737 Max: Boeing ‘inappropriately coached’ pilots in test after crashes


In its report on Friday,

the Senate committee said that based on “corroborated whistleblower information and testimony during interviews of FAA staff”, it concluded that FAA and Boeing officials involved in the test had “established a pre-determined outcome to reaffirm a long-held human factor assumption related to pilot reaction time”.



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Pilots eject from Super Hornet in aborted take-off at Amberley RAAF Base outside Brisbane


A $75 million Air Force jet has hit the runway during an aborted take-off at the Amberley RAAF Base outside Brisbane.

Witnesses have told the ABC they saw pilots eject from a F/A-18F Super Hornet as it was about to take off from RAAF Base Amberley.  

Photos from the scene suggest the Super Hornet has suffered some damage to its forward starboard fuselage.

Analysis of photos suggests the plane has a collapsed nosewheel, or the nosewheel is in a drain.

A Defence Department spokesperson said the aircrew of the aircraft were safe and no other personnel were involved in the incident.

The RAAF Super Hornet (circled) appeared to have crashed on the runway at RAAF base Amberley.(Supplied)

“Defence will provide more information once the immediate actions associated with the incident are completed.

“The cause of the incident is not known at this time and will be subject to investigation.”

The plan was taking off from south to north.

Plane only a decade old

Australia has 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets, based out of Amberley approximately 20km west of Brisbane.

They entered operation in December 2012 and have participated in a range of exercises and operations including Operation OKRA in the Middle East.

Defence says the Super Hornets “ensure that Australia’s air combat capability edge is maintained until the full introduction of the F-35A Lightning II”.

Australia is due to accept another 15 F-35s in 2021, as part of a $17 billion deal to eventually acquire 72 of the newer jets.

But the F-35 program has been beset by delays exacerbated by the pandemic.



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Why China is Frantically Training Pilots


Here’s What You Need to Remember: China is adding new carriers, along with amphibious and destroyers, at a staggering speed, generating concern at the Pentagon regarding the scope and size of its growing Navy as well as its industrial capacity.

The Chinese Navy is taking aggressive steps to massively rev up its fleet of carrier-based attack jets with a new generation of pilots specifically trained to operate ship-based aircraft. 

A story in the Chinese Government-backed Global Times newspaper says the PLA Navy made history by qualifying the first group of new fighter-jet pilots specifically recruited to fly carrier-launched aircraft. 

The report makes the interesting point that traditional pilots, while of course quite experienced with fighter jet operations and flight, might have more trouble transitioning into roles flying carrier-operated planes. 

“Although switched pilots may have accumulated flight experience in previous service, such experience is not necessarily helpful as muscle memory may hinder them from adapting to shipboard aircraft, Li said. Pilots usually throttle down the engine when landing, but for carrier-based aircraft pilots, they need to keep that or even throttle up,” the report says. 

The training and flight preparations, using Chinese J-15s, are taking place on China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. 

What this means is that the PLA Navy is moving as quickly as it can to arm its growing fleet of carriers with pilots, fighter jets, and trained crews. This makes sense and is a point that could easily be overlooked given the amount of attention now being paid to the pace of China’s expanding carrier fleet. China’s second carrier, its first indigenously built platform, is already operational, and work on a third and fourth carrier is already underway. 

China is adding new carriers, along with amphibious and destroyers, at a staggering speed, generating concern at the Pentagon regarding the scope and size of its growing Navy as well as its industrial capacity. Furthermore, its newer carriers look quite similar to modern U.S. carriers, as is often the case with emerging Chinese platforms which seem to pop up several years after new U.S. systems arrive, and they often look very similar. This is not only true of carriers but also destroyers and amphibs. Elements of the new Chinese fleet of somewhat stealthy Type 055 destroyers, for example, resemble the U.S. Zumwalt class, and its new fleet of amphibs clearly mirror the U.S. America class. 

The Chinese Navy is already substantially larger than the U.S. Navy in terms of sheer size, and has no apparent plans to slow down the pace at which it adds new ships. New stealthy destroyers and Type 075 amphibs, for example, are arriving quickly to further fortify China’s visible plan to lead the world as a global maritime power. In fact, China is well known to be pursuing a plan to add 40 new destroyers within five years.

After all, there is little point in massively expanding a fleet of aircraft carriers without the requisite number of pilots needed to operate them. Also, a potentially lesser recognized element of this is that China of course plans to add 5th-gen carrier-launched aircraft such as a new maritime variant of its J-31. Therefore, having a trained and ready group of pilots prepared to operate carrier or amphib-operated aircraft could enable pilots to quickly transition from platforms such as a J-15 to newly arriving 5th-Gen assets. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Wikimedia Commons



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Etihad warns pilots of immediate job cuts as pandemic crisis continues


An Etihad spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Etihad employed nearly 2000 pilots as of February, according to its website. Sources have said hundreds of staff, including some pilots, had been laid off before the latest cuts.

