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SUMMER READING ISSUE

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No.356 JAN-FEB 2018 AU $11.95 NZ $12.50

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LIGHTNING BOLT 2018, year of the F-35


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Contents

‘Australia... would benefit most from supersonic.’ BLAKE SCHOLL p36

28 To the future

Boom and the rebirth of the supersonic airliner p36

The RAAF fighter force prepares to transition to the F-35.

40 A racer’s edge

Matt Hall Racing’s season of transition.

48 Biz jet set

Life as a corporate jet pilot.

52 Interstellar

The Voyager 1 space probe is at the very edge of human exploration.

56 Flying happy

VietJet’s visionary leader.

60 Bravo Zulu

Navy farewells the Seahawk ‘Bravo’ and ‘Battle Budgie’ Squirrel.

68 Out of the ashes

Airliners and volcanic ash don’t mix.

The art and science of an F/A-18 Hornet display p88

72 A proud tradition

Flying the King Air 350i.

78 Emerging giant

The ambitious Qatar Airways.

84 BNE-feat

Brisbane’s new parallel runway.

94 Disruptive power

Electric-powered regional jets are on their way.

100 Drone wars

FPV drone racing takes off.

104 Bits and blocks

Blockchain poised to transform the backend of commercial aviation.

116 AAPC 2017

The Australasian Aviation Press Club awards.

Our cover looks ahead to a momentous milestone in 2018, the first delivery to Australia of RAAF F-35As.

SUMMER READING ISSUE

lockheed martin BONUS

787 POSTER

No.356 JAN-FEB 2018 AU $11.95 NZ $12.50

Print Post Approved 100007959

LIGHTNING BOLT 2018, year of the F-35

CHC introduces the AW189 into Australia p108

16 Notam 18 Debrief 24 Good kit 112 Traffic 120 Warbirds 122 Airports 122 From the Regions 123 Rotor Torque

123 Fire & Ag 124 Asia Watch 125 Pinstripe 126 On Target 127 Yesteryear 128 Cabin Pressure 129 Contrails 130 Flight Levels JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 3


2018 Preview JANUARY 6-7 Great Eastern Fly In, Evans Head, NSW. TBC Last Virgin Australia E190 withdrawn from service.

FEBRUARY 2-3 Red Bull Air Race, Abu Dhabi, UAE. 6-11 Singapore Airshow, Singapore. H opefully 2018 will prove a quiet fire season for Pay’s Helicopters/ Timberline’s Sconebased Black Hawk firebomber. mark jessop

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2018 Preview MARCH 11 Tyabb Air Show, Vic. 16-18 AAAA Fly In, Echuca, Vic. 24 Inaugural Qantas PerthLondon nonstop flight. 20-21 RAAF Air Power Conference, Canberra. 30-April 1 Warbirds over Wanaka, NZ. F uture RAAF capabilities will be discussed at the 2018 Air Power conference. defence

APRIL 18 A/AA A18 Airspace Awards, Melbourne. 21-22 RBAR Cannes, France. 25-29 ILA2018 Berlin Airshow, Germany.

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2018 Preview MAY 5-6 Wings Over Illawarra, Albion Park, NSW. 24-26 Rotortech 2018, Sunshine Coast, Qld. 25-26 RBAR Europe, location TBA. 29-June 1 AAAA Convention, Surfers Paradise, Qld. The Red Bull Air Race Championship returns to Budapest in June. joerg mitter / red bull content pool

JUNE 3-5 International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting, Sydney. 23-24 RBAR Budapest, Hungary.

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 9


2018 Preview JULY 13-15 Royal International Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford, UK. 15-22 Farnborough International Airshow, UK. 23-29 EAA Air Venture, Oshkosh, USA. TBC First Air NZ A320neo delivery.

AUGUST 4-5 RBAR Asia, location TBA. 23 Qantas annual results announced. 24-25 RBAR Kazan, Russia. Q antas will be in the spotlight when it announces its FY18 profit results. seth jaworski

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JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 11


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2018 Preview SEPTEMBER 4-5 Land Forces 2018, Adelaide. TBC First Air NZ A321neo delivery. T he Boeing 787 will no longer be the newest type in the Air NZ fleet when the airline’s first A320 and A321neos are delivered in the second half of 2018. seth jaworski

OCTOBER 6-7 RBAR Indianapolis, USA. TBC RAAA Annual Convention, Gold Coast.

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 13


2018 Preview NOVEMBER 12-16 Australian Airports Association national conference. 15-17 Aviatex Aviation Expo, Bankstown Airport, Sydney.

DECEMBER First RAAF F-35As delivered to Australia, RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW. RAAF AP-3C retirement, RAAF Base Edinburgh, SA. T he AP-3C Orion will officially retire from RAAF service in December 2018, replaced by the P-8A Poseidon. defence

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JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 15


NOTAM

N ew Australian Aviation publisher Christian ‘Boo’ Boucousis with long-standing managing editor Gerard Frawley collecting copies of the December issue from the magazine’s printer.

To the future

Setting course for a new Australian Aviation

C

hange is the new normal and after 40 incredible years as the most acclaimed and widely read aviation magazine Australian Aviation is about to embark on a generational change program. What excites me most about this journey is the fact we have been able to retain the heart and soul of this incredible publication, from managing editor Gerard Frawley to every journalist and contributor that form the foundation of this magazine, we are moving into a new era, much like the aviation sector we’ve been covering over the years. In addition to the existing team I’d like to welcome Mark Jessop, Kirsty Ferguson, Steve Vissher, Solange Cunin and Andrew McLaughlin to the team

PUBLISHER

SPACE & EDUCATION EDITOR

MANAGING EDITOR

PHOTOGRAPHY & SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR

NEWS EDITOR

ART DIRECTOR

Christian ‘Boo’ Boucousis Gerard Frawley Jordan Chong

Solange Cunin Mark Jessop

Daniel Frawley

ASSOCIATE EDITOR

CIRCULATION MANAGER

FLYING EDITOR

PROOFREADER

Andrew McLaughlin Owen Zupp

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Louise Harry

Bruce McLaughlin

to enhance our engagement through visual media, radio, engagement of millennials, space and aviation in the rapidly evolving defence industry. I am an aviation geek and I am also an aviator. I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t passionate about aviation, whether it was my first airshow at Amberley watching an Iroquois drop a car in front of a cheering crowd and having my eyebrows singed by an F-111 dump and burn, my first solo flight in a C152 at the Royal Queensland Aero Club at the age of 16, my first solo in an F/A-18 Hornet or my first foray into publishing as the publisher of Australian Aviation. I love anything that flies! So I am a little saddened by a certain malaise that has gripped the aviation sector in Australia and I am determined to do everything I can to ensure aviation becomes cool again. The look and feel of this magazine is an obvious starting point and we hope you enjoy our first issue in the new format. We’ll continue to tweak our content with the addition of monthly space and UAV features, more features from the cockpit, news from around the world and a substantially beefed up digital presence bringing you a more personalised experience. You’ll see more video, podcasts, virtual reality flights, a new digital magazine, more free feature content and a raft of products and services reviewed and recommended by our stable of aviators. I hope you can help us on our journey as we continue to refine our content and the way we deliver this content to you our readers, to keep you informed and ensure you not only read about aviation, that we help you experience aviation through the eyes of the aviators. Christian ‘Boo’ Boucousis

SENIOR CONTRIBUTORS

Tom Ballantyne, Max Blenkin, Geoffrey Thomas, John Walton, Owen Zupp CONTRIBUTORS

Eric Allen, Tony Arbon, Rob Finlayson, Chris Frame, Kirsty Ferguson, Seth Jaworski, Chris Milne, Robert Nutbrown, Dave Prossor, Gordon Reid, Ian Thompson, Paul Sadler.

I

t’s been energising putting together this edition of Australian Aviation. For the past few years now we’ve made an effort in our JanuaryFebruary double issue to increase the number of pages in the magazine and to include features and stories that might be a bit more colourful, offbeat or interesting than normal. Hence we use the ‘Summer Reading Issue’ tag. But I think this issue truly lives up to that term. At 132 pages this is the largest edition of Australian Aviation in some years. It includes some fantastic reading across a range of aviation topics, from drone racing to the Voyager I spacecraft entering interstellar space, and much, much more in between. This issue is also a great pointer to Australian Aviation’s new direction and focus under Boo as its new publisher – more engaging content across the breadth of aviation, and content that looks at and points to the future of aviation. It has been great fun working with Boo to deliver what is without doubt the best edition of Australian Aviation in many years. This issue introduces a lot of change, and is bigger, which I think neatly reflects the fact that aviation is fast-paced and continues to grow, pretty much across the spectrum. The changes extend from the visual – a new Australian Aviation masthead for the first time in 12 years and a refreshed design – to the depth and style of content. And it’s exciting to add to the team of writers and photographers that has long been Australian Aviation’s greatest strength, new names and fresh takes on our industry. I think the end result is a fresh take on a well-loved and appreciated magazine. And we’ve only just started! Gerard Frawley

PUBLISHER

Aviator Media Pty Ltd ABN: 52 622 564 827 PO Box 3926, Manuka ACT 2603, Australia. Phone: (02) 6232 7474 mail@australianaviation.com.au Printed by Bluestar Web. Distributed to newsagents by Gordon and Gotch. Ph: 1300 650 666

ISSN 0813-0876 © Aviator Media 2017. All material published in Australian Aviation is copyright and may not be used without the express permission of the publisher.


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Debrief

S amoa Airlines began operations on November 14, offering six weekly ApiaAuckland flights and two flights a week between Apia and Sydney using leased Boeing 737-800 I-NEOS. andrew aley

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News briefs from across aviation

AIRLINES

Fiji Airways is expanding its route network in North Asia with three times a week nonstop flights between Nadi and Tokyo Narita with Airbus A330-200/300s due to start in July 2018. It will be the first time since 2009 Fiji Airways will fly to Japan. – Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines plan to boost capacity between Auckland and Singapore with the addition of a third daily flight starting in October 2018 and running until March 30 2019. Their joint-venture schedule then reduces to 19 flights a week from March 31 to October 26 2019. – Still on Air New Zealand, the Star Alliance member has opened its new premium passenger lounge at Perth Airport, the latest example of its investment in the Australian market as it seeks to attract more travellers

from this side of the Tasman onto its long-haul services. – Further, Air New Zealand says it will operate the Boeing 787-9 between Adelaide and Auckland on a yearround basis following the successful introduction of the next generation widebody in October 2017. – In more Air New Zealand 787 news, the kiwi carrier has been forced to wet-lease an Airbus A330 and A340 to help replace capacity being lost through the forced withdrawal of some Boeing 787-9s due to engine issues. Air New Zealand had been forced to cancel some international flights and retime others in response to two incidents involving the Rolls‑Royce engines on its 787-9s. – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says airlines around the

world are collectively expected to post US$38.4 billion in profits in calendar 2018 amid strong passenger demand and an improvement in the cargo sector. This would represent an improvement from the US$34.5 billion estimated profit for calendar 2017 and the fourth consecutive year of sustainable profits, with a return on invested capital of 9.4 per cent exceeding the industry’s average cost of capital of 7.4 per cent. – Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president and chief project engineer for the 777X program Michael Teal said the airframer is studying some potential “tweaks” to its proposed 777-8X offering in order to meet Qantas’s Project Sunrise ambition of flying nonstop from Australia’s east coast to London and New York by 2022. “If you look at the exact airplane we have on paper today, which is not at firm


Debrief configuration, it falls short of some of their desires but exceeds many of their desires. What we are doing today is looking at what knobs we can twist,” Teal said. – China Southern has commenced yearround nonstop flights between Cairns and its Guangzhou hub. The service will operate three times a week with Airbus A330 equipment. The Skyteam alliance member and Qantas codeshare partner had previously served Cairns on a seasonal basis, most commonly during the Chinese new year period. – Qantas has opened the doors to its new premium passenger lounge at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3. The split-level lounge with seating for 230 people is another element of its product offering for upcoming nonstop flights from Perth to the United Kingdom capital due to launch in March 2018. – Former Jetstar Group chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka has resigned from the Qantas Group, where she currently serves as chief executive of Qantas Loyalty.Hrdlicka joined Qantas in 2010 as group executive of strategy and technology before being appointed as CEO of Jetstar in 2012. Hrdlicka became CEO of Qantas Loyalty on November 1 this year as part of a management reshuffle at the Qantas Group that saw former Qantas International chief Gareth Evans take on the Jetstar CEO role. – Still on Qantas, actor John Travolta plans to personally deliver the exQantas Boeing 707 he is donating to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society. The 707-138B, registered N707JT, is expected to arrive at Albion Park from his Florida home some time in late 2018. – Further, Qantas has increased the number of codeshare flights on LATAM Group Airlines’ services in South America, with the airline’s QF airline code to appear on 74 nonstop flights a week between Santiago and the two largest Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, as well as on 34 flights a week between Santiago and Lima in Peru. – In more codesharing news, Qantas and SriLankan have also expanded their codeshare agreement, with the Australian carrier adding its QF airline code on SriLankan nonstop flights between Colombo

Air Canada began services between Vancouver and Melbourne in early December. dave soderstrom

and Bangkok, as well as between Colombo and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, SriLankan will add its UL airline code on Qantas-operated flights from Melbourne to Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney, as well as from Melbourne to Auckland. – Virgin Australia has announced plans for a sweeping upgrade of its facilities at Melbourne Airport’s Terminal 3 over the next three years that will focus on more self-service facilities, a dedicated premium entry for eligible travellers and the relocation of some security screening facilities to improve passenger flows. Construction work was expected to begin in 2018 and be fully complete by mid-2019. – Still on Virgin Australia, group executive for airlines Rob Sharp

told a CAPA – Centre for Aviation conference in Sydney the airline planned to launch new Android and iOS apps in early 2018 to bring together its existing separate flight specials and inflight entertainment apps. There would also be a new app for its Velocity Frequent Flyer

Q antasLink has returned to Kangaroo Island for the first time in more than a decade, resuming services between Adelaide and Kingscote Airport on December 4. ryan hothersall

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Debrief

Flanked by Super Hornets and Growlers, a RAAF KC-30A refuels a USAF B-1B. Two B-1Bs deployed to Amberley in late November-early December for exercises with the RAAF. defence

The Royal Australian Air Force’s 35 Squadron has celebrated the 75th anniversary of its formation in 1942 by adding special tail markings to one of its C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifters. defence

20 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION

program on iOS in the first quarter of 2018. – Air Canada has added a third Australian destination to its international network with the airline’s inaugural nonstop flight to Melbourne touching down on December 3. The flights will operate four times a week until February 4 2018 and will then resume as a year-round three times a week offering from June 1. The Star Alliance member and Virgin Australia codeshare partner also flies to Brisbane and Sydney from its Vancouver hub. – China Airlines has become the first Airbus A350 operator at Sydney Airport after upgauging its nonstop service from Taipei in early December. The Skyteam alliance member was also boosting its Taipei-Sydney schedule to double daily, with both services to be flown with A350-900 equipment. – Hawaiian Airlines took delivery of its first Airbus A321neo in mid-November, becoming the seventh operator of the larger-capacity, extended-range narrowbody. The airline says the

aircraft will be used primarily on routes between Hawaii and the US west coast. Its A321neos are configured with 189 seats comprising 16 in its premium cabin, 45 “extra comfort” premium economy seats and 128 in economy. – Still on Hawaiian, the airline announced Mark Dunkerley was stepping down as chief executive, having held the role since 2002. The airline has promoted current chief commercial officer Peter Ingram as Dunkerley’s replacement from March 1 2018. – Regional Express (Rex) says an improving Australian economy and more activity in the fly-in/fly-out sector will underpin a 20 per cent improvement in full year profit in 2017/18. – In other regional airline news, Jetgo has announced plans to add the Embraer E175 to its fleet and operate international flights to Singapore in partnership with Karratha. The Embraer would be used to fly from Brisbane to Karratha, located on the West Australian north-west coast in the Pilbara region, and then onwards to Singapore. Flights with the 88-seat E175s would start from mid-2018, subject to regulatory approvals.

AIRPORTS

Brisbane Airport Corporation says Julieanne Alroe will retire as chief executive at the end of the current financial year on June 30 2018, after close to a decade in the role. – Global airport services company Swissport, which is part of China’s HNA Group, is setting its sights on Australia through the acquisition of local operator Aerocare and its Skycare,

Carbridge and EasyCart subsidiaries, from current owners including Australian private equity firm Archer Capital. – Researchers from the University of Sunshine Coast (USC) will investigate the latest technologies and practices to make runway surfaces and airport pavements last longer as part of a new five-year, $2.85 million study. The research program is a partnership between USC and the Australian Airports Association, the Department of Defence, Perth Airport and Sunshine Coast Council (as the owner of Sunshine Coast Airport). – Canberra Airport says the federal government should step in and make airlines accountable for the high rate of cancellations on flights to and from the national capital and is calling for a national taskforce to investigate the issue. Citing figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Canberra Airport says travellers are getting a raw deal from the airlines when it comes to ontime performance, particularly on the Canberra-Sydney route.

DEFENCE

The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) third F-35A Lightning II, A35-003, conducted its first flight at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth on December 1. – Boeing has started the fitout of the RAAF’s purpose-built P-8A Poseidon Integrated Training Centre at RAAF Base Edinburgh, north of Adelaide. Due to be completed in mid-2018, the 16,500 square metre facility can accommodate 70 advanced operational and tactical training devices for the maritime patrol


Debrief

aircraft, including two pilot simulators, two air combat officer simulators and a Boeing 737 fuselage ordnance load trainer. – Defence Minister Marise Payne has confirmed Australia has agreed to sell 18 RAAF F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornets to Canada. The Minister’s announcement came after Canada confirmed it would not be proceeding with a planned purchase of 18 F/A18E/F Super Hornets from Boeing, and would instead agree to a letter of offer from Australia for the classic Hornets. The first two aircraft would be handed over in early 2019. – Northrop Grumman Australia has been awarded a performance-based contract to maintain the RAAF’s fleet of Leonardo/L-3 C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifters. The contract is

for an initial five-year period, and will renew annually for up to 22 years under a “rolling wave” arrangement, should Northrop Grumman continue to meet performance targets. – Air Affairs Australia and Discovery Air Defence Services have completed their first fast jet training missions in support of the Australian Defence Force’s Fast Jet Trial contract. Air Affairs stated that four of its Learjet aircraft and two Discovery Air Defence modified Alpha Jet aircraft participated in air-to-air missions as ‘red air aggressors’ near RAAF Base Williamtown.

HELICOPTERS

Nautilus Aviation’s two Bell 505 Jet Ranger Xs arrived at Hawker Pacific’s Bankstown Airport facility on December 4 and became the first

of type in Australia. The red painted 505s, soon to be registered VH-VSB and VH-VTB, will be used by Nautilus for industry training on the type, commercial charter and tourism operations. – The Royal Australian Navy’s Aircraft Maintenance And Flight Trials Unit has conducted preliminary deck handling trials with an 816 Squadron Romeo Flight 6 MH-60R Seahawk landing on board the new Hobart class DDG Air Warfare Destroyer HMAS Hobart in Sydney Harbour. In the planning since May, the first-of-class trial began on November 7 alongside Fleet Base East, Garden Island, in order to reduce the risks associated with landing at sea, and included an approach, landing, and subsequent launch of Seahawk Romeo N48-013. –

R AAF EA-18G Growler A46-306 now wears special markings to celebrate the centenary of 6 Squadron. lance broad

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Debrief

One of Babcock Australasia’s two new Airbus Helicopters H175s, VH-NYJ, is offloaded from an An-124 freighter in Darwin on November 27. babcock australasia

A rtist’s rendering of the newlylaunched Cessna SkyCourier. textron aviation

22 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION

CASA is proposing to change helicopter licensing standards for trainee helicopter pilots in Australia which would see student pilots able to gain their licences in a shorter time and without having to learn basic instrument flying. In response to industry concerns, the regulator is proposing to amend the Part 61 regulations covering flight training to include a 105‑hour training option for the CPL(H) that reflects the old 105 hour option in the Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) 1988, while make training in basic instrument flying optional. The proposal is to add a 105‑hour CPL(H) option based on the former special training course under Part 5 of CAR. – Babcock Australasia’s two new Airbus Helicopters H175s which arrived in Darwin on November 27 onboard an Antonov An-124 have become the first of type in the country. To be registered as VH‑NYJ and VH-NYI, the H175s will be operated on contract from Dili, Timor-Leste by Babcock Offshore Services Australasia which will use the super-medium helicopters to provide offshore personnel transport, SAR and medevac support for the Bayu-Undan gas production operations in the Timor Sea northwest of Darwin.

INDUSTRY

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) plans to overhaul its aviation medical requirements, allowing pilots flying commercial operations with no passengers to hold a less-restrictive Class 2 medical certificate, and private pilots flying with five or fewer passengers in VFR conditions to only hold a new aviation medical certificate that meets commercial vehicle driver standards. – Textron Aviation has unveiled the Cessna SkyCourier 408, a new clean-sheet regional-sized turboprop designed to seat up to 19 passengers or carry three LD3 containers. Global logistics company FedEx Express is the first customer with an order for 50 aircraft and options for 50 more. Entry-intoservice is planned for 2020. – The chair of the Expert Reference Group advising the federal government on the ideal setup of a national space agency, Doctor Megan Clark, says the space industry represents an “outstanding opportunity” for Australia to create jobs and generate economic activity. – GE Aviation has announced the appointment of Keren Rambow as regional

general manager for South Asia Pacific. Based in Sydney, she is taking over from Max York, who was recently appointed as CEO of GE Australia. – The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has handed down its final report into the ditching of a Pel-Air aeromedical flight off the coast of Norfolk Island eight years ago, which found the Captain in command made a series of missteps during the flight planning process, while the operator lacked sufficient risk controls in relation to fuel planning and safety. The investigation was reopened after heavy criticism of the original final report from a parliamentary committee and in an independent review by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. A Four Corners investigation also highlighted serious flaws in the way the original investigation was conducted. – Airbus expects the total number of aircraft flying within, into and out of the Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific region to expand from 749 aircraft currently to 1,358 by 2036, an increase of 609 aircraft over the next two decades as the lift in tourism and the rise of the middle class enables more people to take to the skies. The figures represent a more upbeat assessment of the region compared with Airbus’s previous forecast for Australia/New Zealand and the South Pacific that was published in 2015. – In other Airbus news, the airframer has named Rolls-Royce president for civil aerospace Eric Schulz as the successor to long-time chief salesman John Leahy, who is retiring after 32 years with the company. The 54-year-old Schulz takes up his role as executive vice president and chief of sales, marketing and contracts for Airbus’s Commercial Aircraft business in January 2018. – Unmanned systems company Insitu says it has signed a contract to support Royal Dutch Shell company QGC’s coal seam gas extraction business in Queensland. As part of the contract, QGC will use remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to inspect wells, tanks, pipes and other infrastructure in Queensland’s Surat Basin. This would help cut down staff travel across an area spanning some 700,000Ha by about 800,000km a year, QGC says.


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Good kit

Gear for Australian aviators

IWC PILOT MARK XVIII “LE PETIT PRINCE” From $ $5,079.00 www.bodying.com.au

The classic IWC aviator watch is simple, refined and suits everyday wear in addition to use in the cockpit. Like its predecessors the Mark XVIII’s face is still reminiscent of an old school altimeter and for the “old timers” who have worked long and hard to afford one of these watches, its minimalist design ensures legibility no matter what the flying conditions.

BREITLING NAVITIMER

From $9,975.00 www.watchdirect.com.au Breitling is synonymous with aviation and the latest iteration of its flagship Navitimer retains its “wrist instrument” status with the circular slide rule keeping pilots safe when needing to divert with low fuel during a total electrics failure in the cockpit. The face is now larger, reinforcing the age-old pilot belief that no aviation watch is too big. This timeless piece remains the classic aviator favourite.

24 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION


Good kit

BREMONT MBII

From $4,150 ex GST www.selfridges.com Bremont is the relatively new kid on the block. Founded by two aviator brothers in the UK, Nick and Giles English, Bremont has aligned itself with iconic UK brands such as Jaguar and, more importantly for aviators, the famed Martin Baker. We weren’t able to trial the MBI watch, only those who’ve survived an ejection get one of those, so we availed ourselves of the MBII. Nice and weighty with copper overtones the watch serves as a practical aviators watch and looks the piece too. The watch is also a favourite for Aussie military pilots where Bremont creates signature watches customised for the flying unit (see left).

SINN 103 TI UTC IFR

From $4,895.00 info@definewatches.com.au No-one doubts the quality and efficacy of German engineering and the Sinn 103 Ti UTC IFR is the BMW of aviator watches. Built to the German DIN 8330 Horology Standard for aviator watches, this watch is built for IFR, looks sharp and will be a nice piece to hand down to your children when they earn their own wings.

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 25


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T O

T H E

FUTURE The RAAF fighter force begins generational change as 3SQN prepares to swap its fourth-gen Hornets for the fifth-gen F-35 WRITER: ANDREW MCLAUGHLIN

28 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION


TO THE FUTURE

‘We’re going to have 10 to 12 instructors in there soon.’ WGCDR DARREN CLARE JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 29


T

he RAAF has commenced the formal transition process of its units and personnel from the Boeing F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornet to the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, with the Williamtownbased 3 Squadron completing classic Hornet operations on December 8 2016. The end of flying operations was followed on December 14 by the disbandment of 3SQN as a Hornet operating unit under the command of WGCDR John ‘Johnny H’ Haly. The ‘new’ 3SQN was then re-established as an F-35 unit at Luke AFB in Arizona with newly qualified F-35 pilot, WGCDR Darren ‘Clarey’ Clare in command. “I took command from ‘Johnny H’ on the Thursday at Williamtown, on Friday I flew back to Phoenix, and then on Saturday we stood up No 3 Squadron F-35 with a small function there,” WGCDR Clare told Australian Aviation. “And then as of 1st of January we’ll be full up – our people will wear the 3SQN patches, hats, and T-shirts, and will continue 3SQN’s proud history with the F-35.” But until 3SQN builds up a critical mass of F-35 aircraft, pilots and maintainers, the majority of its personnel and all of its Hornets have been transferred to an augmented 77SQN which has stood up an additional ‘C’ Flight to accommodate them. For the time being the RAAF will continue to have 71 classic Hornets in its inventory, and this will likely continue to be the case at least until 3SQN achieves an initial operational capability (IOC) with the F-35 in 2020/21. “We’ll still be meeting all our requirements for government,” Air Commander Australia (ACAUST), Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Steve ‘Zed’ Roberton said. “And this includes all the preparedness and joint training commitments we have with Army and Navy, apart from meeting operational commitments that the government directs.”

Classic Hornet retrospective

Australia was the third customer for the F/A-18A/B after the US Navy and Canada after an order for 57 F/A-18As and 18 F/A-18Bs was placed in 1982. The first aircraft, A21-101, first flew in 1984, and it and -102 were delivered to RAAF Williamtown on a nonstop 15‑hour ferry flight from NAS Lemoore in California in May 1985. Four of the F/A-18s were built by

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50 shades of grey! The RAAF’s third F-35A, A35-003, was rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth factory in November wearing 3SQN markings. defence

‘The jet we fly now doesn’t operate anything like what it did two and a half decades ago.’ AVM ROBERTON

McDonnell Douglas in St Louis, with the remainder being built at Avalon in Victoria, initially from knock-down kits until local content gradually increased. The Hornet replaced the Dassault Mirage IIIO in RAAF service with the last Mirage retiring in 1989, and the final Hornet being delivered in 1990. For the RAAF, the Hornet has flown with 2 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), 3SQN and 77SQN, all based at Williamtown, and with 75SQN based at RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory. Four RAAF Hornets have been lost in accidents in the 32 years they have been in service, a remarkably low figure considering the original attrition estimate was that 11 aircraft would have been lost by the type’s half life-of-type, and this is a reflection of its forgiving handling and systems redundancy. “I’ve seen Hornet aircraft that have had horrible bird strikes, and we’ve had mid-air collisions resulting in a Hornet missing a third of its wing,” said AVM Roberton. “But this jet gets you home. And touch wood, for a few more years it’s going to continue to do so. I’m very impressed with the safety record.” And compared to its predecessors, the Hornet’s longevity in service is a further testament to its rugged design as well as, for its day, its comparatively

‘open’ systems architecture and airframe capacity which has allowed it to be continuously upgraded. For the first half of its service life, the upgrades mainly consisted of new weapons, flight control system (FCS) software and other minor enhancements, and were generally performed in parallel with those of the US Navy. But when it became apparent that potential regional adversaries were starting to close the capability gap to the classic Hornet, a more comprehensive multi-phase Project AIR 5376 Hornet Upgrade Program (HUG) was conducted from 2002 to 2013 which saw new sensors, avionics, communications, cockpit displays, structural enhancements, and precision guided weapons added, keeping the Hornet at the forefront of its potential 4th generation rivals. AVM Steve Roberton has an enviable RAAF Hornet and Super Hornet operational resume. Since 1992, he has flown both the classic and the Super Hornet in RAAF service as a line pilot, been an exchange pilot weapons officer in the US Marine Corps, served as commanding officer 75SQN and part of Operation Falconer in the Middle East in 2003, was Super Hornet project lead and Officer Commanding 82WG, was the first Commander of the RAAF’s Air Task Group (ATG) in the Middle


TO THE FUTURE

Air Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal Steve ‘Zed’ Roberton has an impressive resume of classic and Super Hornet operations. defence

East in 2014, and had a stint as Commander Air Combat Group. “One of the great privileges of this command is that I get to fly in pretty much everything across Air Command,” he said. “I’ve done my C-17 short course, I’ve flown P-8 and PC-21, P-3, Super Hornets, Growler, and Hawk. “I’m still theoretically current on the classic, and it’s still my first love,” he added. “It is amazing looking back at the development of it and what a workhorse it has been. So, two and a half decades ago when I started flying it, it was the leading edge of multirole fighters – certainly within the region it had the capability edge – day, night, all-weather and multirole. “And today it’s still super capable, the way that it has been maintained and upgraded in partnership with the US Navy and through the Boeing industry team. “The jet we fly now doesn’t operate anything like what it did two and a half decades ago. And yet, it still starts the same, and flies the same, and once you get the thing to the holding point,

it feels very, very familiar. It’s just an amazingly responsive jet, and it’s wonderful to see it having proven itself in operations so effectively.”

Transition

The classic Hornet to F-35 transition will be far from a traditional one-forone replacement, despite the current and planned fleet numbers of both types currently being near identical. Because of the revolutionary capabilities the F-35 will bring to the joint battlefield of the future through its low observability, situational awareness, advanced sensors and communications, the biggest mistake the RAAF or any operator could make is to treat the jet as a one-forone replacement of an existing 4th generation capability. Indeed, this is a risk path the RAAF has already been down with the Super Hornet. Despite being acquired as a “bridging capability” in 2007 due to delays with the F-35 program, and even though it numerically replaced the 3rd generation F-111 nearly onefor-one in the RAAF inventory, the

Trucking on! An F/A-18A classic Hornet wearing 3SQN markings. The RAAF’s classic Hornets may have some life left in them yet if the sale of 18 examples to Canada goes ahead. defence

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 31


An F-35A of the USAF’s 61st FS flies in company with a RAAF F-35A. The RAAF is an integral element of the 61st FS, with RAAF pilots holding key flight commander and weapons officer positions in the squadron. usaf via defence Super Hornet has opened up a whole new world of operational capabilities and possibilities for the RAAF. “Really, it has proven to be a prescient decision to go with the Super Hornet,” AVM Roberton explained. “I think there are three areas where it has prepared us well. One, it has exposed us to a whole new level of security operations and operating mindset that we needed to get to, not just for F-35, but all of our other fifthgen platforms that are coming on.” These platforms include the EA‑18G Growler, the P-8A Poseidon, E-7A Wedgetail, MQ-4C Triton, and the Gulfstream/L-3 MC-55 (G‑550) SIGINT aircraft, as well as the RAN’s Hobart class DDG air warfare destroyers, Canberra class LHD amphibious assault ships, SEA 5000 Future Frigates, and Army’s new LAND 400 armoured vehicles. But it also includes the advanced communications suites being installed on transport aircraft such as the C-130J, C-17 and KC-30 as well. “The second thing is, the straight tactical employment and the operational outcomes that you get,” AVM Roberton added. “Super Hornet is a genuine 4.5-generation aircraft, and you fly it differently. You can leverage its strengths like the sensor suite, to improve the rest of the force. It’s not just the classic Hornets and other fourth-generation fighters which benefit, but the Army and Navy joint capabilities as well. It truly makes them a lot better. “And the third area is just in the infrastructure and mindset for the broader Defence organisation. We would not have been as prepared and, I would argue that many of my peers from other nations are being surprised as they step into fifth-generation

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SQNLDR David Bell, the RAAF’s second F-35A pilot, conducts a preflight walk-around of his jet at Luke AFB. defence

‘The situational awareness is quite amazing.’

capabilities, just what a big leap that is. “It’s not just buildings and infrastructure, but it’s also the operational mindset, tasking, IT systems, even the workforce itself. You need a different shaped workforce to support and maintain a fifthgeneration capability than you did for an older P-3 or F-111 type workforce.” 3SQN will start to take delivery of aircraft at Luke AFB in Arizona in early 2018 alongside the RAAF’s first two F-35As (A35-001 and -002), which wear 2OCU livery. The first 3SQN jet (A35-003) flew for the first time in late November, and it will be followed by seven more jets in 2018. Rather than stand up the ‘new’ 3SQN as a complete unit with all its personnel but no aircraft, AVM Roberton explained that the build-up of the new unit will be a gradual one.

“As part of the transition plan they have been absorbed into the consolidated classic Hornet 77SQN for now,” he said. “Then as we need them, we will bring technical, aviation and support people across to 3SQN in the US as we start building it back up. “Currently, we have six pilots and 25 maintenance people training at Luke. And we have others who will not go to the US for training, but instead will start looking after the facilities and readying 3SQN, Air Combat Group and the wider Air Force for when the first F-35s turn up in about 12 months.” As RAAF F-35 deliveries continue in the first half of 2018, they will continue to go into the 61st Fighter Squadron which is Australia’s partner unit at the F-35 training centre at Luke. “Later in the year around the


TO THE FUTURE August-September timeframe we’ll get two jets which won’t go into the American training system,” explained WGCDR Clare. “They will just stay on the Australian system and we’ll fly them, initially from a shake-down point of view at Luke with Australian maintainers, and procedures under an Australian airworthiness banner and our own pilots operating out of Luke. That’s just basically a shake-down of the aircraft before we fly them home at the end of next year. “So what we’re working on in the

next six months is, taking all our knowledge of the F-35 that we’ve gained from flying it over the last few years, taking that and presenting this to what’s called an Airworthiness Board,” WGCDR Clare added. “This will happen in August, and is where we make sure our processes and procedures are all in place. We currently operate under the US Air Force airworthiness system, and Lockheed Martin is currently looking after our aeroplanes. Even though the 25 or so maintainers I’ve got over there do a lot of the work, it’s under a

A 35-003 made its first flight from Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth production facility on December 1. It is scheduled to join the 61st FS at Luke AFB in early 2018. carl richards

Lockheed banner in accordance with US procedures and publications.” The 61st FS arrangement is likely to continue until 2OCU achieves IOC with their F-35s in 2021/22, after which RAAF F-35 maintenance and pilot training will commence in Australia. “Working with the US and in particular the 61st FS is great. The CO of the 61st has flown with Australians before on the F-22 so he’s got a bit of a history there, and he’s really, really supportive of our activities – they’re actually quite proud to be part of Australia’s history in standing up F-35. They’re at the forefront of generating F-35 fighter capability and training.” In fact, Australian F-35 pilots already hold key roles in the 61st FS. “We’re going to have 10 to 12 instructors in there soon which will be almost half the squadron, so we’re a fairly large part of the organisation,’” WGCDR Clare said. “And we’ve got guys in pivotal roles within the squadron – one is a flight commander now and another is going into a flight commander role soon, plus one of the other pilots fulfils the essential FCI/weapons officer role in the squadron.”

Out with the old…one of the RAAF’s first two F-35As flies formation with 2OCU’s CO jet when they visited Australia for the 2017 Avalon Airshow. defence

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 33


TO THE FUTURE Facilities

RAAF Williamtown is also going through some massive changes to accommodate the new aircraft. “There’s a combination of new works there,” AVM Roberton said. “I would argue that since I walked onto the base in December 1990, Williamtown really hadn’t changed much. We had some new facilities for Surveillance Response Group, but that’s about it. But more recently it has fundamentally changed shape, and it’s really exciting.” The new F-35 facilities are being built north of the airfield, and will comprise new hangars for each of the three squadrons, a state-of-the-art training centre, new covered hard stands and ramp area, and a new ordnance loading area (OLA). The runway is also receiving a 340m extension to allow for de-rated or nonafterburner takeoffs and displaced threshold landings from the west. These facilities are designed to support the higher classification and security requirements of the F-35, and as such have multiple access layers and more compartmentalised areas compared to the current Hornet facilities. “It’s not a small undertaking,” said AVM Roberton. “Clearly, if the buildings weren’t ready we could still operate, but not nearly as effectively from the old buildings. The aim is to have the infrastructure in place so that there’s no impediment to getting that first generation of F-35 and our people up and operating.” New F-35 facilities and a runway extension will also be built at RAAF

The F-35 has “very, very similar” handling qualities and power to the classic and Super Hornet, according to WGCDR Clare. defence

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‘There are lines in the sand, but they are soft lines.’ AVM STEVE ROBERTON

A classic farewell. When 3SQN ceased classic Hornet operations on December 8, the squadron made an impressive formation flyover of Newcastle before recovering into Williamtown. darren mottram

Tindal as that base is transformed to also operate the MQ-4C Triton and better accommodate the planned increased numbers of US military aircraft. The ‘bare’ bases at Scherger, Curtin and Learmonth will also receive upgrades to their operational areas.

