Pittsburgh Airport trials autonomous delivery vehicles

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Pittsburgh Airport in Pennsylvania, US, is testing autonomous delivery vehicles to deliver select passengers a contactless delivery system.

The brainchild of startup tech company, Ottonomy, IO, the autonomous delivery vehicles are the latest pilot project to be trialled in coordination with the airport’s xBridge innovation hub. The vehicles will transport products sold in airport’s shops to travellers who typically do not stop to visit stores or eateries in the airport.

“We are committed to providing the best customer experiences by discovering and implementing innovative solutions that utilise cutting-edge technology,” said xBridge Director, Cole Wolfson. “We’ve built a culture of innovation and we are excited to partner with Ottonomy to advance this technology in an airport environment.”

The innovative technology enables customers to order goods via an app on their phone. The robot will then collect the necessary items and swiftly deliver them to the customer at their gate.

“Across the globe, airports are similar,” says Ritukar Vijay, co-founder and CEO of Ottonomy.IO. “There might be large and smaller ones, but more or less the overall setup is similar. So that gives us scale: if it works at a couple of airports, it is applicable to almost all of them.”

Having launched in 2020, during the pandemic when robotic delivery vehicles were already being deployed in various environments, Vijay explains most were teleoperated or remotely piloted by humans.

Ottonomy.OI, he says is better positioned to scale up and avoid the impact of labour shortages as his autonomous robots do not require human assistance.

“We focused on full autonomy right from day one,” adds Vijay. “Our approach has been to ensure that the Ottobot would have the capacity to run autonomously in crowded and dynamic environments,” he continued.

Earlier versions of the robots have previously been tested in Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky, where they were equiped with LIDAR and a wide variety of sensors were rolled out at the end of 2021.

The new version has been upgraded to improve maneuverability. It can perform zero-radius turns and crabwalk or move sideways to help it move through crowded terminals and avoid people and obstacles in its path.

“Airports are a unique spot,” noted Vijay. ” There’s some amount of structure and scale. It is very dynamic, where the users are concerend. That kind of dynamic environment, that is very, very important to figure out how autonomous navigation can be utilised within that space.”

Ireland’s Regional Airports Programme commences mid-term review

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Ireland’s Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton, has commenced the mid-term review of the Regional Airports Programme, which aims to provide funding to Ireland’s smallest airports – those that provide connectivity and handle fewer than one million annual passengers.

Commenting on the mid-term review, Minister Naughton said: “Government recognises the important role that our regional airports play in supporting regional connectivity and as access points for both tourism and business. The mid-term review will consider how the programme is currently delivering on its objectives, primarily in the context of supporting balanced regional development. It will also explore how international connectivity and services, to and from the regions can be maintained and enhanced.”

Funding is targeted at ensuring airports can maintain compliance in the areas of safety and security. It also supports projects with a sustainability focus. Also supported under the programme are Public Service Obligation (PSO) air services between Donegal and Dublin.

Parties interested in commenting on the public consultation are invited to do so on a range of issues ranging from boosting traffic to how to make better use of the regional hubs.

Funding supplied by Government has included an unprecedented €116 million under an EU State aid approved COVID-19 Supplementary Support Scheme for Irish airports. This has benefited small regional hubs such as Donegal, Ireland West and Kerry after the damage caused by COVID-19. State airports, such as Dublin, Shannon and Cork were also supported with the flexibility to roll out route incentives/ charge rebates, in consultation with airlines.

“I am delighted to see the positive impacts of government support witnessed across all of our airports and in particular our regional airports,” added Minister Naughton. “Shannon Airport’s summer 2022 schedule offered 27 destinations to the UK, Europe and the US and the winter 2022 schedule offers 23 destinations with daily flights to the US.”

She also noted that Cork Airport saw an extremely busy summer period leading into their biggest ever winter schedule, which features more than 1.1 million seats across 27 routes, served by five airlines. In addition, “All seven routes, which operated from Kerry Airport pre-COVID, have returned,” she said. “So too has the pre-pandemic route network of air services from Ireland West Airport Knock, with the airport offering a winter schedule of 84 weekly flights to and from a host of cities in the UK and Europe.”

