The U.S. Navy grounded its fleet of 14 MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopters following the recent crash of an aircraft in Afghanistan and a ditching at sea. The Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) said it is reviewing Fire Scout system performance and operational procedures. Loss rates of U.S. military unmanned platforms are not often discussed, but official data from the U.S.
Business aircraft flying activity in the U.S. flattened last month, with traffic falling 1.6 percent versus the year-ago period, according to TraqPak data released yesterday by aviation services company Argus.
Part 91 flying eked out a slight increase, climbing 0.6 percent year over year. Flying activity at charter and fractional providers dropped 3.6 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively, from March 2011. This marks the 14th consecutive month of retrenched activity at Part 135 charter companies, though it should be noted that charter turboprop flying did rise 2.3 percent.
Clearwater, Fla.-based Avantair announced on Tuesday that its entire fleet of fractional Piaggio Avantis will soon feature airborne high-speed Internet. The company is now installing Aircell ATG 5000 communications systems in its twin-turboprop fleet and expects to complete the work this summer. The ATG 5000 covers the continental U.S. above 10,000 feet and portions of Alaska, providing broadband connection via a nationwide network of ground stations.
Jet Aviation St. Louis has developed a Wi-Fi STC for the Bombardier Challenger 300, Global Express and Global Express XRS. The new STC joins existing Wi-Fi STCs for the Gulfstream V, Challenger 605, Learjet 40 and Learjet 45. Wi-Fi coverage is now available for both domestic and international operations, providing full Internet functionality in the aircraft.
The FAA is proposing to adopt a new airworthiness directive for Eurocopter France SA365N, SA365N1, SA366G1, AS365N2, AS365N3, EC155B and EC155B1 helicopters. It was prompted by the discovery of a cracked main-rotor mast nut that, if not replaced, could lead to complete failure of the mast nut, failure of the rotor mast and loss of control of the helicopter. The proposed AD would require replacing the main-rotor mast nut with an airworthy main-rotor mast nut.
Dassault Falcon promoted Jean-Michel Jacob to senior vice president of international sales. In his new position, he will oversee all sales activity for Dassault Falcon in Asia, the Pacific Rim and South America. Jacob, who has worked for the French aircraft manufacturer in several sales capacities since 1987, will be based in Beijing. He was named vice president of international sales in 2005 and established the company’s Asian sales headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2007.
Gulfstream Aerospace appointed Thomas Huff to the newly created position of aviation safety officer. A retired U.S. Navy test pilot with more than 25 years of experience, Huff reports directly to company president Larry Flynn. Huff will oversee a comprehensive aviation safety program for all Gulfstream flight operations, including experimental test, production test, demonstration and corporate flights. He will provide independent safety oversight and promote aviation safety and awareness throughout the company, Gulfstream said.
Paulding Northwest Regional Airport near Atlanta was heavily damaged when it was struck by an F-3 tornado on the night of March 2. Among the airport’s casualties was a hangar that partially collapsed, destroying 18 aircraft including a Cessna Citation III. A Learjet 25 that was parked nearby on the ramp escaped with only minor damage. The airport’s main building also suffered structural damage. No one was present at the airfield when the twister hit. According to airport authorities, the storm caused more than $7 million in damage to the aircraft and the facility.
Eurofighter signed a new, five-year support contract with NETMA, the NATO management agency that represents the four European partner nations in the combat aircraft program. As before, the Eurofighter industrial partners will deliver support to the individual air forces. Alenia values its part of the deal, to support the Italian air force, at more than $660 million. BAE Systems says its contract to support the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is worth $708.5 million. EADS values its future support to the German and Spanish air forces at more than $1.1 billion.
The field of companies offering armed scout helicopters to the U.S. Army and other militaries has grown with the addition of MD Helicopters, which is proposing the MD 540F, an upgrade of its MD 530F light helicopter, equipped with a weapons management system from Israel’s Elbit Systems. The offering is based on the same airframe MD Helicopters supplies to Boeing for the AH-6i, which is also a competitor for the Army’s armed aerial scout (AAS) program.