The Boeing 737 is one of the most successful aircraft in history – and the most delivered to date (although the battle with the A320 family is close). Its latest generation, the 737 MAX, has tarnished its impressive history somewhat. Grounded in 2019 over safety concerns, it has caused difficulties and losses for airlines around the world – as well as for Boeing. It is now flying again, but what does its future hold?
Flying since 1967
Boeing developed the 737 during the 1960s as a supplement and eventual replacement for the popular 727. It was also designed to beat the competition at the time (mainly the Douglas DC-9, but also the BAC One-Eleven and the Caravelle from Sud Aviation).
One of the main changes Boeing made with the 737 was the introduction of just two engines. Its preceding jets (the 707 and 727) were four and three-engine aircraft. Two was seen as the economic way forward, and Boeing responded to the market. Unlike its competition, it chose to mount the two engines in pods under the wings, instead of the rear of the fuselage.
This enabled Boeing to offer a wider cabin, with six across seating (five was typical with other aircraft), and to fit in standard width freight containers. Having the engines lower to the ground also made maintenance easier. This led to issues later, however, when larger engines on the 737 Classic meant the engine bottoms had to be flattened, giving the distinctive ‘hamster pouch’ shape.
The first 737 was unveiled in 1967, and it entered service in February 1968 with Lufthansa. The 737-100 was much smaller than we are used to today, offering a typical two-class capacity of just 85 (with a maximum exit limit of 124). The 737-200 soon followed, with an increased capacity of 102 (with a limit of 136) and higher thrust engines.
Moving through the generations
Boeing has stuck with the 737 since 1967, making modifications and new variants to match changing needs of airlines. Adaptions began early, with an ‘Unpaved Strip Kit‘ allowing landing on gravel runways. This proved popular with airlines in places such as Canada and Alaska. It also developed a convertible passenger to cargo version (the 737-200C).
The Classic series
But it was the movement through several generations, or series, that brought the big changes. Boeing launched the Classic series with the 737-300 in 1984. Keeping commonality with earlier versions was the key here. This saved development and certification costs, as well as time, and allowed airlines to mix fleets easily. Engines were upgraded (to the CFM56), with fuel efficiency improvements.
And size options were widened, with three different capacity variants. The largest of these, the 737-400, took typical capacity up to 188.
The Next Generation series
Improvements in efficiency took another leap forward with the Next Generation (NG) series, launched in 1993 but not entering service until 1997. This was motivated by the development of the A320. It entered service in 1988 and offered more efficiency, as well as full fly-by-wire operation.
Again, the new series maintained commonality but introduced upgraded and more efficient CFM56-7 engines, a re-designed wing, and cabin and cockpit improvements. The number of variants increased to four, and maximum capacity to 200 with the 737-900ER.
The second-largest variant, the 737-800, has gone on to become the best selling so far. Simple Flying looked previously at how the compromise of range and capacity has made it such a success.
Launching the 737 MAX
The 737 MAX Series was announced in 2011 and was introduced in May 2017, with Indonesian airline Malindo Air the launch customer.
Like previous generations, it aimed to incorporate new technology and efficiency improvements whilst maintaining commonality. And like the NG, it also followed an upgrade from Airbus – this time the improved A320neo family (which Airbus launched in 2010, entering service in 2016).
There are, again, four MAX variants. Simple Flying looked in more detail at these differences and prices in a previous article.
|737 MAX 7||138 – 153||7,130 kilometers|
|737 MAX 8||162 – 178||6,570 kilometers|
|737 MAX 9||178 – 193||6,570 kilometers|
|737 MAX 10||188 – 204||6,110 kilometers|
There is also a 737 MAX 200. This is based on the 737 MAX 8 but with an increased passenger capacity of 200. It has only been ordered by Ryanair, with its order increased to 210 at the end of 2020. There have been delays, but deliveries are expected soon.
Again, engines took a step up in performance and improvement, with CFM International LEAP-1B engines for all variants. Boeing chose a larger fan diameter for these engines, which would further improve efficiency.
