“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.” Kenneth Boulding
(Information from Wikipedia)
The Leduc 022 was the prototype of a mixed-power French interceptor built in the mid-1950s. Designer René Leduc had been developing ramjet-powered aircraft since before World War II and had flown a series of experimental aircraft, the Leduc 0.10 and Leduc 0.21, throughout the 1950s before he was awarded a contract for two examples of a short-range supersonic interceptor armed with two air-to-air missiles (AAMs).
Intended for combat use, the 022 was able to take-off from a runway as it was fitted with a supplementary turbojet engine, unlike his earlier aircraft which required a mother aircraft to carry them to altitude because ramjets cannot produce thrust while stationary. Development was cancelled by the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) in 1958 due to budgetary problems while flight testing was underway and before the second prototype was completed.
In 1953 the French Air Force issued a specification for a high-performance interceptor that could intercept and destroy any aerial threat after taking off from a 940-metre (3,080 foot) grass runway. It ordered two prototype 022S aircraft in competition with the Nord Gerfaut and Griffon. Leduc used a more-powerful version of the ramjet that he had been developing since 1938 and added a turbojet to allow for more autonomous operations. Air for the ramjet was provided by six air ducts surrounding the nose section that emptied into the hollow interior of the double-walled fuselage where fuel was injected and ignited by the exhaust of a Turbomeca Artouste gas turbine. The ramjet was expected to produce a thrust of 160 kilonewtons (36,000 lbf) and a time to 25,000 metres (82,000 feet) of only seven minutes, a climbing speed much faster than jet-powered aircraft.
The 022S was generally similar in configuration aside from the 30° swept wings and tricycle landing gear. It retained the thick barrel-like monocoque fuselage and the protruding nose section housing the transparent Plexiglass cockpit but added a range-only radar. The forward part of the nose formed an escape capsule for the pilot. The aircraft was provided with approximately 2,728-litre (600 imp gal; 721 US gal) of fuel distributed between the fuselage, wings and wingtip tanks. Its intended armament consisted of a pair of Nord AA.20 guided missiles and 24 anti-aircraft rockets. Unlike all previous Leduc aircraft, it featured a coaxial turbojet-ramjet powerplant to enable unassisted operation. The turbojet was initially a 15 kN (3,400 lbf) Turbomeca Ossau engine, but this was changed during construction to a much more powerful 31.3 kN (7,000 lbf) SNECMA Atar 101D-3.
This change caused the aircraft to be redesignated as the 022 and allowed the number of rockets to be increased to 40. First flown on 26 December 1956 on turbojet power alone, the ramjet was finally fired on the 34th flight, on 18 May 1957. It reached a speed of Mach 1.15 on 21 December 1957, but was damaged shortly afterwards when it caught fire while taking off. Construction of a second prototype had been cancelled in October and the flight-testing contract was cancelled on 13 February 1958 after 141 flights had been made. The ongoing Algerian War was consuming more of the military budget and the more conventional Dassault Mirage III was selected to meet the interceptor requirement. The cancellation marked the end of Leduc’s aircraft development activities. The surviving (un-flown) aircraft 002 is on display is on display at the Musée de l’air et de l’espace at Paris–Le Bourget Airport. It was donated by the Leduc family in 1979.
Those persons that correctly identified this week’s mystery aircraft:
Pierre Brittz, Wouter van der Waal, Andre Visser, Barry Eatwell, Adrian Maree, Cecil Thompson, Christiaan Haak, Kevin Farr, Steve Dewsbery, Willie Oosthuizen, Righardt du Plessis, Colin Austin, Jeremy Rorich, P. Rossouw, John Skinner, Andre Breytenbach, Brian Ross, Jan Sime, Selwyn Kimber, Danie Viljoen, John McCall, Ahmed Bassa, Piet Steyn, Michael Schoeman, Ari Levien, Charlie Hugo, Erwin Stam, Karl Jensen, Rennie van Zyl, Rex Tweedie, Alex Wagner, Gregory Muland, Hilton Carroll, Greg Pullin, Aiden O’Mahony, Mike Tanski, Pete Doig Bruce Margolis, Dave Lloyd, Andrew Peace, John Moen, Clint Futter, (42).
