USMC F-35Bs have arrived at RAF Lakenheath to deploy aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Split into two sections, each including 5 jets, a total of 10 USMC F-35Bs aircraft have arrived at RAF Lakenheath, UK. The first five jets landed on Apr. 26, 2021; the remaining ones arrived at the base in Suffolk, England, on Apr. 28, 2021.
The USMC F-35Bs aircraft belong to the VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers, based at MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Arizona, and, in the next weeks, they will depart RAF Lakenheath to head to the HMS Queen Elizabeth, for UK’s new aircraft carrier’s first operational deployment. The photographs in this article were taken by The Aviationist‘s contributor Stewart Jack as the first section of USMC F-35Bs landed at RAF Lakenheath on Monday.
“Moving the Marines, aircraft and equipment to the United Kingdom required coordinated planning, complex logistical effort, diligent maintenance and seamless execution,” said Lt. Col. Andrew D’Ambrogi, the commanding officer of VMFA-211 in a public release. “Now that we have arrived in the United Kingdom, we are reintegrating with our UK counterparts and focused on providing both the commodore of CSG-21 and US combatant commanders with ready, combat-capable, 5th-generation aircraft.”
As part of the Covid-19 mitigation measures, VMFA-211 pilots will complete a 14-day restriction-of-movement prior to boarding HMS Queen Elizabeth.
@USMC 5th-generation aircraft flew more than 5,000 miles from their home station in Arizona to @RoyalAirForce Lakenheath, England, ahead of their upcoming combined deployment with the United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier. pic.twitter.com/otmaJOQ5O1
— U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe & Africa (@USMCFEA) April 28, 2021
Heading to the danger zone
On her maiden operational cruise, HMS QE will travel to the Indo Pacific region leading the largest naval and air task force under British command since the Falklands war.
The naval line-up is going to include: Type 45 destroyers, HMS Defender and HMS Diamond; Type 23 anti-submarine frigates, HMS Kent and HMS Richmond; and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s logistics ships Fort Victoria and Tidespring; along with an Astute-class nuclear submarine will accompany the British aircraft carrier along with U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans and a Dutch frigate, HNLMS Evertse. During the 28-week deployment, the 10x VMFA-211 F-35Bs will operate alongside with 8x F-35Bs belonging to the Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron “Dambusters”.
The two units have already carried out joint training last year, when 10x F-35Bs of the “Wake Island Avengers” landed at RAF Marham on Sept. 3, 2020 to prepare the 2021 deployment. After local area training sorties with the Dambusters, the USMC F-35Bs took part in Exercise Point Blank with the F-15s from RAF Lakenheath and other NATO nations, before going to sea aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for carrier qualifications and Exercise Joint Warrior 20-2.
Along with the 18x STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft (10 USMC F-35Bs currently at Lakenheath and 8 RAF F-35Bs from RAF Marham), the air component of the Carrier Strike Group will include 4x AW159 Wildcat and 10x Merlin helicopters. It’s not clear whether the latter will carry the Crowsnest AEW (Airborne Early Warning) system, although it seems quite likely. Here’s what we wrote in the article covering the deployment of the VMFA-211 to RAF Marham in September last year, quoting Save the Royal Navy:
Crowsnest will not formally achieve Initial Operating Capability until September 2021 but 3 of the 9 Merlins are planned to be fitted with pre-IOC standard kits. At least the CGS will have some kind of Airborne Surveillance and Control capability, even if not properly certified and complete. In a significant change of plan, 849 Naval Air Squadron, which had been the ASaC squadron equipped with Sea Kings and was supposed to transition to Crowsnest, was disbanded in April 2020. The role will now be absorbed into 820 NAS. The squadron will have two streams of observers that specialise in either, anti-submarine warfare or ASaC. The RN has just 30 Merlin Mk2 helicopters, airframes are in short supply.
