When this press release, other than friends of Shelly Simi, was issued, the R&T company, Aurora Flight Sciences (who has Shelly as its Communications Director) was not a household name. The Boeing acquisition signaled that AFS had assets of value
Founded in 1991 in an Alexandria, VA garage shop, it now is headquartered in Manassas, VA (where it has 4 buildings) with offices in Bridgeport, WV (Aerostructure Manufacturing), Columbus, MS
(Aerostructures Manufacturing and Final Assembly) and Cambridge, Massachusetts (Research and Development Center). Its website states its mission is to:
Put autonomy to work by performing tasks for and with humans
Enable flight vehicles to operate with increasing levels of autonomy
Develop technologies for rapid production of low-cost, high-performance aircraft
Demonstrate and field affordable, high efficiency, and high reliability electric propulsion systems
Develop innovative aircraft that achieve revolutionary gains in performance and capabilities
It lists seven different, yet related programs.
Boeing’s acquisition of Aurora will advance its efforts around self-flying vehicle development, for both military and commercial use. In particular, commentators pointed to the LightningStrike XV-24A vertical take-off and landing craft, an autonomous military aircraft that is being funded by DARPA and the USAF. Boeing must have been drawn to Aurora for design and testing of over 30 pilot-free vehicles during its nearly 20 years in operation.
The next month, AFS issued another announcement—
Aurora Flight Sciences announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a Special Airworthiness Certificate to Aurora’s newest optionally-piloted aircraft, a UH-1H helicopter.
Aurora has added a complete digital flight control system to create the “Autonomy-enabled UH-1,” or AEH-1. The Aurora UH-1H, a later version of the UH-1 built in 1977, was initially certified under FAA Order 8130.2, which covers “inhabited” experimental aircraft such as homebuilt and other developmental aircraft. The latest certification under FAA Order 8130.34 permits Optionally-Piloted Aircraft (OPA) operation with only a Safety Pilot required to monitor the controls.
“The Special Airworthiness Certificate is a significant validation of the program’s capabilities by the FAA,” said John Langford, Aurora Chairman and CEO. “The OPA technology not only enhances the UH-1H system but will expand the operational capability of the mission in the field.”
That’s a substantial technological and regulatorial advance. Step one: proving to the FAA that an aircraft can be piloted from the ground with an onboard safety pilot to monitor. Step two: without the monitor. Step three and beyond: autonomous commercial aircraft!?!
Dr. Langford received his Bachelors degree in Aeronautics (1979), Masters in Aeronautics & Astronautics (1984), Masters in Defense Policy (1983) and Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Public Policy (1987) from MIT. In 2014, the National Aeronautics Association (NAA) awarded John the Cliff Henderson Trophy for “significant and lasting contributions to the promotion and advancement of aviation and aerospace in the United States”. He has also received the DeFlorez Prize from MIT (1979), the Kremer Speed Prize from the Royal Aeronautical Society (1984), the Young Engineer of the Year award from the AIAA National Capital Section (1989), the National Tibbets Award for outstanding contributions to the SBIR Program (1996), the Barry M. Goldwater Educator Award from the AIAA (2000), Virginia’s Outstanding Industrialist award from the Commonwealth of Virginia (2004), and the President’s Award for Exceptional Service (2008) and the Howard Galloway Award (2014) from the National Association of Rocketry.
That’s an impressive human asset for Boeing to acquire and the Aurora team is also impressive!
Not a surprising purchase with these added details!!!
Share this article: