Tag: Aviation

Sikorsky-Boeing Takes Wraps Off Defiant X Design For U.S. Army’s FLRAA | Aviation Week Network

Much Smaller Footprint than a Tilt Rotor

After putting out a representative demonstrator, Sikorsky has revealed off of its Defiant-X helicopter for the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program.

It does not achieve the same speeds as the tilt-rotor competitor V-280 Valor from Bell, 280 kt (520 km/h) from the Bell offering as versus and 250 kt (465 km/h) for the coaxial compound helicopter, but its footprint on the ground and on takeoff and landing, and its agility during takeoff and landing should be significantly greater than the V-280.

Also, the helicopter should be significantly more agile during takeoff, landing, and autorotation, because of lower disk loading.

One lingering uncertainty surrounding the U.S. Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft has centered on the service’s ultimate requirements for the advanced rotorcraft that will replace its Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters.

When the Army launched the precursor Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration (JMR TD) program in 2013, it provided industry with a “model performance specification”—placeholder requirements that would allow them to begin designing an aircraft.

The result was a pair of 30,000-lb. gross-weight-class demonstrators—the 280-kt. Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor and 250-kt. Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant, a coaxial rigid-rotor compound helicopter—both substantially larger and faster than the 22,000-lb. gross-weight UH-60M they are designed to replace.

Now, almost halfway through the CDRR phase, the answer to that lingering question about the Army’s requirements may be becoming clearer. The Sikorsky-Boeing team has taken the wraps off its Defiant X offering for FLRAA, and the design differs only in detail externally from the SB-1 now in flight test.

In terms of overall size, the Defiant X has the same operational footprint as the demonstrator, says Jay Macklin, Sikorsky’s director of Future Vertical Lift business development. The Defiant X also fits within the operational footprint of the Black Hawk, which the FLRAA is intended to replace beginning in 2030.

The Defiant X design has been optimized to meet Army requirements for survivability, maneuverability and agility in the objective area, or “at the X,” says Macklin, so that troops can be landed and offloaded quickly and safely during an air assault.

I favor the coaxial helicopter over the tilt rotor.

It seems simpler and safer.

A Real Vote of Confidence in the F-35

Following the decision to acquire new-build F-15s for the USAF for the first time in 16 years, the news that the U.S. Air Force is discussing additional purchases of the F-16 as well must be seen as evidence that the force is less than enamored of the performance of the F-35 at this point:

U.S. Air Force officials are talking about ordering new Lockheed Martin F-16s two decades after signing the last production contract.

A review of the tactical aircraft portfolio now underway is set to deliver another Air Force acquisition shake-up in the fiscal 2023 budget request, with F-16s, Boeing F-15EXs, a new breed of so-called attritable aircraft and a next-generation fighter competing for a pool of production funding once monopolized by Lockheed’s F-35A.


U.S. Air Force officials are talking about ordering new Lockheed Martin F-16s two decades after signing the last production contract.

A review of the tactical aircraft portfolio now underway is set to deliver another Air Force acquisition shake-up in the fiscal 2023 budget request, with F-16s, Boeing F-15EXs, a new breed of so-called attritable aircraft and a next-generation fighter competing for a pool of production funding once monopolized by Lockheed’s F-35A.

Call me a cynic, but my guess is that the Air Force took a look at the costs of maintaining and operating an all F-35 fleet, and realized that it was simply not possible.

The reasons for the shift in resources has evolved in public statements over time. When Air Force officials requested funding in 2019 to order the first eight of up to 144 new F-15EXs, they justified the unexpected move as a response to an urgent need. Recent inspections had determined that an aging fleet of F-15Cs require new wings to remain airworthy, and the existing training pipeline and infrastructure made F-15EXs a more expedient option than the F-35A.

But the tactical aircraft fleet review could establish a permanent combat role for nonstealthy fighters for decades to come. The F-15EX not only represents a convenient option for an urgent F-15C replacement, but its centerline weapon station with a 7,500-lb. load capacity also may fill a gap in the Air Force’s force structure for a tactical aircraft that can carry a rocket-boosted hypersonic glide vehicle.


Roper also put Lockheed on notice about the Air Force’s frustration with the F-35A’s sustainment costs. Lockheed has committed to reducing the average hourly cost to operate the F-35A to $25,000 by 2025, a roughly 25% reduction compared to 2018 levels. But as his resignation approached, Roper was not satisfied with the pace of the reduction, as the Air Force seeks to add new F-35s to the fleet at an annual rate of 48-60 jets a year.

I believe that the technical term for this is overpriced and under-performing.

Who Cares, There is Money to Be Made

US System

Russian Kinzhal

A new report suggests that hypersonic weapons do not add any meaningful military capabilities. (Original paper)

This is not a surprise.

The Skybolt air launched ballistic missile showed how a conventional missile can achieve what they are attempting now in the 1960s,  the Pershing II missile demonstrated a maneuverable reentry vehicle and reached deployment in the 1980s.

