Monthly Archives: May 2009

Push back from the tractor operator's point of view

A few weeks ago, Des Barker sent me the following interesting pictures showing the impact of a civilian plane with a tractor. The text of the email explained that on Jan 1, 2009, “after pushback from the gate in LA, the pilot throttled up to taxi before the tractor and bar were disconnected”.

The images let me think how dangerous, some normal airport activities, can be, so I asked to my friend Giovanni Maduli, who works at Rome Fiumicino airport, to explain how the push back of an aircraft takes place. This is what he explained:
“Even if the push back is performed using different kind of tractors, the main rules remain the same. Using both the tractor that “catches” the nose wheel gear or the one with the push back towbar, the first thing to do is to insert the “NOSE GEAR LOCKPIN”. This pin acts on the valve that inhibits pressure to the nose gear. Then the steering height must be checked so as to avoid the tractor from impacting and damaging the landing gear doors. Some aircraft have a “red stripe on nosewheel doors” marking.
During the push, the towing tractor can’t exceed the maximum steer radius and speeds; should the safety pin break, there would be a loss of directional control. The ramp operator and the crew in the cockpit must be in radio contact: via headseat, by means of the aircraft’s interphone system; or by means of walkie-talkies. Any emergency or problem must be immediately notified on the radio. Two operators use the towbar tractors model Fresia, with the help of a ramp technician: one operator seats on the back of the tractor (on the opposite side of the driver) to help this latter whose visibility is obstructed by the aircraft when it is angled by 45° to be aligned with the taxiway’s centerline and can’t check for any obstacle. With the other kind of tractor, the “Kalmar”, the push back is easier since the nose gear is directly connected to the tractor and not by means of a tow bar. This kind of tractor requires a single operator (the driver). The “Fresia” model towbar tractor requires much more attention. The push back can’t be performed if there are more than 50% of the engines at IDLE. A series of safety bolts, that must be checked before the hook up, prevent the bar from stressing the nose gear structure. The bolts are calibrated to sustain an amount of stress that does not damage the gear. When the bolts break, a quick reaction of the ramp operator is required to prevent any injury or damage to the aircraft.
When the push back is completed and the aircraft is on the taxiway’s centerline, the pilot radios the “Parking Brakes On” to the ramp operator, who gives the driver the clearance to disengage the tractor. Radio contact between the ramp operator and the cockpit must be kept until the tractor is outside of the aircraft cleared taxi route”.

Rome Urbe airport – LIRU – 01.05.09

On May 1, Giovanni Maduli went to Urbe airport, in the Northern part of Rome, to take pictures of the small general aviation aircraft departing or arriving on runway 16/34 (3543 x 98 ft / 1079.9 x 29.9 m). The airport was opened to the civil traffic as Aeroporto del Littorio in 1928 and in the ’30s it was the base of the Ala Littoria, the first Italian flagship comany. The airport hosted also a race track, known as the Autodromo del Littorio, where the 1931 and 1932 editions of the Rome Royal Grand Prix were held. Nowadays, along with private aircraft and many small civilian companies and schools, the Urbe airport hosts a base of the Corpo Forestale dello Stato (CFS, Italian Forestry Service), an Armed Corps operating under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, whose COA (Centro Operativo Aeromobili, Aircraft Operative Center), headquartered inside the airport, manages a fleet of 12 NH500, 18 AB-412, 4 Erickson S-64F and 3 AW-109N used for fire-fighting, early spotting of wildfires, coordination of other aircraft or fire-fighting teams on the ground

Alitalia B767 in SkyTeam livery

The folllowing pictures taken at Rome Fiumicino airport show the Alitalia B767-300 “EI-DBP” wearing the new SkyTeam colour scheme. The livery, is inspired to the alliance logo and it is made by a silver fuselage with a dark blue tail with the SkyTeam logo in white. Between the wing and the tail there’s large dark blue “lace” slighlty angled (goes from top to bottom). In the forward part of the fuselage, between the cockpit and the leading edge of the wings, above the row of windows there’s a large “SKYTEAM” text in blue; below the first windows there’s the tri-coloured “Alitalia” text.

