This episode, we have an interview with the president of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen. In the news, more woes for Boeing with FOD discovered in undelivered 737 MAX airplanes and the DOJ is reported to be investigating the company. Also, the Coronavirus continues to disrupt commercial aviation, a solar electric UAV planned to stay aloft for a year, a new tail-rotor design from Bell that should be quieter and safer, and this year’s Collier Trophy nominees are announced.
David Vanderhoof and Mel Payne, president, Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen.
The Department of Justice wants to know if Boeing knowingly lied to the FAA while seeking certification of the 737 MAX. Boeing’s former 737 MAX chief pilot Mark Forkner was subpoenaed last year to answer questions from federal prosecutors in front of a grand jury. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
More than 200,000 flights, mostly in China, have been canceled as a result of the Coronavirus. Delta, United, and American have halted service to mainland China and Hong Kong. With the resulting decrease in demand, jet fuel prices have fallen 17% in 2020. For an excellent explanation of the virus, see: You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus.
BAE Systems and Prismatic designed the unmanned solar-powered PHASA-35 airplane, and have tested it at the Royal Australian Air Force’s Woomera in South Australia. A High Altitude, Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (HALE UAV), this “pseudo-satellite” could provide persistent service for defense, security, resource management, and communications. Another high-altitude solar-electric airplane under development is the manned SolarStratos.
Helicopters with a single main rotor need an additional tail rotor to counteract the torque of the main rotor. But the tail rotor contributes a lot of noise and represents a safety hazard on the ground. Bell has come up with a different approach: four smaller shrouded electric fans in the tail.
The United States Air Force-Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Team
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management Team
The Collier Trophy Selection Committee will meet on April 2, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia, and the recipient will be announced publicly the following day. The formal presentation of the Collier Trophy will take place on June 11, 2020, at a location to be determined.
Airbus buys out Bombardier, the Gulfstream G700 makes its maiden flight, Airbus is testing a blended wing body aircraft, Boeing gets a 30 aircraft LOI for the passenger 747-8, Delta Airlines says they’ll spend $1B to become carbon neutral, a Canadian aviation museum seeks to appeal to people who aren’t #AvGeeks, the risks of turning off your ADS-B transponder, and the U.S. might block sale of the LEAP-1C engine to China.
Also, a great positive airline story of the week, an emergency AD for the Cirrus Vision Jet, the Girls Go Fly organization, a Harrier jump jet for sale, a really good sonic boom story, the oldest continuously operating military base in the world, and an addendum to last week’s baseball toss on a moving train scenario. Einstein would be proud. Perhaps.
With this deal, Bombardier has fully exited the CSeries/A220 program. Bombardier receives $591 million, with $531 million paid at closing and $60 million to be paid in installments through 2021. Bombardier said with this deal the company avoids a roughly $700 million payment it would have had to make to fund production expansion. Airbus now holds 75% of Airbus Canada with the Government of Québec holding 25%, but Airbus can redeem the remaining government stake by 2026.
The Gulfstream G700 completed a successful two hour and 32-minute maiden flight, operating on a 30/70 blend of sustainable aviation fuel. Introduced in October 2019, the flagship G700 model has five flight-test aircraft. A structural test article has completed load testing. Powered by Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engines, the G700 has an all-new winglet, it can fly at its high-speed cruise of Mach 0.90 for 6,400 nautical miles/11,853 kilometers or at its long-range cruise of Mach 0.85 for 7,500 nm/13,890 km.
Airbus has been flying a small-scale, remote-controlled blended wing body aircraft demonstrator. They showed the 2-meter long model at the Singapore Air Show. If the MAVERIC (Model Aircraft for Validation and Experimentation of Robust Innovative Controls) leads to a full-scale aircraft, it could cut fuel consumption up to 20%.