This does not matter. 

The defense contractors get their vig, and retired generals get their comfortable sinecures, so it’s good for everyone ……… except the taxpayer, and the people who are told that there is no money to supply a basic social safety net:

Military experts call hypersonic warheads the next big thing in intercontinental warfare. They see the emerging arms, which can deliver nuclear or conventional munitions, as zipping along at up to five miles a second while zigzagging through the atmosphere to outwit early-warning satellites and some interceptors. The superfast weapons, experts say, lend themselves to surprise attacks.


Now, independent experts have studied the technical performance of the planned weapon and concluded that its advertised features are more illusory than real. Their analysis is to be published this week in Science & Global Security.

In an interview, David Wright, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author of the new analysis, called the superweapon a mirage.

“There’re lots of claims and not many numbers,” he said. “If you put in the numbers, you find that the claims are nonsense.”

Military officials called the paper insubstantial, saying it was based on outdated data. But they declined to disclose new findings.

“Due to the classified nature of hypersonics technologies, we are not at liberty to publicly discuss current capabilities,” Jared Adams, chief spokesman for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, said in an email.

Of course they are.  They want their money. 

Claiming that it’s sooper sekrit knowledge has been a dodge used by the military-industrial complex since Truman was in the White House.


By definition, hypersonic vehicles fly at more than five times the speed of sound — or up to dozens of times faster than jetliners. The warheads rise into space atop a traditional long-range missile but then descend quickly into the atmosphere to bank, careen and otherwise maneuver. They’re basically stubby gliders. The curved upper surfaces of their wedge-shaped bodies give them some of the lifting power of an airplane wing.

Dr. Wright and Dr. Tracy based their analysis on the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 — an experimental warhead developed by the Air Force and Darpa. Their findings, they say, also apply to other American prototypes, as well as devices being developed by China, Russia and other countries.

The computer simulations drew on the physics of moving bodies and public disclosures about the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 in order to model its most plausible flight paths. The team zeroed in on signature phases of hypersonic flight — when the vehicle zooms through the atmosphere and then plunges to hit a target.

The two experts say their computer modeling fills in public gaps on the weapon’s overall performance as well as its potential interactions with existing military systems for detecting and defeating weapons launched from distant sites.

In their paper, they see the weapon as essentially failing to outwit early-warning satellites and interceptors. For instance, current generations of space-based sensors, they report, will be able to track the weapon’s fiery twists and turns during most of its flight through the atmosphere.

And surprisingly, given the weapon’s speedy reputation, they say their analysis shows it will fly intercontinental distances more slowly than ballistic missiles and warheads fired on low flight paths known as depressed trajectories. In war, such tactics are seen as a good way for attackers to evade interceptors and lessen warning time.

Dr. Wright and Dr. Tracy conclude that the envisioned new weapon is, at best, “evolutionary — not revolutionary.”

Note that their criticisms are based on some pretty elementary physics, specifically that the lift/drag ratios of hyper-sonic bodies are pretty pathetic.

The Russian Systems, like the Kinzhal, and Chinese systems like the DF-21, are not the wedge shaped lifting bodies, they are simply missiles with improved guidance systems allowing for improved targeting and evasion of defenses.

What’s more, they are already in service in limited numbers.

The US system is more complex, more technically challenging, and doesn’t gain a whole bunch more.

Once again, the US is pursuing “dominance” at an unsustainable cost and a time frame of decades.

To quote Ike, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Well, Here Is Some Bullsh%$ That Is Falling by the Wayside

I get that transporting pets via aircraft is expensive, and can be risky, but the epidemic of people using the “Emotional Support Animal” con in response is selfish and potentially dangerous. (As someone who drove from Texas to Maryland with cats in a big cage in the back of a minivan, I feel your pain)

Thankfully, due to some rulings by the DoT, it’s looking like the bullsh%$ is ending

It’s clear that there are SOME people who are effected by this who are being honest, and they have my condolences to, but the assholes spoiled it for you:

Alaska Airlines is the first U.S. carrier to ban emotional support animals on its flights following a Department of Transportation ruling that airlines will only be required to transport service dogs.

Beginning Jan. 11, the airline will allow only service dogs that are “specially trained” and will refuse transport to emotional support animals.

The DOT rule change came early this month following the agency’s decision to revise its Air Carrier Access legislation because passengers have for years been requesting airlines accept their “service” pigs, rabbits and peacocks. Until now, the department had not defined what constituted a service animal, and all emotional support animals were federally required to be permitted on planes.

By way of context, there were something like ¾ million passengers who brought animals onto airliners using the “Emotional Support Animal” excuse in 2017.

By way of context, there are only about ½ million service dogs in the US, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that well over 90% of those flyers in 2017 were lying through their teeth.

Now, it’s only dogs, and they have to be specifically trained as a helper animal.

Boeing, AGAIN

Now it appears that Boeing pressured FAA test pilots during the review of the 737 MAX fixes.