But the larger size once again caused issues with its low ground clearance, leading to the lengthening of the nose landing gear and a further forward placement of the powerplants. The engine nacelles have chevrons added for noise reduction, much like the 787.
Other aerodynamic improvements take this efficiency improvement further, most notably its distinctive split winglets.
Winglets work by reducing vortex drag, where different air pressures converge at the wingtips. Over the past years, there have been several different winglet designs with the split winglets first introduced by Boeing as an improvement for the 737 NG. The MAX’s winglets are a new in-house design that Boeing claims improve efficiency even further.
According to Boeing, there is a 14% fuel efficiency reduction between the already improved Next Generation series and the 737 MAX series.
The grounding of the MAX
At the moment, at least, many people remember the 737 MAX not for its efficiency upgrades but for its long and damaging grounding. This followed two fatal crashes:
- Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018. It crashed in the Java Sea shortly after take-off from Soekarno–Hatta International Airport, Jakarta. All 189 people aboard were killed.
- Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, in March 2019. It crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All 157 people aboard were killed.
The FAA grounded the MAX on March 13th, 2019 – many other regulators had grounded it even earlier.
Problems with the MAX
The circumstances of both crashes were similar, and it was suspected that problems with the Manoeuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) were at least partly to blame. Following the NTSB investigation, this was confirmed.
The MCAS system is designed to move the nose down if an increased angle of attack is detected, to help avoid a stall. The problems that led to the two crashes included erroneous readings from sensors and a lack of training for pilots in how to respond.
MCAS was added to overcome the tendency for the MAX to pitch up, caused by the larger engines and their location further forward. It was not present or needed in earlier 737 generations. This was part of the problem, as Boeing obviously wanted to maintain commonality for the new aircraft.
The addition of this new system was ultimately wrongly handled. Errors included changes to the MCAS plan during implementation (including reducing sensor inputs from two to one) and pressure for Boeing to get the aircraft certified for pilots without simulator training.
This training issue – both the omissions of MCAS for conversion training and the plans needed for it going forward – has been a major issue in the investigation and re-certification plans.
In its conclusions, The NTSB report said:
“That Boeing used in its functional hazard assessment of uncommanded MCAS function for the 737 MAX did not adequately consider and account for the impact that multiple flight deck alerts and indications could have on pilots’ responses to the hazard … The specific failure modes that could lead to unintended MCAS activation (such as an erroneous high AOA input to the MCAS) were not simulated as part of these functional hazard assessment validation tests.”
A costly problem
CNN refers to the MAX grounding as “the most expensive corporate blunder ever.” While we are not going to compare it against others, it was certainly extremely damaging for airlines and Boeing.
Airlines sued Boeing for losses incurred. And there have been extensive costs for repairs to the aircraft. Boeing estimates it has incurred a direct cost of $20 billion due to the MAX grounding. This includes $8.6 billion paid to airlines in compensation. This does not include compensation and legal liability for the crash victim’s families.
Added to this are loss of sales and reputational damage to Boeing. With the aircraft grounded, customers waiting for the 737 MAX did not have to pay cancellation fees for retracted orders, and several airlines have taken advantage of this during the pandemic slowdown.
Getting airborne once again
The FAA issued guidance to repair the aircraft faults and improve pilot training in August 2020. It was cleared to resume service (subject to changes and training) in November 2020. The Canadian and European regulators cleared it in January 2021.
Flights resumed in December 2020, with American Airlines making a demonstration trip. The first commercial service flew on December 9th with Brazilian airline GOL (from Sao Paulo to Porto Alegre), and American Airlines flew the first US service on December 29th.
United Airlines resumed services in February. Southwest Airlines, the type’s largest customer, followed in March.
Many other airlines are resuming the type more slowly. With the ongoing slowdown, there is no rush to supplement aircraft already flying.