ZS CAR crash four years ago By Duncan Gillespie from FlyAfrica
Let us not forget that it was four years yesterday that the SACAA Cessna Citation S/II, with three SACAA employees, Thabiso Tholo, Tebogo Lekalakala and Gugu Mnguni onboard who died when the aircraft flew into the side of a hill outside George, sparking a massive government and regulatory authority cover-up, which has stifled and repressed the truth surrounding this tragedy to this day.
The fact that senior serving politicians and senior regulators in our Civil Aviation Authority were involved in the criminal cover-up of this entirely avoidable tragedy and still hold these positions of authority bears testament to the lawless and corrupt regime which governs South Africa. For those of you who want to be reminded of the truth of this accident, the third-party independent investigation into the causes of the accident can be read here https://www.baaa-acro.com/…/files/2022-11/ZS-CAR.pdf in the Ethiopian Air Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) report, which was commissioned yet subsequently swept under the carpet (buried actually) and refuted by both senior politicians and our own Director of Civil Aviation.
We will not forget!
Editor responds I have presented my illustrated report on this tragic accident to several aviation and non-aviation interest groups over the past few years.
The 218-page January edition was released to the world on Thursday 21 December 2023. This edition features the grounding of the Collins Foundation’s aircraft for future passenger flights with a beautiful picture of four of the Foundation’s historic collection on the cover. In addition, this edition features the annual Aero Club awards, Mack Air’s Botswana Delta airline, Van’s Aircraft update as well as a wrap up for the 2023 year. Overall African Pilot has the finest balance of all aviation subjects brought to you within a single publication every month and the best part is that the magazine is FREE to anyone in the entire world at the click of a single button. African Pilot is also the largest aviation magazine in the world by number of pages and is well ahead of all other South African aviation publications in terms of overall quality and relevance to the aviation market.
The February edition will feature Turboprop aircraft types, turboprop engines and propellers. However, every month, African Pilot features all aspects of aviation from Airline business to Recreational and Sport Aviation, whilst Helicopters, Military Aviation, Commercial and Technical issues are addressed monthly. Within African Pilot’s monthly historical section, we feature the Best of the Best, Names to Remember, Fact File and our monthly Historical feature.
The material deadline for the February 2024 edition of African Pilot has been extended to Thursday 25 January 2024.
All editorial content should be sent to me Athol Franz
For advertising opportunities please call Cell: 079 880 4359
The Sixteenth edition of Future Flight was sent out to the world-wide audience on Tuesday 16 January 2024. This 144-page edition has nine embedded videos. Due to the nature of the subject material, compiling this exciting new publication has been most rewarding, whilst at the same time, the magazine allows many of African Pilot’s advertisers to have their adverts placed in our second monthly magazine FREE of charge. I would love to receive your feedback about this new digital publication: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Smaller scale exercise Good Hope VIII underway
On 18 January the German contingent for Exercise Good Hope VIII arrived at AFB Langebaanweg aboard an A400M. The eighth edition of Exercise Good Hope, between the South African and German Navies, has commenced off South Africa’s West Coast, although on a much smaller scale than in the past. The German participants arrived at Air Force Base Langebaanweg aboard a Luftwaffe Airbus A400M transport aircraft that carried 27 personnel. On 19 January before the exercise started in earnest, a delegation of senior officers from Germany and South Africa paid a courtesy call on the Executive Mayor’s Office in Vredenburg. In addition to being a West Coast transportation and commercial hub, Vredenburg is home to the port of Saldanha and a SA Navy (SAN) training facility.