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Pilots were told in the email that “a variety of other options” tried by the airline were not enough to keep the business strong and that its current workforce was “simply too large.”

Affected pilots would be notified within 24 hours, it said, without saying how many would lose their jobs.

The group representing most of the world’s airlines, the International Air Transport Association, has consistently said that air traffic had failed to recover as quickly as expected.

A new wave of infections and lockdowns across Europe and elsewhere has cast further uncertainty for the aviation industry as it faces its worst ever crisis.

Etihad chief Tony Douglas.Credit:Bloomberg

IATA says inconsistent border rules are hampering the recovery, making it difficult for airlines to plan ahead.

Etihad said it was continuing to scale down the airline’s operations and that it would become a mid-sized, full service carrier concentrating on its wide-body fleet.

It was not immediately clear whether that meant it would shrink its fleet of 30 Airbus narrow-body A320 jets.

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Etihad has said it may retire its 10 Airbus superjumbo A380s due to the pandemic.

Chief Executive Tony Douglas in April said the airline had full support of its owner, the government of Abu Dhabi. Etihad has not said if it has received any state assistance.

Most of its employees are foreigners and not eligible for government benefits in the United Arab Emirates.

Reuters

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Netherlands puts KLM bailout on hold after pilots reject wage freeze



FILE PHOTO: A KLM Boeing 737-800 plane lands at Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany, November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

October 31, 2020

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The Dutch government on Saturday put on hold its plan to bail out KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France<AIRF.PA>-KLM, after pilots rejected a wage-freeze until 2025, Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said.

KLM had been due to receive a 3.4 billion euro ($4.0 billion) package, including 1 billion euros in direct loans. from the government to help it cope with the damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I find it very disappointing, but this way we cannot move forward with the loan now,” Hoekstra told journalists.

The pilots’ union argued that it had already agreed to a freeze until March 2022, and could not now change that agreement at the last minute.

Ahead of the government announcement, KLM CEO Pieter Elbers had said that “without this loan, KLM will not make it through these challenging times”.

In a statement, he said KLM would not immediately go bankrupt but that its reserves “cannot last more than a few months”.

In a letter to parliament, Hoekstra left the door open for the bailout if all KLM employees agreed to the five-year wage freeze.

“It is up to KLM and the unions to ensure that they meet the government’s demands after all,” he said, adding that the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic had changed expectations about how soon airlines could bounce back.

“The outlook is sombre, that makes it all the more important to have a good restructuring programme in place to work towards KLM’s long-term recovery,” he wrote.

Unions representing ground and cabin crews have agreed to the extended wage freeze, which is set to last as long as the airline receives government support.

Air France-KLM on Friday reported a 67% drop in third-quarter revenue to 2.52 billion euros, just as a new COVID-19 surge poses further threats to an industry devastated by the pandemic and the ensuing collapse in long-haul travel. The airline’s net debt rose by 3 billion euros to 9 billion euros.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Kevin Liffey)





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Dutch government puts KLM bailout plan on hold after pilots reject wage freeze


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THE HAGUE — The Dutch government said on Saturday it will put on hold its bailout plan to KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France-KLM, after the airline’s pilots rejected a demand that their wages be frozen until 2025, Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra said.

KLM had been slated to receive a 3.4 billion euro ($3.96 billion) package, including 1 billion euros in direct loans from the Dutch government to help it through the coronavirus pandemic.

“I find it very disappointing but this way we cannot move forward with the loan now,” Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoestra told journalists.

He spoke shortly after the pilots’ union refused to accept a wage freeze until 2025, arguing it had already agreed to a freeze lasting until March 2022, and that changing the agreement at short notice was not feasible.

Ahead of the government announcement, KLM CEO Pieter Elbers stressed how much the company needed the money.

“Without this loan KLM will not make it through these challenging times,” Elbers said in a statement.

Hoekstra said KLM would not immediately go bankrupt but did not have much in the way of reserves.

“They cannot last more than a few months,” he said.

Other unions representing ground and cabin crews have agreed to the extended wage freeze, which is set to last as long as the airline receives government support.

The Dutch government warned on Friday it would withhold the bailout package unless the company adjusted its restructuring plan to include the wage freezes.