Classic drawdown

Current planning sees 2OCU relinquish its Hornets next, probably in 2019-20 once 3SQN has returned with its F-35s and the requirement for classic Hornet crew conversions and upgrades ends. 77SQN is scheduled to retire its Hornets in 2020-21, with 75SQN following a year after that. The consolidated Hornet fleet will start to be drawn down in steps to roughly align with each squadron achieving IOC with their F-35s. “There are lines in the sand, but they are soft lines by necessity,” explained AVM Roberton. “We need to retain the option and flexibility to meet any contingency or government‑directed tasking. But while the classic Hornet is an older airframe it is still a very, very capable jet. It’s dropped a couple of thousand weapons in the Middle East over thousands of missions, so it’s proven to remain a very capable platform. “We will retain the classic Hornet until the last point and, at government direction, and when we’ve got sufficient confidence that the F-35 and support system is ready, we’ll let it go. We’re looking at about a squadron a year, but we’ve got flexibility according to what other tasking we might receive or whatever direction government might take us.”

One of those government directions was the sale of 18 classic Hornets to Canada. Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne confirmed on December 13 that Australia had agreed to sell 18 jets to Canada to bolster that country’s own classic Hornet fleet until it can decide on a more permanent replacement. The Minister’s release said the first two aircraft would be transferred in early 2019, subject to “country of origin (ie US) export approvals.” But all 18 aircraft are unlikely to be delivered in a large group over a short period of time, due to Australia’s requirement to maintain a viable air combat capability until 3SQN achieves IOC with the F-35. Said AVM Roberton before the Canadian announcement: “So, there are soft gates, and we will retain at least one squadron available through until the end of 2022. But we’ll hit a tipping point with 75SQN Tindal being the last one designated to transition.”

The future

The F-35 will form the backbone of the RAAF’s fighter and strike force for the next 30 years, and as such, the whole air force is being restructured to accommodate what will be a new way of doing business. The RAAF now has three F-35s flying, there are another seven to follow in 2018, and then deliveries will ramp up at roughly 15 jets per year until 2022 when the initial order of 72 aircraft is due to be completed. “We’re very confident in the aircraft,” said AVM Roberton. “All the


New CO 3SQN WGCDR Darren Clare and CO of the 61st Fighter Squadron, Lt Col Rhett Hierlmeier after WGCDR Clare’s first F-35A flight in July. usaf via defence feedback through the US, the joint exercises that we’re seeing. There are also a couple of hundred aircraft now flying, and nearly 100,000 flying hours on the jet now, so we’ve got some really good data on how it’s performing. “The support system and infrastructure is still maturing, and our readiness for that is still maturing,” he added. “But we don’t have to get there yet. We’re not expecting government declaring an IOC before the end of 2020, so we’ve got three years. We can leverage off the significant experience of the US and other nations.”

To the future

A former classic Hornet pilot, WGCDR Clare provides an interesting comparison between the old and new aircraft. “The F-35 actually flies very, very similarly to the Hornet, both classic and Super,” he related. “In fact, it’s probably more like the Super in the way it feels. The alpha (angle of attack performance) and the power is similar to a Super Hornet, although it’s got a little bit more power down low. “But the situational awareness is quite amazing, the way the information is presented and what the jet is seeing around you,” he added.

“It’s to the point where, you can almost get information overload, so you’ve got to know what you’re looking for and know how to find it. You’ve got to know what the little tricks are that could throw you off. “And the networking between the aircraft is really important to the way we operate tactically. The helmet is quite interesting and with respect to all the information ... there’s no HUD (head-up display), so all the information is presented in the helmet.” The pilots’ helmets are individually fitted. The pilot gets a laser map of their head made, and then the helmet is built around that map. “It takes a little while to get used to because it’s projected in front of both of your eyes, so it takes a couple of flights to

E ight F-35As are scheduled to be delivered to the RAAF at Luke AFB in 2018, the last two of which will be the first to operate under an Australian airworthiness system. defence

‘We need to be far more agile in our thinking.’ AVM STEVE ROBERTON

actually make sure those are lined up properly and you’re not seeing double and giving yourself a headache.” All of this information ‘harvested’ by the F-35 will feed into a new system and culture being established under the RAAF’s ambitious Plan Jericho which will be a key enabler for the 5th generation capabilities the F-35 will bring to the ADF. “I think the fifth-generation part through Jericho is more than just the mindset, it’s actually the agility and the speed of response,” AVM Roberton explained. “We need to be far more agile in our thinking and empowering smart young operators – the women and men that don’t just fly them, but maintain them and seek alternative solutions. “The way we used to do business might not be the best way to do it in the future, and we just might not be able to afford to,” he said in closing. “Our Air Force has no more squadrons and no more people than it has for the last 20 years. But I would subjectively submit we have nearly two and a half times the air combat power of that same size air force from 20 years ago. That’s a considerable undertaking for a medium sized air force, and I think we’re looked upon with some envy by our peer air forces.” JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 35


Speed chaser Boom and the rebirth of the supersonic airliner WRITER: JORDAN CHONG

W

hile the tyranny of distance has not dulled Australians’ love of air travel, many approach the 24-hour trek to Europe or the US east coast with dread. Whether in a lie-flat seat or one that offers only a few precious degrees of recline, the journey often leaves one feeling less than their best upon disembarkation, as the excitement of (finally!) being on the other side of the world is far outweighed by a lack of sleep, jetlag and the prospect of a stern inquisition from a grumpy immigration officer.

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The Concorde, with its supersonic speed, was meant to change all that. However, the iconic aircraft failed to take off largely because it was too expensive to operate. Now, a Denver-based start-up is hoping to revive the concept of supersonic passenger flight, with Australia a prime target market. Boom Supersonic is the company behind the development of the first supersonic passenger aircraft since the famous Concorde. The proposed aircraft is a tri-jet with a range of 4,500nm and capable of reaching speeds of Mach 2.2,

‘Australia... would benefit most from supersonic.’ BLAKE SCHOLL

compared to the Mach 0.85 or so that today’s commercial passenger aircraft cruise at. It would seat up to 55 passengers in a business class configuration. At Mach 2.2, flying between New York and London would take about three hours and 15 minutes. Closer to home, a trip from Sydney to Los Angeles would take seven hours, including the time required for a refuelling stop en route. Entry into service for the aircraft is forecast for the mid-2020s. In contrast to the high prices paid by the well-heeled to travel by


Boom Supersonic

Concorde on Air France and British Airways, Boom is designing the aircraft with operating costs such that fares would be similar to what is in the market for business class travel currently, such as $5,500 for a return New York-London ticket. Boom chief executive Blake Scholl says Australia looms as a prime market for supersonic flight. “I feel like Australia is probably the corner of the earth that would benefit most from supersonic,” Scholl tells Australian Aviation in an interview on a recent visit to Sydney. “I talk to my friends and say ‘hey

do you want to go to Sydney’ and they say it is 15 hours. And London to Sydney is a whole freaking day. It’s exhausting. “A lot of people talk about supersonic as about time saving. Yes, you save time but I think the bigger factor is it affects your decision on whether you go or not.” Scholl says supersonic flight will turn the Pacific “into the new Atlantic”. “And that will just enable a whole lot of trips to be taken that otherwise people wouldn’t take today,” Scholl says.

 ill Boom create shockwaves in W the airline industry? boom

Virgin Group, Japan Airlines back Boom

Boom has sold 76 options for its proposed supersonic aircraft. While 46 are from unidentified customers, two companies have been prepared to publicly back the project. Virgin Group, a part owner of Virgin Atlantic, was first off the mark with options for 10 aircraft. And in early December, Japan Airlines (JAL) announced it would invest US$10 million in Boom and hold options to purchase up to 20 supersonic aircraft. Further, there would also be collaboration between the pair to JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 37


“We would have been very keen to have supersonic aircraft, but there is a trade-off between supersonic speed and distance,” Joyce was quoted as saying on the Australian Business Traveller website in October. “But the problems when Qantas looked at supersonic flight in the 1960s are problems that have still not been overcome.”

Concorde failings

“refine the aircraft design and help define the passenger experience for supersonic travel”. “We are very proud to be working with Boom on the advancement in the commercial aviation industry,” Japan Airlines president Yoshiharu Ueki said. “Through this partnership, we hope to contribute to the future of supersonic travel with the intent of providing more time to our valued passengers while emphasising flight safety.” Scholl said on a blog post on the company’s website after the JAL partnership was announced the Japanese flag carrier was the “first airline in history to make a material financial commitment to a faster future”, noting the pre-orders for the Concorde held no financial commitment. “JAL’s passionate, visionary team offers decades of practical knowledge and wisdom on everything from the passenger experience to technical operations,” Scholl said. “We’re thrilled to be working with JAL to develop a reliable, easilymaintained aircraft that will provide revolutionary speed to passengers. “Our goal is to develop an airliner that will be a great addition to any international airline’s fleet.” Space-focused Virgin Galactic, a part of UK-based Virgin Group, was also supporting the Boom project, Sir Richard Branson told Fairfax Media in July. “We’re helping at Virgin Galactic building the Boom spaceships,” he said. “They’ll be going suborbital, but they’ll still be going a lot faster than Concorde. And that’s a big stepping stone towards really fast travel, maybe, one day, orbital flights.” Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti has also expressed his

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Boom Supersonic CEO Blake Scholl has been attracting plenty of attention. boom

‘If the airplane were ready today, everybody would want it.’ BLAKE SCHOLL

support for supersonic flight. “In 2017, there is a lot of focus on aircraft range and how far we can go nonstop using new technology,” Borghetti said in his Sir Reginald Ansett Memorial Lecture at Parliament House in Canberra in early October. “However, I believe in order to achieve the next step-change in aviation, we need to shift the paradigm. We should not be asking ‘How far?’, but rather, ‘How fast?’. “It is entirely reasonable to believe that in the next 10 years, we will see supersonic jets safely and sustainably flying commercial passengers.” Scholl, whose trip to Australia was all about meeting local companies and airlines, describes Borghetti as a “visionary on this topic”. “I can’t comment on private discussions obviously but if the airplane were ready today everybody would want it,” he says. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was less enthusiastic about the prospect at travelling faster than the speed of sound, which is understandable given the airline’s enormous investment in ultra-long haul flights with the Boeing 787-9 and the stated desire to mount nonstop services to New York and London from Australia’s east coast.

There is no doubt Concorde was an amazing technological achievement. With its delta wing, four afterburning engines and distinctive pointed noise, the aircraft will always be an iconic figure in aviation. However, it only flew from 1976 to 2003, a span of 27 years, and only 20 aircraft were ever produced for two operators, if you discount a couple of short-term wet lease arrangements. Powered by Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 engines, the aircraft was designed to seat up to 128 passengers and was capable of reaching a maximum speed of Mach 2.04. It had a maximum range of 3,900nm. As breathtaking as they were, the thirsty engines were Concorde’s Achilles heel. “The number one problem with Concorde was fuel economy and 1960s technology,” Scholl says. “If you’re an airplane geek it was just the coolest thing, the flame coming out the back of the engines. They are loud, you can’t miss them when they fly by, they turn heads.” “If you’re an airline you hate them. There is the safety perception of ‘oh my God the engine is on fire’, the noise really bothers people on the ground, they are really, really loud, and the fuel economy is horrible.” While Concorde was 1960s technology, Boom is drawing upon the advancements of the past two decades in the design of its supersonic jet. The aircraft fuselage will be made from carbon composites, much like what is used on the Boeing 787 program. Meanwhile, the company plans to use a modified version of turbofan engines that are currently seen on the wings of commercial passenger jets. An engine manufacturer was likely to be chosen later in 2018. Media reports suggested the three engines would need to generate between 15,000 to 20,000lb of thrust. While initial designs had the aircraft operating as a twin-jet, the Boom brains’ trust chose to go to a trijet after considering the certification


Boom Supersonic process for long overwater flights and the available engine technology. “We needed a relatively large core and the largest cores that are available work great as a tri-jet,” Scholl says. The Boom chief executive says leveraging the existing technologies is a key factor in ensuring the aircraft’s operating costs are such that they allow airlines to charge no more for business class than what they do for subsonic flights today. “We do not allow any technology on the aircraft that isn’t already certified on another aircraft and that makes this way more practical as a project,” Scholl says. “We couldn’t have done it 10 years ago when there was no certification path for composite. But that has been done and we just have to follow the rules that Boeing helped develop. “Over time, we will add more technology to subsequent aircraft but not for the first one. This makes it more feasible than it would be otherwise.” Scholl says there are a number of advantages of using carbon composites compared with aluminium, including the ability to handle the 150 degrees Celsius temperatures the fuselage was expected to reach while cruising at supersonic speeds. “Composites are even better than aluminium in taking temperatures during high speed flight,” Scholl says. “Aluminium would get mushy at that temperature. You don’t really want a mushy airplane. “They also don’t expand the way aluminium does.” Carbon composites are also easier to work with. “There is not a straight line hardly anywhere in the airplane. The fuselage is a bit bigger up front and skinnier in the back,” Scholl says. “So it is a very complex shape that you need to be efficient at high speed and building it with composites helps you to do that economically.” Further, the decision to go with a 55-seat cabin initially offered the best configuration for airlines to deploy the aircraft on routes with heavy premium demand. “People often say Concorde was too small with 100 seats. In my view it was actually too big because you cannot fill 100 seats at the kind of fares required,” Scholl explains. “Basically, the more expensive the ticket the smaller the airplane needs to be in order to be able to work on a lot of routes and keep the seats filled. With business class, we are putting

The XB-1 demonstrator, or ‘Baby Boom’, should fly in late 2018. boom

‘This is the first of a whole series.’ BLAKE SCHOLL

Boom’s Model A would seat 55 in an all-business class configuration. boom

55 seats, about the same as you would find in a sub-sonic widebody. “Then it works on a lot of routes, you get economies of scale, you get good aircraft utilisation and that further helps you get the overall cost of travel down.” Boom has forecast demand for 1,000-2,000 supersonic aircraft by 2035, which Scholl describes as conservative, saying the actual demand will be larger than that. As the sector develops and the technology improvements continue, that will lead to larger aircraft. And in a bit of blue sky thinking, Scholl talks optimistically of supersonic flight eventually replacing subsonic flights. “Internally we call the airplane Model A because this is the first of a whole series,” Scholl explains. “You build a bigger aircraft you can make it more fuel efficient, which means that the fares can come down and more people can afford to go more places more often, which means bigger airplanes. “A couple of generations of aircraft later, there is a tipping point where

you don’t actually have to pay much more at all for speed versus a subsonic economy fare and at that point subsonic will be for either very short flights or for cargo but for humans we get to get there faster.”

Next steps

The most immediate target for Boom is getting the XB-1 demonstrator, dubbed Baby Boom, ready to take flight. The company has set a target of first flight in late 2018. At 21m in length and with a wing span of 5.2m, Baby Boom is a one-third scale version of the fullsized aircraft. It will be powered by General Electric CJ610 turbojets and have a maximum takeoff weight of 6,100kg. The XB-1 fuel system is capable of storing 3,175kg of jet fuel in 11 separate tanks and would be capable of reaching Mach 2.2 with 1,000nm of range. It will have a two-crew flightdeck. And as with the full-sized version, Baby Boom will also feature a composite fuselage. “We are looking at first flight late 2018,” Scholl says.

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 39


Matt Hall Racing

photo – joerg mitter /red bull content pool


‘Preparations for the new season were turned on their head with the decision to transition to a new aircraft type.’

A RACER’S Matt Hall Racing’s season of change

WRITER: OWEN ZUPP


Matt Hall Racing

T

o be successful at the elite level of any motor sport, both the machine and the human in the seat need to be operating in unison at the edge of the envelope. This truth is appreciated by every pilot and team that travels the globe as part of the Red Bull Air Race (RBAR) circuit. And as the 2017 season dawned Australia’s own Matt Hall Racing was confronted with the reality that the machine element of their combination would not be ready in time and difficult decisions needed to be made.

Best laid plans

Over preceding seasons Matt Hall had developed a reputation for consistency, and with good reason. At the helm of his MXS race aircraft, Matt had finished second in the RBAR Championship in both 2015 and 2016. Always among the points and frequently on the podium, he had gone tantalisingly close to the title, particularly in 2015 when he was just edged out by Paul Bonhomme. So 2017 shaped up as a season when the team might have a real shot at the championship – that is until issues emerged with the MXS that would call for it to be grounded for an extended period of time. The team’s years of development of the aircraft and Matt’s experience flying it were to be rendered null and void and preparations for the new season were turned on their head with the decision to transition to a new aircraft type – the Edge 540 V3. Such a decision is a major step for any team as it is not simply a case of buying an aircraft off the shelf and going flying. In the first instance, any new aircraft has to be made compliant to the rules governing the RBAR. This process includes fitting race-specific equipment such as pylon cutters, camera housings, new engine mounts and a range of other modifications. Once completed, the aircraft then has to be scrutinised and certified for racing. The extent of those changes meant it was obvious that the new Edge 540 could not be ready in time for the first race of the 2017 season, so an alternative plan needed to be put in place.

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When the first race took place at Abu Dhabi, Matt lined up in a ‘loaner’. The aircraft was an older model Edge 540 that former Red Bull Air Racer Peter Besenyei had flown way back in 2008. Despite the challenge of flying a ‘new’ aircraft, Matt still managed to finish among the points to get his new season underway.

A new Edge

The choice of the new Edge 540 over another MXS was influenced by a number of factors, not the least including Edge’s higher level of factory support at the time. Another pragmatic consideration was the Edge’s extremely light steel tube airframe as opposed to the MXS’s one-piece carbon fibre structure. That makes repairing and developing the Edge simpler as fundamentally the team is dealing with components that are attached to an airframe that can be removed, modified, repaired or replaced with a greater degree of ease than is the case with working with carbon fibre. Even so, a great deal of work needed to be done before the aircraft could be race-ready for the second round in San Diego. Beyond the RBAR certification, Matt needed to get in the cockpit and get comfortable with his new aircraft. Flying to the United States three weeks before the race, he subsequently ferried the aircraft from Zivko Aeronautics in Oklahoma to California where further engine diagnostics took place. Two days later the flight was made to San Diego and qualifying began. The results now show that Matt again finished with points for the race despite the challenges of flying a new aircraft. Compared to the MXS, various aspects of the Edge 540 V3 handled differently. In general, Matt found the Edge more stable to fly and while around the same speed in straight and level flight, it possessed a higher rate of roll. Further, the rate of g-onset took a little getting used to. Being so used to the MXS and the control column position in relation to the pre-stall buffet, Matt had to re-learn exactly where that equivalent point was in the Edge and move to it quickly and with confidence.

Matt after qualifying at the Lausitzring, Germany round. daniel grund/red bull content pool


Preparing to takeoff during the Lausitzring, Germany round. samo vidic/red bull content pool ‘Muscle memory’ is another aspect that Matt had to deal with in transitioning to the Edge 540. As any aviator can relate, one’s hands can be very tempted to move towards a switch or control position that was learned on a previous type but which is not to be found in the new aircraft. This tendency can be exacerbated under increased pressure and air racing is a pressure-cooker of the first degree. The MXS and Edge have opposing locations for their throttle and canopyrelease handle, for example, and one can imagine the outcome of confusing

those two in the heat of an air race. Fortunately, this has not occurred but then again, nothing about the 2017 season was done off-the-cuff.

The long game

Achieving any worthwhile endeavour takes time and persistence and pursuing a Red Bull Air Race title is no different, particularly when you are forced to introduce a new aircraft type at the eleventh hour. And while the introduction of the Edge was further complicated with new team technicians settling in with the team

‘Nothing about the 2017 season was done offthe-cuff.’

during the early rounds of the season, from the outset Matt Hall Racing had commenced season 2017 with 2018 very much in its sights. The time involved for the Edge 540 to reach its fullest potential meant the team full well understood that race results would be impacted. So from the beginning of the season, one of the team’s goals was to embrace the change and work towards seeing results late in the season. As if to script, Matt came third in the sixth round in Portugal, after quietly accumulating points in the JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 43


Matt Hall Racing

During the qualifying for the San Diego stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. joerg mitter /red bull content pool preceding rounds. Even so, he rates the following race in Germany as the season’s highlight. After qualifying fastest, he finished second on the podium and the team had put sound performances together, back-to-back. After such an unsettled start, the consistency that Matt and his team were known for was visible once again. Less visible was the process that led to those performances. By accepting that 2017 was going to be a challenging year, the team set out to test the Edge 540 to the fullest extent. Ongoing development took place after every race, tweaking this and adjusting that. Everything from the ailerons and pitch response to centre of gravity and seat position was tested and tested

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‘The team set out to test the Edge 540 to the fullest extent.’

again until it was correct. Interestingly, the team would test an element until the perceived sweet spot was found and then keep going out the other side of the envelope. Only through such thorough testing at both left and right of peak performance, could the true peak be found. This meant that in earlier rounds, performance may actually deteriorate after a new aspect of development was tried, but the team recognised that it could endure such setbacks early in the season as they were playing the long game. The team’s eyes were firmly set on the next season. It called for patience in a very public domain, but the reward was

an extremely thorough analysis of the aircraft. It was a form of ‘experimentation’ that may not have been viable if Matt was in the title race. Still, with all of the change that confronted the team, at season’s end Matt finished sixth on the table, which was testimony to the strategy the team had adopted before the first propeller had turned at Abu Dhabi way back in February.

Looking ahead

Unlike many of the other teams that are backed by major sponsors, Matt Hall Racing must find a way to combine the season with other aspects of its operation. From its base at Lake Macquarie Airport, its adventure


flights in the Extra 300L continue to grow in popularity, while multiengine IFR charter flying has been added to the extent of Matt Hall Racing’s operations. Central to this expansion is the recent approval to build a new terminal, offices, hangars and a restaurant at their home base. Backed by long-term supporters QBE, Massel and OzRunways, Matt can still be found flying at airshows and speaking at corporate events, while a favourite is the opportunity to fly the Temora Aviation Museum’s Spitfire. Even the Edge 540 V3 is going through a state of change. Currently in the United States, its ‘Simply Cola’

paint scheme is set to be replaced in the near future by a Red Bull ‘Organics’ scheme. As always, beauty is more than skin deep and Matt will shortly be travelling to meet up with the aircraft again for more testing. And so, even before 2017 had drawn to a close, the curtain was starting to rise on the Red Bull Air Race 2018 with a new venue in Cannes, France announced. And unlike the prelude to 2017, a stable and tested aircraft and team at Matt Hall Racing looks towards the first 2018 race, thanks to a year of patient development beyond the eyes of the crowds and the media. That is not an easy process in a world of prize money and podiums,

M att in action at the Chiba, Japan (top) and Lausitzring, Germany rounds. samo vidic/red bull content pool

but the team has remained focused on its long-term goals with admirable discipline. After all of the hard work and the waiting, Matt is quietly candid about the team’s goals for 2018. He still holds close the dream of a World Championship, but also states that it can only come by focusing on the race at hand and taking the season step by step. The key to Matt Hall Racing’s success and longevity in the competitive world of air racing seems to reflect the three pillars he aims for in the cockpit. Fly clean, fly precise, fly consistent – the three tenets that give this Red Bull Air Racer his competitive edge. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 45


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The (biz) jet set Life as a corporate jet pilot WRITER: JORDAN CHONG

A

s a corporate jet pilot working at a major Australian multinational for more than two decades, Clive Brookes travelled the world. The pilot visited the snowfields of Aspen, Colorado, braved the baking heat of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and sampled the delights of iconic cities such as London and New York. Closer to home, Brookes crisscrossed the country as executives hunted the next big deal or perhaps took in a football match or sailing regatta to unwind at the end of a long week. Whatever the destination or the reason, it was Brookes’ job to ensure everything ran smoothly. And everything includes more than

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just getting from Point A to Point B. “The flying part of it in corporate aviation is probably 10-15 per cent of the job because you have to organise every single thing,” Brookes explains to Australian Aviation in an interview. “It’s an endless event. The corporate flight department is like a mini airline with none of the staff.” While his peers at the major commercial airlines had the benefit of dedicated teams to sort out refuelling, cleaning, overflight clearances, cabin crew and recurrent training requirements, it was a different story for corporate jet pilots. It was a responsibility that Brookes was more than willing to shoulder. “The beauty and what I like about corporate aviation is that my crew and I take complete ownership of the

‘You are the chief choreographer of the whole show.’ MARK ESSERY

aeroplane,” Brookes says. “We treat it as you would treat your own car, it is always polished and very presentable, it is clean and stocked. “You’ve got to do the other little bits and pieces, rather than just doing your day and getting out of the plane leaving it like it has been evacuated after a fire drill.” The job description of a corporate jet pilot is not confined to flight matters. It also extends to groundrelated logistics, as fellow pilot Mark Essery explains. In his years working for another large Australian multinational, Essery says he had to ensure the “owners get to where they need to go”. “You are not only the pilot but you are also the chief choreographer of the whole show,” Essery tells Australian


Biz jet set Aviation in an interview. “They have obviously got their executive assistants who are arranging their meetings in New York for example, but to actually get to New York you’re the guy that’s sorting out all the timings in terms, for example, if there are cars that are needed you have to make sure that is arranged. “You will be looking at hotels, you will be looking at ground transport to make sure it has been arranged. You personally will be arranging customs, immigration, your slot times out of Sydney and directly liaising with handlers at both ends of the journey. “You can’t just let the passenger walk off the jet and go, you are required to walk the owner to their car and that includes the bag count coming on and off the aircraft. “There is a little bit more pressure I suppose and a little bit more professionalism that needs to go into it. “​And then you spend another hour or two putting the jet to bed along with the copilot and flight attendant.”

Mark Essery came to corporate jets after a career flying C-130s and C-17s in the RAAF.

not economy and you are staying in nice hotels. It’s a good lifestyle.” Following a three-week conversion course in Dubai, Essery returned to Sydney and, once his qualifications were added onto his Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) licence, began looking for work. The best way to get into the industry was through contract work, which would help build up his hours in the corporate sector. “I was a contractor initially with 5,500 hours coming out of the military but I had zero corporate experience,” Essery explains. “On my licence I was a captain

Military entry

Prior to becoming a corporate jet pilot, Essery was with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) where he flew C-17 Globemaster and C-130H Hercules transports, including into Afghanistan and Iraq. However, as his length of service grew, so did the likelihood that his flying days in the Air Force were drawing to a close. “I was due for promotion and that was going to be a desk job. And I did not want this,” Essery said. So, in 2011 he retired from the military and began the search to find another seat in which to continue his desire to see the world. And given the 5,500 hours experience in the RAAF under his belt, Essery sought a corporate jet gig. More specifically, a job flying the big ultra- long-range corporate jets such as the Bombardier Global Express. Essery says the decision was a combination of wanting to expand his professional knowledge and his enjoyment of international travel. “People who can afford to buy them aren’t going to put their crews up in a three-star hotel,” Essery says. “Everything about your quality of work and living is that next level up if you can get a job with one of the bigger jets. “Your salary is higher, your per diems are more. If you are positioning you are travelling business class and

Clearing snow off the aircraft doesn’t happen by itself. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 49


Biz jet set on a Global Express, but I had zero hours in the actual jet, so if you’re a very wealthy individual and you’ve just bought a $60 million shiny new toy, are you going to hire a guy that doesn’t have any experience to be your captain?” While contract work enabled Essery to build his hours up on the Global Express, the life of a contractor had its challenges. Pilots are often called to work at short notice, meaning it is hard to plan holidays with family or catch-ups with friends. Further, contract pilots are responsible for maintaining their qualifications, with refresher courses often running at $25,000 a year, plus travel costs if the only simulators available happen to be in Dubai or Long Beach, California. “Even though contract does sound great because you can theoretically work when you want to work, in practice it doesn’t really work that way,” Essery says. “And you have to say yes because if they call you once and you say you are busy and they call a second time and you say you are busy, they won’t be calling you a third time so you’ve got to be prepared to pretty much say yes most of the time, unless you have already said yes to a different job. “So it has pros and cons. If you have built up a nice cadre of companies that trust you, the work can be fairly regular, fairly steady.” Essery did eventually land jobs working for several big Australianbased companies, both corporate jet management companies and for privately-owned jets. He says one of the major differences working directly for the

An Airservices ARFF monitor cross marks Clive Brookes’ retirement flight before focusing on consultancy work.

Sunrise as seen through the head-up display of a Global Express. mark essery

‘When they want to go, that’s it, you go.’ CLIVE BROOKES

corporate jet owner, rather than through a management company, is the way rules around fatigue management and risk management are applied. This is particularly the case in North America. “There’s certainly a lot of interesting characters out there who are just trucking around and would struggle to get a job flying with an airline because their personal standards are just dodgy,” Essery says. “I’ve seen examples where they will take off full gas out of a short strip surrounded by hills just so they don’t have to stop and refuel en route. But if they lose an engine on takeoff they are gone. “Whereas when you fly charter it is under the charter rules so you are basically like a mini airline and you

are beholden to all the standards of things like fatigue management, fuel management, all the good stuff. The company can’t be dodgy, it has to conform with regulations.” In simple terms, Essery says it is like being the driver for someone who owns a Lamborghini. “There’s nothing stopping you going out and driving that Lamborghini all the way to Ayers Rock because the owner requires you to and it’s a private vehicle, so you can do whatever the hell you want,” Essery says. “But would you? Is it a sensible thing to do? And most people would say no. Most people would say what the hell are you doing driving a Lamborghini on red dirt roads all the way out to Ayers Rock. It’s not a wise thing to do. “Some owners buy jets based on the glossy brochures but its up to the pilots to educate them so they appreciate the safe way to fly them.”

From the bush to the world

Clive Brookes’ career path was perhaps typical of those looking at a career in aviation in the 1970s and 1980s. He self-funded his pilot training, including paying for lessons, taking mates away for the weekend to help build up hours (to share costs of hiring the aircraft) and eventually landed a gig as a self-described “bush pilot”. From those early days, Brookes then flew coastal surveillance, operated charters on King Airs and then got into night freight flights on corporate jets such as the Learjet and Westwind.

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Biz jet set

He also did air ambulance work for about seven years, before beginning a two-decade career flying corporate jets for a large Australian company. And Brookes says he would not have had it any other way, describing the early days as something of an “apprenticeship”. “You don’t become a boss overnight. You’ve really got to work at it and get some good solid experience behind you out in the bush and scare yourself shitless on a dark and stormy night with single-pilot IFR and all that sort of stuff,” Brookes says. “That’s basically what they were really looking for in corporate pilots who came knocking at the door. Their background has got to be very solid. “These days guys can have 500 hours and they are in a King Air screaming around the place. A lot of stuff has really changed that way.” Brookes says part of the joy of being a corporate jet pilot is the variety of the work. Rather than being rostered on to do the same destinations over and over again as at the airlines, the next destination can always surprise as executives sniff out business opportunities around the globe. “We’re not doing ‘shark patrol’ Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane,” Brookes says. “One day we are in the southern most city in the world and the next day we are in Dubai or somewhere it is stinking hot.

C orporate jet pilots do get to see the world, wherever and whenever their bosses choose. clive brookes

Clive Brookes enjoyed a twodecade career flying corporate jets for a large Australian company.

“Unlike airlines we don’t have the opportunity to review airports that we are going into and practice landings dozens of times in a simulator. You’ve got to do the homework before you go and even then when you rock up for the first time, it can be quite daunting. “I think that’s where good training as a bush pilot and charter pilot comes into it because you always expect the unexpected.”

While he admits that being away from his family for long periods over the years was at times hard to deal with, the “good outweighs the bad”. “It’s very hard work, it is a 24 hours seven day a week business with no roster,” Brookes says. “I’ve never been able to plan to take holidays and things like that because you are there for the boss. When they want to go, that’s it, you go.” Currently, Brookes is helping a friend and former Cathay Pacific pilot enter the world of corporate jets with a second-hand Global Express that he has just brought to Australia. The aviation consultancy work is something Brookes has done throughout his career to, in his words, assist owners find the right aircraft for the job. “I actually go to the company and talk to the owner and executives about what they want to do with the aeroplane, not only now but in the future,” Brookes explains. “I work in conjunction with a couple of sales people and we can offer them two or three different types that might suit their needs and we can whittle that down. “I’ve set up probably eight different corporate flight departments over the last 25-odd years here and through those corporate flight departments some of them are probably on their third or fourth aeroplane.” JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 51


‘Voyager will continue at the very frontier of human space exploration.’

Voyager 1 probe proves you can teach old tech new tricks

INTERS WRITER: SOLANGE CUNIN

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Voyager

TELLAR

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 53


Voyager

F

ar away, 13 billion miles from Earth, there is a tiny man-made spacecraft drifting away from Earth and everything that we know. This spacecraft, Voyager 1, has travelled further than anything else humans have made, learning about the deepest parts of our solar system and now beyond. It is our first foray into interstellar space, with the spacecraft having left the comfort of our solar system. We sent Voyager 1 off on its journey 40 years ago for an important mission. It visited and studied the biggest planets of our solar system and their moons for the first time. Then, the spacecraft was to travel further and faster than any other human spacecraft. So far in fact that the Voyager team collaborated with Carl Sagan to include a special disk that described mankind in case intelligent life was to stumble across the spacecraft in outer space – we were venturing into the unknown and didn’t know who was going to join us. The disk is made of gold, and it includes images of a man and a woman, the atomic structure of water and carbon, and a pictorial description of where we are in the solar system. The disk is also a record which includes samples of languages from around the world and some of the most memorable music from across history. Reaching true space means that Voyager 1 is our first opportunity to discover and learn about the true space environment without our Sun affecting the results. We’ve never had a chance to look at what the emptiness of space looks like without the Sun’s magnetic field, winds and other solar events playing a role in the environment. The mission of Voyager 1 does not stop with reaching interstellar status, there is a wealth of knowledge and scientific discoveries to come from the next leg of the mission in the vastness of space. We have been in communication with it the entire journey, using its radio antennae and a set of small devices called thrusters to orient itself. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or ‘puffs’, lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Since 2014, NASA scientists have faced the challenge that these thrusters have started to degrade and that we faced losing communications with Voyager 1. We were going to lose contact with

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Voyager 1’s gold disc describes mankind (and features music recording) in case it is discovered by intelligent life in a distant future. jpl/nasa

‘We sent Voyager 1 off on its journey 40 years ago.’ Voyager 1 is launched atop its Titan/Centaur-6 launch vehicle from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on September 5 1977. nasa

a very important human relic. But the Voyager team at NASA was able to successfully fire up the spacecraft’s backup thrusters that have been unused, dormant and collecting ‘space dust’ since 1980. The Voyager team assembled a group of propulsion experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California to study the problem. Chris Jones, Robert Shotwell, Carl Guernsey and Todd Barber analysed options and predicted how the spacecraft would respond in different scenarios. They agreed on an unusual solution: Try giving the job of orientation to a set of thrusters that had been asleep for 37 years. “With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years,” said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at JPL.