SAPFA Rand Airport Challenge
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 1516
SAPFA AGM 14h00 at Rand Airport
Contact leon Boutell E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 076 294 1363
EAA Young Aviators meeting at Eagles Creek from 13h00
Contact Kerry Puzey E-mail: email@example.com
Russian Il-76 military transport aircraft crashes in Belgorod
On 24 January a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 military transport aircraft crashed in the Korochansky district of the Belgorod region, approximately 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the border with Ukraine. “Incident in Korochansky district,” Vyacheslav Gladkov, Governor of the Belgorod region, reported on his Telegram channel. “An investigative team and Emergency Situations Ministry employees are currently working at the scene. I changed my work schedule and went to the area. All the details will come later.” According to the Russian Ministry of Defence quoted by the state agency Ria Novosti, there were 74 people on board the ill-fated Il-76. These included 65 captured Ukrainian soldiers, six crew members, and three accompanying people. The prisoners were about to be exchanged, the ministry said. The Ilyushin Il-76 is a large, four-engine jet transport aircraft developed by the Soviet Union during the 1970s. It is designed to perform various roles, including airlifting heavy and oversized cargo and transporting troops. The Il-76 boasts a maximum payload capacity of around 50 metric tons and can transport up to 225 equipped troops.
Ten dead in Jetstream crash in Northwest Territories
Ten people died and the sole survivor has severe burns in the crash of a 19-seat BAE Jetstream in northern Canada. The 19-seat BAE Jetstream operated by Northwestern Air Lease went down shortly after take-off from Fort Smith in the southeastern part of the Northwest Territories. The local hospital initiated a mass casualty response but stood down when details of the tragedy became known. There were nine passengers and two crew aboard. It was not immediately known whether the survivor was a pilot or a passenger. Military search and rescue personnel parachuted to the crash site on Tuesday afternoon.
Three die in Oklahoma HEMS crash
The NTSB is investigating a helicopter air ambulance crash that took place in Oklahoma on Saturday night and killed all three crew aboard. The 1991 Bell 206L3, registration N295AE and operated by Global Medical Response unit Air Evac, went down at approximately 23h23 local time. According to FlightAware data, the helicopter was cruising at 111 knots and 1,700 feet while approaching an area of freezing precipitation near the town of Hydro. It was on a 70-mile repositioning flight from Oklahoma City to Weatherford. News photos show a largely contained crash site in a field with the main rotor separated from the primary wreckage area. Air Evac identified the pilot who had previous US Army aviation experience, had flown civilian air medical missions since 2017 and held a second-class medical certificate and rotorcraft commercial and instrument ratings. Air Evac operates more than 160 air ambulances in 18 states. The company was in the news last month when the federal government charged one of its former pilots for flying a passenger in an Air Evac helicopter while intoxicated.
Russian air ambulance crash in Afghanistan: two killed, four rescued
A Dassault Falcon 10 business jet, bearing the registration RA-09011 and operated by the Russian company Athletic Group, disappeared from radar screens in a mountainous area in Badakhshan province, Afghanistan. The aircraft, engaged in a private medical evacuation flight, was en route from Pattaya, Thailand, to Moscow, Russia and was scheduled to conduct two technical landings. On 20 January 2024, it took off from Gaya International Airport (GAY) in India and was bound for its second refuelling stop at Tashkent-Islam Karimov International Airport (TAS) in Uzbekistan.
However, after reportedly encountering a fuel shortage, the flight crew decided to divert to Kulob Airport (TJU) in Tajikistan. A source told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the fuel shortage might have been caused by an error in calculating fuel, coupled with a strong headwind. Subsequently, pilots reported that the first engine had failed, followed by the second. The aircraft crashed in a remote, mountainous region of Badakhshan, north of Afghanistan. Two Russian nationals who were on board the private Falcon plane lost their lives in the crash. The Afghan military successfully rescued the other four occupants. Initial confusion arose regarding the ownership of the aircraft, with previous reports indicating that the Falcon 10 belonged to the Moroccan carrier Alfa Air, bearing registration CN-TKN. However, it was later clarified that the jet had been sold to the Russian company Athletic Group in late 2023. The incident has prompted investigations into the circumstances leading to the crash, including what caused the fuel shortage.
Caravan lands on Virginia freeway
A Southern Airways Cessna Caravan on a scheduled flight with seven people onboard made an emergency landing on a busy freeway in Virginia. There were no injuries and the plane is intact but l damaged from collision with a guard rail. It was snowing at the time of the mishap. The plane, identified in local media as Flight 246, took off from Dulles International Airport after noon and shortly after take-off made what initial reports said was a ‘hard landing’ on the toll lanes of the Loudoun County Parkway northwest of Washington, D.C. The plane was on its way to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Southern Airways Pacific LLC is a Part 135 operator based in Palm Beach and operates dozens of Caravans. According to Airline Geeks, the company merged with Surf Air Mobility late last year and also owns Mokulele Airlines in Hawaii. As part of the Surf Air deal, the Caravans are to be converted to hybrid electric operation. The carrier recently announced it was purchasing 100 Caravans to accommodate its growth.
