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STEALTH HEALTH IS THE F-35 FIT FOR SERVICE
THE EVOLUTION OF FLIGHT
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0518 EDITOR’S LETTER
magic occurring underneath the hood www.aviatormag.com.au PUBLISHER HPT EDITOR Max Reeve DEPUTY EDITOR Rowan Stewart GRAPHIC DESIGN Charlotte Lufino CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Paul Clough, Budd Davisson, Nicole Murrell, Baz Bardoe, Megan Kennedy, Keith Meggs, Rowan Stewart, Bill Struthers HEAD OF PRODUCTION Sandie Collie IT & NETWORKING Luka Taylor ADVERTISING DEADLINE Bookings 1st of the previous month SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual subscriptions are $97 (inc GST) Email your name and address to: email@example.com CLASSIFIEDS Email your ad and high res pic by the 8th of the previous month: firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS email@example.com DISTRIBUTED BY Gordon & Gotch PUBLISHERS GENERAL DISCLAIMER:
All the articles, comments, advice and other material contained in this publication are by way of general comment or advice only and are not intended, nor do they purport to be the correct advice on any particular matter of subject referred to. No reader or any other person who obtains this publication should act on the basis of any matter, comment or advice contained in this publication without first considering and if necessary taking appropriate professional advice upon the applicability of any matter, advice or comment herein to their own particular circumstances. Accordingly, no responsibility is accepted or taken by the authors, editors or publishers of this publication for any loss or damage suffered by any party acting in reliance on any matter, comment or advice contained herein.
t’s fascinating to compare the experiences of our homegrown flyboys way back during the Second World War with the aptitude and demands on today’s military pilots. Needless to say, both sets of aviators require vast reserves of courage, lightning quick responses and a flair for rapid decision-making. However, the hair-raising, bygone exploits of an Aussie student bomber pilot in our Bogey Beauforts feature are worlds apart from the challenges faced by modern fighter pilots. Safety has doubtlessly come on leaps and bounds but so have the parameters at which these pilots operate, pushing themselves and technology to the limits. Our main feature exploring the continuing hiccups within the F-35 production programme contains a litany of issues plaguing this state-of-the-art jet fighter. It’s difficult to be objective about it, particularly with the astronomical price tag but, these issues remind me of the frustration many of us feel when our brand new computer stops working. We shout and scream at the operator at the end of the unhelpful ‘helpline’ and cannot understand why a pricey piece of kit isn’t working flawlessly. Of course, we also have absolutely no idea how the hell the damned thing works in the first place! It’s almost like magic occurring underneath the hood.
So too with the F-35. There are so many different moving parts, innovative technologies and individual operating environments all trying to mesh together and point in the same direction, it’s a wonder the thing flies at all. Have they bitten off more than they can chew? Is the F-35 the Windows Vista of the jet fighter world or is it simply an early iteration of a stable Apple operating system that needs time, and patience, to iron out some early beta issue bugs? Read inside to find out more but keep an open mind. Elsewhere, we take a look at the myriad disciplines and factors that go into running a modern airport or airfield and some of the operational considerations. Whilst we also go back and look at the development of that most basic, and essential, of components to have fitted to your aircraft: the wing! Compare all this to the have-a-go attitude of early Australian aircraft designers in our Made at Home series, and one wonders if it was simpler back then. Perhaps so but it seems somewhat more dangerous so nostalgia only stretches so far. Enjoy the read. Yours in aviation, Max Reeve Editor
THE MONTH THAT WAS > MAY,1908
HT On 14th May, 1908, Charles Furnas became the first passenger in an aeroplane in the United States, piloted by Wilbur Wright . They flew for a distance of approximately 600m in 28-3/5ths seconds in the Wright 1905 Flyer, modified with seats for pilot and passenger. Shortly after, Orville Wright flew Furnas for 4.12 km in 4 minutes 2-2/5ths seconds
MAY 2018 3
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The latest International and Domestic Aviation News
12 PRODUCT PAGES Our Monthly Round-Up of the Best New Gadgets, Gifts and Gizmos
14 WEIRD & WONDERFUL Our Regular Look at Aviation Oddities
MADE AT HOME
FEATURES 30 WINGING
The Evolution of Flight
Running an Airport
BOGEY BEAUFORTS STEALTH HEALTH:
Is the F-35 Fit for Service?
A LONG HAUL
Qantas is considering a maiden direct route between Australia and Chicago O’Hare, to be operated out of Brisbane Int’l, CEO Alan Joyce has stated. The Australian carrier is also eyeing Seattle Tacoma Int’l and Dallas/Fort Worth services out of Brisbane as it mulls converting its forty-five options for B787-9s. The remarks came in the wake of the inauguration of Qantas’ Perth Int’lLondon Heathrow service, the firstever direct route connecting Australia and Europe. Both Chicago O’Hare and Dallas/ Fort Worth are American Airlines hubs. The carriers have recently re-applied for an antitrust immunity for a transpacific joint-venture, with Joyce
expecting a decision within six months. This could pave a way for new US services by Qantas to be launched by year-end. Qantas, which already operates four B787-9s, is planning to take delivery of a further four units of the type during the course of 2018. The aircraft will be used to launch a new Melbourne Tullamarine-San Francisco, CA route and will replace the B747-400s on the Brisbane-Los Angeles Int’l-New York JFKroute. Joyce added that further European direct flights are possible in the future if the load factor on the carrier’s Perth-London route is satisfactory. In the long-term, Qantas is planning to launch direct European services out of either Sydney or Melbourne pending a development of new ultra-long-range aircraft by either Airbus or Boeing. Joyce has not excluded an entirely new cabin layout for such services, including possibly converting a part of the cargo hold into sleeping berths.
BOMBS AWAY IN BALLARAT Ballarat Airport could be in a position to become a major emergency hub after the successful trial of night firebombings. Approval has been given for Victoria to conduct night firebombing operations from next summer after the success of the Australian-first trial held in Ballarat. And the success of the trial has given the City of Ballarat impetus to build on its lobbying for the aviation hub to become a major base for emergency services. CASA have now approved Coulson Aviation and Kestrel Aviation to undertake night aerial fire suppression operations in Australia from next summer. Both companies were part of a night fire suppression trial led by Emergency Management Victoria. Coulson Aviation became the first in Australia to successfully conduct night fire suppression operations including hover filling from open water sources using night vision goggles while Kestrel Aviation was also part of the trial and gained CASA approval to operate night operations by refilling while landed on the ground.
6 MAY 2018
COPTER COPPED As Ed Sheeran launched into one of his many hit singles during an outdoor concert in Brisbane, Australia last month, a cameratoting drone flew overhead to catch a glimpse of the British singer-songwriter. But the police were having none of it, and quickly tracked down the pilot outside the Suncorp Stadium where Sheeran was performing. The unnamed perpetrator was hit with a fine of $1,050 for the reckless drone flight. CASA said the drone was flown at night and within 30 metres of an area packed with people, in breach of safety regulations. In addition, the unnamed pilot flew the drone beyond the line of sight, as he was outside the stadium when he sent his remotely controlled copter skyward.
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A SEYCHELLES TRAVELLER Seychelles based Zil Air has placed an order of a Tecnam P2012 Traveller aircraft, and are in further talks of extending the purchase to a second aircraft next year. Equipped with latest avionics from Garmin, the new G1000 Nxi and powered by two 375 HP Lycoming piston engines, the Tecnam P2012 Traveller will first see service as a passenger aeroplane with US based Cape Air in early 2019, but has been designed from the start to be a very versatile and flexible aerial platform, offering many multi role opportunities including Hydro, VIP, cargo shipping, parachuting and medevac services.
8 MAY 2018
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) International have just ordered five new Cessna Caravan 208 turboprops for their operations in Papua New Guinea (PNG), with the option for purchasing an additional two aircraft. This is the single largest aircraft investment by MAF International in its history. The five aircraft are scheduled to be delivered from Textron Aviation before the end of this year and are expected to be operational in PNG by mid-2019. During the last decade MAF has slowly been expanding the operations of the Cessna Caravan; it is now used to operate into 95 percent of the more than 230 remote bush airstrips—many of which are positioned on mountain ridge lines. With the purchase of the Caravan turboprops, MAF adds to its existing fleet of three in PNG, transitioning to a single fleet consisting exclusively of Caravan aircraft. PNG is home to an incredible diversity of tribal groups, with more than 800 different languages and a vast array of local cultures, customs and beliefs. Of the population, 85 percent live in rural areas, relying on subsistence agriculture for survival. With no countrywide road network, overland travel is
often lengthy, exhausting and dangerous. The only way most communities can reach the outside world, or be reached by others, is by trekking long distances, often for several days at a time. Effectively “locked” behind seemingly impenetrable jungles, mountains and/or swamps, communities have little or no access to basic healthcare and education; their ability to develop and engage with the wider economy and improve their own standard of living is extremely limited. Access to an air service provides options and opportunities to change these circumstances. MAF’s new Caravan turboprops are a means through which hope and development can be provided for these isolated men, women and children.
MAY 2018 9
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A portion of the Brisbane Airport was cordoned off late last month after a package with the words ‘Bomb to Brisbane’ made its way along a baggage carousel. Passengers at the airport were removed from the area and a traveller who noticed the bag said she thought it was a joke. The Australian Federal Police, though, did not take the incident lightly, cordoning off an area near a baggage carousel. It later turned out that the suspicious piece of luggage belonged to an elderly lady who was travelling from Mumbai to Brisbane. In order to identify her bag, the lady had meant to write ‘Bombay’, not bomb. Venkata Lakshmi (65) arrived in Brisbane from Mumbai only to be interrogated by the Federal Police. Her daughter reported that her mother was mortified about the “mix-up”.
LEONARDO DA MRO THIS ISSUE WE HAVE A BRIGHTLINE ECHO BAG THAT HAS MORE ROOM TO STORE YOUR BITS AND BOBS THAN THE INSIDE OF THE TARDIS! TURN TO PAGE 79 TO ENTER THE DRAW.
Leonardo and the Australian Ministry of Defence have agreed to establish a helicopter transmission repair and overhaul facility in Melbourne capable of servicing MRH Taipan, foreign NH90 and certain civil helicopter main gear boxes. Planned to be set up into an existing facility of Leonardo and to commence operation in mid-2020, the centre will employ at least 12 technical staff for 30 years or more.
WINNER OF LAST ISSUE’S DRONE: JENNIFER CIRCE OF NSW
MAY 2018 11
GIFTS & GIZMOS NEW GADGETS,
NAVITIMER 8 Breitling has just launched a new pilot’s watch collection: the Navitimer 8. the 8 in its name is a nod to the Huit aviation department, which was set up in 1938 to produce cockpit instruments as well as classic pilot’s watches for civilian and military use. At the time, Willy Breitling chose the name “huit,” the french word for “eight,” as a reference to the eight-day power reserve offered by its storied cockpit instruments. POA Available from Breitling Stockists.
12 MAY 2018
FLIGHT SIM JEWELS - FRENCH POLYNESIA The myth of the South Seas: if a destination expresses the idea of paradise on Earth, it is Polynesia. Impressive turquoise lagoons of shallow waters, secluded beaches of white sand, coral reefs of spectacular beauty and biodiversity, bungalows on the water, emerald jungles...This archipelago of French Polynesia, is made up of 14 islands of peerless beauty. The sim comes with detailed hand drawn water masks along all the coast, including the beautiful coral reefs textures and detailed airports with custom 3D objects. RRP $42.65 Available at www.flightsimstore.com.au
RC ALLEN DIGITAL HEADING INDICATOR The RCA1510 Digital Heading Indicator is the perfect companion to the RCA2610 Digital Attitude Indicator, designed as a direct replacement for your old mechanical Directional Gyro. It is totally self-contained and fits in a standard 3-inch panel cut-out. There are no special external connections required other than power and an external GPS antenna. The unit combines data from its own internal magnetometer and GPS receiver for a more stable and accurate heading reading which also eliminates the need to “cage” or “zero” the instrument. RRP $4,350 Available at www.ozpilot.com.au
BOSE PROFLIGHT HEADSET Lightweight, in-ear active noise cancellation for long term comfort over extended flights, with many new features designed specifically for airline and corporate aircraft flight decks. Pilots of moderately noisy aircraft such as pressurised jets will now experience the clarity they expect, along with reliable, individualised performance and a new level of comfort for extended flights. The ProFlight is specifically designed with airline and professional pilots in mind. RRP $1,295 Available at www.downunderpilotshop.com.au
APPSTRAP IPAD GEL CASE The AppStrap is now available with a protective, form-fitting gel case. It comes with a heavy-duty leg strap and the unit can be instantly shared, stowed or repositioned in either portrait or landscape configurations. RRP $92 Available at www.skyshop.com.au MAY 2018 13
WEIRD wonderful AND
Aussie bloke Andrew Herzfeld has done the country proud by building the world’s largest radio-controlled jumbo jet. The Perth legend’s replica Boeing 747-400 is 5.6m long, 5.2m wide, and weighs in at a whopping 65kg. It’s 1/12th the size of the real deal, meaning it’s slightly too big to display on top of the living room telly. Andy built the aircraft from scratch over a period of two years, and when it was finished it slightly edged out the former champ, a 1/13th scale 747-400 from Germany. All together now; Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! The plane doesn’t just look good either, because it’s actually a pretty powerful beast. It has navigation lighting, a retractable undercarriage, and onboard computers to control the engines. Four miniature jet turbine engines produce a combined 56kg of thrust, giving it an incredible top speed of more than 300km/h. Amazingly, the Aussie battler only had a few pages of Boeing design notes to go by, but his model is the absolute spitting image of the real deal. “This model has been totally scratch built from raw materials,” Mr Herzfeld told The West Australian. “There are going to be a lot of muscles working overtime for the first flight because a lot of hard work has gone into it and things can happen extremely quickly. Unfortunately, crashing models is part of the hobby.” Andy has been building model planes since he was a teenager, and also knocked up a 4m-long Airbus A330. There’s no doubting the fact that when it comes to small aircraft, Andrew Herzfeld likes to go large! 14 MAY 2018
LOOT BOX IN SIBERIA Siberia might be a cold place, but the people there have hearts of gold - and now a bunch of them also have piles of the shiny yellow stuff hidden away in their hovels, next to the turnips. That’s because $370 million worth of gold fell out of plane while it was cruising above the frozen city of Yakutsk, with locals wasting no time swooping on the riches. The cargo - weighing more than nine tonnes - was unsecured in the hold of a rusty old aircraft and its weight broke the hatch on takeoff, with precious metals falling onto the runway and swamps near Yakutsk Airport. Police were quick to tell everyone that they’d found all the gold, but the crafty locals didn’t believe them for a second, and were soon drawing up treasure maps as tales of massive finds spread. Apparently flights to Yakutsk were soon booked out, and it certainly wasn’t because of the weather. Gold wasn’t the only precious cargo onboard, with reports that the 46-year-old cargo plane was also carrying diamonds and platinum. “There were huge traffic jams,” an airport official revealed. “I have not seen anything like this before. Each car was searched for at least 20 minutes. Rumours say that some gold fell elsewhere, not only on the runway. It was madness!” In typical Russian fashion, the whole thing was covered up and threats were tossed around left and right. “We were immediately instructed to give no information for journalists, just say. ‘We saw nothing, know nothing, it is a fake. I have not been in my job long. Nobody let me go close to this gold.” One lucky bloke, known only as Rudy, spent days in the wilderness searching for his fortune. “I am going to find that gold and buy myself a speedboat and a new dog,” he told reporters. Good luck, champion!
