As aircraft membership club Wheels Up celebrates its first anniversary next Friday, founder and CEO Kenny Dichter said the company has expanded in line with initial projections and he predicted even more growth in the coming year. “We currently have 28 airplanes, nearly 600 members and are on target for meeting and exceeding our business objectives. In a short time, we are a major player in the private aviation industry,” he said.
The Swedish defence export agency FXM announced that the Saab Gripen will not be entered for Denmark’s new fighter competition. Denmark has issued an 800-page “Request for Binding Information” (RBI) on alternatives to the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter; it is one of two international F-35 partners that has not yet committed to the program. The Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon are the other contenders in Denmark.
Lockheed Martin (LM) and BAE Systems reported progress this month on their rival upgrades for F-16 Fighting Falcons. Two aircraft from each company’s launch customer (Taiwan for LM, Korea for BAE) are now in rework, ironically just a few miles from each other in Fort Worth, Texas. Meanwhile, the ferry of Iraq’s first two new Block 52 aircraft in September is looking unlikely.
An ATR 72-500 operated by Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways crashed on its second attempt at landing during a thunderstorm in Magong, Taiwan, killing 48 of the 58 passengers and crewmembers on board. The 70-seat turboprop, operating as Flight GE222, took off from the city of Kaohsiung on a scheduled flight to Magong. According to ATR, the accident happened around 7:30 p.m.
Airbus Helicopters will lead the design of a compound rotorcraft demonstrator dubbed “LifeRCraft” (low-impact, fast and efficient rotorcraft) as part of Europe’s recently launched Clean Sky 2 Joint Technology Initiative. The LifeRCraft architecture combines a main rotor for vertical takeoff and landing, fixed wings for energy-efficient lift and open propellers for speed. The company will use experience gained on its X3 compound demonstrator between 2010 and 2013.
The new Indian government has issued the request for proposal (RFP) for 56 transport aircraft worth an estimated $2 billion, to replace the Indian Air Force’s aging Hawker Siddeley 748M twin-turboprops, known as Avros. The final date for submission of bids is August 28. The contract is expected to be awarded late next year or early in 2016.
Kitplane company Sonex Aircraft announced that its JSX-2 SubSonex Personal Jet flew on July 10. The initial goal of the flight-test program was to evaluate the single-engine jet’s systems, flight controls, gear and overall aircraft geometry, and handling through moderately high speeds. A second flight checked the function of the retractable landing gear and explored higher speeds.
Britain’s new aircraft carrier is now afloat, but the total forecast cost of £6.1 billion ($10.4 billion) still threatens to sink other defense projects in the UK. To this cost must be added the forecast near-£2.5 billion ($4.28 billion) being contributed by the UK to development and initial test and evaluation of the F-35s that will fly from her decks, plus perhaps another £5 billion ($8.56 billion) for their production. However, the Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are taking their cue from H.M.
Saab has been steadily building its airborne ISR portfolio and hopes to secure its first deal in the maritime surveillance/patrol market in the near future. Saab has two offerings in this sector: the Saab 340 MSA (maritime surveillance aircraft), for which the company has produced a demonstrator that was on show at Farnborough; and the larger and more capable Swordfish. Saab has been keeping the UK aware of its developments in this field, although any formal requirement for a UK maritime patrol aircraft is not expected until after a strategic defense review next year.