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Flight Safety Information


Curt Lewis and Associates, LLC Newsletter

TopFlight Safety Information


May 20, 2020 - No. 101


In This Issue


Mil Mi-8 - Fatal Accident (Russia)

FAA to Reform Aircraft Review Process Following 737 Max Disasters

Lax safety led to fatal medical air crash, investigators say

FAA to mandate new safety management tools for airplane manufacturers

Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) study on satellite navigation

Real-time runway monitoring: ICAO's new global reporting standard

Qatar Airways flight attendants to wear hazmat suits on flights

Thai government approves national airline bankruptcy proceedings

American Airlines looking to 'right-size' the company and staffing levels for the fall and 2021

Lufthansa expects hundreds of aircraft to be grounded until 2022

Airlines could soon be firing thousands of pilots

Starr Gate Insurance App Debuts for Renter Pilots

United Airlines Set To Remove Seats From Regional Jets

Russia's Su-57 Stealth Fighter Could Soon Have a Robot in the Cockpit

Etihad makes 1st known commercial flight between UAE, Israel


Online - Human Factors & CRM Courses

Today's Photo

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Mil Mi-8 - Fatal Accident (Russia)




20:00 LT


Mil Mi-8


Russian Air Force


C/n / msn:


Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3

Other fatalities:


Aircraft damage:



20 km from Klin, Moscow region -Russia




Departure airport:

Destination airport:

A Mi-8 helicopter on a training flight crashed 20 kilometers from Klin, Moscow region.

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FAA to Reform Aircraft Review Process Following 737 Max Disasters

The agency will better oversee changes made in-house by plane manufacturers.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday outlined a series of changes to the way it reviews aircraft designs, responding to criticism directed at the agency following a pair of Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737 Max crashes that killed more than 300.

The agency is responding to a panel review conducted in January that highlighted areas for improvement. Specifically, the FAA has come under criticism for its practice of giving Boeing and other planemakers responsibility and authority to review design changes.

Investigations into the 737 Max crashes have raised questions about Boeing's culture, and put the FAA's processes under a microscope. While there are undoubtably areas for improvement, the FAA's report highlights just how difficult a task the regulator has when reviewing complex new aircraft systems that are constantly being modified.

In the case of the 737 Max, it's the system that was at fault. The plane's MCAS stabilization system was initially reviewed by FAA experts, but later additions and modifications to the system were reviewed and approved in-house by Boeing.

Both the initial report and the FAA's response conclude that it is all but impossible for the FAA to approve every change to every line of software code. Nevertheless, the agency said it will implement changes to the way the in-house approvals are managed and overseen and to "systemically address any actual undue pressure" on engineers to cut corners.

It's also hard for the FAA to act unilaterally, given the global nature of the aircraft business and the airlines to which Boeing and other planemakers sell. The agency said that many of the changes it is seeking to make in the review process will require coordination with international partners.

"International engagement and collaboration are integral to these themes and recommendations, given the global nature of industry and aviation safety," the agency wrote. "We must improve the sharing of knowledge and information to advance global aviation safety. In addition to regular dialogue, we will work with international partners to better understand human factors from a global framework and develop comprehensive standards and means of compliance."

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Lax safety led to fatal medical air crash, investigators say

Federal investigators say a lax safety culture led to the crash of a medical helicopter last year in snowy weather in Ohio that killed three people

WASHINGTON -- A lax safety culture at an air ambulance company led to the crash of a medical helicopter last year in snowy weather in Ohio that killed three people, federal investigators said Tuesday.

Survival Flight's "inadequate management of safety" led the pilot to depart in deteriorating conditions. The helicopter was heading from one hospital to another to pick up a patient in January 2019 without a thorough pre-flight weather evaluation, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

All three occupants - pilot, flight nurse and flight paramedic - were killed in the crash in rugged terrain about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of Columbus.

"This accident was all but invited by the actions and culture of Survival Flight," NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we have seen yet another case of how a poor safety culture can lead to tragedy."

The safety board made six recommendations for changes at the company including revising flight risk assessment procedures "including procedures for determining prior flight refusals by another helicopter air ambulance operator and forecast en route weather."

Ryan Stubenrauch, a spokesperson for Survival Flight of Batesville, Arkansas, called the accident "a tragedy that took the lives of three brave people who'd dedicated themselves to saving others."

