Monday, 29 April 2013

Space Flight for the Common People: Branson's Dream becoming reality

Branson's Virgin Galactic Commercial Dream a step closer

MOJAVE, California, USA. » The spaceship bankrolled by British Music and Aviation tycoon Sir Richard Branson made its first powered flight today in a test that moves Virgin Galactic toward its goal of flying into space later this year.

While SpaceShipTwo remained sub-orbital and did not break out of the atmosphere during the test flight, it marked a significant milestone for Virgin Galactic, which intends to take passengers on suborbital joyrides.

During the early morning flight, SpaceShipTwo, strapped beneath a twin-fuselage jet, took off from an airport runway in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles. The jet released SpaceShipTwo, which ignited its engine for 16 seconds, then glided to a safe landing.

Until now, SpaceShipTwo has only performed unpowered glide flights. Several powered flights are planned this summer, culminating with a dash into space targeted toward the end of the year.

SpaceShipTwo is the commercial version of SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 became the first private manned rocket to reach space. Since the historic flight, more than 500 aspiring space tourists have paid US$200,000 or plunked down deposits, patiently waiting for a chance to float in weightlessness and view the Earth's curvature from 62 miles up.

Branson initially predicted commercial flights would begin in 2007, but a deadly explosion during ground testing and longer-than-expected test flights pushed the deadline back.

No date has been set for the first commercial flight from a custom-designed spaceport in New Mexico, but Virgin Galactic executives have said it will come after testing is complete and it secures approval from the government. Branson previously said the maiden passenger flight will carry his family.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Igor Sikorski and the Helicopter (Part 2)

Igor Sikorski's Helicopter firsts (Part 2)

  • 1939 VS-300 First single main rotor helicopter successfully produced in the World and literally set one World's Record after another with each flight .
  • 1940 Igor Sikorsky is awarded Connecticut Helicopter License No. 1 1941 VS-300 breaks the World helicopter endurance record, 1 hour, 32 minutes and 26.1 seconds
  • 1941 VS-300 fitted with rubber floats was the World's First practical amphibian helicopter

1942 XR-4 World's First production helicopter is delivered and this is the first cross-country flight of a helicopter in the United States
1943 R-4 First mass produced helicopter


  • 1943 R-4 First helicopter to land on a ship - Bunker Hill
  • 1944 R-4 First Combat Rescue using a helicopter piloted by Lieutenant Carter Harman

  • 1945 R-5 First helicopter equipped with armament
  • 1945 S-51 First Civilian Rescue using a helicopter piloted by Dimity "Jimmy" Viner


  • 1945 R-4 is the only helicopter to serve in World War II
  • 1947 S-51 piloted by Jimmy Viner performed the First Naval Rescue
  • 1948 S-51 First amphibious assault with a helicopter


  • 1949 S-52 established a World Helicopter Speed Record of 129.5 mph
  • 1949 S-52 First helicopter to perform a loop
  • 1949 S-52 World's first production helicopter with metal rotor blades
  • 1950 S-51 First helicopter to be equipped with a three-axis automatic flight-control system
  • 1950 S-51 holds all the World recognized international helicopter records
  • 1953 S-52 First turbine-powered helicopter

                                                                     USMC S-52s

  • 1951 S-55 First helicopter to retrieve an aircraft
  • 1952 S-55 First anti-submarine warfare helicopter
  • 1952 S-55 First helicopter to fly across the Atlantic Ocean establishing a World Record
  • 1952 S-55 First helicopter equipped with pre-tracked interchangeable rotor blades
  • 1953 S-55 is the only transport-type helicopter certified by the Civil Aeronautics Administration for commercial operations

                                                                        S 56 (CH-37C)


  • 1953 S-56 established World Speed and Altitude Records
  • 1953 S-56 First helicopter with automatic blade and tail folding
  • 1953 S-56 First helicopter with power-operated loading
  • 1955 S-56 First production twin-engine helicopter

                                                                                    S 56 Civilian

                                                                                 US Army S 56


                                                                       German S 58

  • 1956 S-58 First helicopter to use an automatic flight control system
  • 1956 S-58 First helicopter with automatic hover positioning system
  • 1957 S-58 was used by President Eisenhower to become the First American President to use a helicopter built specifically for his needs


