Royal Saudi Air Force deploys to Sudan

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) has deployed four Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s and four F-15C Eagles to Merowe Air Base, Sudan, for a joint exercise, which is scheduled to run from March 29 to April 12. Sudanese Air Force participants were to include more than two dozen fighters, including MiG-29s and unspecified Sukhoi jets. Sudan has both the Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot in service.

Merowe, situated around 210 miles (340km) north of Khartoum, does not have any resident units, but regularly sees detachment of Sudanese fighters. Officials said they had been planning the exercise for almost a year, following a proposal put forward by Saudi Arabia. It marks the first such joint training to take place between the two countries since Sudan broke its ties with Iran and allied with Saudi Arabia in 2015. At that time, Sudan also joined the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The exercise was intended to improve the operational capabilities of both air forces, promote co-operation and enhance operational capabilities.

T-X RFP response deadline

Boeing said today that it has formally submitted its RFP response ‘two days early’ for the US Air Force’s T-X advanced pilot training competition.

The deadline for RFP responses in set for March 31, with a contract award for a winner takes all deal expected by year end.

Lockheed Martin says it’s T-50A proposal is in the process of being submitted to Air Force Materiel Command.  Leonardo DRS is also expected to submit a proposal for the T-100, based on the popular M-346 Master.

Austrian Expansion on Hold

VIENNA AIRPORT has appealed against a court ruling banning the construction of a third runway at the Austrian hub.  The facility has been lobbying for an additional runway, to be built to the southeast of the airfield, for several years amid claims its existing infrastructure was close to maximum capacity.

However, its plans were dealt a blow on February 18 when Austria’s Federal Administrative Court blocked the proposal, claiming the positive aspects of the new runway did not justify its environmental impact and extra carbon dioxide emissions.

Launching its challenge on March 23, the airport said: “An extraordinary appeal has been filed with the Austrian Supreme Administrative Court on grounds of unlawfulness of content, serious procedural violations, inconsistency in the reasoning underlying the court decision and an inconceivable interpretation of the law.”

Julian Jäger, a management board member of Vienna Airport operator Flughafen Wien added: “In terms of its contents, the court decision is indecisive and contradictory.  On the one hand, the court found that there would be further passenger growth at Vienna Airport, and that there is a need for an additional runway for aircraft to take off and land.  However, it does not deal with the issue of where this need will be diverted if the runway is not built.”

Jäger noted that banning a third runway at Vienna will force passengers and airlines to use neighbouring airports.  This, he said, would cost the facility around 30,000 new jobs and would have a significant impact on Austria’s economy and tourism industry.

Flybe Launches at Heathrow

Flybe has launched scheduled flights from London/Heathrow.  The Exeter-based regional carrier introduced its first of 40 weekly connections from the capital to Aberdeen and Edinburgh on March 26, operated by its fleet of Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprops.

Flybe CEO Christine Ourmieres-Widener said: “We are so pleased to confirm further our commitment to Scotland by offering even more flights to London with our two new routes from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to Heathrow’s Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal, giving passengers greater choice and linking them with our range of codeshare partners through our ‘One Stop to the World’ approach.”

Flybe’s arrival at Heathrow comes just two months after the airport reduced its charges for domestic passengers in a bid to improve regional connectivity.

The carrier gained access into the capacity-constrained hub via slots surrendered by British Airways’ parent International Airlines Group (IAG) following its 2012 acquisition of British Midland International.  Under the terms of the deal, the European Commission ordered IAG to release 14 daily slot pairs, seven of which were to facilitate new competition between Heathrow and Edinburgh and/or Aberdeen.  As a result, Flybe was not required to pay for these slots.

Flight Restrictions Tightened

The US and subsequently the UK Governments have introduced additional airline security measures on flights originating in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. Britain’s Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, said in a written statement to the House of Parliament on March 21 he was revising aviation security measures for selected inbound flights to the UK.

“In conjunction with our international partners and the aviation industry, the UK Government keeps aviation security under constant review.  The UK has some of the most robust security measures in the world and we will not hesitate to put in place measures we believe are necessary, effective and proportionate,” he said.

