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Monday, July 12th, 2021

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Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic win latest space race – “Welcome to the dawn of a new space age"

Over recent years a sense of competitiveness has been building between three of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and the commercialization of sub-orbital space flight. While Elon Musk has already successfully commercialized his company SpaceX having launched multiple payloads into space, it was Jeff Bezos who, until this Sunday, was the front-runner for being the first of the three who would travel into space with his company Blue Origin. However, at 8.30 a.m. MT on Sunday July 11, Sir Richard Branson took off from Spaceport in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, onboard SpaceShipTwo with three Virgin Galactic employees and two pilots. At just after 9.15 a.m. SpaceShipTwo detached itself from the mother ship WhiteKinightTwo and a few seconds later all on board experienced 3Gs of force as the spacecraft accelerated into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

At an altitude of approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) SpaceShipTwo reached the top of its flight path and for approximately four minutes the four passengers were able to experience weightlessness while also enjoying spectacular views of space and the curvature of the earth. This was only the fourth test flight of SpaceShipTwo, taking place just nine days before Jeff Bezos was due to be launched into space onboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, together with his brother Mark, and 82-year-old Mary Wallace Funk who, in the 1960s, underwent astronaut training but was denied the opportunity of flying into space because of her gender. The fourth passenger is an unknown gentleman who paid US$28 million at auction for a seat on board the spacecraft for its first passenger flight.

Virgin Galactic plans to conduct just one more test flight before it will begin flying paying customers. More than 600 people have so far reserved tickets priced at US$200,000 to US$250,000, including Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

It will be interesting to see what altitude New Shepard reaches as there is an element of confusion surrounding the altitude at which the earth’s atmosphere officially ends and space begins. The earth’s atmosphere doesn’t physically stop at a defined point, but instead becomes gradually thinner at greater altitudes. Physicist Theodore von Karman defines the edge of space as the highest point at which an aircraft could fly without reaching orbital velocity, a point he and the FAI agree is at an altitude of 100 kilometers. However, the U.S. Air Force and Sir Richard Branson both see the boundary as 80 kilometers. It may be that Jeff Bezos and New Shepard try to regain the ascendancy in the space race by targeting the higher altitude, though that may be a challenge as the flight is much shorter at ten minutes from launch to touch-down, including three minutes of weightlessness. The Virgin Galactic flight lasts for approximately one hour from start to finish.


Airbus starts assembly of first A321XLR front fuselage

Airbus has announced another significant milestone in the making of the first A321XLR: the nose and front fuselage assembly has started in France, following the earlier accomplishment of the centre wing box.

Less than two months after the start of structural assembly of the rear and center fuselages in Germany, Airbus teams are taking another significant production step with the structural assembly and system equipment of the nose and front fuselages at its Saint-Nazaire facility in Western France.

Six fuselage sections arrived per road convoy from STELIA Aerospace at Airbus Saint-Nazaire on July 1. Here they will be assembled in the coming weeks including system equipment and flight test instruments installation in the third quarter of 2021.

“This is a key milestone for the A321XLR. We are on track to support the aircraft’s entry into service by 2023” said Martin Schnoor, Head of A321XLR Programme Development Airframe Programme.

TAM receives U.K. CAA Maintenance Organisation Approval certificate

With Brexit completed since January 31 of this year, a number of challenges occurred to TAM, some foreseeable, some not. As U.K. airlines are a very important customer base and with TAM being based in the EU, it was a period of uncertainty. Hence a very intense period followed for TAM, and finally, TAM has now received a U.K. CAA Maintenance Organisation Approval certificate.

"With U.K. airlines being very important to us, I am very pleased to see that we now are “back in business” in the U.K. as well, just as we were before Brexit, says Pär Gulle, TAM Managing Director. Now, we can continue to be a key service provider to regional airlines in the U.K. as well as in the EU and the U.S., supporting them with what they need to keep their Saabs and ATRs in operation.


Norway’s first P-8A Poseidon rolls out of paint shop

The first P-8A Poseidon aircraft for Norway has rolled out of the paint shop in Renton, in Royal Norwegian Air Force livery. Norway is one of eight nations to have acquired the P-8A as its new multimission maritime patrol aircraft.

