Waking the giant, the return of the Airbus A380.

It is an ill wind that blows no good, or so they say. By all accounts, the winds of history over the past two years have been anything but good. Other than the obvious tragedies and losses, many industries have been decimated, very few more so than the travel and airline industry. With countries and states locking down to various levels around the world, travel has become a far off memory from another life and time. But a change is being felt and it seems waking the giant is called for. Bring back the Airbus A380.

The Airbus A380-800 also known as the Super Jumbo is an Airbus answer to the Boeing 747. Carrying 555 passengers in a 3 class configuration, was it too late to market?

Covid vaccinations started off slowly in many countries with mixed messaging, misinformation and scarcity of vaccines in some cases holding back the rollout. In Australia for example the rollout was hampered by distrust of one type and scarcity of other types, but that is now in the past. New freedoms in some states of the country are promising to bring back some sort of normality as a reward for passing specific milestones of the percentage of the population being fully vaccinated. The game-changer is that if travellers go overseas and are fully vaccinated, they do not have to do hotel quarantine on return home. QANTAS CEO, Alan Joyce, said this makes international travel possible again.

“this makes international travel possible again.”

The opening up of international travel routes will be a gradual affair. With varying levels of covid containment in different countries, new agreements will have to be made between those countries. For example, the return of Australians to the popular holiday isle of Bali will be dependant on agreements that can be thrashed out between Australia and Indonesia on what rules and conditions will govern who can come to Bali and what procedures they need to follow. If, for example, the Indonesian government requires arriving travellers to quarantine for any significant time on arrival, it is pretty much a non-starter.

Singapore was the launch customer for the A380 back in October 2007.

So why does it mean a reawakening of the giant, the Airbus A380? Well, we used to be able to fly all over the place, pretty much. Now, however, we will have for the near future a more limited amount of places we can fly to. To that limited amount of places, we have a large portion of the population who is busting a gut to get their butt on a plane seat. Missed family, friends, events or just to get the hell out and see something different. The point is, we will have many people going to similar destinations, therefore, more seats are required. The Airbus A380 is the biggest there is, so is perfect for the job.

A380s back in Australia on Christmas Day

QANTAS for its part has its twelve Airbus A380s parked at Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV) in the Mojave Desert. This location was chosen over the more local Alice Springs where airlines like Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have chosen to store their aircraft because it is drier. The earlier than expected restart of international travel has sparked a lot of activity and excitement. To reawaken an aircraft from its slumber takes thousands of man-hours and is already underway. We believe we may see the first of two QANTAS A380s back in Australia on Christmas day. Two aircraft will return initially and be used on short routes to enable retraining of personnel. The plan is to use these two initial aircraft on the Sydney to Los Angeles route. This route is some 7,500 miles in length with an eastbound travel time of 13 hours and 45 minutes and westbound of 15 hours. This means that two aircraft are required to maintain the schedule which begins on 27 March 2022 and is currently showing as:

QF11 Sydney to Los Angeles departing 10:15AM arriving 6:00AM
QF12 Los Angeles to Sydney departing 9:55PM arriving 6:55AM (+2 days)

Three more A380s are due to arrive back in Australia in November 2022 and are slated to operate on the Sydney to London via Singapore route. Five more are due back in early 2024, leaving two which may well be scrapped.

Singapore Airlines, the launch airline for the Airbus A380, announced a few days ago that it will bring the A380 back into its fleet on 18 November 2021. The aircraft will operate as SQ317 from Changi to Heathrow. For a month from 04 November to 01 December, the A380 will operate crew training flights between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. From 01 December an A380 will be put on the Singapore to Sydney run to add to the Christmas seat availability.

A380 on approach to Heathrow Airport

Earlier this month British Airways also announced it was bringing back some of its A380s to be used on the Miami, Dubai and Los Angeles routes. It also has intentions of running short-haul training flights initially to Madrid and Frankfurt, so there may be opportunities for planespotters who would not normally see those aircraft in their home airport.