Now is not the time for more rigorous regulatory action.

Now is the time for criminal prosecutions, and perp walks for senior Boeing executives:

Senate investigators concluded that Boeing “inappropriately coached” Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) pilots for a simulator test last year conducted during the effort to test and recertify the company’s 737 MAX as safe to fly again after two deadly crashes.

The conclusion is contained in a report issued Friday by the Republican majority in the Senate Commerce Committee on an investigation that was launched after the two MAX crashes but that ultimately broadened to unearth numerous safety problems across the FAA.

A whistleblower who served as an FAA aviation safety inspector told Senate investigators that Boeing officials prompted the FAA test pilots before the test, which was designed to test pilot reactions to an emergency, to be ready to respond.

The FAA inspector alleged the Boeing official told the pilots, “Remember, get right on that pickle switch” — meaning an electrical thumb switch on the control column used to pitch up the jet’s nose.

Even with that prompt, one of the pilots took 16 seconds to respond, four times longer than Boeing and the FAA had assumed.

According to the report, the investigators asked to interview that pilot, but a Transportation department lawyer prohibited the pilot from answering questions about the incident.

Senior members of the FAA need to be brought into court in handcuffs as well.

And Now, a Completely Naked Video

Don’t worry though, it violates no standards, because it is a naked B-52H Stratofortress.

The bomber, 60-034, also known as, “Wise Guy,”  had to be stripped down and rebuilt after being returned to service after storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, AKA the “boneyard”:

As already reported in detail in this previous article, “Wise Guy” is the nickname of the B-52H Stratofortress bomber tail number 60-0034, that is being prepared to return to service with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, by the Tinker Air Force Base’s Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex.

The aircraft has arrived at Tinker AFB, on Apr. 1, 2020, to undergo PDM (Programmed Depot Maintenance), the final part of a three-phase process to resurrect the aircraft, that had been retired after logging more than 17,000 flight hours at the 309th AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, in 2008.

Busting the Union Still More Important Than Making Safe Aircraft

Once again, we find that Boeing’s aggressive move of manufacturing to South Carolina has resulted in poorly assembled airliners.

What can I say, the unions won’t rat-f%$# themselves:

Boeing engineers previously determined that when the defects involving skin smoothness and shim size both occur in the same location, the result can be tiny imperfections creating a potential hazard such as a cracking in the fuselage under extreme flying conditions. Boeing in August took the unusual step of voluntarily grounding eight aircraft in airlines’ fleets for immediate repairs.

Those earlier problems prompted the FAA to start reviewing quality-control lapses in Boeing’s 787 production stretching back almost a decade.

Boeing also previously identified a third quality-control lapse affecting the horizontal stabilizer, a movable, winglike panel in the tail.

Boeing moved to South Carolina to ditch their unions in Seattle.

In the process, they ditched a talented workforce, and treated the new workforce like crap, because ……… South Carolina, and so the workforce there is demoralized as well.

MBA thinking does not produce good aircraft.

Have Some British Fighter Pr0n

Not Exactly Pretty

I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille

I don’t believe in the cost savings through tech

Hopefully, this will work better than the F-35

Does not appear to be variable cycle

The RAF and “Team Tempest” have released renderings of their next-generation fighter proposal at an online event.

It’s interesting, but based on prior performance, the F-22, the F-35, the Typhoon, and the Rafale, we are at least ¼ century from the aircraft being deployed operationally.

Rather a far cry from the 180 day interval between contract signing and first flight for the P-80 Shooting Star:

Team Tempest and the Royal Air Force recently held a virtual event to provide an update about the development opportunities of the new sixth generation aircraft to industry and government representatives from Northern Ireland, the first of a series of events to engage with industries across the UK. Within the press release there is also some new renderings of the aircraft which, we have to note, is not in its final shape as it’s being designed “from the inside out” and the airframe’s exterior design may change to reflect changes in the internal systems.

Of note is the details on propulsion, specifically the statement that thermal management will be an integral part of the engine.

This is likely in response to an issue with both the F-22 and F-35, which is that they are basically thermos bottles relying on fuel to cool mission and flight critical systems, which means that both aircraft need to carry additional fuel, and weight, for cooling.

The statement implies that the amount of fuel that needs to come back to base would be less, which would either lower weight, or increase range and endurance.

Rolls-Royce is working on the advanced combustion system technology that will power Tempest. The next-generation system is being designed to be hotter than previous ones to increase the efficiency of the engine, its range and speed, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Together with the higher-temperature combustion, there will be a new thermal management system that will use the turbine as a heat sink to recycle thermal energy, removing the need for overboard venting and improving the efficiency, and an increased electrical power production, reportedly in the order of one megawatt, that will be used to power all the aircraft’s subsystems.

This follows the assessment by Rolls Royce that future fighter aircraft will have unprecedented levels of electrical power demand and thermal load that need to be managed accordingly to maintain the airframe’s low observability. Being more specific, the company stated that they will integrate an Electrical Embedded Starter Generator that will function both as an APU and as an electrical generator after the engine is spooled up.

