Saturday, July 12, 2014

Army Black Hawk helicopter up for sale

The U.S. Army Contracting Command-Redstone has notified State Agencies for Surplus Property (SASP) that a single Black Hawk helicopter is available for sale through negotiation at fixed prices. The Army made the announcement in contract documents released Friday.

“A reasonable period of time not to exceed 15 days shall be given the SASPs to indicate its desire to purchase the item and arrange satisfactory arrangements for payment, pickup, handling, and transportation charges,” the Army said in contract documents. “However, when more than one SASP agency has indicated interest in the item, the sale will be on a 'first-come, first-served' basis. Payment must be made within 30 calendar days after purchase.”

The Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk medium lift utility helicopter up for sale (serial number 82-23723) is located at the Black Hawk Exchange and Sales Team Program Aircraft Consolidation Facility at Madison County Executive Airport, Meridianville, Ala.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

NOAA's $9-million aircraft never put to use

Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was established in 1970, the agency has operated aircraft to aid in the collection of earth observation data to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts; collect data necessary for weather and water forecasts; and help conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. For example, the National Weather Service relies on NOAA aircraft to determine the water content of snow and collect data to support its forecast and warning responsibilities. In contrast, the National Marine Fisheries Service uses NOAA aircraft to count marine mammals and track the location of whale pods.

Flight hours

NOAA’s aircraft fly approximately 3,800 to 5,200 flight hours per year. In fiscal year 2013, NOAA’s nine planes—which range in size from small twin-engine aircraft to large four-engine P-3 Orion aircraft—logged about 3,900 flight hours.

NOAA-owned aircraft are unique in that they have been altered to accommodate a wide range of specialized scientific data collection instruments, some of which are specifically designed for use in NOAA aircraft. For example, NOAA’s Gulfstream IV-SP and P-3 Orion planes can carry a tail doppler radar, which is used to gather information about winds and precipitation within tropical storms and cyclones. These planes are the only government-owned aircraft used for hurricane research to improve the forecasting of a hurricane’s track and intensity. NOAA’s P-3 Orion aircraft also facilitate testing of new scientific instrumentation and data collection strategies. NOAA operates heavy aircraft capable of flying in tropical cyclones; light aircraft that conduct shoreline change assessments, oil spill investigations, snow surveys for spring flood forecasts, and other missions; and unmanned aircraft systems.

Hurricane reconnaissance

Although most hurricane reconnaissance is conducted by Air Force aircraft, NOAA is required to make its P-3 Orion aircraft available if the Air Force is unable to meet the reconnaissance needs posed by severe weather events. One of NOAA’s two operating P-3 Orion planes must be configured and available to conduct reconnaissance each hurricane season from June 1 to November 30, and the other P-3 Orion must be available from July 15 to September 30. During these months, the P-3 Orion planes are generally not available for other uses.

NOAA faces challenges in determining how to optimize the composition of its fleet to obtain the right mix of heavy, light, and unmanned aircraft systems for meeting mission needs. For example, NOAA’s two operational P-3 Orion planes are in high demand for hurricane work. At nearly 40 years of age, these aircraft are also the oldest planes in the fleet. According to NOAA officials, the useful life expectancy for the P-3 Orion aircraft will be another 15 years once re-winging is completed in fiscal year 2017 as planned. However, even with the re-winging, NOAA officials noted that the ongoing operation and maintenance costs of these aircraft may increase. NOAA faces decisions about whether to invest in additional costly service life extensions or replace the two operational P-3 Orions and another aging plane in its fleet, one of its de Havilland Twin Otter aircraft.

The P-3 purchase

NOAA purchased a third P-3 Orion aircraft for approximately $9 million to meet additional agency needs that NOAA officials said could not be met with its two existing P-3 Orion planes. Subsequently, NOAA learned that both of its existing P-3 Orion planes needed new wings sooner than previously expected, and that the newly purchased plane could not become operational without new wings. However, NOAA had not anticipated or planned for these additional expenses and determined that the investment in re-winging the newly acquired P-3 Orion plane was not feasible, according to NOAA officials. The plane was never put to use and NOAA is currently attempting to dispose of it.

Source: Government Accountability Office

Orbital Sciences delays cargo ship launch by a day

Orbital Sciences' third Cygnus cargo ship is scheduled to launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Wallops Island, Va., on Saturday at 1:14 p.m. EDT.

Weather conditions at Wallops Tuesday night delayed the scheduled rollout of Orbital's Antares rocket to the launch pad Wednesday, prompting the company to delay launch by a day.

Cygnus will be filled with approximately 3,300 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station (ISS), including science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and hardware.

Among the items headed to the ISS are a flock of nanosatellites designed to take images of Earth, developed by Planet Labs of San Francisco, and a satellite-based investigation called TechEdSat-4 built by NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., which aims to develop technology that eventually will enable small samples to be returned to Earth from the space station. In addition, a host of student experiments are on board as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, an initiative of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and NanoRacks.

If Cygnus launches as scheduled, the spacecraft will arrive at the space station on Tuesday. Station commander Steven Swanson of NASA and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency will be standing by in the station's cupola to capture the resupply craft with the station's robotic arm and install it on the Earth-facing port of the station's Harmony module.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Video: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner 'engine-out' testing

When testing any new airplane, like the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the Boeing Test & Evaluation team leaves no stone unturned in making sure the plane performs safely, even under extreme circumstances. Few tests exemplify this more than what is referred to as "abuse takeoffs" or "engine-out" testing.

French startup airline ready to launch into New York

France-based Dreamjet, a startup airline going by the name "La Compagnie," is set to launch five weekly flights between Paris-Charles de Gaulle and New York Newark Liberty airport on Friday with a Boeing 757-200 configured with 74 business class seats.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

NTSB investigating single-engine plane crash in Virginia

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash of a single-engine Cessna 150J aircraft Sunday in Topping, Va.

The aircraft impacted grass terrain southeast of Hummel Field Airport, sustaining substantial damage. The pilot was fatally injured and the sole passenger onboard the airplane received serious injuries.

The aircraft (tail number N50824) was built in 1968 and registered to Stephen Myers of Christiansburg, Va., according to Federal Aviation Administration records.