Recently, the air force revealed the names of its five P-8A Poseidon aircraft: Vingtor, Viking, Ulabrand, Hugin and Munin. The names are inspired by Norse mythology and continue a tradition of almost 80 years that started when the names Vingtor, Viking and Ulabrand were used on Norway’s PBY-5 Catalina maritime patrol aircraft in 1942. Since then, other maritime patrol aircraft operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force have carried those names, including its current P-3 fleet, which will be replaced by the P-8. 

Norway's first P-8A aircraft – Vingtor – will now return to the factory floor to be prepared for flight testing. First flight is scheduled for later this month, and mission systems will be installed on the aircraft after that.

Delta and Virgin Atlantic to return to Heathrow Terminal 3 from July 15

Delta and Virgin Atlantic are returning to their home at London Heathrow Terminal 3, which has been closed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on July 15. Delta is operating nonstop services to Heathrow from both Atlanta and New York-JFK, however U.S. entry restrictions for non-essential travelers from the U.K. still apply. Virgin Atlantic destinations including Antigua, Barbados, Grenada and Israel are all classified as “Green” on the Government’s travel list, which means customers are not required to quarantine on their return.

Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer, said: “We’re delighted to finally be back on our home turf and I know our teams can’t wait to warmly welcome our customers to Terminal 3, as they return to the skies in style, as they fly safe and well with Virgin Atlantic.

“Whilst it’s a constructive step that many of our customers can imminently enjoy our much-loved facilities, the Government still needs to recognize the U.S. as a “Green” destination. Whilst travel between the U.K. and U.S. is closed, £23 million in economic value each day is restricted. We urge the U.K. Government to move the U.S. to the U.K.’s ‘Green list’ and for the Biden administration to repeal the 212F proclamation for U.K. travelers.”


Drone delivery Canada announces multiple agreements for project at Edmonton International Airport

Drone Delivery Canada (DDC), with the assistance of its sales agent Air Canada, has entered into three commercial agreements with each of Edmonton International Airport (EIA), Apple Express Courier and Ziing Final Mile (the customers) to deploy DDC’s patented drone delivery solution at Edmonton International Airport.

Pursuant to the terms of the agreements, DDC will enable defined-route delivery from EIA to deliveries off airport property utilizing the Sparrow drone and its DroneSpot® takeoff and landing zones as well as additional drone flight infrastructure as required. The customers will use DDC’s Sparrow delivery drone solution to transport a wide variety of cargo.

All operations will be conducted in accordance with appropriate Canadian regulations. Flights will be remotely monitored by DDC from its Operations Control Centre located in Vaughan, Ontario.

DDC will commence deployment of site infrastructure shortly and expects to begin providing drone delivery services under the commercial agreements in Q3 of 2021. The agreements provide for the payment from customers of up-front fees and monthly fees for professional managed services for the project term of 12 months. This deployment will be the first use of an automatic delivery drone solution to provide B2B cargo delivery at Edmonton International Airport. It will be the Company’s first commercial contracts in Alberta and with courier companies.


VoltAero selects Rochefort Charente-Maritime Airport as final assembly line location for Cassio hybrid-electric aircraft

VoltAero has selected Rochefort Airport in the Charente-Maritime department of France’s Nouvelle-Aquitaine region to produce its family of Cassio hybrid-electric aircraft on a new purpose-built final assembly line. This marks another important milestone in VoltAero’s development plan for its 4-10-seat product line of Cassio airplanes, placing the production facility at a strategic location in southwest France known for its dynamic economy and established presence of industry – including the aviation sector.

VoltAero's final selection of Rochefort – Charente-Maritime Airport was announced at the conclusion of a week-long French tour with its Cassio 1 hybrid-electric demonstrator aircraft, which wrapped up the 11-city, 3,000-kilometer itinerary at Rochefort. Cassio 1 serves as the testbed to validate VoltAero’s proprietary hybrid-electric power module that will be used in the production Cassio aircraft.

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