Collaboration the key
A subtle change, appears to have occurred across the aero engine industry since our last review six months ago.
Talk of mergers / takeovers has given way to more joint ventures. Gerry Carman reports.
New-found pragmatism and confidence appears to have taken hold across the aero engine industry, with a shift in strategic emphasis among the major manufacturers to the common view that they will only build new powerplants if they arc demonstrably profitable on a project-by-project basis.
The big "C" word has undergone a metamorphosis too: Talk of consolidation (i.e. merger / takeover) has given way to (more) collaboration.
And, hoist on their own petard of greater engine reliability, the manufacturers are turning to deeper involvement in repair, maintenance and spares management to replace earnings once generated through spare parts.
General Electric Aircraft Engines, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and France's Snecma have each made deft moves in recent times to enhance their revenue streams to ensure black ink on the bottom line. This strategy involves some aggressive expansion into the overhaul and maintenance field.
GEAC expects maintenance and service activities to contribute 50 per cent, or about $ US 4 billion, to its annual revenues within three years.
For example, at the time of writing, US government agencies were reviewing GEAC's bid to buy two engine maintenance firm, UNC, Inc and Greenwich Air Services. Together they operate 29 facilities, have more than 500 customers and total annual revenues of $ US 1.8 billion.
P & W, meanwhile, is driving hard to reduce maintenance costs and provide more power-by-the-hour programs for airline customers. It expects to earn $ US l billion from overhauling large engines alone within two years - a four-fold increase over six years.
This strategy includes the recent launch of a joint venture with SIA Engineering Company to overhaul large aircraft engines in Singapore (see Production).
The venture, initially focusing on PW4000 and JT9D engines and CFM-I's CFM56 engines that power aircraft in the Singapore Airlines fleet, is expected to extend to other engine types, with annual revenues tipped to reach $ US 300 million by the end of 1999.
All the major manufacturers also have a range of co-operative agreements in China, ranging from training to production contracts.
The "Big Three" are keen to preserve at least the financial gains they registered last year when GE led the way with an operating profit of $ US 1.2 billion on sales of $ US 6.3 billion, followed by P & W ($ US 637 million operating profit on sales of $ US 6.2 billion) and RR ($ US 296 million operating profit on sales of $ US 4.7 billion).
Snecma, for its part, has been reorganised into three core businesses and is expected to return a profit of Ff500 million ($ US 90 million) tills year (more later).
The transformation of the mood within the aero engine industry is directly related to the upswing in the fortunes of the airframe manufacturers. That, in turn, stems from airlines ordering more aircraft which is a direct consequence of more people affording air travel as a result of the upswing in the world economy.
This huge world-wide growth is building such a massive base that even allowing for the cyclical nature of the world economy, analysts can only interrupt their upward swing graphs with solid plateaus. Only an unforeseen global disaster could cause a trend-reversal. The scope of the industry is evident from one reliable set of figures: According to R-R's 20-year market forecast to 2014 ðîêó, the total civil aero engine market (including corporate jets and spare parts) will be worth $ US 370 billion.
This will be derived from 34,200 installed and spare jet engines (worth $ US 204 billion) and 11,600 turboprop engines, worth $ US 7 billion. Significantly, spare parts for new and existing aircraft are expected to generate another $ US 150 billion. By deduction, that leaves $ US 9 billion for engines for corporate jets.
The review was less forthcoming with figures for the military segment. The decline in spending of recent years is expected to continue but at a much lower rate.
Hope is derived from the acquisition of new types in Europe such as the Dassault Rafale (Snecma M88-2), Eurofighter 2000 (Eurojet EJ2000), Saab JAS39 Gripen (GE / Volvo Flygmotor RM12 [F404GE400]), NH90 and Tiger (MTU / RR / Turbomeca MTR390 turboshafts) helicopters, plus some major acquisitions in the Far East and others pending in the Middle East. US military engine acquisitions will be dominated by the F22, F18E / F, V22 Osprey and Comanche helicopter.
The Joint Strike Fighter looms as the next large project, with R-R bringing to bear its vast knowledge with vectored-thrust from its Pegasus engine for the Harrier, in association with its US subsidiary, Allison.
The CIS remains depressed in terms of military developments. Sukhoi's Su27 family, powered by Saturn / Lyulka AL31F / AL35F turbofans, has taken the gloss (and export dollars) from MAPO-MiGs MiG29 family powered by Klimov / Sarkisov RD33 turbofans.
Meanwhile, much hangs on the Russian Air Force contest for a new jet trainer. The MiG-AT offering is powered by Franco-German Turbomeca-Larzac 04R20 engines, supplied by Snecma and licence-built by Chernyshov, in Moscow. Its competitor, the Yakovlev / Aermacchi 130D is powered by Klimov-modified 2MKB Progress RD35M turbofans.
SOME tough lessons in the recent past have helped to ensure the manufacturers will be be more selective in their work. Egos have been buried.
It is highly improbable, for instance, that they will barge ahead as they did with the A330 and B777, each offering a new engine for the twinjets from Toulouse and Seattle. That cost them $ US 6 billion collectively.
Financial observers remain sceptical about any of the three turning a profit on the exercise for at least 15 years; one manufacturer is believed to have nominated 28 years!
This more acute financial awareness has twice within several months prompted GEAC to baulk at engine developments.
The services business includes Sochata, which handles engine repairs, overhaul and maintenance, plus ground crew training.
CFM-International, the joint venture responsible for CFM56 family, is more than doubling its production to almost three engines per working day to cope with the demand generated by Boeing's B737-600 / -700 / -8UU family.
For the first time, engines for Boeing aircraft will also be built at the Snecma factory. The French partner usually caters only for Airbus types - A340, A319 / A320 / A321 - while the US partner provides for the B737 and reengined KG 135 tankers.
CFM-International's president and ceo, Gerard Laviec, could be said to be "over the moon" about his benchmark engine which accumulates the equivalent of 20 round trips to the moon every clay in air line / military service!
Already the world's most popular aero engine, the CFM56 has an order book of 10,200, plus at least 500 in the pipeline.
Orders this year are expected to drop by about 22 per cent, to 1000 engines but production will jump by 66 per cent to 750 and take another hike to 940 next year and then a more gentle climb to 960 in òèñÿ÷à äåâ'ÿòñîò äåâ'ÿíîñòî äåâ'ÿòü.