Air France-KLM on Friday reported a 67% drop in third-quarter revenue to 2.52 billion euros, underlining the airline’s difficult financial condition as a new COVID-19 surge poses further threats to an industry crippled by the epidemic and a collapse in long-haul travel. ($1 = 0.8586 euros) (Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg Editing by John Stonestreet and James Drummond)



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Navy’s 1st batch of women pilots ready for take-off


Kolkata, Oct. 22 : The first batch of women pilots of the Indian Navy have been operationalized on Dornier aircraft by the Southern Naval Command (SNC) at Kochi. They are Lieutenant Divya Sharma from Malviya Nagar in New Delhi, Lieutenant Shubhangi Swaroop from Tilhar in Uttar Pradesh and Lieutenant Shivangi from Muzaffarpur in  Bihar.

The three women pilots were part of the six pilots of the 27th Dornier Operational Flying Training (DOFT) Course, who graduated as ‘Fully operational Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) Pilots’ at a passing out ceremony held at INS Garuda, Kochi on Thursday.

 

SNC Chief Staff Officer (Training) Rear Admiral Antony George presented awards to the pilots who are now fully qualified on Dornier aircraft for all operational missions.

These officers had initially undergone basic flying training partly with the Indian Air Force and partly with the Navy prior to the DOFT course. Amongst the three women pilots operationalized for MR flying, Lt Shivangi was the first to qualify as a naval pilot on December 2 last year.

The course comprised of one month of ground training phase which was conducted at various professional schools of the SNC and eight months of flying training at the Dornier Squadron of SNC, INAS 550. Lt Divya Sharma & Lt Shivam Pandey were adjudged ‘First in Flying’ and ‘First in Ground’ subjects, respectively.

 



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In 2001, Desperate F-16 Pilots Used Anti-Tank Missiles as Sensors


Key Point: The improvisation was not a total waste of effort.

The U.S. Air Force went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 badly unprepared for fighting fleet-footed Taliban insurgents who blend in with the rough terrain.

In particular, the Air Force’s jet fighters—designed and equipped for supersonic combat against Soviet planes—lacked sensors capable of scanning the ground below for small bands of enemy fighters.

So some F-16 pilots from the Idaho-based 389th Fighter Squadron did what American aviators traditionally do best—they improvised, using existing equipment in ways the engineers never intended. Specifically, they pressed an anti-tank missile into service as a heat-detecting camera.

“In late November 2001, F-16 pilots flying missions to Afghanistan from Al Udeid [air base] in Qatar briefly carried an AGM-65G Maverick with an infrared seeker head to perform road reconnaissance,” recounts Air Combat Command’s official history for 2012.

The 675-pound AGM-65G was meant for killing Soviet tanks. The sensor would detect the heat of a tank’s engine and guide the missile to blast through the vehicle’s thin top armor. But it’s possible for a pilot to see what the missile sees—via a television screen inside the cockpit—without actually launching the munition.

Of course, using the Maverick as a sensor is a tactic that the Air Force’s A-10 attack-jet community pioneered before the Afghanistan war. But the slow, low-flying A-10s didn’t arrive in Afghanistan until March 2002. Faster F-16s filled in during those critical early months.

In theory, the missile would detect people and pickup trucks as well as it did tanks, helping the F-16 pilots find insurgents along Afghanistan’s winding mountain roads.

The F-16’s main sensor is a multi-mode radar that’s best at detecting other fast-moving aircraft.

In practice, the Maverick lacked the necessary fidelity to be a useful camera. It turned out that a tank represented a much bigger and hotter target than any Taliban fighter or his truck.

“We tried to use Mavericks as a sensor [for road reconnaissance], but they did not work very well, as we found out,” one F-16 weapons officer told the Air Force historians. “There was no way to identify a target with it.”

Which is not to say the improvisation was a total waste of effort. The Maverick could “locate hot spots,” the officer said. In other words, the missile could help steer the pilots toward the general areas where insurgents might concentrate, even if it couldn’t pick out individual targets.

In any event, the Air Force quickly adapted to the conditions in Afghanistan and, later, Iraq. The Pentagon bought hundreds of Lightning and Sniper targeting pods for Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighters. The pods, which remain in use today, usually include sensitive daylight and nighttime cameras plus lasers for measuring range and guiding munitions.

In contrast to the Maverick’s sensor, a modern targeting pod can discern individual people and trucks on the ground. Today, the pods are standard equipment on U.S. military warplanes. The new F-35 stealth fighter does away with the pod—and instead carries its high-tech cameras in a fairing under its nose.

David Axe served as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War FixWar Is Boring and Machete Squad.

