This week in aviation news: Sikorsky S92 helicopters grounded pending inspections, Gulfstream G650ER sets new city-pair records, SpaceX celebrates after flawless mission
Following a December 28, 2016, incident in the U.K.’s North Sea where an S92 helicopter gouged the West Franklin platform when coming in for a landing, Sikorsky is calling for mandatory safety inspections centered on the aircraft’s tail rotors. "Safety is our top priority, and Sikorsky is working closely with our customer and investigative authorities,” said a Sikorsky spokesperson. These inspections are required to take place before any S92 is to make its next flight, with one exception: the helicopter may return to base before undergoing inspection. The inspections are estimated to take 11 man-hours to complete; many have already been completed.
A press release from Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. announced that their flagship aircraft, the Gulfstream G650ER, has broken two new flight-time records. An Ohio–Shanghai flight was clocked at 14 hours and 35 minutes, while a Taipei–Arizona flight was clocked at 10 hours and 57 minutes. The average cruise speeds of these flights were Mach 0.85 and Mach 0.90 respectively. Scott Neal, senior vice president, Worldwide Sales, Gulfstream, explained the motivations behind these record-breaking flights: “When you talk to customers, what many of them need is more time. These records demonstrate the G650ER’s ability to give our customers just that. We know time is precious, and opportunities are best met when customers arrive quickly and refreshed.”
On Saturday, January 14, SpaceX’s Dragon 9 spacecraft lifted off from Vadenberg Air Force Base in California in near-perfect weather conditions. The first stage rocket successfully separated from the craft, which was carried to orbit by the second stage rocket. In orbit, the SpaceX craft deployed 10 IridiumNext communications sattelites in 100 second intervals. From launch to deployment, the mission took less than 90 minutes. Meanwhile, the first stage fired rockets to turn it around, slow its descent, and guide it to a pinpoint landing on a platform on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean. The 200-foot rocket body will be refurbished and possibly reused for a future launch.