With almost 70 per cent of the market for narrow-bodied aircraft, which com prise 70 per cent of the overall airline market, Mr. Laviec looks forward to the - 7 entering service on the B737-700, with the - 9 targeted at the low-cost end for smaller aircraft like thcAE3l6 / AE317.
Mr. Laviec and the president of Aviation Industries of China, Zhu Yu Li, recently agreed to a joint leadership council to coordinate activities and promote a closer working relationship for programs such as the AE316 / AE317, where the CFM56-9 will compete against the PW6000 and the BR715 from BMW Rolls-Royce.
Like his counterparts, Mr Laviec, is unequivocal on one point: "We are not mad enough to develop a new engine just for the sake of technology".
INTERNATIONALAero Engines is another example of successful collaboration on an even wider scale, linking P & W and R-R (each with 32.5 per cent stakes) with and the Japanese Aero Engines Corp (23 per cent) and Germany's MTU Daimler-Benz (12 per cent).
Formed in January 1984, IAI produces the V2500 turbofan engine (eight variants) with a thrust range from 22,000lb to 33,000lb.The first units entered service in îäíà òèñÿ÷à äåâ'ÿòñîò â³ñ³ìäåñÿò äåâ'ÿòü.
Since then, the consortium's order book has grown to more than 2000 engines from 70 airlines and leasing companies worldwide, totalling $ US13 billion but one major hurdle remains for president and ceo, Barry Eccleston: Boeing's B737.
Mr. Eccleston said he was satisfied with the amount of business IAI had won from Airbus and McDonnell Douglas - the V2500 powers the A319.A320.A321 and MD90 - but the overall account was skewered while the B737 remained the exclusive preserve of rival CFM-I.
He acknowledged IAI could not match the GE / Snecma offshoot until the V2500 got on a mass-selling aircraft such as the B737: "At some point we will get on, either with a development of the B737 or a new 150-passengcr aircraft. .. Boeing acknowledges we have a good engine ".
IAI expects sales this year to drop to the îäíà òèñÿ÷à äåâ'ÿòñîò äåâ'ÿíîñòî ï'ÿòü level of $ US1.5 billion after reaching $ US2 billion last year largely because Airbus has just about sold out to 1998 and McDD sales have bottomed.
It will build 188 engines this year, 273 next year and 260 in each of the following two years.
Rolls-Royce continues to consolidate and build on its Trent family, with agreement to provide the 80,000lb thrust Trent 900 for the proposed A3XX double deck project.
The 65,0001b thrust Trent 600 is targeted at the proposed B747-400X, or increased gross weight development, while the Trent 500, with significant fuel burn improvements over the existing marques, has been bracketed with the A340-500 / -600.
And, to complete Derby's hatfull of new goodies, agreement was also recently reached for a 102,0001b thrust version for future growth models of the B777.
Meanwhile, the Trent 800 only recently entered service on the B777s operated by S1A and Malaysian Airlines (AAA-P June'97) and the problem with he Hispano Suiza gearbox on the Trent 700 was fixed by borrowing technology from the Trent 800 (AAA- P July'97).
RR's purchase of the US Allison Engine Company in March 1995 very substantially boosted its presence in the military field, widening its presence from such British, or British-derived aircraft types as the Harrier / AV8B and Hawk / Goshawk to the C130J (AE2100 ) and Bell-Boeing V22 Osprey tilt-rotor (T406).
Perhaps most importantly, it has helped to establish the company as a real prospect as a GE partner contesting the powerplant segment of massive Joint Strike Fighter project.
Allison's AE3007 powers Embraer's EMB145 regional jet and Cessna's Citation X, while the AE2100 also powers the Saab 2000 and IPTN's N250. R-R's major partnership in Europe is with Germany's BMW, with their BR700 powering the two lop long-range business jets, Bombardier's Global Express and the Giillstream V. The BR710 will power the reconstituted Nimrod 2000.
Down the thrust range, the partner ship with Williams has spawned the FJ44 that powers the new trio of Cessna's CitationJet, the Sino-Swcaringen SJ30 and Raytheon's Premier I.
R-R Turbomeca, originally formed in 1966 to develop the Adour for the Anglo-French Jaguar, led to the development of the RTM322 helicopter engine from the early 1980s.
'Fly'-ing into the future
Ajoint Australia / United States research project has focused on the most annoying, disease-carrying house-hold insect as a possible source for a novel guidance system for future pilotless aircraft.
A team of scientists from Australia's Defence Science & Technology Organisation's weapons system division, the Australian National University and a specialist from the USAF's Elgin AF Base are studying the highly-developed navigation system of the fly as a pointer to better flying in the future.
The chief of DSTO's weapons system division, Dr D Nanda Nandagopal, said a lecture on neural networks by the executive director of the ANU's centre for visual sciences, Professor MV Srinivasan, led him to consider the application of the extraordinary capabilities of flying insects and their navigation / flight control systems to machines.
A fly, with a brain containing less than 0.01 per cent as many neurons as the human brain, could unerringly land on the rim of a teacup; bees * foraging for food knew exactly what course to take when they returned to their hive several kilometres away.
Dr Nandagopal and Prof Srinivasan beheve insect flight control systems are not only less complicated than human systems but rapid, reliable and robust.
Prof Srinivasan said the basic difference between human and insect control and navigation systems was that humans relied on stereoscopic vision to judge distances and speed:
Each of the two eyes, about five centimetres apart, saw distant objects slightly differently, with the brain computing the distance of the object from the two images.
However, insects had developed a different system of "motion cues" because their eyes are too close together to produce a stereoscopic image.
"If a fly were driving a car, it would calculate the distance to the trees on the side of the road by how fast they went past: A tree that flashes past is very close; a tree that moves more slowly is further away," Prof Srinivasan said.
"Insects also use motion to calculate the bearing of an object," he added.
Traditionally, robotic flight control systems have been based on stereoscopic vision but the task of programming a computer to deduce distance by comparing the subtle differences between two images was huge. For this reason, the minimal but effective systems used by insects offered an attractive alternative.
Prof Srinivasan and his ANU team have been researching this field for 10 years and are unravelling the principles of insect vision and navigation. They have designed algorithms for machine vision and patented a lens and camera designed to capture panoramic images. They have also built several visually guided mobile robots. Dr Nandagopal said the next stages of the research would involve tackling problems such as terrain mapping, obstacle detection and avoidance, path planning, navigation and target tracking.
"Ultimately, we hope to investigate navigation in three dimensions ... our ultimate goal is to build a robotic flying" insect ", probably like a model helicopter, equipped with panoramic sensors and a computer," he said.
