Tag Archives: Xwing

768 Xwing Autonomous Aircraft

Autonomous aircraft with the regulatory affairs lead at Xwing. In the news, Delta Airlines reconsiders loyalty program changes, GPS spoofing of commercial flights, the Schiphol airport capacity cap, a crash takes the life of an AOPA senior vice president, and a 104-year-old woman goes skydiving.

Guest

Anna Dietrich is the regulatory affairs lead at Xwing, a company that flies piloted commercial cargo operations under a Part 135 certificate with a fleet of Cessna Caravans. The company has developed an autonomous aircraft for cargo operations and has conducted the world’s first fully autonomous gate-to-gate demonstration of a commercial cargo aircraft.

Anna Dietrich, regulatory affairs lead at Xwing.

Anna leads the certification program for advanced aircraft control and detect and avoid systems for the company’s autonomous flight operations. She gives us an overview of the Xwing autonomous program and the Superpilot autonomous flight technology. A remote pilot monitors the flight and can modify the flight plan if necessary.

We hear how the regulator’s viewpoint on airworthiness is now a more performance-based approach to safety. Operational rules can be the same as with a crewed aircraft, but in this case, some are performed by a system, and some by a pilot on the ground. For now, airman certification is unchanged, but some requirements are different and these will need to change over time.

Anna brings up the roles of humans in autonomous aircraft operations: who has liability and responsibility, and what training is appropriate? Also, how AI is regulated, thoughts on the certification process, and even public acceptance. We take the opportunity to ask Anna about the Terrafugia roadable airplane project that she co-founded.

Anna is an industry-recognized leader in policy, certification, and government relations for advanced air mobility (AAM), eVTOL aircraft, and autonomous aviation. Her experiences include Mars rover testing, being the founding COO of Terrafugia, testifying on AAM for Congress, and speaking at TED Global. She has appeared on or been published in a wide range of outlets including CNN, Ms. Magazine, and Good Morning America. She runs AMD Consulting, serves as Director of Regulatory Affairs for Xwing, is the co-founder and Director of Industry and Strategy at the Community Air Mobility Initiative (CAMI), and is a Senior Policy Advisor for AUVSI. She was the founding chair of the GAMA EPIC EVTOL committee and continues to have key roles in industry, including standards development efforts such as ASTM AC377 Autonomy in Aviation. She received her BS and MS in aerospace engineering from MIT and is a private pilot. More at annamdietrich.com.

See also:

  • Aviation Xtended Episode 184 with Max Gariel, the Co-Founder, President, and Chief Technology Officer for Xwing. 
  • Airplane Geeks Episode 736 with Earl Lawrence, the Chief Compliance and Quality Officer at Xwing, and former Executive Director of Aircraft Certification at the FAA.

Video: Xwing – Gate to Gate demo – Feb 2021

Aviation News

Delta CEO Admits Airline May Have Gone ‘Too Far’ With Loyalty Changes

Last week we described how Delta Airlines planned to change its SkyMiles program. The airline said it would retire Medallion Qualifying Miles and Medallion Qualifying Segments to focus on Qualifying Dollars. Many Delta customers were not happy with the change, and CEO Ed Bastian responded by saying, “No question we probably went too far in doing that. I think we moved too fast, and we are looking at it now.”

‘We moved too fast’: Delta Airlines may reverse controversial change

After the initial Delta announcement, Alaska Airlines said Delta SkyMiles Medallion members could join their Mileage Plan program with no flight segment or spending requirement. JetBlue offered elite status in its Mosaic loyalty program to Delta flyers through Oct. 31, or until 30,000 people take advantage of the offer.

Increasing Fake GPS Signals Near Iran Prompt FAA Alert

The OpsGroup reports that the number of GPS spoofing incidents in Iraq is increasing along a flight path alongside the Iranian border. The FAA calls this a “safety of flight risk to civil aviation operations.” OpsGroup said about a dozen business jets and airliners received fake GPS signals, and many of them lost navigation capability.