The grounding and the slowdown in aviation have taken their toll on orders. Before this, the MAX was proving popular. By January 2019, Boeing had recorded just over 5,000 orders for the MAX. Orders have since been lost though, despite Boeing’s attempts to sell some of these white tails to other airlines.
In 2019, it lost 93 orders. And in 2020, 641 were lost. More have been lost when changes to accounting standards are taken into account. 2021 has been mixed, with some orders lost, but also new orders picking up. Deliveries were halted during the grounding but have now resumed.
Simple Flying took a look at the largest customers in March 2021 (following this shake-up). Southwest Airlines remained up front, with 380 firm orders (200 737 MAX 7s and 180 MAX 8s). This includes an additional order for 100 aircraft placed in March.
Lion Air and flydubai are tied following this, with 251 orders. And Ryanair has 210 MAX 200 aircraft on order, including an order for 75 placed last December.
As of late April 2021, Boeing has 3,965 unfilled 838 MAX orders. And in total, 472 aircraft have been delivered.
Future for the 737
The problems may not all be over for 737 MAX, though. In April 2021, Boeing recommended 16 MAX operators look at a potential electrical issue before returning aircraft to service, effectively grounding 106 aircraft. Around the same time, the US Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General said it would again audit the FAA after the decision to unground the type.
A new mid-sized aircraft?
Looking further ahead, what might be the next developments for the 737? One of the most discussed new aircraft is the Boeing NMA (New Midsize Aircraft), also dubbed the 797. This was originally seen as a replacement for the 757, sitting between Boeing’s offerings of the 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner. These plans were dropped in 2020, largely due to the issues and losses from the 737 MAX.
With Airbus launching the A321XLR, Boeing could look again at its NMA plans. A new narrowbody design that builds on the 737 MAX is one option for this. Additional fuel tanks could offer the extra range needed, but the MAX 10 is already sized to the limit. Without significant and expensive re-design, passenger capacity would suffer.
Alternatively, Boeing could make updates to the 757 or 767. A 757 MAX could seat around 240 passengers and offer improved range and efficiency with new engines. A 767 MAX could re-engine the original widebody with the General Electric GEnx.
The 737 has had a long history and is going nowhere soon. Commonality has been the key to this success but also a major contributor to the MAX’s issues and grounding. This article has given an overview, but there is a lot more to the 737 MAX’s story. Feel free to discuss further in the comments.
Libyan Coast Guard Shoots At Two Italian Fishing Boats: Italian Frigate And P-72A Surveillance Plane On The Scene
The Italian Navy and Air Force intervened in international waters off Libya after a Libyan Coast Guard patrol boat shot at Italian fishing boats.
Two Italian fishing boats were involved in an incident about 30 miles off Libya on May 6, 2021. Warning shots were fired at the Aliseo and Artemide fishing boats, in international waters, off Misrata by a Libyan Coast Guard patrol vessel: the commander of one of the two fishing boats was injured, the Italian media reported.
The Libeccio frigate of the Italian Navy (Marina Militare), supporting “Operazione Mare Sicuro” (Italian for “Safe Sea”) in the Mediterranean Sea was dispatched to assist the fishing boats. Operation “Mare Sicuro” was established in 2015, is a mission of the Italian Navy aimed at ensuring maritime security in the Central Mediterranean Sea – an area of major national interest – launched following the worsening of the Libyan crisis in order to provide presence, surveillance and maritime security, and to ensure freedom of navigation, according to national legislation and international agreements in force.
According to the Italian Navy, the Libeccio frigate was instructed to assist a group of three fishing boats (Artemide, Aliseo and Nuovo Cosimo) which were conducting fishing activities in the waters of Tripolitania, within the “high risk” zone defined by the Interministerial Coordination Committee for Safety of Transport and Infrastructure located 35 nautical miles from the Libyan coast, north of the city of Al Khums.
The intervention of the Italian Navy warship was requested due to the presence of a Libyan Coast Guard patrol boat rapidly approaching the Italian fishing boats.