                                                                 The Ampbibious S-62

  • 1958 S-62 First helicopter with a amphibious hull
  • 1958 S-61 First helicopter with energy-absorbing landing gear
  • 1958 S-61 First helicopter CAA certified for automatic stabilization
  • 1958 S-61 First helicopter with dipping sonar
  • 1959 S-58 The First helicopter to be used for power-line construction
  • 1959 S-60 First helicopter with aft-facing control station
  • 1959 S-61 World's largest amphibious helicopter
  • 1959 S-61 First helicopter that could both search out and destroy enemy submarines
  • 1960 S-62 made Los Angeles Airways the First carrier in the World to use a turbine engine helicopter
  • 1960 S-58 was the First helicopter to fire a radio-controlled missile
  • 1960 S-61L First helicopter designed specifically for airline use
  • 1960 S-55 First aerial recovery by helicopter of parachute
  • 1961 S-58 First helicopter to retrieve an U.S. astronaut, Commander Alan Shephard, America's First man in space
                                                          S 61
  • 1961 S-61L was the World's First Multi-turbine helicopter certified for passenger transport
  • 1961 S-61 made the fastest helicopter crossing of the  USy (average speed of 150 mph)
  • 1962 S-61 established a World helicopter speed record of 210.65 mph, This was the First time a helicopter traveled faster than 200 mph on a established course
  • 1962 S-61 established five helicopter World Speed Records

  • 1962 S-64 First production flying crane helicopter
  • 1962 S-64 First production helicopter with aft-facing control station
  • 1962 S-64 First helicopter with a fly-by-wire control system

  • 1964 S-65 First six-blade main rotor
  • 1964 S-65 First helicopter with a suction fuel system
  • 1964 S-65 First helicopter with a collective bias-droop compensation control

                                                                  S64 (HH-53)

  • 1965 RH-53D First production mine-countermeasures helicopter


  • 1965 S-61F First experimental compound helicopter with a full complement of aircraft control surfaces
  • 1965 S-61 First aerial refueling of a helicopter from a standard tanker airplane
  • 1965 S-61 Rotor-Prop First helicopter to demonstrate conversion of tail rotor to propeller
  • 1965 S-61 made the First nonstop, transcontinental, flight setting a World's record for distance of 2,105 miles
  • 1965 S-61N made the First transatlantic crossing by a commercial helicopter


  • 1965 S-64 claimed three World's Altitude Records
  • 1966 S-64 First helicopter with engine inlet particle separator 
  • 1968 S-65 First large helicopter to loop and roll
  • 1968 S-65 First titanium-spar rotor blade
  • 1969 S-65 First helicopter with an infrared suppressor system
  • 1970 S-65 First helicopter transpacific crossing

                                                                  S-67 Blackhawk


  • 1970 S-67 First prototype gunship with wings and dive brakes
  • 1970 S-67 set a World Speed Record
  • 1970 S-67 First helicopter with swept-tip rotor blades

  • 1971 S-70 First helicopter with a canted tail rotor
  • 1973 S-69 First to fly the Advancing Blade Concept (ABC)
  • 1973 S-70 First successful flight of an all composite, bearingless tail rotor

                                                                     S-70 Blackhawk

                                                            Australian S70 Blackhawk

  • 1973 CH-53E First three-engine helicopter
  • 1973 CH-53E First seven-blade main rotor helicopter

                                                            SH-53 Super Stallion



  • 1977 S-76 First helicopter designed for civil transportation
  • 1980 S-70 first helicopter qualified to fly into know moderate icing conditions
  • 1984 S-75 First all-composite airframe (ACAP)

                                                                        S-75 ACAP

  •  1985 First helicopter with single-pilot research cockpit, fly-by-wire, sidearm controls, voice interaction (SHADOW) 
  • The Sikorsky Helicopter Advanced Demonstrator and Operator Workload (SHADOW), 1985
  • A heavily modified S-76, with a highly advanced single-pilot cockpit grafted to the nose used to investigate the feasibility of producing a one-man helicopter that could do more than a two-man aircraft:
                       The Sikorsky Helicopter Advanced Demonstrator and Operator Workload (SHADOW), 1985

A heavily modified S-76, with a highly advanced single-pilot cockpit grafted to the nose used to investigate the feasibility of producing a one-man helicopter that could do more than a two-man aircraft


Friday, 19 April 2013

NZ Navy buys reject Aussie Seasprite Helicopters

NZ Navy buys SH2-G (I)  Seasprites rejected by Australia

Fairfax News:

The navy is to get eight new Seasprite helicopters that were originally built for the Australians but rejected by them.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said the Government had approved the purchase of the upgraded and expanded Seasprite helicopter fleet.