Qatar Airways will also bring back five of its A380s in November to service routes to London, Heathrow and Paris, Charles de Gaul. CEO Akbar Al-Baker said it was not for the love of the aircraft as he has indicated in the past that buying the A380 was the airline’s biggest mistake. There is even a possibility of all ten of their A380 fleet coming back online to fill in the gap left by their A350s grounded by a fuselage skin problem.

Airbus A380-841 Malaysia Airlines.

What of Emirates? By far the largest operator of the type. Well, they have still been flying A380 through the pandemic, but at half strength. That means around forty-three have been in service while seventy-seven have been stored. Emirates says they will bring more back into service before the end of the year.

So an ill wind it may be, but for the Airbus A380, this ill wind may well mean that it gets a few more years of useful life before disappearing into history.

How do you feel about the A380 coming back? Are you happy about it, do you like travelling on it? Are you lining up for those first seats?

Safe travels everyone.

Biomimicry and the shape of a wing.

Have you ever watched birds as they move through different phases of flight? Wings spread wide as they ride updraughts or tucked further in as they descend quickly toward a likely meal. Twisting and flexing their wings and feathers to maximise their efficiency. What if the shape of a wing on our airliners could be changed in much the same way? Let’s face it, watching birds gave us the idea of flight in the first place and we should continue to learn from them.

Wing flapping may not be the way to go…

Perhaps a full emulation of bird flight might be a little disconcerting to a passenger looking out the window. Wings flapping may not be the way to go, but there are still many areas where today’s aircraft wings can be improved. Both Boeing and Airbus have been competing in the area of wing technologies for years. Today we have Winglets for Boeing and Sharklets for Airbus where the addition of those mechanisms on the wingtips have gone a long way to reducing drag and therefore saving the industry billions of dollars and reducing emissions. Composite materials, folding wingtips and various other technologies have been seen on the latest airliners bringing even more efficiencies.

Back in 2009, Airbus introduced the Sharklet. This innovation served to reduce wingtip vortices which form when the air from the top of the wing meets the air under the wing and creates a whirlwind effect. This serves to create drag which inhibits the forward movement of the aircraft through the air. By reducing that drag, the aircraft requires less energy to push it forward thereby reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

X-Wing is based on nature……..

At a summit in Toulouse on 22 September 2021, Airbus’ Chief Technical Officer, Sabine Klauke, proudly shared details of what she referred to as the X-Wing. The X-Wing is another instance of Airbus’ technology-based solutions which were working toward decarbonising aviation. The technology of the X-Wing is based on nature and like birds enabled a wing to change shape and span depending on the phase of flight. This means the wing would always be efficient for that phase of flight. To achieve this the new wing sported sensors to detect wind gusts giving it the ability to make changes according to the conditions. These changes include pop up spoilers or plates that can pop up perpendicular to the airflow, multifunctional trailing edges and a semi-aeroelastic hinge.

Airliner wings are made up of so many different parts to control the various stages of flight. From flaps and slats to offer more lift at slower speeds, airbrakes to slow the aircraft down and ailerons to control the banking of an aircraft. The X-Wing looks to rethink a lot of these parts and use biomimicry to better control the way a wing behaves much like birds.

The project has been running for around 6 years now and Airbus hopes to have the wing flying by the mid-2020s.

The testing of the concept is being carried out by the Airbus subsidiary UpFirst. Using a Cessna Citation VII business jet platform, there will be 3 wings produced to test the concept from different standpoints. These include:

  • Understanding system integration.
  • Comparing real life testing with computer modelling.
  • Ramping up industrial production.

As well as the flying efficiency of the new wing, Airbus is looking at the production process and how it can be done as cheaply and efficiently as possible. The idea is to make the wing universally adaptable to all the airliners in its stable.

As we move toward net zero-carbon by 2050, these new technologies are becoming increasingly important to drive down emissions and improve efficiencies. Using biomimicry to achieve those ends makes a lot of sense.

What are your throughs on the topic? Please feel free to share them below.

Last ever Airbus A380 takes to the sky.

It must have been with gravely heavy hearts that the employees of Airbus Industrie watched on Thursday 25 March 2021 as the last ever Airbus A380 takes to the sky. The end of the Super Jumbo era goes with her as she makes the flight from Toulouse, France, to Hamburg, German. Here she will, as all her sisters before her, be painted in the livery of her new owning airline and be fitted out internally.