Nave Libeccio, which at the time of the report was about 60 miles from the scene, headed towards the fishing boats at maximum speed and sent the helicopter, which reached the area and made radio contact with the patrol boat personnel.
The Libeccio frigate, which arrived in the vicinity of the fishing boats, received news of the presence of a seaman aboard Aliseo who was wounded in the arm.
Currently the fishing boats Artemide and Nuovo Cosimo are safely sailing northbound towards Mazara del Vallo harbour. The Libeccio frigate remained in support of the Aliseo fishing boat as the commander had been transhipped by Libyan personnel on board the patrol boat for medical checks and later released. The Aliseo fishing boat is currently free.
To verify the situation, a P-72A MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft) was also dispatched to the area: the aircraft observed some warning shots from the Libyan patrol boat.
The aircraft, that operates a mixed Air Force/Navy crew, belongs to the 41° Stormo (Wing) an Italian Air Force unit based at Sigonella Air Base, in Sicily. The P-72A is a military variant of the ATR 72-600. The Italian Air Force has received four P-72s that the service has used to replace the Breguet BR1150 Atlantic.
The P-72A can undertake a variety of roles ranging from maritime patrol for the search and identification of surface vessels, SAR (search and rescue) missions, the prevention of narcotics trafficking, piracy, smuggling, territorial water security and monitoring and intervention in the event of environmental catastrophes. The P-72A is equipped with a communication suite that enables the aircraft to transmit or receive information in real-time to/from command and control centres either on the ground, in the air or at-sea, to ensure coordinated and effective operations. The aircraft is also equipped with a self-protection system. The aircraft is said to be able to fly missions lasting six and a half hours at ranges up to 200 nautical miles from its starting location.
The firing of warning shots at the Italian fishing boats is just the latest in a series of incidents in the troubled waters located within the ZPP (Zona Protezione Pesca – Fishing Protection Zone) unilaterally declared by Libya in 2005 with the intention of exercising sovereign rights over fishing resources.
Last year, the Antartide and Medinea fishing boats, were seized with eighteen seafarers on board and remained in Libya for 108 days before being able to return home on Dec. 20, 2020.
A few days ago, in the same area, the Italian Navy FREEM frigate Alpino was dispatched to protect a group of 7 fishing boats threatened by a rubber dinghy, coming from Cirenaica. The attempted seizure was averted by the timely intervention of the Alpino warship.
Startup Avelo Airlines To Launch East Coast Base In Connecticut
A mere week after launching operations in California, ultra-low-cost startup Avelo Airlines has announced it will be expanding its operations to the East Coast. From the third quarter of 2021, Avelo will open a second base at Tweed New Haven Airport (HVN) in Connecticut, the airline said Thursday.
Sees enormous potential at HVN
Avelo Airlines, flying out of Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) since April 28th, says it will be operating a single-class configuration Boeing 737-700NG to HVN. This means that it will take on more aircraft before Q3 as it currently only operates 737-800s.
It hopes the 737 will provide a more comfortable and attractive mainline jet experience for travelers from and to Southern Connecticut, compared to the smaller regional jets currently flying to the airport. Destinations are yet to be announced.
“We are very excited to partner with HVN as we begin to build our East Coast operations. Our surprisingly low fares and refreshingly smooth travel experience are sure to be embraced by residents of Southern Connecticut,” said Avelo’s Chairman and CEO Andrew Levy in a statement.
“Tweed New Haven has enormous potential, and our first East Coast base is great news for Avelo, New Haven, East Haven, and other local communities,” Mr Levy continued.
More than 100 staff by the end of 2021
Tweed New Haven Airport is one of only two airports in Connecticut with regularly scheduled commercial service, the other being Bradley International in Windsor Locks. It is served by American Airlines under its American Eagle brand, with flights operated by PSA Airlines and Republic Airlines.