With regard to connectivity to the northwest region, Donegal has yet to restore services to Glasgow, which were lost as a result of the pandemic, Naughton also noted that a new PSO contract has been awarded this year between Donegal and Dublin. “These twice daily two-way air services, facilitating same day return trips from Donegal, and further onward international connectivity from Dublin Airport, marks Government’s commitment to ensuring continued connectivity to this region for the next three years,” she said.

UK airports given their say on independent aviation regulator

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As part of a review of the UK’s independent aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK Government has launched a Call for Evidence. The review will run until spring 2023.

It will enable anybody who uses the CAA or is affected by its work, including airports, pilots, airlines and passengers, to provide insight and evidence to inform the Government review on everything from the CAA’s strategy to its organisation and performance.  The Call for Evidence will ask questions such as whether the CAA has the right powers to effectively regulate the aviation market, whether its charges are good value for money and whether it is effectively structured.

Having begun in August this year, the wider CAA review forms part of the Cabinet Office’s Public Bodies Review Programme, which aims to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of public bodies and help these organisations build on their success in tackling the unprecedented challenges of recent years.

The CAA is tasked with a number of responsibilities, including ensuring the highest standards of aviation safety and security, the efficient use of airspace and space operations and protecting consumer rights.

Responses can be made via the UK Government website.

Woolpert contracted to assist with planning new terminal at Pago Pago

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Architecture, engineering and consultancy firm, Woolpert, has been appointed to evaluate, plan and design a new airport terminal at Pago Pago International Airport in Samoa. The airport serves the seven South Pacific islands of the US territory.

The existing facility was built more than 50 years ago and has been expanded multiple times to accommodate growing passenger traffic and the needs of the region. The existing terminal has limits due to regional geography.

“The current facility does not adequately support new aircraft or economic development plans for American Samoa, which is actively expanding infrastructure, industrial, commercial and business opportunities,” said Curtis Brown, Senior Project Manager and Senior Associate  at Woolpert. “We have been working with the American Samoa government over the last few years, reconstructing and extending runways and we truly appreciate their culture and values, as well as their needs and vast potential.”

Evaluation for the new terminal is already underway with Woolpert employing the VLX mobile mapping building scanner as part of its reality capture for the existing structure and utilities to produce precise drawings, which will then be used to assess what can be retained and what needs to be rebuilt.

The project will be funded using local, federal and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sources. It will be environmentally and economically conscious, incorporating sustainable materials and climate resilience practices, while improving services that support disenfranchised communities.

Woolpert has also partnered with airport architecture firm, Corgan and local engineering consultancy firm PPG Consultants on this project.

MENA Aerospace expands Bahrain hangar facilities

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As the only private owner and operator of general aviation hangars at Bahrain International Airport, MENA Aviation Real Estate is expanding its existing hangar facility at Bahrain’s primary air transport hub.

A subsidiary of MENA Aerospace Enterprises, MENA Aviation currently has a 6,400 sq.m. purpose-built facility at the Bahrain hub consisting of two 3,200 sq.m. hangars, each capable of accommodating up to 757-500 sized aircraft or numerous business jets. The new 4,200 sq.m expansion will increase the company’s ability to provide aircraft maintenance services for both commercial and private aircraft, as well as private jet parking. The expansion project is expected to be complete within the next two years.

“The expansion of our hangar facility lays foundations to further extend our services in the region… and is aligned with our long-term strategy to be able to provide ever better services to our clients,” said Anil Kumar, General Manager and CFO at MENA Aerospace.

Built and operated to EASA 145 standards, the code-C hangar is equipped with NFPA 409 compliant fire suppression system, backup electricity supply, compressed air, drainage for aircraft washing and translucent vertical doors sectioning off the different areas.

MENA Aerospace’s expansion at Bahrain follows the unveiling of the airport’s new terminal in January 2021, which increased the airport’s capacity to 14 million passengers and 130,000 air traffic movements per year.