The last ever Airbus A380 will then make her way to her new home in Dubai and fly under the livery of Emirates, registration A6-EVS. Emirates, the largest operator of the A380 with already 117 aircraft in their fleet took their most recent delivery of three A380s in December and now await this final one. Apparently, Emirates had tried to cancel the rest of their massive A380 orders with Airbus, however, Airbus could not agree as they maintained they had already started construction of the final aircraft on the order book.

Singapore was the launch customer for the A380 back in October 2007.

….if anything can be called Aluminium Overcast, it is this.

Last ever Airbus A380 takes to the sky way before we thought it would.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that travellers were getting excited about seeing and getting a ride on the brand new Super Jumbo. In 2007, Airbus and the A380’s launch customer, Singapore Airlines, created huge excitement around the world as they prepared to launch the first Super Jumbo into the world. On the 25th of October that year, the first route was flown from Singapore to Sydney. This writer was very excited. Living in Sydney gave me an opportunity to view this new technological marvel first-hand way before those in the rest of the world. A rarity in this part of the world to be first in such things. As it flew overhead, I thought to myself, if anything can be called Aluminium Overcast, it is this. The sheer size of the wings was overhead was awe-inspiring.

It was also exciting as you travelled the world to see various airports which had adjusted their airbridges and ramp areas, putting up signs progressively saying “We are A380 Ready”. As if to throw maize down to attract pigeons out of the sky.

Emirates is the largest operator of the Airbus A380 and the recipient of the last A380 made.

It is always amusing to look back at the marketing concepts that were put out there about this new airliner. The Airbus A380 was designed to give more of a concept of space to travellers. There were fewer seats per square metre of cabin floor as compared to the Boeing 747. The A380 was certified to carry 853 passengers in a squishy all economy layout, which it turns out no airline ever implemented. The common layout was a mixed class arrangement with around 500 passengers. There was talk, also in the marketing handouts, of the ability to have duty free shops and various other amenities to make the trip more enjoyable. Singapore Airlines and Emirates did put private cabins for the wealthy aboard, however, for the most part, economies dictated that the A380 gave us just more of what we already had.

So, why is the Air A380 being discontinued? One could be forgiven for blaming it all on Covid 19, and no doubt that is the reason why Emirates tried to back out of the final aircraft in their order book. Let’s face it, 2020 was a perfect storm for air travel with countries slamming their borders shut or making quarantine such that it made travel impossible, for most anyway. But the rot for the A380 and also the Boeing 747 had already set in before this. The age of the giant twins, such as the Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 was upon us and airlines no longer wanted big 4 engined airliners that could only fly to certain airports. You can read about this in more detail here.

Airbus A380 tails at London Heathrow. These became as common a sight as the Boeing 747.

It is not just the Airbus A380 that has seen the end of its days. The Boeing 747 Jumbo also is now struggling with being viable. Boeing brought out the latest iteration of the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747 8 and its sales in the passenger-carrying market have been very ordinary. Boeing has, however, benefited from a design decision taken back in the 1960s when they decided to sit the cockpit in a bubble above the main deck. They did this as an each-way bet, in case the passenger version flopped they could fall back on the design as a cargo version with a nose door. In the 747-8 this has paid off. The 747-8F freighter version has far outsold the 747-8i passenger version. For airbus the cargo version is not really a viable idea as the flight deck sits between the upper and lower decks, negating any possibility of a straight in nose loading door like the 747.

So, what will become of the A380s still flying? There are still high-density routes in the world where these aircraft are the perfect solution. Travel will need to get to some semblance of what it was pre-covid. Of that, however, there is no guarantee as every new month brings us a new normal of how the world is. As for the folks down at Airbus in Toulouse, they will still have A380s to service, however, I’m sure for many there will not be such a happy outcome.

Aerial Firefighting with Fire Fighting Airplanes

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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, 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

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.

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.

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.

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
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!

When will the Boeing 737 MAX fly again?