"We're learning from this tragedy and have already completed five of the NTSB's six recommendations with ongoing work on the final recommendation," Stubenrauch said in a written statement. "Survival Flight will continue to learn, improve and adapt as a company in order to better serve our communities and save lives."

The Bell 407 helicopter, which wasn't supposed to operate in low-visibility conditions, made a sharp turn after encountering the second of two bands of snow showers - probably as the pilot tried to gain visibility, investigators said -- but failed to maintain altitude and hit trees before going down near the tiny community of Zaleski.

Killed were pilot Jennifer Topper, 34, of Sunbury, Ohio; and flight nurses Bradley Haynes, 48, of London, Ohio, and Rachel Cunningham, 33, of Galloway, Ohio.

Two other companies had opted not to accept the assignment over concerns about the weather that day, authorities said, but the pilot didn't know that and didn't know about potential bad weather along the planned route.

Current and former Survival Flight employees told investigators there was pressure from managers to operate flights in challenging conditions and to take flights other operators declined because of poor weather, the safety board said.

Survival Flight pilots and operations staff routinely failed to comply with pre-flight risk assessment procedures because such noncompliance had become "'normalized' by Survival Flight's deficient safety culture," the board said.

Stubenrauch declined to comment on those assertions.

The board also faulted the Federal Aviation Administration's oversight of the company's risk management program and said it had repeatedly urged that all on-demand aircraft operators, including helicopter air ambulances, be required to have formal programs and procedures to manage safety risks. An email seeking comment was sent to an FAA representative.

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FAA to mandate new safety management tools for airplane manufacturers

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday it will require Boeing Co and other aircraft manufacturers to adopt new safety management tools in the wake of two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people.

The announcement that the FAA will begin the regulatory process to mandate Safety Management Systems in response to recommendations was released in January by an expert panel. The panel named by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao did not back ending the long-standing practice of delegating some certification tasks to aircraft manufacturers. Boeing grounded its entire 737 Max fleet after an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed in March 2019.

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Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) study on satellite navigation services provision in the Africa and Indian Ocean region takes a major step forward

The definition study for the satellite-based augmentation system "SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean" took a major step forward, with validation of the system's architecture and geographic coverage. This marked a major milestone in the development of this system designed by Thales Alenia Space (, the joint company between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), within the scope of the preliminary design study (phase B) contract signed in February 2019 with the Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA).

The ASECNA programme "SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean" is based on the European EGNOS programme [1]. In line with the ASECNA's strategic plan, this program aims to enhance navigation and surveillance operations for all phases of flight, thus providing a significant and sustainable improvement in flight safety and efficiency over the African continent.

Planned from 2022, these services will be used to augment the positioning accuracy provided by current satellite navigation constellations, including GPS and Galileo. The new system will improve accuracy to within a meter, while also boosting the integrity, availability and continuity of safety-related applications. In addition to aviation, it will benefit land, sea and rail transport in post Covid-19 changing environment, as supporting user safety, cost-effectiveness and sustainable development. In addition to defining the system's architecture to support these SBAS services, the study will provide ASECNA and its member States a clear view of the development, deployment and operation of the "SBAS for Africa and the Indian Ocean".

This study is being carried out jointly by ASECNA and Thales Alenia Space, with funding from the European Union, as part of an ambitious programme to develop the aviation sector in Africa. Set for completion by the end of the year, it also includes the provision of a pre-operational service, along with field demonstrations of how to use the service in conjunction with partner airlines. Thales Alenia Space has now completed acceptance testing of the demonstrator, which will subsequently be deployed at various sites.

ASECNA is an International public organisation. Its main mission is to provide air navigation services within an airspace of 16,500,000 square kilometers, divided into six flight information regions (F.I.R) as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ASECNA also develops solutions for airport management, aviation infrastructure studies and construction, equipment maintenance, calibration of air navigation instruments and training for civil aviation staff. Its 18 Member States are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, France, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Togo.

About Thales Alenia Space:
Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space ( delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies' Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 2.15 billion euros in 2019 and has around 7,700 employees in nine countries.

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Real-time runway monitoring: ICAO's new global reporting standard

Later this year, airport operators will be required to assess and report runway conditions using a new methodology developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Here is a look at what compliance might mean for hubs, as well as some of the challenges around implementation.

