World Aviation in 2001

Modernisation of 36 McDonnell Douglas F4E Phantoms for the Hellenic Air Force is well under way. Beginning in March 2000, the work is carried out by DASA in Munich and the Phantom, which first entered service in the 1960’s, will receive avionics and weapons upgrades.

1 January
Airbus Integrated Company comes into existence, formed as part of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS).

8 January
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announces its expectation for the Voyager 1 spacecraft to reach the beginnings of interstellar space in 2002/2003. This will be indicated by the measurement of the ‘termination shock’ where the solar and interstellar winds interact, which marks the beginning of interstellar space. Voyager 1, the farthest human made object from Earth, was launched in 1977.

9 January
China launches a ‘Shenzhou’ spacecraft on its second unmanned test flight and the Chinese government has plans to launch a manned Shenzhou in 2005.

23 January
The first pictures of the Chinese J10 Chengdu fighter become public. The aircraft is revealed to be a single-seat single-engined canard delta and is seen as an attempt by the Chinese to leap-frog two generations of fighter development.

30 January
Contact with the deep space probe Pioneer 10 is lost. The last signal received from the probe is about 11 billion kilometres (7 billion miles) from Earth. Launched in 1972, it is the first man made object to leave the solar system.

16 February
Allied aircraft attack Iraqi military control and communications sites south of Baghdad. The attacks come in response to continued threats to Allied aircraft policing the Southern No-Fly zone from Iraqi anti aircraft systems

21 February
A General Atomics RQ1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) test fires a laser guided AGM114 Hellfire missile.

3 March
A Thai airways International Boeing 737-400 is destroyed while parked at Bangkok international airport. The explosion and subsequent fire occur 35 minutes before Thailand’s Prime Minister is due to board the aircraft for a flight to Chaing Mai.

6 March
Northrop Grumman RQ4A Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is cleared for production and testing with the United States Air Force.

11 March
The Lockheed Martin X35A Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) completes its flight test schedule, logging 73 flights and 58 hours flying time. The X35B Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the JSF begins testing of its Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) capabilities.

15 March
Two hijackers, identifying themselves as Chechen rebels, seize control of a Vnukovo Airlines Tu154 with 162 passengers on board as it departs Istanbul Ataturk airport. The aircraft lands safely at Medina airport in Saudi Arabia, where the hijack is brought to an end by Saudi Special Forces, who storm the airplane, killing one of the hijackers, a passenger and a stewardess.

23 March
The Russian space station Mir ends its 15 year career in space at 0559hrs GMT with a successful de-orbit and re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the space station disintegrates on re-enty, but 27 tons of debris fall into the ocean 2,800 kilometres (1,700 miles) east of New Zealand. During its career, Mir made 86,320 orbits, travelled 3.5 billion kilometres, was visited by 104 individuals and 110 spacecraft, conducted some 23,000 experiments and 140 spacewalks.

27 March
Boeing announces it is planning the development of new series of airliners that will be designed to fly higher, further and faster than current commercial airliners.

27 March
Investigators are unable to determine the ignition source of an explosion in a Thai Airways International Boeing 737 on 3 March. There was no evidence to support the notion of sabotage.

1 April
United States Navy EP3E Aries III electronic and signals intelligence reconnaissance aircraft collides with a J811 Finback of the Peoples Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) 70 miles from the Island of Hainan. The Aries III aircraft makes an emergency landing at Lingshui airfield on Hainan, but the Chinese pilot is killed when his fighter aircraft crashes. A major international incident occurs as China accuses America of invading national air space and causing the crash of the fighter. America demands its aircraft and crew back.

After a satisfactory resolution between China and America, the aircrew are repatriated to America on 11 April, and arrangements for the removal of the Aries III aircraft are made.

3 April
Greece defers the purchase of up to 90 Eurofighter aircraft to pay for 2004 Olympic games.

30 April
The Pentagon appointed panel investigating the V22 Osprey programme publishes its recommendation that it should not be abandoned, although extensive redesign and repair work is required to return it to flight. With a disastrous safety record of 23 deaths in 4 crashes, the fleet had been grounded since December.

United States Marine Corps (USMC) Commandant General James L. Jones reaffirms support for the V22 Osprey Tiltrotor aircraft, saying it remains the program of choice for the USMC. The V22 programme faces cancellation by the Government.

8 May
The New Zealand Government announces the disbandment of its two squadrons of A4 Skyhawks and abandons all fast jet training. All flying tasks will end by 1 December 2001.

15 May
The Joint Strike Fighter Programme Office begins talks with Brazil and Germany on possible participation in the engineering and manufacturing development phases of the programme.

23-24 June
The Lockheed Martin X35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) demonstrator begins flight testing vertical take-off, hovering and the transition to forward. The rival Boeing X32B completes its first hover and transition to forward flight on 24 June

3 July
More than three months after its emergency landing at Lingshui airbase in China, the United States Navy EP3E Aries III is air freighted back to America on a chartered Russian An124. The Chinese Government insist that a civilian aircraft be used to remove the aircraft.

11 September
An American Airlines and a United Airlines Boeing 767, each flying from Boston to Los Angeles, are hijacked by terrorists. The commandeered aircraft are flown by the terrorists themselves to New York, where they are crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. The attack results in the collapse ofthe Twin Towers and the deaths of 2,800 passengers and office workers.

An American Airlines Boeing 757, en route from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles is also hijacked and hits the Pentagon in Washington. A second Boeing 757 is hijacked while flying from Newark to San Fransisco, but passengers overpower the hijackers and the aircraft crashes near Pittsburgh, killing all 45 people on board. The attacks force the closure of American airspace and exacerbate the downturn in the international airline industry.

12 September
Australia’s second biggest airline, Ansett, declares bankruptcy. Although on the verge of bankruptcy for some time, it is thought the terrorist attacks in America pushed the company over the edge.

Alitalia agrees to join Air France and Delta Airlines in the SkyTeam alliance.

2 October
Switzerland’s National Airline, Swissair, is grounded as it is declared bankrupt, the largest company to fall victim to the downturn in air travel and the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11th

7 October
Four weeks after the attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Centre, American forces begin bombarding targets in Afghanistan linked to the Al’Qaida terrorist Group and the ruling Taliban government, as part of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’.

25 October
Lockheed Martin X35 is selected as the winner of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) competition. A production run of up 6,000 ‘F35’ aircraft and a contract worth $200billion to supply the American and British Air forces and navies are the rewards

7 November
After 78 years of operations, Belgium’s national airline, Sabena, declares itself bankrupt with debts of €2.2 billion ($2 billion) and puts over 12,000 employees out of work.

13 November
The United States military open up bases in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to boost air operations over Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

24 November
A Crossair BAe Systems RJ100 crashes on approach to Zurich Kloten airport, a month after the introduction of new noise abatement procedures have forced a different approach route to the airport. 21 of the 28 passengers and 3 crew members are killed.

4 December
The United States Air Force (USAF) admits to using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), such as the General Atomics RQ1 Predator, to locate targets for other aircraft in Afghanistan and also to attack targets with its own weapons. It is thought to be the first time an autonomous, unmanned air vehicle has attacked targets directly.

18 December
The Czech government announces the purchase of 72 SAAB/BAe Systems Gripen aircraft, in a deal worth CzK 50 billion ($1.35 billion). The contract is the second success for the Gripen in Eastern Europe, having recently secured an order from Hungary.