With fuel representing the lion’s share of a business aircraft’s operating costs–up to 70 percent according to some calculations–reducing the cost of fuel purchases remains one of the most salient ways for an operator to save money. With today’s more efficient, longer-range aircraft, operators can take advantage of differences in regional fuel pricing more often by topping off their tanks where fuel is cheaper, to the extent that increased burn penalty allows.
British air-to-air refueling service provider AirTanker has provided, on time, all nine Voyagers (Airbus A330MRTTs) that make up the “core” fleet providing service to the UK Royal Air Force (RAF). They have replaced the RAF’s aging VC10 and TriStar tankers. One of them is now engaged on the type’s first “no-notice” operation—the refueling of RAF Tornados flying strike missions over Iraq.
The threat of renewed U.S. government budget sequestration in FY2016 loomed large at this week’s U.S. Air Force Association (AFA) conference and exposition. Nevertheless, Air Force leadership seemed confident that they could protect their top-priority procurements: the F-35 stealth fighter, KC-46 tanker and the long-range strike bomber (LRS-B). This same week, the U.S. Congress passed a continuing resolution to enable uninterrupted spending on operations and procurement from October 1, the start of FY2015. A definitive National Defense Authorization (NDA) for FY2015 is not expected until January.
Fuelerlinx has partnered with Denmark-based flight-planning engine Aviation Cloud to enhance the multi-leg fuel-tankering calculator function in its subscription fuel-pricing service. The company previously had a rudimentary system in place that based its calculations solely on Great Circle routing and took no account of winds aloft. Since fuel represents the majority–as much as 70 percent–of a business aircraft’s operating costs, carefully planned fuel tankering can help lower these costs.
Embraer Defense and Security is on course to complete the first prototype of the KC-390 tactical airlifter/tanker in time for it to make its first flight before the end of the year. At the specially built assembly site at Gavião Pexoto the fuselage of the first aircraft has already been partly painted in the colors of the Brazilian air force, which is the lead customer for the aircraft. The second aircraft is also in final assembly, and is scheduled to fly soon after the first machine.
Perhaps best known for its inflight refueling heritage, technology group Cobham offers a wide portfolio of aviation-related products and services. One field in which the company specializes is communications, and it is presenting three of its latest systems in the Farnborough Airshow’s Innovation Zone (Hall 4/IZ Stand A2).
Airbus Defence and Space Military Aircraft (Outdoor Exhibit 13) has announced that it will begin deliveries of an improved version of the A330 multi-role tanker transport in late 2017. The initial A330 MRTT Enhanced aircraft will be the first of six that were ordered by Singapore earlier this year. Subsequent production aircraft will all be of the new version.
Boeing is targeting the third quarter for the maiden flight of a 767-2C “provisioned freighter” that will become one of the first U.S. Air Force KC-46A aerial refueling tankers. The company acknowledged encountering what it described as typical issues in the tanker’s development, and that it slipped an internal goal to fly the aircraft for the first time in June.
Although India already operates two types of airborne early warning aircraft, the air force is pressing ahead with a program to procure a third platform with extended range, longer endurance and higher operational altitude performance.
The UK Royal Air Force retired its four remaining Lockheed TriStar tanker/transports on schedule this week, as the replacement fleet of Airbus A330-MRTTs grows. Seven of these aircraft, known as the Voyager in RAF service and provided under contract by AirTanker, have now been delivered. Two more are slated to to be handed over by the end of June.
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