Boeing received a Letter of Intent from Avatar Airlines for the purchase of 30 new 747-8 passenger version aircraft. Boeing has been selling the 747-8F freighter, but no new passenger orders were received in 2019. Avatar plans to operate low-fare scheduled service to large major city pairs throughout the U.S. and Hawaii, beginning with fourteen 747-400s using aircraft currently in storage. Then the airline plans to transition to the 747-8 with 539 economy seats on the lower deck and 42 business seats on the upper deck
Delta Air Lines wants to be the world’s first carbon-neutral airline. To do that, they say that starting March 1, 2020, they’ll commit $1 billion over the next 10 years. Press release: Delta commits $1 billion to become first carbon neutral airline globally. “The airline will invest in driving innovation, advancing clean air travel technologies, accelerating the reduction of carbon emissions and waste, and establishing new projects to mitigate the balance of emissions.”
Michael Barnard, the Chief Strategist with TFIE Strategy Inc. (The Future is Electric), is not so impressed, noting that the Delta outlay is about 0.2% of their annual revenue. He also takes issue with Delta’s statement that they will continue to use jet fuel.
If you are not an #AvGeek, aviation museums can be boring. But the Canada National Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa aims “to spark interest in those who don’t think they care about planes — especially (but not exclusively) women, who often don’t feel like aviation museums are a place for them.” The museum wants visitors to hear stories about people who are like them. Curator Erin Gregory says, “One of my goals as a curator is to feminize the collection and to try to have the floor be much more representative of all the people who fly, including women. I’m working to revise and revamp the museum to make it as inclusive as possible.”
Page 9-13 says, “Single Acts of Misconduct Generally Warranting Revocation. Some acts of misconduct are, by their very nature, so egregious or significant as to demonstrate that the certificate holder does not possess the care, judgment, or responsibility to hold a certificate. These acts include, but are not limited to, those listed in Figure 9-5.”
The referenced Figure 9-5 lists 30 Single Acts Generally Warranting Revocation. One is “Operating an aircraft without activated transponder or ADS-B Out transmission (except as provided in 14 C.F.R. § 91.225(f)) for purposes of evading detection.”
In order to export certain technologies to China (and some other countries), you need an export license from the U.S. Commerce Department. The Chinese Comac C919 uses LEAP-1C engines produced by CFM, International, a joint venture between General Electric and the French company Safran. There are reports that the U.S. Government is considering denying GE’s latest license request, thus blocking those exports.
A cabin ground fire destroyed a first-generation Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet on the ramp, and the FAA responded with an emergency airworthiness directive AD 2020-03-50 grounding the fleet. The problem is with audio amplifiers that drive the audio/microphone jacks in the passenger cabin. The AD requires removal of the 12 amplifiers before the next flight, typically an 8-hour task.
The Executive Vice President at Lightspeed Aviation talks about their new video series inspired by the people, business, and adventure of aviation. We also get caught up with FlightLink and ANR helmets. In the news, a new aircraft carrier is named for a WWII hero, the US Navy disrupts GPS systems, an autonomous A350-1000 take-off, Garmin electronic steam instruments, and the Delta 777 fuel dump over a populated area.
Teresa De Mers, Lightspeed Aviation Executive Vice President.
Teresa De Mers is Executive Vice President of Lightspeed Aviation responsible for marketing and corporate development. She is also a member of the company’s board of directors. Teresa earned her PPL in 1997 and an instrument rating a few years later. She loves flying small airplanes and the freedom that general aviation provides. Teresa joined Lightspeed in 2012 and she combines her passion for aviation with her passion for creating innovative products and market opportunities.
Lightspeed is focused on pursuing product innovation that brings new technology and genuine value to the aviation community. Their business model gives customers a personal and exceptional experience. The company also is privileged to give back through projects funded by the Lightspeed Aviation Foundation.
