On behalf of all of us at African Pilot, we would like to welcome you to the New Year that hopefully will be a great deal better than 2017. Hopefully you are rested after a well-deserved holiday and also that you did not overindulge so that now you have to go on diet.Christine and I spent a glorious 10 days camping in George with the Johannesburg Hiking Club and what an eye-opener this was. To see towns like Mossel Bay, George, Knysna, Sedgefield and the Wilderness looking in pristine condition. There is no doubt that because the Democratic Alliance (DA) manages these Western Cape towns that things work and the people (all the people) are so friendly. We noticed very few beggars, all the traffic lights work, the verges and walkways are trimmed, even the traffic officers are friendly. We were privileged to hike some of the most beautiful forest trails as well as the long beach walks that provide beautiful scenery and pristine ecology, whilst at the same time the exercise was wonderful.
The January 2018 edition has been distributed and and contains the following features:
- An A2 wall calendar with aviation events folded and placed within the magazine
- Gyrocopters – a review of this industry
- General Aviation business at OR Tambo International Airport
- The recent Dubai Air Show
- CAASA AGM and awards
- The most successful first AfBAC full day conference at Monte Casino and two-day exhibition at the ExecuJet facility at Lanseria International Airport
- Ermelo Aeronautical Society, the first of the Flying Clubs features to run until October 2018
African Pilot is the only southern African aviation magazine that regularly covers most aviation events, aviation exhibitions, aviation conferences, annual award functions, main airport features, business developments, significant airline news and regulatory matters.
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VIDEO OF THE WEEK
SOUTH AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
The slow process of granting companies and pilot’s permission to commercially operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in South Africa is causing a large number of pilots to fly illegally, the industry has cautioned. As a result of onerous regulations, many South African companies are selling their products and conducting training overseas. South Africa was one of the pioneers of UAV regulations, but grounded all UAVs until the legislation was approved, hurting the industry.
Dean Polley, President of CUAASA, said there needs to be a closer relationship between industry and government. “It is time government becomes aware of the challenges this industry is facing. We see pressure being put on the regulator by government. The regulator needs to adapt very quickly. This technology is advancing at such a tremendous pace it’s difficult to keep up. We’re looking at life cycles of eleven months.” According to the industry, South Africa is the only country in the world that requires UAV operators to obtain an Air Services License to run a UAV business. In other countries this type of license is only required for manned commercial operations. Firms wishing to operate in the emerging commercial UAV sector have complained about the 18-24 months wait to obtain licensing but the SACAA recently said it was trying to reduce waiting time to 90 days.
According to the South African Civil Aviation Authority’s (SACAA’s) Albert Msithini, there are many operational demands on the SACAA, making it difficult to attend to UAV matters and this has been compounded by the recent ICAO audit, restructuring and the departure of personnel. Msithini admitted that the SACAA had been ‘overtaken by events’ and that the industry has grown very fast. However, he said, “we are really going to be moving now” and that the SACAA has recruited more inspectors. He hopes to get five inspectors in 2018 who are dedicated to UAVs. He said the SACAA is now pushing UAV regulations from the top, whereas before it was driven from the bottom.
Editor responds: For more than two years African Pilot has raised the issues of delays in drone licencing at various levels within the regulator, but it seems that until such time that this industry is taken seriously, the problems of long delays for licencing will continue. The question as to why it is necessary for UAV operators to obtain an Air Services License to run a UAV business has also not been adequately addressed because this is not the case in any other country in the world.
Once the major part of the South African Air Forces fighter jet inventory, 12 Cheetahs have been sold to US-based Draken International. According to Denel, the South African government owned defence and technology conglomerate, the contract for the sale of the locally developed fighters to Draken includes return to service and flight acceptance tests in South Africa as well as aircraft delivery to Florida in the United States. Draken said the Cheetah acquisition reinforces the company’s focus on providing advanced capabilities to its clients. “As the demand for increased capacity of adversary resources continues to soar throughout the (US) Department of Defence and globally, Draken’s new Cheetah jets will provide the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps an advanced radar-equipped supersonic platform to train against,” a Draken statement said.
Nine Cheetah C (single-seat) and three D (Dual-seat) models are expected to be operational with Draken by mid-2018. The Cheetahs will become the first South African aircraft in the Draken fleet. They will join A-4 Skyhawks equipped with APC-66b radar and L-159 Honey Badgers with GRIFO-L-radars. Draken sees supplementing its fleet with the Cheetahs as offering customers ‘a capable, yet cost-effective platform’. Draken sees the Cheetah as complementary to its recent acquisition of 22 modernised radar-equipped Spanish Mirages F1Ms.
