Two University of Sydney PhD candidates join global hypersonic flight research team

A computational image of coefficient pressure on a hypersonic craft. (University of Sydney)

The European Space Agency says two Australian PhD researchers will join its Hexafly-Int project team looking at developing civil aircraft that are able to fly at hypersonic speeds.

The two aeronautical engineering researchers from the University of Sydney, David Munk and Jonathan Jeyaratnam, are looking at the structural and aerodynamic design required for civil aircraft capable of flying between Sydney and Brussels in two hours and at a speed of seven times the speed of sound.

Munk said his engineering PhD thesis was looking at ways of developing novel structural designs for aircraft that could support the high temperature of hypersonic flight.

“An aircraft experiences high thermal stresses and a significant reduction in material strength and stiffness when it is taking off or flying at supersonic speeds,” Munk said in a statement.

“To combat this reduction in strength and rigidity I am designing an optimal algorithm that will determine the best structural layout for such craft.”

The Hexafly-Int project is a collaboration of international partners, including the University of Sydney, University of NSW and University of Southern Queensland from Australia, as well as universities and industry players from around the world.

The University of Sydney said in a statement on Wednesday the Hexafly-Int project had a budget of A$33 million.

The prime objectives of the project, according to the Hexafly-Int website, was to come up with a conceptual design for demonstrating high aerodynamic efficiency in combination with high internal volume, achieve a gliding flight at cruise Mach 7 or Mach 8 in a controlled way, make optimal use of advanced high-temperature materials and/or structures, and finally evaluate a sonic boom.

“The vehicle design, manufacturing, assembly and verification will be the main driver and challenge in HEXAFLY-INTernational in combination with a mission profile,” the website said.

Jeyaratnam said he was looking at the how the aerodynamic design of any hypersonic aircraft would handle the low-speed flows experienced at takeoff and landing.

“The aerodynamics of a hypersonic plane is very different to a standard civil aircraft” Jeyaratnam said.

“I’m looking at the variation in the sizing, positioning and dihedral (upward) angle of the vertical tail to find out if their positioning can improve the lateral stability but not compromise performance of a craft that travels at Mach 7.

“I think perhaps an extension of the outboard portion of the wings at the tail may improve the stability of the vehicle at low speed and also improve performance.”

A low-speed model will be built for testing at the University of Sydney’s Marulan airstrip, the University said.



Australian Aviation

China Eastern and Qantas offer capacity conditions in fresh effort to win approval for proposed alliance

A China Eastern Airbus A330-300 at Melbourne Airport (Rob Finlayson)

China Eastern and Qantas have offered a “capacity condition” on the Sydney-Shanghai route as part of their attempt to win over the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on their proposed alliance on Australia-China routes.

The offer of a capacity condition is contained in the two carriers’ latest submission to the ACCC seeking approval for the proposed tie-up. The ACCC said in a draft determination in March it intended to block the alliance because it would give Qantas and China Eastern the ability to raise fares and limit capacity growth on the Sydney-Shanghai route.

In response to the draft determination, the pair said the ACCC failed to appreciate the vigorous and effective competition provided by other carriers offering indirect services between Australia and China the role of other airlines in the Australia-China market.

Moreover, the competition regulator placed insufficient weight on the public benefits Qantas and China Eastern claim will flow from the alliance and disregarded the benefits to Australians that come from an Australian carrier being able to maintain an operating presence in China.

Also, Qantas and China Eastern said their proposed partnership would enable and expedite capacity growth on routes between the two countries, rejecting the ACCC’s assertion that it would limit growth.

“The Commission’s stated concerns ignore commercial realities,” China Eastern and Qantas said in their joint submission.

In its draft determination, the ACCC’s argued the partnership would result in “significant public detriment”, given Qantas and China Eastern currently held about 83 per cent of all seats between Sydney and Shanghai, which gave them an “increased ability and incentive to limit capacity and/or increase airfares” on the route.

Qantas currently flies daily from Sydney to Shanghai, its only destination in mainland China, with Airbus A330s. China Eastern operates Sydney-Shanghai, Melbourne-Shanghai and Sydney-Nanjing-Beijing services.

While Air China also flies between Sydney and Shanghai with a three times a week service, the ACCC said in March it did not believe the Star Alliance member would be an effective competitor against a combined China Eastern-Qantas entity and noted it had reduced its presence on the route over the past five years.

In response to the ACCC’s initial ruling, and despite their rebuttal of certain points made in the draft determination, Qantas and China Eastern have offered a “capacity condition which specifically addresses the Commission’s concerns and which ensures the Applicants will maintain and grow capacity”.

“This Draft Capacity Condition, coupled with the commercial terms of the Joint Coordination Agreement and the realities of global aviation, mean that the Applicants will neither have the ability or incentive to reduce capacity or limit growth,” the submission said.

The details of the capacity condition were redacted in the public version of the China Eastern/Qantas submission for commercial in confidence reasons.

Qantas and China Eastern also asked economists at HoustonKemp and aviation consulting house CAPA – Centre for Aviation to analyse the effects of their proposed alliance.

The CAPA report noted capacity between Australia and China via mid-point hubs such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to the top 15 Chinese airports more than doubled between March 2010 and March 2015.

Meanwhile, the HoustonKemp report said indirect operators imposed a strong constraint on the price offered for direct services on the Sydney/Shanghai route as well as a range of Australia-China city-pairs.

