Body swap

Is an aircraft type still an aircraft type even if its entire airframe is replaced? That is what Northrop Grumman did when it transitioned from the unmanned MQ-8B Firescout to the MQ-8C, swapping the old Schweizer 333 body for a Bell 407. Our cutaway artist Tim Hall has gone beneath the skin of the US Navy’s vertical take-off, reconnaissance UAV for our latest cutaway poster, available exclusively in the 6 May issue of Flight International. Stephen Trimble provides the accompanying technical description.

For the rest of our annual UAV special, we visit General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to find out how the company whose products enjoyed a true breakthrough in Afghanistan and Iraq is adjusting for a post-conflict environment. We also ask whether the Global Hawk is ready to take over from the venerable U-2, and analyse whether the USA is ready to relax rules banning the operation of commercial UAVs in civil airspace.

With many of the current generation of regional jets – which did so much to change airline travel in North America – coming to the end of their lives, Stephen Trimble also assesses the prospects for the programmes that will replace them and Bombardier’s plans for a sector that it virtually created, but will shortly have no competitive product in.

In news: MH370 report details the first four hours of the attempt to find the missing airliner, the five firms in the hunt for the Falkland Islands’ search and rescue contract and how the Boeing 787-9 looks like escaping the travails that affected the first Dreamliner variant.

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