So, what to do on a hot summer day in France? It didn’t take AIRheads↑FLY a very long time to come up with an answer to that one, actually. So we packed our baguettes, some fine wine and a bottle of sunscreen and we headed along l’autoroute to the EALAT Airshow at Le Luc airbase. EALAT stands for Ecole de l’Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre, just so you know. And by the way, we also brought along a camera.
And now make some noise! It weren’t only helos or props at Le Luc, there were fighters as well, courtesy of the Armée de l’Air and the French Marine.
We close of in style however, with a fine study of the rotary future for some time to come: the EC665 Tigre.
There is an ongoing shady discussion in the Netherlands about a speedy replacement of the current F-16s with spankin’ new F-35A Lightnings. Shady, because it partly revolves around the number of flying hours the F-16s clocked up so far. We crunch some numbers and find out some numbers are far more impressive than others.
Just take a quick look at this stuff, the answer of the Dutch Ministry of Defence on questions from Dutch parliament about the number of flying hours per Dutch F-16. It shows that the aircraft with registration J-637 is the champion of all, having flown 4,893 flying hours already by December 2011. That’s a lot … Until we read this, about an USAF F-16 that happily flew 7,238 hours. This is stuff we love!
Yearly, each Dutch F-16 spends 180 hours in the air – give or take a few hours – so our hero J-637 now probably has over 5,000 flying hours. The Dutch MoD claims that its Fighting Falcons are getting old and require more and more maintenance.
Sounds logical. But why then is an American F-16 of similar age – the US high-flyer was delivered in 1984, while J-637 was delivered the year before – capable of spending 7,238 hours in the air while the Dutch fighters apparently start falling apart after 4,500 hours or so. Upgrades such as Pacer SLIP and Falcon Up should have prolonged service life beyond 6,000 flying hours, and have been costing the Dutch taxpayers millions and millions of euros. A service life of 8,000 hours was even mentioned back then. Recent updates to newer US aircraft even go as far as to give 10,000 hours of life for each airframe.
The usual argument is that Dutch F-16s were used more extensively then originally planned, for example during operations over Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. That’s probably true, although a lot of flying time is actually spent high up in the air, waiting for the close-air-support call or just looking for a tanker. Not exactly the most stressfull situation for any airframe. And still: the US high-flyer spent most of its years in the hands of inexperienced trainee pilots at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. That’s a lot of hard landings, bumpy rides and mishandling. And besides that, a day at the fence of Luke shows based F-16s flying around with the same heavy weaponry that supposedly stressed out the Dutch Vipers all these years. For the record, Dutch F-16 J-015 – the current demo aircraft – only has 3,500 hours or so at this moment.
The Norwegians and the Danish – not to mention the Israelis (how about their flying hours?) – are still happily flying their oldest vintage 1978 F-16s, while the Dutch put those aside more than a decade ago, stripping them for parts and throwing the remains in the bin.
The Americans know how to treat an aircraft that fulfilled its task. Their high-flyers are resting in the Arizona desert, having done their job. We will not mention that even those aircraft will return to the sky as QF-16s, clocking up even more hours, only to be finally shot to pieces as live targets. How’s that for scrapping?
Breaking news today: a Delta Airlines Flight from Paris to Detroit diverted to Amsterdam Schiphol and landed without a problem. Amazing stuff, according to just about all Dutch media, who are in fact clueless about aviation but all the more guided by money and even more stupidly, each other.
In a attempt to not miss out on a ‘dramatic developing story’ of an ‘impending horrifying crash’ involving ‘296 terrified and innocent’ passengers, all major Dutch media were quick to publish about flight DAL99, a Delta Airlines A330 on its way from Paris to Detroit. After take-off it experienced technical problems and the crew decided to divert to Amsterdam. This – and especially the fuel burning orbits circuit over the UK – was noticed by some tweeps on Flightradar24, was put on Twitter – and yep, a small media storm was born.
It resulted in cameras filming an uneventful, uninspiring landing. They could have known, because an aircraft experiencing flap problems – as was the story – is not a very big thing. It’s nothing at all, actually. And it wasn’t, really. Approach speed as seen on Flightradar24 was 141 knots. That’s excellent, right on the mark, probably not even a flap problem at all.
Dutch media seemed to have written this plane off already before it landed and the passengers’ only moan was being in Amsterdam and not in Detroit. Discussion about the ‘mysterious’ orbits over the UK, an escort from the French Air Force and even by a helicopter (yes!), possible hijack… yeah, we saw it all today, and Flightradar24 saw a great number of hits. Good on them.
Media want their journalists to be generalists these days, and the ridiculous stuff they put down the throats of their audience is the result of that. Specialists in editorial teams would prevent this ‘breaking news’ from hitting the screens. But no news equals no commercial value, which is why there is no room for specialists.
The media should be breaking bad habits, and not bring news that never was news in the first place.
So, no more Brazilian Mirages from December on. Well, that’s one reason less to go there, although we are pretty sure there are many reasons left. But that’s future stuff; over the past 25 years or so, Mirages have worked their magic pretty well on us. Let’s see a few.
What do you do when you are responsible for the transport of the president of the United States, you just like this certain new flashy chopper, but crap what a nasty tender rules you have to respect? Then you just write the paperwork in a way that only your little bladed treasure will make it to within the fences of your beautiful mansion estate.
Now you have a garden party to look forward to. Write Meet my old new friend on your invitation card and whoops there it is: the old new Sikorsky presidential helicopter on the White House lawn.
The head-of-state of the world’s most powerful democracy and the unfortunate drowning man off the Irish Coast will in a few years share the same experience. Both will be ferried through the air by the VH-92 Superhawk helicopter.
As far as we know the Irish Republic had a proper competitive shopping run first, but it’s a whole different story on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The always freshly washed, shiny green-and-white presidential ride will not change brand nor colour. All due to clever clerks, some admirable lobby work by Sikorsky fans and quite likely a great deal of ol’ boys network politics by the Pentagon. The S-team outsmarted not only the house keepers at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, but scared off the competition as well.
,,After a comprehensive analysis of the final request of proposal, we determined that we were unable to compete effectively given the current requirements and the evaluation methodology defined in the document”, stated the spokesperson of AgustaWestland. The European company was earlier poised to offer its VH101 Merlin in co-operation with American Northrop Grumman.
The full-American Bell and Boeing companies dropped out too stating ,,problems with the structure of the competitive program”. No VH-47 Chinook or presidential VV-22 Osprey. The only remaining bidder: Sikorsky with the VH-92 Superhawk.
But what happened to the earlier star of the presidential helicopter show: the Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel helicopter based on the AW101 that already seemed to have won the show to replace the ageing VH-3D Sea King? It was shot down by the Pentagon despite the White House commitment in 2009 to produce five operational VH-71As, making Lockheed Martin change sides to the Sikorsky team.
Litterly bits and pieces of the once future US commander-in-chief VH-71 helicopter fleet are now in use by the Royal Canadian Air Force, where they help maintaining the RCAF’s 15 CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopters. The US presidential spare parts are now to protect and to serve the unfortunate drowning man off the Canadian coast.