The Sukhoi Advanced Technologies (PTS) open-ended joint stock company was established in 1 992 as a legal successor and continuant of the traditions laid down by the Sukhoi Experimental Design Bureau (Sukhoi OKB) in the development and production of sports plans, such as Su -26, Su-26M, Su-26MX, which were highly acclaimed in the 1980-s by sporting pilots from many contries. These aircraft helped them win over 200 gold, silver and bronze medals at various world-level competitions.
In the 1990s, new generation sports aircraft were developed: the Su-29 two-seater, Russia's first aircraft in its class to receive a type-rating certificate in 1994 and the Su-31 single-seat acrobatic plane that enabled pilots to perform previously inaccessible manoeuvers.
In 1994 an experimental Su-29KS was used to test in flight the SKS-94 ejection seat system designed specifically for light aircraft with no foreign analog to dale. This system was developed by the famous Russian company Zvezda in cooperation with the PTS and Sukhoi 0KB companies. The ejection seat was first tested by Vladimir Severin. In 1995 ðîêó, the system underwent the state-run testing. It provides for a considerable flight safety improvement during the pilot initial training, routine training flights and at the sporting competitions. The PTS company is prepared to install the SKS-94 system on all sports and acrobatic aircraft.
The first Su-31 M single-seater equipped with the SKS-94 ejection seat has undergone preliminary manufacturer tests. It was flown by Russia's best acrobatic pilots and is now prepared for certification. The PTS company has already received orders for the Su-31 M aircraft.
The unique skills and experience accumulated during twelve years of the design work on such complex aircraft as acrobatic planes, allow the company to be confident in its potential to develop new classes of light planes for domestic and export markets. For example, the Su-49 new generation trainer integrated in the system of pilot flight training offers a cost-efficient option for the flying school's initial training course as well as for the routine training of qualified pilots.
In addition to a number of sports aircraft and trainers, the PTS company has developed an effective agricultural aircraft Su-38 with considerable export potential.
The PTS company has gained experience in operating on the international aircraft market and set up dedicated units to collect information and analyze aircraft faults and failures, provide customer service and maintenance support and supply spare parts and units. The company provides in cooperation with Russia's airclubs the training of foreign pilots and ground crews on the Sukhoi-type, aircraft.
The PTS company currently supports the operation of 20 aircraft in Russia and over 100 aircraft abroad - in the U.S.A., Great Britain, Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, the South African Republic, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Lithuania and Ukraine.
The PTS is open for cooperation in joint aircraft development, production and sales. Our partners can expect the maximum economic effect from such joint projects.
New Flight Testing Technologies
The Gromov Flight Research Institute is involved in large-scale flight research in physical aerodynamics and heat exchange; flight dynamics, including ground vehicle motion; flight safety; navigation, communications and control; power plants and a number of aircraft systems; etc. Flight research represents the final link in the chain of routine research technology in aviation science: calculations - mathematical simulation - ground stand testing - flight research. It is the final reliability criteria of the entire research cycle, as ground tests can not absolutely simulate all elements of similarity, atmospheric disturbances, external loads on structures, real flight conditions for pilots, etc.
Consequently, technologies resulting from the flight experiments present high value for the project implementation with low technical risk.
For 55 years the Flight Research Institute has developed and introduced in the industry a multitude of technologies that played a considerable role in domestic aviation development, including technologies of ramp-assisted takeoff from the deck of aircraft carriers; emergency bail-out; in-flight refuelling; superheavy load transportation by two helicopters; the development of aircraft control and display systems using flight simulators, successfully used to create Buran orbiter automatic landing system and Tupolev Tu-204 control systems; research in large angle-of-attack and hypersonic flight, based on flying models, used to develop all maneuverable aircraft and space shuttle orbiters; power plant development installed on flying laboratories and used to design all domestic engines; ideas and principles for integrated flight control and navigation systems, approach and landing weather requirements; recommendations on the antenna design and their installation on aircraft.
Technologies developed at the Institute in recent years can generally be divided into three groups.
Technologies insuring higher flight safety level:
- Ideology and structural composition of the active safety system that prevents deviations from safe flying or provides safe aircraft recovery if the safe flight limit is violated, for example, in case of the pilot's incapacity or aircraft entering an uncontrolled spin;
- Basic design of ejection seats with controlled trajectory to expand successful ejection range;
- Theory and calculation methods of icing formation and its effects on various aircraft used to design all domestic aircraft;
- Methodology of protecting an engine from foreign object penetration, based on summarized criteria (developed methods have ensured great savings by sharply reducing the number of discarded engines dam aged by foreign objects);
- Transport aircraft protection from portable AA missile fire (technology successfully used in Afghanistan);
- Integrated computer class design for training crews for flight emergencies.
Technologies improving aircraft flight performances:
- Maneuverable aircraft takeoff from an airfield equipped with a small-size ramp (decreases aircraft takeoff run at "least twofold);
- Ideology and principles of the automatic landing complex, based on satellite navigation systems and ground control and update stations, capable of providing curved-trajectory landings;
- Basic design of the aircraft propulsion plants operating on standard liquid gas as an alternative fuel;
- Development basis for highly reliable aircraft communications systems, including systems for high-latitude flights;
- Ideology and composition of an automatic in-flight refuelling system to considerably increase the probability of aircraft contact.
The Flight Research Institute seeks to develop flight testing technologies to create advanced aircraft and reduce the time and cost of testing procedures.
These technologies include:
- Flight testing technology for superhigh by-pass engines and turbofans, eliminating the need for complex ground testing;
- Advanced onboard flight data collection system with direct data storage;
- Aircraft flight testing on electromagnetic effects to protect aircraft from lightning, external electromagnetic fields and avionics systems interaction effects;
- Expert systems to process and analyze flight test data from aircraft control, navigation and avionics systems and propulsion plants;
- External trajectory measurement technology based on integrated satellite and inertial navigation systems;
- Aerophysical flight research and aircraft strength testing based on modern data collection and analysis systems.
II should be noted dial most Institute-developed technologies and ranked on world standards. Their introduction has been proved highly efficient and promote the aviation progress.
No limit to air cargo's future
With China looming as an air cargo giant over the next 20 years, the future of the air industry and allied equipment manufacturers looks rosy. Specialist operators that have done their homework are heading for windfalls. Stanley Brogden reports.