As of November, all airport operators will be required to monitor their runways more closely using a new standardised methodology.

Developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the package, known as the global reporting format (GRF), is aimed at harmonising the assessment and reporting of runway conditions.

Along with controlled flight into terrain (an accident in which a plane under a pilot's control is unintentionally flown into the ground, a mountain, water or obstacle) and loss of control in-flight, runway safety is one of ICAO's top three safety priorities.

Runway excursions - incidents in which aircraft veer off the landing strip, either on take-off or landing - are a particular concern. In February, a flight operated by a budget Turkish carrier Pegasus Airlines slipped off a wet runway at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport on landing, killing three passengers and injuring scores of others onboard.

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Qatar Airways flight attendants to wear hazmat suits on flights

Flight attendants with Qatar Airways will wear disposable hazmat suits, safety googles, gloves and masks over their uniforms to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, the airline announced this week.

The safety measures coincide with efforts to limit crew members' interactions with passengers, who will be required to wear masks on board starting May 25.

Passengers in business class will have the option of hitting the "Do not disturb" sign if they want to limit contact. And meals in business class will be served on a tray, instead of the usual table setup, and cutlery will come wrapped.

Bottles of hand sanitizer will also be made available in galleys for crew members and passengers.

Cabin crew have been wearing the personal protective equipment for weeks now, the airline said. Crew members have received training on preventing the spread of COVID-19 and are thermally screened before and after flights.

"As an airline, we maintain the highest possible hygiene standards to ensure that we can fly people home safely during this time and provide even greater reassurance that safety is our number one priority," said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.

Other airlines including Philippines Airlines and AirAsia are also requiring their crew to wear PPE.

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Thai government approves national airline bankruptcy proceedings

Thai Airways had been suffering due to competition from budget airlines and bloated costs before the coronavirus crisis.

Thailand's cabinet approved a plan to restructure troubled Thai Airways International Pcl's finances through a bankruptcy court, the Southeast Asian country's prime minister said on Tuesday.

The plan for a court-led restructuring of the national carrier replaces a previous proposal of a government-funded rescue package that was heavily criticised in the country.

The state-controlled airline's troubles are the latest example of how the coronavirus pandemic is crippling the global airline industry.

Colombia's Avianca Holdings SA and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd have filed for bankruptcy protection since the pandemic broke out.

Airlines around the world have grounded the bulk of their capacity due to government directives and border restrictions.

Thai Airways, though, had been in trouble even before the outbreak of the coronavirus due to stiff competition from budget airlines and bloated costs.

It posted losses every year after 2012, except in 2016. In 2019, it reported losses of 12.04 billion baht ($377.3m).

"The government has reviewed all dimensions ... we have decided to petition for restructuring and not let Thai Airways go bankrupt. The airline will continue to operate," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters at a news briefing. "Thai Airways will be protected by the courts .... and a professional will be appointed to oversee the restructuring," Prayuth said, adding the airline's workers will continue to have jobs.

Thai Airways said the plan will be implemented through the Central Bankruptcy Court and it would operate as usual as the restructuring took place.

"Thai Airways will not be dissolved or go into liquidation or be declared bankrupt," Thai Airways Acting President Chakkrit Parapuntakul said in a statement.

Operations including passenger and cargo transportation will continue in parallel with the plan, he said.

Thai Airways shares surged 11.7 percent on Tuesday, but are still down by about a third this year.

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American Airlines looking to 'right-size' the company and staffing levels for the fall and 2021

With demand slowly returning for the key summer travel months, airlines are trying to figure out how to shrink to meet demand.

American Airlines will need to "right-size" the company heading into fall and 2021 as it deals with the continuing damage to air travel from the COVID-19 pandemic, chief financial officer Derek Kerr told an investor conference Tuesday.

Looking at several more months of depressed leisure travel and a longer recovery for business customers, Kerr said "everything that we do from a cost perspective is under review at this point in time," including future staffing.

"What we have to do is we have to right-size the airline from a cost perspective, to make sure that what we find next year is cash positive," Kerr said. "We are going to look at all of this staffing in the fall, all the staffing next year."

The return of the "right-size" term signals how airlines are going to cut down on massive costs with a fraction of the customers they had a year ago. Its use was common in the industry during the Great Recession and was synonymous with layoffs, pay cuts and slashed benefits.