Avelo Airlines is coming in with a $1.2 million investment towards the upgrade and modernization of the airport’s operations. It expects to employ more than 100 crewmembers at its new base by the end of the year. This includes pilots, cabin crew, customer support personnel, and technicians, most of whom will be hired locally.
“It is critically important for us to work with partners who share our ideals to maintain the convenience that people love about Tweed New Haven, while respecting the existing character of the local cities and their communities that we serve,” Sean Scanlon, Executive Director of Tweed New Haven Airport Authority, said.
“We cannot imagine a better air partner to do this with than Avelo, as an airline that prioritizes people with a culture of service,” he continued.
New carbon-neutral terminal
The investment from Avelo is part of a larger modernization project, estimated at $100 million. The airport’s operator Avports told Patch that it plans to build a new, carbon-neutral terminal and to extend the existing runway.
While travelers out of HVN may well prefer the Boeing 737s to the Embraers and Bombardiers, as Avelo’s CEO hopes, this will depend on the destination being the right one. Even with attractive pricing and more comfort, it is hard to beat the connectivity of flying with American. We shall have to wait and see how the two airlines get along in Connecticut.
What do you make of Avelo Airlines’ quick expansion? Is it the right time for it? Leave a comment below and let us know.
FedEx becomes Official Sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, celebrates the 100th Boeing 767
FedEx Corporation and UEFA have signed a three-year agreement in which FedEx will sponsor the UEFA Champions League commencing at the start of the 2021/22 tournament and extending for three editions through to 2023/24. The agreement also includes sponsorship rights for the UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Youth League finals, the UEFA Champions League Futsal finals and UEFA eChampions League.
The sponsorship builds on the existing relationship with UEFA. FedEx became a main sponsor of the UEFA Europa League in 2015 and a UEFA National Team Football sponsor in 2019. FedEx is also the Official Logistics Partner of UEFA EURO 2020 taking place in the summer of 2021 across multiple European host cities.
This new sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League reaffirms FedEx as a long-standing sponsor of UEFA.
In 2016, FedEx became the first sponsor to begin collaborating with the UEFA Foundation for Children, using football as a tool to deliver positive and social impact in communities around the world. Alongside sponsorship of the UEFA Europa League and UEFA EURO 2020, FedEx and the UEFA Foundation have delivered safe community football fields in Spain, Poland, Brazil, and South Africa and have rolled out a co-funded “Football for Employability” program benefitting young adults in Romania, Hungary, England and Ireland. FedEx also invited local children to be player mascots at UEFA Europa League finals in collaboration with non-profit organizations in Stockholm (Sweden), Lyon (France) and Baku (Azerbaijan), where an all-girl player mascot line-up made footballing history.
“Our global sponsorship of UEFA Champions League will deliver unrivalled opportunities for our brand, team members, customers, and communities. Aligning our brand with world class sports performance allows us to connect our services to our audiences through the passion and emotions generated by sports and enables us to contribute positively to our local communities,” said Brie Carere, executive vice president, chief marketing and communications officer, FedEx Corp.
“We’ll continue to explore powerful social responsibility collaborations with the UEFA Foundation for Children, as we have done throughout our UEFA Europa League sponsorship.”
“FedEx has proved to be an incredibly valued UEFA partner. We are delighted they are continuing their evolution with us, which started in 2015 and now sees them supporting our flagship club competition, the UEFA Champions League,” said UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein. “The UEFA Champions League is the world’s greatest club competition, and we are looking forward to working with FedEx closely over the next three years to help them activate their numerous projects. They will benefit not just the footballing community, but also look to have a positive impact on the environment”.
In other news, the company is preparing to take delivery of the 100th Boeing 767. N277FE carries this special logo on the rear fuselage.
Top and Above Copyright Photo: FedEx Express Boeing 767-300F ER N277FE (msn 66246) (100th Boeing 767 FedEx) PAE (Nick Dean). Image: 953640.
