Category Archives: Aviation

Beautiful Video of The Only Two Flying B-29s Together For The First Time

First B-29 Formation in Over 50 Years Gets Airborne at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

For the first time since the early 1960’s when they were retired from U.S. Air Force service, two Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers flew together in formation at the AirVenture Airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The two aircraft, “Fifi”, aircraft number N529B and “Doc”, aircraft N69972, took to the air in formation at Oshkosh on Tuesday of this week. They were accompanied by a camera aircraft and a B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bomber.

One of thousands of aviation enthusiasts and pilots at Oshkosh who witnessed the first formation flight, Ethan Jones, told TheAviationist.com, “It was jaw dropping. Being able to witness this flight was a moment many have been waiting for.” Jones traveled across the U.S. along with his wife for AirVenture. “We wanted to be surrounded with like-minded people for a week and see why they call EAA AirVenture Oshkosh ‘The Greatest Aviation Celebration’”.

Both of the B-29’s in Tuesday’s historic “reunion” flight have fascinating histories.

The B-29 aircraft number N529B named “Fifi” has been an attraction at airshows in the U.S. for a number of years. “Fifi” was purchased from surplus in 1971 and flew again for the first time in August of that year. It took another three years to restore her to certified flight status. In 2006 “Fifi” was grounded to begin replacement of her historically problematic Wright R-3350 Cyclone engines. Throughout the operational history of the B-29 the engines required frequent maintenance and were prone to problems including fires. “Fifi” received new engines pieced together from more advanced versions of the R-3350 over three years finishing up in 2010. The re-engining project cost an estimated $3 million USD. She returned to flight following the re-engining and has been an airshow headliner ever since.

B-29 aircraft number N69972, named “Doc”, is the newer arrival to the only two flying B-29’s in the world. “Doc” is from Boeing’s Wichita, Kansas factory and was built in 1944. He was never flown in combat. The aircraft was purchased from an aviation museum by a private non-profit in 2013. The non-profit returned the aircraft to flight status on July 17, 2016 when it made its first flight in 60 years. Prior to his purchase and restoration “Doc” had sat in outdoor desert storage on the way to being used as a target for years.

The B-29 Superfortress made history as the only aircraft to deliver operational nuclear strikes. Two B-29’s, the “Enola Gay” and “Bock’s Car” dropped single nuclear weapons on Japanese targets Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, 1945 toward the conclusion of WWII. Both of those nuclear strike aircraft are preserved in museums. The nuclear attacks were intended to force Japan to surrender and avoid a U.S. invasion of Japanese islands that was projected to result in over a half million casualties according to U.S. estimates at the time.

The B-29 Superfortress featured major technical innovations including pressurized crew compartments and a remotely controlled defensive gun system. A pressurized tunnel ran from the forward section of the aircraft to the aft section over the bomb bay. Unlike the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, its predecessor, the B-29 Superfortress uses a modern, heavy-duty tricycle landing gear system.

The eight-day Air Venture airshow at Oshkosh concludes this weekend. “Fifi” and “Doc” are scheduled to fly one more demonstration sortie together at the show before they resume their individual airshow appearances for the rest of the season.

The B-29 “Fifi” was previously the only flying example. She was joined over Oshkosh by the more recently airworthy “Doc” for the first time this week. (Photo: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

Top image: Top aviation photographer Scott Slocum captured this remarkable portrait of “Fifi” and “Doc”, the only flying B-29’s in the world, in formation for the first time for EAA – The Spirit of Aviation. (Credit: EAA/Scott Slocum)

 

Commercial Pilot Catches Remarkable Photos of Alleged Secret Chinese Anti-Missile Test

Alleged Chinese ABM Test Coincides with North Korean Ballistic Missile Test.

A commercial pilot flying a Cargolux 747 from Hong Kong to Baku has shot photos of what is believed to be a secret Chinese anti-ballistic missile test.

Flying over the Himalayas on July 22nd the flight crew saw a series of unusual lights and vapor trails climb into the night sky. Photographer, blogger and commercial pilot Christiaan van Heijst of the Netherlands shot the photos seen here. They were posted to his own blog, JPCVANHEIJST.COM

The alleged Chinese test is noteworthy because it is so close to the North Korean ballistic missile test over the Pacific confirmed by the United States today. China has not commented on the photos or verified any testing operations.