“The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters,” said JPL’s Chris Jones. The backup thrusters are identical in size and functionality to the currently degraded ones, they just had a different purpose and are in a different place on the spacecraft. The backup thrusters were originally used to control the spacecraft’s trajectory as it flew by Jupiter, Saturn, and important moons of each. They were needed to accurately fly by and point the spacecraft’s instruments at a smorgasbord of targets, with engineers using them to control the trajectory of the spacecraft. But because Voyager 1’s last planetary encounter was Saturn, the Voyager team hadn’t needed to use the thrusters since November 8 1980. Back then, the thrusters were used in a more continuous firing mode; they had never been used in the brief bursts necessary to orient the spacecraft. On Tuesday, November 28 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four backup thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results travelled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California that is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network. Lo and behold, on Wednesday, November 29, they learned the thrusters had worked perfectly – and just as well as the original orientation control thrusters. “The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test. The mood was


Voyager one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all,” said Todd Barber. The plan going forward is to switch to the backup thrusters in January. To make the change, Voyager has to turn on one heater per thruster, which requires power – a limited resource for the ageing mission. When there is no longer enough power to operate the heaters, the team will switch back to the attitude control thrusters. The thruster test went so well, the team will likely do a similar test on the thrusters for Voyager 2, the twin spacecraft of Voyager 1. The orientation thrusters currently used for Voyager 2 are not yet as degraded as Voyager 1’s, however. Voyager 2 is also on course to enter interstellar space, likely within the next few years. With a few more years of life added to the mission of Voyager 1, the spacecraft will continue at the very frontier of human space exploration. And there could not be a more important time for this. Each year we are getting closer and closer to sending our first humans to live on a different planet. We are no longer edging our way curiously there, we are taking giant leaps and bounds towards the reality. We are on the verge of becoming an interplanetary species within the next decade or so, and will soon be relying on all the data and information we have collected from around the solar system to support our new lives and endeavours. Our first stop as a species will be Mars, with both national agencies and the private sector investing heavily to send humans there in the 2020s. But after Mars, who knows where or when the next stop will be? We might be content with Mars for a few thousand years, or, more likely, we will continue to expand throughout the solar system. Voyager 1 collected data and information on the giant planets

What about Australia?

and their moons that we will use as we continue to explore and expand throughout the solar system – where we might find life, or water, or even other resources that we have grown dependent on for normal human life. Where might be habitable for a future generation or too hostile to consider supporting human life? Missions like Voyager will enable us to more easily and cleverly expand throughout the solar system, without further multi-decade probe missions. Voyager has done the hard yards and given us a wealth of information about some of the most curious places in the solar system, so we have a pretty good idea of where to look for water and resources as we expand. But for those who like to think long term, the second phase of Voyager’s mission might be the most exciting part of its mission – travelling into the abyss of space, hoping to find intelligent life. Equipped with all the information intelligent life would need to find us on Earth, this is both exhilarating and terrifying. Sending a message to aliens that are intelligent enough to understand it could bring us technological advances that enable us to leapfrog normal timelines,

You might be thinking “space has no impact on Aussies, why should I care?”. You should care because we’re all affected by space, regardless of how much – or little – our governments invest in it. We have no control over whether an asteroid hits us or not, nor if the only place to mine resources is on a moon far away. So care, at least a little bit. Australia, and Canberra specifically, is home to a critical piece of NASA’s Deep

A n image of Saturn taken by Voyager 1. jpl/nasa

A n artist’s rendering of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Part of its mission is to “gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions to Mars,” NASA says. nasa

Space Network. The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, run by the CSIRO on behalf of NASA, is one of three NASA deep space communications facilities that communicate with spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit. Located strategically across the globe (the others are at Goldstone, in California’s Mojave Desert, and near Madrid, Spain) they ensure that no matter when or where a spacecraft needs to be talked to, there is always a communication centre within reach.

scientific knowledge that could change the way we think about life and endless opportunities to expedite our journey into the universe as a species. But, given our experiences with humans throughout history, and how hostile we have been to natives when colonising ‘new worlds’, there is an element of fear that another intelligent species might act the same. Many hope that a successful intelligent species would have resolved the need to be so violent, but all we can do is hope. Voyager 1 will continue to travel even further away from home planet Earth. After 2025 when it would have depleted its power, and the last of its instruments will be powered down, Voyager 1 will continue to drift into outer space, with no communication or direction from humans. Who knows where it will end up, or who will find it?

Solange Cunin founded and is the CEO of Cuberider, which provides innovative STEM programs for Australian high school students. Under her leadership, and at the age of 23, Solange led Cuberider to place the first Australian payload to ever go aboard the International Space Station, in December 2016.

In Australia we have a unique vantage point on space due to our isolation. We happen to receive a lot of the most important signals, including the first communication from Neil Armstrong after landing on the moon: “The Eagle has landed”. We also do a lot of the talking to Voyager. We have been tracking and communicating with the two Voyager spacecraft since their launch, making us an integral part of their success.

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 55


‘At the age of 21, she had made her first million.’ 56 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION


VietJet

)

Flying happy Since launching Vietnam’s only private airline, VietJet, in 2011, founder and chief executive Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao has fast become the queen of Asia’s skies. At the surprisingly young age, for an airline boss, of 45, her ambition is boundless. And so far there’s nothing to suggest she won’t achieve her goals. WRITER: TOM BALLANTYNE

I

t really all started in Moscow in the late 1980s when Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao was a secondyear student studying finance and economics. With little money during those years not long before the Soviet Union collapsed, Thao’s entrepreneurial spirit came to the fore. She persuaded suppliers in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea to let her have clothing, office equipment and other consumer goods on credit. Then she sold them to a Russian public eager to snap up goods that were in short supply in an economically depressed Soviet Union. “I worked so hard and earned the trust of suppliers by always being honest with them,” she explained later. “I didn’t have much money. They gave me more and more products with longer credit terms.”

V ietJet has quickly grown to become Vietnam’s largest low-cost carrier. vietjet JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 57


VietJet Within three years, at the age of 21, she had made her first million and moved on to trading in bigger things such as steel, machinery, fertiliser and other commodities. Back in Vietnam Thao used her money to invest in Techcombank, also known as Vietnam Technological and Commercial Joint-Stock Bank, and a second lender, Vietnam International Commercial Joint Stock Bank. In a Vietnam still communist-ruled but rapidly adopting a market economy and capitalist ways, her timing was perfect. In 2017 Thao became Vietnam’s first female billionaire and VietJet, the airline she founded in 2011, has fast become a major player in regional markets. With a publicly-avowed aim of making it “the Emirates of Asia”, her record suggests that is a real possibility. Just a week after listing on the Ho Chi Minh City stock exchange in March 2017, VietJet’s market capitalisation overtook that of national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines (VNA). On its first trading day, VietJet was valued at US$1.4 billion and its rival, which listed in January, at US$2.1 billion. A week later, VietJet was valued at US$1.8 billion, ahead of VNA’s US$1.7 billion. Controlling 40 per cent of Vietnam’s domestic traffic at the time, it is now understood to have taken the lead, pushing past VNA. Along the way, Thao’s tactics, aimed at attracting increasing numbers of young Vietnamese and those in a fast-emerging middle class, have been unorthodox and sometimes controversial. VietJet made headlines and sparked a furore when it launched flights with young female cabin crew dressed only in bikinis. It was an

Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao is Vietnam’s first female billionaire.

‘We don’t mind people associating the airline with the bikini image.’ NGUYEN THI PHOUNG THAO

extremely un-communist approach but it worked, with passenger numbers quickly soaring. Now known as “The Bikini Airline” in Vietnam, Thao is unrepentant. She says they – the bikini-clad flight attendants – are empowering images in Vietnam’s conservative culture. “You (the cabin crew) have the right to wear anything you like, either the bikini or the traditional ao dai,” she said, referring to the traditional long tunic worn over loose pants. “We don’t mind people associating the airline with the bikini image. If that makes people happy, then we are happy.”

Her ambitions aren’t limited to Asia. In October, she disclosed VietJet plans to expand its fleet, now 45-strong with Airbus A320s and A321s, with 31 A321neos, 19 A321s and 100 Boeing 737 MAXs still to be delivered, to include widebody jets that will enable it to fly to the US West Coast by late 2019 or early 2020. Thao says the first flights could link the South-east Asian nation with San Jose, located near a large Vietnamese community, and would also be close enough to serve San Francisco. “We aim to expand international flights in the next few years. We want to make international flights 60 per cent of our total flights. We are studying the possibility of using widebody planes for long-haul flights when market conditions are favorable.” Australia is also on her radar. In all the VietJet fleet is expected to reach 100 aircraft in 2021. Making money doesn’t appear to have been a problem for VietJet. It was into profit in its second year of operations and the black ink keeps flowing. In the first half of 2017 it generated US$84.7 million in profits before tax, 44.7 per cent up on the same period a year earlier. Overall revenue for the six months was US$730.7 million, an increase of around 31 per cent compared to the previous period. Passenger numbers on international routes increased by 130 per cent and it operates to 73 domestic and international routes, an increase of 13 routes compared to the end of December 2016, a 37.7 per cent increase year on year. VietJet is now carrying around 17 million passengers annually. In 2017 the airline also broke ground on the construction of Vietjet

Thai VietJet operates three A320s. rob finlayson

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Aviation Academy in the Saigon HiTech Park in Ho Chi Minh City. The first element of the academy, a full flight simulator, is expected to be in operation during 2018. As well as this, a subsidiary in Thailand, Thai VietJet, has been flying since March 2015. The billionaire Thao has widespread holdings in Vietnam. She owns a 90 per cent stake in Sovico Holdings, which focuses its investments in three key sectors: banking and finance, real estate and the energy industry. The majority of her wealth is said to be derived from her stake in VietJet and her holdings in Dragon City, a 65-hectare real estate development in Ho Chi Minh City. Thao also has majority stakes in three resorts in Vietnam – the Furama Resort Danang, the Evason Ana Mandara Nha Trang and the An Lam Ninh Van Bay Villas. Thao and her holding company also own about a 20 per cent stake in Ho Chi Minh City Development JS Commercial Bank, or HDBank. She is vice-chairman of the privately-held commercial bank, which has total assets of about US$4.6 billion last year, with 225 branches and 10,000 employees. However, she isn’t one to flout her wealth. “I’ve never sat down and calculated my assets,” Thao said. “I just focused

VietJet has 31 A321neos on order, with plans to operate 100 aircraft by 2021. airbus

‘I’ve never sat down and calculated my assets.’ NGUYEN THI PHOUNG THAO

on how to boost the company’s (VietJet’s) growth, how to increase the average salary for my employees, how to lead the airline to gain more market share and make it No 1.” She is not averse to being innovative and taking risks. “You have to take the lead and take calculated risks. As a businesswoman, I have a responsibility to contribute to the economy and to push for positive changes of the country and in the society, in light of the international integration that’s happening.” In the midst of this, despite being a relative newcomer to the airline game, Thao has quickly forged a culture at VietJet that underscores the really important elements of running an

airline. In a letter to shareholders and staff published on the airline’s website, she declared: “Our commitment is to run a safe, reliable airline, to keep up our on-time performance target while maintaining our performance with high safety goals. We shall continue to drive our costs down, allowing us to continue to offer lower and affordable air fares.” And, she points out in a more traditional tone: “VietJet has been listed in Spring of the Chinese Lunar Year of Rooster. We hope that the Golden Rooster will lay its golden eggs and bring good luck, prosperity and success to the airline and its investors.” So far, it appears her prayers are being answered. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 59


BRAVO

ZULU Navy farewells the Seahawk Bravo and Battle Budgie WRITER: MAX BLENKIN

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Bravo Zulu HMAS Success’s embarked Seahawk about to transfer stores from the deck of HMAS Anzac while in transit in the Gulf of Aden in April 2015, while en route to Centenary of Anzac commemorations. defence

‘You don’t need combat operations to make mistakes at sea.’ CDRE CHRIS SMALLHORN

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Bravo Zulu

F

lying low over storm-tossed seas off Newcastle, NSW special forces soldiers aboard a Navy Seahawk helicopter launched from frigate HMAS Stuart eyed their target and at the chosen moment, fast-roped onto the deck of the North Korean freighter MV Pong Su. At the same time, other special forces boarded the ship from inflatable boats. They speedily seized control, ending a chase which started four days earlier after police intercepted 125kg of heroin dumped from the ship onto the Victorian coast. A year later, in April 2004, halfway across the world, a Seahawk, also from HMAS Stuart, assisted in the rescue of a group of American sailors, whose small boat had been blown up in a maritime terrorist attack on Iraqi oil facilities at the top of the Persian Gulf. Then in 2011, a Seahawk – again flying from HMAS Stuart which certainly seems to partake in its share of interesting operations – played a central role in the rescue of three crewmen of a Yemini dhow which had been seized by Somali pirates. That’s just three of the many incidents in which Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawks have been involved in a long and distinguished career in Royal Australian Navy service. Whether it’s bushfire and flood in Australia, rescues at sea such as the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race or interception of drug and weapon smuggling vessels in seas between Pakistan and east Africa, the Seahawks have been there. But before any pilot took the controls of a Seahawk, he or she learned to fly helicopters at the controls of the Aerospatiale (now Airbus Helicopters) AS350 BA Squirrel, an aircraft which has served in all three services in peace and war for more than three decades. Now both types have officially retired from service, farewelled at a ceremony conducted at HMAS Albatross at Nowra, NSW on December 1. Seahawk ‘Bravos’ and Squirrels conducted a flypast, along with their replacement, the Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ and the Airbus Helicopters EC135. This was a moving occasion for the young and older pilots, engineers and maintainers, for both types have departed with proud records. Sixteen Seahawks were purchased and that’s how many are retiring. “We have never lost one. Whilst you will find those sorts of statistics

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The Squirrel would be operated by all three arms of the ADF. defence for VIP jets and utility machines and the like I can’t find another example with an aircraft that was brought into service for combat operations,” said Commodore Chris Smallhorn, commander of the Fleet Air Arm (COMFAA) and a former commanding officer of 816 Squadron which operated the Seahawks. “You don’t need combat operations to make mistakes at sea because it is so very unforgiving, with a deck moving around, particularly at night time and at times in the most extreme of weather conditions. Clearly that is a credit to the airframe and its design and Sikorsky. Importantly it is a credit to the sailors, officers, public servants


Bravo Zulu

and industry who have supported the machine.” As a training helicopter, the Squirrels notched up a few bingles but none ever resulted in fatalities or even serious injury. For some, flying Squirrels has led to significant achievements. One is Vince Di Pietro, COMFAA prior to CDRE Smallhorn and now chief executive of Lockheed Martin Australia. He said the Squirrel was fundamental to developing a capability that is now very much taken for granted – flying helicopters off the back of warships. Until the Squirrels arrived in mid-1984, the Navy’s only experience

of helicopter operations from small ship decks was using a Bell 206 from hydrographic ship HMAS Moresby. “We had never had any real experience of using helicopters on small spritely decks like a frigate. Our only other shipboard experience until that state was Wessex and Sea King helicopters on the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne,” he said. “We had other ships like HMAS Stalwart with helicopter decks. But they weren’t fully permanent flights. Squirrel was really very much the aircraft that paved the way for us to start using the Seahawk seriously at sea. It got the ships used to using helicopters, it got the aircrew used to

‘The Seahawk truly broke new ground with an integrated combat and sensor suite.’ CDRE CHRIS SMALLHORN

being at sea in small ships. “All of that experience came together quite as a matter of fact rather than being fully appreciated for the significant transition that it was.” Australia’s acquisition of the S-70B-2 Seahawk followed a US Navy requirement for a multirole helicopter to replace its ageing Kaman SH-2F Seasprites. Following a detailed evaluation, the USN selected the SH-60B Seahawk, an aircraft based on the familiar Black Hawk, although with extensive modifications for maritime use. The first US Navy SH-60B Seahawk entered service in 1984. The type has since proved stunningly successful, with variants used by 12 other navies. In late 1984 Australia picked Seahawk over the Westland Lynx to be the Navy’s new helicopter, configured for antisubmarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. Secondary missions were to include basic utility helicopter duties such as transporting personnel and stores, maritime search and rescue, humanitarian and disaster relief missions and assisting in boarding operations. As it turned out, Seahawk performed far more of the latter missions. For Australia, initially, eight aircraft were to be acquired for $317 million but that was subsequently increased to 16. The first, aircraft N24-001 arrived in early 1988 and the last, N24-016 in 1992. CDRE Smallhorn noted Australian Seahawks were vastly different to US aircraft when it came to sensors and combat system. “The aircraft truly broke new ground with an integrated combat and sensor suite and a semi-glass cockpit,” he said. Officially the aircraft was termed the S-70B-2 Seahawk Role Adaptable Weapon System (RAWS). Did anyone outside the project office ever call it that – probably not. To most everyone, it was just the Seahawk. Former Labor government Defence Minister Kim Beazley recalls how that decision came about. Beazley, at that time in 1984 Assistant Defence Minister, said the Labor caucus was debating whether to choose Seahawk or the British Westland Lynx, favoured by the force development analysis section of the Defence Department. “[Prime Minister] Hawke noticed that [Defence Minister] Gordon JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 63


Bravo Zulu Scholes was really struggling and he got hold of me and said ‘go into the caucus and into the cabinet and you are going to hammer them on the need for a Seahawk’,” he said. Hawke believed Seahawk was the superior aircraft. “Hawkie was into everything and he preferred the Seahawk so I was ordered in to crush the caucus opposition. Lynx was offering a better industry package. Seahawk hardly had a package at all.” “I took the delivery of them by the time I became defence minister and they are rippers.” Beazley said the sole shortcoming of Seahawk was the absence of a dunking sonar, redressed on their Romeo replacements. “We have always been a bit off the pace in ASW but we are on the pace again now with the new ones,” he said. “What they need is another six and they need to reconfigure the two LHDs for ASW capability. They have room for them because they are only carrying half a dozen of the others and they have capacity for 20 aircraft.” The decision to acquire a naval combat helicopter capability really followed other bigger and better known decisions – to retire carrier HMAS Melbourne and shelve plans for acquisition of a replacement. One of the first acts of the new Hawke government, elected in March 1983, was to drop plans for a new carrier. Fundamentally that was because a big deck carrier was just too expensive and there were other new capabilities on the way with a stronger claim on limited funds. And maritime aviation capability could be delivered by helicopters operating from warships. “With the demise of the Fleet Air

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Two Seahawks and a Squirrel overfly Nowra. defence

Arm fixed-wing capability we needed to maintain a footprint at sea. In rolls the Squirrel, and the next thing you know we are operating these impressive aircraft off frigates at sea,” CDRE Smallhorn said. “We were shaping and preparing our Navy for helicopter small deck operations that were to be the mainstay of naval aviation.” The acquisition of Squirrel – or Ecureuil in the aircraft’s native language – stemmed from a decision of Fraser government Defence Minister Ian Sinclair in August 1982. What was needed was a replacement for Vietnam War era UH-1B Iroquois in the training role plus a new utility type for the RAN. The government decided to buy 18 Squirrels for $23 million – 12 for the RAAF and six for the Navy. This was a type first flown in Marignane, France in mid-1974 and intended as a civil utility aircraft. It proved more than popular, with more than 3,500 produced and operated around the world. The first Australian Squirrel was a Navy aircraft, serial-numbered N22-013, handed over in France in November 1983. CDRE Smallhorn noted the Squirrel was a basic small helicopter designed for civil operation and never intended for operation off ships.

T he Squirrel allowed the Navy to build experience operating helicopters off small ship flightdecks. defence

Seahawk ‘Tiger 79’ aboard HMAS Melbourne. defence

“You look at what the aircraft is, how it’s made and what it was originally designed for and it really is rather extraordinary when you think of what we have achieved,” he said. The RAAF initially operated Squirrels as its training helicopter at 5 Squadron at RAAF Fairbairn, Canberra. Subsequently they went to the joint Australian Defence Force helicopter school at RAAF Fairbairn, although as Army aircraft. That gives the Squirrel another distinction as just about the only aircraft to have served in all three services. Even widely-used Dakota transport aircraft and Tiger Moth trainers never served with all three services. Some RAAF Squirrels were also intended for search and rescue operations at RAAF bases at Darwin, Williamtown, NSW and Pearce, WA but proved not well suited to that mission. Subsequently the SAR contract was awarded to the National Safety Council of Australia with larger Bell 212s. Navy Squirrel aircraft were intended as the fleet’s training and utility helicopter, operating from the Adelaide class FFG frigates, pending the arrival of the larger Seahawks. The Navy used its Squirrels to learn about operating helicopters from small warship flightdecks. Di Pietro said in those early days the Navy did quite extraordinary


Bravo Zulu things with these little aircraft. “We landed the aircraft in degraded modes day and night on the deck,” he said. “We did things like hydraulics-out landings, emergency low visibility approaches, manual fuel landings. We would simulate ship deck and aircraft emergencies day and night. We literally were able to transition the Navy from one which had not seriously seen any small ship flight operations to being competent on warships to an amazing depth.” He said the Squirrel was a delight to fly and a great aircraft on which to learn to fly. “It taught you all the right things about helicopters that you needed to know. It had limitations which you needed to understand and work to and it also had a great deal of character,” he said. Di Pietro said the Squirrel featured an elastomeric rotor head and very good control setup. “Such was the control setup that you could put the thing on the deck in pretty serious weather conditions and do it safely,” he said. And then came Gulf War 1, with Australia dispatching a naval group to join the US-led coalition to evict Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait. Saddam’s troops occupied Kuwait on August 2 1990 and the three ships of the Australian task force sailed for the Gulf just over a week later.

At that time, the Navy had a mature helicopter capability in the Squirrels but which was never intended for maritime let alone operational use. And it also had a new capability, the Seahawks, intended for just that role but not yet fully accepted into service. It was decided to send both to the Gulf, with two Seahawks and three Squirrels embarked on the three ships. “So we put in a GPS system (on the Squirrel), EW (electronic warfare) system, nothing too flash, and put a gun on the side of the helicopter and it went away in support of operations in the Gulf, particularly working with the S-70B-2s also deployed to Gulf War 1,” CDRE Smallhorn said. And so was born the ‘Battle Budgie’. “It was doing things like top cover missions for boarding operations while Navy was enforcing the UN sanctions on Iraq.”

‘And so was born the ‘Battle Budgie’.’

K eeping watch from a Seahawk’s door-mounted MAG-58 machine gun during a November 2011 mission in the Middle East Area of Operations. defence

So, as well as its central role in pilot training, Squirrels also served in war and warlike environments. Those initial Seahawk deployments to the Middle East were the first of many to come which continues to this day under what’s now called Operation Manitou. CDRE Smallhorn said the Navy’s 816 Squadron has had assets deployed to this region almost continuously since 1990. He said he could think of no other unit in Australian military history which had assets deployed for greater than a quarter century. “In all of those operations, in the terribly unforgiving environment of maritime aviation and to still have the same 16 airframes that we purchased, is an extraordinary story. We are very proud of that record,” he said. “It is easy to hear stories like that and to think that what we do is easy. It’s not easy. It’s hard. It’s a tough grind to make sure that our airworthiness and safety is retained while we still are as lethal as we can be as a warfighting organisation.” The Squirrels have also played a central role in development of the Navy pilot and aircrew training regimes, organisation and practices which have produced such a commendable safety regime. CDRE Smallhorn said the Navy’s Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU) and their instructor

A Seahawk jettisons flares during a Fleet Air Arm event in October 2014. defence

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 65


The Navy’s Squirrel and Army’s Kiowa have both been replaced in the pilot training role by the new EC135. defence workforce were the crown jewels of the Fleet Air Arm. “AMAFTU develops the limits by which we operate our aircraft and the instructors ensure we imbue the skills and culture to stay within those limits. Together they give you a good airworthy and safe system in the military environment,” he said. That’s resulted in a very comprehensive pilot training system. Anyone aspiring to fly helicopters for the Navy must first pass the full RAAF initial flight training course. So by the time a pilot starts initial Navy helicopter training, he or she already has their wings. CDRE Smallhorn said it was done that way for a couple of reasons. Seahawk and its successor the Romeo are both single-pilot aircraft and Navy deployments typically involve a small group operating from the back of a ship for six-nine months far from home base. “We need to train a very mature aviator. You put them out on our ships and we are well aware of how rapidly an environment can change and lose its seamless integrity if you have the wrong sort of person,” he said. “The way we develop our aviators is not just about their professional acumen. The 60 Romeo is in every sense an aircraft equally as complex and in some cases more complex from a combat system perspective, than your modern day fighter. “What we are creating clearly has to

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be somebody with great professional and personal acumen. They roll out of here as day/night, all weather international captains. And that’s it. It is the only place in Australia where we train aircraft captains straight from their conversion ready for day/ night international ops in all weather conditions as well as in militarily contested environments.” Both Squirrel and Seahawk have reached a well-earned retirement. The last Seahawk made its last flight from Nowra to Canberra on December 4, landing at the showgrounds, from where it was transported by road to the Australian War Memorial’s nearby storage facility. This machine, Seahawk 872 (serial N24-003) was involved in the 2004 rescue of American sailors

‘We need to train a very mature aviator.’ CDRE CHRIS SMALLHORN

T orpedo-armed Seahawks off the coast of WA during a 2010 anti-submarine warfare exercise. defence

following the terrorist attack on the Iraqi oil terminals. Squirrel N22-017 was delivered to the War Memorial in August. The two are set to be displayed together. In service, the Seahawks featured advanced weapons and sensors which were progressively updated. CDRE Smallhorn understands it was the first aircraft in Australia equipped with a FLIR (forward looking infra-red) sensor. Subsequently it was upgraded with an advanced EO/IR (day and night television), along with electronic warfare and self protection systems. He said the aircraft themselves remain in excellent condition. “If it wasn’t for the fact that you can’t support most of the combat, mission and avionics systems, there is a lot of life left in them from a vehicle


Bravo Zulu perspective. But from a supportability perspective, it’s time,” he said. Seahawk Romeo brings the very latest sensors plus more – a dipping sonar, critical to an effective antisubmarine capability. The Squirrels, meanwhile, are being replaced by 15 new Airbus Helicopters EC135s, again a widely used and successful civil design. CDRE Smallhorn said in its day Squirrel was a top of the line small utility aircraft. “Today we only operate multiengine aircraft. First and foremost we wanted to bring multi-engine thinking from the very first point our aviators strap into a helicopter,” he said. “The Squirrel is also fairly basic in a systems sense.” Pilots who have already undergone

‘But from a supportability perspective, it’s time.’ CDRE CHRIS SMALLHORN

A flypast marks the retirement of the Seahawk Bravo and Squirrel. defence

RAAF training on modern navigation and avionics systems are taking a couple of steps back when they strap into a Squirrel. “Too long on a machine that is not continuing to exercise and stretch a young aviator is not ideal for their professional development. The new helicopter replacing the Squirrel, the EC135 is multi-engine and has a modern glass cockpit,” he said. “They are a beautiful modern helicopter, ideal for training future ADF rotary-wing aviators. They are operating here at HMAS Albatross right now.” With them comes a full simulation system including three full-motion simulators plus tactical training systems which feature virtual reality. “We are bringing on a system that is more of a ramp as they move towards frontline aircraft, without the big leap. It’s aiming to smooth out the path to operational conversion training which is pretty full on,” he said. EC135s will provide the flight training for the new ADF joint helicopter school to be built within the Navy’s 723 Squadron. Maintenance of these aircraft will be performed by Boeing Defence, another first. “That’s the first time that I am aware of in the Fleet Air Arm history – the FAA was stood up in 1948 – that we have had a squadron without a uniformed maintenance element,” he said. Though the Navy never lost a

Seahawk, it had some close calls. In January 2001, aircraft Tiger 83 came close to ditching during a night winching exercise in the Shoalhaven Bight. Problems with the automatic flight control system led to an uncontrolled descent to within three metres of the water. An incident the same year at Wagga Wagga led to a Squirrel being written off in manual fuel landing while teaching a trainee pilot. The instructor pilot was then Lieutenant, now Captain, Grant O’Loughlan, who said the aircraft encountered ground resonance – where it shook itself apart – spun around, with the tail breaking off. He said there were two responses to ground resonance– either take off or shut down immediately – with neither possible in the brief moments as the aircraft shook violently at up to 10Gs. “I flew Lynx, Seasprite and Seahawk and they have all been good and I just had that one unfortunate incident,” he said. “On Monday [December 4] basically everything I have flown in my career in helicopters will be in a museum. “I used to fly Squirrels off the back of a ship and I think I much preferred having a Seahawk strapped to me or a Lynx – something a bit more robust to handle challenging conditions at sea. However, I learned a lot as a baby Squirrel pilot. I enjoyed it immensely.”

A Squirrel keeps watch as Navy vessels enter Darwin Harbour during Exercise Triton Thunder 2012. defence

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Volcanic ash

OUT OF THE

ASHES Airliners and volcanic ash don’t mix WRITER: OWEN ZUPP

T

‘On the flightdeck the same light show can be seen.’ 68 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION

he ominous ash clouds that spewed forth from Mount Agung hung ominously over the island of Bali, threatening the residents and their homes. Those same clouds impact upon the world of aviation in a variety of ways and for many it stirs memories of the British Airways Boeing 747 Flight Nine, or ‘Speedbird 9’, which lost thrust on all four engines one night over Indonesia in 1982. From the strategies put in place by airlines to the tactics employed by pilots should an encounter with volcanic ash occur, the underlying message is that when airliners are concerned, prevention is the best policy.

The finest cut

Weeks, or even months, before molten rock bursts through the earth’s surface, small tell-tale jets of steam can signal the approaching eruption. When the explosive event occurs, it has the potential to blast the volcanic material high enough into the atmosphere to create a hazard for

airliners cruising as high as 45,000ft within minutes of the eruption. The column’s vertical path ultimately slows and begins to spread as gravity and atmospheric temperature changes take effect, but the hazards have only just begun. The ejected volcanic ash is very fine and is easily carried upon the wind and, in the upper atmosphere, by the jetstreams. Consequently, the region affected by the eruption can reach far beyond its immediate area as was seen in 2011, when the ash from Chile’s Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano circled the globe and impacted upon flights operating in Australia. Furthermore, it can take years for an ash cloud to totally vanish. Even though the particles within this ash are very fine, less than two millimetres in diameter, it can have a significant effect on aircraft. From engines and windscreens to airconditioning and avionics, very few components are immune and each year airliners are written off by the damage they suffer at the hands of volcanic ash.

The silent enemy

It seems at odds with logic that mammoth high-tech machines such as airliners can be held to ransom by elements that can be measured in microns. However, it is partly that very issue of size that allows the volcanic ash to infiltrate an airliner so effectively. When wood is reduced to ash, the by-product is soft, but this is not the case with volcanic ash. Volcanic ash is comprised of small rock fragments, sulphuric acid droplets, minerals, and silica. This form of ash is abrasive in nature and not broken down by water – it absorbs it. With an airliner’s jet engine core reaching temperatures of 1,400 degrees Celsius, the silica melts, forming glass and bonding with the blades and vanes within the engine. This disrupts the airflow through the engine, which in the first instance may result in surging, but can ultimately result in the engine, or engines, flaming out. In turn, the hydraulic, electrical and pneumatic systems can fail, leading to the aircraft relying on


very finite battery power and with the pressurisation system failing, among many other complications. The abrasive nature of the ash can erode the entire airframe, but the immediate threat is posed by the damage to the windscreen, limiting the pilots’ forward visibility on the approach and landing. As the volcanic ash absorbs water, it has the potential to create short circuits across the electrical system and avionics, while the cabin air may become heavily contaminated, requiring flightcrew to don their oxygen masks. For an aircraft inadvertently entering the ash cloud, a number of accompanying symptoms can occur. The smell of sulphur, or an electrical burning smell can pervade the aircraft and a haze can fill the cabin and flightdeck with dust settling on all surfaces. The fluctuating pressurisation system can be felt in the passengers’ ears if subtle, or worse if the system fails altogether. From their windows they may see torching, flashing from the rear of the engines,

or the electrical tentacles of St Elmo’s Fire creating an eerie glow on the airframe and the engine inlets. On the flightdeck the same light show can be seen, while the static discharges interfere with the radios and communications. The airspeed can begin to fluctuate rapidly and erroneously, triggering spurious warnings, as the outside sensors begin to clog with ash. The engines begin to surge and protest, choked of airflow until the point of strangulation before flaming out into silence. With the engines failed, the electrical generators are also compromised and on board the cabin lights go dim as the airliner is forced into a descent by a lack of thrust and the forces of gravity. This is the situation Speedbird 9 found itself in that night to the south-east of Jakarta, when all four engines failed. Thirty-five years ago, the crew did not have the benefit of the awareness or education in the ways of volcanic ash that we have today. Furthermore, the encounter occurred at night when there was not the ability to see the ash cloud looming

ahead while the weather radar is only suitable to detect exactly that – weather. Airborne radar systems can detect moisture, but not the components of volcanic ash. The fact that the crew were able to restart their engines and safely land at Halim Airport is a testament to their ability in a dire situation. Fortunately, much has changed in the intervening years and airlines and pilots alike are far more educated in the ways of volcanic ash.

E yjafjallajokull volcano eruption in 2010 caused chaos for the world’s airlines.

A global awareness

According to the United States Geological Survey, there are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, of which about 500 have recorded eruptions. Some volcanoes are tracked by Volcanic Observatories which take seismic readings, measure deformations, and monitor gases among other warning signs. However, around the world more than half of the volcanoes are not monitored. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has established International Airways Volcano Watch JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 69


(IAVW) to provide warnings to the aviation community, comprising of nine Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres around the world. These units advise the international aviation industry of the location and movement of clouds of volcanic ash. In Australia, the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin covers Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and a section of the Philippines. The volcanoes are colour-coded by an internationally recognised four level system ranging from a ‘Green’ normal, non-eruptive state, through to ‘Red’ which forecasts an imminent eruption with ash reaching the upper atmosphere. All arms of the aviation community play significant roles in gathering and disseminating information, including air traffic management and the Bureau of Meteorology, which provides Volcanic Ash SIGMETS as part of their aviation weather and warning services. Additionally, many airlines possess their own system of notification of volcanic activity to flightcrews which can be relayed through the company ACARS system. Also within the airlines are dedicated teams that assess, mitigate and monitor the risk associated with

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Flights into and out of Bali were disrupted in late November thanks to Mount Agung. Pictured is a file image of a Jetstar 787 at Denpasar. rob finlayson

‘Airline teams need to be both strategic and dynamic.’

volcanic events. Just as the volcanoes have levels of threat, the teams have a range of plans of action based upon the circumstances at the time. It may call for rerouting flights well clear and upwind of any potential danger, or cancelling services altogether. These teams constantly monitor the situation and could be seen in action during the recent events in Bali. On a daily basis flights were cancelled when the risk was assessed as too great, while an unexpected change in wind direction did see a potential window for operations during that period. For this to occur, the airline teams need to be both strategic and dynamic in order to react when the opportunity avails itself. This may also involve positioning crews at the ready in relatively nearby ports. At all levels and across the globe, government bodies and airlines alike constantly monitor the potential for volcanic activity with the information available. The view is to mitigate against an ash encounter ever occurring as even a minor encounter can cause substantial damage to an aircraft. Even so, there are procedures and training in place for pilots should they be faced with volcanic ash despite all the measures designed to avoid it.

The pilots’ role

Each make and model of airliner will have its own defined set of procedures to deal with flight into volcanic ash, just as each airline will have its own training syllabus, so it is impossible to cover every case here. As such, each relevant set of operating manuals and procedures should be consulted. The overwhelming message is one of avoidance, but the nature of aviation is to prepare flightcrews for all manner of emergency scenarios and a volcanic ash encounter is one such potential emergency. Should the encounter occur, first and foremost the crew needs to continue to fly the aircraft safely and avoid the numerous distractions that will undoubtedly occur, from crackling radios and flickering lights to St Elmo’s Fire. As the pitot probes may be feeding erroneous data, it is important to fly an appropriate pitch attitude, and power setting if able. The indicated airspeed shoud be treated with a degree of suspicion and there may be a need to initiate the non-normal procedure for flight with unreliable airspeed at some point. Just as visual flight rules pilots are trained for an encounter with cloud, initiating a 180-degree turn may


Volcanic ash allow the aircraft to exit the ash cloud. Climbing above it may not be possible and even if it was, the increase in thrust would actually increase the engine temperature and in turn, increase the melting debris bonding to the engine, making the situation worse. For this reason, a reduction in thrust to idle may lessen the buildup of molten material, although it will also make the 180-degree turn a descending turn, so terrain must be considered. In autothrottle-equipped aircraft, it may be worth considering disconnecting the autothrottle to avoid the thrust increasing unnoticed. Notably, with the engines at idle, as opposed to flamed out, electrical power, bleed air, hydraulics and pressurisation all remain available. If possible, starting the auxiliary power Unit (APU) may be able to provide an alternate source of electrical power and/or bleed air for engine starting on certain aircraft types. On the flightdeck the crew should don their oxygen masks and goggles to counter the fumes and haze. Turning on engine and wing anti-ice devices and all air-conditioning packs may also increase the engines’ stall margins

their specific aircraft in this situation. And like all emergencies, it is always best to be thoroughly prepared.

Ash clouds rising

by increasing airflow, while selection of continuous ignition will be of benefit if a restart is needed. Should the unthinkable occur and multiple engines flame out, cycling the fuel switches/start levers to ‘off’ and then ‘on’ in an attempt to restart the engines is a procedure common to many aircraft types. The engines may be very slow to spool up, so they need to be monitored closely and patiently and guarded against rapidly rising exhaust gas temperatures (EGT). This would be a very bad day for any airline crew, but it is of some reassurance that pilots are trained in the specific procedures relating to

P assengers seem more patient with volcano-induced flight interruptions. aap image

Volcanic ash covers a Boeing 737 at Solo, central Java, Indonesia in February 2014. aap image

While aircraft are still vulnerable to volcanic ash and without a system of onboard detection, pilots and passengers are in a totally different situation to when Speedbird 9 had its ash cloud encounter more than thirty years ago. International bodies, airlines and pilots are far better informed, educated and trained in this threatening phenomenon. A wealth of information is continually gathered and shared around the world and airlines and pilots alike opt for the conservative option. This approach may lead to cancelled flights and the disruption of family plans, but the extensive queues in airline terminals are truly a small price to pay. The commercial impact upon airlines is also great, but their crew and passengers’ welfare must always be the overriding consideration. In aviation, safety must always be the priority and there is nothing to be gained by challenging Mother Nature when the ash clouds are rising.