Paramount will train Mirage F1 pilots belonging to American company ATAC (Airborne Tactical Advantage Company) after ATAC acquired 63 ex-French F1s and Paramount acquired four ex-French F1B trainers. According to the January edition of Air Forces Monthly magazine, which reported that ATAC is getting ready to receive its first F1s currently in storage in Chateaudun, France. Belgian company SABCA is starting to refurbish the first 32 airframes before they are delivered to the United States, with ATAC completing the remaining jets. According to Air Forces Monthly, ATAC is also receiving 157 Atar 9K50 engines, 84 Cyrano IV radars, 72 drop tanks and parts, tools and test benches.
Out of the 63 ex-French Air Force F1s it is receiving, 32 of these are in good condition and can be restored to flying status with little effort. The other 31 need major work to be restored to flight, or are suitable for spare parts. ATAC’s F1s will receive a new avionics suite with GPS, transponder and traffic collision avoidance system, amongst other items. ATAC aims to have 40 flyable F1s and perform its first mission with the type in September 2018.
ATAC took over the 63 F1s in September last year with the aim of using them for the US Air Force’s adversary air (ADAIR) programme. According to Flight Global, this contract is worth an estimated $7.5 billion over ten years and would contract out nearly 37 000 flight hours to provide adversary air services. A final solicitation is expected this month, with a contract award in 2019. Draken International has previously been awarded a short-term ‘red air’ contract for adversary training.
In October 2017 Paramount announced it had acquired four ex-French Air Force Mirage F1Bs from the French government ‘to enhance its pilot training capabilities’. The company said its subsidiary Paramount Aerospace Systems would use the twin-seat aircraft as part of its pilot and maintenance technician training services. Paramount is no stranger to the Mirage F1. In 2003 the South African Air Force put 21 Mirage F1 aircraft up for disposal by way of Armscor and Paramount subsequently purchased the entire Mirage F1 package, including airframes, spares and support equipment. In 2006 Paramount Aerospace sold F1s to Congo Brazzaville and Gabon. Paramount said it has extensive capability on the Mirage F1 with full airframe and engine overhaul capability, as well as the ability to upgrade, modernise avionics and mission systems.
Aviation Calendar 2018
Please remember that APAnews promotes ALL KNOWN calendar events about four months ahead. We also provide for aviation events banner adverts at a nominal cost of R200 per insertion or R1000 for a package of eight insertions. Our usual price is R600 per insertion, therefore the price for airshow and event organisers is a considerable discount.
Tel: 0861 001130 (local) or +27 11 466 8524/6 (international)
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com January SAPFA Kittyhawk ANR Kittyhawk Airfield
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 804 7032
23 to 25 January Modern Airports Africa 2018 Nairobi, Kenya
Contact Summaya Badbess E-mail: email@example.com
10 February SAPFA Rand Airport Challenge
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 269 1516
10 February SAPFA AGM Rand Airport at 14h00
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 804 7032
15 to 17 February SAPFA committee bosberaad – Padderfontien
26 Feb to 1 March HAI HELI-EXPO in Dallas, Texas, USA
Contact: Karen Gebhart E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3 March SAPFA Virginia Fun Rally – Virginia Airport
Contact Mary de Klerk E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 084 880 9000
9 to 11 March Aero Club of South Africa Air Week at Middleburg airfield
Contact Alan Evan-Hanes E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
7 April Ermelo Airshow
Contact Andre van Rooyen E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 417 0174
12 to 14 April SAPFA Rally Nationals and Fun Rally at Brits Airfield
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 269 1516
14 April Zebula Airshow
Contact Hans Potgieter E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 460 4970
AERO dedicates itself to offering a significant collection of aviation related products and accessories. Exhibitors will be showing engines, modern ultra-lights, powered aircraft, avionics and related products and services. Over the years, this show has gained a huge reputation from all over the world and the positive reaction from the attendees have motivated the exhibitors to improve the existing range and manufacture more such effective spare parts and products.21 & 22 April SAC KNZ regionals – Ladysmith airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
27 to 28 April EAA National Convention Vryheid Airfield
Contact Karl Jensen E-mail: email@example.com
27 April to 1 May NAC annual fly-away 10th edition
Contact Deneys Potgieter E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Cell: 082 891 4354
28 April SAPFA EAA Convention Fun Rally Vryheid Airfield
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 804 7032
