediate or temporary needs arise.

Acknowledging what they called "softness" in the global market for huge wide-body jets like the Dreamliner, the Boeing officials nevertheless reiterated that they remain optimistic about increasing sales to Chinese airlines.

"If you look at the Chinese market, I'm not seeing any signs of weakness there. It's very hungry public that wants to travel abroad," said Ihssane Mounir, a Seattle-based senior vice president of sales for Boeing who serves customers in Northeast Asia.

"They didn't have that before in China. The middle class in China equals the population of the entire United States," Mounir added, citing recent Boeing deals with Air China and China Eastern airlines.

"You have a market this is under-served and continues to be under-served," Mounir added.

In April, Boeing said China Eastern Airlines finalized an order for 15 Dreamliner 787-9s. That deal was worth nearly $4 billion at current list prices.

Mounir said Boeing's partnership with All Nippon Airways of Japan as a launch customer has helped improve the Dreamliner's design, efficiency and reliability as an airplane.

"We could not have selected a better partner to go through the growing pains of a new program with," he said.



(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A $652-million project to move LAX runway will be scrapped after lawsuit

A proposal to move the northernmost runway at Los Angeles International Airport closer to homes will be shelved indefinitely under an agreement announced Wednesday, ending a key lawsuit challenging the planned modernization of LAX.

The settlement, which will go before the City Council for approval next week, would halt a $652-million project to relocate the runway 260 feet closer to the communities of Westchester and Playa del Rey.

Filed in May 2013 by the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, the suit alleged that Los Angeles World Airports had not done the required environmental impact evaluation or taken measures to reduce any adverse effects resulting from the move.

For years, the runway project has been a major issue in residential neighborhoods because of the potential for increased noise and air pollution.

“We are turning a new page and standing up for communities next to the airport,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in making the announcement.

The agreement includes plans for a community park on the airport’s north side, as well as additional passenger gates in the central terminal area to replace those that currently must be accessed by shuttle buses.

Safety improvements will be made to the two northern runways, air pollution monitoring will be increased and an ongoing dialogue about airport projects will be established between LAX, the alliance and the surrounding community.

However, the settlement also will lift a cap on the number of passenger gates at the airport — which had limited LAX’s passenger volume to about 79 million annually.

“This is a landmark agreement, a natural meeting of the minds,” said Denny Schneider, president of the alliance. “It demonstrates a new era in cooperation that has not been seen in 40 years.”

The $5.5-billion in airport improvements passed by the council in May 2013 included terminal additions, a transportation center, a consolidated car rental facility, a people mover and stops for Metro light-rail trains.

The most controversial was the plan to separate the two northern runways and install a taxiway between them.

Supporters, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, contended the project would increase the safety and efficiency of moving aircraft — especially the largest airliners — around LAX.

Neighborhood activists and local elected officials contended the proposal would be costly and achieve few, if any, of the promised safety improvements.

“The airport and the surrounding neighborhood have been at war for decades,” said Councilman Mike Bonin, whose district includes LAX. “Today, there is peace.”

Two similar lawsuits brought by Culver City and Inglewood are pending. Garcetti said he has met with officials from both cities and was confident the suits could be resolved.


(Dan Weikel - The Los Angeles Times)

787 launch customer ANA keeps coming back for more

All Nippon Airways celebrated Wednesday the delivery of the airline’s 50th 787 Dreamliner.

Less than five years after Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) took delivery of the first 787 Dreamliner, the airline on Wednesday accepted its 50th.

While Boeing last week cited “softness” in the wide-body jet market and lowered expectations about near-term demand for the 787, ANA’s milestone allowed the jet maker to celebrate the success of the Dreamliner in passenger service.

Hideki Kunugi, senior vice president of ANA Americas, said the airplane’s fuel efficiency — 20 percent better than the 767 it replaced — is today saving the airline about $98 million per year.

“The 787 plays a vital role” in the airline’s plans to expand its international network, he said.

The economics of the midsize, long-range jet have allowed ANA to open up long-haul routes not only to giant hubs like New York and Los Angeles but also to mid-size cities.

Hence its nonstop flights from Tokyo to Düsseldorf, Germany, and Brussels, as well as Seattle and San Jose, Calif.