They will be bought from the United States company Kaman Aerospace for $242 million, which includes two spare airframes, a training simulator, missiles, and additional components.

"The Defence Force currently has five Seasprites which have been in service since the late 1990s and are due for replacement," Coleman said.

The new helicopters are an upgraded variant, the Seasprite SH-2G(I).

The larger fleet will allow helicopters to be placed on board the frigates Te Mana and Te Kaha as well as on the offshore patrol vessels and the multi-role HMNZS Canterbury, he said.

"These helicopters come with modernised sensor, weapons and flight-control systems and will be a major boost to our maritime surveillance and search capability," Coleman said.

"The helicopters will also ensure that our naval fleet is able to operate at its full potential."


The choppers have had a chequered past but the purchase is seen as a bargain on this side of the Tasman.

They were originally built for the Australian Defence Force, but in 2009 the Australian government cancelled the contract and decided not to introduce them into service after questions about their suitability for Australia's requirements.

"The New Zealand Defence Force and Ministry of Defence officials are acutely aware that the Australian government decided not to fully introduce these aircraft into service after concerns about a range of technical issues," Coleman said.

"As a consequence, the Ministry of Defence has invested considerable resources into examining all aspects of this project over the last two years.

"This included commissioning an independent study by Marinvent Corporation of Canada.

"Ministry of Defence officials have advised the government this aircraft will prove a very capable purchase, meet all of the New Zealand Defence Force's requirements, and can be introduced into service."

Based on that advice and after looking at other replacement options the Government approved the project.

"The replacement Seasprites will have a multiplier effect on the capability of the navy and what's more, the price is very good with alternative helicopter replacements costing three times the amount," Coleman said.

This was first reported in the media (Naval Technology in June 2012):

Kaman is set to begin negotiations with the New Zealand Government for the possible sale of 11 SH-2G(I) Super Seasprite helicopters to the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) following authorisation from the US Department of State.

The recent approval will allow New Zealand defence officials to seek better options for their future maritime helicopter requirements, although no investment decisions have been made yet by either party.
The possible sale includes a full motion flight simulator, training aids, spares inventory, publications and the introduction into service and through life support of the aircraft for the New Zealand Government.

The latest version of the multi-mission maritime helicopter of the SH-2G Super Seasprite, Kaman SH-2G(I) will boost New Zealand's vertical lift capabilities and replace its existing ageing SH-2G Seasprite helicopter fleet. In addition to providing exceptional performance and low operating costs, the SH-2G(I) aircraft will support the New Zealand Ministry's objective to enhance naval helicopter capabilities through to 2025.

Capable of operating from offshore patrol vessels, the new capability will also play a vital national role in extended reach, surveillance, and air-delivered weapons capabilities for the ANZAC frigates.

The SH-2G features fully-integrated, multi-mission maritime weapon system and has been designed to support anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), over the horizon targeting, surveillance, troop transport, vertical replenishment, search and rescue, as well as utility missions.

In May 2012, the RNZN conducted Kaman SH-2G Seasprite helicopter flight trials from its new Protector-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV), HMNZS Otago (P148) in the Hauraki Gulf and the Bay of Plenty areas.
The RNZN currently operates five SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopters.

In 1997, Australia signed an $A 667 million contract with Kaman to purchase 11 upgraded SH-2G (A) “Super Seasprites,” with modernized avionics. This compact helicopter design was thought to be well suited to operation from the RAN’s ANZAC Class frigates, and even from patrol boats with helicopter decks. The first helicopter was unveiled in 2003, but by 2005 up to 40 deficiencies had been identified including inability to operate in bad weather and low-light conditions, and inability to meet Australian airworthiness certification standards. Placing modern avionics into a 1960s air-frame proved challenging indeed; the helicopters were restricted to “passenger and supply transport in good weather” in 2005, then grounded in May 2006.