This is actually in some ways quite similar to what RR did with Trent 1000 for the Boeing 787, which is an all electric (no bleed air) design.

If you are into this, time to get your geek on.

Bad Day at the Office


A Ukrainian SU-27 pilot executing a landing on a highway as a part of a military sucked a highway sign into his air intake.

According to authorities, there was no damage to the aircraft, and no injuries.

When one considers that it not only took in the sign, which was probably either thin aluminum and wood, but also parts of the sign post (probably steel) and bolts attaching the sign to the post, this is an indication of how Soviet era engine designers prioritized resistance to foreign object damage: (FOD)

Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jet rammed into a street sign during military drills, 2+2 broadcaster reported, showing the video of the incident. The plane was landing on the Kiev-Chop highway when it grazed the sign and then pulled up in the sky again, with a metal part stuck in its air scoop. The Ukrainian air forces later stated it was a minor incident, noting that the plane was not damaged and the pilot didn’t sustain any injuries.

And the UDF is Back

If you followed avaition in the 1980s, you probably remember GE’s GE36 Unducted Fan

It was an F-404 derived core powering counter rotating free turbines attached to props.

There is now a Safran And GE are working another version of what was fondly referred to a load of bananas whirling around.

With sustainability front and center on the aerospace industry agenda, plans are firming up on both sides of the Atlantic for a new wave of ambitious large-scale technology demonstrators to pave the way for ultraefficient next-generation commercial airliners.

Ranging from advanced propulsion and airframe concepts to new systems, structures and fuels, the main demonstrators will form part of the proposed Clean Aviation initiative in Europe and the next round of NASA X-plane projects in the U.S. Clean Aviation, which is expected to succeed Europe’s long-running Clean Sky program, supports the European Union’s broader Horizon Europe research and innovation framework effort for 2021-27 and will feed technology into new civil aviation projects later this decade and into the 2030s.


Open rotors, also known as unducted fans or propfans, were initially developed in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s amid concerns over rising fuel costs. Although two concepts—GE’s GE36 and the Pratt & Whitney/Allison 578 DX—were flight-tested, both were shelved by the early 1990s after oil prices fell. Although development of propfans continued in Russia, it was not until greenhouse gas emissions became a legislative factor in the 2000s that Western interest in the concept was revived.

In the U.S. NASA, GE and the FAA collaborated between 2009 and 2012 on wind tunnel tests of an open rotor with blades developed using modern computer-based design methods. The tests showed up to a 3% improvement in net efficiency relative to the best 1980s design, while nominally achieving a 15-17-EPNdB noise margin to Chapter 4 limits.

Around the same time, two open-rotor concepts were evaluated in Europe under the SAGE effort, with a Rolls-Royce-led team evaluating a direct-drive propulsor system while a Safran-led group developed the geared pusher CROR. The Rolls project was later rescoped to focus on lean-burn combustion, while Safran developed a CROR ground demonstrator using its M88 military engine as a gas generator.

So the direct drive free turbine is not a part of the equation this time around, which is kind of a pity.

 I liked the elegance of that arrangement.

Still Can’t Make Planes

It’s time for more fun with Boeing.

According to the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), Boeing’s 737 Max fixes do not address the problem

Specifically, requiring both pilots to simultaneously operate the manual trim wheel when MCAS goes insane is bat sh%$ insane:

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has told American aviation regulators that the Boeing 737 Max needs better fixes for its infamous MCAS software, warning that a plane crash which killed 149 people could happen again.


In public comments submitted to the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), BALPA warned that one of the proposed workarounds for a future MCAS failure could lead to a repeat of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302.


The NPRM, published here, proposes various fixes to the 737 Max design, its software and procedures for pilots to follow in the event of a problem. One of those procedures includes disabling the airliner’s automatic trim system, operated by MCAS when the software kicks in, and having the two pilots use a manual backup trim wheel instead of the aircraft’s powerful electric motors.

BALPA said: “Requiring both crew members to turn the trim wheel simultaneously in a non-normal scenario is extremely undesirable and goes against all philosophies of having one pilot fly and one run the QRH [quick reference handbook: reading out the emergency checklist]. No flight control system should require both pilots to operate it at any stage, let alone in an emergency.”

The trade union added: “It is felt that this should be reconsidered (particularly in light of the smaller diameter trim wheel as fitted to the MAX to enable the new larger screens to fit, and as per the scenario observed in the Ethiopian Airlines accident).


Its pilots disabled electric trim motors that had been activated by MCAS and, crash investigators believed, tried to use the manual trim wheel in the cockpit to physically undo what the software had done – following Boeing procedures published after the Lion Air crash. Thanks to the aircraft’s excessive speed, built up as MCAS forced its nose to point downwards at the ground, the pilots were unsuccessful. Aerodynamic forces on the control surfaces made it impossible for them to rotate the trim wheel and point the airliner’s nose back at the sky.

