Aerospace

Nobility in Iran’s Honesty? Not so fast.

It is one thing to admit a mistake. However the mainstream media is borderline complimenting Iran for its honesty, The Iranians initially denied shooting down the Ukrainian passenger jet by suggesting it had mentioned technical troubles with the tower. Then Iran tried to defend the use of bulldozers at the crash site and wasn’t looking to release the black boxes. Now the Revolutionary Guard admitted it to using a surface-to-air (SAM) missile to shoot it down by mistake.

However we are talking about the elite battle hardened fighting force of the Iranians. Not some bunch of cadets with the keys to toys they haven’t have sufficient training on. Let’s run through the logic of what we know.

First, no aircraft safety investigation body would ever dream of bulldozing a forensics site if they wished to find the root cause. Plane crashes are crimes scenes even when there is no foul play. Was it fatigue, engine failure, mid-air collision? Did the plane pancake? How far is the distance between nose and tail as well as wingtips? Did it disintegrate mid air? Black boxes tell only so much. Initially the Iranians weren’t looking to release them but now are allowing the French BEA to analyze the data.

Flight PS752 took off a bit after 6am. It would have been dawn. Flight 752’s strobe lights would have been visible at just under 8000ft provided there was no cloud cover. The speed during the climb would have been around 275kts. Cruise missiles don’t have strobe lights.

Audibly a 40 meter long Boeing 737-800 commercial jet has an engine speed during climb of c.5,000rpm (fan speed). It has a distinctive thrum. A 5.6 meter Tomahawk cruise missile turbofan shreiks at 36,000rpm. They aren’t built for durability. So a military spec missile engine spinning 7x faster than a CFM-56 turbofan sounds completely different. That alone would be an instant sign to a trained military of what the threat was.

US Tomahawk cruise missiles fly at sub 200ft. That is under two hundred feet. They are terrain hugging weapons. They travel at 550mph. Were the Tomahawk flying past a missile battery it would be simple to pick up visually.

The Iranians use state of the art Russian surface-to-air missiles (SAM). Russia makes the best SAM systems worldwide. Not only in accuracy terms but in detection terms. Tor or S-300 systems would be able to determine altitude, speed and size with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

SAM’s are designed to explode before the target, showering it with high velocity shrapnel like a shotgun to ensure the speeding target is essentially shredded. It does not detonate on contact. The SAM systems are designed to slow down as it approaches the target to inflict the maximum damage.

We do not need to mention that the loss of 176 lives is a tragedy. However the blame is squarely at the feet of the Revolutionary Guard. It is uncanny how the mainstream media is painting the admission by the Iranians as some sort of noble gesture. Does Trump killing such a senior target make for a viable excuse to shoot down a passenger jet?

If Trump hadn’t had Solameini assassinated then this tragedy wouldn’t have occurred is the mainstream media logic. How quickly the mainstream media forget that Obama conducted 542 drone strikes without the approval of Congress which killed nearly 3,800 people including 324 civilians. Is it fair to pin the Malaysian MH17 Boeing 777 shot down over Ukraine at his feet? Of course not.

How long should Trump have ignored oil tankers being attacked by Iran in the Gulf in May 2019? Should he have forgotten the US drone shot down by Iran in June 2019? The attack on a Saudi state run oil company in September 2019? The attacks in US military bases in Iraq in December 2019? Storming the US Embassy in Iraq in the same month? The death of a US contractor? At what point did the US allow Iran to continue without retaliation?

It is not to say the assassination of a ruthless terrorist was the most optimal outcome from a geopolitical stability perspective but the constant Iranian provocation was bound to result in a counter punch at some stage.

Now there is admission of guilt, this isn’t a sign of a noble gesture. It is a stuff up of epic proportions. There is no doubt that Iran would have been in maximum vigilance mode after Solemeini’s death. Aerial surveillance would have been on high alert. The most experienced crews would have manned the SAM sites. There can be no doubt it was a deliberate strike. Fighter jets wouldn’t have been flying at subsonic speeds over Iraq if they were intent on bombing targets. A passenger jet sounds different to a cruise missile.

Back in 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air flight 655 over the Strait of Hormuz, misidentifying it as an enemy fighter jet. The Soviets shot down KAL 007 in 1983 for supposedly straying into USSR airspace. An Israeli flight out of Kenya narrowly escaped being shot down by a shoulder mounted SAM in 2002.

Did Greta’s flight shaming work on Germans or was it something else?