USAF MQ-9 downed in Iraq, likely by Iranian-supplied missile
On 18 January an American MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed in northern Iraq as the US continues to fend off attacks from Iran-backed militias. The MQ-9 was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-ISIS mission, a senior US military official added. The drone crashed near the Balad Air Base and was recovered by Iraqi Security Forces.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iraqi militias supported by Tehran, claimed that it shot down the MQ-9 over Diyala Province after it took off from Ali Al-Salem Air Base in Kuwait. The resistance group said that it downed the aircraft using a surface-to-air missile and displayed photos of aircraft debris. One image showed winglets that appeared similar to those on the roughly $30 million MQ-9, while another showed a possible external fuel tank. An investigation into the cause of the crash is underway, US officials said. It is unclear if the US has regained possession of the MQ-9 yet. Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said Iranian-backed Iraqi militias in that area of Iraq have Iranian-made ‘358’ surface-to-air missiles.
This is the second time that a MQ-9 has been lost in recent months. In November, a Reaper was shot down off the coast of Yemen by the Houthis. The US has lost three MQ-9s over the past year. In addition to the drones lost over Iraq and near Yemen, an MQ-9 crashed into the Black Sea last March after a Russian fighter struck its propeller. Two more MQ-9s were damaged over Syria in July when Russian fighters burned them by releasing flares.
On 4 January the US conducted a rare drone strike in Baghdad that killed a leader of an Iranian-backed militia in an effort to deter further attacks on American forces in Iraq and Syria. However, the militias, have continued their attacks against US troops in Syria and Iraq. According to the Pentagon, as of 18 January the militias have carried out at least 140 attacks, of these, 57 took place in Iraq and 83 were in Syria.
Virgin Atlantic A330 grounded after passenger notices missing wing panel screws
On 15 January flight VS127, was scheduled to depart Manchester Airport (MAN) at 13h30 bound for New York-JFK Airport. However, as the plane prepared for push-back, a passenger onboard (Phil Hardy (41) noticed that four screws were missing from a panel on the top of one of the wings. Hardy reported his observations to the cabin crew who then relayed the issue to the flight crew in the cockpit. Engineers were called to the aircraft and were photographed by another passenger attending to the wing panel with a screwdriver. “I am a good flyer, but my partner was not loving the information I was telling her and starting to panic and I was trying to put her mind at rest as much as I could,” said Hardy.
“I thought it was best to mention it to a flight attendant to be on the safe side,” he added.
Despite the cabin crew assuring Hardy that the lack of screws did not present a safety issue to the aircraft, the flight was cancelled in any event to allow ‘time for precautionary additional engineering maintenance checks, which allowed our team the maximum time to complete their inspections,’ said a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson. Reports state that the airline cancelled the flight as they were unsure how long it would take to identify and completely resolve the issue. As a matter of precaution, the airline believed that there was no point in keeping the passengers waiting and cancelling the flight was the most appropriate step to be taken, allowing more time to book the passengers on other flights heading to New York that day. Virgin Atlantic added that the wing panel on the plane was inspected and the tops of four of the panel’s 119 fasteners were found to be missing. They were subsequently replaced. According to the airline, “there was no impact to the structural integrity of the wing or the ability of the Airbus A330-300 to operate safely.”
In a statement provided to ABC News, an Airbus A330 programme chief wing engineer explained that the panel in question was a ‘secondary structure panel, used to improve the aerodynamic performance of the aircraft’. The engineer added that there was ‘no impact to the structural integrity or load capability of the wing and the aircraft was safe to operate’. The aircraft involved in the incident is registered G-VGEM and is one of Virgin Atlantic’s 10-strong fleet of Airbus A330-300s. The aircraft was delivered new to Virgin Atlantic in April 2011 and is currently configured to carry 264 passengers in a three-class configuration (31 in business, 48 in premium economy and 185 in economy).