It is well over a year now since Boeing’s latest version of their very successful 737 model was grounded in March 2019. This much-anticipated version of the type brought all sorts of technological improvements that brought it into line with the 787 and 777 models. As we know, the 737 MAX’s introduction was marred by the two tragic accidents causing the loss of 346 lives. First Lion Air flight 610 out of Jakarta on 29 October 2018 and then Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 on 10 March 2019 out of Addis Ababa. Airlines and aviation authorities around the world were quick to ground the aircraft type. However, the F.A.A. (Federal Aviation Authority (US)) cleared the aircraft as airworthy on the 11th of March 2019. This decision was reversed on the 13th of March as the similarities of the accident causes started to come to light.

So why did Boeing and the F.A.A. drop the ball so badly?

So why did Boeing and the F.A.A. drop the ball so badly? There have been many reports about a toxic work environment at Boeing going back many years. It seems that blame can be apportioned to both Boeing and the F.A.A. according to a House report which was released after a year-long investigation in March 2020. The investigation found in evidence which included texts on Boeing employee’s phones, that Boeing misled the F.A.A. with regard to the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) which was found to have been the blame for both accidents. For the F.A.A.’s part, the report found that the FAA “failed in its duty” and that its review of the troubled plane was “grossly insufficient.” The report also labelled Boeing as having a “culture of concealment”. This is quite damning when your industry is 100% about safety.

A Boeing 737 MAX of Lion Air, similar to that which was lost on 29 October 2018.

So what is so different about the MAX that this latest 737 is suddenly struggling with airworthiness certification?

As passenger jets go, the 737 is at the small end of the scale, designed to fly short to medium-haul with relatively few passengers. Small and compact, it was designed when pure jet engines were in use and not the chunkier bypass engines of today. Those first jet engines were long and thin and sat comfortably under the wing with enough ground clearance to spare. Economic and environmental pressures led to the introduction of cleaner and quieter bypass engines which by their nature are chunkier for want of a better word. The jet in a bypass engine sits in the middle at the core of the engine and that is surrounded by an outer shell surrounding the core which carries air pushed through by the larger fan at the front. So full jet thrust from the core then slightly less thrust from the surrounding fan pushed air. This stops the crackling and roar which happens as a pure jet exhaust is forced out into still air, the surrounding fan air softens that.

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX much like the one that crashed on 10 March 2019 finally causing the MAX to eventually be grounded.

So back to our 737. As soon as bypass engines were to be added to this aircraft it became evident that ground clearance would be an issue. There was no real option to increase the landing gear length as there was the problem of where it should go during flight. You may have noticed when you got on your 737 Next Gen or just observed them at the airport, the engine nacelles when viewed from the front are not quite round. There is a bit of flattening of the circle at the bottom. This is for ground clearance.

The 737 MAX took things to the next level. CFM International, a leading jet engine maker for airliners had designed the Leap 1 engine series and these were to be the engine of choice for the 737 MAX. The Leap 1B produced economic savings, a big drawcard for airlines, as well as noise reduction which enable to aircraft to fly friendly to airports where this is important. The drawback is the larger circumference of the whole engine unit. To accommodate this, Boeing extended the nose landing gear by 8 inches over previous models as well as beefing up the main landing gear and support structures to take the extra weight of the bigger engines. The change that is important, however, is the position of the new engines. The nose gear extension on its own was not enough to maintain the required 17-inch ground clearance beneath the engines. To do this Boeing moved the engines further forward of the wing leading edge and higher. Problem solved, but perhaps with some trade-offs that would come and bite later.

the MAX could inadvertently be put into a stall situation

Boeing realised that in certain phases of flight the MAX could inadvertently be put into a stall situation. Enter the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System). This system was designed to prevent the pilot from being able to put the aircraft into a stall situation, a safety fallback system. It seems that Boeing believed this system would resolve any design-driven compromises and that pilots who were certified of previous 737 models could transition seamlessly onto the new MAX. Boeing was keen to avoid expensive pilot retraining.