More pesky facts. Flight shaming is the latest and greatest form of climate activism. Our 16yo Time Person of The Year 2019, Greta Thunberg, has said Germans have taken to rail with a sharp drop off in air travel.

She said on her FB page,

Last month domestic air travel in Sweden was down 11%. In Germany it was down 12%. The climate- and environmental crisis can of course only be solved by a system change. But these numbers surely do help with bringing that change a little closer…

Bloomberg noted,

The number of people flying between German cities fell 12% in November from a year earlier, according to the ADV industry group, marking a fourth straight monthly drop and mirroring a pattern emerging in Sweden.

A shame Bloomberg failed to mention that Germany’s largest airline Lufthansa grounded 1,300 flights in November in order to weather internal turbulence caused by thousands its flight attendants who went on strike. That might have an impact on travel! 180,000 passengers were forced to travel by other means.

Deutsche Bank Research also noted,

Passenger numbers at German airports recently fell…the decline is largely due to economic reasons, such as the cyclical slowdown and lower supply due to airline bankruptcies.

Unfortunately, the rest of Europe keeps flying. ACI Europe which tracks aircraft movements shows that travel across Europe had increased 2.1% in the latest figures. Specifically, Milan’s Malpensa Airport experienced 31.2% growth in October, Krakow +30.2%, Seville +14.8%, Bordeaux +14.2%, Vienna +10.2% and Brussels +6.4%.

Once again, the media has so little regard for context. Sing a narrative even if it is not proven by the data. Yet another example of why there is little need to listen to teenagers who pontificate as experts, even if spoon fed by adults with an agenda.

If Mitsubishi studied pigs and aviation closer

In 2007, CM suggested that the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) was doomed to failure at the concept stage.

All the tea leaves were there to be read. A simple study of the widely available Boeing & Airbus 20-yr commercial market forecasts at the time revealed how the regional jet market was set to shrink 40% in favour of larger jets.

Yet the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp (MAC) pushed on ahead regardless hoping for a 20% share of a collapsing market. What would possess a company to target a dying segment with a product that wasn’t a game changer? A plane that promised to use composites to reduce weight yet was forced back to conventional alloys and to resize because customers had no demand for the original design.

With 90% of the regional market occupied by Bombardier and Embraer, airlines get great efficiencies by sticking to the same brands during upgrade cycles – minimal marginal costs required to train ground staff and pilots. For airlines to pursue a brand new aircraft that offered little in terms of superior economics nor extensive after sales services, it was always going to be the Achilles’ heel for MAC.

Airlines would not only take on extra costs to train existing staff, but would run huge financial risks with leased MRJ’s (now called the Spacejet to rebrand the failure) if they needed to downsize fleets because there would be next to no other airlines to sell or release them to unlike Bombardier & Embraer. Pilots who chose to be certified to fly the Spacejet also risked limited career options if an airline collapsed.

So it is refreshing to read this great summary on Wolf Street of how terribly the aircraft program is (not) progressing in 2019.

It would make a great Harvard Business Review study on how not to crack into a market.

ESG in an airship

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Sumitomo Chemical’s vision for sustainability, innovation and change. A wooden ship powered by propjets. Presumably, the plants are for carbon offset. At the very least, such make-believe probably accurately reflects the company’s true inner commitment to this nonsense. God bless Japan’s anime culture.

The company stated,

“The Annual Report 2019 starts with an image of boarding a Sumitomo Chemical airship, which is also on the front cover. This year, the beginning of the new Corporate Business Plan, we added a dialogue between the Chairman of the Board and the Outside Directors, a CFO’s message, and a section on ESG strategies to further enhance our content. We hope this Annual Report serves as a bridge to our stakeholders and communicates our efforts to create new value by mobilizing the entire Sumitomo Chemical Group.”

Whatever that means….

Qantas to sue Will.i.am?

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CM rarely has a kind word for Qantas when it comes to service, but good on the airline for being prepared to defend a stewardess who Will.I.am decided to accuse of “racism” on Twitter. Of course, the full facts about what went on board to cause the fracas is yet to be released but sadly passengers need to realise when they are on the plane, the crew do have the law on their side. Apparently, the musician didn’t want to put his laptop in the overhead bin. Good luck winning that fight when instructed by the crew. It is a condition of flying.