FedEx aircraft slide show:
Air Senegal A330neo Set To Serve Dulles Via New York’s JFK
It’s official: Air Senegal will be serving the USA. It has put Dakar to both New York JFK and Washington Dulles on sale, with the one-stop service starting on September 2nd. It’ll use the 290-seat A330-900, and it expects a 70% seat load factor in year one.
Air Senegal’s new US service will operate on Thursdays and Sundays and will have the following schedule.
- HC407: departing Dakar at 01:30, arriving JFK 06:00, leaving 08:30, arriving Dulles at 10:00
- HC408: Dulles at 20:25, arriving JFK 21:55, leaving 23:55, arriving Dakar at 12:25 (next day)
Air Senegal will compete directly with Delta on JFK-Dakar. The airline has a once-daily non-stop service using B767-300ERs, a route it launched in 2017. Unlike the new entrant in this market, Delta has daytime service to NYC, leaving Dakar at 0910 and arriving at 1330.
The US was expected
Air Senegal expressed its intention to serve Washington in 2019. This was on the back of South African Airways ending its Johannesburg-Dakar-Washington service, which operated until 2019 before being switched to Accra. It was a ready-made market.
Little else was said on the matter until February 11th, 2021, when it submitted its application to the US Department of Transportation (DOT). Its application stated that it expects to carry 42,224 passengers in the first year using wet-leased aircraft.
Air Senegal’s A330s
Air Senegal has two A330-900s in its fleet, along with the A319, A321, and ATR-72. One A330-900 is on the Senegalese register as 6V-ANB; this was delivered in November 2019. RadarBox.com indicates that ‘November Bravo presently operates exclusively on the airline’s core Dakar to Paris CDG service.
The carrier also has a second A330-900, registered 9H-SZN, which was delivered in March 2019. This is wet-leased from aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance (ACMI) provider HiFly Malta. As its DOT application specified wet-leased aircraft, it is likely that 9H-SZN will be used.
Both A330s are in a 290-seat configuration, according to both Planespotters.net and the airline’s website, which is on the lower side compared with other -900 users. They’re configured with 230 seats in economy, 32 in business, and 21 in premium economy.
Expects a 70% seat factor in year one
With 290-seat aircraft and the expected traffic of 42,224 passengers, Air Senegal forecasts a seat load factor (SLF) of 70% in year one. Given COVID and the need to develop long-haul markets, this is probably reasonable. This excludes freight, which could be significant.
Targeting West Africa
Air Senegal aims to capture a chunk of both point-to-point (P2P) demand from both New York and Washington to Dakar, which had around 70,000 round-trip passengers in 2019, booking data suggests.
It will also be targeting demand from NYC and Washington to seven cities over Dakar, as follows, each of which will have two-way connectivity. There’s demand of approximately 100,000 to them.
- Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
- Bamako, Mali
- Banjul, Gambia (although the outbound connection time is excessive)
- Cap Skiring, Senegal
- Conakry, Guinea
- Nouakchott, Mauritania
- Ziguinchor, Senegal
Why not triangular?
Some may wonder why Air Senegal doesn’t serve JFK and Dulles on a triangular basis: Dakar-JFK-Dulles-Dakar. This would, after all, significantly reduce costs and free up what is an expensive aircraft. The reason is clear: it is via JFK in both directions to maximize connectivity over Dakar.
If it operated triangularly, it would arrive back into Senegal too early for anyone to connect onwards, as shown in the following figure, meaning it’d probably be even more costly than operating via JFK in both directions. And if it terminated at JFK, the aircraft would remain on the ground there from 06:00 to 23:55.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that political rather than commercial considerations drive this route, and that is probably true to an extent. No matter how you look at it, it’s a brave decision. But unlike obviously ‘prestige’ routes, this will only be twice-weekly with a realistic 70% SLF target in year one. It’d need to gain around a one-quarter share of the total traffic in 2019, as mentioned above, to achieve that figure.
While the jury is out on if it’ll be sustainable, it could be boosted further should Air Senegal add Dakar to the crucial Anglophone countries of Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa.
What do you think about this new route? Comment below!
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