No Chinese airport has yet made an appearance on the list of the 10 biggest cargo-handling airports in the world but give it time. The cargo world is full of surprises.
It would surprise no one that a US city was at the top of the list last year but only those closely involved would have nominated a place generally associated with rock 'n roll as No 1: Memphis.
The Tennessee centre rocked up the ladder with 12.9 per cent growth, handling 1.93 million tonnes of cargo to illustrate the vibrancy of the US market.
Already four nearby Asian airports have made the "Top 10" and more have muscled their way into the wider major league.
Last year, Tokyo / Narita was ranked fifth, handling 1.63 million tonnes, followed by Hong Kong / Kai Tak with 1.59 million tonnes, with Seoul sneaking into 10th spot with 1.36 million tonnes.
Tokyo's overall position was enhanced as its other major airport, Haneda, handled a further 670,689 tonnes - its 3.6 per cent growth offsetting a 2.5 per cent decline at Narita.
East Asia's other world-rankers included Singapore, with 1.21 million tonnes on the back of a handy 7.7 per cent growth rate, Taipei with 796,155 tonnes (5.6 per cent up), Bangkok's 703,077 tonnes (6.1 per cent up) and Kuala Lumpur's 401,173 tonnes (with 19.5 per cent growth, no less). All of which has not gone unnoticed in Beijing, where a frustrating lack of air craft capacity and airport infrastructure is holding back an industry waiting to explode as the country's manufacturing sector continues to ignite the economy.
Only one Chinese airport, Shenzhen, has fully-automated cargo handling facilities but customs facilities are still inadequate. Beijing Airport is now being updated by Hong Kong-based Associated Engineers in all aspects of cargo handling.
The drive to change the scene comes not only from foreign carriers but Chinese operators, too. They all recognise the inhibiting factors on growth.
Little wonder that the traditional Russian suppliers of aircraft are fighting hard with a clutch of new generation specialist cargo variants to reclaim at least some ground lost to Boeing, Airbus, McDonnell Douglas and other Western manufacturers.
Tupolev (Tu204 / 224) and Ilyushin (I196 / I1-114) are in head-to-head competition for some major orders against the full range of cargo aircraft on offer from Seattle, Toulouse and Long Beach.
CSAC and Volga-Dnepr have started a joint venture with big cargo definitely in mind, as well as passenger services.
This should be the Russian launch vehicle for the all-cargo version of Ilyushin's I196T (3.6m x 2.6m cargo door forward of the wing on the port side) into China. Cost alone may not be the determining factor between the Pratt & Whitney PW2337 and Aviadvigatel PS90A turbofan engines?
One of the more imaginative moves has been a proposal from Douglas, for an all-cargo version of the MD80, with China's aviation authorities expected to make a decision soon.
The proposal is built on the fact that China Eastern and China Northern will soon trade-in 35 MD80s as pan-payment on MD90s.
The aircraft would be converted by Aviation Industries of China, first for the Ministry of Posts and Tele-communications. The conversion would not need a main-deck cargo door but would require floor strengthening and bulkheads.
AVIC, no doubt, would like the job to be done by Shanghai Aviation Industrial Corporation but there is a time factor to the delivery of the MD90s by SAIC that might force the job to Long Beach.
Of course, there could be a compromise, with the work split 15:15 between Shanghai and California.
The prospect of selling such conversions for ordinary cargo with stronger floors within China and abroad is enticing for the Chinese industry.
Douglas, in fact, is very cargo-minded these days, regardless of its future-within The Boeing Co. Its MD11 has survived thanks to some success in the cargo area offsetting disappointing sales with the passenger version.
Federal Express operates 23 all-cargo MD11s, with another eight in service with other specialist cargo operators. And, 11 of the 17 MD11s on firm order are all-cargo versions.
To give these figures some perspective, only 14 B747-400FS had been delivered at the time of writing.
Add the MD1 Is converted from passenger configuration and there are 59 all-cargo and convertibles flying nothing but cargo around the world. This is no surprise, as the MD11F can break even carrying only 65 per cent of the possible 81,648kg payload. And, it can fly 4200nm with a full load.
FedEx must be making real money as it operates its MD11s with 93 per cent average payloads. It says the cost-per-tonne-mile is well under the figure for the bigger B747-400F.
Martinair uses its convertible MD1 Is 60 per cent for all-cargo and is ordering more from McDonnell Douglas.
The Dutch cargo specialist also operates the B747-400 Combi. Both types can be converted in two days; reversing the process takes an extra day.
Toulouse is fighting hard to secure its share of any cargo aircraft sales now that the A300B4 Freighter conversion has US FAA certification. Airbus might well start that way in Beijing.
KLM recently ordered two A300B4Fs and they will be operated very considerably to and about SE Asia.
It may take a few years for China to solve its domestic cargo problem and get into large-scale international lifting but Boeing and Airbus are pushing the cargo aspects of the B747 expanded version and A340 respectively.
Air China has chosen a B747-400 Combi to tackle (he London-bound market in a recently-launched service from Hong Kong. This dedicated European service marks a tangible redressing of an otherwise evident heavy cargo bias across the Pacific.
Beijing's ultimate plans for cargo operations at the former British colony, especially there is a clamour for more attention from mainland centres that may perceive some unfair advantage at Chop Lap Kok, will bear watching.
Kai Tak, after all, handled more international air cargo than any airport in Asia bar Narita, the gap being a small matter of 1331 tonnes.
Significantly, Kai Tak's export cargo grew by 21.9 per cent compared with the previous year; imports grew by 13.1 per cent, pushing trans-shipments up by 22.7 per cent.
All this at an airport almost strangled for space and dependent on dedicated staff to squeeze the final tonne out of saturated facilities.
Ilyushin-76MF: A new aircraft with good lineage
In August 1995 ðîêó, the Il-76MF aircraft was flown the first time by the test pilot Anatoly Knyshov and his crew from the Ilyushin Aviation Complex, the mission originating from the Tashkent-based Chkalov Aircraft Production Assotiation's airfield in Uzbekistan.
In the period 1980-1990, the volume of global air-freight services rose by 70 per cent, with the ongoing trend reflecting the diversification of cargoes and use of low-category airfields by transport aircraft. Given the circumstances, the existing fleets of air freighters should be rejuvenated through acquisition of aircraft featuring improved light performance capabilities.
