“While the results of the portfolio review, started in April, remain to be seen, the Coast Guard has not given up on gaining new equipment. Obama administration officials are looking at transferring at least 14 newly built Finmeccanica C-27J transports from the Air Force, which has controversially declared them “excess” to its needs. As CRS reported, if the Coast Guard were to receive 14 or more C-27s, it could stop procurement of EADS HC-144A maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) at the halfway point, with 18 aircraft, saving $887 million.”
already in 2010, the US Coast Guard decided to place orders for the HC-144A aircraft directly to EADS by-passing the former lead systems integrator Integrated Coast Guard Systems which first contracted to Lockheed Martin for which EADS acted as a subcontractor.
The rationale behind was the potential saving of up to 800M$ in acquisition costs (not buying the remaining 18 out of 36 aircraft which originally made up the Deepwater program) and getting some 14 C-27J instead…
as if there was a single C-27J operated as a Maritime Patrol Aircraft in the World (there is none),
as if the “excess” transport C-27J aircraft coming from the Us Air Force were already equipped with the above-mentioned FITS (which they are not, and the cost of this integration would be nothing close to the recurring cost for the HC-144A that the USCG now acquires as there would be an inherent non-recurring cost to integrate the systems package into a new platform),
as if the C-27J shared the same logistic systems and chain as the already acquired 18 HC-144A (which it doesn’t),
as if the C-27 was not a platform that had been three times discarded by the US Air Force:
If I were an US Congressman looking for savings across the US Armed Services, I would have it clear: instead of interfering with sound acquisition programs, I would simply get those C-27Js already acquired, send a couple of them to museums and the rest to The Boneyard in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, to lay there forever close to their older brothers the C-27As and avoid any cost-ineffective operating and maintenance expenses on them…
The only cost-effective C-27s are in the desert (or already scrapped).
Few weeks ago I was talking to a stress engineer from Eurocopter Spain about the different activities they performed. He was looking forward to the future work in relation to the latest EC 175, a helicopter built in cooperation with China for civilian and parapublic markets, mainly to support oil and gas exploration and search and rescue missions.
“At last we’re back to metal structures…”
He mentioned this in relation to apparent problems given by composites ones in their use in helicopters. This reminded me of a teacher (at engineering school) and former (very senior) colleague at Airbus Military, who was never seduced by the massive application of composites and he always called for their introduction following his mantra:
“Technology (in the context of application of science), is the most powerful means to increase the effectiveness-to-cost ratio.”
Which not always calls for the use of the latest technology available.
PZL (Państwowe Zakłady Lotnicze – State Aviation Works) was the main aircraft manufacturer in Poland. With the fall of communism, the company was divided and some years ago Airbus Military acquired for EADS part of it, which since then is called EADS PZL.
This week I visited EADS PZL facilities both in Warsaw (where they produce C-295 outer wings, most of Airbus Military electrical harnesses, PZL-130 Orlik trainer airplane…) and Mielec (where the aviation services unit is located) in which was my first visit to Poland ever.
Frankly, I found Warsaw a quite nice place to live even though we could visit the old town only by night. We especially liked the couple of good restaurants we visited: Fukier (apparently the restaurant of choice of Felipe Gonzalez, Madeleine Albright, Naomi Campbell and us, of course) and U Kucharcy (where traditional Polish food is cooked in between the tables where customers are seated).
EADS PZL ZUA, the aviation services unit in the South of Poland (Mielec) operates dozens of aircraft in fire fighting and agriculture missions in places ranging from Sudan, Iran, Egypt, Chile… This unit is made up of a different class of people; adventurous pilots and mechanics that learn a language in few weeks and off they go to their next assignment in another corner of the world living by the aircraft in tents at ad-hoc built “bases” close to forests. Enjoy this video of a PZL M-18 Dromader in a demonstration flight:
I loved this visit. It was impressive to see the tens of Antonov 2 and PZL Dromaders, and we were offered a flight around the skies of Mielec in a Piper Seneca V, which I had the chance of piloting for a while.
To my fellow EADS workers: if you have the chance of spending some time working for PZL, do not doubt it, go for it.
Last time I went to the night disco “Kapital” was some years ago, yesterday I went again as my company, Airbus Military, organized a private party for its engineers (with about 1,000 people attending) to celebrate the recent certifications of the A330 MRTT (multi role tanker transport) and the C-295 anti-submarine warfare (ASW).
“Madam, if a thing is possible, consider it done; the impossible? That will be done”, this quote from Charles Alexandre, vicomte de Calonne, was used by Javier Matallanos, Airbus Military Senior Vice President of Programmes, to describe what it is being done at the company in the last years. As he stated, we, in Airbus Military, have launched recently the first air-to-air refuelling aircraft in the history of Europe and the only anti-submarine warfare aircraft in the last 40 years in Europe (he quoted the only other European attempt, UK’s Nimrod, which has ended in a cancellation as I posted some months ago, the previous programme is the Breguet Atlantic).
Both Matallanos and Miguel Angel Morell, SVP of Engineering and Technology, thanked families and partners of Airbus Military workers for their continuous support: “be proud of your partners, please, know that they are exceptional people as they are used to do the impossible and these examples (MRTT and ASW) we are celebrating today are only two of the many we could give account”.
Finally, even though at the time of the speeches the presence of the CEO of the company, Domingo Ureña, was excused due to personal reasons (aside of closing the A400M negotiation in the same day), the CEO indeed appeared at about 23:00 as we saw him at the fifth floor.
My kudos to the person who had the idea of organizing this event and to the ones carrying it forward. I look forward to some more initiatives like this in the future.
Airbus Military completed on July 22nd in Getafe (Spain) one of the most extreme cases of its A400M structural tests: the maximum wing up bending until reaching the ultimate load, defined as 150% the most extreme load the plane is expected to experience while in service.
Some months ago, another development aircraft the Boeing 787 achieved the same.
Even though, the loads that A400M will experience in service will be higher than those that the 787 will face and thus the ones tested in each case were consequently different, see the difference in the flexion of each wing.
As engineers working in military developments will never be tired of explaining: a military aircraft is a completely different animal, not just a civil one painted in military camouflage.