VATSIM Celebrates its 15th Anniversary

It has been 15 years since the doors opened on the VATSIM network on July 27, 2001 when the network went live with the first controllers and pilots connecting.

VATSIM Founder George Marinakis said: “Thanks to all members around the world for helping us achieve this milestone and here’s to the next 15,”

Today the community consists of over 74,000 active members from across the globe flying everything from single-engine aircraft to large jumbo jets.

VATSIM Founder Thomas Schroeder continued: “I thank not only those of you who have done so, but I also thank each and every pilot, ATC, and those who sit by you on the computers, who say, “Hey, what are you doing?” Keep getting them them involved, keep growing this hobby, as my very dear friend, and our founding father Harv Stein says, Blue Skies to you all.”

Calvi Available for X-Plane

Aerosoft has released Airport Calvi – Sainte Catherine for X-Plane 10.

Sainte Catherine Airport (LFKC) on Corsica is embedded in a valley to the south-east of the town of Calvi. The airport has been faithfully recreated with high resolution aerial images, custom 3D objects and accurate ground markings, including the old painted-over markings. It also includes reworked terrain and night lightning. The surrounding area, included the nearby business park and the citadel of Calvi have also been included.

Landing approaches are particular fun in Calvi: While Sainte Catherine is usually approached from the seaside; pilots can fly past the airport to the west, then turn by 180 degrees and approach the runway from the south.

• Realistic rendition of Calvi St. Catherine based on real life images
• Photo real buildings
• Large Aerial image with 50cm/pixel in the surroundings and 25cm/pixel on the airport
• Customized terrain, runway follows terrain
• Animated marshaller (additional plugin ‘Autogate’ requested)
• Customized night illumination
• Custom made trees and forests
• Animated bar on the entry of the parking lot
• Changing static aircraft including wreckage to the south west
• Animated road traffic
• Recreation of the citadel of Calvi and vessel

Click here for more information on Aerosoft’s website

Hellenic Air Force P-3B Orion Upgrade Work has Begun

AN UPGRADE and modernisation programme for the Hellenic Air Force’s P-3B Orion maritime patrol aircraft has now begun. A ceremony was hosted by the Hellenic Navy, Hellenic Aerospace Industry (HAI) and Lockheed Martin today, July 25, at HAI’s facilities in Tanagra, north of Athens, to mark the official launch of the programme.

On July 13, the first of two HAF P-3B Orions were successfully transferred from Elefsis Air Base to HAI’s facilities at Tanagra. Attending today’s ceremony were leaders representing the Hellenic Defense Ministry, the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, the Hellenic Navy, the HAF, the GDDIA, the US Embassy in Greece, Lockheed Martin and HAI, as well as local authorities.

As previously reported on AFD, on February 11 this year, the US Navy awarded Lockheed Martin Aeronautics an $141.9 million contract to modernize the P-3B aircraft for the government of Greece.

Dimitris Vitsas, the Alternate Minister of National Defense for Greece, said: “During the current difficult and critical times for Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean, the reconstitution of the operational capabilities of this programme is a defence priority for the Ministry and the Hellenic Armed Forces. In addition, the government-to-government agreement between Greece and the United States guarantees absolute transparency, fair and reasonable programme cost, the participation of the Hellenic Defense Industry and provides unique operational capabilities for the Hellenic Armed Forces.”

This contract provides for the reactivation of one P-3B and the procurement of software and hardware kits for the upgrade/modernization of a total of four P-3Bs. The Mid-Life Upgrade kits will provide an extension of service life by 15,000 flight hours. In addition, this contract provides for phased depot maintenance; a Greece indigenous mission integration and management system; new avionics; and other ancillary hardware and services.

Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, said: “The selection of P-3B and its upgrade is the most advantageous solution for the country. With the criterion of fulfilling the operational requirements of the Hellenic Navy, the P-3 with the MLU programme through the government agreement of Greece and the USA offers the optimal combination of cost-effectiveness.”

Vice Admiral George Giakoumakis, chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff. Commented: “The Hellenic Navy was deprived the services of a maritime patrol aircraft. The launch of the modernization and upgrade works of the P-3B aircraft of the Hellenic Navy covers an operational requirement of vital importance and this is taking place with the largest possible Greek added value.”