“What started unexpectedly with an unusual bright spot on the horizon quickly changed into a droplet-shaped bubble that rapidly grew in size and altitude.” First Officer Van Heijst wrote on his own personal blog published today.

Normally missile tests and space launches are well documented in international NOTAMs or “Notices To Airmen” via a number of media outlets used by commercial and military flight crews and air traffic control. It is important information since it not only avoids the extremely remote possibility that an aircraft may be hit by part of a vehicle used in a launch test

“It came as a total surprise for us and the only thing we found in the NOTAMs for our route was a ‘temporarily restricted airspace’ with a 100km radius somewhere south of Urumqi in north-west China with no mention of the nature of the closure, let alone a possible rocket/missile launch.”

One French language media outlet, EastPendulum.com, reported that the launch photographed by First Officer Van Heijst may have been a test of the Chinese Dong-Feng-21 or DF-21, an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM).

One Chinese website, “liuqiankktt.blog.163.com”, showed additional photos of the event from the ground. The images are consistent with the appearance of a launch vehicle test.

This photo of the test was shot by a Chinese blogger from the ground. (Photo: liuqiankktt.com)

Until China confirms the specifics of the launch or other intelligence outlets provide more detailed analysis it will difficult to understand exactly what happened over China and what its purpose was.

First Officer Christiaan Van Heijst went on to write on his blog:

“The entire event took no more than 12 minutes, from first spotting the bright light to the last dissipating glowing spots in the sky. My knowledge of hypersonic shock waves and the behavior of exhaust gasses in the upper atmosphere is extremely limited, but looking at the photos it seems to me that there have been two rocket stages burning after each other in succession. Taking into account that the Chinese suffered a catastrophic launch of a Long March 5 exactly 3 weeks earlier, it might be logical to assume this was a test-flight of another rocket in a relatively remote area of China with little to no witnesses. Except a Dutch pilot and a camera that they might not have counted on.”

We do know that Cargolux First Officer Christiaan Van Heijst’s photos of the event are truly remarkable and his reporting on the event is greatly appreciated.

Top image credit: Christiaan Van Heijst

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Video Shows Three Canadair CL-415 “Water Bomber” Aircraft Picking Up Water Together During Firefighting Mission In France

Watch This Pretty Unusual Footage.

The video below was filmed at Cagnes-sur-Mer, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France.

It shows three Canadair CL-415 water bomber aircraft involved in a firefighting mission near the picturesque French Riviera town on Jul. 24, 2017. Whilst “Superscooper” planes are constantly supporting firefighting operations across the world for decades it’s at least unusual to see three water bomber planes scoop up water from the sea at the same time.

The aircraft in the footage below (filmed by Amine Abid) belong to the fleet of the French Sécurité Civile that operates a fleet of more than a dozen CL-415, a type of amphibious aircraft developed to deliver massive quantities of suppressant in quick response to fires.

The firefighting mission is undoubtedly one of the most hazardous for pilots. The very low altitude, the smoke that reduces visibility, winds causing turbulence, the large concentration of aircraft in the same area, the generally abrupt topography and the need of perform several fill-drop cycles in a short time make the water bomber role particularly risky. You can find several videos on the Internet showing the CL-415s cooperatively working against forest fires: however, you will hardly find anything like three water bombers performing a water pick-up in close sequence as shown in this pretty cool video.

 

H/T @mehdiAA for the heads-up

 

Popular U.S. Airshow Pilot Vlado Lenoch Killed in P-51 Crash with Passenger

Lifelong Aviator’s Fatal Accident is Third P-51 Crash This Month.

Talented and widely admired airshow pilot Vlado Lenoch and airport manager Bethany Root died in the crash of a P-51D Mustang at about 10:15 a.m. Sunday Jul. 16, 2017, in Atchison County, Kansas after departing the Amelia Earhart Airport at approximately 10:00 AM.

Vlado Lenoch was 64 and his passenger Bethany Root was 34 years old.

Lenoch was an experienced demonstration, instructor and commercial pilot who began flying in 1970 when he was 17 years old. He was type-rated on many aircraft and served as an instructor pilot for Boeing on the 747. His most recent role was as a corporate pilot flying the Cessna Citation. Lenoch was married with three children.

