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The Royal Netherlands Air Force (KLu, Koninklijke Luchtmacht) was able to intercept two B-2A Spirits of the Bomber Task Force 20-2 with one of their brand-new F-35 Lightning IIs of 3xx squadron over the North Sea on 19 March 2020.
Milestone for Finnish Air Force PC-12NGs
On 19 March 2020, the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) fleet of Pilatus PC-12/47E (PC-12NG) liaison aircraft reached the milestone of 30,000 flight hours. All six PC-12NGs were delivered to Finland in July 2010.
In April 2009, the Finnish Ministry of Defence signed a USD 30 million contract with the Swiss manufacturer Pilatus for the Pilatus PC-12NG as a replacement for the six Piper PA-31 Chieftain liaison aircraft. The PC-12/47E, certified in March 2008, is the NG version of the PC-12 and incorporates Honeywell Primus Apex avionics and a redesigned cockpit developed by BMW Group DesignworksUSA. It also features a more powerful variant of Pratt & Whitney Canada's PT6 engine, the PT6A-67P.
The PC-12/47Es were originally delivered to the individual active duty squadrons as the unit's liaison aircraft. In June 2014, all aircraft were transferred to one squadron, TukiLLv (Transport Squadron). This unit consists of four individual flights, of which 4 Flight operates the PC-12/47E. TukiLLv used to be based at Jyväskylä-Tikkakoski, but moved to Tampere/Pirkkala in 2014.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has an unprecedented impact on the global aviation scene. Many airlines have been forced to drastically reduce capacity as customer demand dropped severly over the last weeks.
As things were developing quite quickly over the last period, it was very difficult to keep track of all the changes the airlines announced. Now, we will try to summarize what has been happening with the bigger airlines in Europe.
Aer Lingus will reduce capacity with at least 75% until May and will accelerate the retirement of "some" of their oldest A330s.
airBaltic has suspended all operations from 15 March until 14 April.
Air Dolomiti has suspended all flights from 18 March until 19 April.
Air France will reduce capacity with at least 70%, including the grounding of their nine remaining A380s. It's subsidiary Hop! will suspend all flights from 21 March.
Air Malta has ceased all flights from today and will do so until further notice.
AirMoldova has suspended all flights until 1 April.
Alitalia has drastically reduced their capacity to around 95% and has been nationalised by the government on 17 March.
Austrian Airlines has ceased all flights until at least 28 March.
Blue Air will not fly until at least 21 March.
British Airways has cut capacity with at least 75% until May and has phased out some of their oldest A320s. The airline is also considering accelerating the phase-out of (several) the B747-400s.
Brussels Airlines is another Lufthansa Group-airline that suspended all flights, until at least 18 April.
Croatia Airlines has reduced capacity with 95% until further notice.
Czech Airlines has cancelled all flights until at least 11 April.
easyJet will ground the majority of the fleet until further notice, but will continue some intra-UK flights.
Eurowings has cut 95% of its operations until further notice.
Finnair will cut its capacity with 90% from April onwards.
Iberia is also set to cut at least 75% of its capacity and is thinking about retiring early their A340-600s.
Jet2.com & Jet2holidays is another airline ceasing all operations, this time from 23 March onwards,
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will cut between 70-90% of its operations and will retire their remaning B747-400s by 26 March.
La Compagnie Boutique Airline has decided to postpone all flights until 12 April, their operations heavily impacted by the USA-travel ban.
LOT Polish Airlines has been already grounded since 15 March and will continue to do until at least 28 March.
Lufthansa will continue to operate 5% of its operations. In total the Lufthansa Group will park 700 of their 763 planes.
Lufthansa Cargo will fly their normal schedule, except for their flights to China.
Montenegro Airlines has suspended all flights until 1 April.
Norwegian Airlines has cut 85% of its flights, and will lay-off 90% of its staff from tomorrow onwards until 17 April. It will receive state-aid from the Norwegian government.
Pegasus Airlines has suspended all flights to Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Austria as of 14 March.
Ryanair, including their subsidiaries Buzz, Laudamotion and Malta Air will cease all flights from 24 March until April/May.