Merlin Mk4s will also be deployed and maybe ‘FOBed’ (Forward Operating Base) on RFA For Victoria or the tanker. For parts of the deployment, the RFAs and warships may detach and operate independently of the main CSG. USMC V-22 Ospreys will not be permanently embarked on the carrier but, together with CH-53E Stallions, may be used to provide Maritime Intra-Theatre Lift to the carrier group as it moves around the world, supported by the global US military logistic support footprint.
The CSG led by HMS Queen Elizabeth will set sail towards the troubled waters of the Indo-Pacific region, an area of rising tensions with China.
Updated map of outward leg of #CSG21 deployment including latest information in public domain.@smrmoorhouse has confirmed the CSG will return home via Suez and the Mediterranean. https://t.co/zGxopxcMVW pic.twitter.com/AROmXlv19q
— Navy Lookout (@NavyLookout) April 28, 2021
According to the Independent, “the UK Carrier Strike Group will carry out engagements with the navies of India and Japan, who are in dispute over land and sea borders respectively with Beijing, as well as the navies of South Korea and Singapore. All four countries being visited are considered the west’s allies in countering what is seen as China’s expansionist strategy in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.”
What Happened to Zambia Airways?
Zambia Airways spent 30 years operating out of Lusaka Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (LUN). During this time, the carrier served a wide range of destinations as far afield as North America and Europe. The airline also operated an interesting and diverse fleet during its three decades of operations. Let’s take a closer look at its history.
In the beginning
1964 saw a reformation of Central African Airways (CAA). This airline had previously been the flag carrier of three territories: Malwai, Southern Rhodesia, and Zambia. At this time, it decided instead to create national airlines for each of these three territories and own them all as subsidiaries. As such, Zambia Airways came into being in April 1964.
Operations began three months later, in the form of generally unprofitable domestic services. The airline was supported by CAA’s more successful international operations, although it chose to part ways with its parent company in 1967.
Having broken away from CAA that September, Zambia Airways became the country’s state-owned national airline. It soon enlisted the support of Alitalia in the fields of technical assistance and management. This allowed the carrier to begin flying internationally.
Fleet and destinations
Most of Zambia Airways’ destinations were, understandably, situated in Africa. As well as a robust domestic network, the carrier also flew to the likes of Botswana, Kenya, Liberia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Tanzania. Further afield, Zambia Airways also served Mumbai, as well as several key European hubs, including Frankfurt and London Heathrow.
It even operated a single transatlantic route, to none other than New York JFK. Such a wide range of destinations also demanded a correspondingly diverse fleet. During its three decades of operations, Zambia Airways operated the following aircraft types.
- ATR – 42-300.
- BAC – 1-11.
- Boeing – 707, 737, 757 (freighter).
- de Havilland Canada – DHC-2 ‘Beaver.’
- Douglas – DC-3, DC-8, DC-10.
- Hawker Siddeley – HS 748.
- Vickers – Viscount.
A new dawn?
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Zambia Airways ran into financial difficulties. Despite hiring Lufthansa in an attempt to regain profitability, the airline’s precarious economic situation forced it to make cuts. These included the closures of its New York and Tokyo offices, the former of which also meant the suspension of its service to the Big Apple.
Zambia Airways’ story eventually came to an end in December 1994. This was when the country’s government placed it into liquidation due to its losses and debts. However, a new chapter to the Zambia Airways story may yet be written.
Indeed, with the help of Ethiopian Airlines, the Zambian government had planned to launch a new version of the airline on October 24th, 2018 (the country’s independence day). However, since then, the launch has been subjected to multiple delays, and is yet to occur. In any case, it will be an interesting one to watch out for as African aviation looks to weather the storm of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the coming years.
Did you ever fly with Zambia Airways? If so, which of its aircraft did you travel on, and where to? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
Egyptian Low-Cost Carrier flyEgypt: What You Need To Know
Many travelers might be familiar with Egypt’s largest airline, Egyptair. They might even know about its low-key subsidiary, Air Sinai from our articles. Today, we’d like to introduce you to another Egyptian carrier by the name of flyEgypt: A six-year-old carrier with seven aircraft and an impressive list of destinations.