There’s an aviation revolution happening in China, but it has nothing to do with the cutting edges of technology. The latest craze in the People’s Republic involves building gyrocopters out of video game joysticks and scrap metal found in garbage tips. The wacky pastime is becoming so popular that photographer Xiaoxiao Xu has released a book, Aeronautics in the Backyard, dedicated to these inventive individuals. The gaggle of gallant gentlemen she photographed are largely farmers or builders, and have no formal training in aeronautics. Most learned about aircraft from books and magazines, and happily pour time and money into contraptions that may not actually fly. Not surprisingly, each and every one is proud to be considered an oddball. “The thing I like the most about the aeronauts is that they dare to be different,” Xu said. “They don’t care about the risks, the chance of failure, or what others think about them. They have a free mind whether or not their planes succeed in lifting off.” The heroes hunt down parts in abandoned aircraft factories, recycling plants and dumps, and have been known to pinch bits from gaming cabinets and broken-down boats. They often work for years in their garages and barns, without really knowing whether their machines will be able to fly one day. One of the builders, Su Guibin, was paralysed after crashing his homemade gyro into a telegraph pole a few years ago, but he hasn’t let that slow him down.
If your missus reckons you can have a speedboat, a submarine or a jet fighter - but not all three - then the Seabreacher is for you. The amazing new vehicles - which come styled as sharks, killer whales or dolphins - are made from recycled aircraft parts and can leap high waves in a single bound. If that’s not enough, they can then dive under the water so you can chase squid around the bottom of the ocean. When released, a shiny new Seabreacher won’t bust the bank, with the top-of-the-range model going for a touch over $100,000. Created by water sports fanatics Rob Innes and Dan Piazza, the extreme machines are different from conventional watercraft that only operate on a two dimensional plane. The Seabreacher handles more like an aircraft with full three axis of control – pitch, roll, and yaw. This allows the vessel to carve left and right, jump over, dive under, and cut though the waves. They hybrids can also blat along at more than 80km/h, and stay airborne for up to 20 seconds at a time. We certainly know what we’ll be asking Santa for this year! MAY 2018 15
“There’s a mountain opposite the front door of my house,” he told Xu. “I always dream of flying over the mountain in an aircraft and enjoying the scenery there.” Xu was obviously dedicated to the project, because she actually took a trip in one of the patched-together gyros. Incredibly, it remained in one piece for the entirety of the 15 minute journey. Might be time to head to the tip, eh?
The US Air Force doesn’t like having drones zipping around where they don’t belong, so they’ve decided to mount lasers on their jets in order to down them. They’ll start testing the Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (or SHiELD) in the next couple of months, as part of a massive deal with Lockheed Martin. The plan is to put a laser system on aircraft with an output of about 50 kilowatts to test their ability to zap drones or cruise missiles. “We have got tests starting this summer and the flight tests next summer,” Jeff Stanley, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology and engineering, told awestruck reporters.
super-powerful cannons that can shoot down drones “There are still some technical challenges that we have to overcome, mainly size, weight, power.” The announcement came just weeks after it was revealed that Lockheed Martin is also developing a pair of super-powerful cannons that can shoot down drones using high energy laser beams. Those fellas really don’t like drones, do they? Under a $200 million contract from the US Navy, the firm plans to develop, manufacture, and test the new weapons by 2020. Until then, it looks like a drone’s biggest enemies will remain eagles and farmers with shotguns.
TRI HARD It seems like everyone’s trying to build a flying car these days, and a clever Dutch company are at the head of the pack. PAL-V recently unveiled the Liberty, a three-wheeled, twoseat car and gyroplane, at the Geneva Motor Show. Its makers say the PAL-V will drive at up to 170km/h, fly up to 180km/h, and have a flying range of about 500km on a single tank of regular unleaded gas. After landing, the rotor and propeller fold away, the tail retracts and the PAL-V is ready to drive along the road, while waving at gobsmacked onlookers. Switching from road to aircraft mode takes about 10 minutes. In the air, the PAL-V is pushed forward by a rear-mounted propeller driven by two engines, and stabilised by a larger roof-mounted rotor that bolsters safety. The Liberty will cost around $800,000, but the hefty price tag hasn’t stopped eager buyers from lining up outside PAL-V headquarters. Around 90 of the transformers have already been snapped up. “Flying cars have been in movies many, many times and they will be available next year,” PAL-V CEO Robert Dingemanse told reporters. “The rotor is not powered, so it’s actually a parachute which is always available.” Dingemanse might want to pop the cork back in the bottle of champagne, though. Carlo van de Weijer, director of Eindhoven Technical University’s Smart Mobility program, reckons
the team at PAL-V are dreaming if they think the Liberty will take the world by storm. “It’s not really going to be a substantial part of the total mobility industry,” he poo-pooed. “It’s a nice gadget to combine it with a car so it might sell a few.” Oh well, who wants something that every wannabe-pilot on the street owns, anyway? 16 16 MARCH MAY 2017 2018
HOME SWEET HOME American retiree Bruce Campbell certainly hasn’t been kicking stones since giving up the daily grind a few years ago - he’s spent his days converting an old airliner into a dream house. Campbell - not to be confused with the horror movie icon of the same name - bought his Boeing 727 back in 1999, and has been working on it ever since. The aviation enthusiast bought a massive block of land in Oregon to live on, and these days he’s truly the captain of his domain! The plane cost him $250,000 back in the day, but is worth a lot more now. There’s electricity and a working shower inside, but so far the toilet doesn’t flush properly, so he probably has to go behind a tree. “Jetliners can, and should, be transformed into wonderful homes – retirement into an aerospace class castle should be every airliner’s constructive fate,” he wrote on his website. “They should never be mindlessly scrapped. “Jetliners are masterful works of aerospace science, and their superlative engineering grace is unmatched by any other structures people can live within. They’re incredibly strong,
durable, and long lived. And they easily withstand any earthquake or storm. Their interior is easy to keep immaculately clean because they are sealed pressure canisters.” Old mate lives in this plane for six months of the year, and spends the rest in a secluded region of Japan, where he’s looking to buy and similarly re-use a retired Boeing 747 fuselage. “If a conventional home is a legacy age family Chevy or Ford, an airliner home is a fresh new Tesla or Porsche Carrera.” It sounds great, but going through the metal detectors every time he wants to walk through the front door must get tiring!
LOST IN TRANSLATION What’s the difference between sun-drenched, tropical Marrakesh and the gloomy, frigid town of Gatwick? If you’re wannabe model Parise Leandra Marciano (deep breath!) Gale, not much! The selfie-loving socialite got so sozzled on an EasyJet flight that she thought she was still in Morocco when it landed in England. The mother-of-two, who also claims to be an actress (probably not Shakespearean) and a dancer (probably not ballet), was on her way home from a romantic getaway with her new boyfriend when she became overly animated. Fellow passengers told her to put a sock in it, and that’s when she let fly with a torrent of abuse. Prosecutor Mr. Mark Kateley told Crawley Magistrates Court that, “There are reports to the fact she was in a very intoxicated state and quite loud and some passengers told her to be quiet and she responded with unpleasant abuse. “The police were told there was a drunk female onboard and she was met off the aircraft by police, who recorded her being loud, shouting and extremely inebriated. She was so inebriated she was under the impression she was still in Marrakesh and not the UK.” Whilst the frisky filly has three previous convictions for assault, her lawyer James McAllister reckons she doesn’t have anger issues, and it was all a bit of a mix-up. “She has anxiety and had stopped taking her medication and was nervous on the flight,” he somehow claimed with a straight face. “She got drunk to get through the flight and there was an argument with another passenger that boiled over. She is a regular church attender and has discussed this incident with her minister.” Unfortunately, the young lass was once again confused and had accidentally confessed to the server at her local McDonald’s. The pickled princess was fined $300 and told not to do it again. MAY MARCH 2018 2017 17 17
the frisky filly has three previous convictions for assault
MADE AT HOME
REGIONAL AIRLINES STARTED TO FLOURISH IN THE 1930S BUT WERE HAMSTRUNG BY THE BAN ON IMPORTING ANYTHING OTHER THAN BRITISH AIRCRAFT.
TRADE BARRIERS hen New England Airways was formed at Lismore (NSW) on 1st January 1931, the intention was eventually to build aircraft as well as to operate the flying and maintenance side of the business. A requirement was drawn up for a twin-engined aircraft to carry six passengers at one third of the operating cost of the Avro Ten’s then being used daily by the company on the Sydney— Brisbane route. Wg Cdr L.J. Wackett designed the Codock to suit the specifications, but NEA in the event did not order it — however, as a contender for the planned Australian section of the Empire airmail route, NEA and Kingsford-Smith submitted a joint tender in January 1933 to operate from Brisbane to Darwin with the Avro Ten’s, of which the airline had three. If the tender had been accepted, the Codock, which was considered by ‘Smithy’ to be the ultimate type for the service, even through to Singapore, would have been built at Mascot. Confirmation of the intention was announced by Managing Director George A. Robinson on 25th July 1933, with a statement that on 1st September Wackett would join the NEA staff as Engineering Manager, with design and production of new aircraft as a responsibility. At that time a hangar was being erected at Mascot for the company.
WORDS & IMAGES KEITH MEGGS
a get-rich-quick scheme
To operate a regular Sydney—Auckland service, Kingsford-Smith and P.G. Taylor formed the Trans-Tasman Air Service Development Company on 25th June, and discussions were held in the United States and England regarding backing and the procurement of suitable aircraft. In England, the British Pacific Trust, already backing the formation of Airlines of Australia (nee NEA), was also involved with British Marine Aircraft Ltd, which had the right to build Sikorsky flying boats, and backing was offered for the Australian scheme if two such aircraft were bought. ‘Smithy’ had already stated his preference for Cyclone-powered DC-2’s, to be built by Airspeed in England. 18 MAY 2018
LORD SEMPILL (RIGHT), ENGLISH AVIATION INDUSTRIALIST AND PILOT
GENERAL AIRCRAFT ST-12 MONOSPAR
Just a few weeks later, the possibility of using the Sikorsky boats was mentioned, and even the manufacture of them in Sydney, although no detail regarding arrangements has been found, and nothing eventuated from it. At that time the likely choice would have been the ten-passenger twin-engined Sikorsky S41–A, in operation with Pan-American Airways since September 1930, although the prototype 18- passenger twin-engined S43 had made its first flight at Long Island (NY) on 1st June 1935. In that same month, on the 25th, NEA had bought the Melbourne-based LASCo organisation, and, during September, Airlines of Australia came into being, to incorporate NEA. An announcement was then made regarding the use of the Coode Island factory for the assembly of Monospar ST18’s and for the manufacture of Sikorsky flying boats for proposed services. During 1936-37, further statements were made regarding flying-boat manufacture, and by that time the S43 was also operating with Pan American, which acquired 12 of them. Both types were amphibious. Whether there was any consideration given to the four-engined S40 and S42 models is unknown, but there may have been sufficient ambition to consider them, in particular after publicity given to the latter. They were both in use by Pan-American Airways, and the second S42 had made a proving flight from San Francisco to Honolulu on 17 April 1935, and another of the type made one to New Zealand in April 1937. A completely new method of manufacture would have been involved of course, but that was then a world-wide requirement, and may well have been given due consideration for Australian development, particularly by those who had at least made sets of seaplane floats and speedboat hulls. Could Wackett, and the Boards of AoA and Tugan Aircraft, have been so forwardthinking, so ambitious, and so confident of company expertise and potential, to consider building the S42, perhaps with major components imported from Sikorsky?
AUSTIN PANTHER What appears to be a get-rich-quick scheme which, as far as is known, did not get coverage in any of the contemporary aviation magazines, was promoted in a car journal on 1st July 1931. It invited subscriptions to Austin’s Limited, Aircraft Engineers, of Mayne Junction, Brisbane, to promote the construction of the Austin Panther three-passenger biplane, which had been designed to suit Australian conditions, although there were no details of its origin — detailed specifications had been completed for it. Managing Director was Geoffrey F. Austin, and the Prospectus stated that the company was in production of components, propellers, wing sections, spares, and patterns, etc, for which there was a market throughout the Commonwealth. MAY 2018 19
OPPOSITE PAGE: BOEING 247D, SECOND IN THE HANDICAP SECTION OF THE LONDON— MELBOURNE AIR RACE FOR THE MELBOURNE CENTENARY RACE, SPONSORED BY “HEINZ 57 VARIETIES.” PILOTS ROSCOE TURNER AND CLYDE PANGBORN
MADE AT HOME
those involved had very little knowledge of aircraft’
Negotiations with British aircraft manufacturers for licence production and for the Australian and New Zealand distribution rights had been entered into, and the manufacture of engine parts for both aircraft and car engines was to start at an early date. A profile illustration of the aircraft was provided on the Prospectus, with the registration HV–AUX [sic], but it only managed to reinforce the fact that those involved had very little knowledge of aircraft, or of their portrayal artistically.
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From its peculiar propeller (‘an Austin airscrew to a particular design, giving maximum thrust ---’), through its very-wide-chord monoplane high-wing (30% of the aircraft’s length), with its main undercarriage legs apparently attached only to the lower longerons, well removed from the main spars), and a vertical tailwheel strut, the impression was that the illustrator and the company principals were just amateurs. Needless to say, nothing further has come to light on the promotion.