As a way to help showcase the company’s passion for aviation, Lightspeed has created an episodic YouTube series titled Aviation – No Tie Downs. Recent episodes have featured an in-depth interview with retired Major General Hank Canterbury, some aerobatic flying with this former Thunderbird pilot, a tour of the museum of the US Air Force with friends from Sporty’s, a behind the scenes “day in the life” of an aerial formation team that flies general aviation aircraft, and a variety of interviews with international business leaders in the general aviation marketplace.
Teresa explains the Lightspeed FlightLink app that lets your iOS device act as a cockpit voice recorder. Recent changes include the ability to transfer files with Airdrop. We also hear about active noise reduction for helmets.
A new aircraft carrier is to be named for a mess attendant who assisted wounded sailors during the attack on Pearl Harbor and manned a .50-caliber machine gun on his stricken ship. The carrier will be the first one to be named after an African-American.
A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) was issued by the FAA warning about GPS disruptions in the US Southeast. Navy Carrier Strike Group 4 is conducting “GPS interference testing” off the extreme southeastern coast of Georgia. This has the potential to disrupt commercial and general aviation. Also possibly affected are the Wide Area Augmentation System, the Ground Base Augmentation System, and the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast system.
Last December, Airbus tested an A350-1000 that was able to take off automatically, without pilot input. The Airbus system utilized image recognition technology and is part of the Airbus Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off, and Landing (ATTOL) project on aviation autonomy. Automatic vision-based landing and taxi sequences are planned for mid-2020.
Garmin announced the GI 275 electronic flight instrument that directly replaces legacy primary flight instruments in the cockpit. The GI 275 is suitable as a direct replacement for a variety of instruments including attitude indicator, attitude directional indicator (ADI), course deviation indicator (CDI), horizontal situation indicator (HSI), and engine indication system (EIS).
Delta Flight 89, a Boeing 777, experienced an engine-related issue inflight and returned to LAX less than 20 minutes after takeoff. The airplane dumped fuel at about 2,000 feet over a heavily populated area. Reportedly, ATC was not notified of the fuel dump.
A conversation about flight shaming with the creative director of SimpliFlying, an international aviation marketing consulting firm. In the news, we look at Airbus production rates and employment growth at its Mobile, Alabama facility, China’s struggle with the COMAC C919 airliner, the first autonomous flight of the Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor, and how a fugitive navigated through the aircraft charter business to make good his escape.
Dirk Singer is the creative director at SimpliFlying and the editor of Airline Marketing Monthly, an aviation marketing trade magazine. SimpliFlying is an international aviation marketing consulting firm with a 100% remote team based in Singapore, India, Spain, UK, and Canada.
Dirk looks after the creative and content side of SimpliFlying. He’s written over 1000 articles on aviation marketing and produced special industry reports including a recent one on “flight shaming” and the aviation industry.
In our conversation with Dirk, we discover what flight shaming is (sometimes simply called “flight shame”) and the arguments its proponents are making. Dirk describes the industry’s response so far and how their messaging lacks the clarity of flight shaming groups. He also warns against industry counter-arguments based on the relatively small contribution commercial aviation makes to carbon emissions.
The climate change movement is not an amorphous mass. There are a number of climate change advocacy groups with some showing a willingness to engage in a conversation, and others not. The groups have differing views on commercial aviation and range from a ban on non-essential flying to a frequent-flyer tax.
Some LCCs are positioning themselves as “green airlines” and Dirk explains the dangers of a strategy that offers nothing more than high-density aircraft. We also touch on crisis simulation company Polpeo and their simulation exercises that can prepare an airline for a communication crisis over environmental issues.
Dirk has over 20 years of experience as a digital marketer. He’s created two agencies from scratch, both of which won agency-of-the-year awards in the PR and social media industries. In addition to working for brands ranging from Google to Phillips, Dirk’s aviation experience includes airports such as London Gatwick and airlines such as British Midland International.
