Tag Archives: Airbus

Press Play | Looking for more tankers in European skies

Where’s a gas station when you need it? That’s exactly what’s going in the minds of a Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) KDC-10 crew as they look for the French C-135 Stratotanker that should be flying somewhere ahead of them. Seconds later, they find the French aircraft and move in closer. It’s an obvious metaphor for closing the infamous European tanker gap. The solution comes in two shapes: the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) and the Airbus A400M.

Over the North Sea and to the crew of the KDC-10, that’s all distant music. As participants in the European Air Refuelling Training (EART) at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands, they have just finished air-to-air refuelling (AAR) twelve F-16s that take part in action packed exercise Frisian Flag 2016. Somewhere ahead and beneath them, the French KC-135 also just finished refuelling fighter jets, as did the German Airbus A310 that’s also nearby.

Goal

That’s three air-to-air refuellers in the same patch of sky, a sight not often seen as tanker aircraft are usually hard to find in Europe. The overall goal of EART is to improve flexability, efficiency and effectiveness of the combined tanker force of all zeven nations (the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Spain and Italy) that handed command over their assets over to the European Air Transport Command (EATC). From Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands,  EATC commands  19 tanker aircraft of various types from all seven nations. That number equals 65 percent of all AAR platforms available in Europe.

Airbus A400M

Compared to the hundreds of air refuelling aircraft available to the US, the European numbers fall far short, hence the ‘tanker gap’. However, that gap may soon be a thing of the past, given the increasing number of Airbus A400M available to France and Germany, plus Spain and Belgium in the near future. By 2025, EATC should have 80 or so A400Ms at its disposal, with roughly 40 air refuelling kits available for those aircraft. The new Airbus aircraft has been involved in AAR tests.

(Image © Vincent Kok)
Two F-16s taking part in Frisian Flag 2016 join up prior to refuelling. (Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Polish F-16 is about to move into position behind the KDC-10. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
Participants of the European Air Refuelling Training (EART) on the tarmac at Eindhoven airbase. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

MRTT

Moreover, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Poland are on course to jointly buy and operate the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). During EART, it emerged that a Memorandum of Understanding is to be signed during the NATO summit in July in Warsaw, with a contract for three or four aircraft to be signed that same month during the Farnborough Airshow.

The shared pool should grow to eight Airbus A330 MRTTs eventually. Belgium, Germany and Spain have already expressed interest in particpating in the program as well.

Harmonize

“EATC has been asked to harmonize A400M and A330 MRTT operations in the future”, says Colonel Jurgen van der Biezen, a RNLAF-delegate to the joint European command in Eindhoven. “What we are looking for, is an air-to-air refuelling hub that is very similar in operation to the European Heavy Airlift Wing operating from Hungary.”

Introducing the A400M and A330 MRTT as tankers increases EATC’s refuelling fleet to 69 assets, equal to 82 percent of all similar capacity in Europe. It’s a signifant increase compared to today’s situation, an increase that enables European nations to support their own – plus each other’s – operations.

It’s an idea that gets the thumbs up from all within EATC, just like the thumbs up shown by the crew of a Dutch KDC-10 tanker over the North Sea. They successfully performed some formation flying with the other two tankers in the same patch of sky. After leaving the formation, they are on their own again. But with a different feeling this time. There are others out there.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Video filming, editing and © Vincent Kok – Orange Avenue Filmworks
Featured image: On the look out for tankers over the North Sea. (Image © Vincent Kok)

A RNLAF F-16 pilot gives the thumbs up. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A RNLAF F-16 pilot gives the thumbs up. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
More customers for the Dutch KDC-10. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
More customers for the Dutch KDC-10. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Polish F-16 sneaks up on the KDC-10 from behind. (Image © Vincent Kok)
A Polish F-16 sneaks up on the KDC-10 from behind. (Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
A French C-135 Stratotanker beging inspected prior to its next flight. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Contract for shared European tankers to be signed in July

A contract for four Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft shared by the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Poland is to be signed next July during the Farnborough Airshow. That’s the news that emerged on Wednesday 20 April during a media briefing at the European Air Transport Command (EATC) in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

The aircraft will be based at Eindhoven and carry Dutch military registration numbers. A Memorandum of Understanding is to be signed first in Warzaw during a NATO summit.

