Airbus Helicopters has completed the first unmanned, autonomous flight of its VSR700 demonstrator “tactical vehicle.” The highly modified Helicopteres Guimbal Cabri G2 took off from the military airbase in Istres in the south of France. The VSR700’s 30-minute flight consisted of a variety of flight patterns before landing autonomously. The helicopter was piloted and monitored from the ground station located at the base. The helicopter had been flying autonomously since May 2017 with a safety pilot aboard.
The aircraft is fitted with a diesel engine to meet military requirements and has an automatic flight control system designed to meet regulatory standards. The VSR700 is a light military tactical unmanned aerial system able to carry multiple payloads, with an endurance of around eight hours. The system will initially offer extended surveillance capabilities for navies, allowing them to preserve manned helicopter flights for critical missions. The VSR700 is designed to land on navy ships as small as corvettes, and successful sea trials have already taken place.
The maintenance and repair center for Russian-made helicopters Helicentro Peru has been launched in Lima at the facilities of the Peruvian Air Force Maintenance Service – SEMAN. Built in partnership with Russian Helicopters (part of Rostec State Corporation), the center will provide maintenance for Mi-type aircraft.
The official opening ceremony was attended by CEO of Russian Helicopters Andrey Boginsky and Chief Commander of the Peruvian Air Force Rodolfo García Esquerre.
The facility will be used by Helicentro Peru to repair Mi-17 civil helicopters operated in the region, and by Russian Helicopters to overhaul Mi-17 aircraft of the Peruvian Air Force.
“The establishment of the maintenance and repair center for Russian helicopters in Peru is of strategic importance – it will enable to provide the full range of work without taking out fuselages from the country. Although the center has just started its operation, it has already orders until 2023 – nearly 40 helicopters have been planned for repair during the next five years. In addition, the advantageous geographical location of Peru and the enterprise’s production capacity would enable to accept orders from other countries of the region,” noted Andrey Boginsky, CEO of Russian Helicopters.
“Peru is the major importer of Russian-made aircraft in Latin America. This country is currently operating over 100 Russian helicopters,” said Viktor Kladov, Rostec’s Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy. “We continue to create a unified system for managing the life cycle of our helicopters in Peru. The opening of the aircraft maintenance center is significantly enhancing our positions in Latin America that is a top-priority region for Rostec.”
Airbus Helicopters, the France-based helicopter manufacturing division of Airbus, will establish a plant in Hungary to manufacture parts for helicopters, national news agency MTI reported late Monday, following hard on news earlier in the day of the Ministry of Defenseʼs order for 16 Airbus H225M helicopters.
The plant will be built by 2021 and create several hundred jobs, MTI cited Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó as saying at a press conference Monday.
The minister noted that there are two possible locations for the site of the plant in eastern Hungary. A final decision will be made at the start of 2019, after which the government will finalize an agreement with Airbus on supporting its investment with a government grant.
Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even said that in two yearsʼ time every hundredth helicopter the company makes will have Hungarian-manufactured parts.
Szijjártó said the agreement between the government and the company involves the Hungarian military purchasing 36 helicopters from Airbus and the parties setting up a joint education and training program.
Invert Robotics’ mobile climbing robots are adding new improvements and functionality thanks to recent customer feedback.
New Zealand-based Invert Robotics has already simplified aircraft inspections with its mobile climbing robots, which can traverse aircraft surfaces to provide visual inspections in a fraction of the time it takes a worker to perform the same task at-height. Now—in addition to adhering to upside down or wet aircraft surfaces—the suction-based robots can climb on rough, uneven surfaces.
The upgraded robots feature a new platform with enhanced suction, which enables the robots to climb on dirty or dusty surfaces. In addition, the company has made improvements related to the speed at which the robots can climb over lapped joints and other surface discontinuities, such as windows and damaged surfaces. According to a spokesperson for Invert Robotics, the new functionality has been added in the past few months as part of an ongoing commitment to expand the range of areas and environments the robots can operate in.
Earlier this year, Invert Robotics partnered with SR Technics to use the robots forenhancing aircraft maintenance inspections. Although the MRO provider has discontinued testing of robot technology in its aircraft maintenance division for the time being, Invert Robotics says it continues to work closely with the company’s former CEO on identifying further applications of the robots.