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 71


AIR TEST Beechcraft King Air 350i

A proud tradition Flying the Beechcraft King Air 350i WRITER: OWEN ZUPP

S

ome aircraft don’t merely carve a niche for themselves, they create a legacy. This comes about through the successful mating of a quality airframe and powerplant, through sound design philosophy and through longevity. The King Air range is very much one such aircraft with more than 7,300 of its many variants taking to the skies over more than 50 years.

Standing tall

The first King Air was introduced in 1964, back when Sir Robert Menzies was the Prime Minister and The Beatles were on tour in Australia. From its genesis as the smaller Model 65-90, the twin turboprop King Air has grown in both dimensions and reputation. Through the highly successful 200 series, which was originally known as the Super King

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Air, the aircraft was ultimately developed into the 350 and to date over 1,200 of the model have been built. Sitting on the ramp outside Hawker Pacific’s FBO at Sydney Airport, Textron’s Beechcraft King Air 350i demonstrator is having a rare stationary moment on its extensive tour to the region. Appropriately registered N350KF, it cuts an impressive pose in its red, white and black scheme, highlighted by the towering T-tail rising to 4.37m and the winglets that rise at each end of the 17.65m wingspan. The King Air has always had a proud stance, although the practical aspect behind the aesthetics is that standing tall on its tricycle undercarriage provides propeller and engine intake clearance on the unprepared runways that the versatile

T he timeless lines of the King Air 350i. textron aviation

King Air may be called to operate from. Away from the ground, the aircraft has a maximum ceiling of 35,000ft and a maximum cruise speed of 312kt, although the latter is achieved at 26,000ft. Not obvious to the eye are the performance figures that underpin the 350i. While certified for single-pilot operations, it is also certified under the Part 23, or ‘commuter category’, requirements. Firstly, this means that pilots require a specific type endorsement to fly it and secondly, it conforms to the rule set that calls for


the aircraft to safely continue the takeoff in the event of an engine failure within required performance margins and obstacle clearances. Like jet transport aircraft, the King Air 350i must have a nominated decision speed before which it can reject the takeoff with adequate runway to stop and from which it can continue a singleengined takeoff. Breaking that down into basic numbers it means that the aircraft needs 1,006 metres to takeoff at maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) at sea level in ISA conditions and 820m

to land and maximum landing weight (MLW). Furthermore, the MTOW and MLW are both 6,800kg meaning that an immediate return to land is not an issue for the King Air. Possibly the most attractive aspect of the aeroplane’s performance is its ability to ‘gas up and go’. For so many aircraft, operations are a continual compromise between the uplift of fuel and the uplift of people and payload. The 350i has a range of over 1,500nm, yet when a single pilot seats eight passengers in the cabin, allowing 90kg for each person, the range is still

‘The King Air has always had a proud stance.’

greater than 1,400nm – that’s Sydney to Cairns. The legs are even longer on the Extended Range (ER) version as it can carry an additional 717kg (1,580lb) of fuel in its nacelle tanks, which in turn increases the MTOW. Accordingly, the ER model has heavyweight landing gear to compensate, but in return there is 700nm of additional range which is particularly useful in search and rescue and special mission roles. On paper the King Air 350i is impressive and it is no less so in the flesh. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 73


AIR TEST Beechcraft King Air 350i Art meets science

Textron demonstrator pilot Karen DeMauro is already at the base of the air stair entrance when I arrive at the aircraft. However, before we climb aboard there is a great deal to see on the outside that speaks volumes about the aeroplane. As we commence our walkaround Karen points out the nacelle lockers, which give way to fuel tanks on the ER version. With a 136kg capacity each side, the lockers are long and suitable for skis or golf clubs and one would suspect that the lockers generally bulk out before they reach their weight limit. Along the trailing edge are the Fowler flaps with an initial extension speed of 202kt and a full extension speed of 158kt and the system has automatic flap asymmetry protection. Accordingly, if there is a difference in the degree of flap extension detected between the two wings, the system stops extension to prevent any unwanted roll moment that may occur. The combination of flap speeds and a landing gear extension speed of 182kt make it easy to appreciate that drag is very manageable and the aircraft is relatively straightforward to slow down when entering the terminal area. The more demanding Part 23 certification requirements soon become apparent through the level of redundancy on the aircraft. Each landing gear has a pair of tyres, yet it can clear the runway and taxi if one tyre should deflate. Each flight control surface has dual pushrods, even though a single pushrod to the elevator, aileron or rudder can still actuate the control surface if needed. Each engine has a 300-amp electrical generator capable of supporting the entire system without shedding its load should a generator fail, and a dual bleed air system offers the same degree of redundancy for pressurisation and anti-icing. The upturned, composite winglets are marked with the 350i name tag and tipped with static-wicks. In offering an effective increase in the wingspan of one metre, the winglets increase fuel efficiency while Karen emphasises that their major benefit lies in reducing the time taken to reach cruising altitude. Within the wings are held a total of 1,635kg (3,600lb), distributed through pairs of main and auxiliary tanks, although the pilot’s interface with the system is that it is simply left wing and right wing, with no management

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The 350i is powered by a pair of PT6A-60As. textron aviation

‘The PT6 engines have a heritage parallel to the King Air’s.’

required between the various tanks. As the aircraft is approved for flight into known icing, the leading edges of the wing, like the tailplane, host pneumatic de-icing boots. There is also icing protection on the fourbladed, 2.67m Hartzell propellers and while not a major issue in Australia, there is ice protection on the brakes. What can be significant in Australia is the use of the ice vanes located in the engine intakes, but not as you may think. Designed to protect the engine from ice ingestion, the vanes deflect the ice down and out of the engine before it can enter the engine. Interestingly, the vanes can also be used to guard against foreign object damage from ingestion on runways and taxiways in exactly the same way.

Dominating the wings of the King Air are the equally revered Pratt & Whitney PT6 engines, which have a heritage parallel to the King Air’s. The 350i is fitted with the PT6A‑60A which is flat-rated to 1,050shp and features a time between overhauls (TBO) of 3,600 hours. The engine is even certified to operate for 150 hours between overhauls using AVGAS as a measure to avoid an aircraft being stranded in the absence of turbine fuel. That being said, AVGAS is becoming the rarer commodity these days. The engine is also very well thought out with its accessories and hot section (1,800 hours HSI) located at the rear of the engine. Easily accessible, this reduces maintenance downtime and costs. Each engine is also equipped with


AIR TEST Beechcraft King Air 350i auto-ignition and in the event of an engine failure it will firstly attempt to relight the engine. If that is unsuccessful, it will then automatically feather the propeller to reduce drag. At the other end of the aeroplane, the large rudder will also play its part automatically with rudder boost, offsetting the yaw created by the asymmetry of the failed engine. From the pilot’s perspective, this reduces the workload significantly in an engine failure after takeoff (EFATO) and allows the focus to be centred on flying the aeroplane, retracting the landing gear and climbing away at the best singleengine rate of climb (Vyse) or ‘blue line’ – a speed of 125kt in the King Air 350i. From the outside the King Air is immediately recognisable, but it is the closer inspection that reveals the functionality and redundancy contained within those clean lines. And it is a characteristic that extends within the King Air as well.

Skin deep

T he 350i features distinctive winglets. owen zupp

The commonsense approach of the King Air continues as you approach the air stair to enter the cabin. The stair itself has a hydraulic damper for ease of operation, while dual seals surround the door frame, supporting the pressurisation system and reducing noise in the cabin. On entry, the baggage compartment is to the right, towards the tail, allowing inflight access to luggage. Also in the aft cabin, a toilet seat is concealed within a fully functional sidewaysfacing seat with a harness. For privacy, the area can be isolated by a pair of solid, sliding doors. Entering the main cabin, eight seats are arranged in a double-four, club seating arrangement while the ‘square oval’ cabin cross-section has a ceiling height of 1.45m. With a cabin differential of 6.5psi, dropdown oxygen masks and the ability to maintain a ‘sea level cabin’ to 16,000ft, the King Air is well suited to aeromedical operations, as history has shown, time and again. The airconditioned cabin features the King Air’s distinctive large round windows, which can have their level of shading individually controlled. However, when the aircraft is unpowered on the ground, all the windows automatically become dark for both privacy and to keep the cabin cool. The cabin fitout features a blend of leather and highly polished wood, reminiscent of any business jet with JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 75


AIR TEST Beechcraft King Air 350i which the King Air may be compared. One impressive cabin feature that cannot be readily seen, in addition to standard Wi-Fi connectivity, is the 350i’s passive noise reduction system. Two types of dynamic cabin absorbers are fitted throughout the aircraft to reduce cabin noise and vibration levels. Airframe-mounted 100 Hz absorbers are set at the same frequency as the propellers, while 200 Hz skin-mounted absorbers are tuned into the same frequency as the skin’s harmonics. Unpowered and totally passive, the devices do not require ongoing maintenance. The front of the cabin opens into the cockpit and immediately there is the familiar King Air feel, but with a very new edge. A new edge that goes by the name of Fusion.

Flying Fusion

The world of avionics evolves at an incredible pace and Rockwell Collins has long been a leader in the field. However, its latest offering in the form of the Pro Line Fusion suite is something to behold and even better to operate. At first glance, the most striking elements are the three 14in widescreen LCDs that fill the flight instrument panel. Featuring synthetic vision, ADS-B Out, TCAS II and the ability to move various displays and their information about in a variety of formats, there is an additional element that is not so obvious – touchscreen functionality. Everything from planning a weather diversion or setting the QNH, to accessing a checklist or selecting the flight director presentation can be done by touching the relevant LCD screen. Unlike most mobile devices where the screen is heat-sensitive, the Fusion screens are pressure-sensitive, requiring a positive force to make a selection, allowing the wearing of gloves and significantly reducing the possibility of an inadvertent selection by an unsteady hand in turbulence. Further indicating forethought, the edges of the three large screens have a roughened edge, allowing the rest of the hand to grip while the chosen finger makes the selection. Between the two seats and aft of the throttle quadrant, the Proline keyboard and cursor control panel remains and offers an optional means of operating the system. It would seem that this is still the preferred method for a few of the tasks associated with the system, but the touchscreen

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The 350i features a state-ofthe-art Pro Line Fusion avionics suite, and can be fitted with a leather and polished wood cabin the envy of many business jets. textron aviation

philosophy has been well received for the majority of tasks. Karen has already pre-programmed the route for our flight, so it is time to take our seats and see the King Air 350i and the Pro Line Fusion system in their element.

Taking flight

‘The touchscreen philosophy has been well received.’

Seated in the left seat, the pressurisation panel to the left, the switches to the lower panel, the central throttle quadrant and even the control yoke will be familiar to any King Air pilot. Switching the battery switch to ‘ground’ powers up one primary flight display (PFD) and allows the aircraft to be readied for flight with the ammeter overhead showing barely an amp being drained from the battery. Karen runs through the flightplan that she has loaded that will see a departure from the harbour city, south to the coastal township of Nowra before heading west and returning via one of the standard arrival routes. Starting the PT6A engines is a simple process of spooling up and

introducing fuel to ignition for the engine to quickly stabilise. With both engines running, both electrical generators are online, and each are checked independently for their output. The Fusion display is impressive, and Karen has selected a format across the three screens, left to right, of primary flight display, a combination of engine instruments, Jeppesen chart and map display centrally and a condensed PFD and flightplan ahead of the right-hand seat. With airways and taxi clearance we move from the Hawker Pacific FBO with only a touch of power and when required moving the power levers aft through one detent to ground fine negates virtually any need for using the brakes when taxiing. Accessing the checklists through the Fusion system and touchscreens introduces me to an immediate advantage – keeping one’s eyes outside the aircraft. The geometry of the system calls for only a partial lowering of the eyes to access any information that a pilot may require. On certain


AIR TEST Beechcraft King Air 350i systems, even setting the QNH can be a challenge for the uninitiated. To set Vspeeds on our way out to the runway, Karen simply asks me what would my intuition suggest I touch to set the speeds, to which I reply, “The airspeed tape on the PFD”. I was correct and touching the tape brings up a box and the speeds can be entered. It is all extremely user-friendly and calls for minimal concentration or focus to be drawn from taxiing the aircraft. Lining up at Sydney for a northerly departure, digital checklists are ticked off and we are cleared for takeoff. Advancing the power levers fully forward, the King Air accelerates quickly and smoothly with the Interstage Turbine Temperature (ITT) well below the 820-degree limit. Through V1, and rotating shortly afterwards, with the RPM set at 1,500rpm and the initial climb speed of 130kt, the aircraft is climbing away impressively, and I am reliably informed that at maximum weight it will climb on one engine at around 550ft/min. The aircraft is an absolute joy to hand fly. The RPM is left at 1,500 RPM for the entire climb while the power levers are progressively inched up to their limit with increasing altitude and one eye on the ITT. Through all the turns, intermediate level-offs and climbs there is a really solid feel and sense of balance within the controls of the King Air. I reluctantly engage the autopilot to take in what else the King Air has to offer. Setting an attitude of 5 degrees and still 1,500 RPM, the aircraft cruise climbs comfortably at 180kt. For pilots and passengers alike, the good news is that the noise-dampening devices obviously work as this is quite possibly the quietest twin-turboprop that you will ever fly in. Along the way we amend our flight plan, change frequencies and pull up new charts through the touchscreens, and within a very limited timeframe Karen has me performing the tasks on my own. The Pro Line Fusion system is not only very capable, it is also extremely intuitive. Combined with the impressive synthetic vision and the map display, the product of these factors is a greatly enhanced situational awareness. Levelling in the cruise at FL260, we modify the flightplan through a combination of the touchscreen and the cursor and keypad. Karen relates

that pilots have their individual preferences for certain tasks and generally use a combination for their flight management. To fully demonstrate the functionality, Karen draws a ‘weather diversion’ on the map display with her index finger. It not only creates waypoints in the flightplan, but automatically modifies the flight time and fuel remaining. Enhanced situational awareness once again. Outside, the atmosphere is 10

The author at the controls.

degrees warmer than standard and I note the fuel flow as 310lb (140kg) per hour per engine and a true airspeed of 305kt. Checking the manual, the aircraft is performing virtually right on the book figures. In true pilot style, Karen has a rule of thumb, or in this case, her ‘Rule of Threes’. At FL300, 300lb/hour per engine and 300kt true airspeed. I like it. With our return to Sydney via a standard arrival programmed into the system, the top of descent and descent speed and altitude restrictions are clearly displayed. As we head down, the synthetic vision portrays Sydney Airport in the distance as a white dome with an extended centreline for our programmed runway. It is long before we can visually acquire the airport, but once again offers a great sense of orientation. Over the top of Sydney at 6,000ft and rolling into a right-hand circuit for runway 34 Right, one cannot help but be impressed by this aircraft. Conforming to air traffic control speed restrictions and slowing down for the approach could not be simpler. With the torque set at 25 per cent, the flaps and landing gear are extended in sequence with no need for a change in power and minimal adjustment of trim. Personally, it is in fact smoother to use the old-style trim wheel near the right knee rather than the electric trim switch on the yoke. On approach and over the threshold, the King Air responds like a stable training aircraft rather than the high-performing twin that it is. It settles onto the runway nicely despite my efforts to the contrary and after only an hour we are back in Sydney.

A dominant force

An aircraft does not earn a reputation like the King Air’s easily. Pilots and engineers are a critical group, and yet I am still yet to find one who has not been impressed by the King Air. Now equipped with the Collins Pro Line Fusion, an already formidable aircraft has enhanced the pilot and passenger experience even further. For the pilots there is simplicity and improved situational awareness, while the passengers benefit from a cabin boasting levels of quiet comfort normally found in business jets. It might seem difficult to build further upon the King Air’s already revered reputation, but the 350i has done exactly that. One can only wonder what is next in store for this stylish stalwart of the skies.

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 77


EMERGING 78 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION


QATAR AIRWAYS

Ambitious Qatar Airways may have been ostracised by its neighbours, and banned from their airspace over allegations Doha is supporting terrorism, but the carrier isn’t slowing down on expansion plans. In fact, it is picking up the pace and splashing out on investments in other airlines. WRITER: TOM BALLANTYNE

G GIANT

photo – seth jaworski

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 79


QATAR AIRWAYS

H

e is a famously fractious individual not slow to speak his mind and even the fact his airline is heading for a loss in its current financial year hasn’t slowed down Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al Baker. With Qatar’s closest neighbours having closed their skies to his jets, under attack from US rivals for allegedly profiting through government subsidies and facing an unprecedented dip in fortunes currently hitting all the Gulf carriers, Qatar has put its foot on the accelerator. Al Baker is launching new flights at breakneck pace, continuing to spend billions on new aircraft to expand the fleet and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, seemingly pushing ahead with a strategy that cost nearby Abu Dhabi flag Etihad Airways dearly: investing in other airlines around the globe. His latest spend, in November, was to fork out US$662 million for a 9.61 per cent stake in Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways. This is apparently aimed at allowing the Qatari carrier to reach deeper into Asia’s booming traffic numbers. “Frankly, I wish I could buy more,” he declared. “But the Swire Group and

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Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific are both oneworld alliance members. rob finlayson

Air China hold most of it and I’m the third-largest shareholder, which is not bad.” Qatar already owns 20 per cent of International Airlines Group (IAG), parent of British Airways and Iberia, 20 per cent of South America’s LATAM Airlines and 49 per cent of Italy’s Meridiana, a carrier he says will overtake Alitalia as Italy’s primary airline. It had also tried to buy a stake in American Airlines earlier this year but was rebuffed. Many analysts are comparing Qatar’s moves to the blueprint Etihad used in its investment strategy and wonder whether the carrier is playing with fire. That was a strategy that floundered and has now been abandoned by Etihad’s owners in the face of huge losses. After posting a US$103 million profit in 2015, Etihad last year announced a staggering US$1.87 billion loss, blaming US$808 million of the deficit on its financial exposure to partner airlines such as Air Berlin and Alitalia, which both went bankrupt. Al Baker himself is nonplussed, saying Qatar Airways wants shareholdings to be exchanged between itself and its portfolio airlines

as it seeks to become a virtual megacarrier. “I see a lot of synergies we could bring as a group. I hope that one day in the not too distant future we all, these four groups, get together and exchange shareholdings in each other so that we will become a real mega-carrier. That is something that some people have tried, but not successfully.” And there are significant differences between the investment moves of Etihad and Qatar. From the beginning, many questioned the wisdom of Etihad throwing millions of dollars at Alitalia, which had been a basket case for decades, constantly mired in problems with its unions and rarely able to make money or compete effectively with other big European operators. Airberlin too was a perpetual loss-maker with ongoing union issues. The same can hardly be said of IAG and British Airways. And although Cathay is going through a rough patch – it lost $74 million in its latest financial year and is cutting hundreds of jobs in a bid to slash costs as it struggles to face off rising competition from mainland Chinese carriers – it


is a long established and admired operator based in the fastest growing aviation region in the world. Also, British Airways, LATAM and Cathay, like Qatar, are all members of the oneworld alliance which means they have already been working together

Qatar Airways has become the third largest shareholder in Cathay Pacific. rob finlayson

‘Shareholder meetings are going to get complicated’. CORRINE PNG

relatively closely. What impact Qatar’s presence as third largest shareholder will have on Cathay remains to be seen, but many believe it will bring interesting times. As analyst at research firm Crucial Perspective Corrine Png put it: “Qatar Airways faces greater pressure to broaden its global footprint and a need to demonstrate its financial strength.” The two airlines should benefit by feeding traffic into their respective networks. She believes Qatar is likely to be a vocal shareholder and will seek to influence Cathay’s business strategy, which could complicate its turnaround efforts. “Shareholder meetings are going to get complicated for Cathay,” she said. So far, there has been no comment from Cathay management or from the other principal Cathay shareholder Air China. The potential for lively board meetings in Hong Kong won’t surprise anyone. Al Baker is renowned for his outspoken views. He has repeatedly and publicly attacked either Boeing or Airbus over delivery delays and other issues, threatening to cancel orders if they don’t meet his demands. Earlier this year he sparked a furore in the US after calling American carriers “crap”. Speaking in Dublin at the inauguration of a new flight between Doha and the Irish capital he touted the “award-winning service from our international cabin crew”, and went on to add: “By the way, the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years. So, there is no need for you to travel on these crap American carriers… You

know you’re always being served by grandmothers on American airlines.” This brought a sharp response from the US Association of Flight Attendants and the Air Line Pilots Association, which accused him of reaching “a new low”. That, however, is a passing spat compared with more serious issues. In June, neighbors Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and The Maldives cut diplomatic ties and imposed a partial embargo on Qatar, alleging Qatari support for terrorism. Qatar Airways is now banned from flying into those countries. News of action came as the world’s airline leaders were meeting for their annual general meeting in Cancun, Mexico (al Baker was there but left hurriedly to return home to Doha) where International Air Transport Association Director General Alexandre de Juniac immediately urged the Gulf countries that had cut ties with Qatar to restore air links, warning of major travel disruptions. “Of course, we accept that countries have the right to close their borders. But connectivity with Qatar must be restored as quickly as possible,” he said. The appeal was to no avail and efforts by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to mediate and find a resolution to the dispute have so far failed. It is an ongoing issue. A JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 81


QATAR AIRWAYS report by Euromonitor, the global market intelligence agency, says Qatar Airways is the main loser in the turmoil with 30 per cent of its revenues under threat. Apart from losing passengers, it also has to spend extra money on fuel to fly around the countries it can no longer fly over. It has had to stop services to four destinations in the Middle East that represented some 20 per cent of its seating capacity. Al Baker has conceded the airline will report a loss in its current financial year. The spat also came at a time the Gulf airlines are struggling anyway, suffering from overcapacity and security concerns, including a hit to their traffic resulting from US President Donald Trump’s efforts to ban Middle East citizens from entering the US. Apart from Etihad’s huge loss, Emirates Airline, the oldest and largest of the Gulf airlines, posted its first full-year profit decline for five years in May, as earnings crashed more than 80 per cent. On another front, along with Emirates and Etihad, Qatar has also faced an ongoing battle with the big three US airlines – United, Delta and American – which have been lobbying Washington for months to put the brakes on Gulf airlines’ expansion into their home market. Never the shrinking violet, al Baker has fought the campaign every step of the way. The airline as recently as November released a new television commercial and social media campaign highlighting the airline’s contribution to the US economy and taking its message directly to the American people: “Our success is also America’s shared success,” it declares. The campaign, seen by more than eight million people on social media, cites independently-gathered data that demonstrates Qatar Airways’ robust US$91.8 billion investment in the American economy through its 332 US-made aircraft. It also points to the 123,000 American jobs it supports and says it flies 3.1 million visitors to the US annually, who helped pump an extra US$4 billion into the US economy in 2016 alone. “This commercial expresses how tremendously proud we are of the investment we have made, and continue to make every year, in the US economy. Our 332 American-made aircraft are testament to the faith we have in America, and in Americanmade products,” said Al Baker. Resorting to what almost amounts

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Qatar has eight A380s of an eventual 10 in service. seth jaworski

‘Nothing great was built in isolation’. AKBAR AL BAKER

to poetry, he adds: “This commercial speaks directly to the hearts and minds of the American people. It eloquently expresses our firm belief that nothing great was ever built in isolation; that together, with our American partners, we will continue to invest in America’s future by building the greatest aircraft in the skies. Together, we will continue to soar to even higher heights.” The troubles at home and the battle with US airlines have clearly influenced Qatar’s decision to look eastwards. According to the Euromonitor report, Asian cities dominate the global destination rankings in 2017, thanks to the unstoppable rise of Chinese outbound tourism demand. Hong Kong is the most visited city in the world, followed by Bangkok, which overtook London in 2015.

Wouter Geerts, a senior travel analyst at Euromonitor International, said: “Asia Pacific is the standout region driving change in travel. We expect the region to continue growing in the coming decade with Singapore overtaking London as the third most visited city in the world by 2025, giving the podium fully to Asia.” Grabbing part of that pie is high on Qatar’s agenda. In the meantime, the carrier hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down its expansion drive. It currently operates a fleet of 206 jets with 220 more on order. It has 49 narrowbodies (two A319LRs, 39 A320s and eight A321s) flying with 30 A320neos and 16 A321neos on order. They join 36 A330 and four A340 widebodies. Qatar was launch customer for the A350-900 and now operates 22 with 21 more to come. Also on order are


‘It’s definitely a case of business as usual.’

37 A350‑1000s. The Airbus fleet is completed with eight A380s (two more on order). From Boeing it has nine 777‑200LRs, 36 777-300ERs (12 more on order) and 30 787-8 Dreamliners. Also on order are 30 787-9s, ten 777‑8s and 50 777-9s (as well as purchase rights on an additional 50 777-9Xs. Qatar also has eight A330‑200F freighters (eight more on order), one 747-8F (one more on order) and 13 777Fs (three more on order). Al Baker has no doubts there are plenty of destinations to fly these aircraft to. Despite the Gulf embargo and other issues, he has been extremely active over the past year. In November alone, Qatar announced an increase in daily frequencies to the Scandinavian capitals of Stockholm and Oslo, as

Never the shrinking violet – Qatar’s Akbar al Baker. airbus

well as the Italian cities of Milan and Rome. Citing an increase in demand to key European destinations, especially from the Asia Pacific region, flights to Rome, Milan and Stockholm will increase to 17 per week from Doha’s Hamad International Airport, while flights to Oslo are set to increase from seven to 10 frequencies per week. Qatar also raised its double daily flights to Moscow to three times daily in December and inaugurated a new flight to the Russian city of St Petersburg the same month. As well as these frequency increases it also recently announced additional daily non-stop flights to Kiev, Prague, Warsaw and Helsinki. Clearly, for al Baker, whatever issues are seething around his operations, it’s definitely a case of business as usual. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 83


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QATAR AIRWAYS

Ambitious Qatar Airways may have been ostracised by its neighbours, and banned from their airspace over allegations Doha is supporting terrorism, but the carrier isn’t slowing down on expansion plans. In fact, it is picking up the pace and splashing out on investments in other airlines. WRITER: TOM BALLANTYNE

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photo – seth jaworski

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QATAR AIRWAYS

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e is a famously fractious individual not slow to speak his mind and even the fact his airline is heading for a loss in its current financial year hasn’t slowed down Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al Baker. With Qatar’s closest neighbours having closed their skies to his jets, under attack from US rivals for allegedly profiting through government subsidies and facing an unprecedented dip in fortunes currently hitting all the Gulf carriers, Qatar has put its foot on the accelerator. Al Baker is launching new flights at breakneck pace, continuing to spend billions on new aircraft to expand the fleet and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, seemingly pushing ahead with a strategy that cost nearby Abu Dhabi flag Etihad Airways dearly: investing in other airlines around the globe. His latest spend, in November, was to fork out US$662 million for a 9.61 per cent stake in Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways. This is apparently aimed at allowing the Qatari carrier to reach deeper into Asia’s booming traffic numbers. “Frankly, I wish I could buy more,” he declared. “But the Swire Group and

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Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific are both oneworld alliance members. rob finlayson

Air China hold most of it and I’m the third-largest shareholder, which is not bad.” Qatar already owns 20 per cent of International Airlines Group (IAG), parent of British Airways and Iberia, 20 per cent of South America’s LATAM Airlines and 49 per cent of Italy’s Meridiana, a carrier he says will overtake Alitalia as Italy’s primary airline. It had also tried to buy a stake in American Airlines earlier this year but was rebuffed. Many analysts are comparing Qatar’s moves to the blueprint Etihad used in its investment strategy and wonder whether the carrier is playing with fire. That was a strategy that floundered and has now been abandoned by Etihad’s owners in the face of huge losses. After posting a US$103 million profit in 2015, Etihad last year announced a staggering US$1.87 billion loss, blaming US$808 million of the deficit on its financial exposure to partner airlines such as Air Berlin and Alitalia, which both went bankrupt. Al Baker himself is nonplussed, saying Qatar Airways wants shareholdings to be exchanged between itself and its portfolio airlines

as it seeks to become a virtual megacarrier. “I see a lot of synergies we could bring as a group. I hope that one day in the not too distant future we all, these four groups, get together and exchange shareholdings in each other so that we will become a real mega-carrier. That is something that some people have tried, but not successfully.” And there are significant differences between the investment moves of Etihad and Qatar. From the beginning, many questioned the wisdom of Etihad throwing millions of dollars at Alitalia, which had been a basket case for decades, constantly mired in problems with its unions and rarely able to make money or compete effectively with other big European operators. Airberlin too was a perpetual loss-maker with ongoing union issues. The same can hardly be said of IAG and British Airways. And although Cathay is going through a rough patch – it lost $74 million in its latest financial year and is cutting hundreds of jobs in a bid to slash costs as it struggles to face off rising competition from mainland Chinese carriers – it


is a long established and admired operator based in the fastest growing aviation region in the world. Also, British Airways, LATAM and Cathay, like Qatar, are all members of the oneworld alliance which means they have already been working together

Qatar Airways has become the third largest shareholder in Cathay Pacific. rob finlayson

‘Shareholder meetings are going to get complicated’. CORRINE PNG

relatively closely. What impact Qatar’s presence as third largest shareholder will have on Cathay remains to be seen, but many believe it will bring interesting times. As analyst at research firm Crucial Perspective Corrine Png put it: “Qatar Airways faces greater pressure to broaden its global footprint and a need to demonstrate its financial strength.” The two airlines should benefit by feeding traffic into their respective networks. She believes Qatar is likely to be a vocal shareholder and will seek to influence Cathay’s business strategy, which could complicate its turnaround efforts. “Shareholder meetings are going to get complicated for Cathay,” she said. So far, there has been no comment from Cathay management or from the other principal Cathay shareholder Air China. The potential for lively board meetings in Hong Kong won’t surprise anyone. Al Baker is renowned for his outspoken views. He has repeatedly and publicly attacked either Boeing or Airbus over delivery delays and other issues, threatening to cancel orders if they don’t meet his demands. Earlier this year he sparked a furore in the US after calling American carriers “crap”. Speaking in Dublin at the inauguration of a new flight between Doha and the Irish capital he touted the “award-winning service from our international cabin crew”, and went on to add: “By the way, the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years. So, there is no need for you to travel on these crap American carriers… You

know you’re always being served by grandmothers on American airlines.” This brought a sharp response from the US Association of Flight Attendants and the Air Line Pilots Association, which accused him of reaching “a new low”. That, however, is a passing spat compared with more serious issues. In June, neighbors Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and The Maldives cut diplomatic ties and imposed a partial embargo on Qatar, alleging Qatari support for terrorism. Qatar Airways is now banned from flying into those countries. News of action came as the world’s airline leaders were meeting for their annual general meeting in Cancun, Mexico (al Baker was there but left hurriedly to return home to Doha) where International Air Transport Association Director General Alexandre de Juniac immediately urged the Gulf countries that had cut ties with Qatar to restore air links, warning of major travel disruptions. “Of course, we accept that countries have the right to close their borders. But connectivity with Qatar must be restored as quickly as possible,” he said. The appeal was to no avail and efforts by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to mediate and find a resolution to the dispute have so far failed. It is an ongoing issue. A JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 81


QATAR AIRWAYS report by Euromonitor, the global market intelligence agency, says Qatar Airways is the main loser in the turmoil with 30 per cent of its revenues under threat. Apart from losing passengers, it also has to spend extra money on fuel to fly around the countries it can no longer fly over. It has had to stop services to four destinations in the Middle East that represented some 20 per cent of its seating capacity. Al Baker has conceded the airline will report a loss in its current financial year. The spat also came at a time the Gulf airlines are struggling anyway, suffering from overcapacity and security concerns, including a hit to their traffic resulting from US President Donald Trump’s efforts to ban Middle East citizens from entering the US. Apart from Etihad’s huge loss, Emirates Airline, the oldest and largest of the Gulf airlines, posted its first full-year profit decline for five years in May, as earnings crashed more than 80 per cent. On another front, along with Emirates and Etihad, Qatar has also faced an ongoing battle with the big three US airlines – United, Delta and American – which have been lobbying Washington for months to put the brakes on Gulf airlines’ expansion into their home market. Never the shrinking violet, al Baker has fought the campaign every step of the way. The airline as recently as November released a new television commercial and social media campaign highlighting the airline’s contribution to the US economy and taking its message directly to the American people: “Our success is also America’s shared success,” it declares. The campaign, seen by more than eight million people on social media, cites independently-gathered data that demonstrates Qatar Airways’ robust US$91.8 billion investment in the American economy through its 332 US-made aircraft. It also points to the 123,000 American jobs it supports and says it flies 3.1 million visitors to the US annually, who helped pump an extra US$4 billion into the US economy in 2016 alone. “This commercial expresses how tremendously proud we are of the investment we have made, and continue to make every year, in the US economy. Our 332 American-made aircraft are testament to the faith we have in America, and in Americanmade products,” said Al Baker. Resorting to what almost amounts

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Qatar has eight A380s of an eventual 10 in service. seth jaworski

‘Nothing great was built in isolation’. AKBAR AL BAKER

to poetry, he adds: “This commercial speaks directly to the hearts and minds of the American people. It eloquently expresses our firm belief that nothing great was ever built in isolation; that together, with our American partners, we will continue to invest in America’s future by building the greatest aircraft in the skies. Together, we will continue to soar to even higher heights.” The troubles at home and the battle with US airlines have clearly influenced Qatar’s decision to look eastwards. According to the Euromonitor report, Asian cities dominate the global destination rankings in 2017, thanks to the unstoppable rise of Chinese outbound tourism demand. Hong Kong is the most visited city in the world, followed by Bangkok, which overtook London in 2015.

Wouter Geerts, a senior travel analyst at Euromonitor International, said: “Asia Pacific is the standout region driving change in travel. We expect the region to continue growing in the coming decade with Singapore overtaking London as the third most visited city in the world by 2025, giving the podium fully to Asia.” Grabbing part of that pie is high on Qatar’s agenda. In the meantime, the carrier hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down its expansion drive. It currently operates a fleet of 206 jets with 220 more on order. It has 49 narrowbodies (two A319LRs, 39 A320s and eight A321s) flying with 30 A320neos and 16 A321neos on order. They join 36 A330 and four A340 widebodies. Qatar was launch customer for the A350-900 and now operates 22 with 21 more to come. Also on order are


‘It’s definitely a case of business as usual.’

37 A350‑1000s. The Airbus fleet is completed with eight A380s (two more on order). From Boeing it has nine 777‑200LRs, 36 777-300ERs (12 more on order) and 30 787-8 Dreamliners. Also on order are 30 787-9s, ten 777‑8s and 50 777-9s (as well as purchase rights on an additional 50 777-9Xs. Qatar also has eight A330‑200F freighters (eight more on order), one 747-8F (one more on order) and 13 777Fs (three more on order). Al Baker has no doubts there are plenty of destinations to fly these aircraft to. Despite the Gulf embargo and other issues, he has been extremely active over the past year. In November alone, Qatar announced an increase in daily frequencies to the Scandinavian capitals of Stockholm and Oslo, as

Never the shrinking violet – Qatar’s Akbar al Baker. airbus

well as the Italian cities of Milan and Rome. Citing an increase in demand to key European destinations, especially from the Asia Pacific region, flights to Rome, Milan and Stockholm will increase to 17 per week from Doha’s Hamad International Airport, while flights to Oslo are set to increase from seven to 10 frequencies per week. Qatar also raised its double daily flights to Moscow to three times daily in December and inaugurated a new flight to the Russian city of St Petersburg the same month. As well as these frequency increases it also recently announced additional daily non-stop flights to Kiev, Prague, Warsaw and Helsinki. Clearly, for al Baker, whatever issues are seething around his operations, it’s definitely a case of business as usual. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 83


BNE-feat Brisbane Airport draws a $1.3 billion line in the sand WRITER: STEVE GIBBONS

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ny parent who has undertaken the relatively tedious task of visiting the local hardware store on a mission to top up the kids’ sandpit knows that a 20kg bag of sand weighs … well, 20kg and that means more than a bit of back-bending to get it on to the shopping trolley. Multiply that by an average sandpit top-up of six bags and you might wish you had done a few more weights down at the gym. Or maybe you are a do-ityourselfer ready to lay a set of pavers or a patio. It takes a lot of patience, a lot of shovelling, and a lot of wheelbarrowing to shift a single cubic metre of sand dumped unceremoniously in your driveway by the landscape supplier’s delivery truck. So spare a thought for a project that has relied for its very success on just a tad more sand – like another 10,999,999 cubic metres. No, this is not a misplaced feature from Dubai Landscaper’s Monthly. Instead, it is just one of the mindboggling statistics behind the largest aviation project in Australia: the construction of a parallel runway at Brisbane’s International Airport. The eight-year project at a total cost of up to $1.3 billion is at the leading edge of a decade-long, $3.8 billion pattern of transformation that has seen Brisbane (BNE) consolidate its position as the third busiest airport in Australia – and with ambition to further match it with its southern key

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gateway counterparts in Sydney and Melbourne. Once fully operational in 2020, the runway will effectively double BNE’s current capacity, drawing comparisons with Singapore’s Changi and Hong Kong International. Combined with the attraction of Queensland as a prime visitor destination, it is a compelling story that BNE’s parent, the Brisbane Airport Corporation, is eagerly taking to the world. The traffic foundations are already in place with its two major terminals offering services to around 22 million passengers a year. And in a possible sign of things to come, BNE has seen a recent upsurge in connections through Chinese operators such as China Eastern, China Airlines and Hainan Airlines, including an inaugural Air China, Brisbane-Beijing service from December. The fastest-growing airport in Australia now caters to 32 airlines flying to around 70 national and 29 international destinations with freight handling (import and export FY16-17) of more than 112,000 tonnes. The next step is foundations of a very different kind.