Camarillo Airport serves as base for the debut of Ampaire’s Eco Caravan

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Marking a milestone for hybrid-electric flight, Ampaire’s Eco Caravan, a nine-seat regional aircraft, has made its first flight operating a fully-integrated hybrid-electric propulsion system. The flight, which lasted 33 minutes, took off from Camarillo Airport in California on 18 November.

With certification expected in 2024, Ampaire is hoping the Eco Caravan will be the first electrified regional carrier to enter commercial service. It will also be the first in a series of larger Ampaire hybrid-electric aircraft that will help aviation transition to a lower carbon future.

Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker commented: “Aviation is the hardest industry to decarbonise. Fully-electric aircraft are range limited because of the weight and energy capacity of current-generation batteries. Hybrid-electric aircraft, however, can preserve the range and utility of today’s aircraft. That is why we are focused on hybrid-electric propulsion for a series of increasingly capable regional aircraft. It’s a way for the airline industry to decarbonise more quickly and also to benefit from lower operating costs.”

An upgrade of the standard Cessna Grand Caravan, the Eco Caravan features Ampaire’s integrated propulsion system of a compression ignition engine and an electric engine. A battery pack in a body fairing preserves passenger and cargo capacity for the aircraft.

Flown by test pilot Elliot Seguin (pictured), the flight took from Camarillo Airport , which is situated just north of Los Angeles, at 7.49 Pacific Time on 18 November. It climbed to 3,500 ft at full power, combining power from the combustion engine and electric engine. Seguin then throttled back to a cruise setting, reducing load on both power sources. He spent around 20 minutes testing various power settings while monitoring temperatures and other readings before making a descent and landing back at Camarillo.

“The Eco Caravan propulsion system performed as expected,” said Seguin. “It was smooth and quiet. All temperatures and power output readings were normal.”

The aircraft’s batteries can be recharged both in flight or at charging stations on the ground. Because charging infrastructure will be limited for some years, the ability to operate independent of ground charging is critical for preserving the full utility of the Eco Caravan, according to Ampaire. Noertker also remarked that this particular model is a first step to larger hybrid-electric propulsion systems and ultimately zero-emission systems as energy storage technology advances.

“Launching hybrid-electric aviation is no simple task, but we have made it easier by upgrading an already certified aircraft,” continued Noertker. The Eco Caravan will be certified under a supplemental type certificate, an STC. The Grand Caravan is already FAA certified, so Ampaire plans to certify it to fly with a new propulsion system.

“We will come to market more quickly and allow airlines around the world to begin to gain operational experience with this new type of propulsion. And we will work with them on follow-on models to meet their network requirements,” Noertker concluded.

Farnborough named FBO of the year in ACA Awards 2022

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The UK’s Farnborough Airport has been awarded the title of FBO of the Year at the Air charter Association (ACA) Excellence Awards 2022. This year marks the eighth time that the dedication business aviation hub has won the accolade.

The annual event, which was held in Brighton on 17 November highlight the best in the aviation sector. Winners are selected following a worldwide nomination process with voting cast by members and deliberations of the ACA’s industry adjudication panel.

Farnborough Airport’s FBO Director, Dominic Osborne, said: “To receive this prestigious accolade is a huge privilege an dwe are incredibly grateful to all those who voted  for us. We would like to thank the entire Farnborough Airport team for their ongoing commitment to delivering outstanding service and operational excellence, enabling us to constantly improve our facilities and services, and exceed our customer expectations.”

Farnborough Airport was the UK’s first airfield in aviation history and home to the country’s first powered flight in 1908. Over the years the airport has continued to be a leader in aviation and pioneers sustainability in the industry. In 2018 the airport was declared the first business aviation airport to be awarded carbon neutral status by Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, and in July 2021 the airport introduced the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). In June 2022 the airport launched its net zero roadmap, outlining its commitment to be net zero by 2030.