Pilatus to take over RUAG Aerostructures, fuselage and wing manufacturer for Airbus
On Monday Pilatus announced that at the beginning of the second quarter of 2024 it will begin a step-by-step take over RUAG Aerostructures Schweiz AG’s workforce and machinery. The takeover is in line with the Swiss government’s goals for RUAG International. Moving forward, Pilatus will manufacture its own components at the Emmen site. RUAG Aerostructures Schweiz AG is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of aerostructures. The company began producing parts and components for Pilatus in the early 1990s, including fuselages for the PC-21 and horizontal stabilizers for the PC-12. The Swiss company makes fuselage sections for other aircraft including the Airbus A320, Bombardier CRJ 900 and Airbus A330, as well as wings and periphery for the A320, Boeing F/A-18 and Northrop F-5 Tiger. Acquiring both employees and machinery will allow Pilatus to increase production capacity and introduce new competencies. RUAG Aerostructures said the two Swiss companies reached an agreement in mid-January on the sale of the machine park and the transfer of employees, in line with the strategic goals for RUAG International set by the Federal Council.
The takeover will be gradual, with Pilatus taking over the entire production of RUAG Aerostructures in Emmen with around 130 employees. Pilatus will then gradually take over the remaining 100 employees and in the future, the company will exclusively manufacture its own parts and components in Emmen. RUAG Aerostructures will continue as a company, finalising existing commitments with its non-Pilatus customers. Pilatus plans to expand its production at the Emmen site and create additional jobs in the future. “The new location close to Lucerne will give us better access to talent whilst also allowing us to expand our own production expertise,” Pilatus CEO Markus Bucher said. “We are delighted about the takeover and would like to extend a warm welcome to all the employees who will be joining our Pilatus Family.”
Pilatus will rent a facility from RUAG Real Estate AG at the new site at the Emmen airfield. In the future, operations will be directed exclusively to making parts and components required for aircraft production in Stans. Pilatus will continue taking orders from external customers previously served by RUAG Aerostructures for a limited time. In a separate agreement, Pilatus and RUAG Real Estate AG will determine options for the additional acquisition of an adjacent plot of land for other development prospects. The partnership with RUAG will be reinforced and additional jobs will be created in the medium to long term. The details of the contract are confidential but RUAG Aerostructures said the transfer of ownership is expected to take place in the coming months.
With this sale, RUAG International has reached a milestone in the implementation of the privatisation strategy defined by its owner, the Swiss Confederation. Once ownership is transferred to Pilatus RUAG International’s business will shift focus on Beyond Gravity, a leading supplier of products for the global space market in satellites and launch vehicles as well as technologies for the semiconductor market.
Van’s resumes shipping kits, 65 percent of customers renew orders
Van’s Aircraft says 65% of customers have agreed to pay more for their kits and more than 100 of those kits have now been shipped. The company, which went into bankruptcy a month ago, says it is ramping up kit deliveries but is still buried under e-mail inquiries. “Our shipping throughput will increase over the coming weeks and we will post progress updates,” the company said in an update posted on Saturday.
Van’s also said it is tackling the parts order backlog that resulted from supply chain issues over the last couple of years. “Our supply chain has been improving and we have team members working with our suppliers to continue to drive improvement in this area,” the update reads. The company says it is also started directly contacting 1,800 customers who have major structural parts that have laser-punched rivet holes that will be replaced by the company. “All affected customers will be sent an email containing an individualized list of affected parts for each kit they have received,” the update said.
The company says it is also working with third-party suppliers regarding orders for kits that included engines, avionics and propellers and had hoped to have some news regarding those orders this week but bad weather in Oregon forced closure of the plant for three days. “The planning that is currently underway includes a look at scheduling, lead times, payments, pricing, customer deposits and more,” the update said. “We are working to have our plans shared by the end of next week with those customers who have open orders for engines, propellers and avionics kits.”