Airbus has been producing five A320s per month at its Mobile, Alabama plant. By the start of 2021, they intend to increase the production rate to seven per month. Airbus’ worldwide goal is a production rate of 63 A320-family aircraft per month at its four assembly sites. To support the A320 rate increase at the Alabama plant, as well as manufacturing needs for the A220, Airbus intends to hire 275 additional employees over the next year. Airbus added 600 new jobs at the Alabama facility last year.
China’s COMAC (the Commercial Aircraft Corporation) has struggled to produce the C919 (A320/737 class) single-aisle plane. It is at least five years behind schedule. A range of technical issues that impacted the test flight schedule. To gain approval from the CAAC (the Civil Aviation Administration of China), COMAC needs 4,200 test flight hours. Less than a fifth have been completed.
On December 18, 2019, Bell’s V-280 Valor tilt-rotor demonstrator flew autonomously for the first time. “The V-280 performed an autonomous takeoff, conversion into cruise mode, precision navigation to various waypoints, loiter maneuvers, conversion into vertical-takeoff-and-landing mode, and landed autonomously.” Paul Wilson, the chief engineer for the Bell V-280 Valor program, was our guest in Episode #576.
Carlos Ghosn was an automotive industry executive. He was the CEO of Michelin North America, chairman and CEO of Renault, chairman and CEO of Nissan, chairman of Mitsubishi Motors, and chairman and CEO of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance. He was internationally recognized as a respected business leader but he was arrested for under-reporting his earnings and misuse of company assets funds. While on bail, Ghosn escaped Japan through several clever charter aircraft flights.
Flower Aviation, a fixed base operator at Pueblo Memorial Airport (KPUB) near Pueblo, Colorado.
AERObridge coordinates business and general aviation aircraft for disaster response in times of need. In the news, we look at airliner formation flying, IndiGo engine failures, Boeing’s hand in X-Wing drones, a volcanic eruption forcing a turnback, a jet blast injury, a bill to spur transportation careers, and slipping a president out of the country.
Disaster response flight. Courtesy AERObridge.
Trevor Norman is the AERObridge national chapter coordinator. AERObridge is a non-profit organization that coordinates donated business and general aviation aircraft to provide disaster response in times of catastrophic emergencies. They transport critically needed items and personnel to where they are needed.
Trevor explains how AERObridge matches aircraft with emergency response teams and critical supplies. The organization delivers aid from donors like AirCare Alliance and Crossroads Alliance. We discuss how AERObridge coordinates with other organizations and local agencies, and how pilots are vetted and matched with missions that fit with their aircraft and their skills. Trevor describes how no two disasters are the same and the need to be flexible and change plans on a moment’s notice.
As a non-profit organization, AERObridge accepts donations of time, talent, and treasure.
Geese fly in V-formations because they are aerodynamically more efficient than all of them flying alone. If airliners employ the same technique, they could find a 5 to 10% fuel savings on a long oceanic flight.
IndiGo has been experiencing A320neo turbine failures in its Pratt & Whitney GTF engines and they’ve seen 13 engine shutdowns this year. Interestingly, Go Airlines India flying the same equipment has not seen these problems. India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation says IndiGo’s practice of running up A320neo jets at full thrust right after takeoff could wear down the engines.
KLM flight KL685 from Amsterdam to Mexico City was heading toward volcanic activity from Popocatepetl, just outside their destination. Because of the “unfavourable flying conditions” and the cargo of horses, the flight had to return to Schiphol. “Landing at another airport was not possible, because of the visa requirements of passengers and as there was a large cargo of horses onboard.”
A woman boarding a private jet in October at Augusta Regional Airport was seriously injured when the jet blast from another aircraft knocked her over. The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on the incident indicating that while the airport and the FBO had a protocol for aircraft being marshaled into the taxiway, there was no protocol for aircraft leaving the area.