“Without the Dreamliner, Seattle and San Jose would not be possible,” Kunugi said.

To get to this point, ANA suffered through a turbulent early ride.

After working closely with Boeing on the design of the airplane, then giving the jet maker its launch order in 2004, ANA got its first delivery in September 2011 — three years and four months late.

Just over a year after the jet entered service, a main battery started smoking aboard one of ANA’s planes in flight, and the airline endured with all other 787 operators the grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet for more than three months.

But the battery problem was fixed, and Boeing has now delivered 447 Dreamliners to 39 airlines.

As of July, more than 108 million passengers have flown on more than 569,000 Dreamliner flights.
 

Opening new routes

ANA now flies the 787 on 40 percent of its international routes, and it plans to open more routes to previously unserved destinations.

In September, it will introduce the 787 between Tokyo and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Next February, it will fly the jet nonstop between Tokyo an Mexico City, which on the northbound leg takes more than 14 hours.

Kunuga said the opening up of Mexico City “is only possible thanks to the 787, which can operate such long-haul routes with greater comfort and efficiency than any other aircraft.”


The airline sees this route as “a first very important step” to expanding connections to Central and South America.

Last week, Boeing Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith — citing the marked lack of orders in the wide-body jet market recently — for the first time publicly admitted that Boeing may not increase the 787 production rate from its current 12 jets per month to the planned 14 per month toward the end of the decade.

At the delivery ceremony Wednesday, Boeing’s senior vice president of sales for northeast Asia, Ihssane Mounir, said that despite the general softness in demand, China remains a bright spot that offers hope of buoyant future sales.

“China will continue to drive the demand,” he said. “I’m not seeing any signs of weakness whatsoever.”

ANA has 33 more Dreamliners on order, including three of the largest model, the 787-10, which is scheduled to enter service in 2018.

It anticipates 40 percent growth in revenue from its international routes during the next four years, in an expansion leading up to and preparing for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.


The plane delivered to ANA on Wednesday is the 787-9 that Boeing test pilots flew last month in the daily aerial displays at the Farnborough Air Show in England.


(Dominic Gates - Seattle Times)

AW609 Tiltrotor Flight Testing Resumes

On August 10, AW609 tiltrotor prototype AC1 arrived at Leonardo-Finmeccanica's Philadelphia plant after flight testing resumed in Arlington, Texas. The AW609 flight-test program had been halted following the fatal October 2015 crash of AC2 in Italy.
 (Photo: Leonardo-Finmeccanica)


AW609 tilt-rotor prototype AC1 arrived at the Leonardo-Finmeccanica Philadelphia plant yesterday after recently resuming flight testing in Arlington, Texas. The AW609 flight-test program had been voluntarily halted following the fatal October 2015 crash of AC2 in Italy.

Plans call for AC1 to be be based out of Philadelphia, before being shipped to Italy for updates and modifications. The AW609, slated to be certified by the FAA, will be built in Philadelphia.

In May, Italian prosecutors impounded AC3 before it could make its first flight as part of their manslaughter probe into the AC2 crash. That aircraft was released by prosecutors last month and is expected to be shipped to the U.S. to join the flight-test program in Philadelphia, where AC4 is currently being assembled and readied for first flight in 2017.

Despite the 10-month delay in the flight-test program, as well as calls for wind tunnel retesting and redesign of the fly-by-wire flight control system by Italian ANSV aviation investigators, the company insists that the AW609 remains on track for certification in 2018.

(Mark Huber - AINOnline News)

Lockheed inaugurates T-50A ground-training facility

The T-50A trainer/light attack aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries.
(Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin )


Doors open at Lockheed Martin ground-training facility for T-50A aircraft.

Lockheed Martin has inaugurated its ground-based training facility for the T-50A advanced trainer and light attack aircraft being offered to the U.S. Air Force.

The Advanced Pilot Training facility is located in Greenville, S.C. It is housed in a refurbished building and features tooling and manufacturing equipment to complete final assembly and flight operations for the T-50A trainer aircraft as well as Lockheed's T-50A Ground Based Training System.