In recent weeks, leaders at Irish carrier Ryanair and Colombia's Avianca have said they will need to "right-size" their airlines to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn that came along with it. United Airlines said last week that it would only need 3,000 of its 25,000 flight attendants in June, Reuters reported.

Kerr's remarks came during a Wolfe Research investor conference that was held virtually due to social distancing needs. He also outlined how the Fort Worth-based airline is burning through about $70 million a day during the second quarter to navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

"American's not going away, so you can you can take that one off the list," he said.

American is focused on securing a $4.75 billion loan from the federal government on top of the $5.8 billion in grants and loans it already received, Kerr said.

"Realistically, we can't expect that things are going to be back to normal in six or even 12 months," Kerr said. "While we can't control the pandemic, the economy or customer demand, we can take meaningful measures to control our spending and conserve cash."

American Airlines has over 130,000 employees, including more than 30,000 in Dallas-Fort Worth. CEO Doug Parker has said the company will "go into the fall with more team members than we have work for," but his management team is trying hard to avoid involuntary furloughs.

So far, more than 39,000 employees have taken some kind of voluntary leave or early retirement and the company has said more employees will need to do that in the future.

Passengers are slowly coming back, but not enough to justify the industry's nearly 750,000 employees. About 244,000 people passed through Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints at airports Monday, the agency reported.

American Airlines has also seen an increase in passengers along with a reduced number of flights. Kerr said load factor, or the percentage of seats filled, is up to 35% so far for May, compared with 15% in April.

A traveler in a face mask was directed to a check-in kiosk near the counter for Southwest Airlines at Denver International Airport on May 13, as the airport starts coming back to life with the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Analysts and unions have said furloughs, wage cuts and layoffs could come in the fall when airlines are no longer bound by no-layoff rules tied to the $50 billion for airlines in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

It's not a problem that's unique to American among U.S. carriers. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly has also been warning furloughs could be possible if there isn't an uptick in travel.

Even with the prospects of staffing cuts lingering over the fall months, Allied Pilots Association president Eric Ferguson said Tuesday at the same conference that American is being genuine about trying to save jobs by funding voluntary leave programs and early retirements.

"Mr. Parker has said it's his goal to avoid involuntary furloughs and American Airlines is putting its money where its mouth is right now," said Ferguson, who represents about 15,000 pilots at American. "I think with the continued use of those types of tools, we'll be able to keep the airline, perhaps not idled, but at a reduced thrust level to come back when demand comes back."

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Lufthansa expects hundreds of aircraft to be grounded until 2022

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Lufthansa is bracing for hundreds of aircraft to remain grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic well into 2022 and that further job cuts at its maintenance and catering businesses were inevitable.

In a letter to staff seen by Reuters, the German airline's executive board said that 300 aircraft would remain grounded in 2021 and that 200 aircraft would be grounded in 2022.

"In the summer of 2023, when we will hopefully will have put this crisis behind us, we will still likely have a fleet that is 100 aircraft smaller," the board said in the letter.

The airline group had a fleet of 763 planes at the end of 2019, according to its annual report.

Maintenance unit Lufthansa Technik and catering business LSG would have to face a considerable number of additional jobs to be cut, according to the letter.

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Airlines could soon be firing thousands of pilots

The aviation industry took a big hit during this pandemic, and a number of airlines say they'll have more pilots than they need

We are where people don't normally go, the backside of O'Hare in Chicago and seeing something that most don't get to see, that is planes parked, idled for now weeks on end.

These are American aircraft, but United has a bunch parked out here as well, not using the planes and consequently don't have a need for pilots.

Take a look at the numbers on this.

Delta airlines currently has over 14,000 pilots, but they estimate that this fall all they'll need is about 7,500.

That leaves an excess of 7,000 pilots, and the expectation is many of them would be laid off.

The number's even worse perhaps at United.

They have more pilots now than passengers.

United with over 12,000 pilots, and it's estimated now based on an internal memo obtained by Forbes that they're only flying about 10,000 passengers a day.

That means United will be doing the layoff for sure of maybe 4,500 pilots. And that could even get worse as time goes on.