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AUSTRALIAN EX-PRIME MINISTER ŒBILLY HUGHES
NEA — BOEING 247D, STINSON MODEL A, AND MONOSPAR New England Airways Managing Director George Robinson was in London on 7th July 1934 when it was announced that the controlling interest in his company had been acquired by British Pacific Trust Ltd (BPT), which had plans for considerably expanded services in Australia. NEA was to continue operating, with more sophisticated equipment, and a night service each way between Melbourne and Sydney, and on to Brisbane, was the first stage of the expansion. Robinson inspected the available English designs, including the Monospar line, being built by another BPT subsidiary, General Aircraft Ltd. He then returned to the USA, through which he had passed en-route to England. On the first occasion, he had been shown through the Vultee, Stinson, Douglas, and Lockheed factories and was very impressed with the Stinson A, the DC–2, and the Lockheed 10. He also flew in a Boeing 247D, and found in England that there was nothing to compare, nor even in prospect. On his return, he pursued his examination of them, but returned to Australia knowing of the illogical and stifling ban by the Australian Government on the importation of any but British aircraft, but with much to consider about the American system of airline operation. To cope with the company expansion, a Board of Directors was appointed, to include Lord Sempill, English aviation industrialist and pilot, and Australian ex-Prime Minister ‘Billy’ Hughes, who insisted that only Australians be employed by the company. A statement to that effect was made by Robinson, except that a small group of Americans would be required on loan in the initial stages to assist in setting up the new services. Back in Sydney on 13 August, he announced that British aircraft were not suitable for the night services planned, and that the company was accordingly looking forward to reaching the manufacturing stage of the selected American type, following the first stage of part-manufacture and assembly. While no type was mentioned, he had discussed the acquisition of manufacturing rights while in the USA, to circumvent the embargo, and the five aircraft required were to be of either a twin- or three-engined type. Although he made no direct reference to the –247D, apart from the twin- engined reference, a CAB signal to London included the fact that the Boeing was being considered for manufacture by NEA. Robinson had been more taken with the DC–2, although it was far bigger (and more expensive) than then needed, but he had been very impressed with the –247D as well. 22 MAY 2018
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Two weeks previously the A/CCA, Edgar Johnston, had met NEA Manager/Chief Engineer L.J. Wackett in Sydney, and was told that the expanded company was to be called Greater New England Airways. Wackett also named the Stinson A, which would be imported via England to secure ICAN certification, if the customs ban was still in force, or alternatively it would be built in Australia. Upon Johnson’s internal CAB reference to the discussion, an appended note read — ‘If this scheme materialises, we will want radio beacons at Melbourne and Sydney in order that hilly country, around a) Moss Vale b) Seymour can be crossed safely in bad weather.’ As a stop-gap measure, NEA ordered three 3-passenger Monospar STI2’s, to operate on feederline services into Brisbane and Sydney to supplement the Avro Ten’s, but following the Centenary Air Race, Robinson tried to buy the KLM DC–2 ‘Uiver’, without success, and to have the type built under licence in England for his company. An Australian principal of BPT, Mr H.C. Armstrong, arrived back in Australia later in 1934, with £100,000 to spend on new aircraft for NEA, and, on 22nd February 1935, he and one of the Australian Directors called on the Minister for Defence (Archdale Parkhill) to discuss the company’s objects and proposals to enter the aircraftmanufacturing field. The possibility of Government orders was questioned, but the Minister of course could give no undertaking and, if there were a requirement, it would have to be on a competitive basis with such as Cockatoo Dockyard and other existing organisations. A four-page letter was sent to Parkhill by Armstrong on 2nd March detailing cables from England in which he was asked to seek Government assurances regarding services, in return for the development of a manufacturing industry, and also for Government
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MAY 2018 23
MADE AT HOME
MONOSPAR ST18 AT ESSENDON
capable of putting Australian aviation on a par with the rest of the world
orders for aircraft from the plant laid down. As the company’s proposal called for the first regular scheduled night and IFR operations in Australia (as distinct from the previous forays into D/R cloud flying by such as ANA, QAN, and NEA), it pointed out the defence value of such operation, and the expertise to be built up by the pilots employed regularly on such all-weather night and day longdistance flying. Services would eventually stretch from Townsville to Adelaide, with numerous feeder services as required. On 15th March, CAB allotted VH–UTV, –UTW, and –UTX for the three ST12’s which were then being completed in England, and Gordon Berg, as CAE, passed a written opinion within the Department regarding the preference aspect of BPT’s proposed entry into local aircraft production. His opinion was to the effect that there was at least one company making a serious attempt at the manufacture of aircraft without subsidy or tariff protection, and that there was every indication that it could produce aircraft to compare with any from overseas. Any Government financial assistance should be considered for such as Tugan Aircraft, before any assurances to such as BPT. On that day also, Armstrong advised Parkhill that specifications for the new 10-passenger Monospar had been received. It had full blind-flying equipment, cruised at 180mph, and was capable of putting Australian aviation on a par with the rest of the world. With the smaller Monospars en- route, a number of the larger ones (ST18) were to be ordered — it was later announced in England that five had been ordered for use in Australia. Two of the ST12’s arrived by sea in May 1935. In the event, the only ST18 built, was first flown at Hanworth, Middlesex, on 18th November 1935 and, on 30 July 1936, it left on a demonstration flight to Australia, with Lord Sempill on board. It arrived at Essendon on 22nd September, (although Sempill had returned to England because of a hold-up caused by damage incurred at Karachi) and four days later it won THE HERALD Cup for fastest time in an Aerial Derby at Essendon. After leaving Darwin on 7th October it was forced to land on Seringapatam Reef in the Timor Sea, almost out of fuel, and had to be abandoned. As it had previously become obvious that the Monospar order could not be fulfilled for AoA, and the embargo on American aircraft had by then been lifted, Robinson had ordered three of the Stinson Model A, and the first arrived in Sydney by sea on 28th March 1936. Following the loss of the Monospar, another Stinson was ordered, and the four were operated as VH–UGG, –UHH, –UKK, and –UYY. About the Author: Keith Meggs began work at Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation early in 1943 as a teenager, and began gliding at the end of 1945. In August 1948 he joined the Royal Australian Air Force for flying training, and subsequently flew Mustangs and later Meteor Mk8 jets in the Korean War, earning the DFM and AAM. Following this he flew Vampires in Australia and Malta. A foundation member of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia in 1959, Keith has been President since 1988. These articles form part of a groundbreaking, meticulously researched book, further details for which can be found at www.australianbuiltaircraft.com.au. 24 MAY 2018
WINGING IT WHEN YOU LOOK AT MODERN AIRCRAFT DESIGN, IT’S AMAZING TO THINK THAT HUMAN FLIGHT ONCE BALANCED ON THE FRAGILE SKELETON OF THE WRIGHT BROTHERS’ FAMOUS AND HISTORYMAKING INVENTION, THE WRIGHT FLYER. IT WAS PROBABLY BEYOND EVEN THE TWO PIONEERING BROTHERS TO IMAGINE SETS OF WINGS SPANNING LONGER IN LENGTH THAN THEIR OWN GROUNDBREAKING FLIGHT.
he most fundamental component of an aircraft is its wing. In nature, wings most likely evolved first as a means of attraction and intimidation (depending on the situation) and then as a way of getting from A to B. Earth-bound humans, watching birds soar through the skies, decided that flight looked pretty neat and began making use of winged contraptions like kites at least 2,800 years ago in China. Ancient sources depict these early inventions as tools for communication, measuring distance and for testing wind conditions. Early accounts of piloted gliders, while tough to verify, reported the feats of adventurous spirits like the monk Eilmer of Malmesbury, England who was said to have flown off the roof of his Abbey sometime between 1000 and 1010 AD, gliding about 200 metres. Archival references suggest that many flying contraptions like Eilmer’s involved emulations of bird, bat and dragon-like wings, which met limited success. As aircraft evolved, theorists and mathematicians chiselled away at the problem of wing design. Concepts for wings became less creature-like in character when it was realised that the structure of animal wings had a lot to do with the fact that they needed to fold up against the body when not in use, something early pioneers weren’t concerned about. By the time the Wright brothers arrived on the scene, it was common knowledge that efficient human-made wings needed to be long and slim, rather than animal-like. The Wright brothers tested their fledgling aircraft as kites in 1899 in the high winds of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, slowly building up their knowledge of aerodynamic performance as well as developing methods of exerting greater control over the aircraft. However, the brothers were dissatisfied by the performance of their kites and gliders. Returning to their expertise in bicycle technology, they built small models of wing designs and attached them to a bicycle wheel. They attached this wheel to the handlebars of a bike and cruised the streets of Dayton, Ohio, to produce wind over the tester wings.
WORDS MEGAN KENNEDY
stood the test of time
Though the results of the bike-tests did yield further insight into the workings of aerodynamics, the nature of the test made it hard to get consistent results, so the brothers decided to take nature into their own hands and manufactured an artificial wind tunnel for a more controlled testing environment. Over the course of their testing, the brothers ended up trialling over two hundred different wing configurations. By the time they arrived at the 1903 Wright Flyer, the brothers had the most comprehensive data on wing design in the world. They established that wing curvature produced lift and noted that changes in the angle of attack, or the angle between the line of the chord of an aerofoil and the relative airflow, caused a variation in lift. They further reasoned that to control the wing in roll they needed to vary the lift force on each wing independently. The Wrights developed an 26 MAY 2018
trialling over two hundred different wing configurations
innovative technology called wing warping to achieve roll control. Via a series of cables, the Wrights’ design allowed the pilot to twist the wing tips up or down relative to the rest of the wing. This produced an unbalanced force on the wing which caused the aircraft to roll. They then placed an elevator out the front of the wing to control their climb and decent. Continuing from the dawn of powered flight, the quest for the best profile and plan shape for a wing quickly became a formal scientific pursuit. Given the enormous number of variations possible in aerofoil shape, various agencies commenced systematic empirical testing of a wide variety of wing shapes and then documenting the results. Three key parameters of wing design were identified; airfoil section, wing loading and aspect ratio, each interacting with the other in a careful balance of material science and physics. The National Physical Laboratories in the United Kingdom for example, produced a series of airfoil sections designated “RAF” (not to be confused with the Royal Air Force) which were employed in aircraft up to and during World War II. Companies like De Havilland used the RAF 34 airfoil for the wings of many of their aircraft including the DH 88 Comet and the Mosquito. Formed in 1915 in the USA, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) did endless experiments to determine the properties of airfoil shapes. By this time, ailerons had almost completely replaced other forms of lateral MAY 2018 27
control, such as wing warping, well after the function of the rudder and elevator flight controls had become standardised. Tailored to low speed, high speed and supersonic purposes respectively, the various wing shapes developed by NACA were published and manufacturers were able to employ these standard airfoil sections rather than start from scratch themselves. Described in detail in NACA Report 460, published in November 1933 and entitled The Characteristics of the Seventy-Eight Related Airfoil Sections from Tests in the Variable Density Wind Tunnel, NACA airfoils continue to be used as a foundation for wing design into the modern era. A modern example of this is seen in the wings of Jabiru Aircraft. As Sue Woods of Jabiru Aircraft explains, the wings produced by Jabiru Aircraft use “…a very conventional constant chord (rectangular) wing using a reliable and long favoured 4-digit NACA aerofoil (the NACA 4412)”. Of course, wings are crucial in determining the performance and overall flying characteristics of an aircraft. “Wing design fundamentally drives the overall efficiency of an aircraft” says Ms Woods. “In arriving at a final wing design, other aerodynamic elements of the design tend to fall into place such as tail sizing and fuselage length (which enable stability and control of the wing). By changing the
most basic geometric properties of a wing planform (span, aspect ratio and wing area) changes in an aircraft stall and glide performance are significantly affected”. One of the most significant evolutions in wing technology is in manufacturing materials. Aircraft typically feature a main spar and, in some cases, secondary spars to provide torsional strength while the actual airfoil shape is defined by the ribs of the wing. Early aircraft designers had only steel tube, fabric and wood at their disposal for wing construction. Consequently, they resorted to bi-plane structures predominantly to compensate for the inherent shortcomings of wood. Aircraft must be as strong as they are light, and the double wing of a bi-plane created more wing area for a lower stall speed and formed a sort of giant wing spar or girder that was able to take on much more of a load. However, the wires and struts required for the configuration added a lot of parasitic drag, reducing speed and performance. When better materials and construction techniques were realised, longer monoplane wings became the dominant arrangement. Of course, there is no one wing for every situation. As Peter Harlow from Foxbat Australia explains “[wing design] will determine what the aircraft flies like - fast, aerobatic, slow, etc. A wing which is efficient at 60 knots will be terrible at 260 30 MAY 2018
knots and vice versa. A wing for an aerobatic aircraft will not be suitable for an aircraft which is not aerobatic and vice versa…a pilot should look for an aircraft which fulfils the mission s/he has in mind. For example, if they want to fly slow and safely, they should probably avoid a laminar flow wing. If they want to fly fast, they should probably avoid thick wings which are designed to give maximum lift at slower speeds”. Newer wing models don’t necessarily mean better performance. As Mr Harlow explains “the Foxbat wing profile…is a relatively old profile designed originally in the late 1930’s to be a high-lift, relatively low drag profile. Like many old wing profiles (e.g. the Piper Cub) it has stood the test of time and performs very well on today’s very light aircraft”. As aviation matured, duralumin became a popular construction material because it was light, weather proof, corrosion resistant and relatively easy to work. Duralumin was the trade name for a specialised alloy of copper and aluminium that was found to make a harder material than straight aluminium. It did have drawbacks in that, as it fatigued, it cracked or failed in key structures. In an effort to combat fatigue, aircraft like the DC3 were over-built and rigorously inspected for cracks. But as the understanding of material science improved, it proved possible to use less metal and therefore reduce weight. At the cutting edge of modern wing manufacturing today is the use of composite materials. Composite materials are a combination of ingredients with different physical or chemical properties that, when combined, produce a product with improved characteristics over each material on its own. Composites are often lighter when compared to traditional materials and usually prove less expensive both from the outset and in the long term. Composite materials are also incredibly strong. As Ms Woods explains “… probably what makes the Jabiru wing stand out is what’s inside. The full glass fibre, foam and epoxy composite construction is designed for an ultimate load of between 8 and 9g’s depending on the model!” The individual components that make up a wing, namely the skin and ribs, as well as control surfaces, such as ailerons and flaps need to support different loads.
MAY 2018 31
the most comprehensive data on wing design in the world
The traditional wing has an internal structure of ribs spars and sub-spars with a skin fitted onto the outside. With the introduction of composite materials, steel and aluminium alloys continued to be used in the manufacture of ribs, while composite materials can be used in the design of the wing skin and the control surfaces, maximising efficiency while simultaneously minimising cost and improving safety. As Ms Woods explains “[w]hen the first Jabiru aircraft was built in the late 1980’s, glass fibre composite construction was not yet a fully-fledged aircraft construction technique. The Jabiru wing utilised this up-andcoming technology in the structure as
WINGING IT with the rest of the airframe to produce a very safe and robust product. This material also allowed accurate and consistent wings (and other parts) to be produced quickly without the need for expensive dies and tooling, allowing a decent production rate with a minimum of overheads”. Wings also have external refinements. Clever devices such as turbulators are fitted to some aircraft such as certain models of Learjet. Their purpose is to draw down energy from the airflow around the aircraft to the boundary layer on the surface of the wing. The boundary layer in aerodynamics is the part of the air flow near the surface of a body where friction slows down the local flow. Turbulators energise the boundary layer and improve stall characteristics. On the subject of the boundary layer, it’s interesting to note that polishing an aircraft does more than make it look good. A polished aircraft, particularly in the case of a fast one, is more fuel efficient than a non-polished one. This is because the boundary layer is essentially thinner causing the envelope of air that surrounds the flying aircraft to be appreciably lighter. On the wingtips, many aircraft feature specialised devices. Some aircraft employ tip-tanks to store additional fuel
and to restrict the formation of tip-turbulence which results from a spilling over of the low-pressure area above. Other aircraft have vertically mounted winglets that serve the same purpose, reducing drag from wingtip vortices. Winglets have become popular additions to high speed aircraft to increase fuel efficiency, and although lower speed aircraft don’t benefit as much from their installation, slow speed short take-off and landing aircraft may use wingtips to shape airflow for greater control at low airspeeds. The upcoming Boeing 777X will feature 3.5 metre folding wingtips supplied by Liebherr Aerospace from Lindenberg. But it isn’t only the larger aircraft that are benefiting from modern tech. CNC (computer numerically controlled) machinery is the automation of machine tools
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32 MAY 2018
changes in an aircraft stall and glide performance are significantly affected
MAY 2018 33
A wing which is efficient at 60 knots will be terrible at 260 knots and vice versa
with computers executing programmed sequences of machine commands. Rather than machinery manually operated by hand wheels or levers, or mechanically automated by cams alone, CNC is highly automated. A required part’s mechanical dimensions are defined by using a computeraided design (better known as CAD) program, which is then translated into manufacturing directives by computeraided manufacturing (sometimes referred to as CAM) software. Originally developed for the construction of military and large commercial aircraft, the technology has trickled down into the general aviation, recreational aviation and light sports aircraft markets, keeping costs down and increasing safety. As Mike Blythe of The Airplane Factory, producer of the Sling aircraft, explains “the real impact of recent technology on the wing design is in the structure and manufacturing methods. CNC machines have allowed The Airplane Factory to produce parts and assemblies to very close tolerances making the assembly easy and accurate”. One of the most critical requirements of aerodynamic lift is a smooth wing surface. Even the smallest irregularity increases drag and reduces lift, which can be enough to destabilize or reduce the efficiency of an aircraft in flight. For aircraft that fly in subzero temperatures, keeping ice in check is critical. Typically, ice is removed from general aviation craft with either “weeping wing” liquid de-icing systems or inflatable rubber bladders, called pneumatic boots, installed along the leading edge of the wings. The main drawbacks of these two automated solutions are the limited capacity for on-board de-icing liquid and the additional weight and power usage of the pneumatic boots.