OpsGroup is a membership organization for pilots, flight dispatchers, schedulers, and controllers involved in international flight operations. The 8,000-member-strong organization shares new information on changes and risks that members have reported. Members get a Daily Brief, live Ops Alerts, and other resources. OpsGroup founder Mark Zee describes the organization in What Is Opsgroup All About?

US’s JetBlue challenges Dutch, EU over Schiphol capacity cap

The Dutch government is planning to cut capacity at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport from 500,000 annual flights to 440,000 flights. This is an effort to reduce noise and carbon emissions, but it is not a popular move within the industry. Opposition comes from KLM, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and A4A representing ten US airlines. Other industry associations against the plan include BARIN (representing airlines in the Netherlands), Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN), Airlines for Europe (A4E), and the European Regions Airline Association (ERA).

JetBlue Airways has made a regulatory filing with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) against the Dutch government and the European Union, calling on the DOT to take action. The airline claims is it under an immediate threat of expulsion from Schiphol in 2024.

AOPA’s Vice President of Air Safety Institute, Richard McSpadden Dies in Plane Crash

Richard McSpadden Jr., senior vice president of the AOPA Air Safety Institute, was one of two people killed in an aircraft accident on October 1, 2023, in Lake Placid, New York. The Cessna 177 Cardinal experienced an emergency after takeoff. The airplane attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway. Also killed in the crash was former NFL player Russ Francis.

104-year-old Chicago woman becomes oldest tandem skydiver

The Guinness Book of World Records may certify Dorothy Hoffner as the oldest person in the world to tandem skydive. The woman turns 105 in December and wants to go for a ride in a hot air balloon.

Mentioned

From The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center:

Aviation Newstalk Podcast

Portland jetport briefly shut down Sunday after car crashes through gate, drives on runway

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, David Vanderhoof, Max Trescott, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

736 Autonomous Aircraft

We talk about autonomous aircraft with an Xwing executive. In the news, Airbus and Qatar Airways settle their dispute over A350 paint problems, a personal eVTOL, the 2019 report that explains how Boeing lost its way, a close call with a B737 taking off and a B767 landing on the same runway, the F-22 Raptor gets its first kill, and a Boeing 737 has crashed fighting fires in Australia.

Xwing Caravan taking off.
Xwing Caravan

Guest

Earl Lawrence is the Chief Compliance and Quality Officer at Xwing, a Part 135 air carrier operating across the United States. The company is building an air transportation system of certified autonomous aircraft, starting with the express regional air cargo market. Xwing has demonstrated an autonomous gate-to-gate flight with a cargo aircraft. The plane was able to taxi, take off, land, and return to the gate entirely on its own.

Headshot of Earl Lawrence, Chief Compliance and Quality Officer at Xwing
Earl Lawrence

Earl explains that the Xwing vision for autonomous aircraft doesn’t mean moving the cockpit to the ground or eliminating the pilot. It means taking the pilot out of the airplane and into a control center. A single pilot could provide guidance to multiple flights from one console while handling ATC communication.

Doing this offers cost savings, greater aircraft utilization, and more stable and predictable hours for pilots. Earl tells us about the positive impact on pilot lifestyle and the opportunity for some disabled people to become pilots.

Earl points out that Xwing is using autonomous technologies, but for the most part following existing regulations. Autonomy is needed to bring the price of flying down and make it simpler and more accessible to people.

Earl brings more than three decades of experience in the aviation industry to Xwing. Most recently, Lawrence served as the Executive Director of Aircraft Certification at the FAA, leading an organization of over 1,400 people that oversee all types of certification, production approval, airworthiness certification, and continued airworthiness of the U.S. civil aircraft fleet – including commercial and general aviation activities. Before joining the FAA, Earl spent sixteen years at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), where his efforts contributed to the creation of the Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft categories. Throughout his career, Earl has consistently led the charge in bringing cutting-edge aviation technology to market.