By 2007, the project was 6 years behind schedule, costs had risen over 50% to $A 1.1 billion (about $900 million) for 11 helicopters, and the program was being used as a case study in the Australian Defence College’s leadership and ethics course. It’s estimated that at least $A 45 million more and 29 months of work was be required to make them serviceable, with full operational status unlikely until at least 2010. In 2007, Australia’s Liberal Party government elected to continue the Super Seasprite program – but their successor Labor government reversed that decision, and come to an interesting agreement with Kaman. 

NZ has now purchased these aircraft from Kaman.

Original article and further info from Defence Industry Daily

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Igor Sikorsky and Helicopters: Anniversary of the first successful chopper flight

Igor Sikorsky and the helicopter: Happy birthday today ?
The Aircraft genius at work:

Heard on the radio today that it was the anniversary of Sikorsky's first successful helicopter flight. I've had a look at this extraordinary gentleman's history, and the history of the helicopter in general

                                                Sikorsky, Igor Ivan

The Russian-born scientist, engineer, pilot and entrepreneur made fixed and rotary wing aviation history with a mix of genius, determination and humanity. An established Russian aviation pioneer, arrived in New York or March 1919. His passport revealed he entered America to "construct aircraft". He made several attempts to re-enter aviation in his new country without success.

Airplanes and engines built for World War I were available at extremely low prices and aviation was described to him by some as a "dying industry". Soon his money was running out and he resorted to teaching Russian immigrants mathematics; later, astronomy and aviation lessons were included.

He also started to lecture to various groups which brought him in contact with people who shared his enthusiasm for aviation and convinced him to start his own aeronautical enterprise. March 5,1923, saw the creation of the Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation.

The company was dedicated to building the S-29A (Sikorsky type 29, America) and was based at fellow immigrant Victor Utgoff s farm near Roosevelt Field on Long Island, N.Y.

One biographer summarized that  Igor Sikorsky had three careers in aviation:

  • Constructing and flying fixed-wing aircraft in Russia, 
  • Constructing and flying fixed wing aircraft , including seaplanes in America, 
  • and helicopters, actually his first love. 


He was fascinated by science in general, and in many ways was a classical philosopher. It has been said that he was initially inspired by a Jules Verne novel as a very young boy

He passed away peacefully in his sleep in 1972 at the age of 83 after putting in a typical day at his office at Sikorsky Aircraft. Sikorsky Aircraft has a proud and rich history of aircraft design and construction dating to the early part of the last century, making it one of America's pioneering aerospace companies.

A list of Sikorsky's firsts:

In Russia:
1909 H-1, Constructed his First helicopter "This machine was a failure to the extent that it could not fly. In other respects it was a very important and necessary stepping stone."
1910 S-2, Igor Sikorsky Flew for the First time
1911 S-5, Igor's First pilot license issued from the Imperial Aero Club of Russia
1912 S-6A won First place in the Moscow Aircraft Competition, pilot Igor Sikorsky
1913 S-9 First monocoque fuselage constructed in Russia
1913 S-10 establish a Russian Aviation Record flying 500 kilometers in 4 hrs and 56 min
1913 S-12 First Russian aircraft capable of a loop
1913 S-12 Established a Russian Altitude Record of 3,680m
1913 Igor Sikorsky flew the S-21 "Grand" the World's First successful four-engine plane
1913 S-21 set a World's Record for duration and literally set one World's Record after another for a four-engine plane with each fligh
1913 S-10 & S-11 won First and Second place in the Petrograd Military Competition
1914 S-27 set two World Records for payload and flight duration
1914 S-27 with pontoons was the largest seaplane built in the World
1916 S-27G with 880 horsepower was the largest plane produced in the World


1923 Igor founded Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation
1924 S-29A First twin-engine airplane capable of flying on one engine and First all metal aircraft

1925 S-29A World's First airplane to broadcast a radio musical program in-flight
1926 S-29A World's First airplane to show a motion picture in-flight
1929 S-37 First airplane to fly over the Andes Mountains
1929 S-38 Used in pioneering Central and South American air routes by Pan American Airways
1929 S-38 Piloted by Charles Lindbergh inaugurated air mail service between the US and Panama
1931 S-40 "American Clipper" was the Worlds largest airliner produced

