But before we get to that, here's a report from last night's WBZ-TV newscast out of New England, where the Fort Worth-based carrier went for its infrared missile defense system -- called Counter-Man-Portable Air Defense System, or MANPADS for shorts -- that, from the looks of it, at least, can turn any jet in the American Airlines fleet into Luke Skywalker's X-Wing fighter.
And, now, take it away, Admiral Ackbar. --Robert Wilonsky
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American Airlines has been working with BAE Systems for the past three years on the development of the JETEYE counter-MANPADs system. We will have three of our B767-200 aircraft that fly the transcons equipped with the JETEYE system. One is flying now in passenger service, and the other two will be fitted later this summer and fall. The test will run through March 2009.
This the third phase of testing. Its purpose is to see how the system holds up under regular airline conditions, i.e. daily take-offs and landings, weather, etc. and to test its maintenance reliability. We will also be gathering more data on drag and fuel burn, because the system does add weight to the aircraft and there is drag with the little "R2D2" head protruding from the belly of the aircraft.
There will be no live testing or simulation of the system during this phase of the testing. That has already been done on an aircraft that we leased to BAE and operated in 2007-2007.
American, and the airline industry, is not in favor of installing these systems. We think that MANPADs are better countered by interdiction through intelligence agencies and/or setting up a perimeter defense system around airports. (MANPADS are only effective at fairly close range.) However, we decided to work with BAE because we want to know how the system works. We had an aircraft available and the engineering expertise in our maintenance organization to get it done.
The first flight was a JFK to LAX flight last Friday.
Tim Wagner Spokesman American Airlines