Aviation News

Airbus and Qatar Airways settle A350 dispute

In 2021, Qatar Airways complained to Airbus that some A350 fuselage paint was peeling and unsightly. Qatar grounded some 30 aircraft and asked Airbus for compensation. Airbus said it was only a cosmetic issue, which they would address. But Qatar refused to take new deliveries and Airbus canceled the A350 contract with Qatar. And then Airbus canceled an order for A321neo jets. Qatar filed a lawsuit in London.

Now both parties have made up and “reached an amicable and mutually agreeable settlement.” Terms were not made public.

Press release: Qatar Airways and Airbus reach amicable settlement in legal dispute

Startup Says It’s Personal eVTOL is the One for Supercar Customers

Israeli company AIR has spent four years developing and testing a sport eVTOL “that is easy to handle and can be used daily.” Their mission is to “create personal, intuitive flying vehicles at scale, for exciting and safe experiences.” The winged multicopter seats two. You can pre-order the AIR ONE with a $1,000 deposit. The base price is $150,000. They have 300 pre-orders.

Artist's rendering of an Air One in flight.
Air One in flight.

The Long-Forgotten Flight That Sent Boeing Off Course

That flight is the headquarters move from Seattle to Chicago. “A company once driven by engineers became driven by finance.”

Fedex B763 and Southwest B737 at Austin on Feb 4th 2023, loss of separation on runway resolved by go around

A FedEx 767-300 was on final for a CATIII ILS approach to Austin Texas runway 18L and was cleared to land. The tower let the crew know that a Boeing 737 would depart prior to their arrival. The 767 was cleared to land. Meantime, a Southwest Airlines 737-700 was holding short on runway 18L for departure and was cleared for takeoff from that runway. The tower let the Southwest pilots know that a Boeing 767 heavy was on a 3-mile final. About 30 seconds later the Tower asked if they were on the roll, and the crew confirmed they were. Shortly thereafter (25 seconds) someone says “Southwest abort, the Fedex was on the go (around)”.

F-22 Shoots Down Chinese Spy Balloon Off Carolinas With Missile (Updated)

The large balloon traversed much of the country, sometimes over sensitive military locations. As the balloon moved off the coast, F-22 fighters from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force used a single AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile to bring it down.

Why stratospheric balloons are used in era of space-based intelligence

Balloons can hover closer to the ground and may be able to intercept communication or electronic signals that orbiting systems can’t. Balloons also offer more persistent, less predictable coverage over an area of interest.

A Boeing 737-300 Has Crashed Fighting Fires In Australia

Early reports indicated both pilots were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The 737 was operated by Coulson Aviation to help firefighting efforts in the Fitzgerald River National Park. After dropping the load at around 700 feet, flight tracking data shows the plane reaching about 1,800 feet and then crashing.

Australia News Desk

While it hasn’t exactly been your stereotypical summer weather in Australia, we haven’t (yet) seen any snow – and certainly none in Sydney.  Snow, however, was exactly what greeted a Sydney-bound passenger this week as confusion with the airport code when booking saw him arrive in a rather chilly Sidney, Montana

G’day? Man Realizes Too Late He Bought a Ticket to Sidney — not Sydney

Meanwhile, the Qantas and Emirates codeshare agreement noted up ten years this week.  We look at what that has meant to Australian travelers.

10 years on, has the Qantas-Emirates partnership delivered?

Qantas is still in the sights of local media, however, with another turnback, this time for a QantasLink Dash 8 due to severe turbulence.  The event forced CEO Allan Joyce to go on the offensive, pointing out a few facts about turnbacks, comparing them not only to airlines overall but specifically the local QF rival, Virgin Australia

Qantas passenger and flight attendant rushed to hospital suffering head and neck injuries after sudden turbulence

Mentioned

Video: What it’s like to fly the Opener BlackFly eVTOL

AOPA Podcasts

The people who live inside airplanes

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and Max Trescott. With contributions by Grant McHerron and Steve Vischer.