Many modern civil fixed-wing transport aircraft use anti-ice systems on the leading edge of wings, engine inlets and air data probes using warm air. This is bled from engines and is ducted into a cavity beneath the surface to be antiiced. The warm air heats the surface up to a few degrees above freezing point, preventing ice from forming. The system may even operate autonomously, switching on and off as the aircraft enters and leaves icing conditions. One of the most recent developments in de-icing technology is incorporated on the 787 Dreamliner and combines composite material technology with conductive elements under the leading-edge surface to heat the wing. During manufacture, liquid metal is sprayed on a fibre fabric to create an electrically conductive surface. The sprayed metal acts as an electrothermal element that transfers heat to the skin of the wing. On the 787, the heater mats deliver de-icing at a balmy temperature range of 7.2°C to 21.1°C. Another scientific advancement pilots operating in colder conditions can get excited about is a development that could see chunks of ice slide right off the skin of an aircraft wing without the pilot having to do a thing. In 2016, scientists reported that they had developed a liquid-like substance that can make wings and other surfaces so slippery that ice cannot adhere to them at all. Researchers at the American Chemical Society released the results of their research into liquid-secreting materials called self-lubricating organogels, or SLUGs. Research Director at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology in Japan, Atsushi Hozumi, Ph.D. explained that the SLUGs technology “has a host of formulations and applications, including in a gel form that can be encapsulated in a film coating on the surface of a wing or other device”. Like aircraft wings themselves, the inspiration for the SLUGS project came from findings in nature. “We came upon this idea when we observed real slugs in the 34 MAY 2018
environment,” Chihiro Urata, Ph.D., said. “Slugs live underground in soils when it is daytime and crawl out at night. But we never see slugs covered in dirt. They secrete a liquid mucus on their skin, which repels dirt, and the dirt slides off. From this, we started focusing on the phenomenon called syneresis, the expulsion of liquid from a gel.” The gel and the liquid repellent substance are held in a matrix of silicone resin and, as Urata explains, “…the mix is cured and applied to a surface as a nearly transparent and solid film coating”. Both Urata and Hozumi, explained that the material’s thermo-responsive secretion properties came as a surprise and further testing revealed that the secretion was also reversible. The chemical process is triggered when temperatures fall below freezing, meaning ice can still form but it isn’t able adhere to a surface and slides off. Once the temperature conditions rise above freezing, the liquids neatly return to the film. The development is definitely a promising prospect for cold climate aviation endeavours in the future. Wings have come a long way in a short period of time. Not so long ago, humans were looking at birds and wondering how many feathers were necessary for us to flap our arms and fly off into the sunset. In just over 100 years, we have progressed from ungainly wooden configurations to streamlined wings spanning longer than humanity’s first powered flight. An improved understanding of chemistry may soon allow aircraft to better weather cold climates using the secret chemistry of slugs. And manufacturing MAY 2018 35
techniques continue to move towards even safer, more economical aircraft. Even new construction materials are re-defining the capabilities of modern aircraft. When those first ambitious humans looked up in envy at winged creatures traversing the skies, not even they could have guessed that the contraptions they envisioned would eventually result in the precision wings that carry us humans into the skies today.
a promising prospect for cold climate aviation
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TARMAC & TERMINALS
AIRPORTS COME IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES, FROM TINY REGIONAL STRIPS OF GRASS TO MASSIVE, CITYSIZED INTERNATIONAL GATEWAYS. WHETHER THEY CATER FOR A FEW FLIGHTS A WEEK OR TENS OF MILLIONS OF PASSENGERS A YEAR, EVERY AIRPORT AROUND THE WORLD IS AN IMPORTANT COG IN THE EVER-GROWING TRANSPORT NETWORK.
WORDS ROWAN STEWART
Airports are long term assets they either grow or die
TERMINALS hat they all have in common is that a huge number of behindthe-scenes factors need to come together to keep them running safely and efficiently. From lighting, signage and bird strike maintenance to runway preparation and maintenance, foreign debris management and technological upgrades, it’s a full-time job that’s becoming more complex all the time. Thankfully, our airports have a lot of help when it comes to these challenges. The Australian Airports Association (AAA) is dedicated to helping Aussie airports improve infrastructure, profitability and safety. The non-profit provides a voice for more than 260 of the country’s aerodromes, and operates to ensure regular transport passengers, freight, and the community enjoy the full benefits of a progressive and sustainable airport industry. MAY 2018 37
TARMAC & TERMINALS
Now is the time to take a long-term, strategic view of regional airport infrastructure investment AAA’s CEO, Caroline Wilkie, is passionate about creating an efficient and positive future for airfields across the land. “Regional airports play a crucial role in connecting our regional and remote communities with the rest of the country, whether it is for the provision of essential and emergency services, business, or education,” Ms Wilkie said. “However, over the next decade, many regional airports will simply not be able to generate sufficient revenue to fund critical maintenance and infrastructure works to enable them to continue to meet the needs of the communities they serve. “Now is the time to take a longterm, strategic view of regional airport infrastructure investment to ensure Australia’s regions remain competitive, livable and sustainable.” The AAA is constantly making the effort to bring the different sectors of the airport industry together, in order to create a stronger community that will help everything run much smoother. “Airports have a unique set of safety challenges, and the AAA is dedicated to ensuring the industry upholds the highest health and safety standards, safeguarding everyone who accesses airport facilities.” Thankfully, Australia is a country that’s overflowing with highly-skilled specialists and well-resourced companies who are
more than prepared to take on these challenges. By working closely with our network of airports, airfields and landing strips, these companies are able to keep flights leaving the tarmac on time, and landing without a worry in the world. The topic of efficient airport management is a complex issue that affects us all, whether as pilots or passengers, and now Aviator will take a look at the technologies, methodologies, products, services and companies that are critical to any airfield’s successful flow of traffic.
LIGHTING THE WAY With more flights than ever taking off and landing in poor weather or low light, airport lighting has become a major issue. Even for minor regional facilities, installing and maintaining a full set of lights is a major undertaking, with everything from tarmac lighting and illuminated guidance signs to apron lights and emergency lamps needed to maintain an up-to-date facility that’s safe and reliable. Aussie company Avionics is a major supplier of lighting solutions for airports of all sizes across the Asia Pacific reason. A major part of their current schedule involves upgrading airports to the new high-intensity CATIII capable system, which is the highest level of lighting system available. Once installed, it will greatly improve safety and flyability of airports across the region. “More airports worldwide are moving towards CATIII lighting systems that enhance aircraft safety, particularly in conditions of reduced visibility,” Avionics founder and Managing Director Nick Brumley said. “Busy airports and airlines cannot afford to have planes grounded for hours because of fog.”
MAKING A MARK If an airfield is to work efficiently and safely, it’s imperative that the runways and taxiways be properly marked to aid pilots as they navigate around. Without a decent set of markings, it would be chaos on the tarmac, and with more traffic than ever, the need for well-designed and implemented lines is more important than ever. These markings also need to be properly maintained, because the ravages of the weather and the constant friction of landing tyres are obviously going to have an effect on them. Related services that are also crucial to the stable management of any airport include industrial cleaning, which enables the runways to re-open in a timely manner after spillages, and anti-skid runway resurfacing, which greatly increases safety, especially in poor weather. There are many other facets to this area of airport management, 38 MAY 2018
airfield LINE MARKING & MAINTENANCE SERVICES
Specialist Airport Line Marking & Maintenance Services Australia Wide
Gandy Project Management (GPM) are specialist airport line marking contractors that provide extensive line marking services to both civilian and Defence airfields Australia wide. Airfield line marking is our area of expertise With over 20 years experience, our customers can be reassured that all works carried out are of the highest standard and compliant to CASA MOS 139. Comprehensive airport line marking set out and reinstatement of apron, taxiway, runway and helipad markings are our areas of expertise – we guarantee it. Offering a 24 / 7 service our qualified personnel use the most advanced techniques to ensure all works are completed to the highest standard with minimal disruption to airfield operations.
Committed to safety GPM prides itself with an unblemished safety record of over 14 years, with nil incidents. All GPM personnel undergo continual airside training to ensure all works are completed in the safest possible manner. GPM carry all relevant insurances to undertake
airside works. We guarantee quality, friendliness and competitive pricing to both civilian and Defence airfields Australia wide
Airfield services include: • Taxiway, Runway, Apron, & Helipads • Concrete Joint Repairs • Concrete Saw Cutting • Pavement Repairs Concrete / Asphalt • Airfield Safety Officers • Industrial Cleaning GPM have a diverse range of resources and skills in the airfield industry and can assist with many aspects of your airfield maintenance requirements.
Contact us for assistance Please do not hesitate to contact one of helpful members of staff who will be happy to provide you with advice or a quotation to suit your individual needs. Gandy Project Management Pty Ltd m. 0404 467 877 e. firstname.lastname@example.org airfieldlinemarking.com.au
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TARMAC & TERMINALS and when brought together as a cohesive unit, they make sure that the facility is operated easily and incident-free. Gandy Project Management (GPM) are one of the county’s leading providers of linemarking and runway maintenance services, having worked on a large number of facilities around Australia including Sydney Airport, Williamstown Airport, Port Macquarie Airport, and many more. They offer a wide variety of services and, because it’s a more involved topic than you might think, it’s great that our airfields can go with a company who can put all the pieces of the puzzles together. Line markings are even more important for Defence airfields, with so many highpowered machines heading in and out, and a need to have maintain strict order and time schedules. GPM have this covered, too, having worked with such airfields as East Sale, Williamstown, Nowra, Amberley and Townsville.
BIRD IS THE WORD The rapidly increasing number of flights into and out of regional airports means that bird strikes are a growing issue in Australia. According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau,
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Aviation ID Australia offers the complete compliance package: • Servicing regional airports, their operators, GA pilots & companies • Background checks forwarded from our office • Cards issued AUS wide and for Local airports • Supporting industry through local aviation industry agents.
Please check our website www.aviationidaustralia.net.au For further details call us on 02 6497 4333 40 MAY 2018
there are around five strikes every day - or around 760kg of wings and feathers being struck every year. Whilst the vast majority of these strikes thankfully don’t cause too much damage, the possibility for tragedy is always there. A galah or pelican can easily take out an engine, so there’s a chance for a large flock to greatly affect the efficiency of an airport.
best practices to prepare your organisation for a really bad day
Wildlife management is an active part of every airport’s operations planning, especially in areas where wildlife thrives nearby, such as in Darwin or Cairns. This needs to be looked at on a case-bycase basis, but there are a number of successful plans that should always be undertaken. Airports must take an active role in keeping birds and other wildlife away from airports through habitat manipulation such as removing trees, keeping grass cut low, utilising loud noises like cannons or horns, and introducing birds of prey, which can act as a visual repellent to deter flocks of seagulls or larger native birds. “Wildlife strikes in Australian aviation have increased significantly over the past two years and continue to pose a safety risk to aircraft operators,” a spokesman from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said.
We believe we will be able to offer excellent service, value for money and a personal approach to all work undertaken.
West Coast Civil has extensive
experience in Aerodrome construction from Aircraft Pavements to Airfield
Ground Lighting Systems and Terminal Forecourt Upgrades.
25 Ross Dr, Perth Airport, WA 6105 0411 106 634 email@example.com westcoastcivil.com.au MAY 2018 41
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five strikes every day
Six of Australia’s 10 major airports have seen wildlife strikes increase in the past two years, with the largest rise in the rate of birdstrikes at Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Sydney. The increase at smaller regional airports has been even more dramatic. Bats, flying foxes, swallows, lapwings, plovers and kites are the birds most likely to get splattered, whilst ground-based animal strikes were relatively rare. The most common ground animals struck by aircraft are rabbits, kangaroos, wallabies, dogs and foxes - pretty sizeable beasties that can really knock a smaller aircraft around. Although the vast majority of wildlife strikes don’t result in any damage or operational consequence, the ATSB cautions that they still pose a serious safety risk to aircraft. However, with proper airfield management, it’s a problem that shouldn’t rear its head too often in the future.
DANGEROUS DEBRIS Every single time a plane takes off or lands, it leaves evidence of its actions. This is usually in the form of small stones or tiny scraps from the plane, but it all adds up - and if it’s not accounted for, it can become dangerous. Any material that shouldn’t be found on an airport taxiway, ramp, runway or airfield is classified as Foreign Object Debris (FOD) and must be removed to increase safety and reduce the chances of aircraft damage. Foreign objects such as rocks, gravel, nails, bits of luggage, sand, nuts, bolts and screws, and pavement fragments, pose a significant safety hazard if ignored or left undetected. The problems are numerous and potentially life-threatening. Debris can be ingested into jet engines via vortex suction, potentially destroying the engines. Bits and pieces can also puncture aircraft tires, damage propellers, or shatter windscreens. Incidents related to debris cause billions of dollars in damages each and every year and for these reasons airports, military air force bases and airlines devote a considerable amount of time and energy to the task of removing these threats from tarmac areas where aircraft are active. There are lots of ways for airports to deal with the threat of debris. For our smaller airfields, a simple visual check or walk along the airstrip is sufficient. There’s enough time between arrivals and departures to remove anything dangerous and keep things flowing easily. But for larger airports that deal with more traffic, it’s a little more involved. Vacuum trucks, magnetic bars and rotary brooms are big parts of the everyday operation of many airports, but new technology is simplifying the job. Aussie company Aerosweep have a swanky new contraption that make the issue of debris removal simple. The FOD*BOSS Sweeping System is a high speed, low cost sweeper that works by using the force of friction on every sort of paving imaginable, in wet or dry conditions. 42 MAY 2018
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TARMAC & TERMINALS
The FOD*BOS is used at a number of military facilities across the globe, which means it’s got a pretty good pedigree. It’s a portable and foldable machine that is as at home on a military base, international airport, or local runway. In fact, it sounds so good that you might even consider getting one to clean up the living room after the kids have been through there. The last thing you want to encounter while landing or taking off is some junk that will send you spinning, so it’s good to know that Aussie airports have this very serious problem under control. With proper management, removing debris can be a breeze!
ON THE JOB Perhaps the biggest cog in the airport machine is the employees. From service staff and cleaners to baggage handlers and technicians, it takes a lot of expertly-trained and dedicated people to keep an airfield running. The AAA’s recent report into regional airports revealed that they’re a major source of employment across the country. Thirty-eight airport operators provided information on their employment, and collectively they employed 133 full-time staff members to operate and maintain their facilities.
SPEAKING TO AN OPERATOR Operating an airport is a finely-tuned balancing act with many different plates spinning at once. We asked an industry expert, Keith Tonkin from Aviation Projects, for his insights into some strategies to make like easier for the beleagured airport manager and to lift the veil on some of the complex administrative considerations: What specific skills is it desireable for an airport manager to have? They should be a strategic thinker but strong on detail, and a good communicator who is able to advocate the needs of the aviation industry to non-expert financial decision makers and enforce operational requirements as appropriate. Confidence in decision-making is key but being prepared to ask for help is just as essential: decisions made in haste or without proper diligence can result in significant financial or safety issues that might not arise until a long time into the future. How can airports address natural limitations – tenants, capacity, planning permission etc? First an airport needs to understand what their natural limitations are and why and then work out how those limitations can be resolved. Usually money is required! To obtain that money you need a well-reasoned plan with valid cost estimates and a demonstrated ability to deliver the desired outcome. What Goes into an Airport Master Plan? The Master Plan should reflect the strategic vision of the owner and relevant stakeholders, and align to associated strategic plans. The strategic vision should be established at the beginning of the planning exercise, and usually requires thorough and extensive consultation….Sometimes it’s fine to acknowledge that there is no ‘problem’ to fix (yet). The development scheme (if one is required) that results from the master planning activity should aim to optimise the site for its intended purposes, whilst providing the flexibility to change specific uses or site planning details in the future as the wants and needs of tenants and aircraft operators, or regulatory requirements change. Airports are long term assets - they either grow or die. Future proofing is key. So, it’s important to think big, but ensure that any proposed development is justified by well-informed demand analysis and consideration of reasonable costs and benefits. Infrastructure capacity needs to match demand - starting from airspace and instrument procedures, the obstacle
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environment, runways/taxiways/aprons, aeronautical support facilities (visual aids, ground lighting systems, fuel, weather information), terminal and passenger handling facilities, car parks, landside transport infrastructure and civil services. Finally, the Master Plan should have enough detail to justify the recommendations to non expert decision makers and inform more detailed design work, but not be so prescriptive that a small change in assumptions (which will almost certainly happen just after the Master Plan is published) renders it invalid. Can you pinpoint future issues for operators to factor in now? Insufficient resources to treat safety risk is an enduring problem. Sometimes this occurs as a result of a lack of appreciation for the severity of the risk associated with the hazard, and sometimes it’s because an aircraft or aerodrome operator does not perceive the benefit in spending the money on appropriate risk treatments. There is an increasing intensification of operations at aircraft landing areas (ALA) as aircraft operators seek to lower their operating costs. Generally, ALA operators are not properly informed of the risk that arises from the operations being conducted at their aerodromes, and do not have the necessary expertise to manage operational risk.