Shifting sand

Anyone occupying a window seat as their flight completes a circuit over the blue waters of Moreton Bay to line up with Brisbane’s runway 19 can’t miss the massive swathe of white off to the right of the terminal infrastructure

A n aerial overview of the new parallel runway site as it appeared in November. brisbane airport

and almost touching the tip of cross runway 14. That’s what millions of cubic metres of sand looks like – representing the reclamation of more than 360 hectares of boggy marshland, covered largely in casuarina scrub, to deliver a runway 3,300 metres long and 60 metres wide and with an associated 12 kilometres of taxiways (the current main 01/19 runway is 3,560 x 45 metres). The very nature of the land, a former river delta, lying low and abutting Moreton Bay, has presented a huge logistical challenge and is the key reason why the project has an eight-year timeline. This has never been a case of speedy land clearing and grading before laying asphalt and concrete, but rather a complex


BNE-feat

geotechnical project reliant on compression modelling. In layperson’s terms, the question was this: how much material would be required to compress and consolidate the poor quality soil structure to provide a sufficiently strong platform to support the new runway system? Hence the magic 11 million cubic metres, supplemented by the driving down of no fewer than 333,000 wick drains, specially configured vertical drains, to further draw away water to assist the consolidation process. Inclusive of the initial project set‑up and subsequent land clearing, it has taken about five years to reach the current project stage of a platform strong enough to herald the start of construction of the runway proper. In the meantime, work is underway

‘Once fully operational in 2020, the runway will effectively double BNE’s current capacity.’

on a key allied project, the delivery of a vehicle underpass beneath taxiways that will link the new runway system to the existing system and terminals. It will be built to carry an aircraft design weight of 710 tonnes, or – as parallel runway project director Paul Coughlan puts it – “an A380 plus 20 per cent”. As an indication of the depth of research involved in planning the taxiway weight-bearing capacity, the project team examined the development of major aircraft by type over a 20 to 30‑year period, from base model to stretched versions. In almost all cases the final stretched version of an aircraft type added 20 per cent to the MTOW of the original – hence a projection based on the current largest passenger type plus 20 per cent.

Taking shape

Coughlan speaks about sand, fine crushed rock, concrete and asphalt with a depth of passion many of us reserve for the sight of a vintage aircraft in flight or the latest prototype rolling off the production line in Seattle or Toulouse. With previous experience as a private pilot, and a work background as an engineer specialising in ports and harbours, he was well placed to not only understand the aviation aspects of what he regards as a “once in a generation” project but also the circumstances that would bring Moreton Bay into play as a key source of the runway underlay. Cue the arrival in 2014 of one of the world’s largest and most modern dredgers, the Charles Darwin, owned JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 85


BNE-feat by the Jan de Nul Group based in Luxembourg. It spent several months pumping sand on to the runway site from a part of Moreton Bay free of any environmental sensitivity. As an indication of the scope of the task, at one time the dredger was pumping sand along a pipeline for an unprecedented distance just short of nine kilometres. Coughlan recalled how the captain of the Charles Darwin, on his last job after 40 years in dredging, said he was going to retire a happy man because he never believed it possible to pump the distance he pumped at Brisbane. Fast forward to the end of 2017 and joint venture contractor Skyway began the process of skimming off 4.5 million cubic metres of sand no longer required as part of the compaction process. “In the worst parts of the site we predicted up to about three metres of ground settlement and we’ve had just under that. The centre part of the runway we only predicted about half a metre of settlement and we’ve had about 350 to 400 millimetres. So all the ground settlement is complete and there is excess sand to come off,” Coughlan said. He added, wryly: “So far we have about 500,000 cubic metres of that off, so there is only about four million to go!” Speaking from London where he was fronting a presentation on the project at the Airport Expansion and Improvements Conference, Coughlan spoke of his pride at the success of the reclamation stage and confidence in confronting any future challenges as his team looks forward to the runway really starting to take shape. “One of the things I’m really proud of is that we do a lot of scenario planning. We are continually doing all the risk assessment and scenarios for what could go wrong. Everything is planned out, so if suddenly we find something we will have already contemplated that as a scenario and will implement ‘Plan B’. So it goes very smoothly. “You could call me very conservative. The last thing a contractor wants is uncertainty in any given situation.” Cast ahead to the remainder of 2018 and we are back in the territory of mind-boggling numbers. With machinery in place, paving trials will begin reliant on the blending of fine crushed rock from an initial 100,000 tonne stockpile. Subsequently, a staggering 1.2 million tonnes of fine

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T he dredger Charles Darwin spent several months pumping sand onto the runway site. brisbane airport

A rtist’s impression of the new Dryandra Road underpass to be built beneath taxiways as part of the parallel runway project. brisbane airport

crushed rock will be required to feed an onsite production line making the different pavement layers and concrete mixtures. The result, according to official BAC statistics, will be 100,000 tonnes of aircraft grade asphalt, mainly for the runway, and 380,000 tonnes of concrete. The schedule could see paving trials complete by late April or early May at which point, as Coughlan put it, “it’s on. We start actually building the runway.” By November 2018 he believes there will be sufficient visual clues to the new runway to underpin a significant project milestone: the renaming of the existing main runway

as 01 Right and 19 Left to negate any pilot confusion. Coughlan explained: “One of the learnings from other airport developments is that when a new parallel runway starts to take shape it can be confusing to a pilot lining up, say, eight to 10 nautical miles out. “So we already have it in place with Airservices Australia to rename that existing runway well ahead of the project completion.” The existing 1,700 x 30 metre cross runway 14/32 will be closed and converted into a taxiway, principally to link the current general aviation, regional freight and Royal Flying Doctor Service facilities to the new runway via a left taxi or the existing runway by taxiing right. New runway construction should be complete by the end of 2019 and will be followed by detailed commissioning over about three months to prove the integrity of ground lighting (about 2,000 runway and taxiway lights and 40 kilometres of electrical wiring), navigation aids, and control tower monitoring. Foresight in the planning of Brisbane Airport in the ’70s and ’80s as a much-needed replacement for the original facility at nearby Eagle Farm included the 360-degree control tower that stands as a significant landmark for anyone approaching the terminals by road. The vision was always for an airport with parallel runways and, according to Coughlan, the control tower fitout included space to duplicate the consoles catering for current airside operations. He says that there will be huge logistical benefit in widely spaced parallel runways (they are two kilometres apart): “They will operate as independent runways. There will be no crossovers in the air so we can


The new 3,300 metre long Runway 01 Left/19 Right will sit to the north of the existing, soon-to-be-renamed Runway 01 Right/19 Left. brisbane airport

do auto-releases for departures, and simultaneous landings,” he said. Noise minimisation has been top of mind within BAC since the project was first mooted and protests emerged over the potential noise effect on residential suburbs outside the current 01/19 footprint. It is quick to point out that the new runway provides a six kilometre straight line buffer between the 01 landside threshold and the nearest residence, more than any other capital city airport in Australia. BAC says its first preference for airport operations is for aircraft to arrive and depart over Moreton Bay via SODPROPS (simultaneous opposite direction parallel runway operations) and DODROPS (dependent opposite direction parallel runway operations). This will be most common at night and at weekends when traffic volumes and weather conditions fit the profile. It says the predominant mode during the day and evening will be 19 and 01 parallel operations with

Sand is poured onto the new runway site. brisbane airport

arrivals and departures to/from ports in the north and west using the new runway, and arrivals and departures to/from ports in the south and east continuing to use the existing runway. The arrival of heavy international aircraft on the new 19 Right does throw up the issue of taxi times given the end of the runway will be the furthest possible point from the international terminal and a long way (literally) from the trundle across to the terminal from the current 19 stopping point. Coughlan looks at it this way: “In 01 Left mode you are looking at a taxi time for internationals of around 12 to 15 minutes which is quite normal. When they are in a 19 Right mode they will have about a 20-21 minute taxi. I know a lot of people say that’s a long taxi, but when we benchmarked that against a lot of the major hub airports of the world it was quite normal to see about 20 minutes’ taxiing. “And the one thing we say with ours is that at least the aircraft will be continually moving. In a lot of the busy airports the aircraft stop and start because of cross runways or conflicting taxiways.”

The human element

‘They will operate as independent runways.’ PAUL COUGHLAN

It is just short of 90 years since 26,000 people turned out from all over Brisbane to see Charles Kingsford Smith land his Fokker V.II Southern Cross at Eagle Farm at the end of the first trans-Pacific flight. A monument to the achievement of Smith and his crew – Charles Ulm, James Warner and Harry Lyon – stands proudly just off the approach road to today’s Brisbane Airport and just a few

hundred metres from that historic landing point. Now more than 20,000 people turn out each day to work in what is a suburb in its own right: the largest airport in Australia by land size covering 2,700 hectares and home to more than 400 businesses, from aircraft and freight handling to warehousing, manufacturing, recreation, tourism and retail, including hotels and Brisbane’s only 24-hour supermarket. That number is forecast to jump to 50,000 by 2029 (passenger numbers are also forecast to increase to 35 million by 2023 and more than double from the current 22 million by 2034). If nothing else it shows that behind the statistics there is a big human story and that goes, too, for the runway project. BAC says the runway involves 2,700 construction jobs with a further 7,800 jobs projected for the Brisbane/Moreton region by 2035 due to the increased capacity. Beyond the airport, the development dovetails with major advances in Brisbane tourism infrastructure such as the $3 billion Queens Wharf integrated resort and entertainment hub being built in the CBD on the north side of the Brisbane River. For Coughlan, it all goes to underscore the importance of the runway project. “It’s not just a runway for BAC,” he said. “If you look at developments like Queen’s Wharf and state tourism development, they are all dependent on us having an efficient airport. “It’s a runway for our industry, our state and more than that. “It’s a runway for Australia.” JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 87


WRITER: ANDREW MCLAUGHLIN

HAPPY TRAYLZ

THE ART & SCIENCE OF AN F/A-18 HORNET DISPLAY

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Display pilot Traylz blazing in to the start point of his display at the recent Supercars event in Newcastle, with Stockton Beach in the background. mark jessop

‘Not many people in their right mind would say no.’ FLTLT MATTHEW TRAYLING JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 89


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oyal Australian Air Force classic and Super Hornet displays commonly seen at major sporting and cultural events around the country are probably one of the most effective ADF recruitment tools. The sights and sounds of an F/A-18 manoeuvring at low level is enough to get the adrenaline flowing for all but the most hardened among us, and more than one child has gazed skyward at these displays in awe and wished they could be in the cockpit. One such child was a young eightyear-old Matthew Trayling who, while attending the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Adelaide in the early1990s, was mesmerised by one of the RAAF’s Edinburgh-based Hornets performing a display over the famed street circuit. “You can just imagine the sound through the buildings and just seeing them cruise around through the city going really fast, that’s what drove my desire to want to do that one day,” Trayling told Australian Aviation. “Pretty much all I wanted to do was fly jets, ever since I can remember. It was initially sparked when I was playing

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Stepping to the jet – the ability to block out other work and life factors in the days and hours before a display is an important trait for a display pilot. mark jessop

‘All I wanted to do was fly jets.’ FLTLT MATTHEW TRAYLING

soccer when I was about eight and a Hornet flew over. One of my mates’ dad was a Hornet driver, and the dream was cemented when I saw the display at the Grand Prix.” Twenty years on, the now Flight Lieutenant Matthew ‘Traylz’ Trayling has more than realised his dreams, and is now the RAAF’s classic Hornet display pilot. “I grew up in the Adelaide Hills,” he said. “I spent the first 18 years of my life there before moving down to Golden Grove where I finished year 12. I had tried to join straight out of high school but never got that, so I did labouring for about a year and a half in Adelaide before I reapplied. I must have given them the impression that I was still motivated and pretty keen, so I went through the recruitment process again and was accepted after that.” Traylz attended the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in Canberra, graduating with a Bachelor of Aviation Technology in 2008. “I didn’t know anyone else when I joined up, and it was literally my first time moving out of the state and first time living away from home,” he said.

“So, at 20 I was living away from home for the first time doing a university degree at the same time as my military training.” After graduating Traylz attended the Basic Flying Training School (BFTS) at Tamworth, learning to fly on the CT-4B. “Prior to that flying in the CT-4, all I’d really done was gliding at the Gawler gliding club in South Australia, that was really my only aviation experience prior to joining. I initially joined up through the Woodside Cadets in South Australia, so that’s how I got into the gliding.” After his time on the CT-4, Traylz progressed to the PC-9/A advanced trainer at 2FTS at RAAF Pearce near Perth, being awarded his ‘Wings’ before being selected to fly fast jets and progressing to 76 and 79SQNs to fly the Hawk lead-in fighter trainer. “After Hawk I had a bit of down time because they weren’t ready for me on OPCON (the Hornet operational conversion course),” Traylz said. “So, I went and did a tour on Heron UAVs for about a nine-month period which took me out of the fighter scene for a while, and then after that went


Display pilot straight on to Hornet OPCON. “That was a little bit of a different path for me. Not many people get to do that, it was pretty eye-opening for me, just seeing how the ADF fits into the whole world military machine. That was my first exposure to that.” Today, when not working up or performing his Hornet display, Traylz’s ‘day job’ is as an operational flying instructor at Williamtown-based 2OCU, where he is currently finishing the instruction on his first group of students.

The Gig

Traylz didn’t apply for the job as

Traylz started flying the F/A-18 Hornet in 2010, and today is an operational flying instructor (OFI) at 2OCU. mark jessop

display pilot, but was both surprised and honoured to be offered the role in late 2016. “I was standing around with the boys at a barbecue and the CO of 77SQN came up to me and literally said, ‘Uh, by the way, congratulations’. I was like, ‘What?’, and he said, ‘You’re taking over from Bung starting next year’,” Traylz recalled. “He had put in an application for me and it got offered to me. Not many people in their right mind would say no. It was offered to me and I absolutely wanted to do it.” Long before he flew his first display, Traylz was linked up with two former Hornet display pilots, SQNLDR Aaron ‘Wardy’ Ward and SQNLDR Phil Eldridge, who mentored him through the work-up. “It was about a six-week course for the display work-up, which involved a lot of reading. There’s a lot of standing instructions to get your head around, a lot of new numbers, emergency numbers, relearning the flight manual etc before you even get into the simulator. We did probably about five simulator rides where I got checked out with Wardy who mentored me through that.” The simulator work-up also included performing the routine in

different weather conditions and cross winds, and emergency procedures. After learning the routine in the sim, the next step was to get in the real jet to refamiliarise with the edge of the envelope handling of the Hornet, including high power output handling, low speed, high speed, roll rates, and high angle of attack (alpha) performance. “So, you go out and do that by yourself first. And then, the next ride is with the instructor in a (F/A-18B) ‘tub’ where I took Wardy in the back seat. He was monitoring my display sequence, giving instruction as I’m going through the routine, and giving feedback after the flight,” Traylz explained. “We’re not doing it down at low level to start with. We started off using a base altitude of 5,000ft to allow for any errors in the display sequence. It’s all under strict guidelines, and then as the flights progress, you step it down by 1,000ft at a time until you’re doing it at 1,000ft above the ground, where you do another check ride. Then you go out and you do it to the base altitude so all the way down to the minimum altitude for the display at 200ft.” The step-down work-up took about six weeks, after which Traylz

A new display pilot will work up the routine in a simulator and then fly it at higher altitudes before flying the first live display. mark jessop

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Display pilot

completed a full dress rehearsal display overhead Williamtown in front of senior officers and his peer pilots. “They don’t hold up score cards,” he joked. “But they film it with the RAAF film crew there – each flight is carefully scrutinised. They look at every number in the HUD (head-up display), all your altitudes, your turn rates, the alpha you pull at different spots, the G forces. That’s all critiqued down to the nth degree to make sure you’re hitting the numbers every time. “I’m constantly asking for feedback. It’s often best when they’re on the ground and they can see the moves because they know the moves. During the display, for instance, they say, ‘Hey, it’s fine but it didn’t look quite right from the angle you went off. So, maybe try and keep working on this particular part of the pull or the roll rate’. “In terms of getting up in the jet with me and actually supervising, that will only occur if I haven’t flown the display sequence for a period of months and lose currency. I’ll be supervised, critiqued and then it’ll have an appropriate simulator work -up as well.” Traylz struggled to nail down what traits or characteristics are required to be a good display pilot. “I suppose you have to be really committed,” he offered. “For me, you have to pull yourself aside from everything else that’s going on, and you have to be able to block out a lot of

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Traylz flies his routine using a combination of watching the ‘numbers’, visual cues, and seat of the pants ‘feel’. mark jessop

other factors and really concentrate in the weeks leading up to the display. Representing the RAAF is also an important role, so good communication skills and an awareness of public relations considerations are important. “For the flying, being good with your hands and feet I suppose, so you can handle the jet in a number of situations and under intense pressure, and deal with emergency situations should they arise when you’re in the public eye.”

The routine

Creating ekto. mark jessop

The display routine Traylz flies has changed little from that put together by SQNLDR Paul ‘Simmo’ Simmons in 2004 in consultation with Boeing test and display pilot, Ricardo Travern. “The guts of the routine is the same because that was originally designed to safely showcase all the capabilities of the Hornet,” he said. “But what I do have to change for each display is the way that I arrive in location. Some displays might take off from an airfield and start from the ground, but others start in the air. If I’m flying from Williamtown all the way down to Bathurst for example, I’m starting the display from a unique position. In that sense, you can mix it up and you can change the entry or the departure or change the sequence.” Bathurst is a good example of how the routine can be mixed up – here

he knocks off part of the routine and flies a hot lap of the track. But like the full routine, any deviations need to be practised in the simulator, and authorised. “Because you get so focused during the display cycle, changes really need to be practised both in the simulator and then airborne again before you go ahead and do it at a different location. Any breaks in the sequence need to have a game plan for it, briefed, and authorised, before I go ahead and practice it.” New display locations can be loaded into the Hornet simulator so Traylz can familiarise himself with the terrain before performing there. “The guys at Raytheon and Milskil help me do that. So, for instance, I did my first display in New Zealand at the Ohakea Airshow earlier this year (2017). They built up the appropriate ground features around that airfield. They can make the terrain and features more accurate to really reflect what I’m going to see when I arrive there, such as, there’s a mountain there, or a grandstand there – they put that all in the simulator for me.” Traylz also factors in local weather conditions. In a cool climate for example, he can climb to 20,000ft in the vertical departure, whereas at somewhere like Darwin he might top out at 15,000ft, and that will affect the number of rolls he will complete in the vertical. Another factor to consider


when performing in hot and high environments is that the aircraft bleeds speed much quicker in the loaded roll, so the airspeed and alpha need to be much more precise. “You get to your ‘numbers’ a lot quicker. Whereas, down in Wanaka where the air is much thicker and colder, the aircraft is going to roll quicker and it’s going to have a lot more G available, so that’s going to look much more impressive in the display.” Traylz says he flies the routine using a combination of watching the ‘numbers’, visual cues, and seat of the pants ‘feel’. “I’ve got the numbers in my head,” he explained. “So ‘gates’ as I call them, I get to a gate, then I have to start recovering from an altitude, for instance. “At other times I’m using visual features, features on the ground for my display line, or features on the ground for where I’m offsetting to. A good example of that is (at the recent Supercars race) in Newcastle, the Hunter River was the perfect 60 degrees off the display line which I was using as my visual feature. “And then, feel, that’s particularly important in the loaded roll. Feel for when the alpha is on the jet and I need to maintain 25 (degrees) alpha through that, that’s all based on feel. I back that up by looking into the HUD at times and making sure what I’m feeling is correlating to the alpha I’m meant to be pulling. So, it’s a mixture really.” A lot of the routine, while designed to display the Hornet in a positive light, also has real-world applications in basic fighter manoeuvres (BFM). “A lot of the feel that I described, in the loaded roll for example, that feel is directly applicable to how we would fight in training, say if we’re in a dogfight for instance. “So the feel and the sounds that we’re hearing with the jet, the stick movement, the coordination that we’re using, that is directly applicable to how we fight the jet in BFM. The high G manoeuvres, the high-speed pass into the reversal, the brake away, that is all very similar to how we do a brake turn, for instance. “All those hands and feet are just like the way we fight the Hornet at altitude. But we incorporate that into the display at low level and with a crowd line and obstacles.”

Traylz pulling G under power over the Newcastle waterfront at November’s Supercars event. mark jessop

All those hands and feet are just like the way we fight the Hornet. FLTLT MATTHEW TRAYLING JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 93


‘We will certainly see larger, faster, and longerrange electric and hybridelectric aircraft.’ CHRIS DRONEY

DISRUPTIVE POWER Electric-powered regional jets bring electrifying experiments, mega megawatts… and hybrid hype? WRITER: JOHN WALTON

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E-Fan X

A

ircraft manufacturers and aviation technology companies worldwide are gearing up for the next frontier in aviation: a regional jet with electrically-powered propulsion, flying passengers for an hour or two with reduced emissions, noise and cost. And that frontier is within the next 10 years, multiple manufacturers are now saying, with new breakthrough partnerships emerging even as disruptive startups are working on the problem. Chris Droney, an engineer in Boeing’s Research & Technology unit, suggests to Australian Aviation that “we might see smaller hybrid-electric jets for regional travel in the 2020s and short-range commercial aircraft, like a regional airliner or small version of a Boeing 737, operating in the 2030s. It is worth noting that longrange large commercial aircraft, like

a Boeing 777 or 787, are unlikely to be displaced by electric aircraft in the foreseeable future.” “Electric-powered airplanes exist for small short-range applications,” Droney says. “In the future we will certainly see larger, faster, and longerrange electric and hybrid-electric aircraft. Boeing is actively engaged to push the electric aircraft technologies toward larger and longer-range aircraft.” The successful development of regional and larger commercial aircraft, Droney says, will be paced by the development of improved batteries and electric components such as motors, controllers, generators and distribution systems. “As with most research and development, there are challenges to consider,” Droney explains. “For electric or hybrid-electric technology,

Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are modifying a BAe 146 to act as the E-Fan X hybrid-electric demonstrator. AIRBUS

these challenges include energy storage with the right capacity and density, power capability of electrical components, increased voltage of electric power distribution, power infrastructure at airports, and regulatory certification procedures.” Airbus, too, is studying the challenges and potential of electrification. “In terms of technology challenges,” Airbus’s general manager of electrification Glenn Llewellyn tells Australian Aviation, “there are electromagnetic compatibility challenges which we, at that power level, need to learn about, and need to integrate into our design principles in order for that to function correctly. We have thermal management challenges at that sort of power level. We have significant kilowatts of thermal energy that we need to manage. Knowing JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 95

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E-Fan X that today there’s a lot of heat in a gas turbine that’s under our traditional tube and wing aircraft, that heat basically gets exhausted through the exhaust of the gas turbine, and gets managed in a very simple way. “Once we start integrating power electronics and batteries into the aircraft, we need to manage the thermal challenges in a much more integrated way with the aircraft and find ways to use that excess heat to do things like wing anti-ice, where we really take advantage of essentially the thermal losses in the system.” That will likely mean a future electrically-powered airliner looks radically different to the winged cylinder we see today. “We’re investigating a lot of aircraft designs for the future, both standard tube and wing and other designs,” Boeing’s Droney says. “For example, Boeing believes the Blended Wing Body vehicle concept we’ve been working on since the 1990s could be developed into a product in the next 10 to 15 years as a subsonic transport, and initial applications could include military cargo vehicles. We’ve conducted successful structures, flight and wind tunnel tests unparalleled in

‘The BAe 146 is really the only platform that meets that requirement.’ MARK COUSIN

industry and we continue to refine and improve the concept.” On the material science side of things, Droney notes, “Boeing is focusing our near-term technology development efforts in several focused material areas including thermosets, thermoplastics, resin infusion, direct digital manufacturing, hybrid composite structures, metallic materials and processes, mixed metallic and ceramic additive manufacturing and ultra-high temperature ceramics.”

The Airbus-led E-Fan X partnership builds on existing work to reach the two megawatt threshold

Boeing’s X-48B scale Blended Wing Body demonstrator could point to a future of radically different looking electricallypowered aircraft. NASA

Airbus is working with Rolls-Royce and Siemens to produce E-Fan X, a regional airliner-sized hybrid-electric demonstrator using a modified BAe 146, to show that shorter flights with serious numbers of passengers will be possible in the near future. Airbus will build the energy storage systems, carry out test flights, and supervise overall integration. Siemens will be responsible for the energy distribution system within the aircraft, as well as the electric motor for the inverter, while Rolls-Royce will supply

the electrical power for the propulsion system via a 2.5MW turbine with integrated generator. First flight is expected in 2020. “We believe that we are actually entering and opening the door to the new world of aviation,” Dr Frank Anton, head of Siemens’ eAircraft department said after the E-Fan X’s formal launch, at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on November 28. “This will be disruptive innovation. It will be as disruptive as the introduction of the gas turbine from the forties. It will be as disruptive as the introduction of the fan in the late sixties. And what we saw in the late sixties was that aviation relatively quickly took this new technology of the turbine fan and that it very quickly became the propulsion system for aviation. “So we could think that even this new technology of hybrid electric propulsion might, if it really shows a benefit, equally quickly go into aviation and make another disruptive evolution of the propulsion of aircraft.” Mark Cousin, Airbus’s head of demonstrators, notes that, “Airbus has a history in electric flights, which started

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xxx

in 2010,” Cousin says, “through to our most recent project, which was the demonstrator E-Fan 1, which we stopped earlier this year. We didn’t stop it because it was not a success: we decided that we needed to be more ambitious because the world and the technology in this area is moving so fast.” The E-Fan has been an airshow favourite since its début, not least because of the future technology that it represents. Now, it’s getting a next generation. “We’ve been working for the last six months with our two partners, Siemens and Rolls-Royce, in putting together an ambitious hybrid flight demonstrator to demonstrate a two megawatt propulsion chain in a regional aircraft,” Cousin explains. “The objective of this demonstrator is not to produce a product, but just to mature technology which will be the basis of products in the future. What we plan to do is produce a demonstrator with a two megawatt propulsion system, comprising a gas turbine with an integrated generator produced by our partners from RollsRoyce, a two megawatt motor driving a propulsion fan produced by Siemens, and the whole system integrated with a two megawatt battery and control system produced by Airbus.” “We’ve provisionally selected the BAe 146 as the platform for this

The Airbus E-Fan demonstrator crossed the English Channel in July 2015. AIRBUS

demonstrator,” Cousin says, “mainly because it’s a four-engine aircraft with a suitably-sized gas turbine engine that we can replace directly with an electric motor.”

Four engines for hybrid-electric as the trusty BAe 146 plays a testbed role

‘We are not betting on batteries, we are betting on the hybrid.’ DR FRANK ANTON

The distinctive high-winged fourengined BAe 146 regional jet, which was later developed into the Avro RJ, will of course be familiar to observers of Australian aviation, especially in rural and remote areas. Why the 146? “What we want to do is replace the gas turbine with an electric motor,” Cousin says, “so we need an aircraft with engines that were about the right size to require about a two megawatt propulsion unit, and we also needed four-engine aircraft for safety reasons. So the BAe 146 is really the only platform that meets that requirement, and it’s just a good platform for the purpose.” “We’ll replace initially one engine,” Cousin explains. “We’ll make provision for replacing another engine in the future, but that will depend on how the initial testing goes. “Our intention is to replace one of the test plane’s four jet turbines with a 2MW electric propulsion system in time for the maiden flight, which is scheduled for 2020. That would be the first time that such a powerful

electric motor would help to propel an airplane,” Siemens’ Anton elaborates. This is indeed at the cutting edge of technology, and it is unpredictable how well the various technologies will evolve during what is a very short timescale, so demonstrating using a single engine initially seems sensible. “The propulsive force will be a Rolls-Royce AE2100 engine, the engine that powers the Lockheed Hercules,” Rolls-Royce’s chief technology officer Paul Stein explains. The engine will be “driving an integrated generator that we build within the overall envelope of the gas turbine, in fact producing two and a half megawatts – a little bit more for spare. The power electronics will convert that power output, which we believe will be the world’s most powerful flying generator, into 3,000 volts DC to distribute to the aircraft.” “Then the actual propulsive fan is an AE3007 off one of our regional jets,” Stein says. “We’re taking the fan off of the regional jet, mating it to the Siemens motor, and that will fit within the nacelle of the inner starboard engine of the BAe 146.” “The AE2100 gas turbine will be mounted in the rear fuselage of the passenger cabin in the BAe 146, with a dedicated inlet and exhaust, to feed that gas turbine,” Airbus’s Cousin says. “The two megawatt battery system, JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 97

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E-Fan X which with today’s technology will weigh around two tonnes, will be located in the forward and aft lower hold of the aircraft. “The power on the 3kW level is then going to the Siemens power distribution and the power electronics, which is an inverter, which is going to fit in the nacelle,” adds Siemens’ Anton. “This inverter is going – on the 3kW level – to drive the Siemens SP2000 motor, which will be connected at voltage to the fans. And this latter part is in the nacelle.”

The humble BAe 146 is set to provide a pioneering role in development of the future of the airliner. ROB FINLAYSON

If electric propulsion is scalable, we are on the verge of entering a third generation of aviation

“Transportation has been the last frontier for electrification,” RollsRoyce’s Stein says. “We’ve seen electrification in road transport, in the maritime sector, and rail. Frankly, because the technology has not quite been there with us, electrification of aviation has been slow to catch up. But now with improving technology, the start of this new era has begun. It offers the next step change in fuel efficiency, noise and environmental impact, and it now allows us to rethink the whole layout of flying machines for the first time. “The phrase used by many – ‘this is the third generation of aviation’ – I think is a phrase that is quite rightly applied: the piston engine era, the jet

The E-Fan X demonstrator is intended to explore the challenges of high-power propulsion systems. AIRBUS

era, and now the electrification era,” Stein says. “We’re involved in one or two hybrid-electric flight programs globally, but this one, we believe, is going to be the one that actually starts chartering the frontiers of civil aviation.” Of course, says Siemens’ Frank Anton, “in aviation you can only learn by flying. Siemens, with Airbus, started with electric propulsion for aircraft in 2010, and in 2011 together, Airbus, Siemens, and a small company called Diamond Aircraft flew the very first hybridelectric plane in the world. It was at that time a two-seater. Now we want to scale up, and when we started one and a half years ago, at the beginning of 2016, a big collaboration, Siemens and Airbus developing different sizes of hybrid-electric systems for propulsion of aircraft with the target of doing ground testing. In this collaboration we are developing 100kW, 2MW, but we are also developing 10MW. If you think about a ten megawatt generator, it will use

Turbofan engine

FAN

FAN adaptation:

COCKPIT HMI*

+

FAN

2MW Energy Store

2MW Motor

E-supervisor HEPS**

Motor Power Electronics

Power Distribution Centre

super conductivity, and this is what we are developing there.” “Thanks to the extensive amount of research we have conducted in advanced lightweight engineering and high-tech materials,” says Wulf Roscher, Siemens’ project manager for the E-Fan X, “we expect to be able to drastically reduce the size and weight of our drives. Although our previous record-breaking motor achieved a continuous performance output of 5.2kW per kilogram of motor mass, we want to significantly improve on this in our 2MW motor.”

The E-Fan X is driven by “a triangle of energy management”

“This configuration of aircraft is not a pure battery aircraft, for those not in the aviation industry,” Rolls-Royce’s Stein explains. “We have a gas turbine, a Rolls-Royce gas turbine powering a generator, and the generator distributes the energy through a number of fans, which will eventually lift the aircraft in a different way than you would today.” “We are not betting on batteries, we are betting on the hybrid,” says Anton of Siemens. “Hybrid-electric means that you have a generator producing the power on board that is needed for the cruise flight. The batteries just add the additional power that is needed during takeoff and climb – that means that with today’s

Serial Hybrid architecture AE 3007 Fan & Nacelle

Generator Power Electronics

2MW Generator

AE 2100 Gas Turbine

Turbofan engine

FAN

FAN

Turbofan engine

* Human Machine Interface ** Hybrid Electric Propulsion System

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battery technology you can already do something, and do not have to wait for some kind of completely unexpected battery technology. With hybrid technology, you could see it, by 2030, being large-scale available so that hybrid-electric aircraft can fly.” “Any hybrid-electric configuration requires energy storage to make it work,” says Airbus’s Cousin. “One of the benefits that you could envisage is a downsizing of the gas turbine and then supplementing it during the other phases by energy storage. Today, the most advanced method of energy storage for aviation would be batteries. Will that be the case in five or ten years time? We don’t know, but yes, energy storage is definitely part of it, which is why this demonstrator is built of three elements: the gas turbine with the generator, the electric turbine driving a thrust-producing fan, and a battery system storing energy. It’s a triangle of energy management.”

Airbus is building on the E-Fan program as it develops E-Fan X

“We started around 2010 on our journey of exploring the possibilities for hybrid-electric propulsion,” Airbus’s Llewellyn tells Australian Aviation. “One of the best-known demonstrators that we built is E-Fan. E-Fan crossed the English Channel in July 2015, and we learned a huge amount from that project. It was very successful in teaching us the potential of electric propulsion as applied to aviation, and it taught us a lot in terms of the lessons that we need to learn in terms of electric propulsion in order to design bigger and bigger aircraft.” It’s not just the aviation industry that is making major advances, however, Llewellyn says. “In parallel with our development of these demonstrators, what we’ve seen in the car industry is a huge growth in terms of electric car stock. If we compare 2010 to 2016, we’ve basically gone from zero to 2 million in terms of electric car stock globally. That has had a huge impact on the technology which we rely on in terms of aviation. So we’ve seen improvements in performance, we’ve seen improvements in power density of power electronics, of electric motors and electric generators. And that has allowed companies like Siemens in 2016 to fly the Siemens Extra 330, which is an aerobatic aircraft, and it has roughly five times the power of what our E-Fan had in 2015 when it crossed the Channel.”

As far as airlines go, “We haven’t had official discussions with them, but there are a number of airlines who are very interested in the development of this technology, and when it might be feasible to replace some of their smaller aircraft that they operate today with electric or hybrid-electric vehicles,” Airbus’s Mark Cousin says. “Some airlines have already signed agreements with startups in this business. There are a couple of startups in the US, so the interest is quite high. I think that interest will grow dramatically as they start to understand the technology. I already have two requests to go and explain to certain of our airline customers the potential of this technology for the future.”

