Bjorn’s Corner; The Russian civil aircraft companies

By Bjorn FehrmSeptember 16, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: In our Corners on East bloc aeronautical industries, we will now look at the main Russian civil aircraft companies. There is one overall company since 2006, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).

This is a state-owned holding which incorporates 30 of the main companies from the Soviet times, employing 100,000 people. The aim is to coordinate and optimize Russia’s project and production resources around the present aircraft and the future projects that Russia can afford to drive.

Figure 1. Map of UAC Companies in Russia outside of Moscow region. Red markers are MRO. Source: UAC.

UAC consolidates several company groups that were formed after the fall of the Soviet Union 1990 and up to the formation of UAC in February 2006.

We will now dissect the main UAC groups and companies that are involved in civil aircraft development and production. Read more

Bjorn’s Corner: East bloc aeronautical industries

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

September 09, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: The Western world civil aeronautical industry developed a number of new aircraft (Boeing 787, Airbus A350, Bombardier CSeries, Mitsubishi’s MRJ) or aircraft variants (A320neo, 737 MAX, A330neo, Embraer’s E-Jet E2) during the last 15 years. The last of these projects (A330neo) is entering flight tests within six months.

MC21-300 image

Figure 1. The MC-21 project is reviving the Russian aeronautical industry. Source: UAC.

Over the next 10 years there will be few new Western hemisphere aircraft projects. But there will be action in the east, in Russia and China. We therefore will cover these projects in more and more articles.

To give a background to these articles, I will spend some Corners to describe some of the differences between the Western and Eastern aeronautical industry. A lot of these differences will come from the industry’s history. We will start with Russia’s airframe industry. Read more

Bjorn’s Corner: Aeronautical greats

By Bjorn Fehrm

September02, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: One of our aeronautical greats, Joe Sutter, left us this week. He’s one of the characters in aeronautics that I admire for his capability to find what is the right thing to do, take the tough decision and fight it through.

747 early concepts_

Figure 1. Early concepts for Boeing 747. Source: Goggle images.

Sutter was the chief engineer for the Boeing 747 project that found that the original idea of stacking two 707s on top of each other, Figure 1, was wrong and instead took the long route to explain what was the right way to go, dual aisle and 10 abreast. Read more

Bjorn’s Corner: A good in-service start for CSeries

By Bjorn FehrmAugust 26, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Bombardier’s CSeries appears to have a good start in airline operations following its show-and-tell at the Farnborough Air Show in July. The first CS100 entered service with launch customer SWISS International Airlines shortly after the international event wrapped up. The aircraft has now been in service a month.

At the show I was on my way to a meeting with Rob Dewar, CSeries VP and Program manager to discuss the expected in service reliability of the CSeries, starting service with SWISS at the end of the week. I was a bit early and decided to use the time to pass the CS100 exhibition aircraft, the first series CS100 for SWISS. It was flown there by a SWISS crew earlier in the week.


Figure 1. C Series first serial aircraft flying in regular service for SWISS. Source: Bombardier.

The SWISS pilots were preparing for the trip home to Zurich as I entered the cockpit. We had time to talk about the aircraft and their expectations for the first revenue flight in two days, on Friday, the 15thof July. Read more

Bjorn’s Corner: LED runway lighting causes problems

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

August 19, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: I described in my Corner from 5th of August how a forward looking IR camera could add Enhanced Vision capabilities to a pilot’s tools for safe landings. The camera can pick up the infrared heat radiation from temperature differences in the nature down to a tenth of a degree. It can therefore see things that the naked eye can’t see.

Figure 1 is from a trail that FedEx did before equipping several of its freighters with Enhanced Vision Systems. The Infrared camera (right) can clearly see all heat-emitting objects around the runway, including the fields; the naked eye looking through the cockpit window (left) can’t see anything.

Enhanced Vision

Figure 1. Naked eye (left) versus IR camera (right) when landing on a foggy day. Source: FedEx presentation.

This all works fine as long as the landing and runway lights emit heat, i.e., are standard incandescent types. But these are now replaced more and more with LED lights where there is no heat and therefore no appearance on the Enhanced Vision!