Reflecting the diversity of regional airports, the number of full-time employees at each facility ranged from one to 10, with an average of four. It shows that one plan cannot be used for all airports - some are large enough for specialised positions, whilst smaller facilities will require employees who can cover a number of roles. Training is an incredibly important part of the employment process, with a number of TAFE and university courses properly preparing employees for a career of keeping aircraft and their passengers safe. The report estimates that the total full-time employment at all regional airports with fewer than 500,000 passenger movements per annum was approximately 1,720 - meaning that it makes a great impact on local economies. Helping the local economy, in turn, helps the airport to expand, adapt, and keep serving the community. The report also concluded that for each full-time employee at an airport, 1.1 jobs were created in the region for other workers. These would largely be made up of the linemarkers, lighting engineers, and safety guys mentioned elsewhere in this story.
Of course, Australiaâ€™s major airports create even more jobs, which increases even more when you consider the huge amount of retail services available. No matter which way you look at it, airports in Australia are a huge part of our economy, and itâ€™s the employees who keep them running on time.
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT The airport industry is constantly growing, changing and evolving. New situations, regulations and technology mean that different challenges are constantly on the horizon, and an ability to adapt swiftly can be the difference between long term success and failure.
substantial costs associated with maintaining runways
How would your airport respond in
a crisis? PLAN. TRAIN. TEST. www.crisisshield.com.au MAY 2018 45
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CRISIS MANAGEMENT Relative to passenger movements and aircraft movements and an increasingly mobile population, the amount of adverse incidents at airports is small. However, it’s always this type of event that the media headlines with, particularly anything terrorist or safety related. This is a constant concern for the airport operator. Help is, however, at hand from a company specialising in crisis management, the venerable Crisis Shield. We found out from its MD, Allan Briggs, workable strategies to implement should the worst happen: “No surprise, it was another record year for crises in the news in 2017. Overall, the Institute for Crisis Management tracked 801,620 crisis news stories during the year, an increase of 25% over 2016. Often, when we start work with clients, we find a significant gap between how crisis-ready an organisation thinks it is, and how ready it actually is. “Operators should ask themselves, ‘Are we really prepared?’’. Are you ready to manage the operational and reputational impact of a significant, serious corporate misdeed, natural disaster, or malicious attack? Does your organisation have a crisis management plan, or a distinct ‘playbook’ for key crisis scenarios? Is your team trained to communicate with internal and external groups, including media representatives, in a crisis? “Whatever the crisis type or cause – from cyber-attack to internal corruption or natural disaster – the situation is likely to attract intense public attention. In some cases, a media issue itself may become your crisis. When a crisis occurs, you need to communicate quickly, but you must focus on facts to inform decisions and communication as much as possible. Start with the facts, stick to the facts, and correct misinformation or commentary that strays from the facts. Once you have established the facts, follow steps 2 – 5 to draft your messages: Step 2. Describe: This is what we know & Step 3. Identify: This is what we don’t know Open your message by stating the basic verified facts known about the situation. This may include some or all of the following: what has happened, when and where it happened, who is involved and affected, how and why it happened. Leave out any points you don’t know yet, and acknowledge them as, ‘What we don’t know’. As time progresses and more verified information becomes available, your description of ‘What we know’ will grow, and ‘What we don’t know’ will shrink. Step 4. Explain: This is what we’re doing Explain what your organisation is doing to resolve the situation and set things right; this is your organisation’s opportunity to demonstrate responsive and proactive leadership during a crisis. Step 5. Instruct: This is what we want you to do Give your stakeholders clear instructions so they know what the organisation wants them to do. Each situation will affect different groups in different ways and to
varying degrees, so you need to tell people what action they should take and how to access further information that is relevant to the situation, and to them. Remember these Best Practice Crisis Communication Principles Speed – distribute timely information to relevant stakeholder groups. Aim to have an initial message published through online channels within the first 20 minutes and traditional channels within the first hour. Accuracy – carefully check all facts, only communicate verified information, correct misinformation and dispel speculation. Public safety – always prioritise safety messages above all else. Consistency – align all messaging across your organisation and ensure your communicators, spokespeople and frontline personnel receive key messages with regular updates. Multi-channels – use multiple communication channels to reach your audience groups. Concern – express sympathy and support for people involved or affected (and ensure your organisation is ready to provide support to victims and their families, including employees). Above all else – be prepared! Basic best practices to prepare your organisation for a really bad day: DO • Have a crisis management plan describing your crisis management arrangements. • Draft a suite of generic message templates that are suitable for your primary communication channels (e.g. website, social media, media release). • Have a designated crisis management team comprising people who are carefully selected, properly trained, adequately supported and secure in their roles, responsibilities and procedures. • Train your spokespeople to perform in a high-pressure media environment. • Regularly review, test and improve your arrangements (at least annually) so they are current and relevant to your risk environment. DON’T • Fail to communicate with your key stakeholder groups during a crisis. • Overlook the immediacy, reach and amplification social media channels bring to an issue or incident. • Underestimate the intense demands, inconvenient complexities and compressed timelines that characterise a crisis. • Forget the importance of risk management in preventing and mitigating crises. To be successful, your organisation’s core values must underpin your crisis response strategy and communication authentically; it’s very hard to achieve this if you don’t prepare before the day comes.
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Upgrading airports to meet future needs is a demanding proposition. Infrastructure requirements for both terminal facilities and runway maintenance have increased greatly over time as a result of the trend towards larger and heavier aircraft. Working in an operational aerodrome creates a continually changing work environment that is affected by a number of different factors that as a contractor are not usually controllable. ATC, Changing weather conditions, late or early arrivals can all cause the best laid plans to be changed. Ryan Oliver from West Coast Civil notes that, “Hour by hour planning might sound excessive for normal civil construction works but becomes a norm when operating in this environment. Milestones achieved at each time check then dictate what tasks are available next, this objective approach protects the operational aerodrome from being exposed to works and stops a contractor from getting too caught up in production.” Experience counts! “Included in the time based planning as discussed above, employing a workforce that is specifically trained and experienced in Aerodrome Works and MOS 139 Compliance ensures all levels of the company are thinking about the site requirements. From the machine operator understanding Aircraft Code Pullback lines to the surveyor setting out the works having ARO and Radio Competency tickets. The measure of a successful airside project is the level of impact on the operational aerodrome and the only way to achieve this is with an experienced team,” explains Mr Oliver. Especially at regional airports, the types of aircraft flying in and out has changed dramatically over the past decade. Predicting future services at regional airports is difficult and uncertain, because aviation is strongly influenced by general economic conditions and unforeseen events such as the discovery of nearby mineral resources. Because of this, airports need to identify such changes at the first opportunity, in order to put infrastructure expansions in motion. Airport management must be prepared to take the inherent risks involved with expansion, or the local community could be deprived of the introduction or expansion of services needed to facilitate broader economic development from tourism, resources development or other related industries. “Airports in Western Australia, Queensland and Northern New South Wales have
been particularly affected by the need to invest and grow their facilities…,” Ms Wilkie said. “The cost of maintaining regional airports is very high. There are substantial costs associated with maintaining runways, taxiways, aprons, navigational aids, refueling and ground handling services. “Many regional airports also face increasing costs due to the need to upgrade security at their airports as well as skills shortages, particularly in key regions where resource projects are attracting large numbers of workers.” It’s a big job to ensure that airports can keep up with the daily demands of passengers, and an even bigger one to ensure that they’re prepared to adapt to change in the future. By working closely with companies from associated industries - the linemarkers, the lighting technicians, the debris removers, crisis specialists, civil engineers and their thousands of employees who each bring their own sets of skills - the future for Australia’s airports looks great. Bringing all of this together into a cohesive package is the key to keeping our airports running efficiently as they strive to serve the people of Australia, and at the moment they’re doing a pretty good job of it.
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Brisbane Head Office E firstname.lastname@example.org P +61 7 3371 0788 aviation.com.au
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Acrobatic pilots swear by the Thunderbolt
THUNDERBOLT RED BULL AIR RACE PILOTS DEMAND THE VERY BEST FROM THEIR AIRCRAFT, AND THAT’S WHY THE LYCOMING THUNDERBOLT HAS BEEN THE OFFICIAL ENGINE OF THE SERIES FOR THE PAST FOUR YEARS.
t’s powerful, reliable, and able to withstand whatever punishment the best pilots in the world throw at it. Not surprisingly, it also performs fantastically with a wide range of other planes, so you don’t need to be a professional athlete to get the most out of one of these zippy little engines. The Thunderbolt has an interesting history. With the increasing popularity of modified engines, the forward-thinkers at Lycoming decided to come up with a super-powered, highly customisable beast of their own, and so the Thunderbolt was released to much applause. Each engine is built to order and rigorously tested to make sure it’s up to the high standards that Lycoming have become synonymous with. The Thunderbolt remains popular with pilots from a broad range of backgrounds, flying a huge array of planes in vastly different situations. Home builders love the options available to them, as they can customise it to match the distinct personality of their craft. Acrobatic pilots swear by the Thunderbolt because it performs admirably even when being tossed around and battered by G-forces. And the Red Bull guys reckon it’s ace because, well, no competing engine has been able to come close. A major reason that the Thunderbolt appeals to such a wide range of pilots is that there are three very distinct variations - the Signature, the Extreme, and the Competition. They’re all heavily customisable and certain to deliver the greatest performance possible.
lighting up the skies
The Signature series will be of most interest to your average pilot, because they match power and versatility with reliability and user-friendly features. There’s more than enough raw power for anything you’d want to do, but these engines are still suited for any home-built aircraft without becoming too much to handle. There are a number of engines within the Signature class, including the smaller 235 and 340, but the pick of the bunch is the exceptional 360. 48 MAY 2018
It’s a turbo-normalised, intercooled, fuel-injected gasoline engine, that’s nominally rated at 180HP from sea level to greater than 20,000 feet altitude. It’s a four-cylinder, direct-drive, horizontally-opposed, air-cooled model that’s been optimally packaged in order to allow it to occupy a similar space as many IO-360 models, despite the increase in power. The electronic engine control system, dubbed iE2, uses electronic fuel injection and ignition, an integrated electronic knock sensor and a holistic approach to engine management, which means pilots have individual control of each cylinder. It’ss this sort of innovation that helps the Thunderbolt to stand out, and give pilots the most control possible. These engines feature a number of other standout features, including precision static balancing to within half a gram, an impressive impulse coupled magneto ignition system, and a choice between Airflow Performance or Precision Airmotive fuel injection systems. The customisation extends to a choice of colour schemes - either titanium, which looks particularly smart, or a more aggressive gloss black. The most important thing to know about the Signature is that it’s definitely an engine for regular pilots. You won’t go spinning out of control or break the time-space continuum when you put a bit of pressure on the throttle, because it’s designed to be friendly and hand out its power in a sensible manner. It’s a wonderful piece of machinery, but it’s not meant to replicate the experience of being in the Air Race and that’s definitely a good thing.
brilliant engines - world beaters without a doubt - but also require a great deal of responsibility because they’ve got so much zip. All three classes can be tailored to meet the requirements of you and your plane, so it’s best to have a chat with the engineers from Lycoming regarding just what they can do for you. Major components that can be modified include the ignition system, which has a huge number of options. With a traditional ignition system, you can choose from more than a different options according to your needs and wants. You could go with a slick setup, or tune the magneto any way you want to. The options aren’t quite endless, but it’s pretty close.
The Extreme is designed for experienced pilots only, so don’t hunt around for one if you’ve just walked out of training school. It’s a challenging engine that purrs in the right hands, and you certainly need a few years of flying in the bank in order to get the most out of it.
You can also go with an Electronic Magneto option, which has the benefit of producing its own electrical power, saving money and making them immune to interruption of the aircraft electrical bus. Having a truly independent power source is certainly an appealing option.
This thing accelerates quickly, which can make it tough to handle at first, but also means that it’s perfectly suited to high-impact flying styles, such as pulling off acrobatic maneuvers. The Extreme has the oomph needed to link multiple fancy moves together, because as soon as you’re finished with a loop-de-loop, it’s ready to power you into a spiral.
In regards to the fuel injection system, you have the choice between an airflow performance injection setup, or an Avstar fuel injection system, so it depends on what revs you up more.
In the right hands, this power is also a pilot’s best friend, as it opens up many more options for getting out of tricky situations. Of course, that shouldn’t happen too often, because every single engine that comes out of the Lycoming factory has been rigorously tested, so it’s not going to let you down.
The Lycoming Thunderbolt series of turbo engines have been lighting up the skies for more than a decade, and have allowed pilots from around the world to get the most out of their planes whilst giving them a huge amount of flexibility. Whether you’re a weekend warrior who wants something easy and cheap to maintain, an experienced acrobat of the skies who needs more power, or an aspiring comp pilot who requires the very best, there’s a Thunderbolt ready to get the job done.
The Extreme features an improved piston system, with a 10:1 compression ratio, giving it that extra bit of kick needed to compete with the big boys. It’s a perfectlyrounded system that will put the exclamation mark on any carefully-designed kit plane, stunt bird or racer. But it’s not the be-all and end-all of Thunderbolts, because there is another step up - and it’s a big one. The Competition Series are the type used by the professionals, so when you watch the Red Bull Air Race, these are the ones you’re seeing. Obviously, that means that they’re only for highly advanced and incredibly skilled pilots who can harness their unbridled power and make the most of all the fancy features. These engines operate far beyond the norm in power and performance, and for this reason they don’t carry a warranty. We can’t stress enough that these are
MAY 2018 49
After all, if they can handle the rigours of the Red Bull Air Race, Thunderbolts can handle anything.