A concept drawing of Airbus’s battery-powered Vahana ‘urban air mobility vehicle’. AIRBUS

Beyond airlines, Airbus is also working on making flying cars a reality

Urban air mobility “is an adventure which has already started for us,” Llewellyn says. “We plan to fly our first urban air mobility vehicle called Vahana this year – it’s a one-seat demonstrator. It’s got eight electric motors, eight propellers, it’s got a tilt-wing, and it is being built in our A3 Silicon Valley facility in the US.” “Next year we will have the first flight of a four-seat demonstrator, the City Airbus, with a different type of architecture at the vehicle level. And those demonstrators form the backbone for our technology demonstration for the urban air mobility market segment,” Llewellyn summarises. “There are obviously technical challenges that we need to overcome, and that’s why we’re building the vehicles and we want to demonstrate the technology. Some of the biggest challenges we need to overcome are about air traffic management and regulation,” Llewellyn notes, and

‘There are a number of airlines who are very interested.’ MARK COUSIN

indeed there are major concerns about safety and a variety of types of environmental impact on larger cities in particular. “We’re going to have these vehicles flying in cities – they’re going to be much more local to people in order to serve the populations that are going to really benefit from them. That will require quite significant working together between the regulators and the operators and manufacturers of these vehicles in order for urban air mobility to really have a positive impact on society. “There are already cities where we have seen a benefit from this type of concept. We have a project already piloted in South America where we’re looking at facilitating the transportation in São Paulo. We’re already piloting the urban air mobility concept by using Airbus helicopters. That is showing us that already today, in certain cities, we’re at the point of saturation in terms of ground transportation. There is already a market for urban air mobility,” Llewellyn says. Cities the size of Sydney, Hong Kong, or London “are for sure candidates for this kind of societal benefit”, Llewellyn says, “I think the simple fact that with urban air mobility we’re talking about using a threedimensional space means that it will be much more capable of absorbing traffic than the 2D space which is our current road network system.” Regulators will have to be persuaded, of course, for this even more than a hybrid-electric system for regional jets, and of course within those regulators – as within the industry more widely – a major upskilling will be required. The government agencies dedicated to keeping aviation safe even as manufacturers push the boundaries of technology may well see some of the toughest challenges of all. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 99

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D R O N E W A R S First person view drone racing takes off WRITER: DENISE MCNABB

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Drone racing A quad in action during the 2017 Australian Drone Nationals. darren moore

Quads ready to race. darren moore

T

hey sound like angry bees swarming around trees, darting at speed through hoops, in and out of buildings, across fields, looping and rolling and hurtling towards an aerial finish line. This is the fledgling sport of drone racing, where adrenaline pumps, nerves are steeled and reflexes are sharp. It’s also very addictive. It began as an underground recreational movement in Australia in 2012 before changes to old regulations

enabled racing in the open and commercialisation of the sport in 2015. Now it’s a global phenomenon, attracting investors and sponsors with deep pockets who are punting on it evolving into the next big crowd magnet. Last year Time magazine went so far as to suggest it is the sport of the future. Television network cable giants ESPN and Sky Sports have already live-streamed major US competitions – no easy task when the midget X-shaped machines, racing at speeds of 100km/h, look much the same, save for different coloured neon strips added at this level of competition. The sport – its correct name is first person view (FPV) mini-quad racing – is a technological and adrenalinefuelled leap from hobbyist’s radiocontrolled miniature flying machines. Quad or multi-rotor ‘pilots’ wear special goggles that relay a drone’s-eye view of the race circuit so they can fly remotely their machines, weighing as little as 300 grams, hard and fast. The faster the better as it’s about winning. It’s a sport of two halves. On one side sensory skills are honed over many hours to guide tiny, lightweight, speedy rotor machines housing a camera and stripped to the bare necessities, over and through an

Drone racing is becoming a global phenomenon. darren moore

obstacle-studded aerial circuit. The camera captures the drone’s route, shared over a wireless connection to the pilot’s goggles, as dexterous thumbs flip, turn, roll and move the drones on a hand-held remote control, not dissimilar to those used in gaming. On the cinematographic side owners turn the quad’s camera video into creatively-edited spectacles injected with edgy music for enthusiasts to relive the race on YouTube or social media. The top ones already have followers in the thousands. The United States, Canada and Dubai are setting a cracking pace in the development of this futuristic sport with razzle-dazzle events in large football stadiums with obstacle courses lit in a blaze of neon, and there is lucrative prize-money up for grabs by the winners. Australia has yet to enter the big league stakes backed by multimillionaires such as the Miami Dolphins owner, Stephen Ross who has invested more than US$1 million, betting on drone racing being the next big modern-day sport. Amazon and insurer Allianz have also thrown their sponsorship might behind events. To bring an extreme racing circuit to Australia would cost $100,000 or more, but the country’s racing aficionados, predominantly in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, are not being left behind. In fact, they’re punching well above their weight in the international speed, skill and technological stakes. Present dual world drone racing champion, Thomas Bitmatta, 18, from the Melbourne suburb of Roxburgh Park, was a year 12 student at St Monica’s College when he beat 300 other pilots at the 2017 world championships in Indiana last August. He had won an invitation to the US event following his win in the Australian drone championships earlier in the year. He took out the World Cup and Spec Race titles. In 2015 Chad Nowak was crowned United States National Drone Racing Champion after winning the freestyle, team and individual championship races at the Californian event. The 38-year-old Gold Coast mini-quad supremo, also a qualified glider pilot and instructor, is one of Australia’s drone racing pioneers, much sought after by enthusiasts for advice. Nowak is widely known in the racing community as the ‘go to’ man for the latest technological advancement and trends. He has had JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 101


Drone racing major input into the design of drone components that set the standards such as propellers, flight control, firmware and frames, motors, cameras and radio controllers. Clients include the military and surf lifesaving bodies. Nowak has also worked closely with CASA on safety and security issues around quad flying in controlled airspace. He moved to Atlanta, Georgia for a period after his win in 2015 to deepen his involvement in the sport. In December he launched a new quad frame. Queenslander Tighe Brown’s interest in mini-quad racing led him to launch the Australian FPV Association in 2015, following up with national championship events in 2016 and 2017. He, like Nowak, has also branched into mentoring, teaching and public speaking about the sport and drones, though after two-and-a-half years of being consumed by the sport he recently took a step back to pursue a regular income job to “pay the bills”. That hasn’t made him any less passionate though about racing and drones generally. He points to drones disrupting industries in much the same way as Uber did to the taxi industry and Airbnb to holiday accommodation. “You see them being used in agriculture, disaster relief, search and rescue, shark and thermal spotting and even delivering hearts for transplant in quick time – all for the good of human development.” Now they are a growth sport even though Brown believes it has reached

a bit of a plateau in Australia. “It will take someone with money and interest to develop bigger events and make it different, ” said Brown. The flip side, however, is the people with money wanting to control the big events for commercial gain and that’s anathema to enthusiasts just wanting to have fun racing. Brown said initial talks with business entrepreneurs and philanthropists interested in aviation had been promising, but moves in this direction were still in their infancy. The biggest Australian sponsor is Hobby King. Brown got hooked on racing after watching a Frenchman in an online video “doing this fun recreational sport a bit like Star Wars pod racing. “At 37 for me it is the freedom of flight and escape from reality. It is in the DNA of every child to fly like a bird.” Brown was amazed when he first started looking at the sport to find a

‘It is the freedom of flight and escape from reality.’ TIGHE BROWN

P ilots wear special goggles that relay a drone’s-eye view of the race circuit. michael greaves

More 2017 Australian Drone Nationals action. darren moore

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quad racer couldn’t be bought off the shelf. Parts were imported from China and programmers and engineers pulled them together. Enthusiasts can now buy readymade quads, but Brown said modifications are part and parcel of the craft though battery and the power to weight ratio set limitations. He has a background in middle management and retail, describes himself as “mechanically minded” but admits he didn’t know the first thing about quad flying when he started buying parts online. The more he looked into the sport the harder he found it to get involved building, programming and fly the machines. “Racing outside was pretty much forbidden for quite some time because of a ruling from the early days requiring visual line of sight to fly your craft,” he said. Practising was restricted to enclosed areas such as abandoned buildings and warehouses. Brown met Nowak before he won the US championships, but it was after that win he realised there was a future for the sport and industry. “From that point we were able to develop clubs through mates joining forces to work within the guidelines of law. Melbourne’s Multi-Rotor Club was the first in Australia. There are now around 12 clubs with half of them members of the FPV Association, paying membership ranging from $150 to $300 a year. A few hundred more enthusiasts are backyard drone flyers. It has been estimated around 500 racers are socially active in Australia and 100,000 globally, though that number is likely to have grown substantially, said Brown. Racers fly under quirky monikers with ‘rebel’ being a popular choice in club names. Brown worked with Nowak commercialising the goggles and meeting regulators to address issues such as security, safety and people’s privacy and security, paving the way for the clubs and competition. “We fly around trees and race each other. We were not interested in what other humans are doing,” Brown said. “We went to the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia for support and we built a relationship with Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus). “It was all about public liability and mitigating risk.” Regulatory hurdles were resolved


All smiles at the end of the 2017 Australian Drone Nationals. darren moore

Chad Nowak winning the 2016 US champs.

so the sport could come out in the open. The Defence Force also came on board, offering what Brown said is invaluable development support for the sport. He and association past president Mark Cocquio produced a video of the Army’s quads that has been viewed by many online. The Australian Army team participated in national events Brown organised in 2016 and 2017 on the Gold Coast. In the first year 57 pilots competed and in 2017 there were around 70. There are other Australian events such as the six-race series established in 2015. By its nature, drone racing, like motor-racing, is a male dominated sport though Brown says there are two or three women in the world who are active on the racing circuits. But overwhelmingly it appeals mostly to young men who are tech-savvy. An entry level cost for a ready-to-fly quad and goggles is less than $500. At the top end prices can range from $1,000 to $1,500 for a quad and

The Army has been an enthusiastic support of the Australian Drone Nationals. darren moore

$700 for high-quality goggles. An Israeli company is leading the charge on digital, high definition goggles with downlinks that cost between $700-$1,000. But there are still some hoops to jump through, Brown said. That’s because goggles are still largely operated through analogue transmitters. Quality will break up and there is static and ghosting around trees, but when an analogue link breaks up it will still leave an image whereas when digital drops the screen goes completely black.

With quads flying through gates at between 60-120km/h and courses set on average for travel at 80km an hour, a blackout can spell the end or severe damage to a machine, though with their carbon fibre bodies and flexible propellers they are becoming more durable. Signals are sent to the goggles via a 5.8-gigahertz frequency with zero latency as there is no room for delays in video transmission. “Even if you hit the ground you would have to replace propellers (there are four on each corner of the drone) but they cost only $5 each to replace,” said Brown. “You would have to slam into a tree trunk or concrete floor to break the carbon fibre body.” Some have been known to reach 200km/h on straight stretches so buffer zones between spectators, pilots and the craft are imperative. “Crashing is part of the learning,” said Brown. “Even after several years of crashing you are not learning if you don’t push yourself to the next level. “It’s much like racing a car in a computer game or simulator. You push left or right on the stick through learned behaviour and memory.” But in this case any viewer can tune in and watch using their own goggles or on a big screen. There is talk of drone racing advancing by the end of the decade to a level where the racers will actually feel like they are flying in the drones, but with virtual effects superimposed over real terrain adding to the craziness of it all. It’s already got the addicts salivating. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 103


Blockchain

Bits & blocks Blockchain poised to transform the backend of commercial aviation WRITER: JOHN WALTON

B

lockchain might sound like the kind of digital development you’d read about on a technology website rather than in Australian Aviation, but it holds the key to a set of changes to the way the airline industry works as revolutionary as computerised reservation systems or online ticket purchasing. As Air New Zealand chief digital officer Avi Golan says, “with its builtin efficiency and security, blockchain has the potential to trigger huge innovation in travel, paving the way for new business models and collaboration.” Bitcoin, the electronic currency, relies on blockchain and other technologies for its fundamentals, including its security, so the two are often linked together. Indeed, the moment you start talking about blockchain as a technology, everyone uses the example of bitcoin. This somewhat confuses the matter, because the primary emerging benefit of blockchain for aviation purposes isn’t in purchasing tickets — it’s in reducing intermediaries that maintain the databases that form the backbone of airline operations. Blockchain’s first immediate applications are likely to be the way airlines manage sales in the future. “Take travel distribution,” which, Xavier Lagardère, head of distribution for the Lufthansa Group hub airlines, tells Australian Aviation, is “a very layered, legacy-based IT landscape, with players who have been historically able to extract quite some margin, and quite some dollars from the value chain that holds a stronghold. And take blockchain, with the promise of a secure, value-based,

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decentralised transaction network. Those two things are conceptually completely opposite. The business aspiration, the long-term, is indeed to be able to offer a travel ecosystem that is not as reliant on those intermediaries.” “A blockchain is a database, and the key feature of that database is that no one person or organisation controls it,” Maksim Izmaylov, founder and chief executive of Winding Tree, a nonprofit corporation working with the Lufthansa Group and Air New Zealand (among others) on applying the technology to airlines, tells Australian Aviation. “In the travel industry,” Izmaylov says, “there are a few points of centralisation. They are security holes and they are bottlenecks. When you decentralise those central parties that are hoarders of the data today, you’ll solve a whole number of problems.” The decentralisation occurs by creating distributed ledgers that are encrypted stored in a blockchain, which can be replicated infinitely to create multiple sources of the same truth, providing redundancy and visibility of the encrypted chain. The idea of a distributed ledger is intended, in the aviation context, to replace proprietary ledgers that are used as databases: global distribution systems that manage ticket inventory, for example. “Today,” Izmaylov highlights, “in the airline industry there are virtually two or three companies that can help you distribute your inventory. Of course, they are enjoying tremendously the quality of that marketplace being oligopolistic.”

A handful of companies presently have an oligopoly in operating global distribution systems. Blockchain has the potential to break that apart. seth jaworski

‘Blockchain has the potential to trigger huge innovation in travel.’ AVI GOLAN

This oligopoly comes with a number of disadvantages, the first being cost. There’s a substantial amount of money to be made in running a system on which many airlines rely, representing a large costcutting opportunity. Another disadvantage is that the proprietary and incumbent natures of the systems mean that there is little impetus to invest in new technologies, so many of the databases are old and do not interface properly with modern systems. They also create barriers to entry, especially for innovation, reducing the ability of smaller startups in particular to create new applications for airline data. Other disadvantages include security, because a single operator of a database is inherently less secure than a distributed one. Of the three primary threats of this type, let’s call the first threat type the Equifax threat, after the US credit rating agency where millions of individuals’ personal information was leaked owing to not being adequately secured and then penetrated. The second threat is where a single actor inside an organisation leaks information, intentionally or not: let’s call this the Snowden threat, after the former CIA contractor who leaked intelligence information. The third threat is where a single point of truth in a single system with anything less than 100 per cent uptime or reliability causes problems when it goes down. Let’s call this the Amadeus threat, since many passengers will recall being stranded when that supplier of airline operational functionality went offline earlier in 2017.


Blockchain Blockchain helps solve the problems and reduce the threats of the status quo by creating multiple, encrypted copies of the database ledger

A blockchain, simply, is a sequence of pieces of data (the block) encrypted via a complex process called hashing, and containing a connection to the previous block in the sequence (the chain). Any one block in the sequence cannot be changed without recompiling the rest of the chain in sequence, which is impractical because of the computing resources required. Algorithms in the blockchain when it is created (often referred to in certain contexts as a “smart contract”) ensure that this resource demand is futureproofed for newer, faster or more powerful processors. As the length of the chain increases, it becomes more expensive in processing terms for any malicious actor to try to change an earlier block and recompile the rest of the chain. In addition, “The algorithm adjusts in such a way that each computation of that proof of work will take about 10 minutes on average,” Izmaylov explains. “The algorithm adjusts so it doesn’t matter: you can have a much, much better machine – and theoretically in a couple of years we’ll have machines that will be two times as fast as today’s machines – and it will still take ten minutes.” That 10 minutes is calculated “via the algorithm, so basically the complexity of that computation will be constantly adjusted, completely automatically,” Izmaylov says. The network also provides security because the consensus on the “true” chain is taken from all holders of the blockchain, so that a malicious actor would need to first recompute and then distribute a changed chain to more than 50 per cent of the network. This “51 per cent” attack requires, Izmaylov notes, “51 per cent of the hashing power, 51 per cent of the computational power. That’s what you need in order to change the future truth. So, where the public permission is blockchain, such as Bitcoin or Experia for example, you will never be able to change the state of the database that’s already been written into the ledger. It will be computationally unfeasible.” That assumption is based on the idea that the blockchain is distributed among multiple hosts, either as a private or public blockchain. In the aviation context, it could be a network

Airlines start accepting bitcoin, but remain focused on offline currency Bitcoin, the often tumultuous digital currency, is the best known example of a blockchain in action, and aviation is at the forefront of engaging with this technology too. In contrast with the disintermediation strategy of using the blockchain to aim for direct engagement with passengers, early bitcoin adopters among airlines and private jet operators have largely been using companies specialising in the cryptocurrency to enable payment and immediately transfer it into dollars, yen, and so on. This “bitcoin-as-aservice” allows airlines to familiarise themselves with some of the issues in a low-risk way. Japanese airline Peach, a low-cost subsidiary of ANA, has been working with BITPoint Japan to provide the ability to purchase tickets using bitcoin, using the BITPoint Pay application on Peach’s backend and in the passenger’s smartphone, which reads a QR 2D barcode and transfers the bitcoin equivalent in yen to Peach’s account. “Our alliance includes the BITPoint payment for the tickets,” Chiharu Hayashi, a director of BITPoint Japan, tells Australian Aviation, but highlights that, in addition, “after a customer arrives in Japan, they go shopping and go to restaurants, and they can pay through bitcoin. What we can say is: travel with only bitcoin” is a reality for BITPoint Japan’s customers. Using the BITPoint Pay app, travellers store the currency in a virtual wallet on their smartphone for payments while in Japan, which are typically made using the QR codes that are commonly used within the country. When purchasing a ticket using bitcoin, the process is similar to a normal payment process, with a few key exceptions, including the use of the BITPoint Pay app. “Peach shows the QR code, and the traveller scans the QR code and sends it via bitcoin to Peach wallet,” Hayashi says. “Then, at BITPoint Japan, we will sell the bitcoin and exchange it to yen. We transfer the Japanese yen to Peach’s account. It means that Peach doesn’t have to care about the fluctuation risk of the bitcoin.” Indeed, not having to monitor, hedge or provide for fluctuations of bitcoin to various national and international currencies is a benefit for airlines, and is a key part of the partnership between Peach and BITPoint Japan — as well as seemingly every other airline or private jet outfit that accepts bitcoin. Once they’re in Japan, Hayashi says, the benefit for passengers is that “they don’t have to bring their own cash. They don’t have to exchange their cash. They just bring their mobile

phone with bitcoin. As you know, the recent price trend of bitcoin is going up, so most of the bitcoin holders have unrealised profit, so travellers can use their unrealised profit for travel.” On Peach’s part, Hayashi says, “at this moment, Peach just sells cheap [airline] tickets to the customer. They would like to have a customer database through bitcoin payment. They are going to create their own wallet, which is Peach wallet.” When passengers make payments at restaurants, souvenir shops, or other destinations, Peach can then mine that information for loyalty purposes, including, Hayashi suggests, direct email marketing. Passengers are even paying for private jet flights with Bitcoin, says Privatefly cofounder and marketing director Carol Cork. “Part of the philosophy of our business, really, was to make booking a private jet or private charter flights all over the world much quicker, much easier and much faster to access. When we launched the business, we were looking at how to digitalise private jet booking, and that was involving the user experience, the customers, and also for the operators and the supply side of the business as well.” “Bitcoin was very much, at the beginning, a customer demand-led initiative,” Cork says. “We’d been closely following Bitcoin ourselves, with our finance director, and I think it was at the end of 2013 we started to receive requests from flights to accept it. We have a platform called Trustpilot, a verified review system, and you can see on there we had customers saying, ‘Oh, if only you accepted bitcoin.’ “Our ongoing aim is to make choosing, buying, paying for private charter flights as fast, efficient and with as much choice as possible for the customer. So that was a logical addition for us, to look at payment options and to see how we could potentially bring paying by Bitcoin into the payment options that we already offered.” In addition, Cork notes, “one of the major benefits was that Bitcoin payments are very fast, very flexible and they’re not subject to banking hours. We look at everything from how fast people are booking, the lead times between an inquiry and a booking, what time of day they’re booking. We know that [banking] time lag is not only a hassle factor, but it also can be a major factor whether someone comes and books a private flight or not. It’s how easy and quick we make it for someone to book, and part of that booking is obviously the payment process, so the more we can open up the options to allow people to make it faster and easier to pay, then the better.”

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 105


Blockchain of airlines and supplier companies that maintain whole or partial copies of a private blockchain. Essentially, if a group of airlines all have encrypted copies of their combined ticket distribution databases, passengers can buy tickets without the need for the airlines to use (and pay) a company that maintains a global distribution system. But the security benefits of a significantly more scaled system – and a public one – are greater: the larger the number of sources of the “true” blockchain, and the longer the chain, the more impractical it becomes for a malicious actor to take it over. This is a complex matter for airlines and indeed their regulators, which will need to be persuaded that the benefits of a public, rather than private, blockchain measure up. Yet, as SITA’s White Paper on Flightchain, a test of a flight status blockchain project it ran with Heathrow, airline group IAG, plus Miami and Geneva airports later in the test, says, “A private permissioned blockchain still needs governance and operational oversight. Simply because it is distributed and decentralised does not mean it is self-managing. It is important to choose a governance model/organisation that does not compromise the integrity of the blockchain.” Says SITA, “A distributed system is resilient by nature. But while we can say the network as a whole holds a single version of the truth, for an individual node we can only say ‘it holds a single version of the truth, eventually’.” Moreover, SITA underscores the need for active management of the blockchain from the very start. “Smart contracts are programs that can update the state of data on the blockchain and are a key element to most enterprise blockchain use cases. Smart contracts can be complicated to define, update, redeploy and get all participants into sync again. Strong lifecycle management is required.” “Smart contracts have no legal status,” SITA concludes, yet provides a glimmer on the future horizon when it suggests that, “however, industry standards could be encoded in smart contracts”. For an in-depth discussion of how the economics of blockchain function, the MIT Sloan School Working Paper 5191-16, “Some Simple Economics of the Blockchain” by Christian Catalini and Joshua Gans, is available online.

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Lufthansa Group is using blockchain to allow innovative partners to develop cuttingedge travel apps. rob finlayson

‘The algorithm adjusts so it doesn’t matter.’ MAKSIM IZMAYLOV

Early adopter airlines are searching for the building blocks of blockchain — and complementary technologies

“While we are still exploring its benefits, blockchain may offer a streamlined way to retail airfares and ancillary products alongside our current channels. In removing complexity from the sales chain, customers benefit from reduced transactional costs, and airlines benefit from swift and secure sharing of information,” says Air New Zealand’s Golan. Part of reducing that complexity involves reducing the number of intermediaries between passengers looking to buy tickets and the airlines that want to sell them, while still providing opportunities for innovative ways to do so. Distributed APIs — application programming interface, simply defined as sets of definitions and standards that allow developers to create new uses for an airline’s systems and data — are part of the picture. “Lufthansa Group has engaged in the development of APIs, for instance supporting IATA NDC [the airline body’s New Distribution Capability standard], to offer a direct access to its offers to customers and distribution partners”, explains Markus Binkert, senior vice president of distribution & revenue management at the Lufthansa Group. “By integrating these APIs with Winding Tree’s public blockchain, Lufthansa Group enables all

Air New Zealand is exploring blockchain’s potential benefits. rob finlayson

innovative partners who develop cutting-edge travel applications to access these offers via a decentralised and intermediate-free travel marketplace.” Lufthansa’s Lagardère tells Australian Aviation that the group is “looking at fostering a future landscape where there are fewer intermediaries, or at least intermediaries that bring value and not only cost, and blockchain is a perfect forward looking instrument to doing that.” It’s not, Lagardère says, “only with consumers direct, because the users, the apps’ creators, they could very well be travel agencies, or online travel agencies, who have a value add for the customer and ones who will present the tickets over the network.” “I’m not able now to say, it’s going to be that specific app or that specific app, looking like this or like that,” Lagardère concludes. “We take a more fundamental approach. What’s fundamental, actually, in this approach, is that we’re talking about the public blockchain. It’s not about saying, we’re going to do a blockchain experiment within our private systems and we’re going to learn the technology of blockchain. Here we are of course learning the technology of blockchain, but we’re also applying the concept of blockchain to travel distribution. What shape that takes, I think it’s also going to be a byproduct of the users that join us to experiment on the platform. I think we’re going to see first usages, at least in a proof of concept mode, in the course of next year.” Yet caution and understanding are vital. SITA, in one of the learning points from its recent White Paper, highlights that “it is still early days in the technology lifecycle for blockchain. A blockchain can be complex to set up and manage, especially when compared to point and click cloud services like AWS or Azure. Look for ‘blockchain-asa-service’ offerings, and beware of vendor claims around maturity. Either ensure you have correct skill-sets, or use ‘blockchain‑as-a-service’ offerings or simply wait until the technology matures.” Airlines have not traditionally been strong in the integrated information technology sector, with few of the promises made about big data’s applications to commercial aviation yet fulfilled. Blockchain, like any IT tool, will only be as useful if its wielders know how to use it.


Blockchain

Bits & blocks Blockchain poised to transform the backend of commercial aviation WRITER: JOHN WALTON

B

lockchain might sound like the kind of digital development you’d read about on a technology website rather than in Australian Aviation, but it holds the key to a set of changes to the way the airline industry works as revolutionary as computerised reservation systems or online ticket purchasing. As Air New Zealand chief digital officer Avi Golan says, “with its builtin efficiency and security, blockchain has the potential to trigger huge innovation in travel, paving the way for new business models and collaboration.” Bitcoin, the electronic currency, relies on blockchain and other technologies for its fundamentals, including its security, so the two are often linked together. Indeed, the moment you start talking about blockchain as a technology, everyone uses the example of bitcoin. This somewhat confuses the matter, because the primary emerging benefit of blockchain for aviation purposes isn’t in purchasing tickets — it’s in reducing intermediaries that maintain the databases that form the backbone of airline operations. Blockchain’s first immediate applications are likely to be the way airlines manage sales in the future. “Take travel distribution,” which, Xavier Lagardère, head of distribution for the Lufthansa Group hub airlines, tells Australian Aviation, is “a very layered, legacy-based IT landscape, with players who have been historically able to extract quite some margin, and quite some dollars from the value chain that holds a stronghold. And take blockchain, with the promise of a secure, value-based,

104 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION

decentralised transaction network. Those two things are conceptually completely opposite. The business aspiration, the long-term, is indeed to be able to offer a travel ecosystem that is not as reliant on those intermediaries.” “A blockchain is a database, and the key feature of that database is that no one person or organisation controls it,” Maksim Izmaylov, founder and chief executive of Winding Tree, a nonprofit corporation working with the Lufthansa Group and Air New Zealand (among others) on applying the technology to airlines, tells Australian Aviation. “In the travel industry,” Izmaylov says, “there are a few points of centralisation. They are security holes and they are bottlenecks. When you decentralise those central parties that are hoarders of the data today, you’ll solve a whole number of problems.” The decentralisation occurs by creating distributed ledgers that are encrypted stored in a blockchain, which can be replicated infinitely to create multiple sources of the same truth, providing redundancy and visibility of the encrypted chain. The idea of a distributed ledger is intended, in the aviation context, to replace proprietary ledgers that are used as databases: global distribution systems that manage ticket inventory, for example. “Today,” Izmaylov highlights, “in the airline industry there are virtually two or three companies that can help you distribute your inventory. Of course, they are enjoying tremendously the quality of that marketplace being oligopolistic.”

A handful of companies presently have an oligopoly in operating global distribution systems. Blockchain has the potential to break that apart. seth jaworski

‘Blockchain has the potential to trigger huge innovation in travel.’ AVI GOLAN

This oligopoly comes with a number of disadvantages, the first being cost. There’s a substantial amount of money to be made in running a system on which many airlines rely, representing a large costcutting opportunity. Another disadvantage is that the proprietary and incumbent natures of the systems mean that there is little impetus to invest in new technologies, so many of the databases are old and do not interface properly with modern systems. They also create barriers to entry, especially for innovation, reducing the ability of smaller startups in particular to create new applications for airline data. Other disadvantages include security, because a single operator of a database is inherently less secure than a distributed one. Of the three primary threats of this type, let’s call the first threat type the Equifax threat, after the US credit rating agency where millions of individuals’ personal information was leaked owing to not being adequately secured and then penetrated. The second threat is where a single actor inside an organisation leaks information, intentionally or not: let’s call this the Snowden threat, after the former CIA contractor who leaked intelligence information. The third threat is where a single point of truth in a single system with anything less than 100 per cent uptime or reliability causes problems when it goes down. Let’s call this the Amadeus threat, since many passengers will recall being stranded when that supplier of airline operational functionality went offline earlier in 2017.


Blockchain Blockchain helps solve the problems and reduce the threats of the status quo by creating multiple, encrypted copies of the database ledger

A blockchain, simply, is a sequence of pieces of data (the block) encrypted via a complex process called hashing, and containing a connection to the previous block in the sequence (the chain). Any one block in the sequence cannot be changed without recompiling the rest of the chain in sequence, which is impractical because of the computing resources required. Algorithms in the blockchain when it is created (often referred to in certain contexts as a “smart contract”) ensure that this resource demand is futureproofed for newer, faster or more powerful processors. As the length of the chain increases, it becomes more expensive in processing terms for any malicious actor to try to change an earlier block and recompile the rest of the chain. In addition, “The algorithm adjusts in such a way that each computation of that proof of work will take about 10 minutes on average,” Izmaylov explains. “The algorithm adjusts so it doesn’t matter: you can have a much, much better machine – and theoretically in a couple of years we’ll have machines that will be two times as fast as today’s machines – and it will still take ten minutes.” That 10 minutes is calculated “via the algorithm, so basically the complexity of that computation will be constantly adjusted, completely automatically,” Izmaylov says. The network also provides security because the consensus on the “true” chain is taken from all holders of the blockchain, so that a malicious actor would need to first recompute and then distribute a changed chain to more than 50 per cent of the network. This “51 per cent” attack requires, Izmaylov notes, “51 per cent of the hashing power, 51 per cent of the computational power. That’s what you need in order to change the future truth. So, where the public permission is blockchain, such as Bitcoin or Experia for example, you will never be able to change the state of the database that’s already been written into the ledger. It will be computationally unfeasible.” That assumption is based on the idea that the blockchain is distributed among multiple hosts, either as a private or public blockchain. In the aviation context, it could be a network

Airlines start accepting bitcoin, but remain focused on offline currency Bitcoin, the often tumultuous digital currency, is the best known example of a blockchain in action, and aviation is at the forefront of engaging with this technology too. In contrast with the disintermediation strategy of using the blockchain to aim for direct engagement with passengers, early bitcoin adopters among airlines and private jet operators have largely been using companies specialising in the cryptocurrency to enable payment and immediately transfer it into dollars, yen, and so on. This “bitcoin-as-aservice” allows airlines to familiarise themselves with some of the issues in a low-risk way. Japanese airline Peach, a low-cost subsidiary of ANA, has been working with BITPoint Japan to provide the ability to purchase tickets using bitcoin, using the BITPoint Pay application on Peach’s backend and in the passenger’s smartphone, which reads a QR 2D barcode and transfers the bitcoin equivalent in yen to Peach’s account. “Our alliance includes the BITPoint payment for the tickets,” Chiharu Hayashi, a director of BITPoint Japan, tells Australian Aviation, but highlights that, in addition, “after a customer arrives in Japan, they go shopping and go to restaurants, and they can pay through bitcoin. What we can say is: travel with only bitcoin” is a reality for BITPoint Japan’s customers. Using the BITPoint Pay app, travellers store the currency in a virtual wallet on their smartphone for payments while in Japan, which are typically made using the QR codes that are commonly used within the country. When purchasing a ticket using bitcoin, the process is similar to a normal payment process, with a few key exceptions, including the use of the BITPoint Pay app. “Peach shows the QR code, and the traveller scans the QR code and sends it via bitcoin to Peach wallet,” Hayashi says. “Then, at BITPoint Japan, we will sell the bitcoin and exchange it to yen. We transfer the Japanese yen to Peach’s account. It means that Peach doesn’t have to care about the fluctuation risk of the bitcoin.” Indeed, not having to monitor, hedge or provide for fluctuations of bitcoin to various national and international currencies is a benefit for airlines, and is a key part of the partnership between Peach and BITPoint Japan — as well as seemingly every other airline or private jet outfit that accepts bitcoin. Once they’re in Japan, Hayashi says, the benefit for passengers is that “they don’t have to bring their own cash. They don’t have to exchange their cash. They just bring their mobile

phone with bitcoin. As you know, the recent price trend of bitcoin is going up, so most of the bitcoin holders have unrealised profit, so travellers can use their unrealised profit for travel.” On Peach’s part, Hayashi says, “at this moment, Peach just sells cheap [airline] tickets to the customer. They would like to have a customer database through bitcoin payment. They are going to create their own wallet, which is Peach wallet.” When passengers make payments at restaurants, souvenir shops, or other destinations, Peach can then mine that information for loyalty purposes, including, Hayashi suggests, direct email marketing. Passengers are even paying for private jet flights with Bitcoin, says Privatefly cofounder and marketing director Carol Cork. “Part of the philosophy of our business, really, was to make booking a private jet or private charter flights all over the world much quicker, much easier and much faster to access. When we launched the business, we were looking at how to digitalise private jet booking, and that was involving the user experience, the customers, and also for the operators and the supply side of the business as well.” “Bitcoin was very much, at the beginning, a customer demand-led initiative,” Cork says. “We’d been closely following Bitcoin ourselves, with our finance director, and I think it was at the end of 2013 we started to receive requests from flights to accept it. We have a platform called Trustpilot, a verified review system, and you can see on there we had customers saying, ‘Oh, if only you accepted bitcoin.’ “Our ongoing aim is to make choosing, buying, paying for private charter flights as fast, efficient and with as much choice as possible for the customer. So that was a logical addition for us, to look at payment options and to see how we could potentially bring paying by Bitcoin into the payment options that we already offered.” In addition, Cork notes, “one of the major benefits was that Bitcoin payments are very fast, very flexible and they’re not subject to banking hours. We look at everything from how fast people are booking, the lead times between an inquiry and a booking, what time of day they’re booking. We know that [banking] time lag is not only a hassle factor, but it also can be a major factor whether someone comes and books a private flight or not. It’s how easy and quick we make it for someone to book, and part of that booking is obviously the payment process, so the more we can open up the options to allow people to make it faster and easier to pay, then the better.”

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Blockchain of airlines and supplier companies that maintain whole or partial copies of a private blockchain. Essentially, if a group of airlines all have encrypted copies of their combined ticket distribution databases, passengers can buy tickets without the need for the airlines to use (and pay) a company that maintains a global distribution system. But the security benefits of a significantly more scaled system – and a public one – are greater: the larger the number of sources of the “true” blockchain, and the longer the chain, the more impractical it becomes for a malicious actor to take it over. This is a complex matter for airlines and indeed their regulators, which will need to be persuaded that the benefits of a public, rather than private, blockchain measure up. Yet, as SITA’s White Paper on Flightchain, a test of a flight status blockchain project it ran with Heathrow, airline group IAG, plus Miami and Geneva airports later in the test, says, “A private permissioned blockchain still needs governance and operational oversight. Simply because it is distributed and decentralised does not mean it is self-managing. It is important to choose a governance model/organisation that does not compromise the integrity of the blockchain.” Says SITA, “A distributed system is resilient by nature. But while we can say the network as a whole holds a single version of the truth, for an individual node we can only say ‘it holds a single version of the truth, eventually’.” Moreover, SITA underscores the need for active management of the blockchain from the very start. “Smart contracts are programs that can update the state of data on the blockchain and are a key element to most enterprise blockchain use cases. Smart contracts can be complicated to define, update, redeploy and get all participants into sync again. Strong lifecycle management is required.” “Smart contracts have no legal status,” SITA concludes, yet provides a glimmer on the future horizon when it suggests that, “however, industry standards could be encoded in smart contracts”. For an in-depth discussion of how the economics of blockchain function, the MIT Sloan School Working Paper 5191-16, “Some Simple Economics of the Blockchain” by Christian Catalini and Joshua Gans, is available online.

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Lufthansa Group is using blockchain to allow innovative partners to develop cuttingedge travel apps. rob finlayson

‘The algorithm adjusts so it doesn’t matter.’ MAKSIM IZMAYLOV

Early adopter airlines are searching for the building blocks of blockchain — and complementary technologies

“While we are still exploring its benefits, blockchain may offer a streamlined way to retail airfares and ancillary products alongside our current channels. In removing complexity from the sales chain, customers benefit from reduced transactional costs, and airlines benefit from swift and secure sharing of information,” says Air New Zealand’s Golan. Part of reducing that complexity involves reducing the number of intermediaries between passengers looking to buy tickets and the airlines that want to sell them, while still providing opportunities for innovative ways to do so. Distributed APIs — application programming interface, simply defined as sets of definitions and standards that allow developers to create new uses for an airline’s systems and data — are part of the picture. “Lufthansa Group has engaged in the development of APIs, for instance supporting IATA NDC [the airline body’s New Distribution Capability standard], to offer a direct access to its offers to customers and distribution partners”, explains Markus Binkert, senior vice president of distribution & revenue management at the Lufthansa Group. “By integrating these APIs with Winding Tree’s public blockchain, Lufthansa Group enables all

Air New Zealand is exploring blockchain’s potential benefits. rob finlayson

innovative partners who develop cutting-edge travel applications to access these offers via a decentralised and intermediate-free travel marketplace.” Lufthansa’s Lagardère tells Australian Aviation that the group is “looking at fostering a future landscape where there are fewer intermediaries, or at least intermediaries that bring value and not only cost, and blockchain is a perfect forward looking instrument to doing that.” It’s not, Lagardère says, “only with consumers direct, because the users, the apps’ creators, they could very well be travel agencies, or online travel agencies, who have a value add for the customer and ones who will present the tickets over the network.” “I’m not able now to say, it’s going to be that specific app or that specific app, looking like this or like that,” Lagardère concludes. “We take a more fundamental approach. What’s fundamental, actually, in this approach, is that we’re talking about the public blockchain. It’s not about saying, we’re going to do a blockchain experiment within our private systems and we’re going to learn the technology of blockchain. Here we are of course learning the technology of blockchain, but we’re also applying the concept of blockchain to travel distribution. What shape that takes, I think it’s also going to be a byproduct of the users that join us to experiment on the platform. I think we’re going to see first usages, at least in a proof of concept mode, in the course of next year.” Yet caution and understanding are vital. SITA, in one of the learning points from its recent White Paper, highlights that “it is still early days in the technology lifecycle for blockchain. A blockchain can be complex to set up and manage, especially when compared to point and click cloud services like AWS or Azure. Look for ‘blockchain-asa-service’ offerings, and beware of vendor claims around maturity. Either ensure you have correct skill-sets, or use ‘blockchain‑as-a-service’ offerings or simply wait until the technology matures.” Airlines have not traditionally been strong in the integrated information technology sector, with few of the promises made about big data’s applications to commercial aviation yet fulfilled. Blockchain, like any IT tool, will only be as useful if its wielders know how to use it.