“We have successfully demonstrated the robot to leading airlines and received positive feedback,” says a spokesperson for Invert Robotics. “The feedback has identified even more exciting potential applications for the robot.”
According to Invert Robotics, the company is targeting maintenance tasks where technicians are required to work at-height or in dangerous circumstances, such as inspection and cleaning, but they “are ruling nothing out.” Additionally, the robots’ usage for non-destructive testing (NDT) technologies has been identified as a key efficiency improvement.ADVERTISINGinRead invented by Teads
“The latest version of the platform provides a standardized means of attaching payloads, and as such we will see rapid releases of new functionality,” says a spokesperson for Invert Robotics. “The first payloads in the development pipeline are NDT sensors for thickness, crack and coating testing.”
Invert Robotics plans to deploy these new capabilities within the industry in 2019. Pricing of the robots is on a case-by-case basis, depending on individual clients’ requirements.
São Paulo, Airbus Helicopters’ Brazilian customer centre, Helibras has just delivered the world’s first ACH145 Line to the Brazilian company Bodepan Empreendimentos Agropecuários e Imobiliários. This is the fourth Airbus aircraft acquired over the last 26 years by Bodepan, which has already operated several models, including the EC135.With more than 220 aircraft operating worldwide, the H145 has consolidated worldwide and is strongly reaching the Brazilian market with a proposal of comfort, technology and versatility. “Inquiries about the aircraft have been growing, especially after the last LABACE, when we presented the first H145 in Brazil. This helicopter is the best biturbine in its category”, says Jean-Luc Alfonsi, Helibras Vice-President of Business and Services.”We are very pleased with the acquisition of this new model in terms of performance, space and design. The ACH145 will enable us to make our journeys more comfortable and carrying more passengers. As operators since 1992, we have full confidence in the brand”, states Mr. Odílio Bergamini.
The ACH145 Line, previously known as ACH Stylence, features increased ergonomic comfort, acoustic insulation and innovative design. Its sliding doors provide easy passenger access and its spacious cabin allows for a variety of internal configurations. The luxurious interior of the delivered aircraft features 9 or 10 seats in perforated leather in tonal harmony with the carpets, special painting in the cabin and state-of-the-art digitally-controlled air conditioning.In addition to the shrouded tail rotor (Fenestron) and new engines (Arriel 2E), one of the big advances compared to the previous version of the aircraft (EC145) is the new concept of man/machine interface optimized through the Helionix™ digital avionics package,4-axis autopilot linked to the Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), which significantly reduces the crew’s workload.
Since its launch in 2017, Airbus Corporate Helicopters is setting new standards in corporate and VIP helicopter aviation focusing on quality, exclusivity and customer –experience supported by a global network of wholly-owned and approved service centres.
Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2017 it generated revenues of € 59 billion restated for IFRS 15 and employed a workforce of around 129,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 to more than 600 seats. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.
The companies shared their experiences with IFS’ enterprise resource planning software at the 2018 IFS World Conference.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provider IFS launched a number of new products this week at the 2018 IFS World Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
In addition to the rollout of IFS Applications 10, which contains more than 500 new capabilities, IFS launched Maintenix Fleet Planner and Maintenix Line Planner. Fleet Planner, which focuses on long-range planning for heavy maintenance activities, was co-developed and launched with American Airlines. Line Planner, which aims to help planners create, maintain and communicate line maintenance plans more efficiently, was co-developed in partnership with Latam Airlines.
At the three-day conference, a number of aerospace and defense companies shared their experiences with implementing IFS software products. Read on to find out more about how the software is being used across the industry.
As Latin America’s largest airline, Latam wanted to capitalize on its longstanding relationship with IFS by partnering with the software provider to create the new Maintenix Line Planner application. According to Robert Fischer, Latam’s director of IT, the airline came to IFS first about the partnership and now has the advantage of implementing Line Planner’s functionality months before its commercial launch. The application, which is meant to optimize efficiency of planning for line maintenance, has been in use at Latam since September 2017. IFS has leveraged users at Latam for rapid feedback and iteration, making tweaks as necessary.
Diego Paredes, Latam’s deputy manager of continuous improvement, says the airline has seen a host of benefits since Line Planner’s implementation, including improved efficiency and the ability to define a specific day at the station in one click, which allows more time to make better decisions, improve planning and reduce operational risk.