Safran and ONERA commence wind tunnel testing for future Open Fan technology
Safran Aircraft Engines and France’s national aerospace research agency, ONERA, have initiated wind tunnel testing with the ECOENGInE, a 1:5 scale demonstrator of the forthcoming Open Fan technology. These trials are taking place at ONERA’s wind tunnel facility in Modane, France. The Open Fan, a disruptive architecture and a vital component of the CFM RISE technology demonstration programme, offers promising prospects for reducing the environmental impact of aviation. It aims to cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20%, with the potential to achieve up to 80% when coupled with sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) for the next generation of single-aisle commercial aircraft by 2035.
To advance the development of Open Fan’s aerodynamics and acoustics, Safran Aircraft Engines and ONERA have recently entered into a framework agreement for an extensive testing plan from 2024 to 2028. This plan builds upon earlier trials conducted with the ECOENGInE. The tests carried out on the ECOENGInE, endorsed by the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) as part of the CORAC plan, are designed to showcase the aerodynamic and acoustic performance of the fan module by replicating real-world airspeeds in a wind tunnel and validating the design of the fan blades, which are integral to the engine’s overall efficiency. Over 200 hours of testing will be conducted in this campaign, followed by simulation tests with the engine integrated into a demonstrator aircraft wing section. Safran Aircraft Engines benefits from the expertise of ONERA teams and access to the world’s largest sonic wind tunnel, the S1MA tunnel, which is unique in terms of size (eight metres in diameter or over 26 feet) and airflow speed. It plays a pivotal role in developing new propulsion systems for the next generation of aircraft.
Furthermore, Safran is leading the Clean Aviation OFELIA project (Open Fan for Environmental Low Impact of Aviation), a collaboration involving 26 European partners, including ONERA, in support of the Open Fan technology. Safran is also actively engaged in several other critical technological initiatives associated with the Open Fan architecture, such as hybrid propulsion. A comprehensive testing programme is being implemented across various Safran facilities to advance the maturity of these technologies, crucial for achieving carbon neutrality in air transport by 2050. For instance, Safran’s Villaroche centre in France has already completed ingestion tests on open fan blades and is currently constructing a new test stand facility scheduled to be operational by 2025. This facility, with an eight-metre-wide chamber, will conduct development and certification tests for the RISE programme, which is being developed by CFM International, a joint venture between Safran Aircraft Engines and GE Aerospace.
Japan’s $20B Kansai Airport in Osaka sinking at an alarming rate
When Japan’s Kansai International Airport (KIX) opened in 1994, it was considered an engineering marvel. It is one of the world’s floating airports and cost roughly $20 billion to construct. 30 years on, it remains an important hub in Japan. In 2022, Statista named KIX the third busiest airport in the country, after Narita International Airport (NRT) and Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND). The airport serves as a hub for major airlines including All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Nippon Cargo Airlines and even Japan’s low-cost airline, Peach. However, some experts believe that KIX airport may be completely submerged by 2056. To get to the bottom of this, it is necessary to know the airport’s background.
Why is Kansai Airport in the middle of the ocean?
Its initial location was slated for near Japan’s Kobe region, but city officials and locals protested against the plan. This resulted in the decision to build the new airport in a unique location, in the middle of the sea, where operations can take place 24 hours without disturbing locals. To build an airport in the middle of the sea, engineers drained millions of litres of water out of the 20-meter-deep soft clay that lies beneath the airport’s current location, before constructing a seawall. The reclaimed land resembled a wet sponge and was transformed into a dry and dense foundation before supporting the weight of the airport buildings.
Construction crews laid sand five feet deep atop the clay seabed and installed 2.2 million vertical pipes, each nearly 16 inches in diameter. These pipes were then pounded into the clay and filled with sand and soil to create a more stable base. Construction of KIX airport began in 1987 and took seven years to complete. Throughout its 30 years, the floating airport withstood a major earthquake in 1995, the great Hanshin earthquake which reached a magnitude of 7.2 and claimed more than 6,000 lives. In 1998, the airport also survived typhoon Stella which triggered over 70 landslides. However, the airport is sinking faster than anticipated. Owing to its foundation being similar to a wet sponge experts have calculated that the airport would sink by 5.7 meters in 1990. Instead, it had gone down 8.2 meters
In a Smithsonian Magazine interview in 2018, Yukako Handa, a representative of Kansai Airports was quoted as saying: “When the Kansai airport was constructed, the amount of soil to reclaim the land was determined based on necessary ground level and subsidence estimation over 50 years after the construction.” By 2018, the airport had sunk 38 feet since its construction, 25% more than what experts anticipated. Despite the sinking predictions, the outlook remains positive and the airport has continued to expand. In December 2023, a new international departure area was opened, with future expansions set to be completed by 2025.