In a memo obtained by Forbes, the chief pilot for United, Brian Quigley, says, quote, even though the volume of this displacement is enormous, none should believe that it solves our problems.

That is, because this presupposes a reduction in schedule for United by 30%. But actually in June, the schedule is being reduced by 90%.

The only positive news in this is that because these carriers have taken government help, they have pledged not to lay anyone off until October.

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Starr Gate Insurance App Debuts for Renter Pilots

The policy can be tailored month-to-month to suit variable flying needs.

By joining into the flight scoring feature offered by CloudAhoy, Starr Gate users can earn discounts for good piloting habits.Courtesy Starr Aviation
Starr Aviation, part of Starr Insurance Companies of New York, New York, has introduced its Starr Gate app tailored for renter pilots. The iPad-based program allows pilots to buy insurance on a month-to-month basis, as well as annually, and they earn discounts for participating in the flight scoring option offered through a partnership with CloudAhoy.

The program incorporates a flexibility in coverage previously hard to find-and it comes at a time when general aviation's total flight hours are down, but important aviation activities-such as flight training and recurrency flights-must continue.

Steve Blakey, president and CEO for Starr Insurance Holdings, commented in a call to brokers in which the company announced the program on the potential resilience of the general aviation segment of the aviation industry-especially when contrasted with that of the commercial aviation market. Continued improvement in light aircraft will make GA safer and more cost effective. So, this may be a good time for growth in this segment of the industry. "Maybe the events will demand a renewed interest in GA," said Blakey. "Maybe people will want to fly in smaller groups." He related that he saw from his backyard an airplane towing a banner congratulating a neighbor on a baby shower-there are many applications for innovations that lay ahead.

The app will be available through Starr's brokerage network, with co-branded websites for brokers to use-so pilots have the option to continue with their current broker relationship by downloading the app on their broker's site. The app is designed to streamline the insurance application and renewal experience, reducing paperwork in the process. It's also available on Apple's App Store, and pilots can use it in concert with CloudAhoy's app-leveraging its CFI Assistant tool for flight scoring if they choose. By challenging pilots to improve on each flight, Starr Gate is intended to help pilots form better flying habits. Ideally, the app would help drive improvement in segments of flight such as stabilized approaches, and thereby leading to improved statistics in loss-of-control in-flight accidents.

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United Airlines Set To Remove Seats From Regional Jets

US carrier United Airlines has drawn up plans to remove seats from its regional jets to comply with pilot contracts. The anticipated move is meant to adjust to a smaller fleet if large numbers of pilots will be furloughed effective October 1st.

Why is United looking to remove seats from regional jets?
For most people in smaller cities (and even some major ones), several flights are operated under regional brands. You may know these as Delta Connection, United Express, or American Eagle. Under these banners, there are regional carriers that the big three contract regional jet operations out to.

However, these regional carriers can only do a certain amount of flying governed by scope clauses that an airline has with its pilots. There are heavy restrictions on the amount of 70- and 76-seat jets. But, there are fewer restrictions on the number of 50-seat planes that United can fly.

This is why United introduced the CRJ550. Compared to American and Delta, United's contract is far more limiting. So, to fly premium jets to destinations that would demand it- places like Fayetteville, Arkansas, the nearest airport to Walmart's headquarters- United opted to configure some larger regional jets into a premium-heavy 50-seat configuration as a workaround.

However, now, United has got to make some changes according to View From the Wing. From October 1st, United has made it no secret that it may have to furlough some pilots. That will limit the amount of regional flying that it can contract out- which then means that United will have to fly regional planes with fewer seats since United is maxed out at its higher-capacity regional jets. Meanwhile, it has room to go with its 50-seaters. The comments were made from COO Andrew Nocella.

Simple Flying reached out to United who provided the following statement:

To clarify, Andrew said that we are working on the engineering to remove seats from regional aircraft but we haven't actually started to execute the project. For context, this was in reference to a question about one of the furlough protections that the pilots have, which mandates that United remove seats from its regional aircraft in the event that we implement involuntary furloughs.

Will United implement involuntary furloughs?
The company has come under fire in recent weeks. It has been telling its employees to consider voluntary separations, received criticism from other airline CEOs over its work practices, is offering status and miles to some employees who depart early, has parked some aircraft for an indefinite period of time, while also closing some long-haul bases.