SAS - Scandinavian Airlines has stopped most of their operations on 16 March until further notice.
Swiss International Air Lines has, just like the other airlines in the Lufthansa Group, cut their operations with 95%.
TAP Air Portugal has reduced its operations to just 25 flights per week.
Transavia (incl. France) has suspended all flights until 5 April.
TUI has ceased all flights in the group until half April.
Turkish Airlines has also discontinued many destinations in their network until 17 April, mostly in Europe.
Fly UIA has suspended all operations until further notice.
Virgin Atlantic has cut 85% of their capacity.
Vueling is in the process of reducing it's capacity with 75% until April/May.
Widerøe has decided to cancel more than 1,500 flights until 31 May.
Wizz Air has been impacted by the closure of operations out of Poland, which was 20% of their capacity. The airline also suspended flights to Latvia and Moldova.
#avgeek #covid19 #corona #airlineindustry #airlinecrisis
German Army will form a new helicopter command
In March 2020, the German Army decided to form a new helicopter command of the German-Dutch divison DSK (Division Schnelle Krafte). The main goal of the new command is to streamline decision-making processes like requirements, procurement and operations under one command. The new command is intended to be operational by April 2021.
The new Army Command is not a joint command like the Dutch Defensie Helikopter Commando (DHC, Defence Helicopter Command). The helicopter units from the Luftwaffe (GAF, German Air Force) and the Marineflieger (MF, German Navy) are not part of this command. The current setup of the DSK includes all transport and attack helicopters of the HEER (German Army), 72 NH90s and 36 Tigers, but also sees the contribution of Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu, RNLAF - Royal Netherlands Air Force) Chinook and Cougar transport helicopters.
However, the new structure allows for relatively simple addition of Luftwaffe and Marineflieger helicopter assets, but also other International Friends and Partners, to start with NATO forces. One of the key assets of the Luftwaffe are the CH-53G heavy transport helicopters, which form a valuable item when German Defence Forces are deployed. The CH-53s were transferred from the HEER to the Luftwaffe in 2011. Therefor, an easy entry procedure and line-of command procedures for Luftwaffe helicopter assets in the new Command is very important. They definitely take it step-by-step.
The new helicopter command for the DSK is re-focusing the current Army rotary wing force. Major upgrades and acquisitions *) are under investigation. Both the NH90s and Tigers are facing upgrades in the near future.
The NH90 will receive an upgrade of the avionics systems, a new EW system, a FLIR-unit, a LINK 16 datalink, ballistic protection and the possibility for fitting machine guns. In a second phase, the NH90 will receive a Mid-Life-Upgrade to extend the helicopter’s service life with another ten years. This upgrade includes an increase in cargo weight capacity, improved hot and high performance, an avionics upgrade and the possibility for rebuilding the helicopter into an unmanned helicopter specifically equipped for transport duties.
For the Tiger attack helicopters, the main task will be to bring all helicopters to the same standard. This includes the addition of new hot- and high performance engines to the oldest non-upgraded Tiger helicopters. Secondly, new laser-guided rockets, new Surface-to-Air missiles and an upgraded sighting and communication system will be added. The final part will be the upgrade to the Mk3 standard. This upgrade includes further performance and avionics upgrades.
First flight for Historic Helicopters’ Sea King
The British Society Historic Helicopters announced the first post restoration flight of their Sea King HAR3 XZ597 (construction number WA863) on 20 March 2020. The iconic helicopter made a successful three hours flight, within one year of its registration in the British civil registry. It was in fact registered as G-SKNG on 21 March 2019, the Sea King still wears the yellow livery of its former life as an RAF Rescue helicopter.
Set up by Mr. Andrew Douglas Whitehouse of Crewkerne, Historic Helicopters has managed to build up an impressive collection of British military helicopters. The society has operated Westland Whirlwind HAR10 XJ729 as G-BVGE for a number of years and their Westland Wessex HU5 XT761 (c/n WA483), registered as G-WSEX, has already made several flights.
