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Planes Taking Gunfire In Mississippi, Longest-Range Plane Flies; and Blackhawks Win Big

Plus, flying a damaged plane from New York to Rome; cool new jet emerging in Poland; and a crazy travel weekend on tap.

Gulfstream G800 - Just the Facts
Gulfstream G800

An Airbus A330 flew all the way to Rome from JFK International in New York City after it made contact on the ground at JFK with a taxiing Boeing 777. The Triple-Seven was substantially damaged. The Airbus got minor damage. But questions are being raised about the pilots’ and controllers’ actions following the incident, with much of the focus being on the ITA’s crew’s decision to continue onto Rome in a plane they were told had been hit on the ground by another plane. The audio of the air traffic control communications with the ITA crew show that they were informed of the impact shortly after the plane departed.

A med-evac plane took a bullet in the cowling as the King Air was being pre-flighted for the day’s trips at Jackson, Mississippi. The bullet, according to local reports, narrowly missed the pilot who was pre-flighting the plane. It lodged in the engine of the plane, where it was retrieved by the pilot. The shot wasn’t the first in recent weeks. Believe it or not, the incident is thought to be related to an ongoing community dispute involving City of Jackson trash trucks that are for some reason parked at the airport, which has, according to investigators, focused the apparently well-armed residents on the airfield. You can’t make this stuff up.

The airlines, still reeling after a disastrous Juneteenth weekend, with hundreds of delays and cancellations, is facing what looks to be an even worse long weekend starting… oday. With pandemic travel restrictions seeming a thing of the past and passengers eager to see loved ones, this July 4th holiday is colliding head on with an airline industry that’s facing staffing shortages and infrastructure challenges, including FAA shortages of controllers and inspectors. The wild card, as is often the case, will be the weather. Severe weather at or around any of the major hubs could spell trouble. Hold on to your hats.

Gulfstream made the inaugural flight of its G800 flagship twin-engine intercontinental business jet. The large cabin jet spent two hours on its first flight, burning nothing but sustainable aviation fuel in the process, a first for an inaugural flight, to our knowledge. The 800 will boast an 8,000 nm range at Mach .85 (fast) and a 7,000 nm range at Mach .90 (wicked fast), behind next-gen Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engines. The 800 is the eighth new jet that Gulfstream has launched in the past decade. The Savannah, Georgia-based aircraft manufacturer is the most successful civil aircraft maker in the world, and the new model, which the company expects to sell fast, will surely add to Gulfstream’s stellar resume.  

Sikorsky, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, won a contract with the DoD to deliver at least 120 Blackhawk helicopters to the Army and foreign customers/allies. The deal, valued at $2.3 to $4.4 billion, since there are options for an additional 135 aircraft, will take at least five years for the company to fulfill. While it’s busy buying Blackhawks, the Army is also selecting its eventual replacement, with the competition down to two impressive next-gen entrants, one from Sikorsky and one from Bell, both of which feature cutting edge construction and design, including much greater forward speed than conventional designs.

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Two Utah State Aviation flyers died in the crash of a school-owned Cessna 152 while they were on a training mission. The two, a young instructor, and a CFI candidate, were on a training flight when the plane crashed in a rural/agricultural part of the Wasatch Front. There’s no word yet on the cause of the crash. Cessna 152s are often used by flight schools for the required spin endorsement training for the initial Certified Flight Instructor certificate. The school stood down its flight training activities in the wake of the crash, and it made mental health counseling available to all students and staff who were seeking the care. The NTSB is investigating the crash.

Video emerged of the pilot of a Cirrus SR22 rolling the airplane (an aerobatic maneuver) on two separate occasions, once at night over a populated area. In both cases, there appeared to be four people aboard the plane at the times the maneuvers were performed. There was no identifying information about the plane or the pilot readily visible in the video. FAA regulations require in most instances that occupants of an airplane doing aerobatic maneuvers wear parachutes. The SR22, as a Normal Category aircraft, is not approved for aerobatics, which are prohibited over populous areas, as well.

A record number of pilots got their Reno tickets punched last month, giving them the privilege of racing at the world’s great air races, the STIHL National Championship Air Races, which take place September 14-18 at Reno/Stead airport. The 28 rookies who won certification is thought to be the highest number ever in any one year for the races, which are this year celebrating their 56th anniversary. More than 50 other established Reno racers got their required recurrent training at the same time at the June meeting in Reno.

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A Polish Very Light Jet in development, the Flaris, by Metal Masters (not a heavy metal band) continues to progress slowly toward certification. A four-seat all-composite single-engine jet powered by a Williams FJ-33 turbofan engine. With a max takeoff weight of around 3,8000 pounds, the little jet is said to fly fast, around 325 knots, and have exceptionally short takeoff and landing distances, so short in fact they defy credulity. A second prototype is said to be nearing its first flight.

The United States Air Force has chosen LIFT Technologies to produce its next-gen flight crew helmets, which, once they ultimately get to their high-flying end users, will be replacing 50-year-old designs. The helmets are being designed, the Air Force said in a release, to better fit pilots of many different sizes and shapes. While specifics are still sparse, the new helmets should be lighter—they look to be made out of carbon fiber—and more comfortable while also providing superior protection for the noggins of the Air Force’s most valuable assets.

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