28 April Wings & Wheels Uitenhage
Contact Lourens Kruger E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 320 2615
5 May Swartkops Airshow
Contact Officer Commanding E-mail: email@example.com Tel: 012 351 2290
7 to 9 May Airport show in Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact Reed Exhibitions Middle East E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 151611 to 13 May Battlefields Country Lodge Annual fly-in Website: www.battlefieldslodge.co.za
Contact Dave O’Halloran Tel 079 496 5286 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
12 May Lowveld Airshow at the Nelspruit Airfield Tel: 013 741 6412
Contact Monica Fourie E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 619 3597
12 May Swellengrebel Flying Club 60th birthday fly-in
Contact Pieter Venter E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
16 to 18 May Drone Con 2018 Vodaworld Centre in Midrand
Contact Gisela Kirsten E-mail: email@example.com
17 & 18 May 8th Aviation Training and Education Summit Shanghai, China
Contact Josephine Zhu E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com to 26 May President’s Trophy Air Race
Website: www.sapfa.org.za E-mail: Race@sapfa.org.za
Race director Robin Spencer-Scarr: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
26 May Matsieng Airshow
Contact Riaan van Vuuren E-mail: email@example.com Tel: +26 771 66 1201
29 to 31 May European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland.
Contact Bianca Dorneanu E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +32 2 766 00 72
AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
With the letter of offer and acceptance presented to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), it appears that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is proceeding with the purchase of 12 Super Tucanos. The Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) represents the official US Government offer to sell US defence articles and services to the Nigerian Government. Speaking while presenting the LOA to the Chief of NAF Air Staff Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, at NAF Headquarters in Abuja, the US Ambassador said the capacity of the NAF could greatly be enhanced by the acquisition of the Super Tucanos. According to him, the US Government would therefore continue to support the NAF in its capacity building efforts, including the timely supply of needed aircraft spares.
The weapons and ammunition include 100 GBU-12 (500 lb) Paveway II Tailkits; 100 GBU-58 (250 lb) Paveway II Tailkits; 400 Laser Guided Rockets including Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) rounds; 2 000 MK-81 (250 lb) bombs; 5 000 2.75-inch (70 mm) Hydra 70 unguided rockets; 1 000 2.75-inch Hydra 70 unguided rockets (practice); and 20 000 rounds of .50 calibre machinegun ammunition. The Nigerian sale also includes seven AN/AAQ-22F electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor and laser designator turrets, spares, support equipment, facilities infrastructure and hangar construction, night vision devices, simulators and software.
According to the Lusaka Times, Deputy Commander of the Zambia Air Force David Muma said the two C-27Js will be delivered in the first quarter of 2018. Speaking on 15 December 2017 he said other acquisitions were on the way and thanked the government for modernising the Zambia Air Force through the acquisition of aircraft, air defence equipment and construction of support infrastructure.
“We recently received 450 unmanned aerial vehicles or drones which are currently based at ZAF Mumbwa air force base. The acquisition of the drones will enhance our surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and in the first quarter of 2018, two Spartan aircraft will be delivered and this will increase the flying capacity of air transport support command,” he said. In September 2015 Finmeccanica-Alenia Aermacchi announced that an undisclosed African air force had ordered two C-27J Spartan transport aircraft, to become the third African customer after Chad and Morocco. The two aircraft were originally scheduled to be delivered from 2017.
The Spartan offers the ability to carry up to 60 troops in high density configuration and a maximum of 46 paratroopers. In the medical role 36 stretchers and six attendants can be carried. Normal payload is 9 000 kg for the C-27J, although maximum payload is more than 10 tons.
WORLD AVIATION NEWS
On 15 December Airbus announced that its CEO Tom Enders will be leaving the company in April 2019. Enders has been an inseparable part of the company for the last 14 years. Enders has been quoted of saying that Airbus needs more “fresh minds for the 2020s”.
The CEO is leaving, as corruption investigations in Britain and France are holding Airbus in suspense. To make matters worse, there are always technical problems, most recently with engines of medium-haul jets. The military transporter A400M program is expected to bring billions in additional costs. A few weeks ago, media reports had been speculating about Enders’ replacement. There had been rumours at the time that French President Emmanuel Macron wanted a change.