Meanwhile, back with the FAA’s NPRM, the Joint European Max Operators’ Group, which includes Ryanair, Norwegian, and Tui, among other airlines, made some minor suggestions for textual edits while reassuring the FAA that they “are not intended to impact on the planned RTS [return to service] programme” for the 737 Max. Some airlines believe all will be well when their Maxes are allowed to fly again. ®


The 737 Max will be known as the 737-7, 737-8 and 737-9. In Ryanair’s case it will be known as the 737-8200, a reference to the base -8 Max model having been fettled to fit 200 seats rather than the stock -8’s 180ish.

International Air Transport Association aeroplane type codes will be B37M, B38M and B39M should you want to avoid booking a flight on one.

Quote of the Day

The future is always unpredictable but it’s hard not to think that aerial firefighting aircraft will be the most valuable kind of fighter aircraft in 2040.

It is an extreme optimist who prepares for a high-tech war in 2100.


It’s a military aviation site, and even they get that we are facing a catastrophic, and perhaps extinction level, climate crisis.

I’m Beginning to Think That Boeing Doesn’t Want to Make Planes

It turns out that the problems with the 737 MAX and MCAS were patently obvious early in development in simulator tests, but Boeing ignored and actively covered up these problems

At this point, I think that we need to seriously consider filing criminal charges against senior figures at Boeing aircraft, and maybe a few FAA officials.

Otherwise, the finance types will kill again:

Six years before the crew flying a Lion Air Boeing 737-8 reacted to an emergency in a very different way than Boeing assumed pilots would, something similar happened within Boeing’s walls.

During simulator sessions to evaluate a new flight control law’s potential hazards, Boeing test pilots took more than 10 sec. to diagnose and correct a runaway stabilizer. The session caused one employee to wonder whether pilots of the newest 737 family member, dubbed the MAX series for marketing purposes, needed more information to diagnose the hazard. A second employee who flew the simulator scenario responded that more analysis was needed.

  • New U.S. Congress report highlights issues with pilot-aircraft interface during 737 MAX development
  • Long-accepted norms for predicting how pilots react are now being challenged
  • Boeing did not deem the issues significant risks and minimized how much information pilots received

Boeing ultimately determined that MAX pilots would react within seconds in such scenarios—and that the new control law, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), could not create new or more severe hazards. The assumptions were not challenged by regulators.

The similar accident sequences of Lion Air Flight 610 (JT610) in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (ET302) less than five months later—both caused by unneeded MCAS activations—showed that Boeing and the FAA were wrong. Now Boeing, the FAA and others point to the accidents as hard, painful evidence that generally accepted assumptions used to evaluate how pilots will react during inflight emergencies need revamping (AW&ST Oct. 14-27, 2019, p. 18).

But newly revealed information collected by U.S. lawmakers investigating the 737 MAX development raises questions about how Boeing handled hazard assessments and whether it ignored evidence that showed MAX pilots would need more help than they were given.

“Multiple Boeing [employees] failed to inform the FAA that Boeing had discovered early on in the MAX program that it took one of its own test pilots more than 10 sec. to respond to an uncommanded activation of MCAS in a flight simulator, a condition the pilot found to be ‘catastrophic,’” states a report released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee. “This should have called into question Boeing’s assumptions about pilot response times. It did not.”

The committee’s view is based in part on email messages about the 2012 simulator sessions included among thousands of pages of documents Boeing and the FAA provided in response to lawmakers’ requests during the 18-month investigation.


In a second run-through, “the reaction time was long,” greater than 10 sec., the employee wrote, before the cutout switches were toggled, stopping the MCAS-triggered automatic nose-down inputs.

“Do you think that with pilot training/knowledge of the system there will be a sufficiently quick response to the [stabilizer] runaway . . . ?” the employee asked.

“I would like to take a look at how much time there is between a hazardous assessment and a catastrophic assessment,” a second employee responds.

The T&I Committee report does not explain what happened next. Testifying before the committee in October 2019, former Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief engineer John Hamilton told lawmakers that subsequent simulator runaway-stabilizer scenarios showed “the typical reaction time was 4 sec.”

Boeing also concluded that a reaction of 10 sec. or longer must be categorized as “catastrophic,” which the FAA’s large aircraft system design and analysis certification guidance defines as “failure conditions which would prevent continued safe flight and landing.” The 10-sec. parameter was listed in 737 MAX internal design parameters, or “coordination sheets,” right through the 737-8’s March 2017 certification.


“Every new buzzword represents a company and airline cost via changed manuals, changed training, changed maintenance manuals,” says a 2013 Boeing internal “problem statement” document discussing how the MCAS should be categorized. “Recommended action: investigate deletion of MCAS nomenclature and cover under ‘revised speed trim.’”

While the MCAS name did not disappear, it was downplayed.