Under the new restrictions electronic devices such as mobile telephones, laptops and tablets larger than 6.3in (16cm) x 3.7in (9.3cm) x 0.6in (1.5cm) will not be allowed in the cabin on flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Tunisia.  Instead these items must be packed in travellers’ hold luggage.  Passengers have raised concerns that these items could be stolen or damaged.

The ban follows an earlier directive by the Trump Administration to prohibit electronic devices from a passenger’s carry-on luggage on nonstop flights to the US from eight nations.  The indefinite US ban covers ten airports and nine airlines with restrictions applying to travellers from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Although no specific reason was given for the new ban initially, Reuters quoted US officials as saying it relates to a terror threat uncovered several weeks ago, during a US Navy SEAL raid on a suspected al-Qaeda base in Yemen.  Subsequently, US Department of Homeland Security said the decision was based on this information as well the downing of a MetroJet aircraft over Egypt on October 31, 2015 and the attempt to destroy a Somali-owned Daallo Airlines Airbus A321 on February 2, 2016, after which investigations showed explosives had been smuggled aboard both aircraft.  “We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent security as they continue to target aviation interests,” US officials said in a statement.

Virgin America Brand Axed

Alaska Airlines says it will “retire” the Virgin America brand in 2019 after the two carriers merge – but will retain many of the brand elements popular among Virgin America passengers, including enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting and music.

Brad Tilden, CEO of Seattle-based Alaska Air Group, explained: “Our goal from the very beginning of this merger was to become the go-to airline for people on the West Coast, with low fares, convenient flights, a premium product and genuine, caring service.

“Three months in, we’ve dramatically grown our presence in California and are united behind a new purpose: creating an airline people love.”

In February, Alaska Airlines announced 25 new daily departures from San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Jose, California, the largest addition of routes in the company’s history.

Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ VP of Marketing, said: “We spent the last ten months conducting extensive research and listening carefully to what fliers on the West Coast want most.

“While the Virgin America name is beloved to many, we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name – for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares.”

Next year Alaska will introduce a redesigned cabin with new seats and amenities, while new staff uniforms by designer Luly Yang will be introduced in mid-2019.

Meanwhile its entire fleet of Boeing 737s will be equipped with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi by this autumn.  Guests will be able to stream free entertainment on their own devices while travelling on the Boeing fleet.  The facility will be extended to the Airbus fleet in August via the Red entertainment system.

Premium seating will be expanded across the Airbus fleet, increasing the number of First Class seats from eight to 12 and adding 18 new Premium Class seats.

On the ground, the airline is refreshing and expanding lounges in Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles and opening new facilities in San Francisco and New York/JFK.

Korean Dream Begins

Korean Air has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from an order for ten placed on May 31, 2005.  The jet, HL 8081 (c/n 34810), will initially be flown on domestic services from Seoul/Gimpo to Jeju for around a month as part of the Korea Office of Civil Aviation’s required certification period.  Afterwards it will be introduced onto the carrier’s long-haul international network, with the first service to Toronto, Canada due to start on June 1.  The airline expects to receive a further four airframes this year with the final five set to arrive in 2019.  As more aircraft join the fleet, more routes will be transferred to the Dreamliner with three flights a week between Seoul/Incheon and Madrid and four flights per week between Seoul/Incheon and Beijing scheduled to start in August.  The aircraft will also substitute an Airbus A330-200 on the thrice-weekly Zurich link from October 3.

Walter Cho, President of Korean Air, commented: “The 787 will be a key member of Korean Air’s fleet as we continue to introduce next-generation aeroplanes to our customers.”  He went on to say the carrier wasn’t pursuing new routes for its 787s, but concentrating on increasing current route frequencies.  (Photo Boeing)

Lebanese A-29 pilots begin training

The first new Lebanese Air Force A-29 Super Tucano trainee pilot started live flying with the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody AFB, Georgia, on 22 March.

“It was his first flight in the aircraft so it was a great [opportunity] for him to get oriented in the A-29 and how it flies,” said the 81st FS instructor pilot who conducted the first flight. “[Since training began] this was the first opportunity that we’ve had to get the first Lebanese [pilot] airborne. They’ve been doing ground training, learning the procedures, patterns, simulator and emergency procedures.”

