Briefing: July 2020



To no one’s surprise, EAA cancelled this year’s AirVenture and there’s no guarantee the big show will go ahead in 2021, either. Chairman Jack Pelton said that there was no option to shutting down AirVenture this year even though it might have technically been legal to hold the show. Within days of the decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state government’s COVID-19 regulations limiting gathering sizes and other physical distancing but Pelton dismissed that as politics at work and said there was just no practical way to hold the event and keep everyone safe. As for 2021, that could turn on widespread immunity, a vaccine or a treatment.


A big drone intended to work with manned aircraft in military operations has been developed by Boeing in Australia and is headed for operational testing. The team handed the prototype of the “Loyal Wingman” over to the Royal Australian Air Force in May and said the 38-foot aircraft is designed to “fly alongside existing platforms and use artificial intelligence to conduct teaming missions.” Ground testing begins shortly and the drone will fly before the end of the year. “We are proud to take this significant step forward with the Royal Australian Air Force and show the potential for smart unmanned teaming to serve as a force multiplier,” said Boeing Defense, Space & Security Vice President of Autonomous Systems, Kristin Robertson.


Daher has become the latest OEM to offer Garmin’s HomeSafe emergency autoland system in its newest aircraft. The system will be available on the 2020 TBM 940 after FAA certification and the first deliveries are expected in June. The system will also be offered as a retrofit on earlier 940s for $85,000. The system is designed to automatically return the aircraft to an airport and land the aircraft using weather, traffic, fuel, airport, and terrain information. The company is coming at the introduction of the system from a different perspective than most, however. “This latest step extends our innovation into a feature that specifically addresses operational safety from passenger point of view.”


Delta Airlines says it expects to be a much smaller operation when the COVID-19 pandemic settles down and will no longer need its former flagship fleet of 18 Boeing 777s. The long-haul routes will be flown by A330s and the brand new A350-900s. CEO Ed Bastian said the move is part of Delta’s COVID survival plan. “Our principal financial goal for 2020 is to reduce our cash burn to zero by the end of the year, which will mean, for the next two to three years, a smaller network, fleet, and operation in response to substantially reduced customer demand,” Bastian said in a memo to employees. “An important tool to help us achieve these goals is retiring older aircraft and modernizing our fleet as we plan for the future.”


Textron began flight testing its new Cessna SkyCourier utility twin turboprop– it’s first new prop-driven aircraft since the ill-fated Corvallis–with the first flight in May. The SkyCourier is aimed mainly at the package freight market with a 6000 pound payload but Textron is also offering a 19-seat version or a combination of seats and freight. “The Cessna SkyCourier will be an excellent product in its segment due to its combination of cabin flexibility, payload capability, superior performance, and low operating costs. Our customers will be very pleased with what they experience from this aircraft,” said Textron CEO Ron Draper. It will have Garmin 1000 NXi avionics, two PT-6A-65SC engines and will cruise at up to 200 knots for 900 nautical miles. It will also have single-point refueling.


American Airlines is using Envoy Air regional aircraft on mainline routes due to COVID reductions … Aviation icon Rudy Frasca died … Qatar Airlines demanded $162,000 in training costs from released pilot … A man was struck and killed by a landing Southwest 737 on an Austin runway … NBAA laid off staff due to COVID slowdown … See for breaking news in general aviation.


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