Bethany Root was noted for her love of aviation that extended well beyond her role as an airport manager at the Amelia Earhart Airport where Sunday’s flight originated.

A lifelong aviator, Lenoch was the consummate pilot, instructor and airshow performer.
(Photo: TheAviationist.com)

This is the third accident involving a P-51 Mustang in July following two accidents at the Flying Legends Airshow in Duxford, England.

One aircraft, the P-51B named “Berlin Express” with a Malcolm Hood canopy design adopted on early version P-51’s for enhanced visibility prior to the bubble-canopy P-51D, suffered a canopy failure during a high-speed pass. The canopy disintegrated and pilot Nick Grey recovered the aircraft without further incident. The aircraft had been flown by Lee Lauderback across the Atlantic prior to the accident. This P-51 was famous for chasing a German Bf-109G around the Eiffel Tower in Paris during WWII before shooting it down.

The second P-51 accident at Duxford was a P-51D named “Miss Velma” that made an emergency belly landing in a field near the airport after witnesses reported “A loud bang” coming from the aircraft on final approach to landing. The aircraft sustained substantial damage but the pilot was uninjured. Ironically, when the aircraft was being transported away from the scene on a trailer following the crash on a flatbed trailer its right wingtip struck the post of a road sign causing further damage.

Vlado Lenoch was a Heritage Flight Certified pilot who flew in formation with active USAF aircraft like this F-35 And F-22. (Photo: TheAviationist.com)

 

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Cybersecurity In The Sky: Internet of Things Capabilities Making Aircraft More Exposed To Cyber Threats Than Ever Before

The rise of IoT (Internet Of Things) could become a security nightmare for aviation. We spoke with an expert about the dangers associated with bringing military and civil aircraft “online”.

The Internet of things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices equipped with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects (referred to as “connected things”) to collect and exchange data.

Almost every device that is able to connect to the Internet can be considered as a “connected thing”: smartphones,  wearables, personal computers, refrigerators, smart meters, cars, buildings and, why not, aircraft can be considered IoT devices that communicate with one another. Smart homes are enabled by IoT devices. Just think to this scenario: a user arrives home and his car autonomously communicates with the garage to open the door. The thermostat is already adjusted to his preferred temperature, due to sensing his proximity. He walks through his door as it unlocks in response to his smart phone or RFID implant. The home’s lighting is adjusted to lower intensity and his chosen color for relaxing, as his pacemaker data indicates that it’s been a stressful day.

Based on some recent estimates, there will be about 30 Billion devices connected to the IoT by 2020.

What is somehow worrisome about the proliferation of IoT devices is the fact that most of these are poorly protected and hackable. Between September and October 2016, a botnet made of hundreds thousands under-secured IoT devices (mainly CCTV cameras) was used to perform one of the largest distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks ever: a malware dubbed “Mirai” identified vulnerable IoT devices and turned these networked devices into remotely controlled “bots” that could be used as part of a botnet in large-scale network attacks. On Oct. 21, the so-called “Mirai IoT botnet” remotely instructed 100,000 devices to target the DNS services of DNS service provider Dyn. As a result much of America’s internet was brought down by the cyber-attack, because it prevent the accessibility of several high-profile websites.

Now, imagine for a moment, that these attacks involved or were aimed at connected airplanes.

“Soon, thousands of sensors will be embedded in each aircraft, allowing data to be streamed down to the ground in real-time. And who knows, in time, this could drive the ubiquitous black box to become simply a backup device!” said Aviation Week in an article last year.

Indeed, an aircraft can leverage IoT capabilities to proactively identify maintenance issues and place orders for replacement parts and ground maintenance crew while cruising, so that, when it lands, everything is already in place and ready to be fixed, without affecting the optempo. This is, for instance, what the F-35’s ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System) does: ALIS (pronounced “Alice”) uses sensors embedded throughout the aircraft to detect performance, compare to parameters, use sophisticated analytics to predict maintenance needs, and then communicate with maintenance staff so that the right parts are ready when needed. ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide. In this respect the F-35 is said to be on the IoT’s cutting edge.