One could almost be forgiven for thinking it was a pre-concert promotional stunt to stir up the media into a frenzy to sell more tickets. Thankfully Qantas flight attendants don’t wear MAGA hats, serve Subway sandwiches or carry bleach. Yet they do carry restraining kits. If Will.I.am truly did his homework he would have realised that Qantas is more woke than he is.

As successful as Will.I.am has been in his career, the triggered musician has had a history of not always living in the real world. Sadly when celebrities make millions they become so conditioned to having wind blown up their backside that when someone pushes back over the most trivial of things their outrage is amplified as if their life was at stake. Sometimes they don’t even get their own hypocrisy. Take this example.

Will.I.am attended a climate change debate in Oxford in his own helicopter – which is not dissimilar in size to Marine One – and said at the conference, “Climate change should be the thing that we are all worried and concerned about as humans on this planet, how we affect the planet, our consumption, and how we treat the place that we live in.”

Qantas’ 2050 zero-emissions nonsense

Woke? The only way Qantas can cut net CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 is to cease operations. In what world does CEO Alan Joyce AC think he is somehow ahead of the aerospace technology curve? In any event, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be CEO in 2050.

Joyce said the Qantas and Jetstar will cap net emissions at their current level from next year, cutting it gradually over the next 30 years. A big pronouncement but by sheer virtue of upgrading an ageing fleet (phasing out 747 Jumbos) the efficiency targets are a walk in the park, not some tremendous virtuous milestone. Burning less fuel is good for the airline’s bottom line. Lower fuel burn means fewer emissions.

The ultimate irony is that aircraft manufacturers are doing their utmost to “carbonize” the fuselage and wings in order to save weight (Boeing 787, 777X, A350, A330). Even the next generation engines are featuring extensive use of carbon derivatives because of the fuel efficiency benefits that are created by them. Put simply, even in 2050 carbon and fossil fuel derivatives will be major source materials for future planes. Maybe in Joyce’s mind, that won’t count.

Aerospace technology is utterly amazing. To think that a 650t Airbus A380 can take off, fly 12 hours and land in complete comfort. Or that one fan blade on a 777 jet engine can theoretically suspend a locomotive from it without snapping such is the tensile strength. Now we can fly 19 hours nonstop. 30 years ago, half that distance was achievable.

Bio-fuels exist. However, if the airports across the globe don’t provide bio-fuels then his zero emissions pledge is shot. According to the IEA, aviation biofuel (aka sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)) is forecast to be 20% of all aviation fuel by 2040, from 5% in 2025.

The IEA stated,

SAF are currently more expensive than jet fuel, and this cost premium is a key barrier to their wider use. Fuel cost is the single largest overhead expense for airlines, accounting for 22% of direct costs on average, and covering a significant cost premium to utilise aviation biofuels is challenging…Subsidising the consumption of SAF envisaged in the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) in 2025, around 5% of total aviation jet fuel demand, would require about $6.5 billion of subsidy (based on closing a cost premium of USD 0.35 litre between HEFA-SPK and fossil jet kerosene at USD 70/bbl oil prices).

For commercial aviation to be a success, cost is always a factor. Great advancements like the Concorde died because of sustainable economics, not because of the accident. The vaunted Boeing Sonic Cruiser died at the concept stage because airlines couldn’t accept the commercial economics afforded by those higher speeds. So we have been stuck at 900km/h for decades and for decades to come.

Yes, there have been talks of electrically-powered planes (several developmental prototypes exist) but the technology to make them fly 10,000km at 900km/h with 300+ passengers on board won’t be met by 2050. Airbus intends to

make the technology available to fly a 100-passenger aircraft based on electric and hybrid-electric technology within the 2030s timeframe.”

Don’t buy into the malarkey that 10% of Qantas passengers carbon offset their travel. If one does the math, less than 3% of miles are actually covered by such virtue signalling. Either way, more than 90% don’t care to pay for their carbon offsets.

Aussie company has only approved technology for Qantas Boeing 737NG wing crack detection

Very simple story. Aussie based company Structural Monitoring Systems (SMN AX) has the only approved crack detection product in the market.

The 5 Qantas Boeing 737 NG planes (and dozens like it around the world) could have had far earlier detection with SMN’s CVM technology. To cut a long story short, CVM technology has vacuum channels, which if broken (via cracks emerging) notifies the ground crew of the structural issue.

The company already has a contract with Delta Airlines for its aircraft. This type of technology not only has the potential to ward off catastrophic failures but reduce the cost of inspections for airlines.

CM has owned SMN for over a decade. This trend was always coming.