F-104 profiles and artworks

Ugo Crisponi is a famous Italian illustrator who manages the AVIATIONGRAPHIC.COM, a guild of Aviation Artists & Illustrators offering more than 1.500 Squadron Prints, Lithographs, Illustrations and Aviation Art. Most of them are official lithos expressely made for U.S. Air Force, U.S. NAVY, U.S. MARINE CORPS, Luftwaffe, KLU, HEER, AMI, and lots of other Squadrons and Airborne Law Enforcement Units worldwide, from Italian State Police to Sacramento Police Department, Dutch Aviation Police, Italian Carabinieri Nuclei Elicotteri, Calgary Police Air Services, Gainesville Police Department, etc. Ugo designed the following collection of profiles that are particularly interesting since they show different colour schemes, configurations and markings of the F-104 G, S, ASA and ASA-M of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF).  They are useful for both modelers, historians and Starfighter enthusiasts.  Each profile has a corresponding artwork (or ” Squadron print”) that contains information of the depicted Squadron. The collection of F-104 prints, courtesy of Aviation Graphic, is available at the following page:

Latest news from Alenia Aeronautica

On May 14, 2009, Alenia Aermacchi M-346 “Master” made its first three ship formation flight. The 1 hours flight was performed by the two prototypes and LRIP00, representative of the series production configuratiAlenia Aeronauticaon. Pictures of the event were taken by the M-311 aircraft that acted as camera ship in an air-to-air photo session. Alenia Aermacchi is proceeding with the last M-346 development activities and is fitting out the new hangar dedicated to the automated build-up and structural assembly lines for series production at a rate of 18-24 aircraft annually, which can be increased in case of specific needs. Thanks to the extremely advanced and automated industrialization process, Alenia Aermacchi will be able to address effectively the market demand for trainers aimed at pilots of 4th and 5th generation combat aircraft. Presently the M-346 “Master” has been chosen for a total of more than 60 aircraft and there are going to be other commercial opportunities through the participation to important international bids.

On May 19, 2009, Alenia Aeronautica announced the last important achievement of its C-27J Spartan, the best
selling tactical transport aircraft worldwide: the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) has reached 5.000 flight hours on the aircraft. In order to celebrate the event the aircraft MM62225 “46-90” was painted with 5.000 special markings.
Since Jan. 11 2007, when the first aircraft was taken on charge by the 46^ Brigata Aerea at Pisa, 11 of the 12 C-27Js ordered by the ItAF have been delivered to replace the G.222s. The aircraft is quite different from its predecessors (the G.222 and the US version dubbed C-27A) since it is equipped with highly improved avionics, self-protection suite, two HUD (Head-Up Displays) and refueling probe. During the first two years of service, 15 crews have been qualified on the aircraft. In the near future the training and qualification capabilities of the 46^ Brigata will be enhanced with the advanced training system that will include a full-motion flight simulator similar to that of the C-130J that has been operating at Pisa since 2004.

The following artworks (G.222, C-27A, C-27J) are a courtesy of Ugo Crisponi of Aviation Graphic

If you want to read my C-27J flight report, with many pictures click here: Acrobatic flight with the C-27J

The following background information were provided by Alenia in a press release:
A total of 121 C-27J aircraft have been ordered by the air forces of Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, Morocco, U.S. Army and Air Force, and has also been selected by the Slovakian Air Force. The C-27J is a twin-engine turboprop tactical transport aircraft with state-of-the-art technology, avionics, propulsion and systems; it demonstrates superior performance over its competitors in all weather conditions, cost effectiveness, extreme operating flexibility and it is the only aircraft of its class offering interoperability with heavier airlifters. The C-27J is capable of performing many missions such as transport of troops, goods and medicines; logistical re-supply; MEDEVAC airdrop operations; paratroopers’ launches, humanitarian assistance and missions in support of homeland security. The C-27J is equipped with advanced avionics and engines (two Rolls Royce AE2100-D2, which guarantee 4,650 SHP power); and, thanks to a loading system perfectly compatible with that of the C-130 family aircraft, the C-27J Spartan can carry pallets weighing up to 4,700 Kg at altitudes up to 2,20 metres. The design of the avionics system is totally redundant to increase mission security and reliability, permits the aircraft to operate in any weather condition and in any operational scenario. The excellent design and performance of these systems result in a low workload for the pilots. The C-27J is able to take-off from and land on unprepared strips of less than 500 metres, with a maximum take-off weight of 30,500 kg; the aircraft can transport up to 60 equipped soldiers or up to 46 paratroopers; and, in the air-ambulance configuration, the C-27J is also able to transport 36 stretchers and six medical attendants.
The big cargo cross section (2,60 metres in height and 3,33 metres in width) together with the high floor strength (cargo capacity of 4,900 Kg/m), allow the transport of intact heavy military equipment of large dimensions. The C-27J can, for example, carry the engines of both combat and transport aircraft like the C-130, Eurofighter, the F-16 and the Mirage 2000 directly on their respective engine dollies without any additional support. The C-27J is designed, developed and tested as a true military aircraft following military standards to ensure the robustness, dependability, and performance of the aircraft. The C-27J has obtained both the Military Qualification Certificate as well as certification from the Civil Aviation Authority certifying that it is airworthy according to civil standards.