So Boeing had a “culture of concealment” and the F.A.A. “failed in its duty”. It sounds like a perfect storm for both and let’s face it, we’re not out of it yet. Boeing for its part is still being investigated by various government agencies on financial and other matters. For the F.A.A.’s part, its chief, Steve Dickson, will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday 17 June 2020 at 10 a.m. ET. According to the committee, Dickson will answer questions about “issues associated with the design, development, certification, and operation” of the Boeing 737 Max. The hearing will also look at ways to reform the certification process.

It is events such as those unfortunate accidents that serve to expose wrongdoing and negligence among those who we trust to protect our safety. Cutting corners or simply being asleep at the wheel because this is all business as usual just doesn’t cut it in this industry. How long will it take for Boeing to gain back confidence from the travelling public? Luckily people have short memories. I would hope that what comes out of this is more vigilant F.A.A., to protect our interests and a more respectable Boeing. With such a long distinguished history in aviation, let’s not drop the ball now.

So when will the MAX fly again? Well, Boeing was hoping for January 2020, but this did not eventuate. In fact, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was let go by the board in December 2019 for trying to rush the MAX back into the air. Boeing continued to produce the MAX and only stopped when they ran out of storage space, including their staff car park. Around March they seemed to be preparing to ramp up again but Boeing has alerted to its suppliers to stop production once again. It seems the MAX will definitely miss the Northern Hemisphere summer. It seems a case of watch this space at the moment.

When will airlines start flying again?

When can I go and visit family? When can I have a much needed holiday that I so surely deserve after this lock-down?

These are questions most people must be asking after the craziness of the last few months. Being locked inside for weeks on end, people are desperate for some semblance of what they remember as “normality” to return. Often the only thing that keeps us going is the vision of that overseas holiday we are working so hard for. Warm sunny days on some exotic beach to recharge us for the next onslaught of domestic bliss.

Unsurprisingly, the airlines are every bit as keen as their customers to get full planes back in the air. That is those airlines that have been able to survive the Covid19 suspension of travel. When we restart airline schedules, I’m sure we will not be seeing all players return to the table, and some that do will somehow be different from the way they started the year.

So many things need to line up before travel can start again, and different parts of the world will treat it differently. For example, here in Australia, we still have travel restrictions between the states. So we can go and holiday now within our own state, but no further. There has been talk of a travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia, two countries which have been very successful in their dealing with Covid19. The travel bubble basically acknowledges that both country’s approach to Covid19 is similar enough to forge a trust between the two to enable free travel back and forth. The hold up for this bubble to start is the fact that Australia’s states are still not open to each other, much less another country.

Let’s face it, how long can you bleed money?

So with many countries now getting on top of Covid19, what can we expect? Well, many airlines are seeing this as a sign that things may be ready to start swinging back into action. Let’s face it, how long can you bleed money before you need to get back to business? Not that it is up to the airlines. Countries need to agree with each other as to the terms of letting flights commence between them and within their own borders. Nobody wants to start a second wave of the pandemic when we have come so far.

A Covid19 airport temperature check. Checking before you board to ensure you don’t bring the virus onto the plane to being checked on arrival at the destination to ensure you don’t bring the virus into the country will be the new normal. We though post 9/11 travel was bad! I can see us having health passports in addition to our normal passport in the future.

QANTAS, here in Australia, are anticipating they will reach 40 capacity compared to pre-pandemic activity for domestic travel by the end of July 2020. In the U.S., American Airlines anticipates flying 55% of its domestic schedule compared to the same period in 2019. In May, American only flew 20% of that schedule. Bear in mind that this is the Northern Hemisphere summer, so demand is high. In both cases, the announcements have helped the share price of these airlines as confidence in that market starts to turn around. This trend is fairly common across the board.

So is all this activity a sign that things are going back to normal? To be honest, no. Covid19 is still out there and is by no means a lesser threat than it was a few months ago. We don’t have a vaccination yet, so it could rear its ugly head again at any time. The enablement of travel to restart again depends very much on us being able to manage things like social distancing and minimising contact with others as much as possible during the whole process. This includes the airport and inside the aircraft cabin, taking all the usual precautions we employ on the ground.

