A Michigan technology activation manager explains grants made to companies developing air mobility solutions at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. We also look at the NTSB preliminary report on the fatal Wings Over Dallas airshow collision, retiring the F-22 Raptor, a Boeing 777X engine issue, the Delta pilot’s “me too” contract clause, and an F-16 destroyed by a pilot.
Charlie Tyson is the Technology Activation Manager at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), in the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. The MEDC is a public-private partnership between the state and local communities that seeks to accelerate economic development opportunities in the mobility space. Charlie talks to us about grants for air mobility solutions and an air mobility corridor.
Air Mobility Solutions
Recently, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) in West Michigan announced the second round of grant funding to test air mobility solutions at the airport. The grants are made possible through the Ford Launchpad for Innovative Technologies and Entrepreneurship (FLITE) program, which provides grants and testing opportunities to companies focused on bringing emerging air travel solutions to market.
First-round FLITE recipients (see press release here):
- Aurrigo: Leveraging their Auto-Sim® software platform, created a “digital twin” of airport operations to optimize targeted metrics and increase operational efficiency.
- WHILL: Deployed their autonomous mobility device to increase traveler independence and reduce wait times for wheelchair requests.
- Sunflower Labs: Deployed their remote autonomous drone-in-a-box security system used to conduct inspections and security monitoring tasks.
Second-round FLITE recipients:
- Aircraft Data Fusion: Utilizing web-based cloud solutions to provide real-time passenger forecasting.
- Dataspeed: Revolutionizing aviation operations with the Kinetic360 Autonomous Service Vehicle.
- EVA: Retooling EVA’s drone infrastructure to provide airport services to revolutionize baggage delivery.
- Renu Robotics: Revolutionizing aviation facilities’ vegetation management with autonomous lawn mowers.
- Spotter: Developing innovative sensor technology to help travelers identify open parking spots.
Michigan-Ontario Air Mobility Corridor
The aerial mobility corridor study will test the feasibility of commercial drones and other aerial systems, including cross-border between Michigan and Ontario. The study is exploring whether small drones can be flown beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and be used in operations like just-in-time delivery, medical transport, or other small-scale deployments of UAS. The information gathered from this feasibility study will be used to further decision-making in preparing for the future of advanced air mobility in North America.
A newly formed partnership with Airspace Link, a Detroit-based drone technology start-up, and their partners (including Thales) will develop a feasibility analysis as a first step to establishing the infrastructure required to support a range of commercial and public advanced air mobility use cases.
The Airspace Link team will provide an analysis of existing airspace, air traffic infrastructure, and ground infrastructure required to ensure the operational safety of commercial drone skyways.
Another key partner will be the Michigan Central mobility innovation district in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. Their collaboration with key stakeholders from the state and city will help advance this research and innovation to a broader idea of autonomy that goes beyond vehicles on the road, but also the water or sky.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report [PDF, Accident Number: CEN23MA034] on the November 12, 2022 midair collision between a B-17G and a P-63F during the Wings Over Dallas airshow. According to the NTSB report, the fighter planes were told to fly ahead of the bombers, but there were no altitude deconfliction briefings. The NTSB is looking into the sequence of maneuvers that led to the crash and if air shows normally have altitude deconfliction plans.
Reasons include the relatively small number of aircraft and the high cost of operation, outdated avionics, and the new fighter being developed in the Next Generation Air Dominance Program.
The unspecified issue was discovered during a borescope inspection of a high-time GE9X flight test engine. Apparently, there was a temperature alert. GE Aerospace says, “We are reviewing a technical issue that occurred during GE9X post-certification engineering testing, and we are closely coordinating with Boeing on our findings to support their return to flight testing.”
The tentative labor agreement with Delta pilots includes a “me too” clause. This benchmarks the Delta pilot’s contract against American Airlines and United Airlines and guarantees at least one percent higher wages than American and United pay their pilots. If the Delta contract is approved, the pilots would get an immediate 18 percent pay rise, as well as a one-time payment equal to 22 percent of their earnings between 2020 and 2022. Then Delta pilots would receive a 5 percent pay rise after the first year of the contract, followed by 4 percent pay raises in the two years thereafter. Delta Allied Pilots Union (ALPA) members must still vote in favor of the proposed contract.
In March 2022, an Oklahoma Air National Guard F-16C crashed while on a two-jet homeland defense “aerospace control alert” training mission. A GA plane was used as a practice aircraft however neither the GA plane nor air traffic control was notified about the attempted interception. One of the F-16 pilots experienced a “shudder” after selecting the wrong switch and ejected. According to the investigation, “Flight simulations confirmed … the [aircraft] was still in a flyable state prior to ejection. A noticeable shudder and movement of the aircraft [was] indicative of the flight controls responding properly. … The aircraft was not out of control and could have been recovered.”
Hosts this Episode
Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, and our Main(e) Man Micah.