Financially, the airline has to focus on preserving its cash and ensuring its survival. Nearly all major airlines are struggling as a result of this crisis. However, the US government has provided employee payroll grants to airlines through September 30th. Beyond that, airlines can also access federal lines.

Will this mean more CRJ550s?
United has not clarified what jets will undergo the retrofits if necessary. The CRJ550 is the same basic structure as the CRJ700, so it would just be a changing of the interior configuration- which will come at a cost. Currently, United is working on altering the interior of some CRJ700s into the CRJ550 configuration. Some additional jets previously intended to remain as CRJ700s could then make their way into the conversion process and become CRJ550s.

So far, the signs are pointing to leisure travel starting to rebound a little more quickly than business travel. This would indicate that United does not need a lot of premium capacity. However, operationally, 50-seat CRJ550s would offer additional fleet efficiency.

Other options include reverting some aircraft to all-economy jets. United does have 50-seat planes flying under the United Express brand. These include CRJ200s and ERJ145s. These would cater more to leisure travelers. Although, most passengers are not a fan of these aircraft. However, if an airframe like a CRJ700 turns into an all-economy jet, United could have room to put in extra legroom or else storage for more bags.

How will this affect United's premium operations?

United Airlines has gone big after premium customers in the last few years. Now, however, that calculus could be changing. The business world has been upended by people staying at home and teleconferencing taking the place of face-to-face meetings. Those trends may stick around for a while.

The Boeing 767-300s flying with 46-seat Polaris cabins will not return on the Newark to London route until July. Before then, the 787-10 is flying fairly empty in business per United's seat maps. Although, the cargo-capacity onboard the aircraft is likely what is helping drive the route.

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Russia's Su-57 Stealth Fighter Could Soon Have a Robot in the Cockpit

Or at least that's what Vladimir Putin wants you to think.

Russian state media claims the Su-57 fighter is undergoing unmanned flight testing.
The report, based on an unnamed source, is suspect and should-for now-be treated as a rumor.

Despite problems with the report, it is likely a window into the direction Moscow wants to go and a capability the Russian Aerospace Forces would like in the near future.
Russia's new Su-57 stealth fighter is reportedly undergoing unmanned testing. The Sukhoi Su-57, codenamed "Felon" by NATO, is a large twin-engine stealth fighter in the same rough class as the U.S. Air Force's F-22 Raptor. The claim could well be true, but should be taken with a grain of salt.

According to RIA Novosti, an arm of the Russian state media services, the Su-57 is flying unmanned at an undisclosed location in Russia. Novosti cites an unmanned source which claims that the fighter is flying with a pilot, but the pilot is merely monitoring the aircraft's systems.

The Su-57 is designed to fulfill both anti-air and air-to-ground roles. The aircraft is Russia's first stealth fighter, with a reduced radar cross-section from the frontal and side aspects. The Su-57, along with the U.S.'s F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and Chinese J-20 is a so-called "fifth-generation fighter," mixing speed, stealth, and advanced weapons and sensors.

The RIA Novosti report is troublesome-not only does it come from a news outlet controlled by the Russian state government, the actual source is remained anonymous. Typically, piloted aircraft modified for autonomous missions require the installation of equipment to remotely manipulate the weapons, sensors, and flight controls. The Su-57 is a single-seat aircraft, and if there is a pilot sitting in the seat, there is no room for such equipment. Either the Su-57 used for unmanned testing is a two-seat variant or the aircraft is controlled remotely via software.

Russia's aviation industry lags behind others in the development of autonomous combat aircraft, but Moscow is trying hard to catch up. Last year saw the introduction of the S-70 Okhotnik ("Hunter-B") strike drone. Russia envisions the Su-57 and S-70 working together in wartime as a team, with the Su-57 clearing the skies while the S-70 conducts strikes against enemy forces on the ground. Alternatively, the S-70 could act as an robotic wingman for the piloted Su-57.


The Su-57 was first revealed in 2010, the announcement taking the world by surprise. Russian state media boasted the Russian Aerospace Forces would receive 144 "Felons" by 2012. In reality, development and funding problems forced Moscow to repeatedly pump the brakes on the program, to the point that co-development partner India exited the program. Sukhoi has delivered only 13 jets, all prototypes and pre-production models. The company is supposed to begin serial production this year on 76 Felons, but a decade of promises and delays, it's best to wait and see.