This outlines how aircraft cabin air is different

Some airlines have been controlling which seats are allocated so as to create spaces between passengers. Whether it be not allocating the middle seat in a set of three, or putting a single passenger in each row, other than families which can sit together. Whilst the aircraft cabin is an enclosed space like any other form of transport like a bus or train, IATA has released a Briefing Paper which is worth looking at if you are indenting to fly. This outlines how aircraft cabin air is different from those trains and buses. In short, aircraft cabins use HEPA(High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters to ensure the air you breath is free from better than 99% of airborne bacteria and viruses. The airflow is a 50/50 mix between outside air and recycled internal air which gives on average 15 to 20 cubic feet of air per minute per passenger. The personal air from above can also ensure you are only getting that clean air.

Delta Air Lines focuses on cleaning procedures for their fleet in response to the COVID-19 virus at the Delta TechOps facility in Atlanta, Ga..

Akbar Al Baker, has reportedly told Boeing and Airbus….

It is great to see that our favourite airlines may survive to take us back into the wild blue yonder at some future time. Starting some services as described above will surely help, but we’re not out of the woods by a long shot. Airlines still have many aircraft sitting on the ground, not earning money, in fact costing money. In many cases, no doubt, the income from the start-up of the limited services will come nowhere near covering the costs, but simply slow down the money bleed. As a flow-on effect, those airlines have orders for new aircraft from the likes of Boeing, Airbus and others, which are coming due for delivery and payment. This presents a bit of a balancing act in the relationship between the airlines and manufacturers. Many, if not all, airlines are seeking a delay to their aircraft deliveries and payments as obviously cash is tight. Also, schedules don’t actually require any new aircraft to be added right now and there is certainly no market for used older aircraft either. For their part, Boeing and Airbus also need cash flow to keep their businesses going, so it is a fine line between holding airlines to their commitments and giving leniency and time extensions until the market improves. Outspoken CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, has reportedly told Boeing and Airbus if they don’t come to the party and give time extensions, his airline will no longer buy aircraft from them.

So interesting times ahead. How do you feel about travel beginning again, or have you already travelled in a Covid19 world? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. So many are still living in their isolation bubble, so news of what really happens out in the real world is a nice departure from what might be fake news. Fly safe everyone.

Is this finally the end of the Boeing 747 Jumbo?

Just over 50 years ago on 09 February 1969, Boeing made history as the worlds largest jet airliner, the Boeing 747 named City of Everett, climbed off the new purpose-built runway into Seattle’s grey sky. Thus began our love affair with what was to be dubbed the Jumbo Jet.

US carrier Pan Am was the launch customer for the Jumbo and scheduled their first service from New York to London for 7:00 pm 21 January 1970. The service was to be flown by an aircraft named Clipper Young America. On departure from the terminal in New York, however, there were technical difficulties around one of the engines overheating. The aircraft returned to the terminal and a replacement aircraft was flown in. The replacement 747 which was called Clipper Victor, was substituted and renamed Clipper Young America. The first commercial service of the 747 Jumbo departed New York finally at 1:52 am on 22 January.

Pan Am under the stewardship of Juan Trippe was a force to be reckoned with during that time and their need for a larger aircraft than the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 was a driving force in the eventual design outcome of the 747. Boeing was not completely convinced that a passenger aircraft of this size had a market. To this end, they created a design that would work well for freight airlines, which is where they saw the biggest market potential. This is of course why we have the distinctive bubble on top of the fuselage where the flight deck is located. The bubble enabled the 747 to be produced with a nose door for loading cargo with clear access to the fuselage unencumbered by a flight deck blocking the access. This may well have been a stroke of genius as we now see Boeing still producing the 747-8F, the freighter version.

Including the current 747-8, there have been 1,555 Boeing 747s delivered since that historic flight back in 1969. The 747, “Queen of the Skies”, changed the world of travel and became the symbol of air travel. Appearing in songs and movies and just generally winning our hearts, the 747 has been a favourite for many years.

KLM Boeing 747-400 departing from Amsterdam. KLM has been retiring their 747s and don’t anticipate the type to ever fly again under a KLM tail.

50 years is a long time in technology. Of course, the various models of the 747 have all come out with improvements and technology updates, but other technologies have also improved and eclipsed the need for a very large four-engined airliner. This is discussed in our article “Boeing 747-8 Are we falling out of love?”.