"From the innovation of our Skunk Works team in Palmdale, California -- who brought this program to life -- to the employees in Greenville who will build the T-50A, the brightest minds and the latest technology have been brought together in this facility to provide the U.S. Air Force with a low-risk, highly capable aircraft and training solution," said Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Executive Vice President Orlando Carvalho.

The T-50A was developed jointly by Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries. It builds upon the proven heritage of the T-50, of which more than 150 are flying around the world today.

The T-50A is a supersonic trainer with a maximum speed of more than 1,000 miles per hour, a range of more than 1,150 miles and a service ceiling of 48,000 feet. In addition to its rotary cannon the aircraft can be armed with bombs and missiles.

It is being offered by the company for the U.S. Air Force's T-X trainer program.

(Richard Tomkins - UPI)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Yes, NASA's New Megarocket Will Be More Powerful Than the Saturn V

Artist's illustration of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on the pad. SLS is scheduled to fly for the first time in late 2018.
(NASA)


There's been some confusion and controversy about this claim ever since the SLS — which NASA is developing to get astronauts to Mars and other deep-space destinations — was announced in September 2011.
 
NASA officials have long maintained that the most muscular form of the SLS will be capable of lofting 143 tons (130 metric tons) of payload to low-Earth orbit (LEO). That's where the confusion comes in: The LEO capacity of the agency's famous Saturn V moon rocket was about 154 tons (140 metric tons), according to a 2006 U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report.


(NASA)


But arguments for the Saturn V's supremacy are based on a flawed, apples-to-oranges comparison, said Kimberly Robinson, manager of strategic communications for SLS at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.


Specifically, the 143-ton figure for SLS refers to pure payload, whereas the Saturn V could loft 154 tons of "injected mass," Robinson said. 


That injected mass included the Saturn V's third stage, as well as the fuel present in the stage, according to the authors of the 2006 CBO Report (who wrote that they sourced their information from Richard Orloff's "Apollo by the Numbers: A Statistical Reference").


The SLS team has calculated some apples-to-apples comparisons, and the new rocket comes out on top, Robinson said Aug. 3 during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group.


"We have a payload mass to LEO of about 122.4 metric tons [135 tons] for Saturn V," said Robinson, who did not give the FISO presentation but chimed in to answer a question posed by a listener. (The FISO talk was given by Chris Sanders of Aerojet Rocketdyne, Bob DaLee of Boeing and Orbital ATK's Mike Fuller. These three companies are the prime contractors for SLS.) 


The "injected mass" capacity of SLS comes out to 173 tons (156.9 metric tons), Robinson added. She, Sanders, DaLee and Fuller all cautioned, however, that these numbers for SLS are not carved in stone.


"We're talking about a 130-metric-ton-class vehicle," Robinson said. "It doesn't tell you exactly the capability."


The Path to Mars


SLS is an evolvable vehicle, with three primary variants currently envisioned. All of them consist of a core stage, along with two solid rocket boosters (SRBs).


The first version, known as Block 1, will have a LEO payload capacity of 77 tons (70 metric tons). The Block 1B iteration will boost that to 116 tons (105 metric tons), while the Block 2 will max out at 143 tons (130 metric tons) to LEO.


But SLS was not designed with Earth orbit in mind. The rocket is a key part of NASA's plan to get astronauts to Mars, which the agency aims to do before the end of the 2030s.


SLS will launch Red Planet pioneers aboard the Orion crew capsule, which is also in development. Orion has one flight under its belt, an unmanned test to Earth orbit in December 2014 that lifted off atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy (which is the most powerful rocket currently in operation).


SLS is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2018, when a Block 1 booster will launch an uncrewed Orion on a weeklong trip around the moon known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). 


The SLS team has been notching its milestones, including an SRB ground test in June, on time and as expected, DaLee said. 


"Everything looks good and on schedule for a late '18 launch," he said during the FISO talk.


Science missions, too


While SLS was designed chiefly to launch astronauts, the rocket could also play a large role in NASA's robotic exploration plans going forward, agency officials have said.


Planetary missions launching atop the SLS could get to their destinations much more quickly than probes sent on their way by currently available rockets, and also carry more science gear, DaLee said.