A 2014 Boeing presentation prepared for Southwest Airlines and included in the committee’s report discusses the MCAS, underscoring that the system was not kept a secret. But Boeing opted not to include it in flight crew operations manuals, so most line pilots did not realize it existed.

Meanwhile, Boeing determined that the MCAS’ original authority was not enough.

Developed in response to 2011 wind-tunnel testing that quantified the effects of the MAX’s CFM Leap 1B engines on the aircraft’s aerodynamics as a requirement to ensure the new model handled like its predecessors in certain rare flight profiles, the MCAS’ original authority covered high-speed scenarios such as wind-up turns.


Adding the low-speed authority meant that the MCAS could direct an aircraft from wings-level to full aircraft nose down in two cycles or an elapsed time of 25 sec., counting a 5-sec. pause between activations.


The day before JT610 went down, a different crew flew the same aircraft and experienced a similar situation (AW&ST Nov. 11-24, 2019, p. 23). While the crew, aided by a pilot flying in the jumpseat, toggled the stabilizer trim cutout switches and eventually landed safely, their reaction did not match Boeing’s assumptions. This flight and the two accident flights are the only three in-service reports of the MCAS triggering unneeded stabilizer inputs.



The T&I Committee’s 238-page report cites Boeing’s “disturbing pattern of technical miscalculations and troubling management misjudgments” as well as “numerous oversight lapses and accountability gaps by the FAA” as playing a “significant” role in the two accidents. The pilot-response issue is part of a long list that includes designing the MCAS to be activated based on one AOA sensor’s input and deciding, with FAA approval, to keep any discussion of the MCAS out of pilot flight manuals.


“Our report lays out disturbing revelations about how Boeing . . . escaped scrutiny from the FAA, withheld critical information from pilots, and ultimately put planes into service that killed 346 innocent people,” says committee Chair Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.). “What’s particularly infuriating is how Boeing and FAA both gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes.”

They knew.  Their own pilots, who knew the plane like the back of their hands,  could not reliably react in under 10 seconds.

Boeing Still Can’t Make Airplanes

It now appears that issues at Boeing’s union-busting plant in South Carolina are bad enough for the FAA to take notice:

Production problems at a Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner factory have prompted air-safety regulators to review quality-control lapses potentially stretching back almost a decade, according to an internal government memo and people familiar with the matter.

The plane maker has told U.S. aviation regulators that it produced certain parts at its South Carolina facilities that failed to meet its own design and manufacturing standards, according to an Aug. 31 internal Federal Aviation Administration memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

As a result of “nonconforming” sections of the rear fuselage, or body of the plane, that fell short of engineering standards, according to the memo and these people, a high-level FAA review is considering mandating enhanced or accelerated inspections that could cover hundreds of jets.


But that slip-up combined with another recently discovered assembly-line defect prompted Boeing to take the unusual step in late August to voluntarily tell airlines to ground eight of their 787s for immediate repairs. Since then, Boeing has publicly confirmed the eight planes weren’t safe to remain in service.


The manufacturing slip-ups mark the latest production problems for the troubled plane maker and present a test for Chief Executive David Calhoun and a revamped safety-review process after two fatal accidents of its narrow-body 737 MAX. The crashes took 346 lives.

THIS is what happens when you let finance guys run things.

Signs of the Apocalypse

I cannot believe that I am writing this, but Delta Airlines has done the right thing.

John Mulaney on Delta

Delta took the side of a Black passenger after a Karen in the seat next to her picked a fight with her, and Delta upgraded her seat on the return flight.

Delta did the right thing, and I still cannot believe that I wrote that:

A Black woman harassed by a white passenger on her Delta flight to Washington, D.C., last week is singing the airline’s praises after it upgraded her flight in response.

Demetria Poe, 25, was flying from Minneapolis to D.C. on Thursday to attend the Commitment March, held last Friday on the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Poe, who spoke to USA Today after her Facebook post detailing the experience went viral, says she was already seated when a white passenger, who realized her seat assignment was next to Poe, swapped out the American flag face mask she had been wearing for a Blue Lives Matter one.

“That woman was trying to entice me into an argument because there was no need for her to flip that mask in my presence,” Poe told the news outlet. “She didn’t do it for anyone else. It was as if she was making a statement and wanted me to know.”

Poe did not react to the mask, but after takeoff, the white woman began to goad Poe into conversation, telling her, “I support blue lives because I support our officers.”


Poe noted to USA Today that she remained “very calm” throughout the conversation because she suspected her seat mate wanted to provoke her. White passengers around her also intervened and “snapped on this lady” in Poe’s defense. Delta flight attendants also checked on her and offered to move Blue Lives Karen. Once the plane landed in D.C., Delta attendants relayed to her that the white woman would no longer be flying with the airline because they do not “personally or as a company stand for racism and discrimination,” Poe wrote on her Facebook.

“I felt the genuine and sincere concern the flight attendants had for me and the people around me,” Poe told USA Today. “I was shocked. I was happy, but I was still fearful. Living in Minnesota, I have seen how things get blown up. I just really wanted to get off the flight.”