Whilst Boeing is seeing a tapering off in interest in the passenger Jumbo, they at least still have the cargo version which has around 17 outstanding air-frames still to be delivered. Spare a thought for Airbus and the Airbus A380. You could say they came a little late to the Jumbo, or Super Jumbo party. By the time the first A380s were being delivered, the aviation scene was already changing, with newer technology large twin-engine airliners such as the Boeing 777, Boeing 787, Airbus A330 and Airbus A350 taking on long haul services. ETOPS certifications enabled these giant twins to fly the routes previously reserved for the 4 engined giants. The writing was on the wall.

Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 (D-ABYU) at Frankfurt Airport. Lufthansa was the launch customer for the Boeing 747-8i (International) and currently have not announced plans to retire these newer aircraft.

These changes were already well underway before the current economic market created by Covid-19 took its toll on travel. Airlines who still carried the Boeing 747 in their fleets already had firm plans in place to retire the type in the very near future. This, in many cases, was projected to happen over the first years of the 2020s, however, the effects of Covid-19 on global travel has prompted these airlines to bring forward their 747 retirement plans.

For example, Virgin Atlantic will be retiring its 7 747s very shortly. Consider that its 747 fleet has an average age of 20 years, whereas the rest of its fleet, excluding these 747s, has an average age of 9 years. This represents a significantly higher cost in maintenance for the aging older technology aircraft. Lufthansa has also brought forward the retirement of 5 of its 13 Boeing 747-400s. It is worth noting that Lufthansa is one of the few airlines that bought the newer Boeing 747-8i. At the time of writing, this aircraft would still be retained by the airline. British Airways which has a large fleet of 28 747s will be working toward complete retirement of the type by 2024.

British Airways have 28 Boeing 747-400s in their fleet and are working toward retiring them all by 2024.

QANTAS for its part was looking to retire their last 6 747s by the end of 2020. The current travel climate has caused them to re-evaluate that schedule. Of the 6 mentioned, 3 have now already made their way to the aircraft graveyard in the Mojave Desert, California. The remaining 3 were scheduled to operate routes to Johannesburg, Tokyo and Santiago until the end of 2020. It is now widely believed that the remaining 3 will follow their sisters to Mojave this month, June 2020. Foreward QANTAS schedules show that the aforementioned routes will now be flown by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The “Flying Kangaroo” on a 747 tail, once a very common site will be no more. By the end of the year, the only place you will be able to see a QANTAS 747 will be at HARS(Historical Aircraft Restoration Society) at Shellharbour Airport, just south of Sydney. Well worth a visit.

QANTAS Boeing 747-438 . Once such a common site in our skies, soon to be no more.

I know I’ve had some of my most epic and memorable flights on the 747. Down the back or up the front always a wonderful experience. Whether it be a brand new 747-200B of Air New Zealand or a really tired old QANTAS 747-400, you always felt like you were on a real airliner, the grand old Queen of the Skies. I know I will miss seeing them and being able to get on one.

Do you have any special memories of 747 flights you have taken. Feel free to share them below.

Is Covid-19 isolation an opportunity to learn to fly?

As many of us in different countries are being asked to stay at home and isolate ourselves, this may be a strange question. Is this a good time to learn to fly? If being a pilot is in your future plan, and isolation is hampering your ability to pursue your training, or you are simply an aviation enthusiast who is frustrated from not being able to plane spot or indeed travel, this might be for you.

I am talking about Flight Simulation. It is not exactly X-Box or PlayStation, but it is a way to learn a new skill or hone an existing one. Imagine as you are locked up at home, still being able to go out and see the world out there, the one that you used to move about in. That sounds a bit science fictionish, but in some countries, it is not far from the truth as we try and stem the spread of the dreaded virus by staying home.

Now when we talk about flight simulation, it is tempting to visualise a fully functioning flight deck replica that sits in a box suspended on hydraulic ramrods. Like the ones they have down at your national airline’s training centre. If you can run to that kind of thing, I salute you. Not only that, I’d love to get an invitation to hangout at your house when the whole isolation schtick is finished.