CHC brings the AW189 to Australia WRITER: CHRIS FRAME

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AW189

T

here is a new presence in the skies over Western Australia, with CHC’s recent introduction of the next-generation Leonardo AW189 helicopter. Based in Karratha, three of the Italian-built ‘super medium’ AW189s – the first in Australia – began flying in support of Woodside’s North-West Shelf operations in November. “The arrival of the AW189s marks a new chapter in our long and established relationship with the aircraft manufacturer Leonardo,” Vince D’Rozario, CHC Regional Director, Asia Pacific, said of the new machines’ arrival. “We look forward to continuing to deepen this relationship as we provide this fit-for-purpose aircraft to Woodside, who we have proudly served since 2011.”

CHC’s Australian journey

With a heritage that dates back over 70 years, CHC offers a wealth of experience to the helicopter transport market in Australia. With its roots in Canada, the organisation’s forebear Okanagan established aviation services in 1947 with a Bell 47B-3, used to support offshore drilling operations. CHC was established in 1987 after the amalgamation of Okanagan, Toronto Helicopters and Sealand Helicopters. The new organisation expanded its fleet and grew annual turnover to over C$1 billion by 1995, and would acquire Australia’s Lloyd Helicopters in 1999. CHC’s extensive Australian operations are managed out of its regional base at Jandakot Airport, south of Perth. “Western Australia is a great base for us as we can focus on growing the business in oil and gas passenger transfer contracts which support activities that are important for both the WA and national economy,”

‘The arrival of the AW189s marks a new chapter.’ VINCE D’ROZARIO

O ne of the new AW189s is towed at CHC’s Karratha base, while an AW139 comes in to land. chc

D’Rozario told Australian Aviation in December. However, while CHC is perhaps best known as a major contractor to resource companies such as Woodside, a significant portion of its local revenue is earned from government services in various Australian states, with 50 per cent of CHC’s Australian revenue coming from search and rescue operations. “Not only do we operate search and rescue for our military clients, but we operate the RAC Rescue helicopters out of Jandakot and Bunbury on behalf of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) – these are Bell 412s, branded in RAC livery, and is a service that many people in Western Australia have come to rely on,” D’Rozario says. The business also holds a key search and rescue role contract with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). “We’ve been flying for the RAAF for almost 30 years and have just received another contract continuation with them,” comments D’Rozario. “We also fly in Victoria, where we’ve got contracts to lease and maintain helicopters to the Victorian Police Air Wing.”

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Fleet diversity

In order to service its varied client base, CHC operates a diverse fleet of helicopter types, from all four major helicopter manufacturers. The AW189s join a number of AW139s already in the CHC Australia fleet, while the company also operates Airbus Helicopters EC135s, AS365 Ns and AS332s, Sikorsky S-76s and S-92s, and Bell 412s. With the new 16-seat AW189 joining the fleet to supplement the slightly larger S-92, a super medium class has been introduced to CHC’s inventory, D’Rozario explains. “The S-92 has been the main workhorse of the heavy fleet for the past two years – by heavy I mean the payload and range that the helicopter has,” he says. “The new AW189 falls into the super medium category which means it has comparable range and a similar payload to the S-92 but noticeably lower operating costs. This is appealing for operators as it is cheaper to run and in a passenger configuration can carry 16 passengers, which is only three less than the S-92.” Another benefit the AW189 brings to CHC is fleet diversity, protecting against over-reliance on a single type. This is a particulary important consideration for CHC following the

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The AW189 seats 16 passengers. chc

‘It was important for us to diversify the fleet.’ VINCE D’ROZARIO

tragic 2016 crash of a CHC EC225 in Norway. With the subsequent grounding of all EC225 aircraft, it was the fact that CHC had more than one aircraft type in its fleet that allowed it to maintain services while the accident was under investigation. “The Eurocopter 225 had a design fault which has been linked to a series of accidents,” notes D’Rozario. “This design defect led to a type grounding from global regulators. If there had been no fleet diversification, the business would have ceased to operate. However, by spreading the types of equipment we operate it reduces the risk associated by any future type grounding.” The EC225’s grounding meant CHC was overly reliant on the S-92 to perform long‑range and heavy payload operations, presenting a potential business risk of being overly dependent on a single aircraft type. “The risk with a fleet of heavy helicopters based on one type – the S-92 – was ‘what if something went wrong with the type?’ It was the only helicopter we used to go offshore and as a result it was important for us to diversify the fleet,” D’Rozario explains. Enter the AW189, which brings diversity to the CHC fleet while also introducing cost efficiencies and a better customer and passenger experience.

The AW189

Leonardo – then known as AgustaWestland – announced it was developing the new 8.3 to 8.6 tonne class twin-engine AW189 at the June 2011 Paris Airshow. Intended from the outset as a long-range machine suited for offshore missions and search and rescue, the AW189 features some common avionics and cockpit features with the smaller AW139, but otherwise is effectively an all-new design. The prototype AW189 first took flight in December 2011. Over the next two years a series of prototype and pre-production aircraft were used in the certification of the type across both offshore and search and rescue missions. By 2013 the aircraft was in full scale production. Powered by two GE CT7-2E1 engines, the AW189 features an innovative gearbox design which allows it to ‘run dry’ for an extended period. “The MSG-3 process has been designed in such a way that the main gearbox can run dry and still operate properly,” D’Rozario explains. “In fact, during testing it successfully operated dry for up to 20 minutes. This is a great reassurance for operators and reduces the risk to gearboxes identified in the Eurocopter 225 design fault.”


AW189 CHC acquired the aircraft to meet the needs of Woodside which itself wanted fleet diversity having been reliant on five CHC-operated AW139s. “At its core the AW189 is a completely different machine to the AW139. However it does share about 30 per cent of the components of its elder fleet mate, mainly in the avionics, and as such it’s easier for pilots to transition between types due to that familiarity,” D’Rozario comments of the two Leonardo aircraft. Importantly, the AW189 doesn’t share critical components with any other helicopter in the CHC fleet. As a result, there are now two distinct types in CHC’s Woodside operation, which protects both businesses against the risks associated with single-type operation. D’Rozario reckons Leonardo has created a new standard for offshore oil and gas transportation, “This aircraft is a game-changer for oil and gas operations. It’s got the range and payload capability to make it very appealing for the routes that organisations like Woodside need it for, with significant cost savings in acquisition and operations

The AW189 joins the smaller AW139 (pictured) in the CHC fleet. chc

when compared to helicopters in the heavy category. This means it’s more cost-effective to operate, making a significant impact to transportation costs for projects across Australia.”

Flight experience

The AW189 complements the larger Sikorsky S-92 in CHC’s fleet. chc

Technological improvements form just one of the benefits of the AW189, with passenger experience a key consideration in its design. “The AW189 comes with many benefits for passengers when compared to other helicopters. It’s quieter with noticeably less noise and vibration, while the aircraft has excellent flying characteristics making for a smoother ride,” comments D’Rozario.

“We’ve had great feedback from those people travelling on the 189s.” To improve passenger and crew comfort, the 189 incorporates an auxiliary power unit, allowing the aircraft to remain airconditioned while on the ground, while much consideration has been taken to reduce vibrations and minimise noise from the rotors. Still, a flight on an offshore support helicopter like the the AW189 is a unique experience, distinct from other forms of commercial aviation, as D’Rozario explains. “Flying on an AW189 isn’t quite the same as your usual commercial airplane experience. Passengers wear full lifejackets during the flight and the noise from the rotor means we rely on headsets to communicate during flight. But it’s a comfortable experience. The doors are closed, they have big windows and it’s airconditioned. The seats are like those found in your typical economy class cabin but seatbelts are of a fourpoint design rather than your standard sash belt.” These are tools of the trade, after all.

‘This aircraft is a gamechanger for oil and gas operations.’ VINCE D’ROZARIO Xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxx. xxxxxx xxxxxxxx

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Traffic

Key aircraft movements from across the region

WRITER: GORDON REID

Qantas 787-9 VH-ZNB taxis in at Melbourne Airport at the end of its delivery flight on December 10. victor pody

QANTAS GROUP NEWS

The second Qantas 787-9, msn 39039/641, was registered VH‑ZNB on November 13 and operated its maiden flight on November 30, from Paine Field to Moses Lake and return. VH-ZNB Waltzing Matilda was then delivered to Qantas in Melbourne on December 10. 787-9 VH-ZNC msn 39040/655 is planned for delivery to Qantas in mid-January. A380-842 VH-OQL, which had been in Manila for maintenance since October 16 (Traffic/December), ferried from Manila to Sydney as QF6010 on December 6. 747-48E VH-OEB operated QF117 from Sydney to Hong Kong on November 5 and after unloading it entered the HAECO hangar for planned maintenance. On completion of its maintenance

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check VH-OEB departed Hong Kong for Sydney on November 27 as QF6014. 747-438ER VH-OEE, which had been in Hong Kong for maintenance since September 16 (Traffic/November), returned to service on November 5 when it departed Hong Kong for Sydney as QF118. A330-303 VH-QPG operated a charter to Honduras with the aircraft carrying the Socceroos for a World Cup qualifying match. VH‑QPG departed Sydney as QF6031 on November 9 for Honolulu and San Pedro Sula before it returned to Sydney on November 12 as QF6032 from San Pedro Sula and Honolulu. 737-838 VH-VYI operated QF978 from Brisbane to Townsville on November 30 and subsequently entered the Flying Colours hangar

for repainting in the new Qantas livery. 737-838 VH-VZF Ballarat, which has seen all its operations to date with the Qantas Group as ZK-ZQA with Jetconnect (Traffic/December), entered service with Qantas on November 10 as QF651 from Brisbane to Perth. 737-838 VH-VZO operated QF71 from Perth to Singapore on November 16 before ferrying the same day to Seletar as QF6006 where it was repainted in the new Qantas livery. On November 29 VH-VZO ferried from Seletar to Townsville as QF6005 before returning to service on December 1 when it operated QF969 from Townsville to Brisbane. 737-838 VH-VZW, which arrived in Singapore on November 3 for painting (Traffic/December),

returned to service on November 16 when it operated QF72 from Singapore to Perth. QantasLink ferried Fokker 100 VH-NHV from Seletar to Port Hedland and Perth on November 28. Dash 8-Q315 VH-SBG ferried from Brisbane to Townsville on November 5 as QF2429 and on arrival it entered the Flying Colours hangar for repainting. Now named Kiama VH-SBG returned to Brisbane from Townsville as QF2459 on November 17. Dash 8-Q315 VH-SBJ operated QF1421 from Brisbane to Townsville on November 17 and on arrival entered the Flying Colours hangar for repainting. Now named Griffith VH-SBJ returned to Brisbane from Townsville as QF6710 on November 29.


Traffic Jetstar ferried Dash 8-Q315 VH‑TQM from Auckland to Norfolk Island, Brisbane and Tamworth on November 17 for maintenance. Dash 8-Q315 VH-TQL was ferried from Brisbane to Norfolk Island and Auckland on November 16 after completing maintenance at Tamworth (Traffic/December).

AIRLINE NEWS

In this issue we report the delivery of a 787-9 to Air New Zealand, a 737-800 to Samoa Air, a Fokker 100 to Alliance and an ERJ-145LR to JetGo, plus the withdrawal from service of a Cobham/National Jet BAe 146‑300. Air New Zealand took delivery of 787-9 ZK-NZM in Auckland on November 23 after the aircraft ferried in direct from Charleston as NZ6094. The 787 entered service on November 30 when it operated NZ101 from Auckland to Sydney. 777-319ER ZK-OKQ ferried from Auckland to Singapore as NZ6013 on November 1 for maintenance before returning to Auckland on November 30. 777-219ER ZK-OKA, which had been in Singapore for maintenance since October 30 (Traffic/December), returned to Auckland as NZ6003 on December 2.

Air New Zealand Link/Mount Cook withdrew ATR 72‑500 ZK‑MCW from service on November 26 after the aircraft operated NZ5337 from Wellington to Christchurch. Air Niugini ferried Fokker 100 P2-ANE from Port Moresby to Darwin, Denpasar and Seletar as PX4390 on November 12/13 for planned maintenance. Alliance Airlines, which took delivery of Fokker 100 VH-UQD in Brisbane on October 30 (Traffic/December), placed the aircraft into service on November 9 when it operated QQ880 from Brisbane to Trepell. Fokker 70 VH-QQY has operated a charter to New Zealand. On November 11 as ‘Alliance 557’ VH‑QQY departed Cairns for Brisbane and Auckland before continuing to Rotorua on November 12. It departed Rotorua on November 14 for Queenstown, Auckland and Brisbane. Fiji Airways ferried 737-8X2/W DQ-FJH as FJI2009 from Nadi to Cairns and Seletar on November 11 for planned maintenance. DQ-FJH returned to Nadi from Seletar and Cairns on November 15 as

Ex GAM Air Dornier 228 5Y-CHZ at Essendon Airport prior to delivery to its new owner. gordon reid FJI2008.

A330-243 DQ-FJV ferried from Singapore to Nadi as FJI2004 on November 14 after completing planned maintenance. JetGo took delivery of its first ERJ-140LR, N16999 msn 145307, at Brisbane on November 5 after the aircraft ferried in from Merauke and Townsville. The Embraer was registered VH-JGR to JetGo on November 16 and entered service on November 26 when it operated JG038 from Brisbane to Wagga Wagga. ERJ-140LR N14923 msn 145318, which reportedly will be registered VH-JGK, was planned for delivery to JetGo in December. National Jet Express has withdrawn BAe 146-300 VH-NJL from service with the aircraft planned to be reduced to spares. Pionair Australia placed BAe 146-200 msn 2148 ex G-ZAPK on the Australian register as VH-SAZ on November 27. Samoa Airways has leased 737‑86N I-NEOS from the Italian carrier NEOS and on November 9 the aircraft departed Milan/Malpensa for Muscat, Singapore, Cairns and Apia where it arrived on November 12. I-NEOS entered service with Samoa Airways on November 14 as OL731 from Apia to Auckland.

VIRGIN GROUP NEWS

In this issue we report the delivery of a 737-800 to Virgin Australia and the departure to storage of two ATR 72-500s of VARA. Virgin Australia took delivery of 737‑800 VH-YWD Tiramirakura at Brisbane on November 19 after the aircraft, which was operating as VOZ9940, ferried in from Seattle/ Boeing Field via Kona and Nadi. VH-YWD entered service with Virgin Australia on November 30 when it operated VOZ916 from Brisbane to Sydney.

Virgin Australia Regional Airlines/VARA withdrew ATR 72‑500 VH-FVX from service on December 3 after it operated VOZ664 from Sydney to Canberra. On December 5 as VOZ9948 VH-FVX departed Canberra on ferry to Nelson where on arrival it was placed in storage. ATR 72-500 VH-FVI was withdrawn from service on December 3 after operating VOZ646 from Sydney to Canberra. On December 7 as VOZ9946 VH‑FVI departed Canberra on ferry to Nelson where it was placed in storage. Fokker 50 VH-FNA, which was parked at Nairobi, has been registered XA-UZN. The Fokker departed Nairobi on December 2 for Khartoum and Heraklion and onward stops to Mexico on delivery to MAYair.

REGIONAL AIRLINE NEWS

In this issue we report the delivery of an ATR 72-600(QC) to PNG Air, a Cessna 208B to Milford Sound Flights and a Cessna 208A to Air Milford. Departing the region was a Dornier 228 of GAM, while Air Chathams scrapped a Convair 580 and a Metro III. Air Chathams has had Convair 580 ZK-FTA and Metro III ZK-POB parked at Auckland for some months while the two aircraft were gradually broken up for spare parts. The Convair was cancelled from the register on November 6 while the Metro was cancelled from the register on November 29. Air Milford took delivery of Cessna 208A N253PV msn 208‑00605 at Queenstown on December 4 after the aircraft ferried in from Wichita via Colorado Springs, Merced, Honolulu, Apia and Auckland. Fiji Link is planning to add DHC‑6‑400 C-GVSW msn 961 to its fleet in January. GAM Air cancelled Dornier 228‑202K VH‑VJD from the register on October 24 (Traffic/December) and on November 22 the aircraft was noted at Essendon now carrying the Kenyan registration 5Y-CHZ. On November 23 the Dornier departed Essendon for Ayers Rock and Broome before continuing to Christmas Island on

TBM 950 SP-TBM at Cairns on November 20. andrew belczacki

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German air force A310 10+23 touches down at Cairns on November 20. andrew belczacki November 24.

Heavylift (Australia) ferried ATR 42-320 VH-YWH ex P2‑KSR from Cairns to Brisbane on November 23. PNG Air took delivery of ATR 72‑600(QC) P2-ATF at Port Moresby on November 16 after the aircraft ferried in from Ujung Pandang. Tropicair ferried DHC-6-300 P2-TBM from Cairns to Port Moresby on November 24 after the former Southwest DHC-6-300, then registered P2-SWE, finished its planned maintenance and repaint (Traffic/November). Vortex Air of Moorabbin cancelled Cessna 208B VH-IOV 208B-1174 from the register on October 31 after the aircraft was sold to Pacific Air Holdings of Shawnee, Oklahoma as N842PH. However, as of early December N842PH was reported still to be at Moorabbin. Vortex Air became the registered operator of Cessna 208B VH-LWA on October 26.

FERRY FLIGHTS

In this issue we report the delivery of a Cessna 208B to Milford Sound Flights and a Cessna 208A to Air Milford and the departure of a P-750XL to the Chinese Sport Parachute Industry. Cessna 208B ZK-MCI msn 208B‑1019 was registered to Milford Sound Flights of Queenstown on November 22. The Grand Caravan, then registered N578AZ to Southern Wings Aircraft Sales of Oklahoma City, had ferried into Dunedin on November 13 from Merced/ California via Honolulu, Apia, Auckland and Ardmore.

Cessna 208A N253PV msn 208A‑00605 was delivered to Air Milford at Queenstown on December 4 after the aircraft ferried in from Wichita via Colorado Springs, Merced, Honolulu, Apia and Auckland. Cessna 208B ZK-PDZ 208B-0250 ex

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Italian air force ACJ MM62209 on approach to Adelaide on November 27. ryan hothersall VH-SFX was registered to Skydive Queenstown on December 5 (Traffic/December). CGG Aviation (Australia) Cessna 208B VH-ZKG arrived at Broome from Denpasar on November 1. Avia Spirit Sentosa Cessna 208B PK‑FSG arrived at Cairns from Merauke on November 6 before it returned to Merauke on November 8. Cessna 182T VH-KHW departed Latrobe Valley for Port Macquarie on November 5 before continuing the following day to Lord Howe Island, Kerikeri and Tauranga. On November 28 the Cessna was placed on the New Zealand register as ZK-RHW. Cessna 182F VH-CDN arrived in Darwin from Halim on

November 16.

P-750XL ZK-KDN msn 209, which was on delivery to the Chinese Sport Parachute Industry, departed Hamilton on November 9 for the Gold Coast, Longreach, Darwin, Manado, Laoag and Taiyuan Wusu where it arrived on November 18. P-750XL ZK-KDJ msn 207 has been parked at Darwin since December 3 ’16 after arriving there from Hamilton. On November 21 the P-750XL departed Darwin for Longreach, the ferry flight then continuing to the Gold Coast, Lord Howe Island, Auckland and Hamilton where it arrived on November 23. Cockles of Albany PA-31‑325 VH-OOI departed Albany on October 19

for Jandakot, Kalgoorlie, Ceduna, Adelaide and Bankstown where it arrived on October 24. VH-OOI then departed Bankstown on October 25 for Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island and Kerikeri where it arrived on October 28. PA-46-310P VH-JVX departed Mount Gambier for Hobart on November 13 before crossing the Tasman to Queenstown on November 14. The Malibu was then placed on the New Zealand register as ZK-ORZ on November 24. PA-34-200T VH-DIG arrived at Darwin from Davao City on November 18 before continuing to Emerald and Bundaberg on November 19. Commander 500S N9116N msn 3086 arrived at the Gold Coast on December 4 after its trans-Pacific ferry from Santa Maria, California via Hilo, Christmas Island and Pago Pago. The following day N9116N continued to Ballina, Gunnedah, Albury and Essendon. TBM 930 SP-TBM arrived in Darwin from Lombok on November 13 during a round-the-world flight. The TBM then continued to Jabiru, Cairns and Sydney before crossing the Tasman to Christchurch and Hamilton where it arrived on November 22.

FIRE ATTACK

Conair RJ85 C-GVFK ‘Bomber 391’ arrived at Avalon on December 4 from Abbotsford via Oakland, Honolulu, Majuro and Honiara. Erickson Air Crane Sikorsky S-64E N189AC Gypsy Lady arrived at Essendon from Sydney on November 11 and has since taken up residence for the 2017/18 bushfire season. N189AC was later fitted with a tank showing that the aircraft was being operated by Kestrel Aviation as Helitak 341. Kestrel Bell 206 L3 VH-KHQ Firebird 308 has taken up residence at Essendon as the support aircraft for S-64E N189AC.

Deraya Air Taxi ATP PK-OGC visited Cairns in mid-November. andrew belczacki


Traffic Erickson Air Crane Sikorsky S-64E N957AC Ichabod arrived at Moorabbin from the docks on December 1. It was later fitted with a tank showing that the S-64E was being operated by Kestrel Aviation as Helitack 342. Kestrel Bell 206 L1 VH-JOW Firebird 309 has taken up residence at Moorabbin as the support aircraft for S-64E N957AC. Erickson Air Crane Sikorsky S-64E N218AC/734 Elsie arrived at Essendon from the Melbourne docks on December 1. Elsie, which was still at Essendon on December 7 reportedly will be ferried to Brukunga, South Australia where it will be based for the fire season. Erickson Air Crane Sikorsky S-64E N154AC Georgia Peach was unloaded from a ship in the Fremantle docks on November 23 before being moved to its base at Serpentine. Coulson Helicopters shipped Sikorsky S-61N C-FIRX into Melbourne in November with the machine road‑transported to Avalon where it was re-assembled. Now designated Helitack 347 C-FIRX was later ferried to Colac where it will be based for the bushfire season. Coulson also shipped Sikorsky S-61N N161CG, which is the former C-FMAY, to Melbourne in November and as Helitack 348 it has taken up residence at Mansfield. Wildcat Helicopters Bell 412SP C-FWTQ was flying at Camden on November 13 while Wildcat Bell 412SPs C-GBND and C-FWTY were noted at Camden awaiting assembly. Valhalla Helicopters Bell 212 C-GLFT/251 was noted at Albion Park on November 15 in company with Valhalla Bell 205A C-GRUV/253. Helimax Aviation of Sacramento Boeing CH-47D N948CH arrived at Essendon from the Port of Melbourne on November 11 and the following day departed on ferry to its base at Camden, NSW. Timberline Helicopters Sikorsky UH-60A N563DJ Thing 2, which will be operated by Pays Air Service, arrived at Scone on December 7 after being shipped into the country.

La Compagnie 757-200 F-HTAG lands at Melbourne on November 18. victor pody

Sino Jet Management BBJ P4-SIM on approach to Melbourne. brian wilkes

Noumea to Singapore. Italian air force A319-115(CJ) MM62209 as IAM3160 arrived in Canberra from Singapore on November 26 before continuing to Adelaide on November 27. It departed Adelaide for Singapore on November 29. Antonov Airlines An-124 UR-82009 as ADB2192 arrived in Adelaide from Honolulu and Brisbane on November 14 and departed to Johor Bahru as ADB280F on November 16. Antonov Airlines An-124 UR‑82029 as ADB2218 arrived in Darwin from Mattala on November 27 carrying H175B VH-NYI msn 5027 Inga Bergstrom and H175B VH-NYJ msn 5028 Christmas Jones on delivery to Babcock Offshore Services Australasia. As ADB396F the An‑124 departed Darwin for Sharjah on November 28.

Spectrum Air Basler BT‑67 ZS-ASN arrived at Jandakot on November 12 from Denpasar and Broome. It is conducting survey work while in Australia. Vim Airlines 777-212ER VP‑BDR arrived at Alice Springs from Moscow/Domodedovo and Kuala Lumpur on November 17 to be placed in storage. La Compagnie 757-256/W F-HTAG as DJT600 arrived in Melbourne on November 18 from Charles De Gaulle, Keflavik, Las Vegas, Honolulu and Nadi during a round-the-world flight. It departed to Darwin and Siem Reip on November 20. 737-73Q/BBJ N977JG arrived in Sydney from Halim and Canberra on November 7 and departed to Halim on November 10. 737-7BC/BBJ N666ML arrived in Sydney from Beijing and Cairns

on November 6 before continuing to Melbourne on November 9. It departed Melbourne for Brisbane on November 12 before continuing to Cairns on November 15 and Beijing on November 17. Intera Holdings 737-7HZ/BBJ P4-NGK arrived in Perth from Halim on November 8. Sino Jet Management 737-7CG/ BBJ P4-SJM arrived in Melbourne in the early hours of November 13 from Macau and departed to Cairns on November 23 and Beijing on November 24. It arrived in Brisbane from Shanghai on November 27 before continuing to Melbourne on November 28 and Auckland on November 29. 737-7KK/BBJ VP-CAM arrived in Sydney from Macau on November 21. US Navy 737-7AF/C-40A 165834 as ‘Convoy 7125’ arrived in Melbourne from Guam on November 11 before returning there on November 13. US Navy 737-7AF/C-40A 166695 arrived in Melbourne from Guam on November 4 before returning there on November 6. Deraya Air Taxi BAe ATP(F) PK-DGC arrived in Cairns from Merauke on November 16 before returning to Merauke on November 16. Volga Dnepr Airlines Il‑76TD‑90VD RA-76952 arrived in Perth from Jakarta as VDA4104 on November 23 and departed to Nanjing as VDA3101 on November 25. JASDF Kawasaki C-2 68-1203 as JF102 arrived at RAAF Amberley from Guam on November 26 before departing to Christchurch on November 27. The C-2, which was being demonstrated to the RNZAF, continued to Wellington on November 28 before departing for RAAF Richmond on November 29 and Guam on November 30.

JASDF Kawasaki C-2 68-1203 on approach to RAAF Base Amberley. lance broad

HEAVY METAL

Luftwaffe A310-304(ET) 10+23 as GAF384 transited Cairns on November 20 while en route from Singapore to Noumea. The A310 again transited Cairns on November 22 while en route from JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 115


AAPC 2017

photographers and Australian Aviation contributors Seth Jaworski and Paul Sadler were named winner and runner-up, respectively, in the photographer of the year award. Jaworski took the trophy in this category for a second straight year. The Australian aviation news story of the year award went to Reuters’ Jamie Freed for her piece “Sydney Airport says new terms unviable, sows doubt on involvement”, while Adrian Schofield’s story “New Zealand Targets Advanced Airport Screening” in Aviation Week took out the New Zealand aviation news story award. Matt O’Sullivan’s investigation in Fairfax Media on what happened on a Qantas Airbus A330 that suddenly lost altitude, “The untold story of QF72”, won best feature story for 2017. The annual awards dinner also included a tribute to veteran aviation reporter and 2015 AAPC lifetime achievement award recipient Ben Sandilands, who died in late October

The Australasian Aviation Press Club’s annual awards night is a chance to recognise peers, catch up with friends and enjoy some light entertainment. seth jaworski

after battling cancer. Long-time aviation editor at The Australian, former AAPC president and now editor/Asia Pacific bureau chief for Airline Ratings Steve Creedy said Sandilands was a giant of the industry in his five decades as a journalist. “I think it’s pretty fair to say that there will only ever be one Benoni Fairfax Sandilands,” Creedy said in his speech to attendees at the awards

dinner. “Ben was a force unto himself, a larger-than-life character whose enthusiasm for and knowledge of the subject matter was without question. “He held strong and passionate opinions and was not backwards about putting them forward. Ben wasn’t always right in what he said but it came from his heart and was without malice.” Creedy said his strongest memory of Sandilands was at press conferences, a sentiment shared by many in the room on the night. “Ben is the only person I have encountered who could answer his own question before he had actually asked it,” he said. “This would often involve a long preamble in which Ben would outline the missteps taken in recent times by the unfortunate recipient of the question and if they were extremely unlucky some of the mistakes they were about to make. “Those who didn’t know Ben would assume a sort of deer-in-theheadlights look, while those who did would nod sagely and try to either avoid the question entirely or answer as best they could. “The other great memory was the camaraderie on numerous trips. I was always pleased to see Ben part of the group because it meant good conversations about unusual things, sometimes very unusual things.” JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 117


Warbirds

Warbirds, classic aircraft, museum and airshow news

WRITER: DAVE PROSSOR

Double Mustang trouble! PR.22 A68-199 (VH-URZ) and Mk.21 A68-105 (in No 3 Squadron RAAF markings representing SQNLDR Murray Nash’s P-51K Mustang KH677 in the Italian Theatre during WW2) in flight over Westernport Bay near Tyabb. matt savage

MUSTANGS TAKE FLIGHT

The first and the last time, maybe. Wednesday December 6 saw Mustangs VH-JUC and VH-URZ/ A68-199 make a formation flight. The Judy Pay/Dick Houriganowned CAC Mustang A68-105/ VH-JUC was being flown by Nick Caldwell, while Peter Gills’s VH‑URZ was being flown by Bernie Heuser with passenger Cassie Gill in the rear seat. Peter’s aircraft is due to run out of its current C of A and is up for sale so there is a chance that the pair may not get to fly in formation again. For those lucky enough to witness it, the sound of not one but two Merlin engines at Tyabb was something to behold.

FIRST FLIGHTS

First flights are always exciting and this issue we can report on not one but three. From New Zealand the recently rebuilt historic Comper

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Swift, VH-UVC, took to the air at Omaka on Monday November 20. It was reported to be a trouble-free flight. Owned by Sydney pilot Roy Fox, the aircraft will be coming back to Australia in due course. At Latrobe Valley Jeff Trappett took to the air on Friday November 24 in his Ryan STM-1 VH-RYS following an extensive rebuild. Jeff has had several Ryans over the years. Now the big one. Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer Srs. 3 VH-SYS took to the skies again on Friday November 24 after a six-year period of no flying. Built in 1962 with c/n 763, it was originally VH-EVB and owned by aviation enthusiast Sy Allsep. Sy passed away in recent times and a group of his friends elected to rebuild the aircraft and get it back in the air. It took time but they succeeded and got the big twin-engined taildragger airborne

out of Wedderburn airstrip, NSW. Along the way they changed the registration to VH-SYS as a mark of respect to Sy and his unique aircraft. Now to show it to the world.

HOSKINGS HANGAR TOUR

In early December the Aviation Historical Society of Australia conducted a tour of Graham Hosking’s hangar at Tyabb. Graham was the all-knowing tour guide and he gave forth a wealth of information regarding his fantastic collection of aircraft. Graham’s Corsair is under rebuild following a gear-up landing at Maitland, NSW earlier this year. It is a big single-engine aircraft and even bigger with the wings unfolded. The 1930s Curtiss Robin highwing monoplane that Graham has in partnership with Peninsula Aero Club President Jack Vevers

is currently having some engine work carried out, while alongside it is the Ryan STM that is painted up in the markings it carried in the East Indies during WW2 with the Dutch. Hanging from the roof is Ryan STM-1 VH-SQD in which Graham made a successful forced landing in 2017 following an engine issue. The machine has been assembled complete with bent wings and fuselage. It is rebuildable but will take time and a dedicated Ryan enthusiast. Other aircraft of interest include a CAC Winjeel, a flying wing kit aircraft, a Republic Seabee, a Bleriot replica and a great collection of antique aero engines.

NHILL AIR MUSEUM

Nhill airport in western Victoria is advancing on its project to have a great air museum and tourist attraction. ‘The Hill’ air base was


Warbirds used by the RAAF during WW2 but was decommissioned soon after the war. In recent times a group of locals have made the decision to build up a museum of aircraft types that operated from Nhill during those critical years. The Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre started off with obtaining the remains (a wreck?) of Avro Anson W2364. It has steadily been built-up to the stage where the fuselage is effectively complete along with the two Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah radial engines. Now the project is to rebuild the outer wing panels – a big job but not insurmountable. Also on display is Wirraway A20-722/VH-CAC, which is owned by well-known aero engine rebuilder Borg Sorensen. Borg has elected to sell the Wirraway to the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre, and the museum is now well along the way to raising the funds to purchase this historic aircraft. To add to the collection a local pilot has purchased de Havilland Tiger Moth DH.82a VH-RIN, previously A17-588. With three aircraft so far on display in an immaculate hangar, the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre is soon to become a must-visit tourist attraction, one that tells the history of Nhill’s WW2 heritage.

AUSSIES IN SEOUL

The Seoul Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX) is South Korea’s major international trade and airshow, held biennially at Seongnam, a Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) base just to the south-east of the capital city, Seoul, writes Darren Mottram. The exhibition sees the latest technology on show and last year was no exception with a pair each of USAF F-22s and F-35s, a Global Hawk surveillance UAV, US Navy P-8 Poseidon and a Royal Malaysian Air Force Airbus A400M on display alongside the ROKAF’s latest front-line hardware. Among all this technology and military hardware, Paul Bennet and Glenn Graham from Australia’s Paul Bennet Airshows team were a highlight as the only civilian performers at the show, with their bright orange Pitts S1‑11X (VH-PVX) and Pitts Model 12 (VH-TYJ) aerobatic biplanes. Paul and the team have

Paul Bennet & Chris Tibbetts in Beech Adventure’s Beech 18 VH‑BHS on display during the Luskintyre Aviators Club Christmas party. darren mottram

performed at many shows in South Korea (and China) for several years and are always very popular with the huge crowds. The Aussies displayed alongside the US Air Force’s Air Combat Command F-22 display team and the ROKAF’s Black Eagles aerobatic team in its Korean Aerospace Industries T-50B leadin-fighter-trainers.

There were also individual handling displays of the KAI KT-1 turboprop trainer and T/TA-50 trainer/light attack jet and a combat search and rescue (CSAR) set piece involving USAF A-10s and ROKAF F/A-50s, HH-60 Black Hawks and a KA-1 forward air control version of the KT-1. Saturday also saw flypasts by a pair of USAF B-1B bombers and a

U-2 high altitude reconnaissance machine.

IN BRIEF

The Parkes Aviation Museum, a division of HARS, was broken into on November 12/13. A $4,000 pressure washer and a toolbox were stolen.

Contact Dave: flyer02@optusnet.com.au

Paul Bennet Airshows’ bright orange Wolf Pitts S1-11X on static display while the ROKAF’s Black Eagles aerobatic team flies overhead at the ADEX airshow. darren mottram

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 121


AIRPORTS CAROLINE WIKIE CEO – AAAA

Security and technology Expect a very busy and productive 2018

S ‘2017 highlighted the importance of security.’

ecurity will continue to be a key issue for the wider community and the industry in 2018. Recent events highlight how critical this issue is, and really emphasised airports’ commitment to the safety of their passengers, visitors and staff. Certainly, the experience of 2017 highlighted the importance of security arrangements that are responsive to an ever-changing threat environment. The AAA advocates an intelligencedriven, risk-based and outcomesfocused approach to security regulation. The industry remains willing and able to collaborate on any enhancements to security measures the government may require as it responds to the evolving threat environment. We’ll continue to engage on safety and security issues, and offer up our members’ wide-ranging knowledge and expertise to support the development of the best possible solutions.

Airports and the broader aviation industry are all focused first and foremost on safety and security. So I expect 2018 to be a year of real collaboration to build on that focus. Technology, too, will be a key theme for the industry in 2018. As we see airports increasingly use data and analytics to better inform resourcing, and to share information with customers to help them plan their time at the airport, technology will continue to have a big impact on our industry in ways both seen and unseen. With biometrics trials already underway at a number of airports, facial recognition is promising to create a more seamless customer experience and support improved security outcomes. This is a great example of ways airports are using technology to not just improve efficiency, but make the passenger’s journey through the terminal much easier.

Airports will also continue to work closely with airlines to facilitate advances in aircraft technology. Perth Airport’s work alongside Qantas will come to fruition with the commencement of ultra long-haul direct flights to London this year. And with a number of airport master plans to be released for public consultation during the year, expect to see more visionary plans for the future at Australia’s major airports. Ultimately, these improvements are more and more about delivering an enhanced customer experience. Whether it’s the T3 upgrade about to get underway at Melbourne, new check-in facilities at Sydney, dedicated changing places at Brisbane or new facilities to support the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast Airport, our members are focused on ensuring passengers’ airport experience is easy, seamless and enjoyable.

