Airbus delivered a significant number of A400M military transport aircraft to costumers in December, bringing to an end a year marked by the fatal crash of an A400M in Seville on 9 May. The program seems to have overcome the tragedy however.
In December, Germany received both its second and third A400M, while France took delivery of its eight aircraft. Also, Turkey and Malaysia got their hands on their third and second aircraft respectively. The latter was handed over to the Royal Malaysian Air Force in Seville on Wednesday 23 December and will head East soon.
The year 2015 saw four deliveries to the Royal Air Force (RAF), who declared the A400M Atlas C1 ‘ready for worldwide tasks’ last September. Meanwhile, Airbus reports it is making progress in assembling the first aircraft for Spain.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) will not retire its Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29N/NUB (“Fulcrum”) fighter jet at the end of 2015. In stead, they will keep flying until possibly 2020 or longer and will receive upgrades to keep them up-to-date.
Commanding General Datuk Seri Roslan Saad said during the 57th anniversary ceremony of the RMAF at Kuantan on 1 June 2015 that the MiG-29s have still valid capabilities, but that adaptions might be necessary to keep it that way.
The decision is a bit of a disappointment for aircraft manufacturers like SAAB (Gripen), Lockheed Martin (F-16), Dassault (Rafale), Sukhoi (Su-30/Su-35) and Russian Aircraft Corporation (MiG-35) which were hoping to sell new jets. For now RAC might have the best cards, if the RMAF possibly decides to upgrade its 10 MiG-29N single-seat and two MiG-29NUB two-seat jets to the MiG-29SMT standard.
Malaysia operates the Fulcrums since the 1990s. Based at Sultan Ahmed Shah / Kuantan (Pahang) RMAF Base, the type forms the small 17 & 19 Squadron.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF or Tentera Udara DiRaja Malaysia (TUDM)) sole Falcon 900B VIP jet is a cool lady again. RUAG Aviation in Geneva, Switzerland, finished an an extensive upgrade, done under contract with Malaysia’s Airod Sdn Bhd.
First the RUAG experts put the Falcon 900B through a very thorough inspection of the aircraft and systems (C-check). But the Swiss company was also contracted to update and overhaul the aircraft’s avionics as well as fully renovate the cabin. And all in a relatively short time frame of a few months to rotate the jet back into service with the RMAF.
RUAG Aviation installed a new Honeywell Ovation cabin management system, their first undertaking of Ovation Select on a Falcon 900. In addition the upgrade also included fitment of innovative electronic dimming window shades from Vision Systems. This was the first such installation on any aircraft worldwide. Further the aircraft upgrade included installation of Airshow 4000 and Satcom 7000 systems as well as a fully renovated cabin interior including new seating and LED lighting.
Although the project was completed in November 2014, RUAG apparently kept things quiet a bit until this week – probably to give the RMAF first a change to put the upgraded Falcon 900B through a proper test phase of its own.
The Falcon 900 is one of the few business jets with three engines in production. It is known for its strong wings. The B-version is a revision of the original jet introduced in 1991. It has better engines and an improved range, compared to its older sister.
RUAG Aviation is mostly known as the principal life cycle support partner for the aircraft of the Swiss Air Force. The facility in Geneva is an authorized Service Center for Bombardier, Cessna, Dassault Falcon, Embraer, Piaggio and Pilatus as well as Major Service Center for Dornier, Hawker Beechcraft and the DHC-6 Twinotter. RUAG Aviation is also the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of the legendary Dornier 228 aircraft.
RMAF VIP fleet
Apart from the Falcon 900B the Royal Malaysian Air Force VIP fleet consists of a Boeing Business Jet 737-700 (prime minister’s flight), an Airbus A319CJ, a Bombardier Global Express 700, a Fokker F.28-1000 Fellowship, two Agusta (Sikorsky) AS-61N VIP helicopters and a pair of Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk choppers. The VIP fleet is primarily located at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah / Subang Air Base in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur
UPDATED 2 JANUARY 2015 | Once again a catastrophe hit an Asian airliner. Air Asia’s Airbus A320-216 with flight number QZ8501 was officially declared missing on 28 December at 06:24 local time en route from Surabaya to Singapore. On 30 December the sad but expected news came that floating bodies and possible even the contours of the plane were spotted in the Java Sea, about 6 miles (10 km) from the location where all contact with flight QZ8501 was lost. That is about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of the Indonesian city of Pangkalan Bun at Kalimantan.
Radar controllers at both Jakarta’s Sukarno-Hatta IAP and the radar station of Kohanudnas lost contact with the plane at 06:17 on Sunday the 28th at coordinates 03 22’46 S and 108 50’07 E. Very bad weather has been reported in the area, with the pilot asking an alternative route likely to avoid it. The aircraft never reached it’s destination where it was suppose to land at 08:30 local time, nor did its crew send a distress signal.
According to high-ranking Indonesian Naval Aviation commander, Air Asia’s flight QZ8501 is thought to have crashed into Tanjung Pandan waters in Bangka Belitung area, where the water levels are as shallow as 75 to 150 feet (25 to 50 metres). Indonesia’s call during Monday for the US to assist in the search operations was heard. CNN reported just before Midnight London time that the destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102) – with on board one or two Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawks – is en route to help. A US Navy Boeing P-8I Poseidon is also expected.