FAA, DOT increase civil penalties for laser pointing, unruly passengers, other violations
The US Department of Transportation and FAA are increasing the fines imposed for violating aviation regulations. The DOT made its annual adjustments to its civil penalty amounts, resulting in a three percent increase. The price changes are mandated under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustments Act Improvements Act of 2015 and require government agencies to annually adjust civil penalties to preserve the effectiveness of the deterrent impact of such penalties. The price increases are a result of multiplying the penalty amount by the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers from October 2022 to October 2023. This resulted in a roughly three percent increase for the period.
1) FAA hazardous materials rules violations will result in a penalty of $99,756 per violation. Penalties for violations resulting in death, serious illness, severe injury or substantial property destruction could be as high as $232,762 per violation.
2) Civil penalties for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft of at the flight path of an aircraft is $31,819.
3) Civil penalties for anyone knowingly or recklessly operating unmanned aircraft that interferes with law enforcement, emergency response or wildfire repression is $25,455.
4) Assaulting or threatening assault of a crewmember or other individual on an aircraft, or an action that poses an imminent threat to the safety of the aircraft or those on board will result in a $43,658 penalty.
The new ruling will not impact any previously assessed or enforced penalties. “Civil penalties are adjusted annually so these increases are expected, but it is important for those in the aviation industry to be aware of potential fines for violations in 2024,” said Doug Carr, NBAA senior vice president of safety, security, sustainability and international affairs. “The recently published fines serve as a guide to the FAA in its enforcement of regulatory violations.”
SpaceX launch sends four private astronauts to ISS
On Thursday last week SpaceX and Axiom Space successfully launched four private astronauts into orbit, marking the third commercial mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) on board SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft lifted off via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 16h49 EST from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On board the spacecraft is the first all-European commercial astronaut crew, which is scheduled to spend about two weeks aboard ISS conducting microgravity research, educational outreach, and commercial activities, according to NASA.
“Together with our commercial partners, NASA is supporting a growing commercial space economy and the future of space technology,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “During their time aboard the International Space Station, the Ax-3 astronauts will carry out more than 30 scientific experiments that will help advance research in low-Earth orbit.”
The Dragon spacecraft docked autonomously with the forward port of the ISS Harmony module on Saturday around 04h19 EST. “Hatches between Dragon and the station opened after 06h00 allowing the Axiom crew to enter the complex for a welcoming ceremony and start their stay aboard the orbiting laboratory,” NASA said. The Ax-3 astronauts are scheduled to leave the ISS on 3 February for their return to Earth and will splash down off the coast of Florida.
Possible FAA language change for eVTOL and unmanned flights challenged
Aviation stakeholders have voiced their concerns over the FAA’s proposed changes to the definition of aeronautical activity to include advanced air mobility and uncrewed aircraft systems. The NBAA, along with other aviation groups, submitted comments on the proposed changes, relaying caution to the FAA that the proposed changes may have unintended consequences and could negatively impact agency oversight, including the Airport Compliance Manual and policies relating to Aeronautical Activity.
The NBAA, Aerospace Industries Association, NATA, US Parachute Association and the Vertical Flight Society submitted comments to the FAA on its proposed rule to change the definition of aeronautical activity to include advanced air mobility and uncrewed aircraft systems. The groups warn that changing the definition could have unintended side effects on FAA oversight. The current definition is “Any activity that involves, makes possible, or is required for the operation of aircraft or that contributes to or is required to the safety of such operations” and already encompasses AAM aircraft. The comments note that the current definition does not discriminate against aircraft by type certification, powerplant, type of propulsion or what fuel is used. AAM aircraft will be used for general, corporate, air taxi and charter operations, which are all included in the current definition.