But the story didn’t end there for Poe. On her return flight to Minneapolis, her seat was upgraded, and she received a small bag full of gifts, including a “Black Lives Matter” Delta pin. Poe was moved to tears by the gift and was heartened by the airline choosing to stand in solidarity with her.

“This is a major corporation saying that Black lives matter,” Poe said, adding that she “will only fly Delta” from now on.

After Poe’s Facebook post detailing the incident went viral, the airline dropped a response to her: “When we say Black lives matter, we mean it. You matter to us, Demetria.”

We are living in strange times.

Boeing Still Unable to Manufacture Aircraft

They are screwing up a critical structural joint on the 787 down in their union busting facility in South Carolina.

This is not a surprise.  They went there to treat employees like crap, and they have had problems, the the facility for a very long time, to the degree that some of the employees in the North Charleston facility saying that they would refuse to fly in a plane made there:

Boeing earlier this week instructed airlines to pull a batch of eight recently-manufactured 787 Dreamliners from service, prompting their immediate grounding, after the plane maker determined that a manufacturing issue undermined the strength of an area of the jet’s carbon fiber composite structure.

So far, eight 787s — all built in the last few years — have been withdrawn from flying. Aircraft for United Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Air Canada are impacted by the impromptu grounding, according to a person familiar with the situation.

According to those familiar with the issue, an area of the structure in the rear of the aircraft is unable to withstand the maximum stress that would be experienced by the aircraft in service and could fail.

By, “Could fail,” they mean a failure in flight leading to a depressurization incident, and possibly an inflight breakup.


This new issue is the first publicly known instance in the jet’s nine year service life that a structural defect with its mostly carbon fiber airframe has caused Boeing to immediately withdraw 787s from service. The 787 fleet was grounded for three months in 2013 following the overheating of lithium-ion batteries. At that point, the global cadre of 787s was just 50 airplanes and the jet returned to operation after the company developed a new containment and venting system for the main and auxiliary power unit batteries inside the jet’s electronics bay.

The source of the newly-discovered structural issue has been traced to a mating point inside the aft fuselage between two carbon fiber composite barrels, known as Section 47/48 where the two barrels meet with a large bulkhead that caps the pressurized cabin. The pieces are fabricated and joined with the aft pressure bulkhead at Boeing’s North Charleston, S.C. plant and then delivered for final assembly to the company’s nearby final assembly building or flown to Everett, Wash.


The first of the two issues causing the issue centers on how naturally occurring gaps in the structure are filled with shims that ensure stresses on the airframe are carried as they’re designed. Boeing has used a predictive shimming technology on the 787 program for more than a decade, robotically laser scanning the surfaces around the structural joins to automatically generate the required shims to fill the gaps.

In the case of the eight withdrawn aircraft, the gaps were improperly filled. On their own, that might not produce an immediate issue, but Boeing said a second manufacturing issue has prompted the pulling of the jets. The second issue centers on the inner skin of the large monolithic composite barrels. On the suspect aircraft, the skin of the woven carbon fiber fuselage is “supposed to be smooth enough so there are no abrupt ridges,” said one person familiar with the issue.


When the gaps are improperly filled in combination with the roughness of the inner skin, the required structural strength does not meet the limit load requirement. Limit load is the maximum expected stress the aircraft would ever expect to experience in service. While limit load is not solely an airline service requirement, every commercial aircraft test program has to demonstrate an aircraft’s structure is designed for limit loads before it can be safely cleared to fly for the first time.


Over the longer term, the gaps left by improper shimming can put added stress at certain points in the structure that can cause unexpected fatigue cracks to develop and propagate. The Boeing spokesman said its engineers “are analyzing data on the in-service fleet to determine if action is required, potentially including more frequent inspection or rework. It could also be determined that no further action is required if the condition is found to not impact the longevity of the structure.”


A spokesman for the FAA said that the U.S. aviation regulator “is aware of the matter and continues to engage with Boeing,” according to a single-sentence statement.


Installation of the shims across the 787s structure have been a recurring challenge for Boeing. Prior to the 787s entry into service, in June 2010, improperly shimmed horizontal stabilizers temporarily grounded Boeing’s test fleet. And the issue, according to several Boeing manufacturing engineers and aircraft assemblers familiar with the situation say the structural shimming has been a longstanding challenge for the company’s South Carolina manufacturing operation.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to do,” said one engineer. “But they are so hellbent on making rate, sometimes engineering and production aren’t aligned.” In 2012, early in the 787’s production run, Boeing found more than a dozen improperly shimmed longerons, structural stiffeners, inside the same 47/48 section requiring inspections and localized repairs for structural delamination.


The recurrence of shimming issues on the Dreamliner program comes as Boeing is considering consolidating 787 final assembly operations exclusively to South Carolina. The North Charleston, S.C. factory that produces the aft fuselage where the structural issue was introduced builds the section regardless of where final assembly is completed.