Initial reports say that the A320 flight crew contacted Jakarta Air Traffic Control at 06:12 local time and requested an altitude increase from 34,000 to 38,000 feet because of clouds. The plane is also said to have taken a route away from its pre-planned flightpath to evade turbulent weather. The aircraft in question is registered as PK-AXC and had its first flight on 25 September 2008 according to the Airfleets database. The Air Asia plane had taken off from Surabaya at 05:36 local time.
At the time of the disappearance six other planes were in proximity of Flight QZ8501, on somewhat similar routes. Those planes include aircraft from Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Emirates, according to reports released by AirNav, the Indonesian national Flight Navigation Service.
There was some debate about the time of disappearance – reports also indicated 07:24, but that seems to be the fault of the difference in time zones between Singapore and Indonesia. After the plane was lost, a search-and-rescue operation was started. But despite great efforts the mission was severely hampered by the weather conditions and darkness, with authorities even pausing the efforts overnight to find the missing plane. The search was resumed at about 06:45 Jakarta time / 07:45 Singapore time on Monday 29 December 2014.
From the air travellers 149 are from Indonesia, three from South Korea, one from Singapore, one from Malaysia and one from the United Kingdom. Six of the crew members are Indonesian, the co-pilot has the French nationality. Air Asia says the crew of A320 flight QZ8501 is seasoned, with Captain Iriyanto having 6,100 flying on Air Asia’s A320. First office Remi Emmanuel Plesel had a total of 2,275 flying hours with Air Asia Indonesia. According to the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU), missing Air Asia Airbus A320’s captain is a former Air Force pilot who used to fly the Northrop F-5 Tiger with 14 Squadron (Skadron Udara 14) based at Madiun/Iswahjudi.
Initial air force reports indicate that Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) was contacted at 07:55 local time (this might be 06:55 depending on the initial mix-up of time zones) to help search for the missing plane. One of the TNI-AU C-130 Hercules from 31 Squadron at from Halim Airbase went airborne on Sunday at 13:10 local time, but a spokesperson quickly called the weather already “rather challenging”. The Herc piloted by Pilot Mayor Pnb Akal Juang flew the Karimata Islands and surrounding areas down to an altitude of 1500 feet, while its crew and 11 pre-selected local journalist from Jakarta based media on board searched in vain. The C-130 returned without finding anything on 18:40 local time.
A spokesperson also said the TNI-AU scrambled a Boeing 737 MPA from Supadio/Pontianak at West Kalimantan, but is was not immediately clear if that was a mistake or if the plane just happened to be there since the 737s are not officially based there. Moreover an Airbus Helicopters NAS-332 Super Puma was ordered to search, likely coming from Skadron Udara 6 based at Bogor/Atang Senjaya Java. On Monday 29 December the Indonesian armed forces sent six aircraft in the air: two C-130s, a B-737-200 maritime surveillance aircraft, a Navy PTDI CN235 Persuaders and two Super Puma helicopters. The Jakarta Post reports that another three TNI-AU C-130s have participated in the search as well, but these might be the Hercs from neighbouring air forces. Bell 412s were also involved in the operations.
Singapore and India
Amongst the other search assets deployed were two Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130H Hercules’s from 122 Squadron based at Paya Lebar Airbase, joined on Monday by at least two RSAF Super Pumas. The Indian Navy put one of its brand new Boeing P-8Is based at Naval Air Station Rajali on stand-by on Sunday.
Royal Malaysian Air Force
At least one Royal Malaysian Air Force Hercules was readied on Sunday, likely from 20 Squadron based at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah / Subang RMAF in Kuala Lumpur. On Monday 29 December the RMAF fielded a C-130 (likely the only C-130MP), a CN235-220M tactical airlifter and and a Beechcraft 200T Super King Air maritime patrol aircraft.
Royal Australian Air Force
Australia pre-alerted one of its AP-3C Orions on 28 December. The RAAF Orion joined the search on 29 December, taking off from Darwin in the early morning and heading to Indonesia. “The RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has a well proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infra-red and electro-optical sensors to support the visual observation capabilities provided by its highly trained crew members,” RAAF Air Chief Marshal Binskin said in an official statement.
What is left for friends and families of the ones on board Air Asia A320 flight QZ8501 is hope that the combined search effort has at least some result and doesn’t end like Malaysia Airlines MH370.
We say Goodbye (or selamat tingal in Malay) to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) F-5E Tiger and RF-5E Tigereye. With the 2015 budget coming into effect soon, the Northrop fighter-bombers from the Cold War era will be retired.
The parliament in Kuala Lumpur was informed of the decision on 18 November this year, when Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri also told the MPs the 10 MiG-29N and 2 MiG-29NUB will be decommissioned in 2015.
There is no immediate replacement for the (to be) retired jets yet, meaning the RMAF has to soldier on with its 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKMs and 8 McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18Ds, plus the light attack British Aerospace Hawk 208s (13) and Italian-made Aermacchi MB 339s (18).
F-5s have been flying in Malaysia airspace ever since the establishment of 12 Squadron in 1975, that became the country’s first fast jet air defence unit. They were already retired once in 2000, but called back into service in 2003 at Butterworth RMAF Base as the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Squadron and Reserve.
Despite the second retirement renewed strategic-military tensions in Asia might give the Tigers another chance. We at Airheadsfly.com are already carefully practicing our next phrase in Malay: Jumpa lagi F Lima or See you again F-5!