Will Enhanced Vision crumble before it took off? Luckily there is a solution. Read more

Bjorn’s corner; Runway safety systems

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

August 11, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: I recently wrote about the need for Synthetic Vision and other aids to increase the situational awareness of commercial pilots. I asked the OEMs what their plans were for such aids.

One OEM answered that the system will take time until it gets offered as the additional training for the pilots to use the system is not popular with the airlines. It’s hard to monetize a concrete operational benefit for Synthetic Vision systems.


Figure 1. Embraer’s E190-E2 currently under flight test. Source: Embraer.

I have now got a slightly different answer from Embraer. Here is what they say. Read more

Bjorn’s Corner: Enhanced Vision


By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

August 05, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Last week we described Synthetic Vision and discussed why it hasn’t got its breakthrough yet. If we would have taken things chronologically, we should have started with Enhanced Vision systems.

Once again Gulfstream Business jets was the first to introduce Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) into service. In 2001 it was certified as an option to the Gulfstream’s flight deck, using an infrared camera to generate a picture of what happens in front of the aircraft when visibility is bad, Figure 1.


Figure 1. Gulfstream Business Jet with Enhanced Vision IR camera. Source: Gulfstream.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Synthetic Vision

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

29July 2016, ©. Leeham Co: In last week’s Corner we discussed the power of the eye versus other senses of the human body. If one provides the eye with a convincing visual scenario, it can override many other senses that tell the brain another story.

When flying in bad weather, there is nothing in the human body that helps us to say which is up or down. Gravity should do it, you say, with the inner ears balance organ and the bums pressure situation telling us if we are up or down. Not so sure! It is very easy to slowly enter a yawing downward spiral which produces a perfect 1G force straight downwards in the aircraft, telling our brain we are doing just fine.

Birds can’t fly in clouds for the same reason we can’t, at least not without aids. The standard aid is the artificial horizon, Figure 1.

Horizon free

Figure 1. An aircraft’s artificial horizon. Source: Sensorworks Android phone app

I choose the picture because it shows the problem with an artificial horizon well. Tell me what is happening in the picture? The orange bits in the middle is the aircraft. Is the horizon leaning to the right or the aircraft to the left?

One can gradually intellectually understand that a horizon does not lean so the aircraft is rolling left. But it is not a very intuitive tool to understand what is happening. Let’s now see what happens when we make the horizon more real.  Read more

Bjorn’s Corner: Flight simulators

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

22 July 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Last week at the Farnborough Air Show I had the chance to try three flight simulators: The MC-21 airliner simulator, the SAAB Gripen fighter simulator and a special simulator for testing some new 3D synthetic vision ideas for a future avionics system. I’ve now tried some dozen different aircraft simulators of different generations, not counting the PC-based ones.

The simulators were different types. Some were fixed with displays that wrapped around and covered the peripheral vision like the Irkut MC-21 and SAAB Gripen ones. Others were full motion with complete surround vision display like the Airbus A350 simulator that I trained in ahead of flying A350 MSN002 last April, Figure 1. A third type were closed full motion simulators that lacked a vision system.

A350 simulator

Figure 1. Airbus full motion A350 simulator in Toulouse. Source: LNC

Compared with the very advanced Airbus simulator, I was surprised how realistic it felt with the simpler fixed simulators I tried last week. It made me wonder why.

Read more

Bjorn’s corner: Farnborough week

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

July 15, 2016, ©. Leeham Co, Farnborough Air Show: We have been at Farnborough Air Show this week, the highlight of the year for an aircraft geek like me. This year there were several interesting aircraft that visited the show for the first time.

Embraer brought over the brand new first prototype of the E-jet 190-E2 and the prototype of their military transporter, the KC-390. Bombardier had their first customer/production CS100 from Swiss to visit the show in addition to their Flight Test Vehicle (FTV) no 5. And Lockheed Martin had the F35B, the vertical landing version, come and hover over the airfield the days that were reasonably rain free in the afternoon.

One thing is clear with the new generation of Single Aisle aircraft: their high bypass engines dominate the visual appearance. Figure 1 shows the 73 inch version of the Pratt & Whitney GTF on the E190-E2 prototype. Huge diameter engine on a not so huge diameter aircraft.


Figure 1. The prototype E190-E2 with its Pratt & Whitney GTF engine on the Farnborough apron. LNC photo.

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