Shorter Boeing, “Our South Carolina facility is not executing properly, but because we are in a right-to-work state, we can push them to assemble dangerous aircraft and hit the production numbers that we want, so we want to move more production to South Carolina.”

This can’t but help Airbus, because, even if Boeing is a superior aircraft, you are wiping out a decade of advantages with a two week grounding.

Boeing’s upper management has been taken over by former McDonnell and finance types, and they are completely unable to manufacture an aircraft for a civil environment.

Interesting Tech

Solid fuel for ramjets and rockets is generally some sort of plastic or rubber, oxidizer, and powdered aluminum.  (The devil is in the details, don’t try this at home)

A new technology involving replace the aluminum particles aluminum-lithium alloy particles.

It prevents the formation of large aluminum droplets and corrosive combustion by-products: (paid subscription required)

A Purdue University spinoff will test an improved propellant for solid-fuel ramjet propulsion systems in hypersonic weapons under more than $1.1 million in contracts from the U.S. military.

Adranos is developing a solid rocket fuel, called Alitec, which uses aluminum-lithium (Al-Li) alloy powder instead of aluminum in the propellant mix, increasing fuel efficiency and reducing corrosive effects.


Aluminum powder is used in solid propellants as an additive to increase their density and combustion temperatures and stabilize the burn. But the metallic fuel forms large molten droplets that burn slowly. This results in a performance loss of up to 10%, which prevents a rocket from realizing its full range and payload capacity. The fuel also emits hydrochloric acid, which damages the environment and corrodes launch equipment.

Aluminum-lithium fuel has demonstrated increased performance through better combustion and higher efficiency. The large difference in boiling points between aluminum and lithium causes microexplosions of the metallic drops, reducing agglomerates. In addition, Al-Li virtually eliminates hydrochloric acid production while also improving theoretical specific impulse. Adranos calculates that Alitec could increase missile range by up to 68% and booster payload by 65%.


The latest contracts have been awarded by the Army’s Aviation and Missile Center and the Defense Department’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office. Under the contracts, tests at Purdue’s Zucrow Labs will use a heated air system capable of simulating a Mach 4 flight environment to determine Alitec’s functionality within a solid-fuel-ramjet hypersonic propulsion system.


Boeing Cannot Make Aircraft Anymore, Part XXXIV

The delivery of one of the first two KC-46 tankers has been delayed after debris was found in the fuel tanks.

This is aircraft manufacture 101, and it happened on one of the first air frames that was supposed to been accepted by the Air Force.

Boeing really cannot make airplanes any more:

The delivery of a new KC-46 Pegasus tanker aircraft to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina has been delayed after foreign object debris was found inside the plane by Boeing inspectors.

The delayed aircraft was to have been one of the first two KC-46s delivered to Air Force Reserve Command at Seymour Johnson on June 12. But while the first was successfully delivered, debris was found in the fuel tank of the second during its pre-acceptance inspections.

In a statement provided to Air Force Times and Defense News on Monday, the Air Force said the debris came from “non-standard factory rework,” and not the kind of “production line quality escapes” that caused the Air Force to halt KC-46 deliveries in March 2019.

Those problems with foreign object debris, or FOD, led the Air Force to put a plan in place to correct the problem.


Just a month after Boeing began delivering the KC-46 to the Air Force in January 2019, the service found foreign object debris — tools or other materials used to build the aircraft — left behind in multiple KC-46s, creating a potential safety hazard. As a result, the Air Force stopped accepting new tankers over a weeks-long period in March and April 2019 as it investigated the issue.

I’m not sure that Boeing can be fixed without burning the whole rotten edifice down and rebuilding from the ashes.

This is Both Heartening and Worrying

This is significant because the maneuvers were ordered either by,  “The highest echelons of the District of Columbia National Guard,” (NY Times) or directly ordered by Donald Trump. (AP)

So, the military has ordered an investigation, and the implication is that the crew, and people above them in the chain of command, may be facing jeopardy as a result of following orders.

Clearly, this is a push-back against Donald Trump and Evil Minions, which can be taken two ways:

  • It is reassuring because it means that the military has remained largely unaffected by the politicization of the government under Trump.
  • It is concerning because it indicates a level of push-back to civilian authority that might presage a coup.

Actually, both could be correct:

The National Guard helicopter crew that flew low over protesters in the nation’s capital this week has been grounded, the Army secretary told reporters Friday.

The Army initiated an administrative investigation, called a 15-6, after a UH-72 Lakota was seen making low maneuvers in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said. The crew was grounded immediately after the investigation began, he added.


Videos showed Lakota and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters kicking up debris as officials tried to force demonstrators who’d broken the city’s 7 p.m. curfew off the streets. The Black Hawks were reportedly operated by the FBI.

McCarthy declined to say who ordered the helicopter crews to fly low over the protesters in Washington, citing concerns that he’s in the chain of command and the investigation remains ongoing.