The Il-76MF aircraft has been developed following a longtime effort to upgrade the Il-76 military transport, which was built at he time when the Soviet Antonov An-12 and U.S. C-130 and C-141 airliners were in service. While looking very much like the C-141, the Il-76 is quite different from the American plane in terms of its capabilities. The Russian aircraft can operate from short, unimproved runways. Designed to feature a much larger cross section of the cargo cabin, it is outfitted with a self-contained set of equipment to handle loading / unloading operations. In addition, the Il-76 military versions carry onboard armaments.
It should be noted that Ilyushin's aircraft building strategy has persistently been based upon the principle of developing new machines via improving those in service, delivering on promises in a faster and more cost-effective manner, and retaining the old infrastructure to provide service support to the newly-deployed aircraft. To lift heavy military equipment, an effort was under taken to develop the Il-76M aircraft, with the maximum payload capacity boosted from 33 to 47 tons and the maximum take-oil weight remaining unchanged as a result. Following an in-depth research of the Il-76M aircraft's untapped capabilities and an all-round investigation of the plane's operations over the years, the Il-78MD transport, with the maximum payload capacity and takeoff weight reaching 50 and 190 tons respectively, joined the range of Il-series planes.
Commercial needs have been satisfied by the Il-76T and its upgrade Il-76TD versions. In the course of the ll-76Ts twenty-year production run at the Chkalov Aircraft Production Association (Tashkent, Uzbekistan), more than 950 aircraft of assorted configurations came off 'the assembly lines overall.
About ten years ago Ilyushin launched a project to build an Il-76 upgrade featuring a stretched fuselage, with the preliminary design never being put into development owing to the decision to terminate engineering of the relevant 14,000 kgf aircraft engine. The project has recently been resumed to:
- Meet the newly-introduced set of ICAO aircraft engine hazardous emission and noise level requirements, which since April 1995 have barred non-complying air craft from flying to major world airports;
- Cover the shortfall of transport aircraft in Russia in the wake of the Soviet Union's disintegration and following large numbers of aging Il-76 planes approaching the end of their service lives;
- Satisfy the rapidly growing commercial needs that could be met through aircraft design improvements aimed at enhancing cargo hauling capabilities. The Il-76T and Il-76TD operators have been quite specific in their requests to build more user-friendly platforms. For example, the investigation of Il-76TD operations conducted by the State Research Institute of Civil Aviation revealed that, on average, each transport carried merely 31,6 tons of payload (the maximum payload standing at 50 tons), and explained that mostly light -weight loads were carried and the cargo cabin volume was not large enough for the user to take full advantage of the plane's lifting capacity.
In 1992 ðîêó, the llyushin and Chkalov companies pooled efforts to resume the project and finally built the long-sought improved Il-76 version designated as Il-76MF. The cargo cabin, stretched by 6.6 meters, has had its volume increased from 320 to 400 m3, Thereby enabling prospective operators to fully utilize the aircraft's payload capacity. Also improved have been the airplane's capabilities to handle containerized and palletized cargoes: UUK-20 sea-land containers (4 instead of previous 3), PA-3,6 (2B1P) pallets (9 instead of previous 6), etc.
The use of fuel-efficient PS-90-76 aircraft engines from the Perm-based Aviadvigatel JSC has enabled the new aircraft to burn 32 percent less fuel than the Il-76TD airlifter over the ranges extending 3,700 kilometers. Aviadvigatel's engines are designed to satisfy the ICAO noise level and hazardous emission requirements. The capability installed to develop thrust through 16,000 kgf under high ambient temperatures and on high-elevation airfields serves to augment the new aircraft's utility. The vehicle is equipped with a state-of-the-art navigation and flight control systems.
The aircraft, contracted to enter production at the Chkalov Aircraft Production Association is expected to be assembled from parts 85 percent supplied by Russian manufacturers. Production of the Il-76MF airlifter will be facilitated. As the aircraft's main systems and assemblies have been perfected, standardized and over the years of large-scale production runs of different Il-76 versions reaching into the hundreds. Fielding the Il-76MF machine will also be smooth, as the platform design has remained largely unchanged and the long-term operators are appropriately equipped to handle the new airplane.
The Ilyushin and Chkalov companies provided their own resources to design, engineer and manufacture the aircraft prototype.
Problems and perspectives
Cosmonautics and basic sciences
The launch on October 4,1957, of the world's first man-made satellite ushered in a new era in the socioeconomic, scientific and technical development of society and opened a fundamentally new and topical area in basic sciences - space research. Spacecraft equipped with scientific devices present a unique instrument comprehensive for study of the Earth and outer space, as well as other planets and asteroids in the Solar System. Spacecraft make it possible to study the radiation of the Sun, stars and galaxies within the entire range of electromagnetic modes - from hard gamma-radiation to radio waves, specifics of the development of biological specimens in zero gravity, and physical processes of the formation of various kinds of unique materials.
Russia has always paid considerable attention to the study of planets and other celestial bodies of the Solar System, and made many scientific achievements recognized by the international scientific community. Flights of Russian spacecraft to celestial bodies in the Solar System began in 1959. Since then, 59 unmanned interplanetary stations have conducted unique experiments on the Moon, Venus, Mars, Halley's comet, and one of Mars 'satellites, Phobos.
The Moon probe Luna-3, launched in 1959 took for the first time in the world's history pictures of about 40 percent of the dark side of the Moon. During the flight, a new kind of lunar geological structures was found - thalassoids (light "seas"). On February 3, 1966, the probe Luna-9 made the first ever soft landing on the Moon. The research revealed that the surface of the Moon represents a special kind of soil (regolith), which consists of fine mineral particles and is characterized by very high coalescence. Today we know that regolith also covers the surface of many other Solar System bodies.
In November 1970, Luna-17 delivered the first lunar rover, Lunokhod-1, which traveled over the Moon for months. Lunokhod-1, which was the world's first mobile and very sophisticated research laboratory, transmitted to the Earth a large number of panoramic photos of the Moon and results of the analysis of lunar soil samples taken during its route.
Venus was just "re-opened" by spacecraft, with 90 percent launched by Russia. These include the Venera-4 probe, which dropped a sounder into Venus 'atmosphere in 1967; Venera-7, which made a soft landing on Venus in 1970; the Venera-9 and Venera-10 probes, which orbited Venus and took pictures of the surface in 1975; Venera-15 and Venera-16, which took in 1983 pictures of Venus "surface with the help of a side-looking radar; and aerostat probes from the interplanetary stations Vega-1 and Vega-2 that studied the atmosphere of Venus. The exploration of Venus revealed that even insignificant differences in the conditions of the formation and existence of two almost identical planets may result in a striking difference in their climates. This conclusion is very important for forecasting global climatic changes on the Earth.