With flight simulation you can source your favourite airliners and airlines and fly their routes. Re-live old trips or explore new destinations. Once you have your choice of flight simulator you can source many free airplanes or more detailed scenery for different locations on the web, many for free.

For the rest of us, flight simulation is available at home on your own PC, and not surprisingly for a fraction of the price that your local airline has forked out. Flight Simulation for the home user has come a long way over the last years. When I was first introduced to it back in the early 1990s, a pilot friend of mine showed me this new program he had bought. It seemed really cool at the time, although in all honesty it consisted of a flat world where land was green and sea was dark blue and sky was light blue. You had the choice of flying from Chicago Merrill Meigs airfield on Lake Michigan (I believe that was actually closed in March 2003), Los Angles, New York or Seattle. The only aircraft was a Cessna Skylane, but it was such a blast to actually fly this plane around.

New versions were added over the intervening years, each with some new enhancement that gave a new wow factor. The addition of sound, the addition of new geographical areas, improved scenery, dynamic scenery. The list goes on.

Enough reminiscing. What I am driving at is that today, Flight Simulation provides a very real experience. The scenery realism is getting closer to the real thing, using data derived from Google Maps you really get the feeling you are arriving or departing the actual location as you know it in real life. Not only that, but with an internet connection you can get your simulation weather conditions to match the real forecast for that location.

So who is flight simulation for?

You could be forgiven for thinking that flight simulation is only for those who have a good knowledge of flying. This is not necessarily so, in fact not so at all. Let’s look at two of the more popular flight simulator programs for PC on the market. Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 11. Both of these simulators are designed for the beginner right through to airline pilot. There is a training academy built in to enable the novice to gain confidence in the various phases of flight right from the very beginning. For example, my son who is now in his late teens started with my help when he was 6 or 7. Now he gets a lot of pleasure flying missions in various airliners domestically in Australia and overseas. This is in the simulator of course. Whilst flight simulation can be a great help in practising various phases of flight for the real world, it is of course there as an additional resource not a replacement for real flight training. It can, of course, help you to get good practice in procedures and manoeuvres and end up saving you money in hours flown in the real world.

So you could say it is both entertainment and a relevant tool.

Explore beautiful parts of the world and see how they all fit together from your eagle eye view.

Do I just fly on my own?

Like most things with flight simulator programs, you have choices. If you just wanted to go and tear up the sky in a Lear Jet, see the scenery up close in a Cessna or explore further afield in a Boeing 737, you can do this alone or in company. For instance, if you wanted to fly an actual mission in a Boeing 737 from Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO), as the real world airliners do, you can certainly do that. You would begin by creating a flight plan where you can designate such things as the actual route you want to fly, the height you want to fly at, among a host of other things. Once you file your flight plan, just as airliner pilots do, you then use air traffic control through the radios to get clearance for each phase and guidance right through your whole flight mission. As you go through the flight you will hear other aircraft talk to air traffic control as well as see them along your travels if it is a busy route. The feeling of realism is very high and the satisfaction of completing a mission likewise.

But what about real people? I want to share this with my friends. Yes, during this time of isolation, doing things together with your friends is challenging. Thankfully we have the internet at least, and also thankfully flight simulator programs have the option to fly with others. I know I have used this function many times to fly with someone else in my household or with friends on the other side of the world. You can chat as well see each other’s aircraft which can make for an interesting way to hang out. Go and explore the world together.

So what do I do to get started?

For the beginner, we have used the Extreme 3D Pro Joystick for many years and found it a great way to enjoy flight simulator. It has throttle and any programmable buttons to bring your flight simulator experience to life. Additions can be made once you know you are hooked on simming.

Flight simulator programs have come down quite a bit in price since the early days. If you have a reasonably up to date PC you should be able to run these programs quite easily. In addition, I would recommend getting at least a basic controller. Whilst you can run the simulator from the keyboard, the controller will give you that extra feeling of realism. That’s what we’re after, right? We want to feel like we are flying a real aircraft. Like anything, there are much more high-tech add-ons you can buy if you decide to become a real enthusiast. What ever you choose, happy flying and keep safe.