The Promoting Service in Transportation Act was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill authorizes the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop and publish public service announcements in digital, print, and broadcast media which highlight the need for more professional airline pilots, safety inspectors, mechanics and technicians, air traffic controllers, and flight attendants, as well as railroad workers, truck drivers, and other transportation industry professionals. News release: Larsen, Young and Craig Introduce Bill to Promote Transportation Career Opportunities
News from the 2019 Dubai Airshow, Boeing’s 737 MAX 10, splitting up families who want to sit together on the airplane, NTSB findings on the fatal Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 accident, and a commercial aerial tanker company. Also, the application of structural batteries to aircraft, flying in formation down under, and romance in the air.
Dubai Airshow 2019
The 2019 Dubai Airshow ran November 17 – 21, reportedly with 1300 exhibitors, 100 aircraft on display, and around 90,000 in attendance over the five days. We talk about some of the aircraft orders placed and other topics from the airshow.
The largest Boeing 737 MAX is the MAX 10, and the company debuted the aircraft at its Renton, Washington facility. Boeing says they currently have more than 550 orders and commitments for the aircraft. With a range of 3,300 NM and maximum seating for 230 passengers, Boeing says it will offer the lowest seat-mile cost of any single-aisle airplane yet produced.
Reportedly, the Transport Canada Civil Aviation manager of aircraft integration and safety assessment sent an email saying the “only way I see moving forward at this point, is that MCAS has to go.” The manager’s email was sent to the FAA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, and the National Civil Aviation Agency in Brazil.
The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 directed the Department of Transportation to study guidelines that would keep families together on airlines. Carriers were to have policies that keep parents and children under 13 sitting together. But that hasn’t happened and Senator Chuck Schumer from New York isn’t happy. See Family Seating from the DOT for tips.
As a result of the engine failure on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 on April 17, 2018, material pierced the fuselage and caused the cabin to depressurize, with one fatality. The NTSB explains:
“…portions of the fan cowl separated in flight after a fan blade, which had fractured due to a fatigue crack, impacted the engine fan case at a location that was critical to the structural integrity and performance of the fan cowl structure. The NTSB found that the separated fan blade impacted the engine fan case and fractured into multiple fragments. Some of the fragments traveled forward of the engine and into the inlet. The impact of the separated fan blade with the fan case also imparted significant loads into the fan cowl through the radial restraint fitting, which is what caused the fan cowl to fail.”
It was the failed engine inlet and casing that impacted the fuselage. An abstract of the final report is available and includes the findings, probable cause, and safety recommendations.
Omega Air operates a few hose and drogue aerial tankers and has now received the first of two surplus KDC-10 tankers with aerial refueling booms from the Royal Netherlands Air Force. That will allow Omega Air to provide contractor refueling support to the USAF and other allies.
We discuss the crash of the Collings Foundation B-17 and present our interview with pilot Mac McCauley, recorded one week prior to the fatal crash. Also, NTSB recommendations for the FAA after the fatal 737 MAX crashes, ICAO’s push ahead with the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, tariffs after the WTO rules on unfair aviation subsidies, and two airliners make emergency landings.
Collings Foundation B-17
Collings Foundation B-17 pilot Ernest “Mac” McCauley. Copyright Max Flight.
One week prior to the fatal crash at BDL of the Collings Foundation B-17, we toured the aircraft and interviewed B-17 pilot Ernest “Mac” McCauley. We present that interview in full, examine safety concerns for such warbird flights, and provide our thoughts about the crash and its implications for warbird flights in the future.
B-17 crash raises questions about vintage plane safety. We take issue with “… Arthur Alan Wolk, a lawyer who specializes in crash litigation in Philadelphia, said Friday that the accident shows the risks associated with flying old planes: They break. He said the rules for operating vintage aircraft are stringent, but he questioned whether compliance and training are adequate.”
Keep History Flying: Warbirds In The Wake Of The B-17 Crash. “These aircraft serve as traveling museums, able to visit communities across America and engage people who are not able to journey to the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, or the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.”
The National Transportation Safety Board issued seven safety recommendations to the FAA that address concerns about how multiple alerts and indications are considered when making assumptions as part of design safety assessments.