As the largest engine MRO in Australia, TAE Aerospace provides a large variety of products and services to customers all over the globe. To meet different customer requirements and international regulatory compliance, the company needed to find a single ERP system to pool its various divisions and requirements into one system. Starting in 2012, TAE implemented IFS Applications and has been using its functionality for maintenance, document management, supply chain, engineering and more.
Working with IFS, the company has also found a way to integrate IFS Applications with its Fountx assisted reality system. Technicians using Fountx remotely are able to log jobs, use voice commands for tasks and input photographic evidence and validation. According to TAE Aerospace, benefits of IFS Applications include having a single integrated solution across all sites, improved business visibility and streamlined workflow management. The software has also helped TAE Aerospace stay in compliance with International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITARS), Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Defence Aviation Safety Authority (DASA).
Southwest Airlines is currently in the process of implementing IFS Maintenix in its Tech Ops organization, which will be used to manage fleet compliance for the airline’s 737-700 fleet. This will include configuration control, compliance status and procedural controls while also streamlining business processes and increasing digital document usage, according to Southwest. The airline expects the Maintenix implementation to enhance visibility and provide greater control over increasing aircraft capabilities and complexity. Southwest’s goal is to go live with the Maintenix front end system in the first half of next year.
UK-based aerospace and defense provider Portsmouth Aviation is one of IFS’ early adopters for IFS Applications 10. The company is using the software for functionality such as cryptographic document signatures, which it says is important for security concerns within defense. Simon Vaughan, Portsmouth Aviation’s IFS manager, says the biggest wins so far with using IFS Applications 10 have been ease of user experience, real-time data availability and “having a single version of truth.”
Tsunami Tsolutions, which just won the IFS 2018 Partner of the Year Award, has been working with IFS Maintenix for more than a decade. The company, which focuses heavily on aerospace, provides IT support within a variety of industries-including supporting IFS products for multiple customers.
According to Matthew Atwater, Tsunami Tsolutions CEO, the company handles everything from being the primary users of Maintenix for customers to providing conversion, reporting and processing of data from the system. Atwater says it boils down to helping customers get the information they need from Maintenix. According to IFS, Tsunami Tsolutions has successfully built more than 25 integrations of the company’s software solutions since joining the IFS Partner Network in 2017.
And now, AI invades the skies. Algorithms are learning to predict delays, giving airports and airlines a better shot at avoiding them. Airlines like EasyJet and Emirates are using the tech to remake the ticketing process painless and turn the in-flight experience into a personalized joy. But the true promise sits in the cockpit, where AI autopilots could help manage the complex airline operations and even respond to the millisecond-urgency of unfolding cockpit crises.
Research here is young but developing quickly. In 2015, Boeing and Carnegie Mellon University launched the Aerospace Data Analytics Lab, a bid to use machine learning to spin massive piles of information into action item gold
“Every aircraft now has thousands of sensors, each of which generates readings about once per second,” says project leader and CMU computer scientist Jaime Carbonell. “That’s creating vast quantities of data that overwhelms any analytical strategy we now have. So we’re developing scalable algorithms that process it in the cloud. Everything from safety and predictive maintenance to in-flight performance characteristics and the aging of the aircraft can then be better tracked and understood.”
What makes that challenge ripe for AI—as opposed to just more comprehensive database-crunching—is that the data comes from sources ranging from tightly formatted sensor data to the scribblings of maintenance workers.
“Airplanes have detailed histories, but Boeing’s fleet operates around the world, so a lot of it incorporates human notations that might be strings of abbreviations unique to one operator or another, English that might not be the source’s primary language, and of course decades of data for which the documentation standards might have evolved,” Carbonell says. “We’re working to develop algorithms that can process all that, understand it, and create a unified way of analyzing information.”
The unified product the Aerospace Data Analytics Lab hopes to generate could help Boeing and its airline customers develop monitoring, maintenance, and operational strategies that will limit downtime and save money in the air. But even if the algorithms can be developed to grasp and comprehend all the data, there will still be gaps that might prevent a program from determining, say, the true lifecycle of an engine or the absolute most optimal configuration for fuel-efficient cruising.