MEMOIRS OF A WWII BEAUFORT PILOT
BOGEY BEAUFORTS TO CITY BOY
BORN AND RAISED IN COUNTRY NSW AND DESTINED TO A LIFE OF LABOUR DUE TO HIS BASIC EDUCATION, COLIN HOBSON RECEIVED THE SHOCK OF HIS LIFE WHEN HE WAS DRAFTED INTO THE RAAF AS A PILOT DURING WORLD WAR II. TO THIS DAY, COLIN BELIEVES THE AUTHORITIES MADE A MISTAKE BECAUSE “LABOURERS WEREN’T MEANT TO BE PILOTS”. BUT DESPITE HIS DOUBTS, COLIN MADE THE MOST OF THE OPPORTUNITY AND FLEW BEAUFORTS IN THE PACIFIC WAR FOR FIVE YEARS, A PERIOD IN WHICH HE DISCOVERED MATESHIP AND RESPECT FOR AN AIRCRAFT THAT HE BELIEVES CONTRIBUTED MORE THAN ANY OTHER, TO THE SAVING OF THE NATION. VOLUNTEERING AND TRAINING WORDS COLIN HOBSON
a fine young Australian not yet 21-years-old
When a very good mate and I volunteered for service, Pearl Harbour was six months away in the future. Britain and Russia were standing alone against the mighty German Nazi military machine and the situation over there was grim to say the least. Out here in Australia every male up to a certain age had to register for possible National Service (which could be military or civil). My friend and I both being involved in farming activities were deemed to be in what was known as a ‘reserved occupation’ (food production) and it required some persuasive argument to gain acceptance for service in the RAAF. 50 MAY 2018
The first phase of Air Crew Training School where all potential pilots, navigators and wireless air gunners were brought together for ground instruction was known as Initial Training School (ITS). At the end of the course an exam was given and an assessment was made of each trainee prior to selection for appropriate training (as pilot, navigator, etc.). At this stage my friend and I parted company. I was to stay in Australia for training while my mate’s destination was Britain and the heavy bombers. He was killed when his Lancaster was shot down over Hamburg on his first raid. He was a fine young Australian not yet 21-years-old. The second phase of training for pilots was elementary training and the De Havilland Tiger Moth was used extensively for this purpose. While accidents did occur they were minimal because the Tiger Moth was a very stable aeroplane. The first flight for pupils with an instructor was called an Air Experience Flight and instructors were under orders not to carry out any violent manoeuvres, an instruction they took delight in ignoring with the consequence that many would-be pilots (including the writer) had to wonder whether they wanted to be pilots at all. Some instructors (including mine) had a perverse sense of humour and carried out every aerobatic manoeuvre of which a Tiger Moth was capable. I only remember one serious accident during my time at the Elementary Flight Training School - a pupil was killed when he stalled a Tiger Moth on a gliding turn (one of the few things one did not do in a Tiger), spun and crashed. I recall a bit of excitement one day when our engine failed at an altitude of 4,000 feet, making a reality of forced landing practice flying with an Instructor. After a few moments of mild panic we finished up landing in a farmer’s paddock right in MAY 2018 51
the middle of a mob of sheep. All in all though I spent a more or less uneventful few months at the EFTS prior to moving on to the third phase of training which was the Service Training School and in my case was learning to fly multi-engined aeroplanes. For me SFTS meant flying Avro Ansons and just as the Beauforts were called “Bogey Beauforts” the Ansons were known as “Gentle Annies” due to their total lack of any dangerous flying characteristics and could be relied on to forgive many a mistake committed by a trainee, a virtue not shared by the Beauforts. This was to prove a disadvantage when moving on to Beauforts and it was eventually recognised that the transition from a relatively safe aeroplane such as the Anson to a high performance aeroplane such as the Beaufort was for many too big a step. Undoubtedly this was to prove a contributing factor in the abnormally high loss rate amongst the Beauforts in the early days.
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Too slow, cumbersome and frail for front line service, Ansons were ideal for the many duties they were called upon to perform, chief of which was their use as a multi-engined trainer. One not so endearing feature however, was the necessity to pump down the flaps on the few occasions it was necessary to use them and to wind the wheels down and up by hand. Some trainee pilots with a natural flying ability did qualify at the first attempt, but when it was suspected there could be a correlation between the inexperience of the trainees and the horrendous losses being sustained by the Beauforts, a system was adopted whereby pupil pilots were given a few hours on the Beauforts and if the instructors thought they were having difficulties they were taken off the course to be given extra flying experience as staff pilots before eventually resuming their training on the Beauforts. Desperate situations require desperate measures. Air power was shaping up to be a major factor in winning or losing World War Two. Various types of operational aircraft were coming off the assembly lines on both sides so that providing air crews was a problem. For trainee pilots, particularly in the larger aircraft, this lack of time was a double edged sword so to speak. Not only were pilots denied the extra experience of serving as second pilots, but when taking charge of an operational aircraft at the completion of their training they were denied the assistance which could have been provided by having a second pilot. It is worth mentioning that a Beaufort had the same type of engine (and the Australian-built Beauforts had exactly the same engines) as the famous civil DC3s or Dakotas as they were known in the RAAF ... same dials, gauges, switches, levers and a few the DC3s did not have. Where the DC3s had a pilot, co-pilot and an automatic pilot the Beauforts had only the one pilot. The training program described did provide the numbers required MAY 2018 53
accidents assumed frightening proportions
MEMOIRS OF A WWII BEAUFORT PILOT
but it also created a situation where most crews in their training and also in their early operational flying days were frequently called upon to handle conditions for which they had neither the qualifications nor the experience. Without doubt, this policy of rushing the crews through their operational training did contribute to the losses sustained. While British aircraft were mostly flown by one pilot it has to be said that most American aircraft from medium bombers to the heavies had two pilots. In a foreword to the book “Always Ready” written and published by the RAAF, Air Commodore Kingwell states in part: “The Second World War saw the rapid expansion of the RAAF, particularly in East Gippsland ... Bairnsdale, West Sale and East Sale aerodromes all contributing to the War training effort.” Over 3,000 trainees, air crew and ground crew passed through the gates of East Sale and went on to help Australia’s war effort. Sadly, many were killed in flying training accidents because of inexperience and hasty training schedules.
the Ansons were known as “Gentle Annies” due to their total lack of any dangerous flying characteristics
As in the EFTS, accidents in the SFTS were minimal and so it came as a shock to me one day while I was waiting to go out on a first ever formation exercise to learn that two Ansons participating in a similar exercise had just collided and crashed, killing all five occupants. Even the Instructors were affected and the next exercise was more in the nature of two planes flying in the same direction than two planes in formation. But such happenings could in no way be allowed to affect the flying schedules. With a busy training program at SFTS the time went quickly and, for a few weeks at the end of the course when we went on leave to show off our brand new wings, war seemed a long way off.
GENERAL RECONNAISSANCE COURSE The fourth and final phase of training for pilots destined to fly Beauforts was the General Reconnaissance course initially being conducted at Cressy in Victoria. As the Beaufort was classified as a General Reconnaissance/Torpedo Bomber, the reconnaissance training was carried out prior to the posting for conversion to Beauforts. This reconnaissance training was a twelve-week crash course during which pilots flew only as navigators in Ansons flown by staff pilots. Most of the Dead Reckoning exercises as they came to be known were over the sea. Maritime Reconnaissance, anti-submarine patrols and shipping strikes were proving to be an important part of the Beaufort squadron’s activities and with a lack of radio beacons in most of the 54 MAY 2018
areas where squadrons were or would be operating, dead reckoning navigation experience was absolutely essential for Beaufort crews. Accurate navigation under the frequently difficult circumstances encountered called for close co-operation between pilot and crew and it was essential for each member of the crew to perform the particular job for which they had been trained. As the pilot was in charge it was necessary for him to have an intimate knowledge of what was happening in other parts of the aeroplane at all times and there was no better way of achieving this than for pilots to actually work in the different crew positions - briefly, in the case of wireless operators and gunners but a much longer and complex training period in the navigator’s office. To provide realistic conditions for dead reckoning navigation, most exercises were at sea where there were seldom any landmarks to provide bearings, and wireless assistance (if available) was forbidden. In later descriptions of actual situations faced, it is clear the training being provided was aimed at producing crews capable of finding their way by day or by night, in any weather, without wireless assistance to any nominated point, which in many cases would be nothing more than a position of latitude and longitude on a map. Since it takes years to train a civil airline pilot to take command as captain (generally flying the same scheduled routes day in and day out, mostly within range of radio and radar beacons) the 12 week operational training time allowed to train Beaufort crews was totally inadequate and was doubtless a major factor in the high accident rate at the Operational Training Unit. This, combined with the problem of mechanical failure experienced by many.
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MEMOIRS OF A WWII BEAUFORT PILOT
pilot and navigator both placed their feet against the instrument panel and pulled back on both control columns with all the strength they could muster
Beauforts in the early days, provided some justification for their description as “Killer Beauforts”. The harsh reality was that to achieve the quota of crews to keep the operational squadrons at full strength, the loss of aircraft and airmens’ lives was a secondary consideration to the filling of these quotas. The philosophy behind pilot training (deliberate or not) was to allow pilots to face situations they were neither qualified nor experienced to handle. The theory behind this was that in a survival situation a pilot could on many occasions learn the correct way to handle a particular situation in a very short space of time (a lesson which could take months by normal training methods). It would be interesting to know just how many pilots did not survive because they were unable to cope with one of the many such situations they had to face. It is generally recognised that in World War Two there was a very high percentage of training casualties. In some cases more aircraft were lost in training than were lost in operations. The Australian-built Beaufort was one aircraft which had this dubious honour as shown by the following figures in a book “Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service” by Stewart Wilson. Included in the book is a list giving the delivery dates and fate of all those aircraft. The figures given were – Outside Australia (Operations) 142 Inside Australia (Training, etc.) 157 While the training and other accidents within Australia occurred from the time the Beauforts first went into service until the end of the war, there was a critical period at Bairnsdale and East Sale when the losses took on frightening proportions with a bad affect on morale. Although efforts were made to play this down and keep it quiet, it was inevitable that knowledge filtered through to the many establishments connected with Air Force training. With each Beaufort costing the Australian taxpayer over two and a half million dollars (2007 inflated figures) to build, it was a cause of major concern for the government. For this reason (as well as the security angle) attempts were made 56 MAY 2018
to keep the truth as quiet as possible. A direct result of this was the circulation of rumours in the Service training units where the trainees would be aware they could be posted for training on Beauforts. While many of these rumours had substance, it was inevitable that some exaggerations should creep in and the “flying coffins” reputation of the Beauforts was familiar to potential Beaufort crews months before being posted to the Operational Training School. It was common knowledge that some trainee air crew who were fortunate enough to have a parent or parents in positions of influence were not above trying to have a few strings pulled to arrange a posting to a less hazardous unit. The introduction to the book “Always Ready – a brief history of the RAAF Base at East Sale” has a paragraph which says in part: “This book commemorates the Base’s 50 golden years. In these few pages we have attempted to give the reader an insight into the development of the Base and more importantly an appreciation of the people who have served their country within its gates. Not all who entered left. Many remain here the result of tragic accidents and misadventure.” While accidents involving the Beauforts occurred right through their entire operational period with the Operational Training Unit as a direct result of the type of training necessary, there was a crucial sixteen month period from July 1942 to October 1943 when these accidents assumed frightening proportions. Hardly a week went by without a serious incident. An Advisory War Council meeting was convened on 10th November 1943 to discuss possible causes for the losses being sustained. The Minister for Air at that time advised that 140 Beauforts had been involved in accidents during the 16 month period, and that most had been fatal. A disturbing feature was that many of these accidents had no obvious explanation with no reliable eye witness accounts to provide clues to any possible cause. Having spent 12 months of this 16 month period at Bairnsdale and East Sale as a staff pilot on Oxfords and Battles, and on the Beaufort course, I can recall many mates who entered the gates but did not leave. The first positive clues to a possible cause were provided in September 1943 when Beaufort A9-303, flying the downwind leg in the circuit area at East Sale, suddenly dropped its nose MAY 2018 57
MEMOIRS OF A WWII BEAUFORT PILOT and dived into a swamp from a height of 1,500 feet all in the space of about eight seconds. I was flying another aircraft at the same height about half a mile away and became the first reliable witness to provide information with the potential to explain the unexplainable accidents. The incident could only have been explained by mechanical failure which was almost certainly an elevator problem. This was regarded with interest and recorded at a Court of Inquiry a week or two later.
accidents assumed frightening proportions
On 5th November 1943 the Commanding Officer of the Beaufighter Operational Training Unit at Tocumwal was flying a dual control Beaufort A-9 415 from Tocumwal to Bankstown airport. About fifty miles from Bankstown the aircraft became nose heavy and began to pitch violently fore and aft. Being in the hands of a very experienced pilot who presumably had knowledge of the clues provided by the crash of A9-303 in the previous September which pointed to an elevator problem, the pilot and navigator both placed their feet against the instrument panel and pulled back on both control columns with all the strength they could muster. By reducing speed to the safest minimum they were just able to prevent the aeroplane from plunging to earth in an uncontrollable nose dive. Reaching Bankstown a wheels-up belly landing was carried out. No casualties were sustained and the aeroplane was substantially intact. Inspection of the elevator revealed a tiny bolt securing the trim tab to the control cable had failed. The official RAAF finding and the explanation of the mystery crashes was the failure of Spindle Part No. Z5083 securing the trim tab. All Beauforts were inspected and modified immediately and losses sustained after that time were more in line with what could be expected given the demanding nature of the training schedule. A counter claim that the cause of these crashes was the leakage of carbon monoxide gas finding its way inside the wing from the exhaust system had been circulating but this was totally rejected by the RAAF. In the case of A9-303 (as witnessed by me) it was absolutely impossible for a Beaufort to crash in the manner described had the pilot been overcome by fumes as the aeroplane would have been flying in an erratic pattern prior to a more gradual initial descent. Another claim put forward about possible sabotage was never given serious consideration. Other causes such as pilot fatigue and inexperience could not be ruled out and were quite definitely major factors in the losses suffered.
58 MAY 2018
There was a popular saying in the Air Force that when a pilot had logged a hundred hours he considered he knew it all, but when he had logged a thousand hours he began to realise how little he really knew! Completion of EFTS, SFTS and General Reconnaissance courses saw the trainee pilot with a couple of hundred hours in the log book and the proud owner of a new set of Wings. A posting to the Operational Unit to learn to fly Beauforts was a timely reminder that there was a war on and there was still an awful lot of learning ahead.
MAY 2018 59
The above feature is the second of a series of exerpts being exclusively published by Aviator, taken from Colin Hobson’s book, “Bogey Beauforts to City Boy, Memoirs of a WWII Beaufort Pilot”.
JSM IS THE 5TH GENERATION LONGRANGE PRECISION STRIKE MISSILE THAT WILL BE INTEGRATED FOR INTERNAL CARRIAGE ON THE F-35
STEALTH HEALTH AUSTRALIA HAS SIGNED UP FOR THE FASTEST IMPLEMENTATION OF THE INCOMING F-35A JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER AMONGST ALL THE CLIENT COUNTRIES OF THE AMERICAN-LED PROJECT. HOWEVER, NEWS FROM STATESIDE IS THAT THERE’S STILL NO FINISH LINE IN SIGHT FOR THE F-35 PROGRAMME.
WORDS DAN GRAZIER
thin-skinned and highly flammable
im Roche, then-secretary of the U.S. Air Force, made an announcement on October 26th, 2001 that all aviation enthusiasts had been waiting for. A winner had been picked to design and build the Joint Strike Fighter. Armed forces were assured the new jet would enter service in 2008 and be a high-performance replacement for the military’s ageing airframes while only costing between $40 million and $50 million. The F-35 has now entered an unprecedented seventeenth year of continuing redesign, test deficiencies, fixes, schedule slippages and cost overruns. And it’s still not at the finish line. Numerous missteps along the way—from the fact that the two competing contractors, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, submitted “flyoff” planes that were crude and undeveloped “technology demonstrators” rather than following the better practice of submitting fully functional prototypes, to concurrent acquisition malpractice that has prevented design flaws from being discovered until after production models were built—have led to where we are now. According to the latest annual report from the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, 263 “high priority” performance and safety deficiencies remain unresolved and unaddressed, and the developmental tests—essentially, the laboratory tests—are far from complete. If they complete the tests, more deficiencies will surely be found that must be addressed before the plane can safely carry airmen and women into combat. Despite this, the F-35 Joint Programme Office now intends to call—quite arbitrarily—an end to the plane’s development phase and developmental testing. Instead of completing the presently planned development work, the Programme Office is now proposing to substitute a vaguely defined F-35 upgrade programme called “continuous capability development and delivery.” The DOT&E report states flatly that this plan, as proposed, is “not executable due to inadequate test resources” in the rapid timelines proposed. 60 MAY 2018
AUSTRALIA F-35 ROLLOUT
F 35B'S AIM 120 AMRAAM MISSILES
It doesn’t require inside information to understand that the proposed plan is just a way to hide major development delays and cost overruns while facilitating increased annual production buys of incompletely developed F-35s. Twentythree fully designed, fully combat-capable F-35s are supposed to begin the allimportant—and more rigorous—operational testing before the end of 2018, yet it is impossible to fix the 263 known Priority 1 and 2 deficiencies in time to meet that schedule.