As one example, he cited the as-yet-unnamed robotic mission NASA plans to launch toward the potentially life-harboring Jupiter moon Europa in the 2020s. A Europa mission that launched atop an SLS Block 1B, as opposed to a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, could shave 4.5 years off the journey (from 6.5 years down to 2 years) and carry twice as much payload, DaLee said.


"Size really does matter, in multiple ways," Sanders said.


(Mike Wall - Space.com)

Monday, August 15, 2016

The world's largest helicopter can lift an airliner with remarkable ease

(Photo by Dmitry Terekhov)


Even against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, there is no doubting the sheer size of the Russian-built Mi-26 helicopter.

But it's only when the aircraft lands that observers are truly able to appreciate the magnitude of the helicopter, the world's largest.



Designed and built by Moscow-based Mil Helicopters, the Mi-26 stands roughly the same height as a three-story building and its rotors have the same span as the wings of an Airbus A320.

Since its first flight in 1977, the Mi-26, also known as the Halo, has been a stalwart in the ultra-heavy lift industry.

Powered by a pair of 11,000 horsepower turboshaft engines, the Halo and its five-man crew can transport up to 44,000 pounds of cargo, or roughly 11 family cars, at once. The Halo's power and payload capacity is more than twice that of the U.S Army's workhorse CH-47 Chinook helicopter.



According to Avia-Russia, military versions can carry as many as 90 combat ready troops, or 63 seated civilians, or even 60 stretchers; putting the helicopter's performance on par with the legendary Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport plane.

Here, an Mi-26 is transporting a retired Tupolev Tu-134 airliner. The long-serving airliner is set to become a training tool at the Emergency Situations Training Center outside of St. Petersburg, Russia. 




(Associated Press)


However, the Halo is sometimes called into more dangerous situations. 


With a range of nearly 500 miles, the Mi-26 is the helicopter of choice in situations that require large payloads to be delivered to inaccessible or unusual places. In the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China, an Mi-26 delivered heavy earth-moving equipment to remote mountain gorges to prevent flooding and mudslides.


In 1999, a Halo helicopter even hauled a frozen 23,000-year-old woolly mammoth out of the Siberian tundra.

(Benjamin Zhang - Business Insider)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Military personnel sue after plane plummets 4,400ft after a camera got stuck in controls


Ten people are suing the Ministry of Defense after a military plane they were on plummeted 4,400ft when the captain's camera got stuck between controls. A number of those on board suffered minor injuries but many are still suffering the mental impact of the incident such as PTSD, anxiety and phobias of flying.

Almost 200 people were on the board the plane at the time, according to the Sunday Times, which was over the Black Sea when the captain's Nikon camera got stuck between the armrest and side-stick controller. 


Many of the passengers were thrown against the roof of the cabin. The co-pilot had to drag himself back to the cockpit where he helped return control – partly with his feet on the roof.

The Voyager aircraft fell for 27 seconds at 15,800ft a minute.

The 10 suing the MoD include nine military personnel and a civil servant – three of whom have been medically discharged from the army since the incident took place in February 2014. The Voyager was traveling from the UK to Afghanistan. The lawyer from the claimants said a number of the passengers believed the plane had been shot down over Afghanistan.

The captain is set to appear before a court-martial in February charged with perjury, making a false record and negligently performing a duty.

Associate solicitor Rhicha Kapila, said some of the claimants suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, mood swings and stutters since the incident, affecting their lives outside of as well as in the military. "They could hear people saying, 'Please don't let me die.' It was a state of chaos and very frightening," she said.

Former commander of UK troops in Afghanistan, Richard Kemp, told the paper that the case was "symptomatic of a compensation culture". "On the whole, servicemen pride themselves on being more robust, more hardy and less inclined to go for the compensation," he said.


(James Tennent - International Business Times)

GULFSTREAM G500 PRODUCTION TEST AIRCRAFT MAKES FIRST FLIGHT


Fifth G500 Flight-Test Aircraft Focuses On Cabin Interior Experience
(Gulfstream Aerospace)


Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. announced on August 5 2016, that the fifth Gulfstream G500 test aircraft has completed its first flight. The aircraft is the first production test aircraft to be outfitted with a full interior and serves as the testbed for the cabin.