Cornwall Airport Newquay becomes first UK hub with a spaceport licence

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Cornwall Airport Newquay is out in the lead of the UK’s orbital space race. Alongside Spaceport Cornwall it received the UK’s first ever spaceport licence on 16 November.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued the licence following consent from Transport Secretary Mark Harper, underlining his agreement with the licensing decisions made by the UK CAA. The airport and Spaceport Cornwall have demonstrated to the regulator that it meets the appropriate safety, security, environment and other aspects to operate a UK spaceport. The approval also means Spaceport Cornwall has the infrastructure, equipment and services for horizontal space launches.

Commenting on the airport’s role in helping the UK progress that bit further to its first orbital space launch, Sam O’Dwyer, Managing Director, Cornwall Airport Newquay said: “We are incredibly proud to be involved in this innovative project to enable space launch from Cornwall Airport Newquay with Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit. The team effort that has gone into developing a spaceport facility to deliver safe and secure space operations for the UK’s first ever space launch has been simply inspiring.”

O’Dwyer was joined by Mel Thorpe, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, who added: “To be the first Spaceport in the UK with a licence to operate is a historic moment. The regulatory environment created by the CAA ensures that UK launch will set the global bat in terms of responsibility and transparency.

“Cornwall is now ready to open up the use of Space for Good and support the UK industry in harnessing the power of space to benefit life on Earth.”

This latest licence for Cornwall adds to nearly 150 licences already approved by the UK CAA since becoming the UK’s space regulator in July 2021.  Richard Moriaty, Chief Executive of the UK CAA described the licence for Cornwall as a “historic moment,” and a “major milestone to enable [the UK] to become a leading launch nation.”

He also noted: “When we became the space regulator, we committed to delivering in an open, effective and proportionate way, with public safety at its heart. Our work does not stop with this licence decision as we continue to assess other licence applications and oversee the effectiveness of licenced activities, all enabling the UK’s space sector to grow safely and securely.”

The growing space industry is estimated to be worth £16.5 billion. It supports 47,000 jobs, with 2,500 apprentices opening the sector to even more people.

Villa Air chooses Ink to transform passenger experience at Maldivian airports

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Maldivian carrier, Villa Air, has selected Ink Innovation’s Departure Control System (DCS) and Load Control for use across its island network. Top destinations for the airline include the airports of Male, Maamigili and Dharavandhoo.

The multi-channel DCS will help streamline the check-in and boarding process by enabling the airline to process passengers and baggage in any location using mobile devices. This will help transform airport journeys from check-in, boarding and baggage handling to departure. Villa Air will also leverage Ink’s Load Control application to help reduce fuel burn and improve On-Time Performance.

“We selected Ink Innovation to partner with us having been impressed by their forward-looking innovative approach, capabilities and flexibility of its systems,” said Villa Air’s Manager Commercial, Rexy Croos. “The idea to handle passengers on mobile phones to serve passengers anywhere at their convenience fully addresses our strategy, not to mention higher operational resilience and fair cost structure.”

Partnership with Wizz Air sees Menzies expand presence in Middle East and Europe

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Menzies Aviation has been awarded a contract by ultra-low-fare airline, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, to provide a range of ground handling services at Kuwait International Airport.

The agreement marks Menzies’ first contract with the airline outside of Europe and builds on the two companies’ existing relationship which spans several European cities including London, Budapest, Prague, Cluj, Timisoara, Iasi and Sibiu.

“We are pleased to be expanding our relationship with Wizz Air with this new Wizz Air Abu Dhabi contract in Kuwait,” said Charles Wyley, Executive VP Middle East, Africa and Asia, Menzies Aviation. “It demonstrates the confidence Wizz Air has in the ability of the Menzies team to provide a safe, secure and consistent quality service.”

As part of the new contract Menzies will deliver ramp, passenger, security and ticketing services for seven flights a week for the LCC.

Menzies has also secured a new European location with Wizz Air in Nice, where it will provide passenger ramp services for more than 1,800 flights per year.

Wyley conclude: “We look forward to continuing to grow our relationship with Wizz Air in the region and beyond.”