The fleet should increase to eight aircraft at a later stage. EATC will be responsible for tasking the aircraft and optiziming their use. The aircraft should also operated from Forward Operating Bases in Norway and Poland.

More about European Air Transport Command and the current European Air-to-Air Refueling Training (EART) at Eindhoven airbase follows soon, here at Airheadsfly.com. See here for a report on last year’s EART.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

First American Airbus took to the skies

A small step for aviation, a giant step for Airbus. The first aircraft of the European manufacturer produced in its US Manufacturering Facility in Mobile, Alabama, took to the skies for the first time on 21 March 2016. Taking of from the Mobile Aeroplex at 09:36 local time, the test flight lasted until landing 13:02 – with test pilots Mark McCullins and Bruce Macdonald on the controls

The flight of 3 hours and 26 minutes was meant to test systems, engines and structure performance, with 300 Airbus employees having a great day waving the aircraft goodbye.

The first “American” produced Airbus is an A321 for JetBlue, which the company will receive in just a few weeks from now. The single-aisle aircraft can bring passengers non-stop over a distance of 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km).

JetBlue Airways has frequently ordered the A321 and its sisters A320 in several versions. It currently flies about 160 of them, with between 40 and 50 more coming, helping JetBlue to be the 5th largest airline of the United States.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Take-off of the first American-made Airbus ever, on 21 March in Mobile, Alabama (Image © J. Darcy / Airwind / Airbus S.A.S.)

First A320neo for India’s IndiGo

IndiGo, India’s largest airline by passenger numbers, has taken delivery of its first A320neo. The delivery makes IndiGo the second A320neo operator worldwide following Lufthansa. So far, IndiGo is set to become the new airliner’s biggest customer.

“The A320neo aircraft will enable us to continue to offer affordable air transportation and a new flying experience for our customers. The fuel efficient aircraft will be part of a new phase of our growth and will enable us to offer more regional and international destinations at the best price,” said Aditya Ghosh, president of IndiGo.

IndiGo is one of Airbus’ biggest A320 family customers having ordered 530 aircraft in total. These include 430 A320neo from orders placed in 2015 (250 A320neo) and 2011 (180 A320neo). IndiGo also placed an order in 2005 for 100 previous version A320s which have all been delivered.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Take off for the first IndiGo A320neo. (Image © Airbus / H. Gousse)

 

Emirates now holds the world’s longest air route

For those who missed it last week, we did too. And of course, because the plane didn’t land anywhere, while crossing half the globe. Flying high, Emirates just finished the first flight of its regular service on what is now the world’s longest non-stop air route.

Flying from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Auckland, New Zealand, one of the company’s many Airbus A380s opened the service. Covering 8,819 miles (14,193 km) the flight landed on 2 March 2016 after about 17 hours and 15 minutes in the air. Emirates now beats Australian Qantas, which provides a regular service between Dallas, Texas (USA), and Sydney, Australia. This second longest non-stop air route is ‘only’ 8,576 miles (13,802 km) and lasts about 16 hours and 55 minutes.

Beat the records

At the end of March Emirates adds another record to its increasingly impressive portfolio: the world’s longest non-stop air route time wise. It will be the Southwest Asian’s first service to Latin America and will bring passengers from Dubai to Panama City and vice versa in a planned 17 timer and 35 minutes – but could very well be close to 15 hours when the tailwinds are good. The biggest competition in the record business will come from Qatar, due to launch record challenging services from Qatar to Santiago (Chile) and Auckland (New Zealand) in 2016 that will beat others.

An Emirates Boeing 777 on final approach (Image © Marcel Burger)
An Emirates Boeing 777 on final approach (Image © Marcel Burger)

Boeing 777

The Airbus A380 used to open the longest non-stop route measured in distance was part of the show. Emirates will normally operate the Boeing 777-200LR on this line.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): An Emirates A380 in flight (Image H. Goussé / e*m company © Airbus)