Six years of operations
Launched in 2015, flyEgypt is an Egyptian airline that offers domestic and regional service. Additionally, the carrier conducts charter operations to an impressive 80 cities across Europe.
“We connect Cairo and the world to Egypt’s top holiday destinations, and support hardworking Egyptians around the region looking to fly home,” the airline says on its website.
According to Arabian Aerospace, flyEgypt’s network is an “unusual blend” of 70% charter flights to Europe, with the other 30% being scheduled services. Going to the website’s list of destinations and it certainly appears impressive for a carrier with just seven aircraft.
Indeed, there are 20 cities in Germany alone, with another 12 in France, five in Poland, and six in Finland. Other countries served by the airline include Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Hungary, Armenia, and more*. Of course, these destinations make up the airline’s charter destinations- ferrying European holidaymakers to sunny resort spots in Egypt such as Sharm El Sheik and Hurghada.
*Destinations listed are during normal, non-pandemic operations.
In terms of domestic and regional service, the airline had planned to operate flights from Cairo to a handful of Egyptian destinations (Sharm El Sheikh, Marsa Alam, Luxor, and Aswan). The carrier’s CEO told Arabian Aerospace the following in 2019:
“Launching the domestic network has been a key component of our long-term growth plans, and we’re very excited to be finally seeing this milestone come to life, not only is it important for us as an airline, but we believe that it helps support tourism and rural employment, which are both critical for Egypt’s national economy.”
Regionally, the carrier has flown Kuwait, Lebanon, three cities in Saudi Arabia, and more. However, most of these services are suspended due to the ongoing crisis.
A fleet of just seven 737s
For all of its destinations offered, the airline has a humble fleet of just seven Boeing 737s. Five of these are the popular -800 variant, while the other two are the shorter -700. All -800s are configured in an all-economy set up with 189 seats, while the -700s have 148 economy seats.
The jets are all on lease and have flown for a diverse list of carriers prior to serving with flyEgypt. Previous airlines include Air Berlin, Air Europa, Spicejet, Smartwings, and Pegasus. These aircraft are getting old, though, with an average age of 14.2 years at the time of this article’s publication.
According to data from Planespotters.net, the airline is due to take delivery of some 737 MAX jets at some point in the future, with two being listed as future additions to the fleet.
A new service to Ras Al Khaimah
With Egyptians migrating to countries across the GCC looking for economic opportunities, this service could indeed be a winner- perhaps more so when this global health crisis is over. The new flight would also serve to boost Egypt’s tourism industry, attracting residents from the UAE.
Have you ever flown with flyEgypt before? Share your experience by leaving a comment.
Why Asia Is A Big Market For Embraer’s E2 Series
As airlines draw up their future plans, Embraer is eying a huge market for its brand-new E2 series in Asia. The aircraft’s competitive economics and long range make it favorable for many domestic and point-to-point routes in the world’s largest market. Let’s find out about Embraer’s vision for Asia.
Airlines in the Asia-Pacific have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. While much of the region has managed to keep cases low (with a few exceptions), this has meant border closures and much lower demand. All of these changes have forced airlines to rightsize their fleets and look into buying smaller aircraft in the future.
Embraer sees these changes as an opportunity for its brand-new E2 family. In an interview with Simple Flying, Embraer’s Commercial Head for Asia-Pacific, Raul Villaron shed light on the Brazilian manufacturer’s outlook and strategy for the region in the coming years.
Perhaps the most attractive aspect about the E2 for airlines is the jet’s economics. The new generation of jets features a lower unit cost ($60mn for a new E190-E2 at list price) as well as a lower per seat cost. The improved costs of the E2 family will make it more attractive to airlines looking to many airlines at this time.
Considering the focus on per seat cost among airlines across Asia, the E2 is now much more competitive. Now that Embraer has a jet ready for the Asia-Pacific market, where does it expect to see the most demand?
Many might be familiar with the E2’s promotional “TechLion” or profit hunter livery from 2019. The reason the E2 is great at turning a profit is because of its efficiency in a particular market segment: flights under 650 nautical miles. Below this distance, the E2 offers better seat costs than even narrowbody jets like the A320 or 737.
