August, 2020 - Modern Airliners

Aerial Firefighting with Fire Fighting Airplanes

Fire Fighting Airplanes like this converted DC-9 are a big part of our fire fighting effort.

It seems to be the new normal now that each year brings devastating fires that are getting harder and harder to fight. Like anything, bigger problems need bigger solutions. To support the brave men and women who risk their lives to fight these fires, often coming in from other countries to support their brothers and sisters in need, we have seen in recent years new tools come into play. A few years ago smaller planes, like the twin-engine high wing Canadair CL-215 would skim across lakes or other bodies of water, scooping up that water to then dump it on inaccessible fires. We also had helicopters such as the Sikorsky S-64, an example of which was owned by Erickson Air-Crane called Elvis which was loaned to Australia in the early 2000s. Aerial Firefighting is now moving to the next level with fire fighting airplanes.

With bush fires becoming more ferocious and harder to fight from the ground, organisations are turning more and more towards larger fire fighting airplanes. Fire fighting airplanes are not purpose-built, however, with so many airliners now being retired, there is a ready source of large aircraft that can be converted. Unlike the current trend in air travel where large jets are becoming all but obsolete, for fire fighting airplanes bigger is better. So now we are seeing those older airliners that we used to travel in getting a new lease on life.

..for fire fighting airplanes bigger is better..

The biggest is the Boeing 747, “Queen of the Skies”. Yes, the airliner that was the world’s largest for most of its life is now finding a second life as the air defence to back up our on the ground firefighters. Like ground troops in a war, when the going gets tough you call in air support, and you want to be sure that they can bomb the hell out of the enemy. Well, this is the biggest, no doubt.

Global Supertanker Boeing 747-400
Global Supertanker Boeing 747-400.

The Global Supertanker, Spirit of John Muir, is the worlds largest VLAT or Very Large Air Tanker, holding almost twice as much water or fire retardant as its next closest rival. This Boeing 747-400 started its life as an airliner flying for Japan Airlines before retiring to its next role as a freight carrying aircraft for the now defunct Evergreen International. The seats already long having been stripped out, the fuselage now accommodates two large identical tank systems giving the aircraft an effective payload of 20,000 gallons of water, retardant or gel. The tanks are pressurised and can deliver in one burst or in 8 segmented releases. The delivery can take the form of a blanket or drizzle out like rain which comes out through four outlets under the fuselage.

Spirit of John Muir can reach anywhere on the U.S. mainland within four hours and with a load time of 30-35 minutes can be deployed very quickly where needed. The aircraft was a great asset in South America during the recent Amazon jungle fires, really living up to the John Muir legacy.

Flying the Global Supertanker takes very special skills. Normally you would see the likes of a 747 taking off from a big city airport, climbing to cruise and then descend to some other big city airport at the other end of the journey. The skill required to fly the VLATs is more in line with that of an air-force bomber pilot skill set. Each sortie is critical and the retardant or water must be delivered to a precise location to be effective. This means that delivery runs are often at a very low level, around 200 feet above ground in difficult terrain and smoky conditions. Not for the faint of heart. Having said this, accidents have happened to other fire fighting aircraft and in some cases, airmen gave their lives in service of others.

10 Tanker Air Carrier DC10
Since 2006, converted McDonnell Douglas DC10s have been used in aerial firefighting.

10 Tanker Air Carrier operates a fleet of 5 converted DC-10 aircraft. These converted airliners can hold around 12,000 gallons of water or retardant and have been deployed all around the world as required.

BAe 146 aerial fire airplane
This BAe 146 aerial firefighting aircraft is ideal for its slow speed abilities. Here we can see the tail air-brake is deployed to allow it maximum time over the target.

So we can see that the toolbox at our firefighter’s disposal is taking on whole new proportions as we try to stay ahead of our changing weather patterns. It is heartening to see some of our old favourite airliners getting a new lease on life and returning them to the usefulness they once enjoyed. It is, however, even more, heartening to see serious force being brought to bear in the fight to save lives and our precious environment. Never underestimate the bravery of those on the ground and in the air that fight for our benefit.

Boeing 737 MAX Name Change

Boeing 737-8 MAX

What’s in a name?

Plenty it seems, and if you’re in marketing you’ll know full well the power of words and names. Ask anyone in the street, well ok, I know it’s hard to find people in the street in some cities at the moment, but ask anyone, what comes to mind when you say 737 MAX. I’m sure warm fuzzy feelings will not be an answer you can expect to hear. Time perhaps for a 737 MAX name change?

Knowing this full well, what would you do if you were Boeing? The MAX name is certainly a poison chalice for them. After two tragic accidents which have led to the grounding of this latest iteration of the very successful 737 model for around 2 years now.

Boeing 737 Max-7
The Boeing 737 Max-7 is the smallest of the four variants offered under the 737 MAX banner.