The G500 departed from Savannah-Hilton Head International airport with Flight Test pilots Brian Dickerson and Andy Martin and Flight Test engineer Dustin Johnson on board. The aircraft climbed to a maximum altitude of 48,000 feet/14,630 meters and reached a speed of Mach 0.84 during the 4-hour and 5-minute flight.

“This first flight of our G500 production test aircraft marks another significant event for the G500 program and Gulfstream’s history of delivering on our promises,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “This fully completed aircraft focuses on the passenger experience and ensures that we deliver the most reliable, comfortable and functional cabin environment on both the G500 and G600.”

The G500 production test aircraft is testing the complete passenger experience for form, fit, function, noise and comfort, as well as the passenger interface with various cabin elements. Tests will include repetitive operations of all systems during many different phases of flight. The test aircraft will also be taken through a variety of missions, including overnight trips, hot and cold weather scenarios and turbulence.

“The many hours of interior testing this aircraft will undergo, from galley and lavatory use to comfort and cabin health during long flights, help us hone every aspect of flying on the G500,” said Burns.

The G500 seats up to 19 passengers in three living areas. The aircraft has forward and aft lavatories and a full-size galley that can be located either forward or aft. The G500 and G600 also feature an industry-leading cabin altitude and 100 percent fresh air that boost mental awareness and reduce fatigue. Gulfstream’s large oval windows, the same size as those on Gulfstream’s G650 and G650ER, allow for an abundance of natural light.

With five aircraft now flying, the G500 flight-test program continues to advance. In July, the fourth test aircraft made its first trans-Atlantic flight and European debut to appear at the 2016 Farnborough International Airshow outside of London. To date, the G500 test fleet has flown more than 320 flights and more than 1,300 flight hours. The aircraft has reached a maximum speed of Mach 0.995 and an altitude of 53,000 ft/16,154 m. The longest flight clocked in at 8 hours and 24 minutes.

The G500 is slated to receive type certification in 2017 and deliver in 2018. The G600 is projected to enter service in 2019.The G500 can fly 5,000 nautical miles/9,260 kilometers at Mach 0.85 or 3,800 nm/7,038 km at Mach 0.90, while the G600 can carry passengers 6,200 nm/11,482 km at Mach 0.85 and 4,800 nm/8,890 km at Mach 0.90. The maximum operating speed for both aircraft is Mach 0.925, the same maximum speed as the G650 and G650ER.

(Gulfstream Aerospace)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

North Korea's Air Koryo named the worst airline in the world again

Passengers in Pyongyang board an Air Koryo flight headed for Beijing in June. The carrier was ranked as the worst in the world by Skytrax for the fourth straight year.
 (AP Photo / Wong Maye-E)

For the fourth year in a row, North Korea’s Air Koryo has claimed the dubious honor of being ranked the worst carrier in the world.

But Air Koryo may not be that bad, according to online reviews.

The ranking, based on 13.25 million survey questionnaires compiled by Skytrax, an air-transport research company based in Britain, named Emirates as the world’s best.

The Dubai-based airline, rated four stars on a one- to five-star rating system, wowed passengers with amenities like onboard showers, lounges, gourmet food and 2,500 channels of movies and television.

Air Koryo was the only one-star rated carrier, which Skytrax said “represents a poor quality of product delivered across the assessment sectors, combining with low and/or inconsistent standards of front-line staff service.”

But to be fair to Air Koryo, several of the 46 reviews posted on the Skytrax website described the carrier as adequate, although not spectacular.

Among the features that raised concerns among reviewers was the onboard meal of hamburgers made of a “mystery meat,” safety demonstrations that often were skipped, entertainment that consisted of propaganda films played in a loop and overhead luggage racks with no doors to keep bags from falling down on fliers during turbulence.


(Hugo Martin - Los Angeles Times)

E-2C Aviators Awarded Medals for Valor in March Mishap

Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Browning, Lt. Cmdr. Kellen Smith and Lt. Matthew Halliwell were presented the award for reacting in time to prevent the loss of an E-2C aircraft during a March mishap on the USS Eisenhower.