1934 S-42 First production aircraft with wing flaps: allowed high flight speeds and low landing speeds.
1934 S-42 Established ten World Records, of which eight were set on one flight. This flight of August 1st vaulted the United States into First place holder of World Aviation Records

1935 S-42 First transoceanic air service, flying the first airmail from Honolulu to the mainland.
1937 S-42 made the First regular airline crossing of the North Atlantic Ocean and pioneered the transpacific route to Asia
1936 S-43 Established four World Altitude Records

1937 S-44 (XPBS-1) long range bomber first flown August 13, 1937. It had a max range of 4,000 miles and superior performance but lost out to a lower cost competitor.
1942 VS-44 Civilian version of the S-44 first flew in January 1942. It was the wold's longest range commercial aircraft and the only aircraft to have flown commercial scheduled non-stop across the north and south Atlantic. This was the last fixed wing aircraft built by Sikorsky.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

RNZAF replaces Iroquois with NH90 -Operational Testing


The Bell Iroquois has been in RNZAF service since 1966. As early as the 1980s the RNZAF considered upgrade options for the Iroquois, but these were not pursued.

Bell Iroquois

The Iroquois’ performance limitations during operations in East Timor between 1999 and 2002 reinforced the need for urgent action.
The Eurocopter NZ NH90s from Marignane, France has been selected as its replacement

RNZAF maintenance staff and aircrew have completed training at the manufacturer’s facilities in France, and commenced Operational Testing and Evaluation (OT&E) will begin. This lengthy process is required to ensure that the equipment that has been purchased is ready to undertake the roles, tasks and missions that Government require. The completion of OT&E will see the NH90 MUH take its place in the NZDF which has been so proudly reserved for the Iroquois for over 40 years.

NATO Helicopter Industries (NHI).

Full interoperability with NATO and European forces.
Selected by 8 European countries with 305 firm orders. It has been delivered from 2004 in Europe.

Power Plant:
Two Rolls-Royce Turbomecca RTM 322-01/9 turbine engines, each producing 2,227 SHP (continuous).
19.56m (rotors turning).
4.62m (fuselage and stabilator).
5.23m (rotors turning).
Basic Weight:
7000 kg (approx).
Max Weight:
10,600kg, can be extend to 11, 000kg in certain operational situations.
Max Underslung Load:
4,000 kg.
Max Speed:
300kph (164 Kts).
Cruising Speed:
260 kph (140 kts).

2035 kgs (internal), two 500kg external fuel tanks, one 400kg internal aux fuel tank and provision for Hover In-Flight Refuelling (HIFR).
Typical Performance:
Range 780km (420 nm) with internal fuel, range 1260km (680 nm) with aux fuel and endurance 4.45 hours on internal fuel.
Two pilots and one or two Helicopter Crewmen (HCM).
Nineteen passengers. Eighteen troops in light order (allowing for door gunners) or 12 troops with packs and equipment. Up to 9 stretchers plus medical staff and palletised cargo.
Two inertial nav units with embedded GPS.
One radar altimeter,
One doppler velocity sensor,
Two air data systems and one ADF and two multi-mode receivers (VOR, ILS, DME).

Digital intercom.
Three ARC 210 RT-1851c V/UHF radios (one with MILSATCOM) with military encryption,
One Wulfsberg RT-5000 V/UHF radio with civil encryption,
One HF-9000 HF radio,
One RSC-125G Personal Locator and one TSC 2000-2 IFF.
Role Equipment:
Goodrich twin electric rescue hoist,
Cargo hook,
Removable ballistic armour for cockpit and cabin and
Fast roping/rappelling system.
Two FN Herstal MAG 58 machine guns (7.62mm).
Four axis fly-by-wire system,
Digital cockpit with multi-function displays,
Electric rear ramp,
Auxiliary power unit (APU),
Folding main rotor blades and tail boom,
Enhanced ground proximity warning system,
Voice and flight data recording system,
Weather radar,
Digital moving map display and
Electronic self-protection system (laser, radar, and missile warning, chaff/flare dispenser).
Provision for future incorporation of:
Piloting FLIR and helmet mounted display system

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