The flights of Vega-1 and Vega-2 to Halley's comet were some of the most successful ones. The stations obtained for the first time basic three-dimensional characteristics of the comet's nucleus, seen from the Earth only as a dot. The stations also determined its size, form and structure (monolith) and obtained interesting data on comet dust particles and the composition of the gas coma (comet gases include formal dehyde). One of the basic and most important conclusions was that the full mass of comets in the Solar System probably exceeds that of the planets.
As a crucial dimension of Russia's national security
Today, Russia faces a number of complex problems, above all the drafting of our country's development strategy for years to come and defining of integrated views on achieving national security goals.
The cornerstone to efforts aimed to meet these challenges is provided by the Russian Federation's unique geopolitical status, determined by the nation's geopolitical position, vast territory, extremely long sea and land borderlines and communications, rich deposits of mineral resources, variety of climates, diversity of ethnic communities and a number of other factors.
Research into Russia's specifics enables one to conclude that effective employment of space assets would provide a key capability in safeguarding the country's national security.
Indeed, space assets can be engaged to handle continually, responsively and globally a whole range of tasks that are critical to Russia's defense capability and progress in economy and science. Such tasks include provision of control and communications resources to span the country, monitoring of all regions world wide, support for TV broadcasting, observation of Earth resources and weather, development of land cadasters, updating maps and charts, providing high-accuracy ground object positioning , weather forecasting, etc.
It was in no way accidental that our country was the first nation in the world to launch utility-focused space exploration. For many years Russia regarded its space program as a top priority pursuit, which was fully in sync with the nation's geopolitical interests.
By now all the world's leading powers have come to recognize their space-related interests and taken steps to radically boost their space activities. As many as 125 countries pursue their own space programs: over 20 nations possess sufficient capacities to singly develop and produce space technologies and send aloft satellites, using indigenous or leased launch vehicles.
As a matter of fact, the world has today begun to revise space-related spheres of influence, and the world power balance will to a large extent be effected by the outcome of this revision. Naturally, this is a spontaneous process where conflicting national interests would inevitably bound to clash, as had been seen so many times during the conquest of seas, oceans and the skies.
Above all, past mistakes must not be repeated, incipient rivalries be amicably managed and a military face-off in outer space must be prevented.
However, it should be emphasized that satellite information support serves as a major force multiplier to back up operations on land, sea and in the air, provides continued political and military stability in the world, and plays a crucial role in Russia's defense security.
Space assets are activated to handle a broad range of tasks in support of military operations: disclosing war threats in the earliest possible stage, verifying compliance with arms control agreements, providing dependable command, control and communications links, providing the country's leadership with timely and sound reports on the world scene. Space assets play a major role in deterring war and the use of nuclear forces. Space-based systems can augment the effectiveness of military operations from one and a half to two times.
The construction of the Russian mobile forces can hardly be achieved, unless the space-based assets are engaged on a broad scale, ground and naval elements are fully equipped with small-size top-of-the-line signal reception, control, observation, navigation, weather and other purpose-built support systems.
Only this approach can be applied to lift troops to armed conflict zones in orderly manner, deploy forces rapidly, and effectively commit them to action in all kinds of locations, particularly in areas not organized for battle in advance.
Space-based systems make a most substantive and maybe even determinant contribution to our country's information security. They provide a singular capability to create both global and regional information fields to collect, process and beam assorted signals to users, keep the people better informed and support mass media operations, etc. One of the major challenges is to put in place a single Russian information field, where space-based assets would certainly make key building blocks. The urgency of a task crucial to our country's security, has increased many times since.
Cosmonautics has consistently been and remains the principal thrust in our science and technology revolution, the driving force in ongoing research, engineering and production, thereby bolstering Russia's economic security.
Cosmonautics is just one area where Russia is known to have entered world markets with competitive hi-tech products. In view of this circumstance, the top-priority effort of developing space-based systems may most radically elevate Russia from the status of international supplier of raw materials and power-generating products to that of a hi-tech country with a totally restructured economy.
Orbits of international cooperation
Since the beginning of outer space exploration, our country has regarded international space projects as vital and generally welcomed undertakings, focused on supporting space research and application missions, underpinned by basic legal acts. The first major effort in this regard was the international Intercosmos program approved in 1967 to include the East European countries, Cuba, Mongolia and Vietnam, with the first mission lifting off from the Kapustin Yar missile range on October 14, 1969, to put in orbit the Intercosmos-1 satellite. Under the program, a total of more than 20 research satellites were launched and close to 10 joint manned space missions flown to visit the Salyut orbiting stations. The tasks of supporting spacecraft flight control, information gathering and communications sessions were directly handled by the MoD's space-related units (currently the Military Space Forces of Russia), which included hi-tech mission control stations of the land-based integrated network and ships of the dedicated sea-based command and measurement complex. The operating crews, working hand-in-hand with scientists and experts from the USSR, Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania and Mongolia, used to view their international assignments as top-priority government work. The information secured through numerous experiments in the fields of space physics, meteorology, communications, biology, medicine and Earth resources was made available to the Intercosmos member-countries.
It needs to be underscored that the Russian Military Space Forces (MSF), which include all domestic space launch systems and a good share of mission control assets, are an agency directly responsible for the execution of most international projects. Over the past decades the MSF units have been engaged to carry out over 70 international launches to place in orbit more than 50 satellites and close to 20 manned space craft, as well as to provide reliable ground-based mission monitoring and control throughout.
All of the international projects can not be reviewed in a short article, so I would like to highlight just the key events.
Concurrently with operations under the Intercosmos program, Russia's cooperative ventures with India and France were going at rather a brisk tempo.
In the period 1975-1981, the Indian research satellites Aryabhata and Bhaskara 1 & 2 were launched from the Kapustin Yar missile range, and then three more satellites, 1RS-1A (1988), IPS-1B (1991) and 1RS-1C ( 1995), were sent aloft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to support India's national interests. Russian-French cooperation started in +1966 with the signing of the intergovernmental agreement on supporting research and exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes. The French-developed and manufactured research and experimentation packages were carried by the Russian-built lunar rovers and the Oreol, Mars, Venera, Vega, Granat, Gamma and Phobos research satellites. Within 1972-1978, the French satellites MAS, MAS-2 and Sneg-3 were orbited by Russian LVs. The Salyut-6 space station cosmonauts used the French-built Citos-1 package to run the first-ever joint experiment in space biology. France's Jean-Loup Chretien was the first foreign cosmonaut to have visited and accomplished assignments aboard two Russian orbiting stations: the Salyut-7 in 1982 and the Mir in 1988. The Interball-1 spacecraft with an internationally developed research package aboard was launched last August from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. An effort is currently under way to launch new joint projects targeted at further research of near-Earth space and the planets of the solar system with the use of Russian-built satellites, the Mars-96 project being one such example.