The Navy awarded the Armed Forces’ Air Medal yesterday to the three E-2C pilots from the VAW-123 "Screwtops" for a 18 March 2016 incident. 


During a day approach to the USS Eisenhower, the E-2C Hawkeye successfully engaged the #4 arresting wire. The #4 arresting gear engine (AGE) did not decelerate the aircraft on rollout, resulting in the arresting wire breaking.

Subsequently, the Hawkeye continued forward over the angled flight deck of the carrier. The aircrew was able to maintain positive control of the aircraft at an extremely slow speed and keep flying.

A Judge Advocate General report on the incident found there was a lack of procedural compliance from maintenance personnel when troubleshooting the AGE prior to the aircraft’s attempted arrestment. The report noted one or two critical steps were missed because of unclear procedures.

However, the report also said there was no willful dereliction of duty by the maintenance personnel.

“It all happened in about eight seconds,” said Smith, who has been flying for 12 years.

“While we were decelerating we heard a loud snap. When we would normally be coming to a stop, we weren’t. Our years of training kicked in and we reacted on instinct.

I slapped back the ditching hatch (there are no ejection seats for the E-2) as we cleared the deck and began a deep settle (significant descent). I would guess we were about 10 feet from the water before we lifted back up, but Lt. Halliwell expertly kept us climbing away.

It was a sigh of relief when we were back in the air. It helps to know that at the critical moment, all we practice for this scenario actually works. The experience has made me much more confident in my training.”

It is also a testament to the training of the Naval Aviators flying the aircraft. The aircraft procedures were followed to a “T” and the ability to control an extremely large aircraft at such as slow speed is remarkable.

The JAG report stated “phenomenal airmanship by the E-2 mishap aircrew prevented any casualties among the aircrew and the loss of the aircraft”.

Unfortunately, the incident injured 8 sailors on the flight deck. The snapped cable created a variety of injuries, including a fractured ankle, wrist, pelvis and legs. The aircraft returned to Chambers Field, Naval Station Norfolk, VA without further incident. However, Smith noted the aircrew’s thoughts were with those injured on the flight back.

“The flight back to Norfolk afterwards was long,” Smith said. “Once we realized the plane was fine, we started to think about the people back on the ship. The Screwtops are a tight-knit family and the pilots are close to our maintainers. We knew some had been hurt and it was a relief to learn those injured were being taken care of.”


(Joe Ruzicka - Fighter Sweep)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Boeing's Weak Dreamliner Orders Don't Tell the Whole Story

Boeing hasn't brought in many new Dreamliner orders this year -- but that's no reason for investors to panic.

It's no secret that Boeing hasn't sold many Dreamliners recently. Year to date, it has brought in just 19 net orders for the 787 aircraft family.

Even including a commitment for five 787s announced last month but not yet finalized, order activity has dramatically lagged the new 787 production rate of 12 per month. Thus, Boeing's 787 backlog is on pace to decline for a third straight year in 2016. (Net orders for the 787 totaled just 41 in 2014 and 71 in 2015.)

However, this slow order activity doesn't mean that Boeing's 787 program is doomed. Aircraft orders historically occur in cycles. Right now, airlines are holding off on ordering wide-bodies. But as long as the world doesn't tilt into a deep recession, 787 orders are likely to bounce back in the next few years.

Blame it on the backlog

Ironically, the Dreamliner's popularity is a key cause of the recent order slowdown. Even after several years of modest order activity, Boeing still has a backlog of more than 700 787 orders to fill. That represents about five years of production at the current rate of 12 per month.

Indeed, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg recently stated that Boeing is sold out of 787 delivery slots through 2018. Even in 2019 and 2020, Boeing appears to have filled at least 75% of its available slots at the 12 per month production rate. (If higher demand materializes, Boeing could increase production to 14 per month.)

Generally speaking, there's no reason for airlines to order new airplanes many years in advance if they have a choice. That's particularly true in the current unsettled economic environment.

A few years ago, airlines were forced into ordering planes for delivery five years or more in the future. With fuel prices rising and order backlogs swelling at Boeing and Airbus, it was important to reserve a place in line to get the latest fuel-efficient technology.