Moscow definitely wants you to believe the Su-57 is flying without a pilot, but the timing is also suspicious. For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed six new nuclear weapons in March 2018, weapons that really did turn out to be real. The Russian Army was supposed to have 2,300 brand-new T-14 Armata main battle tanks by 2020, but the service likely has less than 50.

The unmanned Su-57 might be flying in the right direction, but when it lands with the Russian Aerospace Forces is anyone's guess.

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Etihad makes 1st known commercial flight between UAE, Israel

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - An unmarked Etihad Airways cargo plane flew aid to help the Palestinians fight the coronavirus pandemic from the capital of the United Arab Emirates into Israel on Tuesday, marking the first known direct commercial flight between the two nations.

The UAE, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the Arabian Peninsula, has no diplomatic ties to Israel over its occupation of land wanted by the Palestinians for a future state, like all Arab nations except Egypt and Jordan.

Yet the flight marked a moment of cooperation between Israel and the UAE after years of rumored back-channel discussions between them over the mutual enmity of Iran and other issues.

Etihad, the state-owned, long-haul carrier based in Abu Dhabi, confirmed it sent a flight Tuesday to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

"Etihad Airways operated a dedicated humanitarian cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv ... to provide medical supplies to the Palestinians," the airline told The Associated Press. "The flight had no passengers on board."

In the past, private and diplomatic planes often had to travel to a third country before heading onto Israel.

Emirati government officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The UAE's state-run WAM news agency later issued a statement saying it delivered 14 tons of protective gear, medical items and ventilators "to curb the spread of (the) COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in the occupied Palestinian territory." It did not acknowledge the flight's significance.

The cargo flight landed at Ben Gurion on Tuesday night, with ground crews pulling out pallets of cargo bearing both the Emirati and Palestinian flags. It will go toward U.N. efforts to fight the outbreak.

Neither the Gaza Strip nor the West Bank have their own airports, meaning most cargo bound for Palestinian territory must enter through Israel. That likely required an airlift of the material from the UAE, which hosts humanitarian stockpiles for the United Nations.

The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms founded in 1971, had no significant history with Jews unlike other Persian Gulf nations. While not acknowledging Israel diplomatically, Emirati officials have allowed Israeli officials to visit and the Israeli national anthem was played after an athlete won gold in an Abu Dhabi judo tournament. Israel also has a small mission representing its interests at the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi.

Next year, Israel will take part in its delayed Expo 2020, the world's fair being hosted by Dubai. A secret synagogue also draws practicing Jews in Dubai. The UAE also has announced plans to build the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, which will house a mosque, a church and a synagogue. Israelis traveling with Western passports routinely enter the UAE without a problem, though one still can't make a phone call between the two countries.

Oman, which has ties with Iran, hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a surprise visit in 2018 that served to remind Washington of its unique ability to be a conduit for talks. Saudi Arabia and the UAE also have allegedly used Israeli spyware to go after government critics.

But such ties remain highly contentious among the Arab public, particularly as the Palestinians remain without a state of their own despite decades of talks. The UAE as recently as May criticized Netanyahu's plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and warned of "dangerous repercussions."

Tensions also rose between Israel and the UAE after suspected Mossad assassins killed a top Hamas operative in a Dubai hotel room in 2010, something never acknowledged by Israel.

All of those concerns likely played a part in Etihad's decision to fly a white, unmarked plane into Tel Aviv, following Egypt's model for its own flights to Israel on its Air Sinai routes.

The hereditarily ruled UAE also remains suspicious of Islamists like the militant group Hamas that holds the Gaza Strip. Qatar, which the UAE has boycotted since 2017 in a bitter political dispute, donates funds to Gaza. The Qataris often serve as mediators between Israel and Hamas, which have fought three wars.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority imposed sweeping lockdowns in mid-March aimed at containing the virus, limiting travel and public gatherings and forcing nonessential businesses to close. Many of the restrictions have been lifted in recent weeks as the rate of new infections has declined.

Israel has reported more than 16,600 cases and around 270 deaths, with more than 13,000 of the patients having recovered. The Palestinian Authority has reported around 390 cases and two fatalities, with around 340 people having recovered.

The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, who recover within a few weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death, particularly in older patients or those with underlying conditions.

The Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam, will reopen next week after the conclusion of a major holiday marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. It follows weeks of closure aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. It had been closed since March over the virus.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Etihad also acknowledged it had fired staffers over the pandemic grounding flights worldwide.

Since 2016, Etihad has lost a total of $5.62 billion as it struggles to restructure.

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Days before landmark launch, NASA's head of human spaceflight quits due to 'mistake'

NASA's top executive concentrating on human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, has resigned just a week before the scheduled start of a milestone space mission.

Loverro became NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations last December, and was playing a leading role in NASA's Artemis moon program as well as preparations for next week's launch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station.

That mission, set for liftoff on May 27 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is due to send NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the station for a stay that could last as long as four months. It'll be the first launch of an orbital crewed mission from U.S. soil since the retirement of NASA's space shuttles in 2011.

For nearly nine years, NASA has had to rely on the Russians to get American astronauts to the space station. If all goes according to plan, the SpaceX launch will end that era next week.

Loverro had been scheduled to preside over a launch readiness review on Thursday, but The Washington Post reported that NASA associate administrator Steve Jurczyk will take Loverro's place. In a statement, NASA said former astronaut Ken Bowersox, who served as acting chief of human spaceflight before Loverro took over last year, will return to that role on an acting basis.

In an email that Loverro sent to NASA employees, he said he was leaving the agency due to a mistake he made during his tenure, but did not elaborate on the nature of the mistake.

"The risks we take, whether technical, political, or personal, all have potential consequences if we judge them incorrectly. I took such a risk earlier in the year because I judged it necessary to fulfill our mission," Space News quoted the email as saying. "Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences."

Loverro told The Washington Post that his departure had nothing to do with the commercial crew program, which involves SpaceX as well as Boeing. He said "it was absolutely safe to proceed" with the SpaceX launch.

"It had to do with moving fast on Artemis, and I don't want to characterize it in any more detail than that," Loverro told the Post.

One of the most important decisions that NASA made during Loverro's tenure was to select commercial teams to move forward with the development of landing systems capable of putting astronauts on the moon by as early as 2024. Loverro had been fixed on the 2024 date, to the extent that he wore a custom-made lapel pin that displayed the number of days remaining until the end of 2024.

Three weeks ago, NASA announced that three companies would win support for lunar lander development: a team led by Blue Origin, the Kent, Wash.-based space venture founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; a team led by Dynetics, an Alabama-based aerospace company; and SpaceX, which proposed its Starship super-rocket.

SpaceX is an interesting choice for a couple of reasons. The Starship system is being developed in-house, and doesn't rely on other major contractors or on NASA's heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket.

It's also being developed on an ambitious schedule: SpaceX executives have talked about starting Starship missions to the moon by 2022.

In an assessment of lunar lander proposals, Jurczyk said SpaceX's plan came with significant risks, due to Starship's "notably complex" propulsion system and the company's record of "considerable schedule delays."

NASA's decision was also notable for a company that wasn't chosen: Jurczyk said Boeing's lunar lander proposal, which relied heavily on technology developed for the Space Launch System and the company's Starliner space taxi, was passed over early in the selection process.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources have told GeekWire and other media outlets that Loverro's mistake may have had to do with the procurement process for lunar landing systems. In March, the NASA Office of the Inspector General announced that it would audit the acquisition strategy for the Artemis program, including plans to land astronauts on the moon by 2024.

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Dear Participants,


You are being asked to participate in a research study of your opinions and attitudes about stress and mental health. This research started almost two years ago. The purpose of this study is to examine mental health issues in aviation, specifically Part 121 airline pilots. During this study, you will be asked to complete a brief online survey about your opinions on various life circumstances, stress, and mental health topics. This study is expected to take approximately 15 minutes of your time. In order to participate, you must possess an FAA issued Airline Transport Certificate (ATP) and you must also be currently working as a pilot for a Part 121 air carrier that is headquartered within the United States. Participation in this study is voluntary and data will be collected anonymously, stored confidentially, and you may choose to opt out of the study at any time. We sincerely appreciate your consideration and time to complete our study, as it is another small but important step towards increasing safety in aviation.


Please click on the link below to complete the survey:


For more information, please contact:


Tanya Gatlin - Student Researcher

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