The comments note that the AAM and UAM aircraft will be operating under the same rules as FAA-certified aircraft currently operating in the national airspace. The groups indicate that the purpose and consequences of adding AAM, but not other types of aircraft, to the definition are uncertain. There is additional concern over the possible implications of adding the terms Advanced Air Mobility and AAM, which are not defined under Part 1 or other statutory definitions. By incorporating these into the FAA Order 5190.6B, there will be added ambiguity and confusion, including how and if the definition of these terms will preclude other regulatory work by the FAA.
Adding Recreational UAS to the definition was said to be unprecedented since the FAA has not differentiated between recreational and non-recreational usage prior. FAA policy and underlying statutes require that all types of aeronautical activities are provided access at obligated airports. The groups worry that the proposal will burden airport sponsors and others involved in deciding whether an activity is recreational or not. This could lead to the possible ban of existing recreational activities at airports beyond UAS and the group feels this exceeds the FAA’s authority by depriving statutorily authorised flight activities from the FAA’s protection without any adequate justifications.
“Recreational General Aviation is at the core of the US aviation system and has had the opportunity to flourish here like in no other place on the globe largely due to the FAA embracing its importance,” the comments said. “The current path for flight training and other disciplines into commercial aviation is through recreational General Aviation. Even if unintended, the proposed definition and carve-out of Recreational UAS suggests that the FAA does not appreciate and will not defend the value and necessity of recreational General Aviation overall. The FAA should not and cannot take that position.”
The groups said they do not support the new inclusion of AAM and UAS in the definition since these are already covered in the existing definition. The letter also states that the groups caution against future revisions to the definition that could value certain activities over others based on their purpose. “NBAA appreciates that the FAA is taking the initiative to make changes and keep up with the rapidly moving industries of AAM and UAS,” said Alex Gertsen, CAM, NBAA’s director of airports and ground infrastructure. “While we believe no change is needed in this case, we appreciate being able to explore the need for change and commend the FAA for leading this effort as we advance emerging technologies.”
DragonFire laser directed-energy weapon
DragonFire is a £30 million technology demonstrator programme revealed by the UK ministry’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in 2017. The DragonFire achieved the UK’s first high-power firing of the weapon type against an aerial target. The trial with the direct-energy weapon is considered a significant milestone toward the deployment of the system, possibly within five years. Efforts to quickly field such weapons are partly driven by conflicts in Ukraine and near the Red Sea, where expensive air defence missiles are used against cheap but effective drones. The cost of operating the laser is typically less than £10 (US $13) per shot, the ministry noted.
Led by missile-maker MBDA, with partners Leonardo UK and QinetiQ the team is the key element in a £100 million joint investment with the ministry to develop directed-energy weapons across several programmes, including radiofrequency direct-energy weapons. The MoD said the DragonFire test results are a major step forward in bringing the laser technology into service. The latest milestone follows a series of trials announced by the ministry late last year, including the first static high-power laser firing of a UK-made capability as well as the demonstration of the DragonFire system’s ability to track moving air and sea targets with high accuracy.
Shimon Fhina, who directs the ministry’s strategic programmes, said the recent trials proved the technology can track and engage high-end targets at range. The government was looking to “accelerate the next phase of the programme,” he explained. The MoD had already announced its intent to progress directed-energy weapons into a so-called transition phase. This is meant to prepare the military for the eventual fielding of directed-energy weapons by communicating safety measures, implementing training, creating operational concepts and doctrine and so on, the spokesperson explained.
The British Army and the Royal Navy are each interested in using the technology for air defence. Naval News reported last year the MoD was looking at the retrofit of a 150-kilowatt-class laser directed-energy weapon for new Type 26 frigates beginning in the early 2030s. “The range of DragonFire is classified, but it is a line-of-sight weapon and can engage with any visible target,” the ministry said.
The latest trial took place at a test range in Hebrides, Scotland. According to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, the DragonFire shot down a drone but no further details about the target were available, including range, altitude and speed. “This type of cutting-edge weaponry has the potential to revolutionise the battlespace by reducing the reliance on expensive ammunition, while also lowering the risk of collateral damage,” Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said in the ministry’s news release. “Investments with industry partners in advanced technologies like DragonFire are crucial in a highly contested world.”
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