At today's lower fuel prices, airlines feel less urgency to order new planes. This has driven a vicious cycle: With plenty of 787 delivery slots available after 2020, airlines can afford to wait a couple of years before placing orders for their post-2020 fleet plans.

The key takeaway is that as Dreamliner availability within normal airline planning cycles improves, order activity should pick up again. Even with low fuel prices, aging airplanes eventually need to retire and new planes are needed to meet demand growth.

Orders don't match long-term demand

United Continental's Dreamliner order history shows just how far order activity can diverge from underlying demand. United Continental is one of the biggest customers for the 787 and had ordered as many as 65 Dreamliners as of mid-2013.

However, since the beginning of 2015, United Continental has exchanged 14 of its Dreamliner orders for the larger 777-300ER. As a result, United has whittled down its Dreamliner order book to just 51 787s, according to the company. (Boeing's statistics differ slightly, indicating a total of 49 787 orders from United.)

Yet this doesn't mean that United sees less of a need for the 787 in its route network. Most of the orders it has converted in the past year and a half were due for delivery in 2020 and beyond. Since there is ample Dreamliner availability after 2020, United doesn't need to lock itself into a specific delivery schedule now.

In fact, United's need for 787-sized aircraft is about to take off. The company has 51 Boeing 767s left in its fleet. The oldest of these are already 25 years old and are thus approaching retirement age. But more than half of United's 767s were built between 1997 and 2002 and still have five to 10 years of life left.

United Continental also has 55 Boeing 777-200ERs in its fleet, of which 51 were built between 1997 and 2002. These planes also have plenty of life left but will be ripe for retirement by the mid-2020s. The 787-9 and 787-10 would be ideal replacements.

Thus, United's need for Dreamliner-sized aircraft will increase significantly after 2020. However, based on Boeing's current 787 backlog, United can afford to wait a few more years to place those orders. That's why it has allowed its 787 order book to shrink.

Boeing -- and investors -- may have to be patient

Boeing still has one big potential Dreamliner order on the near-term horizon. Middle Eastern airline giant Emirates is looking to order about 70 wide-bodies by year's end and is choosing between the 787 and Airbus' A350.

However, most airlines are in "wait-and-see" mode for now. That's not a big problem for Boeing, which has already locked in virtually all of its 787 production through the end of 2018 and has filled most of its 2019 and 2020 delivery slots as well.

Boeing will just have to be patient for the time being. There are plenty of airlines aside from United that will need to replace aging 767s and 777s after 2020. Even more airlines will need to buy new wide-bodies to meet demand growth on long-haul routes. As these carriers start to finalize their post-2020 fleet plans in the next few years, 787 order activity is likely to rebound.


(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Beginning of the end for Navy's C-2 Greyhound

U.S. Navy Grumman C-2A Greyhound (c/n 25) 162145 / 125 VRC-30 "Providers" arrives at NAF El Centro on November 17, 2015.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 



ABOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER CARL VINSON -- The end of an era in naval aviation is starting this summer.

Three MV-22 Ospreys -- the Marine Corps airplane that lands like a helicopter -- are operating from the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson roughly 100 miles off the San Diego coast.

The point is to prove that the Osprey can do the job of delivering supplies and people to Navy flattops.

Starting in 2021, the Osprey will begin to replace the C-2A Greyhound, the trusty, no-frills airplane in use since the late 1960s.

"This is the future," Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander of the Navy's air forces, told Vinson sailors on Tuesday, after arriving aboard on an Osprey himself.

Shoemaker said the decision, cemented last year by the secretary of the Navy, takes into account cost and collaboration with the Marine Corps, which developed the unique "tiltrotor" Osprey for its needs starting in the 1990s. The Bell Helicopter-Boeing Osprey apparently beat out Northrup Grumman's proposal to extend the C-2 line.

"We looked at lots of things," Shoemaker told reporters Tuesday. "From affordability, total ownership cost of the (aircraft) platforms into the future. The fact that we had a production line already going with Osprey, and an opportunity to partner with the Marine Corps, that made the most sense."