So Carbonell wants to go further, making the AI engine smart enough to identify those holes and request the data to fill them from whoever has it. “If you have two airplanes that fly the same route in the same configuration, but they’re getting different fuel consumption readings, our systems will be able to cross-check all the parameters and dig down until it finds data that isn’t present but which is most likely to affect the performance—training protocols, for instance, or certain weather data—and then be able to request it so it can get to the crux of the issue,” Carbonell says.
Elsewhere, researchers are working to ensure AI can help pilots manage crises as they arise. At University College London, a team led by Haitham Baomar and Peter Bentley is developing a new autopilot system that learns how to manage emergencies by watching how well-trained pilots do so, and then behaving as they do in similar circumstances.
“We want to increase safety by trying to tackle the human-error factor that might be caused by stress, information overload, and sometimes a lack of sufficient and up-to-date training,” Baomar says. “Modern autopilots, unfortunately, can’t handle challenging flight conditions such as severe weather conditions or system failures.”
Autopilots ace basic piloting tasks in non-emergency conditions, but outside the straight and level stuff, they suffer. Strong turbulence, for example, can cause the autopilot to disengage or even attempt a correction that can worsen the problem. Pilots are trained to monitor autopilots constantly and intervene in emergencies, but they themselves are of course fallible.
The validation and verification process is extensive, costly, and exhausting.
Baomar wants to build an AI-based autopilot that can respond reliably and correctly to whatever’s happening, while ensuring the human in the cockpit knows what’s going on. His team’s technology, dubbed the Intelligent Autopilot System, undergoes the same training human pilots go through. Using the high-fidelity, professional version of the desktop flight simulator X-Plane, the researchers are teaching their autopilot to fly a Boeing 777, subjecting it to severe weather conditions, engine failures and fires, and emergency landings or turnarounds.
That education relies on supervised machine learning, which treats the young autopilot as a human apprentice going to a flying school. “A human pilot teacher would demonstrate the task to be learnt by executing it while the system observes,” Baomar says. “Then, the observations generate learning models through several artificial neural networks. Finally, the system is given full control, and is observed while imitating the successful execution of the task done by its human teacher.”
So far, the system has performed well, even flying unfamiliar aircraft and handling weather conditions outside its initial training. Next, the researchers will approach the aviation industry to get it into an industrial flight simulator or, better yet, a remote-piloted UAV. As for the path to actual deployment in commercial aircraft, Baomar says that the technology isn’t really the issue as much as the regulatory processes that would be required to permit it. “The validation and verification process is extensive, costly, and exhausting, but it must be applied to every new technology introduced to aviation, given the safety requirements,” Baomar says.
Assuming these systems someday clear those regulatory hurdles and roll out to commercial airlines, they could provide a stepping stone between the eras of human pilots and what comes next. The days of stick-and-rudder piloting are rapidly fading as cockpit automation ramps up, and the benefits of flying absent the threat of human fallibility might prove too appealing to resist.
But getting there is half the battle, and the in-between period, with some automation going on and some manual control, will need to be deftly controlled to ensure that pilots can still manage their aircraft well. AI could prove invaluable to plugging that gap.
One U.S. workforce specialist is seeing big pay increases for contracted mechanics in 2018 as MROs seek experience.
The biggest challenge in recruiting U.S. aircraft mechanics is getting ones with the experience that younger mechanics just do not have, according to Stephen Wallace, president of LAUNCH Technicians, a division of LAUNCH Technical Workforce Solutions. “The older ones are starting to retire. Finding young people who are interested is not tough, but finding experienced ones is much tougher,” Wallace explains.
As a result, LAUNCH has seen unprecedented increases in pay. In 2018, pay for its contracted mechanics has increased as much as 40% in some cases, and average pay went up 15%.
These wage pressures have been especially hard on third-party MROs, as their airline customers seek both fewer hours and reduced hourly rates, Wallace says.
Avionics technicians are in the highest demand, as are mechanics who can work with electrical and software systems. Wallace says it is not too difficult to find workers who can install avionic components, but it is difficult to find ones who can troubleshoot them.“People who can lay wire are not hard to find, but finding guys who understand why it is not working is much harder. There is very high demand for these.”
And anyone who has an aviation maintenance technician license can pretty much pick the place they want to work and how many hours they work.