It should be emphasized that superior dependability of Russia's space hardware provides international cooperation in the affairs of space. Overall, since the first satellite was placed into orbit on October 4, 1957, our country has performed almost 2,700 space-booster firings, with the 3,000-th spacecraft sent into orbit last September. The share of successful launches stands at nearly 93 per cent, which is a very a high rate.
The President and Government of the Russian Federation devote much of their attention to development of space technologies, related infrastructure, and growth of international ties in the area of ??space. In recent years, a number of crucially important legal documents have been issued to keep the Russian cosmonautics going. These are the Presidential Decrees on transferring the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (November 1994) and Svobodny Cosmodrome (March 1996) under responsibility of the Russian MSF, the Cosmodrome from Kazakhstan for a period of 20 years (December 1994). With the Russian Military Space Forces being appropriately involved, a number of agreements have been signed with CIS and other countries on improving business relationships, conducting joint space research and supporting customized space launches.
In this regard, a few words would be in order at this point to describe the operations of our space centers. Since the late 1980s, the Plesetsk Cosmodrome has increasingly attracted attention of international companies. The highly reliable and extremely competitive launches provided by the light and medium Cosmos, Tsyklon, Soyuz and Molniya LVs, as well as the top-notch expertise of the MSF's personnel furnish unmatched assurance of safe booster firings and returns of capsules with research pack ages. Since 1991 ðîêó, launches from Plesetsk have included the Meteor 2 & 3, Resurs-Fl and Foton satellites carrying the payloads provided by NASA (the U.S.A.), CNES (France), and Kaiser Threde GmbH (Germany). The Plesetsk Cosmodrome also became the first space center to support a new line of business arrangements in the area of ??international cooperation, with Russian satellites being orbited together with independently targetable sub-satellites from Italy, Germany, the United States, Sweden and the Czech Republic . At least two more subsatellites from the Czech Republic and Argentina are scheduled to be placed into orbit later this year. The United States and Russia are expected to proceed with their joint Bion-11 satellite-based biotechnology research program.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome continues to captivate most of the prospective international customers. Setting out on their voyages from this space port are Russia's renowned heavy Proton LVs and manned spacecraft. Since 1990, several international space missions to the Mir orbital station have been sent aloft from Baikonur, including astronauts from France, Japan, Great Britain, Austria, Germany and the United States. Contracted by U.S. Payload Systems and Boeing companies, the crews have con ducted a whole range of in-orbit experiments in biotechnology. The Russian MSF and the Khrunichev center are currently involved in preparing launches of the U.S.-built Astra-1F, Inmarsat-3, Tempo-1 and Iridium telecommunications satellites.
Joint manned missions have also been growing in scale. Today, cosmonauts from Russia and astronauts from the United States perform their tasks aboard the Mir orbital station, the crews transported by the Russian Soyuz-TM spacecraft and American space shuttle orbiters.
Building blocks for orbital station
Large-scale space structures used for deployment in space have increasingly been the focus of attention recently. They make the equipment that no space project can do without, either today or in the foreseeable future. The term, in fact, is used to describe separate elements and units of a spacecraft that arc too large to be placed into orbit assembled or whole, so they must be carried up as prefabricated kits or modules. Final assembly is completed in orbit.
There are several types of unfolding structures: pneumatic sections are forced to open up and remain in place by internal pressure; "Exotic" mechanisms are deployed, say, through the use of centrifugal forces; electrostatic contraptions are forced to acquire and keep the desired shape via electrostatic powers; and simpler mechanical structures, among others.
Large-sized inflatable structures are compact and light when stowed. However, their manufacturing techniques are extremely sophisticated, and they can be easily damaged by meteorite splinters or debris from space vehicles. Fortunately, this last weakness is surmountable through the newly-obtained capability to fill the inflated structures with a foaming and self-hardening composite upon deployment.
One "exotic" structure was tested during the February 1 993 Znamya experiment, which deployed a thin film reflector by use of centrifugal forces.
The most common constructors are mechanical structures that include assorted solar arrays designed for either automatic or manual deployment. The Mir space station's extra set of solar arrays is a current example. But there are other design solutions as well. In 1991 ðîêó, the Sofora experiment was conducted onboard the Mir orbital station. Within a total of 22 hours of extra-vehicular activities, cosmonauts Anatoly Artsebarsky and Sergei Krikalev had separate building elements joined and mounted on the Kvant module's body to produce a mast of 21 sections 14.5 meters long and 0.5 meters across.
The distinctive feature of the project was the utilization of newly-designed joints (made from titanium-nickel alloy pre-programmed to activate and lock into shape when heated) with guaranteed non-detachable connections. The couplings were heated with the use of a manual heater. As a result, it is proven that prefabricated elements could be manually put together in the course of a space voyage to build sturdy and dependable truss arrays. In September 1992 ðîêó, cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyov and Sergei Avdeyev attached to the Sofora assembly an external truster to augment Mir's roll control.
A totally new approach to building mechanical structures was tried out in the September òèñÿ÷à äåâ'ÿòñîò äåâ'ÿíîñòî òðè Rapana experiment. Cosmonauts Vassily Tsibliyev and Alexander Serebrov were faced with the task of deploying a packing into a 5-meter truss with the use of wire actuators attached to diagonal elements of the structural sections.
The wire actuators, fabricated from memory alloys pre-programmed to lock in shape when heated, were then energized. When heated, the wires "remembered" the shape determined by the developers and sprang into action to force the truss from stowed into operating position. The Rapana truss was employed to carry detachable boards holding experimental materials to be exposed to space environment effects.