This means that Embraer’s newest planes are well-suited to regional routes and adding more frequencies on popular short-haul routes. Considering the renewed focus on domestic and regional traffic in the last year, carriers like Bamboo Airways and Alliance Airlines have added their first E-jets to their fleets (not E2’s however).
For context, routes under 650nm include Delhi to Mumbai, Beijing to Shanghai, Sydney to Brisbane, and scores of others. It’s clear that there is a growing market for regional jets in the future, one that the E2 is intently eying.
With vaccines slowly rolling out across the world, aircraft demand is expected to pick up once again. Indeed, Embraer saw its deliveries bounce back in the last quarter of 2020 after a difficult year. While revenues are still down, the decade holds many opportunities for the E2 as airlines expand and replace their fleets.
What do you think about the future of the E2 in the Asia-Pacific market? Let us know in the comments!
Why Do Some Aircraft Have A T Tail?
Take a close look at aircraft tails, and you will notice one major difference between some aircraft. While most modern airliners have a lower tailplane (or horizontal stabilizer), some smaller and regional aircraft have a higher so-called T-tail. This has relevance for the aircraft it is used on.
Tails and stabilizers
Firstly, a quick recap on the purpose of the aircraft tail. The tail provides stability and control for the aircraft in flight.
The vertical tail fin (with the airline logo on it) is technically called the vertical stabilizer. In addition to this, there is a horizontal stabilizer. This is the small wing-like protrusions from the main tail, or rear of the fuselage. The horizontal stabilizer is where you will find the elevators – they control the pitch of the aircraft. The tail, of course, also houses the rudder.
In all large commercial jets, the horizontal stabilizers are the base of the tail, in line with the fuselage. However, on many other aircraft, you will find them at the top of the tail fin. The shape of this gives rise to its name of T-tail.
Which aircraft have T-tails
To start with, most current Boeing and Airbus aircraft do not have this. The exceptions are the Boeing 717 and the 727. The 717 is formerly, of course, the McDonnell Douglas MD-95. Both of these aircraft have fuselage-mounted engines.
Historically, many jets with fuselage-mounted engines had T-tails. This includes the BAC One-Eleven, the DC-9, DC-10, MD-80, and MD-90.
Many current small and mid-size jets still have T-tails. Such as the Bombardier CRJ Series, Embraer ERJ, and the BAe 146 / Avro RJ. Also, several business jet series (including Learjet and Gulfstream) have T-tails, as do some large military transports.
Purpose of the T-tail
Placing the horizontal stabilizer at the bottom or top of the tail makes little difference in theory. Both positions will enable the tail to function correctly and allow the elevators to do their job.
The reason why on some jets it is placed higher is to do with airflow. Placing them higher on the tail keeps them out of the disturbed airflow behind the wing and engines. With fuselage-mounted engines, this is always necessary.
A high horizontal stabilizer also aids short-field performance. The disturbed airflow over a lower stabilizer can make control more difficult at low speeds. Better control at lower speed is an important part of short take-off and landing capability.
Lowering it on modern jets
Why then do modern large jets not have T-tails? There are several reasons. Firstly, a lower horizontal stabilizer is simpler to install and maintain, and the vertical tail does not need to be as strong. And secondly, there is no real need to boost the short-field performance with more powerful engines and operation from standard runways.
But perhaps most important is the avoidance of a deep stall. At a high angle of attack, disrupted airflow over the wings flows over the high horizontal stabilizer, leaving the aircraft with no pitch control. This was experienced with a BAC One-Eleven test aircraft in 1963. Since then, modifications were introduced (including stick hackers and warnings of an approaching stall) on other aircraft that used a T-tail. But lowering it would avoid this problem entirely.
There is a lot more to discuss about tail design and development. A full discussion of aerodynamics and the performance of different aircraft types is beyond the scope of this article! Feel free to discuss more specific details in the comments.
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