With the first flight completed and logged, the 81st FS moves one-step closer to the programs, end goal which emulates the Afghan pilot training at the same base. These pilots and maintainers will be armed with the light air support capabilities they need to defend their country from terrorism and combat common enemies.

“We’ve got one student with one flight under his belt but it’s a small victory for us,” said Lt Col Ryan Hill, 81st FS commander. “The end state is that we’re going to have 12 trained Lebanese pilots. These guys will be fully-trained operational combat pilots in the A-29 aircraft. The ultimate goal is for them to fight ISIS on their eastern border.”

After completing the program, 12 pilots and approximately 20 maintainers will also be able to stand up their own fully functional A-29 squadron and be able to continue operations on their own in Lebanon.


Flywheel at Bicester Heritage returns for 2017

The organisers of Flywheel at Bicester Heritage – Historic Promotions – have confirmed the third annual showcase celebrating classic winged and wheeled vehicles will take place on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th June, kick-starting a summer of British motorsport and coinciding with British Armed Forces Day.

Last year, the Oxfordshire festival saw hundreds of historic cars, aircraft, motorbikes and military vehicles come alive on the demonstration track and in the sky at the UK’s best preserved Second World War bomber station, Bicester Heritage. The crowds were joined by Sir Stirling Moss OBE who, as well as signing autographs, was reunited with a host of his race-winning cars from the 1950s and 1960s.

Flywheel aims to bring to life the nostalgic ambience of the festival’s backdrop, Bicester Heritage, which celebrates 100 years since the Royal Flying Corps moved into the site.   Advance ticket prices start from £23 per adult and £52 per family. Each adult ticket includes free parking as well as a complimentary programme. Entry for children under the age of five years is free.

Navigraph to Introduce Jeppesen Charts

In the next version of Navigraph Charts, all chart data will be provided by Jeppesen!

According to Navigraph, the new Jeppesen charts format will add many benefits and enable additional functionality requested by users to the Navigraph Charts software.

First and foremost, the coverage will dramatically increase to 6,784 airports. This is the most comprehensive coverage available.

Secondly, with the Jeppesen chart format we can now offer charts in a darker night mode colour scheme.

Thirdly, since Jeppesen charts are generally geo referenced and true-to-scale, Navigraph will be able to place an overlay (“moving maps”) on top of the charts, aiding situational awareness during a flight.

Charts and NavData from One Source

Navigraph Charts will also contain enroute charts that are dynamically rendered based on Jeppesen NavData. Using Jeppesen as a provider for all data will ensure synchronized information between airport charts, enroute charts, addon data formats, and any other data displayed in Navigraph apps and software. The enroute charts will also, to a great extent, use the symbology of the enhanced SID and STAR chart format. Chart updates will follow the regular 28-day AIRAC cycle.

User Preference
In addition to the user requested features that were technically made available through the Jeppesen chart format, the change to Jeppesen is also based on the results of our user survey where a majority of 2,200 participants reported being the most familiar with Jeppesen charts, and preferring the Jeppesen format among four different chart formats.

Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there a release date?
A: Not yet, but it will be soon. The new apps are in beta testing.

Q: Will these new products affect pricing?
A: The final pricing has not yet been released. We do not anticipate a significant change from the current pricing.

Q: Will you honour my current subscription?
A: Yes, all current Charts and Ultimate subscriptions will be honoured in full also after the release of the new system.

Q: Will we also be able to access the previous chart format?
A: The new apps will only have Jeppesen charts.

Q: Will all charts have night mode versions?
A: Yes.

Q: Jeppesen is in the process of enhancing the SID and STAR charts as per Will you provide these?
A: Yes.

Q: Will all charts be geo-referenced?
A: Many charts, but not all. In general, approach charts and ground/taxi charts are geo-referenced. In addition, the enhanced SID and STAR charts (as per above) will also be geo-referenced.

Q: Will you provide both IFR and VFR charts?
A: Currently Navigraph will only provide IFR charts.