Airlines, which generally pay the highest wages and benefits, get first pick of available mechanics, and independent MROs come next. Furthermore, airline onsite staff can spot the best mechanics and managers in their outsource shops, and there is no way shops can prevent their airline customers from stealing these top workers.
Wallace thinks it is important for somebody to invest in training mechanics. Airlines used to do it, but now independent shops are much more important, yet they may not have sufficient profit margins to invest in training.
Shops that can offer plenty of overtime once had an advantage in recruiting. But in today’s busy market, Wallace says overtime is “a qualifier, not a distinguisher.”
And no matter what benefits are offered, “Cash is going to rule everything,” the LAUNCH recruiter says. “If the guy down the street is paying 20-30% more, they will go there.”
BOGOTA – Airline Avianca Holdings SA AVT_p.CN will begin negotiations with Airbus (AIR.PA) to reduce the 100 planes it had agreed to purchase in a 2015 deal to as few as 50, the chief executive of the Latin American company said.FILE PHOTO: Hernan Rincon, executive president and CEO of AVIANCA Holdings S.A., speaks during a new aircraft presentation ceremony at Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport in San Luis Talpa, El Salvador May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas
Avianca was also seeking a strategic alliance with German airline Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), CEO Hernan Rincon said late on Sunday, part of its bid to expand in Europe.Avianca representatives will travel to France in the coming days for re-negotiations with Airbus, Rincon said. Avianca had agreed to buy 100 A320neo planes to modernize its fleet.
“Of those 100, we’ll probably receive between 50 and 80 planes,” he said. “We don’t have any doubt that we will keep growing, what has changed is the rhythm of the growth.”
Technological advancement is part of the reason for the airline wanting to reduce its purchases, Rincon added.
“The rhythm of technology is changing, it will take a while to get all of the order and we don’t want to have a commitment to planes with today’s technology which will be received by us in 10 or 15 years,” he said.
A reduction in the original order, which was set to cost $10 billion, will also give Avianca some financial breathing room, Rincon added.
At the end of last month Avianca, United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.O) and Copa Airlines of Panama said they had finalized a three-way joint venture that will allow them to plan routes and fares together and share revenues on those routes.
United, Avianca and Copa are already codeshare partners and Star Alliance members.
“We’ve started conversations with Lufthansa, but its very embryonic,” said Rincon. “We hope to reach an agreement to benefit our passengers in Europe, which is a relevant and growing market.”Stock selloff snowballs on fresh fears for world growth
The deal with Lufthansa would be similar to the one just agreed with United and Copa, Rincon added.
Under the United and Copa agreement, United said it would provide a $456 million term loan to cash-strapped Avianca’s top shareholder, Synergy Group Corp. Loss-making Avianca has a roughly $4 billion debt pile, of which 40 percent is due within the next two years, according to recent financial statements.
That deal still has to be approved by regulators.
Avianca will also start operating a regional subsidiary in Colombia in 2019, meant to serve medium and small-sized cities with 12 ATR 42 planes. The planes are already part of Avianca’s fleet, Rincon said.
Language proficiency is falling below the required international standards and there are grounds to suspect some pilots are cheating in English tests, according to the independent research commissioned by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and funded by the Department for Transport.
Rather than being examined, the report found some foreign language speakers had been granted certificates of English proficiency on “sweetheart” deals, through “handshakes” or “via friends”.
The research, by academic Dr Barbara Clark, found “alleged evidence of cheating”, whereby a candidate had passed the tests after just 10 days of studying – a “nearly impossible” achievement.
It must be emphasised that “language-related miscommunication issues are as important to aviation safety as any other issue”, such as turbulence or disruptive passengers, the report’s author added.
It also recommended more language spot checks and making sure pilots and controllers used proper terminology rather than “plain language”.
The report looked at 267 incidents of miscommunication, 89 of which occurred in the UK. On one occasion, possible language difficulties were cited in a situation where a plane taxied onto the runway at a Midlands airport without clearance from the air traffic controller.
The Department for Transport said it was discussing the report with the CAA. The CAA told The Times it was studying the research and would work with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which is responsible for the tests and international regulators.
Nats, the air traffic control organisation, said any mistakes were taken very seriously and investigated. The ICAO said it was developing tools to help with “proper oversight” of English language test providers.