Airbus is a political issue. Germany and France each hold an 11.1% stake in the arch-rival of the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, Spain another 4.2%. Known by the nickname ‘Major Tom’, since 2012 Enders has been at the head of the group, then called EADS. Previously, he was EADS Co-CEO from 2005 to 2007 and then he led the commercial aircraft subsidiary of Airbus for five years. The former Bundeswehr paratrooper converted Airbus, initiated the renaming of EADS to Airbus and streamlined the management structures. In doing so, he was always committed to reducing state influence and turning the aviation giant into a ‘normal company’. Airbus employs around 134,000 people worldwide and in 2016 the group generated revenues of around 67 billion euros and 995 million euros in profits.
Enders will not be the only one leaving the company. Fabrice Bregier, the company’s COO and President of the Commercial Aircraft Division, will step down even earlier (in February 2018). Bregier already has a successor; Guillaume Faury, the incumbent CEO of Airbus Helicopters. The CTO of Airbus Paul Eremenko is also leaving the company after just two years of service to join United Technologies Corporation (UTC) as Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, effective 1 January 2018. In addition, John Leahy, the legendary salesman responsible for 90% of all Airbus sold, is retiring in January 2018.
The A321neo ACF introduces new door and fuselage enhancements allows airlines to make best use of the cabin space with a range of up to 4,000 nautical miles. Most of Delta’s A321neos will be delivered from the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Alabama. The airline has taken delivery of 13 U.S.-manufactured Airbus aircraft since last year. In addition, the 50th aircraft to be produced by the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility will be delivered to Delta later this week. The Mobile factory produces four aircraft per month for delivery to Airbus’ U.S. customers. Plans for further production ramp up are currently being discussed.
Pegasus Airlines, the leading Low-Cost-Carrier (LCC) in Turkey, has placed an order for 25 A321neo ACF (Airbus Cabin Flex configuration). This comes on top of 18 A321neo and 57 A320neos already on order bringing Pegasus Airlines total firm order to 100 Airbus A320 Family aircraft. Pegasus’ selection to move to an all-Airbus fleet reflects its strategy to grow its domestic as well as its international network with the best middle-of-the-market aircraft available.
The A321 is the largest member of the A320 Family, seating up to 240 passengers. Incorporating the latest engines, aerodynamic advances and cabin innovations, the A321neo offers a significant reduction in fuel consumption of at least 15 percent per seat from day one and 20 percent by 2020.
The A321neo ACF introduces new door and fuselage enhancements allowing airlines to make better use of the cabin space and also provide provision for more underfloor fuel capacity for up to 4,000nm transatlantic range. With more than 5,200 orders received from 95 customers, the A320neo Family has captured nearly 60 percent share of the market.
The future of the A380 Super-Jumbo airliner appears to rest with Emirates, which is hedging on an order it had earlier placed for the airplane. Reuters cites three sources familiar with the matter who say that Airbus is drafting a contingency plan to phase out production of the airplane if the deal with Emirates falls through.
Emirates has total orders for 142 of the big jets, but talks for 36 new airplanes recently hit a snag over production schedules at the Dubai Air Show last year. While negotiations have resumed, there is no sign of significant progress between the two sides. One source said that if there is no deal with Emirates, Airbus will begin the shutting down production of the A380. But the process would be gradual, allowing the plane maker to fill the orders it has on the books, including some from Emirates.
While there is interest from other airlines for the four-engine jet, Airbus is wary of continuing to produce the airplanes without the guarantee of the major order from Emirates. Meanwhile, the airline wants a guarantee that Airbus will continue to produce the airliner for at least a decade to go forward with the deal. Airbus currently has 97 unfilled orders for the A380, according to the report. Industry sources say 47 of those are unlikely to be delivered based on airlines intentions and finances.
Reuters reports, Lufthansa will be granted the rights to purchase bankrupt Air Berlin’s subsidiary LG Walter. The publication quotes two sources claiming that the German carrier will be granted approval as it agreed to give up slots at Dusseldorf Airport. In December 2017, Lufthansa released a statement claiming it was prepared to give up numerous slots in order to obtain merger clearance with LG Walter.
In October 2017, Lufthansa and Air Berlin signed a €1.5 billion purchase agreement for large parts of the troubled carrier, including over 81 aircraft. In addition, Lufthansa intended to obtain Air Berlin’s business units LG Walter and Niki for approximately €210 million. The deal has to be approved by the EU Commission, who had expressed antitrust concerns, as the purchase, in its initial form, would allow Lufthansa to become a dominant carrier in both German and Austrian air travel markets.