The P-3 Orion is the standard for maritime patrol and reconnaissance, and is used for homeland security, anti-piracy operations, humanitarian relief, search and rescue, intelligence gathering, antisubmarine warfare and, recently, to assist in air traffic control and natural disaster relief support.

Dennys Plessas, vice president of Business Development Initiatives at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said: “Greece’s domestic defence industry will absorb approximately 30% of the programme’s value, driving significant industrial, economic and technological advantages for the autonomous operation and support of this mission system.” In addition to the HAI facilities near Athens, in Schimatari, Greece, work on these P-3Bs will be performed in Marietta, Georgia; Greenville, South Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States.

Royal Australian Air Force’s First PC-21 Flown

PILATUS AIRCRAFT successfully completed the maiden flight of the first Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) PC-21 from Stans-Buochs Airfield, Switzerland, on July 21.

As previously reported in AFM, the aircraft, A54-001/HB-HWA (c/n 234), had made its first ground run on July 18.

Under Project AIR 5428, the PC-21 will replace the RAAF’s current PC-9/A and CT-4B aircraft. Signature of a contract for 49 of the new aircraft with Lockheed Martin was announced on December 8 last year. This first PC-21 will be handed over to the Royal Australian Air Force at RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria, in June 2017 after completion of testing and verification work in both Switzerland and Australia.

C Series Fuels Network Growth for airBaltic

Bombardier CS300 launch operator airBaltic will begin direct flights from Riga to Abu Dhabi as part of a network expansion facilitated by the new aircraft.

The Latvian carrier will receive six of its 20 CS300s this year, with the first due for delivery in October and Chief Executive Officer Martin Gauss explained that while the jets will be phased in gradually they will cover the entire network “sooner or later”.

One of the challenges airBaltic gave Bombardier was to enable direct flights between the airline’s Riga base and Abu Dhabi, a journey of 2,338nm (4,333km).  At the Farnborough International Airshow, Rob Dewar, Vice President CSeries Aircraft Program, confirmed that the range for airBaltic out of Riga was 2,469nm (4,573km).  Amongst the host of new services the airline is looking to introduce are links from Riga to Manchester, Dublin and Reykjavik.

“The CS300 will enable us to serve destinations which we were not able to in the past.  We can use the aircraft on all destinations airBaltic has, even on the short ones,” Gauss told journalists during a CS300 briefing at Farnborough.  Gauss told Airliner World that flights to Abu Dhabi would not start this year.  “We will decide when we come to the schedule and planning over the next year.”  He said that the link to Abu Dhabi would be a “normal flight” and that turnaround times would be no different to the airline’s current operations.

As part of its mission to become a pan-Baltic carrier, the airline is also operating flights from Tallinn in Estonia and Vilnius in Lithuania and these will also be served by the C Series.

With the first aircraft due to be delivered in October, focus is switching to the CS300’s entry into service (EIS) and Gauss is aware that there will be a lot of attention placed on both the manufacturer and the carrier.  The airBaltic CEO said that there was no formal agreement in place with CS100 launch operator Swiss but the two airlines were exchanging information during the EIS phase.

No announcement has been made on which destinations the CS300 will serve first.  “We are finalising it and we will announce it in September, together with Bombardier,” Gauss told Airliner World.  “We can fly to any destination but for the entry into service of course there is a lot of demand.”

The airline’s aircraft will be fitted with 145 seats and a curtain will be used to divide the Business and Economy cabins.  Gauss revealed airBaltic’s jets would feature Bombardier’s built-in in-flight entertainment system enabling the carrier to provide passengers with gate information, a moving map, safety demonstration videos and other customisable content.  He confirmed that the airline would introduce Wi-Fi to the CS300 but that it wasn’t fitted on the initial example.

PIA Eyes SriLankan A330s

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has confirmed it is in negotiations with SriLankan Airlines concerning the wet lease of four Airbus A330-300s.

The Pakistani national carrier has been looking for additional widebody jets to operate its new premier service, which is being launched on August 14.  SriLankan Airlines has proposed leasing four of its seven Airbus A330-300s and a high-level team from PIA, led by CEO Bernd Hildenbrand, recently visited Colombo to inspect the aircraft and negotiate a contract.