The 737 MAX has been very closely scrutinised since the type was grounded along with the extensive examination of processes that led to various flaws being allowed to survive the certification process. Both Boeing and the F.A.A. have been found at fault and one can only hope that this will ensure this kind of situation will now be avoided in the future. We also hope that corrections in design and training will ensure that the 737 MAX will end up being the safe aircraft we have come to expect from the likes of Boeing. In short, this needs to be right and also seen to be right.

If you design a bad aircraft, it tends to bite….

The question remains, however, will passengers be willing to get on board a 737 MAX, even after the corrections have been made. If you design a bad car, for example, and it breaks down on the side of the road, you can kick the wheel, call someone and things will be fixed, usually. If you design a bad aircraft, it tends to bite and lots of people hear about it and get gun shy. So this is what Boeing has to contend with to regain the customer confidence.

So what will the Boeing 737 name change entail? Well, it’s not so much as a name change so much as an earlier move to the normal naming convention. If you think about the Boeing 787, which was introduced not that many years ago, it started life as the 7E7 and then the Dreamliner. Since then the aircraft has been referred to as both the 787 and the Dreamliner. The naming convention that Boeing now applies to its aircraft such as the 787, which comes in the 787-8, 787-9 and 787-10, will also be applied the 737 MAX. This is not a new idea. Boeing has referred to the various MAX models as the Boeing 737 MAX 7, or 737 MAX 8 etc..

WestJet Boeing 737 MAX-8
WestJet Boeing 737 MAX-8, one of 13 in their fleet which are currently grounded.

The move away from the MAX name has been a subtle process and Boeing has begun to the use the name 737 MAX and 737-8(7 through 10) interchangeably. This way they are transitioning away from the MAX name toward the normal naming convention of modern Boeing aircraft. This was evident in a press release recently when Polish charter airline Enter Air placed an order for two 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The release read:

Boeing and Enter Air today announced the Polish airline is expanding its commitment to the 737 family with a new order for two 737-8 airplanes plus options for two more jets.

An all-Boeing operator and Poland’s biggest charter carrier, Enter Air began operations in 2010 with a single 737 airplane. Today, the airline’s fleet includes 22 Next-Generation 737s and two 737 MAX airplanes. When the new purchase agreement is fully exercised, Enter Air’s 737 MAX fleet will rise to 10 aircraft.

“Despite the current crisis, it is important to think about the future. To that end, we have agreed to order additional 737-8 aircraft. Following the rigorous checks that the 737 MAX is undergoing, I am convinced it will be the best aircraft in the world for many years to come,” said Grzegorz Polaniecki, general director and board member, Enter Air.

So we now know that the aircraft to watch for in the future is the Boeing 737-7, 737-8, 737-9 or 737-10. I realise you would have to have arrived from Mars recently not to put 2 and 2 together, however, people have short memories and it won’t be long before they will be happily boarding their 737.

To understand the seriousness of the impact to Boeing of a failed 737 MAX, you just need to look at the order book. The MAX orders are second only to Boeing’s most popular 737 model, the 737-800. They simply cannot let the 737 MAX fail.

Safe travels.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Flight Simulator 2020 A320 neo landing

It has been a long time between drinks, but now within days, we will see the release of the latest iteration of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, MS Flight Simulator 2020. On 18 August 2020, we will see the first all-new version of MS Flight Simulator since 2006. That is a hugely long time in technology and for that reason, we expect to see some pretty cool stuff.

Flight Simulator 2020, a Piper Cub flys over a valley at dawn.
You can feel the crispness in the air as this Piper Cub flys over a valley at dawn. You feel you are there.

Considering that Flight Simulator 1.0 was released back in 1982, this has been a really solid product for Microsoft and popular with flight enthusiasts worldwide for many years. The previous version, Flight Simulator X, released in 2006 taken over by Steam in 2014 is still a great product and used by many still to this day including myself. FS 2020, however, takes things to the next level. As you would expect with newer technology, the level of realism is out of this world. Well, more precisely, it brings you out into this world.

So, what if you are not a budding pilot? No problem, the level of realism enables you to go and travel the world as if Covid19 didn’t exist. Let’s face it, most of us are not able to travel to the places we would like to go anymore and maybe not for quite a bit of time to come still. FS 2020 is all about the graphics. Asobo Studios who developed the program for Microsoft have used the AI technology in MS Azure to generate a lot of the scenery using Microsoft Bing Maps data. As a result the ground scenery is richer than it has ever been before and makes for a very realistic view of the world.

FS 2020 over NYC
Flying over New York City with changing weather. Beautiful!

There are three different versions of the FS 2020 release and the difference between these is around the amount of aircraft provided as well more detail or crafting around a selection of airports.

MS Flight Simulator 2020 Aircraft inclusions by version.