This summer, Russian cosmonauts are scheduled to perform some truss unfolding and assembly tasks. First, Yuri Onufriyenko and Yuri Usachev will disconnect the Rapana truss, shift it, and attach it to the Sofora module. The spot thus vacated is expected to be occupied by the Strombus truss, which is to be unpacked and deployed. The new truss includes 8 diaphragms and 16 elements to make a frame of hinged sections. For the right bracing to be achieved, diagonal connecting rods are installed and then pin-locked. The fully assembled and deployed mast will be 6 meters long and between 0.47x0.55 meters across. The mast will remain in this position until further experiments on the Kvant module are prepared. A platform will be placed on top of the Strombus girder for future experimentation packages.
Currently, the truss is equipped with sensors to keep the mission control center informed via telemetry links about the temperatures that the truss sections are exposed to outside the space station.
The Rapana truss is expected to be joined with Strombus in 1997.
The experiment appears to be particularly significant because the trusses of this type are expected to be used to build new-generation orbital stations. The principal components of the planned international space station will be provided by the American-made large-sized carrying truss and the Russian-made space tug platform, expected to be outfitted with a system of solar arrays, scientific research equipment and other devices. These huge structures, measuring from 20 to 100 meters long and 2-3 meters across, are expected to be assembled from separate elements and modules.
Under one of the Russian Martian projects, the spacecraft is to be equipped with extra-large solar arrays measuring hundreds of meters in length. The compactly folded and stowed packs of solar elements will first be put in orbit where the cosmonauts can then assemble and fully deploy the solar arrays.
Solar arrays of power-generating units, parabolic reflectors and large-diameter antennas can also be called large deployable space-based structures. Prefabricated and deployable elements, designed to be assembled and provided with adequate encasing in outer space, are likely to be the key building blocks for construction of lunar or Martian bases. The large deployable space-based structures positively have a future.
A load of old Junk
When a London scrap merchant bought a car-breaking business recently he was astonished to find the fuselage of an old aeroplane lodged in the branches of a large tree overhanging the yard. As an aviation enthusiast he soon realised that his purchase included a huge bonus. A scrapped Blackburn B-2 biplane trainer had been hoisted in 1947 to get it out of the way of the yard's day-to-day work, which was crushing cars not aeroplanes.
Research revealed that only about 40 aircraft of this type - embodying an unusual side-by-side cockpit for instructor and pupil - had been built and that the skeleton in the tree was of a rare vintage aircraft. Now it is being restored to join the ranks of vintage civil and military aircraft which delight and thrill thousands of people at air shows all over Britain every year.
Discoveries like that of the òèñÿ÷à äåâ'ÿòñîò òðèäöÿòü òðè trainer in a tree are becoming less and less likely as the early days of aviation recede. The present day enthusiasts, or aviation archaeologists, as they are known, have become painstaking hunters of old aeroplane bones. Every spare part from the scene of an old crash is vital if the vintage aircraft are to be kept flying.
At the end of the last war nobody imagined that the aircraft would have any value for future generations. In a recent letter to the aviation archaeologists 'periodical "Fly Past" former corporal J. Bullivant recalls loading crates of Spitfires aboard an aircraft carrier in 1946 at Hongkong. On the homeward voyage the order was given to dump them overboard.
Hundreds of home-based Spitfires and Hurricanes were sent to air force main tenance units to be burnt. Some were used for firefighting practice. The only reason why there were any survivors was that a group captain who had fought in the Battle of Britain visited a maintenance unit and was horrified to discover what was taking place. He asked for a fighter to display as a gate guardian at his station. Other station commanders followed suit and 27 Spitfires were reprieved to serve retirement outside the main gates of RAF stations.
Later the RAF was glad of this initiative. As it ran out of spares for its Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft it began to cannibalise the gate guardians. A typical example is that of the Hurricane at the former Biggin Hill Battle of Britain airfield which was so badly robbed that a preservation group stepped in to restore it.
The restoration work has not been limited to Spitfires and Hurricanes. Last year's Farnborough show saw the magnificent restoration of a-de Havilland Comet Racer. In 1934 this plane was flown by C.W. Scott and T. Campbell Black in an air race from Mildenhall in England to Melbourne in Australia. The race was sponsored by the Australian chocolate manufacturer Sir Mcpherson Robertson and the two victorious pilots won a prize of ? 10,000.
This DH 88 Comet last flew in 1938 and in World War Two it was put out to grass. Now it has been rebuilt with the help of 40 companies, including Marconi which supplied the instruments.
Another big attraction at Air Shows is the only surviving British prototype de Havilland Mosquito, which is the Comet Racer's military descendant. This can be seen at the Mosquito Memorial Museum at Salisbury Hall, a seventeenth century moated manor house. It was here that Sir Geoffrey de Havilland hid his Mosquito design team just before the outbreak of war so that its members could work without being disturbed by Air Ministry officials who were not keen on the project. The prototype was built alongside the moat and flown out of an adjoining field after a farmer had reluctantly agreed to fell a tree and provide gaps in two hedges.
British Aerospace has one flying Mosquito, but most surviving World War Two aircraft in Britain are in static exhibitions, of which the most comprehensive is the RAF Museum at Hendon. One of the museum's most interesting exhibits is a Junkers 88 in its night fighter version. The aircraft, one of the first German air force night fighters to be equipped with radar, fell into British hands at a critical moment in the war, providing vital information. The pilot, after flying with the Condor Legion in the Spanish civil war and then in the Battle of Britain, had become disillusioned with the Nazi regime and on the 9th May 1943 he defected with his crew.
The RAF Museum, its Fleet Air Arm counterpart at Yeovilton in Somerset and the Mosquito Museum are all regarded as "musts" by British vintage aviation enthusiasts. A surprising number of them are so hooked on the hobby that they join annual package tour pilgrimages to the celebrated Confederate Air Base at Harlinger in Texas. This is the home of "the official air force of the state of Texas" and it is now rated as the fifteenth largest air force in the world. This air force of vintage planes was founded in 1957 when a bunch of crop-duster pilots got together.
Today the Confederate Air Force is run by ten elected colonels (hence its subtitle "the colonels 'air force") and has 7,000 commissioned officers and an army of technicians. Their enthusiasm is best summed up in the words of one of the technicians: "I get a great thrill in breaking fingernails to see the shine of 40-year-old aluminium".
Maintenance is the most essential factor in the world of vintage aviation. The hazards of flying elderly aircraft were demonstrated in a recent disaster in Britain in which 11 people were killed. They were flying a 1940's Vickers Varsity twin-engined trainer on the way to an air show.
But accidents are surprisingly few, which says much for the hours of care lavished on such aircraft as the gem found parked in a tree above the car breaker's scrapyard.
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