SriLankan Airlines is looking to offload the jets after the Government of Sri Lanka said that it would no longer fund continuing losses.  As a result, SriLankan has ended all operations to Europe, bar its daily Colombo-London link, leaving it with spare capacity.

Pakistan International Airlines’ new premier service will debut on the London Heathrow route, and will feature fully lie-flat beds in the premium cabins.  The airline is putting its cabin crew through a three-week training course to prepare them for its introduction.

A statement on PIA’s website said: “With new aircraft, more professional crew and improved service standards, the new service aims at providing an altogether different experience to passengers.  This service will go a long way in helping PIA regain its market share both domestically as well as internationally.”

Bayern Munich Flying High

Lufthansa flew Bundesliga side FC Bayern Munich to the US for the German team’s pre-season tour on a specially marked Airbus A340-642.

The aircraft, D-AIHK (c/n 580), features the club’s crest and ten of the club’s players including goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and former Germany captain Philipp Lahm.  Lufthansa says the aircraft will remain in the scheme for a year.

The jet departed Munich on July 25, bound for Chicago as LH2570.  Lufthansa has been the official carrier of FC Bayern Munich since 2004.

The aircraft features different designs on each side of the fuselage. Lufthansa
The aircraft features different designs on each side of the fuselage. Lufthansa


Heathrow Set to Welcome SWISS C Series

Swiss International Air Lines plans to introduce its new fleet of Bombardier CS100 airliners on flights between Zurich and London Heathrow this winter.

From November 16 until December 10, the launch operator will fly the Canadian-built jet into London on Saturdays, routesonline reports.  From then until January 4, the CS100 will operate into the UK gateway on Wednesdays only.

Services between Zurich and Birmingham will feature the CS100 between six and seven times a week by December 18 and Manchester, one of the type’s first scheduled destinations, will retain a weekly C Series service when the winter timetable comes into force.

Swiss is scheduled to take delivery of nine CS100s by the end of the year.

Hawk T1/A Out Now

The BAE Systems Hawk T1/A Advanced Trainer from Just Flight is now available for FSX, FSX: Steam Edition and Prepar3D.

Following on from their Canberra PR9, L-1011 Tristar professional, and the Tornado GR1, this simulation of the BAe Hawk T1 has been developed by Just Flight’s in-house development team after hands-on research with a real-life ex-RAF and ETPS (Empire Test Pilots’ School) Hawk T1.

The British-built single engine jet trainer has a two-man tandem cockpit. It was first flown in 1974 and has served as an advanced training aircraft for nearly 40 years. The design has proved to be highly successful, with over 900 examples of more than 10 variants sold to air forces in 18 countries, including the UK, Finland, India and Saudi Arabia. The Hawk T1 variant still serves as an advanced jet and weapons trainer and it has been flown by the RAF Red Arrows display team since 1979.

The Just Flight Hawk T1 has been modelled to a high level of detail and features 12 high-resolution paint schemes (including the RAF and Red Arrows), realistic payloads (including the AIM-9L Sidewinder, 30mm ADEN cannon gun pod and Red Arrows diesel/dye smoke pod) and ground equipment. Both the front and rear pilot positions are included and the aircraft features a full virtual cockpit with smoothly animated 3D instruments and fully functioning custom-coded systems and avionics. Custom-coded features include electrical, hydraulic and fuel systems, authentic HUD, Failures app, in-flight Weapon Control panel.

Click here for more information on Just Flight’s website

American Defers A350s

American Airlines has reached an agreement with Airbus to defer the delivery of the A350 XWBs it has on order.

The oneworld carrier said that it had revised its timetable with the European manufacturer on July 18, which will see American receive its first A350 in late 2018 instead of spring next year.  It has 22 A350s on order, which are now expected for delivery between 2018 and 2022 with an average deferral of 26 months.

“This change reduces the company’s planned capital expenditures for 2017 and 2018 and provides capacity flexibility,” American Airlines said in a statement.

The carrier has also announced the initial routes for its incoming Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.  The type will make it international debut on the airline’s Dallas Fort Worth-Madrid and Dallas Fort Worth-São Paulo – Guarulhos International Airport flights on November 4.