January's top stories: London helicopter accident, global Boeing groundings
1 February 2013 Sarah Blackman
An Agusta 109 helicopter crashed in London this month, killing two people, while safety concerns forced European and Asian nations to issue grounding orders for Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Aerospace-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from January 2013.
European commercial launch services provider Arianespace has signed a contract with Astrium to launch the VNREDSat-1A, the first Earth observation satellite for Vietnam.
The satellite is currently being built by Astrium for the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology and will be launched during the second quarter of 2013.
The 120kg satellite will be carried on the second flight of Europe's Vega launcher, VERTA 1, by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana.
The optical observation satellite is expected to provide Vietnam with a complete satellite system and ground receiving facilities.
A helicopter has crashed into a crane in London, UK, killing two people and injuring nine others.
The aircraft collided with the crane above St George's Tower in the Vauxhall, south London, on the morning of 16 January, before falling to the ground near Vauxhall Rail Station and hitting several vehicles.
The helicopter is believed to be an Agusta 109 that was on a scheduled flight from Redhill, Surrey, but was reportedly diverted from its original destination.
Sixty fire fighters attended the scene, dealing with blazes caused by the burning wreckage and aviation fuel.
Also this month, Europe, Japan and India joined the US in issuing a grounding order for Boeing 787 Dreamliners due to safety concerns, after battery problems caused Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) jet to make an emergency landing.
On 16 January, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered its airlines to temporarily ground the Dreamliner.
The European Aviation Safety Agency said it was monitoring international safety investigations of the 787 and was in regular contact with the FAA.
Kenya Airways has taken delivery of another E-190 airliner from Brazilian aeroplane manufacturer Embraer, making it the largest operator of the aircraft in Africa.
The new aircraft is the sixth of ten E-190 jets that are expected to be delivered to Kenya Airways by the middle of this year. The flag carrier currently operates 11 Embraer E-190s in its fleet.
Powered by GE CF34-10E engines, the E-190 features fly-by-wire technology, cockpit commonality and has a maximum takeoff weight of 105,359lbs.
Air Arabia has become the first Middle East airline to take delivery of the Airbus A320 equipped with Sharklets, wing-tips that are designed to reduce fuel consumption by up to 3.5%.
Sharklets are an optional feature on the new-build A320 airliners and come as standard on all variants of the A320neo jets. The new aeroplane has been put into service across Air Arabia's network of 82 destinations.
Air Arabia Group chief executive officer Adel Ali said that the new wing tip devices would contribute to the carrier's aim of becoming one of the world's most efficient and low-cost airlines.
Nasa has demonstrated a new manufacturing method to produce a practical mantaray-shaped hybrid wing, which could dramatically reduce fuel consumption.
The blended wing body (BWB) design, combined with a ultra-high bypass (UHB) engine, is expected to lower fuel consumption by 50%, while offering a quieter journey for passengers.
Nasa programme manager Fay Collier said it might take two decades for the technology to be introduced to the market, but the manufacturing technique could aid conventional commercial aeroplanes within the next ten years.
Also in January, Boeing announced that it has started the construction of the first twin-engine narrow-body Next-Generation 737 airliner at its assembly facility in Renton, US, at an increased rate of 38 aeroplanes a month, despite its larger 787 recently facing potential delays because of technical issues.
Boeing said technicians have completed loading initial parts of the spars - the main structural member of the wing - into its automated spar-assembly machines. This marks the start of major manufacturing phase for an aircraft.
The aerospace corporation has increased production of the 737 by more than 20% during the past two years.