Next in line to be restored to flying condition is another Westland Sea King, Commando HC4 ZA314 (c/n WA918). This helicopter was registered as G-CMDO on 17 June 2019. On the long term a second Wessex HU5 XT771, and Sea King HC4 ZF122, also part of the collection, will be restored.
Another Mustang for Germany: when will it arrive?
The current Coronavirus pandemic has made the date of arrival of a new Mustang uncertain. The aircraft concerned is North American P-51D 44-74453, N51ZW ‘Frances Dell’ (construction number 122-40993) destined for Georg Raab in Germany. The fighter aircraft was dismantled in Broomfield (CO) in the last week of February.
Members of the staff of Meier Motors have done the job to prepare the fighter for its journey to Bremgarten (Germany). N51ZW is painted with 78th Fighter Group markings and marked as 44-72927/WZ-W, a unit that operated out of Duxford (UK) during World War II. With the closing of so many borders, it is impossible to predict when the warbird will arrive in Germany.
Mustang 44-74453 has an interesting history which began in the USAAF. After delivery in July 1945 it was almost immediately placed in storage. In August 1950, the Mustang was delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as 9597, where it was operated by 442 Squadron (Auxiliary) at RCAF Station Sea Island (Vanvouver, B.C.) and 402 Squadron at RCAF Stevenson Field (Manitoba).
In October 1959 it was struck off charge with the RCAF and became N9140R, and later N1335. As such, the fighter crashed in Indianapolis (IN) on 17 March 1963, taking the life of its pilot John M. Barker. Eighteen years later the wreckage was rebuilt, which took until 1984. In the restoration, parts of another P-51D Mustang (44-13903) were used and its identity was adopted. The fighter then became C-GJCJ, N151JP and N251HR, named 'Glamerous Jan, which in its term changed into 'Glamerous Gal' (N751RB) a little later. After repairs following a starboard undercarriage collapse on landing, N751RB became N51ZW 'Frances Dell'.
The end for Japan's Flight Check Group YS-11FC is near
Friday 20 March 2020 saw the arrival of two future Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) Cessna 680A Citation Latitude aircraft (dubbed U-680A in JASDF service) at Tokyo/Narita. Both aircraft were in full Flight Check Group (Hiko Tenkentai) colours but with Norwegian registrations. These two are LN-NSM and LN-SUA and after some paperwork and possible modifications are to become 02-3031 and 02-3032 after entering JASDF service. Both aircraft received their Automatic Flight Inspection Systems at Oslo/Gardermoen (Norway), where Norwegian Special Mission installed the system.
Both aircraft flew to Iruma air base on 21 March 2020, where they will replace the only remaining YS-11FC 52-1151. Hiko Tenkentai once operated three YS-11FCs together with three U-125As, however it presently only operates the last YS-11FC and two U-125As, so the two U-680As are a welcome addition to the fleet. It is not uncommon for a new type entering JASDF service to be briefly operated by the Gifu test unit before being transferred to the operational unit. Time will tell.
A third Cessna 680A was recently delivered to Norway and will most probably be the third aircraft for the JASDF.
Raytheon Company was awarded a USD 403 million contract to manufacturer a System Demonstration Test Article of the Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) for the US Navy. The first NGJ-MB pod to the US Navy was already delivered in July 2019, but the award for the SDTA was signed on 20 January 2020. The SDTA pods will eventually be delivered to VX-23 in support of the developmental and operational testing.
Raytheon says that the NGJ-MB is a high-capacity and power airborne electronic attack weapon system for the EA-18G Growler and is designed to protect air forces by denying, degrading and disrupting threat radars and communication devices. The pod will provide the Growler significantly improved radar and communication jamming performance and capacity, as well as improved reliability and maintainability.
The tests continue through 2020 and a brand-new Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 "Salty Dogs" EA-18G Growler (BuNo 169215/SD-531) was hoisted up in the Air Combat Environmental Test and Evaluation Facility anechoic chamber at NAS Patuxent River (MD). NGJ-MB will enter flight testing with VX-23 in the upcoming weeks. The test programme is on target to meet Initial Operating Capability in 2022.
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