Lufthansa Group owns Austrian Airlines, Swiss Airlines, Eurowings and Brussels Airlines, as well as a share in the Turkish SunExpress. In addition, the group includes logistics, technical and service companies.
Last month the Boeing Company and Embraer confirmed the two companies are engaged in discussions regarding a potential combination, the basis of which remains under discussion. There is no guarantee a transaction will result from these discussions. Boeing and Embraer do not intend to make any additional comments regarding these discussions. Any transaction would be subject to the approval of the Brazilian government and regulators, the two companies’ boards and Embraer’s shareholders.
However, the president of Brazil says his government will exercise its veto power to block the transfer of control of Embraer to Boeing. Michel Temer said the company is not for sale, but he would welcome investment from Boeing. The Brazilian government has special shareholder status in the company and can veto any decision by the company management and directors. Défense Minister Raul Jungmann said Embraer is a key technology developer in Brazil and handing over control to a foreign company is out of the question. “This is about national sovereignty and national interests and we cannot negotiate that. The Temer administration understands that sovereignty is non-negotiable,” said Jungmann.
December 14, 2017 – Some of the oldest jet aircraft in existence will be flying over the flight line at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 as the world’s largest fly-in convention brings together a rarely seen gathering of these early jets.Among the airplanes expected to participate is a rare British Meteor, currently the oldest flying original jet in existence, which will arrive from the United Kingdom. British Venom and Vampire jets will be part of the gathering, as will American designs such as the T-33 Shooting Star and F-86 Sabre, as well as a Soviet-era MiG-17. “Classic jets have been part of the EAA AirVenture warbirds line-up for a number of years, but to include rare British aircraft such as the Meteor, Venom and Vampire makes the 2018 gathering even more special,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions. “Many people have never seen some of these jets fly in-person, which is why bringing these airplanes together is another reason EAA AirVenture 2018 is a can’t-miss event for aviation fans.”
One of the stellar moments of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 was the appearance of the newly restored B-29 Doc, which along with the Commemorative Air Force’s FIFI brought together two flying B-29s in one place for the first time in more than a half-century. Doc’s Friends, the Wichita, Kansas, group that led the airplane’s restoration, will be bringing the airplane back to Oshkosh in 2018 as part of its schedule of airshow appearances. The B-29 is currently undergoing routine winter maintenance at its home in Wichita.
Since 1970, Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin has been the proud home of the annual Experimental Aircraft Association’s ‘AirVenture’ fly-in, airshow and convention. Known simply as ‘OSHKOSH’, the event gathers both aviators and aviation enthusiasts from around the world for one week of aviation-inspired fun and activities. Some make it an annual pilgrimage, while others dream most of their lives about one day participating in the massive aviation gathering. Join us for a unique look at the biggest aviation event in the world.
On 13 December 2017 an Air India flight was delayed for one and a half hours. The incident is hardly exceptional in India, a country where one in four domestic flights got delayed in 2017. However, this particular flight from Delhi to Vijaywada had India’s aviation minister onboard, causing a stir in the media and ultimately unveiling the deeper problems of India’s aviation. The reasons for some 90-minute delay of the morning flight vary across different sources; with the Civil Aviation Minister saying via the social media it was the ‘non-availability of AI pilot’. Similarly, Hindustan Times quotes sources at Air India explaining that pilots reported late for duty. NDTV reports that the delay was caused by the bad visibility and miscommunication among the airline’s operation wing and ground staff, adding that there was also a problem with a pilot’s airport pass among the causes of the delay.
Whatever the reason of this particular incident, flight delays are far from ordinary in India. Despite the delay tendencies decreasing in 2017, the official data by India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) shows that in August 2017, on-time performance among the Indian carriers varied between 86.6% (IndiGo) and only 65.8% (Jet Airways) at the TOP four country’s airports. In comparison, the punctuality rate among all US airlines in July 2017 was 79.72% at one of the country’s busiest Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
WORLD DRONE NEWS
In a news release last week, Airbus said the development of the CityAirbus VTOL demonstrator is moving forward. The first structural parts are complete and will soon be assembled. The ground-test facility in Germany is also complete, which will enable Airbus engineers to verify the electric propulsion system. The facility can test the system’s components, from flight controls to the dynamic loads of the propellers. After passing those tests, the propulsion system will be installed on the demonstrator by next summer, Airbus said.