This clearly doesn’t bother senior Pentagon officials who are pushing to move forward with production despite the unresolved deficiencies. Already, 235 of the deficiency-ridden aircraft have been nominally designated “combat ready” and delivered to active Air Force and Marine Corps squadrons. The consequences of this plan for safety and effective tactics in operational unit training, let alone combat, are unknown. Defence Department officials who approved cutting short the F-35’s development phase should, and hopefully will, be held accountable when the inevitable consequences in safety, combat effectiveness, and cost overruns emerge.
In September 2016 then-US Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James certified to Congress that the F-35As to be delivered in fiscal year 2018 would have full combat capabilities. James was referring to the Block 3F aircraft to be produced this year. But according to the DOT&E report, the current muchdelayed testing schedule means that won’t be possible—they’re not even close to combat-ready. Left unsaid in the report is the uncomfortable fact that the 359 F-35s funded before 2018 are also lacking combat capability.
As initially advertised, and throughout the programme’s development, pundits have been told this exorbitantly costly system is necessary to combat advanced future threats. However, testing results show that the planes already delivered cannot even effectively address the current threats. That’s a problem.
The F-35 contract mandates that it must match or exceed the combat capabilities of legacy aircraft, especially in the air-to-air, deep strike, and close
MAY 2018 61
air support missions. In the crucial close support mission, the venerable and battle-proven A-10 is one of the aircraft the F-35 was designed to replace. As of now, testing shows the F-35 is incapable of performing most of the functions required for an acceptable close support aircraft, functions the A-10 is performing daily in current combat. One of the many deficiencies reported is the F-35’s inability to reliably hit targets with its cannon. The problem is most pronounced with the Air Force’s F-35A, the version of the aircraft that would replace the A-10. This variant has an internally mounted cannon. The F-35B and F-35C both use an externally mounted cannon pod. “Flight testing of the different gun systems on the F-35 (internal gun for F-35A and external gun pods for the F-35B and F-35C) revealed problems with effectiveness, accuracy, pilot controls and gunsights displayed in the Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS),” a footnote in the report states. “The synopsis and assessment of specific HMDS problems are classified.” For example, the testing teams at US Naval Air Weapons Station began conducting air-to-ground tests of the cannon in February 2017, but had to take an extended break when they noticed the sights in the pilot’s Helmet Mounted Display System—the infamous $600,000 helmet—did not
line up properly with the cannon. The paused tests were completed more than six months later in September 2017 after a tentative fix had been installed. But the F-35’s cannon still had an “uncharacterized bias toward long and right of the target,” resulting in pilots “consistently missing ground targets during strafe testing.” Even if the designers are eventually able to fix the sighting problems, the design of the plane itself hinders using the cannon for the close support mission. Effectively employing the cannon requires the aircraft to fly low and close to the target and to survive ground fire, an impossibility for an aircraft as thin-skinned and highly flammable as the F-35. Air Force leaders would have you believe that such deficiencies are minor because shooting targets with a cannon is old-fashioned. They prefer to strike targets from long distances with precision munitions, like the current guided bombs or the yet-to-befielded Small Diameter Bomb II. But troops and ground controllers in daily combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria know differently and understand just how critical to their survival it is to have an aircraft that can place accurate fire on enemy troops close to their positions. 62 MAY 2018
we can’t afford to sustain the F-35
THE VENERABLE AND BATTLE-PROVEN A-10
In the air-to-air mission, the current F-35 is similarly incapable of matching legacy aircraft like the F-15, F-16 and F-22. For long-range aerial engagements using the existing beyond visual range missile, the AIM-120 medium-range airto-air missile, the report notes problems integrating the missile with the aircraft, as well as deficiencies with the control and display system. These problems are severe enough that F-35s armed with AMRAAMs cannot “support” the “kill chain,” or the entire process of destroying a target from detection to evaluating the results of a strike. Even that is not the end of the combat-related deficiencies. All of the combat capabilities in the F-35 depend on the software running the aircraft’s systems. The program has already gone through multiple major software revisions. The Marine Corps declared its first F-35s operational—that is, combat-ready—with version Block 2B software while the Air Force did the same with Block 3i. Both had such limited capabilities that they could not fire guns, short-range air-to-air missiles, or small, close-support-capable guided bombs. Both are to be superseded by the allegedly “fully combat capable” Block 3F software. This latter version is just now entering the fleet, yet its design and testing are still far from complete; it has already received myriad patches, and problems are still being discovered. In October 2017, the programme released version 3FR6.32, the 31st version of Block 3F software. Important deficiencies remain. The aircraft’s earlier block 2B software version did not allow the pilot to confirm target coordinates sent to the plane’s guided bombs. The new Block 3F “fully combat capable” software allows the pilot to see what coordinates he sent to the weapons, but not the coordinates that are actually loaded into the bomb. Without being able to confirm that the coordinates are properly entered into the weapon, it is impossible to be sure it will guide to the intended target. The rules of engagement in combat zones often require pilots to fully confirm to the ground controller that the guided weapon is loaded with the correct target coordinates before firing—an essential precaution to prevent friendly-fire casualties. Another problem the F-35 has in a ground attack role is that its systems in many ways hurt rather than help the pilot gain an accurate picture of the battle scene he is supporting. For an A-10 pilot flying low and slow over the battlefield, this process could be as simple as seeing the friendly troops shooting at a target as the ground controller says, “follow my tracers.” MAY 2018 63
For an aircraft like the F-35, which needs to fly at altitudes generally over 15,000 feet to remain safe from ground fire, this process has to be done through a video downlink where the ground controller establishes a connection with the F-35 and can see the same screen images as the pilot. In situations where A-10 and F-16 pilots need to do the same, they can get an excellent view of the battlefield through the Sniper and LITENING Advanced Targeting Pods mounted to their aircraft, which are currently flying in combat on a daily basis. Pilots flying the F-35 aren’t so fortunate because engineers have not been able to get its video downlink system to work. Instead ground controllers and F-35 pilots at 15,000 feet are forced to try confirming targets by voice radio, a process much hindered by the “poor fidelity” of the images seen through the F-35’s Electro-Optical Targeting System, as reported by DOT&E. The F-35 software also lacks the ability to automatically calculate the time at which a weapon launched from the F-35 will impact the target, something the legacy systems are able to do. Ground forces need to know the “time on target” to properly plan a combined arms artillery-air attack or to take cover when calling for “danger close” support strikes. Artillery, mortars and aircraft have to be deconflicted in both time and space
maintenance problems with the F-35 are deeply buried in the design so that artillery rounds do not strike the aircraft as they fly over the battlefield. Artillery fire suppression missions have to be timed to prevent enemy anti-aircraft fire against the attacking close support planes. Without an accurate TOT calculation, the essential precise timetables can’t be established. “The inability to calculate a TOT limits the ability of the F-35 to participate in [a] complex combined arms environment,” according to the DOT&E. F-35 pilots must instead manually calculate the weapon’s time of flight. This not only increases the pilot’s workload, but also adds to the time it takes to complete an already complicated process. For embattled troops on the ground where every second counts, getting a TOT even a few seconds faster can mean the difference between life and death. The new DOT&E report provided scant information about the F-35’s airto-air capabilities. The report did note that tests were conducted by firing six AIM-120 missiles, but few details of the results beyond those discussed above were provided because the information is classified. DOT&E reported in 2016 that the Programme Office conducted several successful shots with the missile but there were guidance failures on a few tests resulting in failed shots. The 2017 report does state that the tests revealed “key technical deficiencies in the ability of the F-35 to employ the
AIM-120 weapons,” and “[t]he test team discovered several classified missile integration problems as well as pilotidentified with the controls and displays that affected the combat capability of the F-35 to support the kill chain.” The report also says most of the air-to-air testing had to be performed using workarounds to “mitigate limitations induced by outstanding deficiencies that compromised the combat capability of the weapon’s employment.” As reported in the 2016 report, such workarounds included test controllers having to identify or locate air-to-air targets for the attacking F-35, or having to correct F-35 targeting mistakes. Clearly, the AIM-120 AMRAAM is not working in the F-35, but the exact nature and depth of the multiple problems, as well as the cost and time necessary to fix them, remain unknown. 64 MAY 2018
MAY 2018 65
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an unprecedented seventeenth year of continuing redesign
ASSESSING THE F-35’S FIELD PERFORMANCE While there have been numerous problems uncovered during the laboratorybased developmental testing, more than 200 of which remain unresolved, myriad more are sure to be found during operational testing. Operational tests go way beyond determining in a laboratory setting whether a weapon system can meet its design and contract specifications. They assess how well the weapon actually functions in the hands of the typical combat user and under the most realistic field combat conditions possible. In other words, it assesses operational combat suitability. The US Department of Defence defines a suitable weapon system as one that “can be placed and sustained satisfactorily in field use with consideration being given to availability, compatibility, transportability, interoperability, reliability, wartime usage rates, maintainability, safety, human factors, habitability, manpower, logistics supportability, natural environmental effects and impacts, documentation and training requirements.” During developmental tests in 2017, the F-35 program continued to perform below expectations, which does not bode well for the coming operational test process. “Over the previous year, most suitability metrics have remained nearly the same or moved only within narrow bands, which are insufficient to characterize a trend of performance,” the DOT&E report stated. The entire fleet of 235 operationally deployed aircraft was only available and ready to perform all of the F-35’s intended multiple missions 26 percent of the time—that is, 26 percent was the “fully mission capable” rate. MAY 2018 67
Under the much less stringent criterion of being ready to fly just one of its missions, the F-35 fleet showed only 50 percent mission capable rate—a poor result that, disappointingly, hasn’t changed for more than three years and remains below the modest 60 percent single-mission availability-rate goal set by program officials. The bottom line is that even if the F-35 were combateffective in all of its multiple missions, it would be unavailable to deliver that effectiveness when needed in battle three-quarters of the time. The F-35 reliability and maintainability data generated through developmental testing are as bleak as the availability trends. The average flight time between unscheduled maintenance events is 44 to 82 minutes across the three F-35 variants. Time to repair each of these failures is 4.9 to 7.3 average hours. Like availability, the reliability trends show little or no improvement.
maintenance problems with the F-35 are deeply buried in the design These disappointing repair times are roughly two to three times worse than the current approved and contractually required operational requirement thresholds. The Joint Programme Office proposes to solve this major deficiency simply by doubling the allowable repair time threshold for the F-35A and F-35C and increasing it by nearly two and a half times for the F-35B. It is significant that the F-35 program has demonstrated little progress in improving these availability, reliability, and maintainability problems. The 50 percent one-mission availability rate has held steady since October 2014, “despite the increasing number of new aircraft.” Aircraft fresh from the factory with the latest upgrades should not require as much maintenance as early developmental aircraft with untested components. That they do suggests that the maintenance problems with the F-35 are deeply buried in the design, that the manufacturer is incapable of delivering an effective aircraft, or that the programme, even at great expense, is not being adequately managed. Evidence of this last point can be seen with the programme’s inability to provide necessary spare parts. Indeed, the lack of replacement parts for the F-35 is one of the major factors affecting the low availability rates. This problem is aggravated by mismanagement.
According to DOT&E, the “program has been late to stand up organic depot capabilities to repair existing parts that have failed but can be refurbished instead of being replaced with new parts.” This is all part of the much larger problem of the defence contractors building themselves permanently into their programmes’ operations and maintenance budgets by creating a logistics system that only they can support. The Government Accountability Office highlighted the same problem in an October 2017 report that found the services had to wait an average of 172 days for F-35 spare parts through the Lockheed Martin supply chain. 68 MAY 2018
However, like the B-2 and F-22 before it, the inherent and excessive complexity of the F-35 design and its long record of fabrication problems—such as inappropriate insulation in fuel tanks—suggest that the F-35’s availability problems are not limited to just parts availability. The F-35 has often been described as a “flying computer,” and it was intended to operate as part of an extensive network of other aircraft and ground-based systems. Much of its claimed functionality depends on the complex array of sensors that are supposed to gather information from all of the planes in the same flight group to be processed by the computer — called the fusion engine — in each of the planes into a clear picture of the combat situation for all the pilots in that flight. All of this was supposed to reduce the pilot’s workload. The test results show that in multiple cases the opposite is occurring. For example, pilots are supposed to be able to programme mission-specific planning data into an Offboard Mission Support workstation. These data files are then carried out to the flight line to be loaded onto the F-35 with a Portable Memory Device. Pilots have found that it is taking too long to input and transfer mission plans this way, so instead they are choosing to manually enter their plans while sitting in the cockpit. Equally or more burdensome for the pilot are the multiple false targets or false threats being created by the apparently inherent inability of the F-35’s software to merge into one all of the network’s multiple, somewhat inaccurate position reports for any single target or threat. This also creates more work for the pilots as they have to figure out which targets are real and which aren’t, usually by verbally confirming them with other pilots, the very action the sensor fusion system is intended to replace. This increase in workload extends even more seriously to the troubled Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS. This is the massive and complex computer system, owned and operated by Lockheed Martin, that is used for combat mission planning, threat analysis, maintenance diagnosis, parts ordering, maintenance scheduling, and more. DOT&E reports that most of the functions work only with “a high level of manual effort by ALIS administrators and maintenance personnel.” For instance, the automatic diagnostics in the programme continue to falsely report breakdowns on the aircraft, ordering parts that are not needed and forcing maintenance personnel to waste time trying to fix something they believed was broken only to find out that it wasn’t. MAY 2018 69
In addition, the F-35 programme, including ALIS, remains critically vulnerable to cyber threats. The new Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, Robert Behler, a retired Air Force major general who most recently served as Chief Operating Officer of the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute, has made it a priority to fully test the intricately networked system. This will be easier said than done as several testing activities were disrupted in 2017 for reasons like sudden Defence Department policy changes regarding classified equipment security requirements, delayed software deliveries, and “pre-coordination problems” with the contractors administering the ALIS Standard Operating Unit at Edwards Air Force Base. The testing that did occur revealed that several of the severe cyber vulnerabilities identified in previous years still have not been fixed. The report did not detail these vulnerabilities, but DOT&E did provide this pessimistic warning and recommendation. “According to the [Joint Programme Office], the air vehicle is capable of operating for up to 30 days without connectivity to ALIS. In light of current cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities, along with peer and near-peer threats
not even close to combatready
PROVEN LEGACY AIRCRAFT
to bases and communications, the F-35 programme and Services should conduct testing of aircraft operations without access to ALIS for extended periods of time.”
such as ejection seats that aren’t safe for pilots of all sizes, identifying the cause of hypoxia physiological incidents that a growing number of pilots are experiencing, production line quality lapses, speed and manoeuvring restrictions, deficiencies in the helmet display and night vision camera and restrictions in air refuelling for the F-35B and F-35C.
DOT&E is signalling their pessimism that ALIS will actually be able to effectively support F-35 combat operations long-term either because it is hacked, or because it simply will not work as intended. This statement says the programme office should find a way to fly the F-35 without using ALIS at all.
It is for these and several hundred other reasons like them that Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition and Sustainment, said we can’t afford to sustain the F-35. DOT&E recommends that the Programme Office review the available reliability and maintenance data from the testing process and field operations to obtain a realistic sustainment cost estimate that is based on actual operating data instead of relying on the current optimistic and unsupported estimates of the F-35’s operating costs.
The F-35 programme is also having difficulties with the seemingly mundane. For example, engineers have struggled to build a proper tyre for the Marine Corps’ F-35B. The short-takeoff, vertical landing variant does present unique challenges for the programme: the tyres on the F-35B need to be soft enough to provide cushioning during vertical landings, strong enough for high-speed landings on a conventional runway, and light enough to fit the aircraft’s tight weight limits.
