Cuba and the U.S. reached a bilateral arrangement on Dec. 16 to establish scheduled air services between the two countries. No timeline was give, but American Airlines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways are among the first U.S. carriers to say they will seek approval to begin services as soon as possible. U.S. law will still prohibit tourist travel to Cuba by American citizens.
China SouthernAirlines has committed to purchase 30 Boeing 737NGs and 50 737 MAXs, valued at $8.4 billion at list prices, and itsXiamen Airlinessubsidiary is to take 30 737 MAXs. Once firmed, thecomplex agreementwill see Boeing take back 13 757s, three 737-300s and certain spares, China Southern said, announcing its plans to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Dec. 17.
Egypt’s lead investigator for the Metrojet Airbus A321 accident says his committee has not received “information indicating unlawful interference” or a “terrorist act” in the Oct. 31. crash, contradicting assertions by Russia’s Federal Security Police that “a self-made explosive device equivalent to up to 1 kg of TNT” had been set off on board.
The U.K. government has delayed a long-awaited decision on the siting of a new runway to serve London until the summer of 2016. While agreeing with a three-year independent study on need for additional capacity, senior ministers said work should continue on all shortlisted options and not just the third Heathrow runway recommended by the study.
PT Dirgantara Indonesia (Indonesian Aerospace) rolled out the N219 19-seat utility transport on Dec. 10, the country’s first indigenously developed aircraft since the IPTN N250 50-seat regional turboprop, flown in 1995 but later canceled. Derived from the Airbus Military C-212, built in Indonesia as and NC212, the N219 is to fly in 2016, with production planned to begin in 2017.
Buyers and owners of unmanned and model aircraft weighing 0.55-55 lb. must register then beginning Dec. 21, when the FAA’s urgently created registration website goes live. New buyers must register their aircraft before flying outdoors, while existing owners have until Feb. 16, 2016, to register. The FAA will waive the $5 registration fee for 30 days.
Airbus Helicopters handed over the first on nine NH90 anti-submarine-warfare helicopters to Sweden on Dec. 17, five years behind schedule. Sweden does not expect to achieve full operational capability for up to five more years, because of challenges integrating the Saab tactical mission system into the European helicopter.
A Lockheed Martin-led team is to train Australian Defense Force pilots under an initial seven-year program valued at A$1.2 billion ($860 million), with options to extend for up to 25 years. Pilatus will provide PC-21 turboprop trainers, supported by Hawker Pacific. Lockheed trains Singaporean pilots on PC-21s in Australia. PC-21s are also used by Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.
Germany is to lead the definition phase for a European medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft to be fielded in 2025. Berlin will fund 31% of the €60 million ($65.4 million) effort, with Airbus in Germany as the prime contractor. France, Italy and Spain will each contribute 23% and Dassault, Finmeccanica and Airbus Military in Spain will participate.
U.S. Congress is expected to pass an omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2016 that buys 68 Lockheed Martin F-35s - 11 more than sought - and keeps Boeing’s Super Hornet production line alive with seven EA-18Gs and five F/A-18E/Fs the Pentagon did not request. The $572.7 million for the Defense Department also fully funds 12 Boeing KC-46A tankers.
France is extending flight tests of Europe’s Dassault-led Neuron unmanned combat aircraft demonstrator, following completion of the planned program in September in Sweden, as it continues work with the U.K. on the feasibility of an unmanned future combat air system. The U.K.’s BAE Systems Taranis demonstrator completed a third phase of flight tests in early December. See more about Neuron development and testing.
Korean Aerospace Industries, with Lockheed Martin, will flight test an upgraded T-50 beginning in 2016 aimed at the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer requirement, following its rollout in South Korea on Dec. 17. Modifications include in-flight refueling receptacle in a dorsal module, large-area cockpit displays and embedded training system.
Turbomeca has received European certification for the Arrius 2R engine powering the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X five-seat light helicopter. The first production engines have been shipped to Bell’s production facility in Lafayette, Louisiana. Certification of the 505 is expected in 2016, and Bell holds more than 350 letters of intent for the helicopter.
Honda Aircraft received FAA certification for the HondaJet light business jet on Dec. 9. Powered by two GE Honda HF120 turbofans mounted over the wing, the HondaJet flew for the first time in December 2003. Deliveries from the Greensboro, North Carolina, production line are to begin by the end of the 2015.
Thales Alenia Space is to build eight Ka-band communications satellites to expand O3B Network’s existing network of 12 spacecraft beginning early 2018. Weighing about 700 kb (1,500 lb.) each, the satellites will be placed in medium Earth orbit.
Congress plans to hike NASA’s fiscal 2016 budget to $19.285 billion, up $1.285 billion from 2015, to fund commercial crew vehicle and exploration upper stage development, a mission to study Jupiter’s moon Europa, a Landsat-9 Earth observation satellite. The omnibus spending bill expected to be passed by Congress includes a $70 million increase in aeronautics funding.
Thales Alenia Space has signed a €402 million ($438 million) European Space Agency contract to build the Sentinel-1C and -1D radar imaging satellites under Europe’s flagship Copernicus environmental monitoring and security program. Set for launch in 2021, the satellites will carry a C-band synthetic-aperture radar with a ground resolution of 5-25 meters.