The CityAirbus is a battery-powered, four-seat VTOL vehicle designed to provide fast, affordable and environmentally friendly transport in urban areas. The VTOL will be designed to fly on fixed routes with a cruising speed of about 65 knots. The test aircraft will be remotely piloted at first; later, a test pilot will be on board. When the aircraft begins operations in 2023, Airbus says, it will initially be operated by a pilot ‘to ease certification and public acceptance,’ but the goal is to provide fully autonomous operations. The programme is on track for a first flight this year.
Ocean conservation group Sea Shepherd was surprised by gunfire on Christmas Eve resulting in a drone being shot down by poachers in the Gulf of California, Mexico. The Sea Shepherd vessel M/V John Paul DeJoria was on patrol looking for poachers when its crew observed suspicious activity on the radar at 9:30 pm on 24 December. The vessel is currently in the Upper Gulf for Operation Milagro IV, to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise and totoaba bass.
Captain Benoit Sandjian directed the Sea Shepherd crew to fly the night vision drone to investigate the targets. Three skiffs were moving through the gill net exclusion zone. “Poachers often conceal themselves in the cover of night, which is what we suspected to be the case here,” said the captain of the M/V John Paul DeJoria. The poachers are targeting the critically endangered totoaba fish, in order to harvest their swim bladder. Much like shark fins, these bladders are sought for their alleged medicinal powers and sold on black markets in China and Hong Kong for tens of thousands of dollars. Poachers set gillnets to catch totoaba, but the nets catch everything in their path, including the most endangered marine mammal in the world – the elusive vaquita porpoise.
The conservationists’ drone had travelled approximately 2.8 nautical miles from the vessel and was hovering above a suspicious skiff, when five gunshots rang across the sea. Upon reviewing the footage from this incident, the crew confirmed that one of the individuals in the skiff was in possession of a firearm. The crew replaced the drone’s batteries and immediately took to the sky once more to inspect another skiff 1.4 nautical miles away. At this point, they lowered the Matrice drone to 100 feet in order to get a better look at the suspect vessel. Thirteen gunshots were fired and instantly the drone’s monitor went dark, reading ‘disconnected’. “Our drone was shot down,” said drone operator Jack Hutton. “The poachers don’t want us looking at them, even if it means making use of automatic weapons, reaching a new level of violence.” In the past, poachers have attempted to strike Sea Shepherd’s drone with rocks, bricks and even fish, however this incident is the first time that the drones have been shot at.
Sea Shepherd president and founder Captain Paul Watson has always maintained that the camera is the organization’s greatest weapon. It is no secret to poachers that the video drone is critical to Sea Shepherd in saving the vaquita porpoise from extinction by finding the location of illegal nets and recovering them. The tension has been increasing in the fight to save the vaquita, which is endemic to the Gulf of California. Scientists estimate that there are less than 30 vaquitas in existence. Earlier this year, at a demonstration, a group of fishermen took a small skiff, painted the words ‘Sea Shepherd’ on it and then burned it in the streets of San Felipe’s fishing village. Sea Shepherd is working with Mexican authorities and the Mexican Navy to patrol the area and recover illegal gillnets on its 4th season of Operation Milagro. “We are not going anywhere,” said Captain Sandjian. “We will not be intimidated by these threats. The vaquita needs us and so does the long list of species impacted by poachers in the Sea of Cortez. For as long as there are illegal nets in these waters, Sea Shepherd will be here to pull them out.”
This sort of responsible aeronautical decision-making gets you lost to history, so our hero loaded his Destiny onto a trailer and relocated to a nearby elementary school to re-enter the competition. He was back in contention.After unpacking the rig, the ‘pilot’ took the front seat, started the engine and flew. Once airborne, he decided it wise to fasten the seatbelt while making two circuits of the elementary schoolyard. It was then that he realised he had never checked to see if there was any fuel in the tank. There was, but not much. The engine quit and the non-certificated ‘pilot’ glided into phone lines and crashed.
For persistence in stupidity, with added points for choosing an elementary school venue for displaying said deeds, we present the coveted Stupid Pilot Tricks Knucklehead Award. Although the FAA was powerless to take action against the certificate the ‘pilot’ did not possess, it did revoke his playground privileges for a month.
Should you miss out on any edition of APAnews, please visit the website: www.africanpilot.co.za and click on the APAnewslink on the front page. All past weekly APAnews publications have been archived on the website.Until next week, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)
African Pilot ‘Serious about flying’.