This article first appeared earlier this year and is reprinted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters



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U.S. Air Force Looks to Virtual Reality to Train F-35, F-22 and F-15 Pilots


The use of practical virtual reality (VR) has become an actual reality in recent years, and the U.S. Air Force will soon use the technology to leverage enhanced warfighter training. This month the Air Force announced the inauguration of the new Virtual Test and Training Center (VTTC) at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada—which will house the future of joint-aerial combat training.

The VTTC will utilize the facility so that pilots can simultaneously train together in both live and virtual environments. In fact, the experience provided at Nellis AFB will provide a more realistic and effective training while also mitigating the constraints of a physical range.

However, this is vastly more than a complex video game system.

“It’s a significant step forward to enable testing tactics development and advanced training for the Air Force, joint and coalition partners,” said Peter Zupas, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center operational training and test infrastructure analyst via an Air Force statement.

This month the Air Force opened the doors of VTTC, which begin actual training next spring or summer. The $38 million center will allow Air Force pilots to practice advanced tactics that can replicate combat against near-peer nations and other adversaries.

“When you think about great power competition and where we might have to fight—shipping out to fight a China or Russia, particularly—there is no live training venue for the joint force, certainly for the Air Force, that’s big enough, that has the threat density that can replicate what China or Russia can do,” Major General Chuck Corcoran, who heads up the U.S. Air Force’s Air Warfare Center at Nellis told Defense News.

Corcoran added that while live exercises will remain an important component of pilot training, this new facility will be able to allow pilots to engage in a battlespace that is populated by high-end threats. Air Force pilots will be able to network with other pilots and the system will let them take part in situations that are impossible to emulate even in live training “Red Flag” exercises.

The VTTC will also reportedly support a range of aircraft including F-16s, F-22s, F-35s and F-15Es with more aircraft likely to be added. While as noted it isn’t a video game, it is still software-based so the various “add-ons” or “downloadable content” (DLC) of other aircraft—friend and foe alike—should be easy enough to integrate with the system.

The first missions are scheduled for next year, but they could expand considerably to include platform-specific counterterrorism and live-fire exercises. These missions could incorporate multi-domain and near-peer threats across air, space and cyber domains. Moreover, the ability to connect live and virtual training environments will reduce the need for numerous aircraft and crew to travel to a singular location. In doing so, this could even reduce fiscal burden for the force.

“In the next year or so we will officially have it up and running,” added Colonel Dean Caldwell, the USAFWC VTTC director. “The VTTC will then be turned into a squadron and be placed under the Nevada Test and Training Range.”

Simulators have long been used to train pilots and this goes back nearly a century. The original Link Trainer, the first flight simulator that was used to teach pilots how to fly by instruments was developed in 1929 by Edwin Albert Link of Binghamton, NY.

However, the technology has advanced considerably and has been instrumental in F-35 training, while the military has been upping its game with VR along with Augmented Reality (AR) in recent years for infantry and other training in ways not possible just a few years ago.

The VTTC at Nellis AFB is just one new VR-based program being adopted by the Air Force. In July the Virtual Reality Procedures Trainer (VRPT) was introduced and could potentially transform the way B-52 Stratofortress student-pilots train for combat. The main advantages of the VRPT are in its potential to reduce human bias in instruction, provide better access to training for student pilots, and give students immediate feedback that lessens the chance they develop poor habits in the early phases of training.

It is a notable example of how twenty-first-century VR is used to train pilots on an early Cold War-era bomber like the B-52.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Reuters



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Black boxes show pilots alive after missile hit Ukraine jet in Iran


The black boxes recovered from a Ukrainian airliner mistakenly downed in Tehran has shown the two pilots were alive after the first two missiles hit, officials said Sunday.

The Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet, crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran”s main airport on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran admitted days later that its forces accidentally shot down the Kyiv-bound Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Iran’s air defences had been on high alert at the time. It was concerned the US would retaliate against Iranian strikes hours earlier on American troops stationed in Iraq.

The head of Iran’s civil aviation authority Touraj Dehghani Zanganeh said that the cockpit voice recorder registered a conversation between the pilot, co-pilot and an instructor between the two blasts.

“Up to 19 seconds after the first missile exploded in the vicinity of the aircraft, (they) noticed abnormal conditions and were in control of the aircraft until the last moment,” he said, quoted by state television’s website.

“The instructor indicates that the aircraft has an electronic problem and the auxiliary power has been activated,” he said.

“The pilots were notified that both engines of the aircraft were on.”

He said the black boxes stopped working 19 seconds after the first explosion, making it impossible to retrieve data on the impact of the second missile.

Iran, which has no means of decoding the black boxes, sent them to France for analysis.



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