“To deny authorisation to the entire Proposed Conduct on the basis of one single route overlap is inappropriate, particularly given that the Commission is otherwise satisfied that the Proposed Conduct will not have a significant impact on any other area of competition,” the China Eastern and Qantas submission said.

“The overlap with China Eastern in respect of the Sydney-Shanghai route that the Commission perceives as the fundamental problem is in fact what underpins the entire arrangement and therefore the mutual commercial interest of the parties to deliver the public benefits of connectivity, schedule choice and terminal co-location.”

The complete China Eastern/Qantas submission can be read on the ACCC’s website.


Australian Aviation

Qantas and Jetstar report domestic capacity reductions for March

A Qantas Airbus A330-200 at Sydney Airport. (Rob Finlayson)
A Qantas Airbus A330-200 at Sydney Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

Qantas says it trimmed capacity in the domestic market in March in response to weakness in the mining-related states of Western Australia and Queensland.

The airline’s monthly traffic statistics released on Thursday showed Qantas mainline’s domestic capacity, measured by available seat kilometres (ASK) fell 3.2 per cent in March, compared with the prior corresponding period.

It continues a shrinking of Qantas’s domestic capacity so far in 2014/15, with ASKs for the Flying Kangaroo’s Australian network down 3.3 per cent so far in the current financial year.

Meanwhile, the airline group’s low-cost unit Jetstar also reduced domestic seats in March, with ASKs down 3.8 per cent in the month.

Qantas said domestic capacity across Qantas and Jetstar was lower in March “in line with the mixed demand environment”.

“Qantas Domestic capacity was lower in the month reflecting adjustments to address resource market softness in WA and QLD,” Qantas said on Thursday.

“Jetstar Domestic capacity reductions reflected seasonal changes and weather-related cancellations.”

The company said domestic yields – or average airfares per passenger – “showed strong improvement” in March compared with the prior corresponding period thanks to a second month of increased demand during the cricket World Cup.

Unlike previous monthly traffic reports, the airline group did not offer any commentary on its yields for Qantas and Jetstar’s international operations for March, saying only that both reporters “strong improvement in revenue per available seat kilometre” compared with the prior corresponding period, driven by higher passenger loads.

However, Qantas said yields across the airline group domestic and international operations were higher so far in 2014/15 from the prior year.


Australian Aviation

Air New Zealand celebrates 75 years of flying

Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL) Short Brothers S.30 Empire-class flying boat ZK-AMA Aotearoa. (Air NZ)
Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL) Short Brothers S.30 Empire-class flying boat ZK-AMA, Aotearoa. (Air NZ)

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon says the 75-year history of the airline is a cause for celebration.

The NZ flag carrier took to the skies for the first time 75 years ago on April 30 1940, when a Short S30 flying boat ZK-AMA named Aotearoa left Auckland’s Mechanics Bay carrying nine passengers across the Tasman.

The nine-hour journey ended when the aircraft landed at Sydney’s Rose Bay.

Air NZ is celebrating its 75th birthday with on-board game shows, random prize draws for people to win back their airfares for flights booked on its website and a “landmark” Auckland-Sydney flight that will feature 1940s themed food, and a fashion show of the airline’s uniforms from previous years.

There is also a special event planned at Rose Bay later on Thursday.

“As the national carrier, our history is just as much about New Zealand as it is about Air New Zealand so this is something for all of us to celebrate together,” Luxon said in a statement on Thursday.

“Air New Zealand’s first flight took nine hours to travel from Auckland to Sydney with just nine passengers on board, paving the way for a nation of adventurers to take flight and explore. It really has been a remarkable journey and we want to thank New Zealanders for being part of it.”

Separately, Air NZ said it would showcase its retrospective exhibition in Auckland from November. Currently, the exhibition, which was developed in partnership with Te Papa, is at the Wellington national museum.

And in Sydney, the airline has decorated the interior of a commuter ferry to resemble a 1940s flying boat.

Also, the airline said ferry passengers travelling between Sydney’s Circular Quay and Rose Bay (running between 0645-0930) or Mosman (running between 1530-1800) will be able to see enjoy 1940s entertainment from “The Starr Sisters” and see an exhibition showcasing the history of the airline.

Read more about Air NZ’s 75-year history in the April edition of Australian Aviation, on sale now.


Australian Aviation

Scoot launches Boeing 787 on direct Gold Coast-Singapore flights

Scoot launches Boeing 787 on direct Gold Coast-Singapore flights

Singapore Airlines’ low-cost offshoot Scoot will bring flying its latest Boeing 787-9 jet to the Gold Coast from Friday May 1st and move to direct flights to Singapore, dropping the route’s current ‘Singapore via Sydney’ triangle which runs several days a week.

The Gold Coast upgrade also makes Australia an ‘all Dreamliner’ market for Scoot, as more of the airline’s ageing Boeing 777s are put out to pasture.

Scoot already flies the Boeing 787 to Perth and Sydney, and the airline’s new Melbourne-Singapore route will launch with five Boeing 787 flights a week from November 1st.

The move from Scoot’s current ageing Boeing 777-200 jets to the all-new Dreamliners will be a substantial upgrade with the Boeing 787 offering a quieter and smoother ride with more comfort and less jetlag.

The airline has also outfitted its new planes with new business class seats and inflight Internet.

Australian Business Traveller