The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly approved moving forward with the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). China, India, and Russia objected.
The World Trade Organization has been considering claims against Boeing and Airbus that they each received unfair government subsidies. The WTO determined that both charges are valid. They haven’t yet quantified the “damage” that resulted from Boeing subsidies, but they have quantified it for Airbus and given Washington the right to impose tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of EU goods annually.
Delta said that new U.S. tariffs placed on Airbus planes “will inflict serious harm on U.S. airlines” and impact its profits. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said it will impose a 10 percent tariff on large commercial aircraft. Agricultural and other industrial goods will face even higher tariffs.
What to expect at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2019. In the news, we discuss a woman trapped in an airliner, crosswind testing in Iceland, the Boeing 737 MAX grounding, and the Paris Air Show.
Dick Knapinski, EAA director of communications, and Karen Kryzaniak, EAA’s vice president of risk management and human resources, accept the inaugural Community Partnership Award from the City of Oshkosh in recognition of 50 consecutive years of EAA fly-in conventions in the city. Photo courtesy EAA.
Dick Knapinski is the director of communications for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). In this preview of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Dick explains that the July 22-28, 2019 event represents the 50th consecutive year in Oshkosh, and describes how EAA AirVenture has changed over time as well as what to expect in 2019.
This year is also the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon and Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins will be a featured guest. Burt Rutan and many of his aircraft designs will also be at Osh, along with air force demo teams and other performers.
The drone cage returns with demonstrations and hands-on opportunities. Urban air mobility (UAM) is getting increased attention from prominent aviation companies and startups and AirVenture will offer opportunities to discuss and explore that topic.
Dick explains that people come to Oshkosh (and come back year after year) for their own personal reasons, but the week-long event offers it all. He also has some tips for first-timers, both those flying in and those arriving by other means of transportation.
Crosswind testing at Keflavik International Airport was banned following the 2013 Sukhoi SSJ100 crash. Boeing and Airbus have wanted to resume certification testing in Iceland and may once again have the opportunity.
Airline seats from Layer Design that you control with an app, Boeing-Embraer deals, business jet deliveries, re-engining the B-52 fleet, regional jets and scope clauses, lithium-ion battery ban on commercial flights, another MH360 theory, F117 rumors, and flying with a fake license. Also, an airplane of the week, and two must-see videos.
London-based Layer Design has developed the prototype “Move” airline seats for Airbus. These are intended to improve the experience of Economy Class short- to mid-haul flying. Sensors in the seat and measure seat tension, temperature, pressure, and movement. The Move app can be used to maintain optimal ergonomic comfort.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) says Cirrus delivered 63 SF50 Vision Jets, 22 in the fourth quarter. Bombardier delivered 60 Challenger 350 jets, the Cessna Citation Latitude had 57 deliveries, the Embraer Phenom 300E light jet saw 53 deliveries, while HondaJet and the Cessna Citation CJ3+ tied at 37 deliveries. Overall, business jet deliveries increased to 703 last year, up from 677 in 2017.
In 2017, U.S. Air Force announced plans to replace the ancient Pratt & Whitney TF33 engines that currently power its B-52 bombers. Rolls-Royce wants to bid on the 650 re-engine contract with its F130 engine. The Air Force hasn’t yet issued an RFP
This is a story about scope clauses, under configuring an airplane and sending a message to the labor union, according to writer Samuel Engel. United plans to seat 50 in the CRJ550, a new variant of the Bombardier CRJ-700 series aircraft that normally seats 70-76. The plan is 10 first-class seats, 20 economy-plus seats, and 20 economy-class seats.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, in coordination with the FAA, issued an Interim Final Rule that prohibits the transport of lithium ion cells or batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft. In addition, lithium ion cells and batteries must be shipped at not more than a 30 percent state of charge aboard cargo-only aircraft. For further information, see the Interim Final Rule as submitted to the Federal Register. You may submit comments to the Rule under Docket Number PHMSA‑2016‑0014 at Regulations.gov.