Maintenance information aside, the F-35 is surely the largest data collection and sharing platform ever produced, or the Number #1 IoT Device that can collect intelligence and battlefield data from several sensors and share it in real time with other assets as well as commanders.

The F-35 is an example of the extent of interconnection 5th Gen. warplanes feature. To complete missions in denied airspace, pilots need a way to share information securely, without revealing their location to enemy forces. The F-35 has incorporated Northrop Grumman’s MADL into its missions systems to provide pilots with the ability to connect with other planes and automatically share situational awareness data between fighter aircraft. The MADL is a high-data-rate, directional communications link that allows for the secure transmission of coordinated tactics and engagement for 5th Generation aircraft operating in high-threat environments. The MADL is one of 27 different waveforms in the F-35’s communication, navigation and identification (CNI) suite.

With IoT capabilities becoming pivotal to the world of military and civil aviation, connected aircraft could soon become the next target for cyber criminals or cyber enemies.

We have asked a couple of questions about the risk the IoT poses to aviation to Tom Hardin, research lead at G2 Crowd, a peer-to-peer, business software review platform.

Q) What’s the relation between IoT and Aviation?

A) The combination of IoT and aviation is intriguing on a variety of levels. As ‘things’ have become more connected, from wearables to self-driving cars, we now have access to massive amounts of new data points. All of this data can not only help us understand consumers better, but can potentially provide actionable intelligence on the business operations side. An example is tracking the movement of a product throughout a particular supply chain, storing data on production, delivery, and maintenance, that ultimately leads to more predictive and intelligent workflows.

Connecting IoT to commercial aviation, the concept of massive data storage capabilities leading to better analytics, maintenance, and the operation of aircraft could potentially offer significant benefits. Having real-time access to all data points during a flight, such as engine performance, weather analysis, pilot monitoring, etc., could help mechanical engineers create more efficient engines, allow operators to provide more accurate weather forecasts, and aid pilots’ health (and the safety of passengers).

In terms of military aviation, IoT would provide the same potential benefits experienced by commercial airlines, but applied more directly to combat strategies and tactical support. With all of the data gathered through an IoT-connected military aircraft, weapons system, or ground vehicle, missions could be planned with a greater level of intelligence and more effective strategy. Machine learning also plays a role here, as a system can be trained to make real-time decisions, helping collect intelligence faster and identify key threats quicker. For example, sensors on a military aircraft could potentially pick-up a mission-critical piece of information, and instead on that data point being missed or slowly relayed to troops on the ground, it is analyzed and communicated in real-time, allowing for a tactical shift that could increase the mission’s odds of success (and save more lives).

Q) What kind of risks do the above scenarios imply? Are there signs an aircraft or an airport will soon become a battlefield for cyberterrorism or cyberwar?

A) Although there are clear benefits to using IoT for military purposes, there are also serious dangers. Possibly the biggest threat of all is dealing with cyber criminals and hacking. With IoT connected military planes compiling sensitive data, hackers could potentially gain access to strategic information such as the location of troops or detailed mission plans. Even more frightening is the prospect that a hacker could gain access to an aircraft’s control system and weaponry, similar to drone hacks, and use it against the enemy. This type of breach could lead to acts of remote terrorism, which is truly a terrifying thought.

In terms of establishing a timeline on when all of this would be possible, it’s difficult to speculate. My feeling is that it is closer than most of us think. And with DDoS attacks continuing to be an issue, IoT security across industries needs to address the potential for massive data breaches or hostile takeovers.

With all of the potential benefits and security issues with IoT, aviation is something we need to keep an eye on. With the amount of terrorist attacks involving airplanes and airports in recent memory, the threat of a cyberterrorist attack involving a connected aircraft, especially if it is equipped with military-grade weaponry, could be catastrophic. And though hacking into the control system of a plane is likely incredibly complex, security concerns over IoT remain, leaving us to ponder the state if our increasingly connected world.

Hackers have already been targeting modern aircraft made of millions lines of code (with the F-35, the world’s most advanced, “software-based” aircraft at the top of the target list), for years now. IoT capabilities will simply expand the attack surface making next generation aircraft possibly more exposed to hacking than ever before.

Disclaimer: the F-35 is extensively mentioned in this article just because it is most interconnected combat aircraft to date and its Condition-Based Maintenance is considered a clear example of IoT Application in the military.

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