Generations of sailors have flown aboard the C-2 Greyhound, which lands using a hook and wires to stop abruptly on a carrier's flight deck.

That "tailhook" landing is something one doesn't soon forget -- and it has been the hallmark of aircraft carrier aviation. A Navy flier's ability to "catch the wire" on the flight deck is what makes carrier pilots a breed apart, in the minds of naval aviators.

That will change for the next generation of carrier onboard delivery, or COD, pilots.

"You have a certain nostalgia for your aircraft, and whatever skill you can do with that aircraft," said Cmdr. Clarke Cramer, a Navy C-2 pilot who has a few hundred tailhook landings on his resume.

"It is a pretty awesome experience to be able to land a fixed-wing aircraft on a carrier. We spend a lot of time and effort doing that. ... For us, it's going to be the shift (away) from being a tailhook pilot, but you are still a carrier aviator."

The Navy saw the need for dedicated delivery planes for its aircraft carriers after World War II, said Karl Zingheim, historian at the USS Midway Museum in downtown San Diego. Converted TBM Avenger torpedo bombers were the first aircraft chosen.



"Up through World War II, the Navy seemed to be satisfied with other means of delivering people and supplies to carriers, such as visits to ports and underway transfers between ships," Zingheim said.

"By the 1950s, with carriers routinely spending more time at sea and in far-off regions, the need to have a more robust transport service ... became obvious."

The change to a helicopter-style aircraft means more flexibility for the Navy. The Osprey doesn't require a carrier to be at "flight operations," which takes a crew of roughly 50 sailors overseeing the equipment required to land and launch airplanes, Navy officials said. It takes only five people to land the MV-22.

Other advantages of the Osprey: It can land supplies at night, something the Navy didn't attempt with the C-2. It also uses cargo containers, which can be offloaded by forklift instead of by hand.

The Osprey also has more lift power -- 10,000 pounds versus 8,500 pounds, Shoemaker said. The flight range is about the same.

However, the Navy is giving up three seats for passengers and some cargo volume with the MV-22.



Also, the C-2's cabin is pressurized so it can fly at higher altitudes. And, the Osprey's "downwash," or force of air from the rotor blades, and the heat on the deck from the tiltrotor engines are something the Navy will have to contend with.

Shoemaker said those issues can be handled. For example, the engines can be rotated so they aren't always pointed at the fight deck, he said.

The Navy plans to buy 24 Ospreys as carrier delivery aircraft between 2018 and 2020, according to this year's budget.

The earliest the Osprey is expected to be ready to deploy aboard a carrier is 2021, when the Navy plans to achieve what's known as "initial operating capability."

The proof-of-concept work on the Vinson is scheduled to finish this week -- the Navy is calling it a "fleet battle experiment." Then the Center for Naval Analysis will look at the data and determine the next steps. A smaller test was done on the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman in 2013.

Starting in October, the first C-2 Greyhound pilots, crew members and mechanics will be trained on Ospreys at New River Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina.

Apparently, it's not tough for an aviator to learn the tilt-rotor technique. The C-2 pilots will follow in the footsteps of Marine Corps C-130, F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier pilots who have switched from flying traditional airplanes to the hybrid Osprey, officials said Tuesday.

"I'd say it's not something that you are used to," said Col. George B. Rowell IV, a Marine Corps F/A-18 pilot who is now commanding officer of the VMX-1 Osprey test squadron in Yuma, Ariz.

"It's well within the realm of doable."

The C-2 is expecting to stop flying after 2026.

The Marine Corps Osprey got a rocky start with a handful of fatal crashes when the aircraft was in the development stage.

But the MV-22 largely proved itself in recent years over the vast expanses of Afghanistan, where it was able to move Marines in and out of battle zones faster, and therefore, more safely.

The Osprey -- which can fly like an airplane or a helicopter, as needed -- has been landing on the decks of amphibious assault ships since at least 2009. Amphibious ships have short flight decks -- 800 feet -- compared to an aircraft carrier's 1,000-foot flattop.

The Navy has contracted with the aircraft's manufacturer to extend the range of the fuel system and the radio, plus add a public-address system in the back of the aircraft.

(Jeanetta Steele - The San Diego Union-Tribune)