March 8 marks the 5th anniversary of the loss of MH370. In his book The Hunt for MH370, Journalist Ean Higgins explores a theory that portrays the flight crew as valiantly trying to deal with a cockpit fire.
We look at how artificial intelligence is impacting commercial aviation and a consider a few of the areas that hold the greatest promise. In the news, a concept that would have pilot conversations monitored by an AI agent, how to get new airplanes signed off by the FAA during a furlough, Norwegian Air Shuttle’s share offering, and the loss of a remarkable female military aviator.
Mark Roboff, General Manager for Digital Transformation, Aerospace & Defense at DXC.
Mark Roboff is an IT executive with over 15 years experience in artificial intelligence and related fields. He’s been a true AvGeek since he was little, and Mark loves working in aviation – first as Global Solution Leader for Aerospace at IBM, then more recently as VP of Aviation at a prominent AI startup, and now as General Manager for Digital Transformation, Aerospace & Defense at DXC. Mark has worked with OEMs, Tier-1 suppliers, and numerous airlines on AI, advanced analytics, and IoT/sensors, with a focus on key application areas such as AI-driven maintenance and autonomous flight.
Mark tells us about the state of the aviation industry with respect to AI technology and AI applications. He characterizes maintenance and flight operations as the low hanging fruit. An AI-driven predictive maintenance capability would provide great value to the airlines.
We consider what is required to close the gap and bring these applications to the industry. The need for data to teach the AI engines is key, and Mark explains how the “terabyte of data per flight” that we hear about isn’t representative of the entire fleet. Many aircraft are simply not architected to provide that volume.
Mark also explains the circumstances where AI be useful. An interesting example is prognostic maintenance models for components like seats. Premium airline seats are complex, expensive, and don’t necessarily have sensors. A health management system where AI is trained from maintenance logs offers real potential.
We also look at AI and autonomous flight. Mark points out some differences between autonomous automobiles and autonomous aircraft and how their respective technological gaps are different. Social and regulatory issues remain a challenge.
Mark has worked closely with IATA as a strategic partner on AI-driven maintenance, helping to define the next generation of aircraft health management tooling and predictive maintenance solutions. He has given keynotes at the IATA Safety & Flight Ops Conference and the IATA Maintenance Cost Conference, and he has also spoken at AviationWeek’s MRO conferences across the globe. Mark gave the AI keynote at the SAE Aerospace Standards Summit this past October and is chairing a proposed SAE committee focused on Applied AI in Safety-Critical Systems.
NIIT Technologies is recommending that airlines use AI to monitor pilot voices to predict whether a crew will be late on their way to the airport, to determine if a particular pilot is the right “fit” for the job, or to monitor pilot conversations and improving safety through flight operation quality assurance (FOQA) and real-time monitoring.
The company says, “Using our data technology, we can acquire the voice of the pilot while they are flying and use AI to differentiate between what is a normal and expected conversation or determine if there is increased stress in the pilot’s voice.”
Southwest Airlines wanted to put three new jets into service. For that, they needed the sign off of an FAA safety inspector. The problem was, the safety inspectors were furloughed during the partial government shutdown. Southwest agreed to cover the cost of briefly recalling a furloughed inspector. Is this special treatment? The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (or PASS) feels they should have been notified.
In an effort to keep the airline afloat, Norwegian is undertaking a 3 billion kroner ($353 million) rights offering. They just announced a 2.5 billion kroner yearly pretax loss and they have a 250 million euro ($286 million) bond maturing in December.
She was the first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet in the US Navy, the first woman to land on an aircraft carrier, and the first woman to command a squadron. At age 65, Rosemary Mariner lost her 5-year battle with ovarian cancer. To honor her, a 4-plane “missing man” formation was flown by an all-women pilot and ground crew.