Congress should get involved and mandate just such a review. Indeed, an inherently complex system like the F-35 may require a higher cost to sustain in the future—well beyond current estimates. It’s easy to see why the military reform movement advocates so strongly against overly complex weapon systems. In addition to making weapons unaffordable and decades late in meeting threats, excessive complexity adds extra friction to the inherent chaos of the battlefield. Facing such overwhelming combat pressures, the last things troops need are additional workloads, uncertainties, delays and maintenance burdens that should have been tested and engineered out of their weapon systems long before being sent to combat. Even worse is to undermine long-term combat effectiveness, training, and readiness by issuing conveniently optimistic cost and suitability guesstimates to serve short term political goals.
The tyres are also required to be good for at least 25 conventional landings. So far, the average F-35B tyre has only lasted 10 landings before it must be replaced. Each tyre costs around $1,500. Unless a better tyre can be developed, the Marine Corps will spend approximately $300 per flight hour just for replacements. With an expected lifetime of 8,000 flight hours, taxpayers will spend approximately $2.4 million on tyres for each and every F-35B.
While DOT&E’s report shows that there are still significant problems with the design and function of the F-35, it also reveals a disturbing pattern by the Pentagon, undermining the critical operational tests and test facilities that might reveal major F-35 combat deficiencies.
There are numerous other problems that need to be resolved,
In the case of the F-35 program, the approved TEMP calls for a fleet of 23 production-representative and properly instrumented operational testing aircraft.
Part of every Major Defence Acquisition Program is the creation of a Test and Evaluation Masterplan, a document that details all of the developmental and operational testing events, their objectives, and the material requirements to conduct them. This includes the number of production-representative aircraft and the facilities needed to complete the operational testing process. The details of the TEMP are established by the programme’s management office and must be approved by the Pentagon’s developmental and operational testing directors.
70 MAY 2018
F-35 TRAINING SYSTEM
The aircraft designated for testing were produced in Lots 3 through 5 in the 2010to-2012 time frame. In the intervening years, fixes to correct the deficiencies uncovered during developmental testing have resulted in an F-35 design that has changed significantly: the originally produced test aircraft are no longer production-representative.
A prime example of the programme office’s delaying tactics can be seen in a small facility at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida called the United States Reprogramming Laboratory.
DOT&E reports that some of the designated test aircraft are in need of as many as 155 modifications to become production-representative. Programme and Lockheed Martin officials have acknowledged the problem for years, yet have approved schedules and budgets that make it impossible to complete all the necessary modifications before the much-delayed start of the F-35’s combat trials, known as Initial Operational Test & Evaluation, now set to begin by the end of August 2018 at the earliest.
Separate Mission Data Loads have to be created to fit the specifics of each potential combat theatre. Further, they have to be updated rapidly whenever new intelligence arrives or when the threat and the combat scenario change. Without up-to-date, well-verified MDLs, the F-35’s systems will not be able to properly find and attack targets or evade threats. These MDLs are created at the Reprogramming Lab.
DOT&E first reported the modification bottleneck in 2014. Rather than taking the necessary steps to correct the situation, Lockheed Martin and the Joint Programme Office seemed to prefer that operational testing be constrained to a much narrower and less realistic scope by a much smaller fleet of available operational test aircraft. The realism and scope of the operational tests will shrink even further because the F-35 program has been slow to fund and build essential range facilities, threatsimulating emitters, and high-fidelity simulators for large formation combat, as will be seen below.
Much of the F-35’s promised stealth capability depends on the F-35 computer system calculating optimal flight paths through the enemy’s defence array of radars, SAM missiles and airborne fighters. The calculations depend on huge files of threat maps, threat electronic signals, and information about threat missiles, as well as data about F-35 and other friendly systems. These massive files are called Mission Data Loads.
DOT&E has repeatedly reported on the lab’s shortfalls and inordinate lead times in creating these files. It takes up to 15 months to create and validate each of these files, and a minimum of six files are needed, one for each major combat theatre where F-35s might be deployed plus one specifically for the operational test range environment. Because each threat country’s military operates with different equipment, more than five combat theatre files may well prove necessary. Based on the estimate provided by DOT&E, the Reprogramming Lab may not even be able to provide the operational test MDL before the end of calendar year 2018, four months after the presently promised start of IOT&E. Unfortunately, despite DOT&E’s repeated warnings regarding shortfalls with the Lab, officials in the Programme Office have not invested enough resources in it. As a result, the Lab lacks effective capability and is late in delivering the much-needed Mission Data Loads, both for the IOT&E and for actual F-35 deployments. To be fully effective, the MDLs must be verified and tested frequently. “[T]he Department must have a reprogramming lab that is capable of rapidly creating, testing, and optimising MDLs, as well as verifying their functionality under stressing conditions representative of real-world scenarios.” Testing the MDLs requires special electronics called threat emitters that generate signals mimicking the kind of radar, missile guidance and other threat equipment the F-35 may encounter in a combat zone. DOT&E reports that the Reprogramming Lab does not have enough of these emitters to simulate arrays of anti-aircraft threats a potential adversary would have. Without the necessary equipment, the 72 MAY 2018
Reprogramming Lab will not be able to properly test the F-35’s electronic warfare systems to ensure “adequate performance against current and future threats.” The Department of Defence identified these shortfalls in 2012 and appropriated $45 million in the 2014 and 2015 budgets to fill them. As of now, the Joint Programme Office and Lockheed Martin have yet to complete the necessary funding or even contract all the necessary signal generators to fully flesh out the Reprogramming Lab’s capabilities. If and when they do get around to doing this, DOT&E cautions that their current plans will not get the job done. “Even after the installation and certification of the new configuration, the lab will still lack a sufficient number of signal generators to simulate a realistic, dense threat laydown with the multiple modern surface-to-air missiles, combat aircraft and many supporting air defence radars that make up such a laydown.” The Lab’s work creating the data files is also impacting another key component of the testing program — the Joint Simulation Environment. The JSE is intended to be an ultra-realistic flight simulation facility consisting of multiple high-fidelity F-35 cockpit simulators and manned enemy and friendly control stations so pilots can simulate “flying” in realistically large formations against pilots “flying” enemy aircraft, missile controllers operating virtual threats, and radar operators. Unlike other flight simulators that are programmed to do what the manufacturer says the aircraft can do, the JSE is required to be a validated simulator, meaning the performance of the virtual F-35 in the simulation has been verified against the measured performance of real instrumented F-35s over the same flight paths, manoeuvres, and weapons launches. Programmers for the JSE need data from approximately 100 real-world F-35 flights through test ranges equipped with signal emitters. These flights will gather data about radar performance, weapons trajectories, and how the F-35’s onboard sensors respond to ground and air threats. But the Joint Programme Office has been slow to purchase those emitters. Accurately collecting the necessary data and properly programming the simulation is a vital part of the F-35 operational testing process, and the emitters are a critical part of that process. From the very beginning of the programme, officials have known that the only way to test four- and eight-ship flights of F-35s realistically against the kind of threat arrays it was being designed to defeat is with a high-fidelity simulator. No test range can properly replicate the full numbers and types of anti-aircraft defences a sophisticated adversary would employ to shoot down the F-35—nor can the F-35 OT&E test fleet launch enough F-35s at any one time to test large formation MAY 2018 73
an essential precaution to prevent friendlyfire casualties
the difference between life and death
F-35 attacks — especially not in view of the F-35’s 26-percent full-mission availability. The Programme Office’s foot-dragging on purchasing the signal emitters is hardly the first such instance with this part of the operational test program. The JSE is the programme’s second high-fidelity simulation facility design. The programme office cancelled the first, called the Verification Simulator, after that project had fallen hopelessly behind. Amazingly enough, the programme office had contracted Lockheed Martin to build the VSim. That meant the prime contractor of the F-35 would have built and manned the facility that would produce the data decisionmakers would use to determine the combat suitability and contractual future of the programme. The students would have literally written their own final exams. Yet despite having 14 years to build the facility, Lockheed Martin fell behind and then asked for overrun funding to fix their failure to deliver. Finally, the programme office cancelled Lockheed Martin’s contract and made a fresh start of the simulation project by contracting with a Navy facility that had no prior experience with such large-scale simulations. While the decision to shift responsibility for the simulator appears to be the correct one, starting over again greatly exacerbated the already disastrous schedule slips. The program office originally expected to have the Joint Simulation Environment completed by the end of 2017, but DOT&E reports it will likely not be fully accredited before late 2019—the currently promised end of the initial operational testing schedule. While the government’s physical facility with cockpits, computer servers, and visuals is reportedly nearing completion, the virtual environment with the terrain, threat, and targets is not. This is especially true with the basic software simulation model for F-35 performance because Lockheed Martin has not yet provided the data the JSE programmers need to complete the simulation for the virtual terrain, threat, and targets. The delay is allegedly because of “contractual difficulties.” Defenders of the F-35 programme usually cite the plane’s supposed unique ability to handle complex threats as the main justification for the massive costs. Without the ability to properly realistically test these complex threat capabilities, DOT&E states, we will be putting pilots’ lives in danger when we send F-35s into combat. Right now, it is extremely difficult to believe the full F-35 system will be ready to start a valid, realistic IOT&E process as early as is currently scheduled. The new DOT&E is undoubtedly under great pressure from F-35 programme advocates to start IOT&E quickly and to compromise the scope and realism of the F-35’s operational test in whatever way necessary to avoid delays ramping up the F-35 buy. If he does stand firm, will “business as usual” prevail anyway? The new DOT&E may find himself overruled by high-ranking defenders of continuing concurrency and malpractice in the Pentagon’s acquisition bureaucracy. 74 MAY 2018
If the defenders of the status quo prevail and force premature operational tests that are far less realistic than was agreed to in the TEMP, it will be interesting to see whether the new DOT&E’s future reports certify that the testing was adequate to reliably assess F-35 combat suitability. If his reports do certify the adequacy of the testing, it will then be interesting to see whether they go on to confirm the F-35’s suitability for combat.
CONCURRENCY ISSUES The new annual DOT&E report reveals details about a dominant component of the F-35’s 17 years of acquisition malpractice: its high level of concurrency. Concurrency is a term for the deliberate overlap of development, testing, and production in an acquisition programme. The US Government Accountability Office has identified this as one of the single biggest drivers of cost and schedule growth in the F-35 programme. The GAO also identifies concurrency as a root cause of many of the F-35’s performance shortfalls. While the problems with concurrency have been well understood in broad terms, we are now beginning to see the details of how the rush to buy F-35s impacts the development and testing process. One of the biggest dangers of rushing hundreds of aircraft into production with an immature design is that they will later have to be retrofitted and retested with the revised design fixes that overcome discovered problems. This is an expensive and time-consuming process, especially considering that the aircraft being fixed were already purchased at full price and that reworking them will result in additional costs that would otherwise not have been incurred. Concerns over these very large concurrency costs prompted Air Force leaders to float the idea of leaving 108 F-35s purchased early in the programme in their immature state, which could have left taxpayers with $21 billion to $40 billion worth of “concurrency orphans”—aircraft that were paid for but are unsuitable for combat. The US Air Force has since backed off from this embarrassing stance. As mentioned earlier, the operational testing process requires 23 aircraft. Modifications to bring the test fleet up to date have dragged on for years and will not be complete before the IOT&E process is scheduled to begin. One of the reasons for this delay is that a few of the operational test aircraft have been pulled to supplement the developmental test fleet to help test the fixes for the ever-growing number of test-discovered design deficiencies. Yet during this time, the programme produced 235 new aircraft to send to squadrons in the operational force. At the very least, this gives the impression that officials are prioritising buying underdeveloped aircraft needing fixes to send to the fleet. The priority should be completing the design and the developmental tests. Despite the public relations pronouncements that the F-35 has achieved “Initial MAY 2018 75
thin-skinned and highly flammable
LOCKHEED MARTIN F-35 LIGHTNING II 11 TOP SECRET AIRPLANES
a lack of spare parts
Operational Capability,” the programme is actually still in the Low Rate Initial Production phase. The three main purposes of LRIP is to complete manufacturing development, build an adequate number of vehicles for testing purposes, and demonstrate their producibility. Per the Defence Department’s acquisition instructions, “LRIP quantities will be the minimum needed to provide production representative test articles for operational test and evaluation (OT&E) (as determined by DOT&E for MDAPS or special interest programs), to establish an initial production base for the system and provide efficient ramp up to full-rate production, and to maintain continuity in production pending completion of operational testing.” In at least one respect, the program appears to be failing to meet the LRIP criteria, in that the production base has so far fallen short. The programme’s current low availability rates are a direct result of the rush to get the aircraft out to the fleet. In that rush, the fact that the design was still immature and deficiency-ridden was ignored. Many factors impact the availability rate of an aircraft fleet, including maintenance downtime and aircraft-in-depot status for modifications or major repairs. The DOT&E reports that the single biggest reason behind the F-35’s poor availability rate is a lack of spare parts, and that programme officials made overly optimistic forecasts about the kinds and numbers of replacement parts. The programme had designed a stock of spare parts based on how reliable it hoped the F-35 would be rather than on actual flight data and experience. Had the programme completed the design and testing process before moving into large-scale production, leaders would have gathered the necessary maintenance data to order adequate parts for the fleet. On average in 2017, 21 percent of F-35s were non-mission-capable because they were waiting for replacement parts that had not been bought and stocked. The concurrency problem will only be compounded as more and more aircraft are produced. The services will receive 90 new F-35s in 2018. The testing office warns of the folly of a concurrent procurement strategy in these terms. 76 MAY 2018
F-35 GEN III HELMET MOUNTED DISPLAY SYSTEM
“IOT&E, which provides the most credible means to predict combat performance, likely will not be completed until the end of 2019, at which point over 600 aircraft will already have been built.” The GAO has reported that the known costs to retrofit all the F-35s that had then been purchased up to 2017 would total nearly $1.77 billion, almost certainly a large underestimate. As more and more aircraft are purchased and the testing process reveals more and more design flaws that need fixing, these costs will only rise. The 2017 DOT&E report shows that after 17 years the Joint Strike Fighter Programme is still falling far short of combat effectiveness expectations while it continues to experience painful schedule slippages and major cost increases. Politicians need to reconsider its plans to accelerate the funnelling of money into increased production of still more untested and incompletely developed F-35s— at least until the approved developmental testing phase has been funded and completed. The Joint Programme Office’s proposal to substitute a “continuous capability development and delivery” phase, which is now expected to cost at least $16 billion, needs to be rejected. Instead, the complete testing program agreed to between the Programme Office and DOT&E must be carried out before the next stage—IOT&E—is begun. Throughout the process, accurate and objective assessments of the tests and their results must be reported honestly as has been the case this year and at least since 2001. The pressure from the Pentagon and Congress, both of which have advocated increased rather than decreased concurrency, to continue protecting “acquisition malpractice” is clearly building. How ironic it is that officials and politicians who sell themselves as advocates of “fly before you buy” are, in fact, approving and funding the exact opposite. When the complete F-35 programme history is written, those who favoured political expediency over integrity and improving Allied defences should be forever named and shamed accordingly. MAY 2018 77
Despite all of the effort, time, and money—17 years and over $133 billion—spent to date on the F-35 programme, it is doubtful it will ever live up to the lavish promises made all those years ago when the Defence Department committed to the program. Hidden within the pages of the DOT&E report is this litotic summation. “Finally and most importantly, the programme will likely deliver Block 3F [the untested, allegedly “fully combatcapable” F-35 model now entering production] to the field with shortfalls in capabilities the F-35 needs in combat against current threats.”
rushing hundreds of aircraft into production with an immature design
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The May issue is out now. Packed with features, news and reviews, our main feature looks at the F-35 Lightning Programme and examines all th...
Published on May 1, 2018
The May issue is out now. Packed with features, news and reviews, our main feature looks at the F-35 Lightning Programme and examines all th...