Professional indemnity for ATOs More bad policy on the run

Y

ears ago CASA recognised that it simply did not have sufficient suitably qualified and experienced pilot examiners to discharge its oversight and testing obligations. Given this, CASA approved certain experienced flight instructors to conduct these tests/checks on its behalf as Approved Testing Officers or ATOs. But now the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is leading consultation on changes to the proposed professional indemnity insurance arrangements for persons who are not employees of CASA, but who are delegates or authorised persons. The mere fact that the Department is consulting on this policy indicates a chronic lack of understanding of its impact. In the past, CASA recognised that as these industry members were performing a role on CASA’s behalf, CASA would provide the necessary

122 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION

insurance cover – all quite reasonable until CASA decided to withdraw that cover. ATOs are now being forced to seek commercial cover, but that cover simply does not exist, contrary to CASA’s assertion that it does. CASA asserts that commercial insurance for ATOs is available, but clearly it has never done any comparison as to what is in the market. Many suspect CASA has not done such a comparison as it is all too well aware of the answer. Not only are the policies available totally inadequate in their scope – they are variations on hangarkeepers liability insurance – they are very expensive and one is required to maintain that level of insurance for seven years after ceasing testing activity. This testing is necessary and important as it ensures that new entrant pilots meet the strict standards required to be granted a pilot’s licence

and also to ensure that existing pilots are maintaining their skills and knowledge to an acceptable safety standard. Many senior and experienced industry members have already indicated they are no longer willing or able to continue providing this vital role. It doesn’t take too much imagination to realise the negative impact this ill-informed and misguided policy will have on the industry. This is another example of an illconceived government policy decision on the run, similar to the 457 visa issue banning pilots and avionics engineers from entering the country. Fortunately the government has since reversed that decision at least. And hopefully the government will realise the equally significant negative impact the professional indemnity decision will have on the aviation industry and do likewise.

FROM THE REGIONS MIKE HIGGINS CEO – RAAA

‘An illconceived government policy decision on the run.’


FIRE & AG PHIL HURST

AERIAL A P P L I C ATI O N A SSO CI ATI O N OF A U STR A L I A LTD .

‘The long hoped for cultural shift within CASA is gaining momentum.’

A new hope?

CASA is turning the corner

S

ignificant changes coming from CASA are signalling – finally – that the organisation is listening and acting following a decade of disappointments. The announcement on aviation medicine changes that will permit aerial application pilots to operate on a Class 2 medical is a significant step forward in the way CASA is now looking at risk and managing it. While it won’t affect application pilots who need their Class 1 medical to fly charter, it is a very welcome change in the process where CASA has heard industry concerns, reviewed its own practices, openly consulted and moved forward with both safety and efficiency as twin objectives. In the same week, CASA Director of Aviation Safety, Shane Carmody, also wrote to AAAA recognising our Aerial Improvement Management Systems (AIMS) following a comprehensive

CASA review. He identified that “AIMS supports improved safety outcomes” and “exceeds current regulatory requirements”. CASA has also committed to working with AAAA on our chief pilots course as “an alternative means of supporting assessment and approvals”. The course is based on identified competencies and aims to deliver skills transfer to support chief pilots in aerial application companies. AAAA looks forward to delivering the new CASArecognised course as soon as possible, as most of the materials are ready to go. When these very positive initiatives are combined with the new strategic consultative mechanisms under the CASA Aviation Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), it appears that the long hoped for cultural shift within CASA is gaining momentum. TAAAF – of which AAAA is a participant – recently developed and

put forward three policy papers to ASAP on key priorities for industry, including revitalising GA, addressing ongoing training and licensing issues and pushing major maintenance sector reforms. TAAAF is now working on new strategic papers addressing additional critical issues ranging from ATO/flight examiner indemnity to establishing a policy hierarchy. Not only is there now a clear pathway to identifying industry problems, but there is a coherent means of developing remedies at a high strategic level within CASA. That change should not be underestimated. Industry should not ignore the significant changes going on in CASA and should be offering every encouragement to the Minister, the CASA board, the DAS and senior management to keep going – using the powerful and positive systems now emerging.

A force for good

Introducing the Australian Helicopter Industry Association

T

he helicopter industry, including owners, operators, engineers, pilots, aircrew and the vital support teams, has become so much part of the aviation and community landscape that it can be taken for granted. So much so that it comes as a surprise to many that Australia has the world’s second-largest civil helicopter fleet. Over the summer holidays while many of us are enjoying the company of family and friends, helicopters will be tasked daily to fight fires, rescue the lost and injured, transport crews offshore, work with farmers and utility companies, support law enforcement agencies plus train our next generation of pilots and engineers. These are just a few of the many tasks that helicopters perform around the clock. The helicopter industry provides continuous essential services to our towns and cities. In the very worst

of weather it is only the helicopters that can get through to the lost and stranded, both on land and at sea. Thanks to the industry’s professionalism helicopters have been embraced by Australians. Being the most flexible of aviation platforms has meant helicopters operate with few complaints and are seen as a force for good. The industry’s relatively light infrastructure footprint also meets with almost universal community approval, compared to the larger and more complex requirements of most commercial fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopter operators are often based in regional and remote environments somewhat distant from the centres of political power. The industry’s success is therefore something of a doubleedged sword. It often does not have much time to be a squeaky wheel because it is focused on delivering vital

and timely services. In the past it was sometimes in danger of being forgotten for the perverse reason that it was simply too busy to engage politically. In recent years this has begun to change. The Australian Helicopter Industry Association (AHIA) has become very active on behalf of its members and the industry in general. Its work on CASR Parts 61 and 138 remains a top priority. It is working hard to make night firefighting a reality. For many communities these skills cannot come soon enough. The pace of this policy and regulatory development is increasing as the industry grows and interacts with new technologies such as rotarywinged drones and tilt-rotors. Rotary-winged aircraft are experiencing technological change and diversification that makes them the aviation platforms of first choice for many tasks.

ROTOR TORQUE PAUL TYRRELL CEO - AHIA

‘In the very worst of weather it is only the helicopters that can get through.’ JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 123


ASIA WATCH TOM BALLANTYNE

o neworld member Malaysia Airlines has just taken delivery of its first Airbus A350. airbus

‘Airlines are extremely pragmatic these days.’ 124 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION

Alliances of convenience

Are Asia’s airlines about to shift their alliance allegiances?

T

here’s nothing like a good rumour for setting tongues wagging around the airline industry. And while this writer doesn’t make a habit of spreading them, this one is certainly worth some serious consideration. Not only because it is extremely interesting, but because there are several indicators suggesting it could actually have some legs. Word is – and there has been some talk about it for several months – that there may be some significant changes afoot in the makeup of Asian airline membership in the various global alliances. It has been reported, in the China Morning Post and elsewhere, that the region’s biggest carrier, Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines (CSA), is set to ditch its membership in SkyTeam to join rival oneworld and that Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific could even opt out of oneworld and move into the Star Alliance. Considering what it costs to get into alliances, the relationships that are built up while there and the high cost of opting out, on the surface this seems like a big step to take for either of these operators. On the other hand, airlines are extremely pragmatic these days about partnering with whomsoever they think will best profit their bottom lines, no matter what alliance ties they have. For example, Qantas (oneworld) has a deep partnership with China Southern (SkyTeam) and with Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines (also SkyTeam). Clearly, since

oneworld doesn’t have a mainland Chinese member, the Australian carrier had to throw oneworld loyalties aside in order to better penetrate the Chinese market. It did the same when it came to that once controversial but now highly successful and profitable partnership with Emirates Airline (a non-alliance player). Another case is Cathay Pacific (oneworld), which has codeshares with Air New Zealand (Star). But there are deeper reasons why China Southern should be considering change. The operators which effectively lead SkyTeam are America’s Delta Air Lines and the Air France/KLM group. Back in 2015, Delta forked out US$450 million for a 3.55 percent stake in China Eastern (also in SkyTeam), CSA’s major local rival. It has become increasingly clear that CSA is being treated as the poor cousin within the alliance structure and it is feeling the pinch. So much so that CSA President Tan Wangeng was recently quoted as saying the future of its alliance membership was “a sensitive topic”. That in itself amounted to a clear expression of disquiet with the situation. Besides, Dallas/Fort Worthbased American Airlines (oneworld) earlier this year moved to strengthen its position in China by agreeing to pay $200 million for a stake in China Southern. The two plan to codeshare extensively and are exploring cooperation in other areas. Along with the partnership it already has with Qantas, it would seem to make a lot

of sense for the three to end up in the same alliance. As for Cathay Pacific, its desertion from oneworld would seem more unlikely, even though its relationship with alliance partner Qantas hasn’t exactly been the smoothest over the years. Much of the talk revolves around the fact that Beijing-based Air China (a Star member) has a 30 per cent stake in Cathay, therefore it would make sense for them to be in the same alliance. However, that has been complicated in recent times following the arrival of Qatar Airways (oneworld) onto Cathay’s share register as its third biggest investor. Talk that global airline alliances are approaching their use-by date, given that most member airlines now freely get into bed with other partners, is nothing new. But airline chief executives who are involved unanimously reject that view. They still see benefit in membership, particularly through areas such as joint marketing, alignment of IT systems and, to a certain extent, joint purchasing in various areas. In the latter case that hasn’t extended to critical high value buys such as aircraft and fuel, which it was hoped would be in the early days of alliances. Nevertheless, they are still seen as a valuable part of the fabric of their overall operations and network strength. And the alliance managements themselves have adapted to changing times. Star, for instance, used to be fairly strict in not allowing its members to stray outside the structure when it came to serious co-operation. That is no longer the case and Star members, like those in oneworld and SkyTeam, are free to tie the knot with whoever fits their individual plans, in or out of the alliance. The bottom line? If you were a betting man, or woman, a small wager on China Southern jumping ship will probably be worthwhile. But when it comes to Cathay Pacific, keep your coins in your pocket. Of course, when it comes to speculation in the airline industry, the best approach is to figure out what is the most unlikely and put your money on that.


PINSTRIPE KIRSTY FERGUSON

The industry and career opportunities can change dramatically in as short a period as two weeks. boeing

‘2018 looks set for continued growth and job creation.’

Introducing Pinstripe

And what 2018 holds for pilot recruiting

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eventeen years ago I was asked by his girlfriend to assist a pilot with his preparation for a Cathay Pacific interview. “He is 23 years old and literally cannot string a sentence together,” she approached me saying. That was the beginning of Pinstripe Solutions – Interview Coaching. The pilot was successful and started referring every pilot he knew, and within 12 months we had become known as “the aviation interview specialist” and our success rate reflected that. Coming up to our 18th year we now offer coaching and interview services for 45 different airlines around the globe. Our unique business plan means we can reach pilots wherever they are to support them with their career goals. I still have a chuckle when a pilot calls me and says, “Hi Kirsty, remember me? You coached me back in 2007.” After the thousands of pilots I have worked with, that should be a resounding “no” but more often than not the name is vaguely familiar. I always enjoy receiving photos when kids come along, weddings, new house builds as well as from the flightdeck. When I think about it I have known some of our clients from the very beginnings of their careers, whether military pilots transitioning to commercial aviation, or airline cadets, instructors and charter pilots progressing on to turboprops and jets, and finally to that long-awaited multi‑crew command upgrade. Every success makes our day and we feel privileged to work with such interesting professionals. They can challenge us, but what analytical mind wouldn’t…we just say, “bring it on”. I think if you speak to people who have worked with us, they will say we are straight shooters, and we provide

practical SOPs for you to work with. We are a down to earth team who you can trust and who will work hard for you. We are a soft place to land if you have experienced some career hiccups and a sounding board that cuts through the industry gossip mill. My favourite saying is “ask us anything”… about aviation careers that is. I am thrilled to be able to contribute to Australian Aviation and you may be wondering what to expect from my articles for 2018. Well, here are some of the topics I have selected: yy What airlines value in flightcrew, from ego maturity to empathy and lateral thinking. yy You didn’t get the job, what now? yy Handling career hiccups. yy What to expect during the airline assessment and how to prepare. yy How to talk about yourself effectively. yy What shoes to wear, is my second most asked question, guess what the first one is? yy Getting started in your flying career. yy It’s all about relationships, with crew, management, engineering and passengers. As we ease into 2018 we all wonder what it will bring as far as the aviation industry is concerned. We also know that the industry and career opportunities can change dramatically in as short a period as two weeks. Therefore, projecting trends is difficult, but if we base it on what has occurred during 2016-2017, 2018 looks set for continued growth and job creation around both flight and cabin crew. Although the pilot shortage itself is being questioned, it does exist and the regional and mainline airlines will

continue to recruit over the next 12 months – some airlines are indicating shortages of 160 pilots per fleet. We have also seen some minimum requirements for first officers reduced. Australasian pilots are sought after and Chinese and US airlines are likely to continue to entice candidates. All of the airline cadet programs have reopened and more programs are likely through 2018 – the standard per airline is two intakes per year. We are seeing airlines under pressure with regard to availability of training facilities and therefore ‘active hold files’ for successful candidates will continue until this can be resolved. From a recruitment perspective most airlines have moved to a more staged recruitment process, they are including a telephone/Skype or a recorded video interview as the first stage. Often without much notification so preparation is crucial. Psychometric/aptitude testing is commonplace, but a much wider variety of providers are now being used, not just the good old standard SHL or WOMBAT testing. The assessment days are also changing and now differ dramatically between airlines. Many carriers are employing HR specialist consultants to create criteria specific to their culture, something every crew candidate needs to be aware of before facing the recruitment team. You may have come across documents entitled “capability framework” or find airlines including psychologist interviews and a barrage of group exercises. Don’t be fooled, there may be more opportunities and a lot of movement in the industry but every candidate must still meet the standard during their assessment. It is also not merely your ability to do the job that is being assessed; it is just as important that you fit the airline’s culture, values and standards. That’s it for now, get ready for an exciting 2018 and remember, preparation is key and most things can be managed.

I’d love to know what you would like to read about, drop me a line kirsty@pinstripesolutions.com with your ideas. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 125


ON TARGET BRIAN WESTON WILLIAMS FOUNDATION

Evolving the FEG

Combat power through organisation, part IV

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‘Longstanding silos had segregated tactical fighter and strategic strike capabilities.’ RAAF Hornet tactical fighters and F-111 strike bombers fell under the umbrella of the new Air Combat Group from January 2002. defence

he RAAF formalised the organisation of its operational units into Force Element Groups (FEGs) on June 1 1988. The new FEGs were Tactical Fighter Group (TFG), which included the supporting air direction units of the Air Defence Ground Environment (ADGE), Strike Reconnaissance Group (SRG); Maritime Patrol Group (MPG); Air Lift Group (ALG); Tactical Transport Group (TTG); and Air Operational Support Group (AOSG). (The TTG was short-lived, disbanding in February 1991 after the RAAF helicopter capability was transferred to the Army and with Caribou capability folded into the ALG.) The development of the Jindalee over-the-horizon radar (OTHR) at the Joint Facility, Alice Springs also had implications for the RAAF ADGE as it added a new dimension to Australia’s wide-area surveillance capabilities. Accordingly, the Air Force stood up No 1 Radar Surveillance Unit (1RSU), headquartered at Mt Everard, near Alice Springs, on July 1 1992 and assigned the unit to No 41 Wing. Subsequently, the decision to re-shape the RAAF ‘air defence’ capability more towards an ‘air battle management’ capability had further organisational implications. Firstly, all ADF air traffic control services, including at Army and Navy airfields, were amalgamated within a reformed No 44 Wing and secondly, both Nos 41 and 44 Wings were spun-out of the TFG in 1996, into a new Surveillance and Control Group (SCG). By 1997 the Defence Efficiency Review and the follow-on Defence Reform Program had begun to impact

on the RAAF by transferring much of the individual FEGs’ maintenance and organic support capabilities to contractors, reducing some FEGs to a group consisting of only one wing, with an obviously unsatisfactory ‘one-group-commanding-one-wing’ command chain. Another issue was that at SRG, new air defence capabilities, especially the increasing availability of look-down radars, had eroded the ability of the F-111C to exploit terrain masking during its final approach to a target. It was becoming apparent that in future, the F-111C and F/A-18A forces would need to cooperate tactically to ensure F-111C survivability against improving air defences, hence the establishment of the Air Combat Group (ACG). But the long-standing silos that segregated the RAAF tactical fighter and strategic strike capabilities, a situation going well back to the ‘fighter’ and ‘bomber’ heritages of both capabilities, was a significant institutional barrier to ‘fighter/ bomber’ cooperation. That cultural ‘fighter/bomber’ segregation was a concern to then Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Errol McCormack. With a Sabre and Canberra background, experience participating in the first F-111C cohort (1968), time flying the RF-4C on exchange with the USAF, and his time as OC No 82 Wing flying the F-111C, McCormack had plenty of pertinent advice to offer Air Commodore John Quaife of his posting as the first commander ACG. After spending 12 months planning the merger of the TFG and SRG, Quaife took up his post as CDR ACG in January

2002, commanding Nos 78, 81 and 82 Wings. The formation of ACG was accompanied by further development in the new SCG when, in 1999 1RSU moved to Edinburgh as a precursor to controlling not only the Alice Springs OTHR but also the new OTHRs at Laverton, WA and Longreach, Queensland. Those radars came online in mid-2003, completing the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN). Further developments followed which brought the existence of the short-lived SCG to an end when it was merged with MPG, a group which had been reduced to oversighting one wing – No 92 Wing flying the AP-3C. The SCG-MPG merger saw the establishment, on March 30 2004, of Surveillance and Response Group (SRG), and with the impending introduction of the RAAF airborne early warning and control capability, SRG, headquartered at Williamtown, became a FEG of considerable capability, fully justifying the appointment of a commander of air commodore rank. SRG reached maturation on January 1 2006 when No 42 Wing was reformed flying the E-7A Wedgetail, joining Nos 41, 44 and 92 Wings in SRG. In contrast, ALG saw a long period of organisational stability as it continued its 24/7 role of air transport operations, with some improved capability when 37SQN, in 1999, traded its 1966 vintage C-130E Hercules for the much-improved C-130J. AOSG, headquartered at Edinburgh, also continued unchanged but not so the Operational Support Group (OSG) at Townsville, where the RAAF strove to retain some of its organic expeditionary support capability, so unthinkingly stripped by the crude and blunt Defence reviews of the 1990s. Certainly the 20 years to 2007 saw much organisational change, but it was re-assuring the RAAF was still able to retain an operational organisation, in keeping with the principles of functional force element groups, first trialled in 1987.

Air Vice-Marshal Brian Weston (ret’d) is a Sir Richard Willams Foundation board member.

126 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION


YESTERYEAR ERIC ALLEN

Sid Marshall’s Nakajima Ki-43-1 Hayabusa (Allied code name Oscar) on display in the Roselands shopping centre carpark on January 7 1967. The Oscar was on show with several other aircraft including Sid’s Spitfire. It is now on display with the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, Seattle, Washington. eric allen

‘For a reasonable fare of a few pounds you could get a local flight.’

Sundays at Sid’s

The amazing treasure trove that was the Sid Marshall collection

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f you visited Bankstown Airport in the era of the post-World War 2 general aviation boom it was an exciting time. While imports of British-built light aircraft were declining, a growing stream of aircraft from the USA was starting to arrive. Relaxation of restrictions which had previously applied to US dollar imports, and the emergence of new modern, popularly priced types, particularly from Cessna and Piper, saw deliveries accelerating. One shipment of Cessna single-engine types alone consisted of 37 aircraft with their shipping crates stacked around local agent Rex Aviation awaiting assembly. In the midst of this activity, one focal point for aviation enthusiasts at Bankstown was Hangar 273, home to Marshall Airways, operated by Sidney David Marshall (1902-1975). After training as an aircraft maintenance engineer with Interstate Flying Services operated jointly by Anderson, Kingsford Smith and Ulm in 1927, Sid later gained further experience in New Guinea as an engineer and pilot. After his wartime experience maintaining aircraft throughout the Pacific he took up the lease of Hangar 273 on December 16 1946 where he operated, maintained, sold and stored a variety of aircraft. It was the amazing variety of aircraft in and around the hangar which achieved fame worldwide. They included aircraft such as Avro 643 Mk.II Cadet VH-AGH, Avro 652A Ansons Is VH-ASM and -AGX plus W2599 still in its original service colours, DH.80 Puss Moth VH‑UQB, DH.84 Dragon VH-AQU, Douglas DC-2 VH-CDZ, Lockheed 10-B Electra VH-ASM, Short Scion I

VH‑UUP, and the military combat trio of Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 163824, Nakajima Ki-43 Army Type 1b Fighter Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon), Allied Code Name System ‘Oscar’, and Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIIIc MV154. To add to this array, parked in a compound on the airport boundary were other DC-2 major items with one fuselage showing the Great Silver Fleet title still visible, confirming its original Eastern Air Lines heritage. Marshall had obtained three ex RAAF DC-2s, A30-11, -12 and -14 through the Commonwealth Disposals Commission in 1946/47 for a price as low as £52. The origins of these aircraft was their acquisition by the British Purchasing Commission of 10 former Eastern Air Lines DC-2s on behalf of the RAAF and these were allocated serials A30-5 to -14 and served with a variety of RAAF units during World War 2. The Marshall collection attracted so much attention that periodically in the 1960s aircraft were sourced and displayed around Sydney. The Spitfire appeared in the lobby of the Philips Industries building in the city while at the Roselands shopping centre during January 1967, the Spitfire and Oscar joined other aircraft on show in the carpark. Marshall was happy for enthusiasts to photograph his aircraft. This writer remembers joining other enthusiasts in washing his Spitfire to have it spruced up for photography. A willing conversationalist about all aviation matters, Sid had an extensive and detailed knowledge of events in our region going back decades. In an address to the NSW Branch of the Aviation Historical Society

of Australia in Sydney he showed his rare movie film footage he took of the departure of Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan in their Lockheed 10-E Electra NR16020 from Lae on July 2 1937. It was to be their ill-fated final flight which saw them vanish in the central Pacific Ocean, believed to be near Howland Island. This historic artefact, now preserved at the National Library of Australia, was the last photographic account of Earhart and Noonan, filmed when Marshall was a pilot for Guinea Airways. However, it was Sundays which provided the greatest activity around Hangar 273 when joy flights were available. In the 1950s it was possible to even get a nostalgic flight on DC-2 VH-CDZ before it was withdrawn from use after suffering an undercarriage collapse while landing at Bankstown on November 10 1957. Undaunted by the unavailability of the DC-2, Marshall had several other aircraft on hand to continue the joy flights. The nostalgic line-up comprised the Cadet, Puss Moth, Dragon and Electra. Marshall sometimes flew the aircraft but the Puss Moth, Cadet and Dragon were mostly flown by Ron Gower, with another pilot enlisted to fly the Electra. For a reasonable fare of a few pounds you could get a local flight or a longer version including a sightseeing tour around Sydney. This writer had numerous flights in the Dragon and Electra and they were delightful experiences. One flight in December 1965 took in the sights of the Sydney CBD with a panoramic vista available through the Dragon’s large window area. Where are all Sid’s aircraft today? Some remained in Australia while others were exported. The most visible aircraft in Australia and seen by so many visitors is the Bf 109 now at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, part of the impressive and stirring night mission display. For all those who enjoyed the fun of flying in some vintage aircraft and saw Sid’s collection it was an enjoyable and memorable experience. Hangar 273 still stands as a nostalgic reminder to all its former classic aircraft. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 127


CABIN PRESSURE JOHN WALTON @thatjohn

Tullamarine’s assembly of buildings from various generations will get a bang-onbrand update. virgin australia

‘Initial designs are bang on the Virgin Australia brand.’ 128 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION

Terminal lounging

New Australian airport spaces combine engineering, brand and design

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odern airports are incredible works of architecture, whether a colossal shining new-build facility like Beijing’s new airport in Daxing to the south of the city, or any number of older airports consisting of a warren of buildings – connected or not – that have felt the tread of generations of passengers’ feet. These spaces are often more engineered than designed, with requirements for security, safety, accessibility, robustness and even fire safety creating a complex envelope in which to create the passenger experience. (Cathay Pacific, for example, had to design its Solus pod chair to include options with and without a coloured transparent privacy wraparound owing to fire regulations in certain airport terminals restricting furniture height.) But once the basics are in place, it’s time for the designers to get going. Some airlines aim for a feel that’s the same worldwide, whether in a terminal, an area of a terminal, or their lounge. Emirates’ and Singapore Airlines’ lounges, for example, have long had a certain look and feel to them. The various Virgin carriers, whether Atlantic, Australia or America, have a design language that makes it almost effortlessly clear that this is a Virgin product. Others aim for a hybrid, with the airline’s own brand mixed with a local sensibility that can work well – or badly. With this kind of design, only the airlines with the strongest brands can stand up to the mixture.

Usefully, recent weeks have brought us two airport projects from Australian airlines that show both approaches. Virgin Australia is redeveloping its home in Melbourne’s Terminal 3 over the next three years, with an initial phase scheduled for completion by mid-2019 that doubles down on a major passenger experience trend: self service. Virgin will offer “enhanced” self-service kiosks, which will enable check-in, boarding pass printing, bag tagging and even adding extra bags. In phase two, Virgin Australia will add pre-lounge security and a premium entry for business travellers and frequent flyers, a popular perk among people who fly the most. Unlike Sydney and Brisbane, however, the Melbourne fast track entry lane will also offer bag drop. To enable that security change, the second phase also includes building a new internal ramp between Terminals 3 and 4 that allows the former’s security facilities to be moved. Virgin Australia says it and Melbourne Airport “are working together to finalise the design process, with the works anticipated to begin in 2018”, although initial designs are bang on the Virgin Australia brand, with lots of white, red accents, purple for the premium side of the airline, and more mood lighting than you can shake a stick at. Qantas, meanwhile, has now opened its new combined businessfirst lounge in London Heathrow, serving the Red Roo’s upcoming

London-Perth-Melbourne services and the future London-SingaporeSydney flights. The lounge is beautiful, making the most of a two-level space, but there are a lot of beautiful lounges around. The key to this lounge is its solid footing within the Qantas brand, but with a big hit of local identity too. A gin bar is as British as it comes, but with Australian gins sitting alongside the usual London lot including Something Wild’s Australian Green Ant, Sullivan’s Cove Hobart No. 4 single malt, and Brookie’s from the Cape Byron Distillery. Special cocktails are designed by the Qantas team of mixologists. The food, too, is designed by the Neil Perry Rockpool team, and includes takes on British and Australian faves, rather than a buffet that has the same dishes wherever you are in the world. There’s the pot pie, ploughman’s platter and cream tea kind of classic, plus “healthy brunch bowls with eggs, avocado and kale, and zucchini and haloumi fritters” that are as Australian as that first onboard Tim Tam for many passengers. The sofas are instantly recognisable as the Qantas chair shape, but in a Chesterfield buttoned leather fabric, and the standard Qantas lounge chairs scattered around that makes it instantly clear that this is a Qantas lounge. Qantas ambassador Miranda Kerr, meanwhile, has a line of so-garishthey’re-great teacups and teapots from Royal Albert, and these are on offer in London despite the airline already having revamped its signature teapot with its recent Noritake line by design partner David Caon. Speaking of Caon, Qantas’s London lounge and Virgin’s Melbourne terminal projects both involve architectural practice Woods Bagot, with which Qantas’s design partner David Caon was formerly associated. Qantas’s project names the firm, while Virgin Australia’s has the Woods Bagot watermark on its image renders. With an increasing number of design and consulting firms offering their services in the passenger experience world, it’s fascinating that both Australian airlines should choose the same one.


CONTRAILS GEOFFREY THOMAS

Air travel has never been cheaper and travellers have never had so much choice. rob finlayson

‘Europe is the gold standard of passenger rights legislation.’

Navigating a nightmare Understanding passenger rights

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he debate about passenger’s rights has reached almost hysterical levels in the United States with extreme groups making seemingly endless claims about the mistreatment of, and ripping off, of passengers. And while the graphic vision of a 69-year-old doctor being dragged screaming from a United Express plane in Chicago last year is not a good look it certainly isn’t the norm. And the debate is not helped by reports such as that from US-based IdeaWorks which claims that ancillary revenues climbed 22 per last year and will reach US$82.2 billion. While consumer groups will jump on that number as further evidence that passengers are being ripped off, the reality is that the airlines that are biggest receivers of this revenue are the kings of the low-cost carriers – Frontier and Spirit in the US and Ryanair and Wizz in Europe. Also, almost a third of that headline number includes the impact of frequent flyer programs which for most people are a ticket out of economy into luxury, and you can’t put a value on that. And all of these numbers and claims totally ignore that simple fact that air travel has never been cheaper and travellers have never had so much choice. But in the age of rights not responsibility and of course the age of fake news passengers insist on their rights and believe they are being gouged. To help demystify those rights across a complex mishmash of legislation AirlineRatings.com, at the urging of ICAO, has added ‘passenger rights’ details for most of the 425 airlines that it rates.

On each airline’s rating page there is a tab for passenger rights, giving a clear summary of the rights and links to consumer help. AirlineRatings.com editor Steve Creedy found that there certainly is not one-size-fits-all when it comes to passenger rights. “A complicated patchwork of legislation globally leaves passengers protected on some routes but not others, benefiting from compulsory payments in some regions but compensated at the discretion of carriers in others. It’s a situation that can lull travellers into a false sense of security,” Creedy found. “Domestic air passenger rights are stipulated under a carrier’s conditions of carriage, the bits that everybody says they’ve read when booking a ticket but usually haven’t. This will typically tell you what compensation you get in the case of a delayed departure, a cancellation or if an airline loses or damages your luggage,” he continued. “It’s a legal contract between the airline and the passenger, where the airline says we will get you from to a to b and if we don’t manage to get from a to b, then these are the rights of recourse that you have,’’ says International Air Transport Association assistant director external affairs Chaitan Jain. “So that’s really the basic document which specifies what are the obligations of the airline.’’ For international flights, air passenger rights are broadly dealt with under the 1999 Montreal Convention, the understandably shortened name for the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air. As well as serious issues such as compensation for fatal accidents or physical injuries, the convention spells

out the maximum liability by airlines for issues such as lost or damaged baggage, flight delays or cancellations and denied boarding. “But only about 130 states of the 191 who are members of the International Civil Aviation Organization are signatories, leaving a patchwork of local regulations across some 60 countries,” says Creedy. “Generally speaking, airlines are not required under the convention to provide compensation for extraordinary events over which they have no control, but they must provide either a ticket refund, alternative transportation to your final destination or rebooking at a later date of your choice. “These extraordinary circumstances may include political instability, bad weather such as snow storms or the recent US hurricanes, security risks, unexpected flight safety problems and industrial action such as strikes.” AirlineRatings.com found that Europe is the gold standard of passenger rights legislation and airlines are required to pay compensation for denied boarding, cancellation or if a flight arrives more than three hours late. But, there are many grey areas. “Let’s say you’re in San Francisco and you’re flying to London using a ticket purchased from American Airlines but the carrier operating the flight is British Airways. In this case, the EU regulations will kick in because the service is operated by a European carrier,” notes Creedy. “But the opposite is also true. If you’ve purchased a ticket on British Airways and your flight is actually operated by American Airlines, the EU regulations do not apply.” Creedy says that “it should come as no surprise that the European rules are an anathema to airlines, which argue they contradict the convention and create confusion among consumers already uncertain about their rights.” “The airlines also worry that the EU rules will be revised to look at delays on the basis of a whole journey and measure it on arrival.” Passenger rights are a nightmare for airlines and passengers alike and there are almost no winners in today’s society. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 129


FLIGHT LEVELS A PILOTS VIEW

‘There will be days when the turbulence never eventuates.’

T he goal of flightcrew and their airline is to deliver their precious passengers to their destination in a timely manner. rob finlayson

130 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION

Filling the gaps

Keeping passengers informed in the interest of safety

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ith the volcanic ash spewing into the atmosphere over Bali, travel plans have been thrown into chaos. Flight delays and cancellations have left passengers stranded on either side of the Timor Sea. However, despite the inconvenience, there seems to be a better understating of the situation by passengers now than there was some years ago when a good deal of frustration would be vented at the airlines. There is an appreciation that safety must truly come first, and this enhanced awareness is fundamentally due to better communication. Despite every management course reminding us that communication is pivotal and four million apps allowing us to transfer information in the blink of an eye, the message still gets lost in the modern world. From husband to wife and management to employee, even the simplest words can be garbled and ambiguous in their meaning in spite of all of the supporting tools we have today. To their credit, airlines seem to be making an ever-increasing effort to share information with their customers. There will always be those passengers with a desire to hold the airlines accountable for every undesirable situation that may arise. However, the communication channels of airlines have increased in recent years, particularly with the growth of instantaneous online reporting and social media outlets. Airlines realised that they needed to at least be keeping pace with the travelling public, if not ahead of the curve. Otherwise, the information in circulation would be third-hand and out of their grasp. If they failed to keep travellers

informed, a random Tweet could see 280 characters become hearsay and, in turn, become perception. As we all know, in the court of public opinion, perception can quickly become the accepted truth and spread like wildfire. Recovering this situation is nearly impossible, whereas being proactive in the process returns a high degree of control. This process extends far beyond the ash-laden skies of Bali. On a very micro-scale, the flightcrew will often illuminate the seatbelt sign if the possibility of turbulence lies ahead. Clear air turbulence can be very difficult to predict, but reports from other aircraft and meteorological information can sometimes raise the hair on the back of the neck of a pilot. In the interest of safety, they may well err on the side of caution and have the crew and passengers seated and galley carts secured, even though the current ride is as smooth as silk. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. There will be days when the turbulence never eventuates, and the collective eye-rolling of the passengers can almost be sensed through the flightdeck door, even though the conservative option was designed to keep them safe. Once again, a few honest words over the public address system at the outset can do wonders for the mood in the cabin as the passengers feel informed and part of the process. Notably, there is an emphasis on “a few words” as there can be an excessive number of announcements to the cabin at times. If passengers are informed, then they have some degree of control – and it is a lack of control that is possibly their most common grievance. We must always remember that a huge degree of trust is placed in airlines and their staff to take fare-paying passengers into the upper atmosphere and at a high rate of knots before returning them safely to the earth. For around 200,000 years, the highest a human climbed was a mountain-top. In a century we have

constructed one of humankind’s greatest leaps of faith. For those of us familiar with aviation the processes seem logical, but for the majority, all aspects of air travel are still a great unknown. It is our responsibility to fill in the gaps. If a flight is delayed, but passengers are given the best up-todate information, they can decide whether to wait or change their plans. If the seatbelt sign is on in smooth conditions they can understand why or if their recovery flight from Bali is cancelled at the last minute due to a wind shift, it is not a mystery. And if that information is relayed before they even leave home then significant costs can possibly be saved by the customer in terms of time, transfers and accommodation. Also, knowledge goes a long way towards dispelling fear. Nervous flyers can lash out and even frequent flyers can feel trepidation when uncertainty surrounds any aspect of their flight. Ground staff and crew alike need to respect this and ensure that part of their process is to communicate with their passengers at the appropriate time, even though a million other duties may seem to be calling. On occasions disruptive inflight incidents involving passengers are not purely acts of anti-social behaviour. While many undoubtedly fit that bill, there are also those that are manifestations of very nervous passengers. Some drink or medicate to alleviate those fears and unfortunately their strategy fails. This doesn’t excuse their behaviour, but for some, their anxiety may be alleviated through communication and information before it festers. The goal of flightcrew and their airline is to deliver their precious passengers to their destination in a timely manner. However, their first and foremost responsibility is to do this safely and sometimes the two do not necessarily co-exist in harmony. Bridging that gap between duty-ofcare and schedules can occur through the transfer of information in a timely and easy-to-understand style. And there are very few passengers who will sincerely complain or argue with a sentence that begins with the phrase, “In the interest of safety”.


MAIA, Docklands, Melbourne VIC 18 April 2018 Award Categories / Distinguished Leadership Award

This award recognises an individual who has excelled as an effective leader either in business, training, safety, policy or other role. The award aims to promote the qualities that make a leader stand out - integrity, trust, passion, vision and inspiration.

/ Excellence in Innovation Award

This award highlights the unique factors that have made our Australian industry a leader in world aviation and aerospace innovation. The award recognises an innovative project developed in Australia, whether in a commercial setting or a research laboratory, that helps enhance our international reputation for progressive applied thinking.

/ Outstanding Leadership in Training Award

This award recognises and celebrates dedication and excellence in the aviation and aerospace training sectors in Australia or Internationally.

/ Outstanding Strategy for Diversity

This award recognises a unique strategy to accelerate the progression towards a more well balanced industry through attracting and retaining a diverse workforce.

/ Outstanding Achievement in the Aviation or Aerospace Sectors - Women in Aviation/Aerospace Australia This award recognises a woman who has excelled in her chosen career with in the Australian aviation or aerospace sector.

/ Outstanding Next Generational Professional - NextGenNetwork

This award recognises a young professional (under 35) who has excelled in their chosen aviation or aerospace sector.

NOMINATE NOW – Application close 20 Feb 2018.

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If it can survive being ejected from a plane, it can survive near enough anything. Should you treat your Bremont MB watch with respect? Not really. We don’t. We freeze it, we bake it, and we shake it. For hours on end. Then we shoot it out of a plane. Just to make sure it’s as tough as we claim it is. What’s more, it has been assembled and tested at our headquarters in Henley-on-Thames. So don’t worry about looking after a Bremont MB. It can look after itself.

British Engineering. Tested Beyond Endurance.

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Australian Aviation Summer Reading Jan-Feb 2018  

For over 40 years the home of Australian aviation. Now the world's biggest aviation monthly!

Australian Aviation Summer Reading Jan-Feb 2018  

For over 40 years the home of Australian aviation. Now the world's biggest aviation monthly!