AircraftStandardDeluxePremium Deluxe
Airbus A320neoXXX
Aviat Pitts Special S2SXXX
Boeing 747-8 IntercontinentalXXX
CubCrafters XCubXXX
Daher TBM 930XXX
Diamond DA62XXX
Diamond DA40 NGXXX
Extra 330LTXXX
Flight Design CTLSXXX
Icon A5XXX
JMB VL-3XXX
Robin CAP10XXX
Robin DR400-100 CadetXXX
Beechcraft Bonanza G36XXX
Beechcraft King Air 350iXXX
Cessna 152XXX
Cessna 172 Skyhawk (G1000)XXX
Cessna 208 B Grand Caravan EXXXX
Cessna Citation CJ4XXX
Zlin Savage CubXXX
Diamond DA40-TDIXX
Diamond DV20XX
Beechcraft Baron G58XX
Cessna 152 AerobatXX
Cessna 172 SkyhawkXX
Boeing 787-10 DreamlinerX
Cirrus SR22X
Pipistrel Virus SW 121X
Cessna Citation LongitudeX
Zlin Shock UltraX

Of course as time goes on, private entities will start building their own versions of FS 2020 aircraft.

Flight Simulator 2020 at beautiful Queenstown Airport New Zealand
This looks just as i remember it from my visit in 2019. Flight Simulator 2020 really makes you feel as if you are there.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 airports by version.

Microsoft advises that there are 37,000 airports worldwide to which you can fly in FS 2020. Depending on which of the three versions you have, up to 40 of those airports have been handcrafted to show a lot more detail. They haven’t been clear on what the handcrafting actually entails, however, below is the list of inclusions by version.

AirportStandardDeluxePremium Deluxe
Aspen/Pikin County (USA)XXX
Bugalaga Airstrip (Indonesia)XXX
Chagual Airport (Peru)XXX
Courchevel Altiport (France)XXX
Donegal Airport (Ireland)XXX
Entebbe Int’l Airport (Uganda)XXX
Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira Int’l Airport (Portugal)XXX
Gibraltar Int’l Airport (UK)XXX
Innsbruck Airport (Austria)XXX
Los Angeles Int’l Airport (USA)XXX
Tenzing-Hillary Airport (Nepal)XXX
Nanwalek Airport (USA)XXX
John F. Kennedy Int’l Airport (USA)XXX
Orlando Int’l Airport (USA)XXX
Paris Charles de Gaulle Int’l Airport (France)XXX
Paro Int’l Airport (Bhutan)XXX
Queenstown Airport (New Zealand)XXX
Mariscal Sucre Int’l Airport (Ecuador)XXX
Rio de Janeiro-Antonio Carlos Jobim Int’l Airport (Brazil)XXX
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (Dutch Saba)XXX
Gustaf III Airport (France)XXX
Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport (USA)XXX
Sedona Airport (USA)XXX
Sirena Aerodrome (Costa Rica)XXX
Stewart Airport (Canada)XXX
Sydney Airport (Australia)XXX
Telluride Regional Airport (USA)XXX
Haneda Airport (Japan)XXX
Toncontin Int’l Airport (Honduras)XXX
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (Canada)XXX
Schiphol Airport (Netherlands)XX
Cairo Int’l Airport (Egypt)XX
Cape Town Int’l Airport (South Africa)XX
O’Hare Int’l Airport (USA)XX
Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas (Spain)XX
Denver Int’l Airport (USA)X
Frankfurt Airport (Germany)X
Heathrow Airport (UK)X
San Francisco Int’l Airport (USA)X
Flight Simulator 2020 life like wildlife, elephants.
We were surprised at the level of detail given to examples of wildlife that are to be found in FS 2020. Even up close, if you dare fly that low, the movement and look is very realistic.

What do I need to run Flight Simulator 2020?

If you have ever run games or earlier versions of Flight Simulator on your PC, then you know that the power of your machine plays a large part in providing you with the ability to get the most out of these heavy graphic programs. MS flight Simulator 2020 is no different. It is acknowledged that this game is pretty heavy and so let’s have a look at what you need to be able to run the program and also what you need to run it well.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 system requirements: Minimum configuration to play the game.

This will allow you to run the game, but you may find you have to reduce density of certain items or that the smoothness is not perfect.

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4460 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • VIDEO CARD: Radeon RX 570 or GeForce GTX 770 
  • PIXEL SHADER: 5.0
  • VERTEX SHADER: 5.0
  • FREE DISK SPACE: 150 GB
  • DEDICATED VIDEO RAM: 2048 MB

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 system requirements: Recommended configuration to play the game.

This configuration should ensure you get the necessary frame rate for smoothness and that you can enjoy the full benefits of the enhanced scenery.

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or better
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • VIDEO CARD: Radeon RX 590 or GeForce GTX 970
  • PIXEL SHADER: 5.1
  • VERTEX SHADER: 5.1
  • FREE DISK SPACE: 150 GB
  • DEDICATED VIDEO RAM: 4096 MB

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the game once you start using it. Enjoy exploring the world!

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