“Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.” Margaret Thatcher
Since last week’s mystery aircraft was relatively easy to identify, according to the number of correct answers I received, this week I have provided another interesting aircraft type. Please send your answers to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will publish the names of those that identified the aircraft correctly within the Thursday edition of APAnews.
EAA Chapter 322 Young Aviators launch
On Saturday 27 January, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many youngsters arrived at Eagles Creek airfield for the launch of Tyla Puzey’s EAA Young Aviators initiative. In South Africa like many parts of the world, aviators are becoming older with very few youngsters becoming members of the various flying clubs, especially the EAA in this country. Late last year at an EAA meeting at the EAA Auditorium, Rand Airport, the Puzey family proposed the starting of the movement EAA Young Aviators and this idea was immediately sanctioned by the EAA chairman, Neil Bowden and the committee of Chapter 322.
The launch of this exciting addition to EAA South Africa’s largest Chapter has clearly attracted a significant following, because I estimate that there were nearly one hundred young pilots present, mostly from the regional flying schools. Tyla’s talk was followed by a brief talk by Neil Bowden and a passionate impromptu talk by Susan, an American retired Boeing 777 captain. Captain Karl Jensen followed up with a passionate talk about EAA South Africa followed by a brilliant, illustrated talk on EAA’s AirVenture, Oshkosh annual fly-in and gathering every July. More information with pictures and a video will be published in the February edition of African Pilot.
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 is not complete and we still have some advertising space available.
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: email@example.com. Thank you.
Aerobatics at Heidelberg
SAPFA Rand Airport challenge
Unfortunately due the thunderstorms within the Vaal Triangle with the exception of one competitor all turned back to Rand and this particular Rand Challenge was cancelled forthwith. There were a total of 12 entries, but unfortunately the weather wreaked havoc. A big thunderstorm around Vereeniging caused most to turn back part of the way through the route. In the fun class, Rodger Bozzoli and Derek Orford were the only finishers and in the open class, only Jonty Esser and Sandi Goddard finished.
However, the video material of the briefing for the competitors and subsequent map plotting and engine start videos will be featured within the February edition of African Pilot.
The South African Power Flying Association (SAPFA) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the afternoon also at Rand Airport and the following new persons were nominated to the committee for the 2024 year: Clinton Bukes, Mish Bukes, Alewyn Burger and Pamela Russell. SAPFA will vote the exco positions next week at the planning meeting.
African Pilot’s 2024 calendar
We will publish the aviation calendar within APAnews three months ahead, but you can always visit African Pilot’s website:www.africanpilot.co.za if you would like to obtain the full calendar for the entire year.
CAASA AGM and awards at CAASA House Lanseria
Contact Melissa Sewgolam E-mail: Melissa@caasa.co.za Cell: 082 847 3403
12 to 14 February
African Air Expo and conference CTICC, Cape Town
26 to 29 February
HAI Heli-Expo Anaheim Convention Centre, California, USA
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering at EAA Auditorium
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAA Museum Society Specialised Tour limited to nine adults
Contact E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 076 879 5044
DCA Industry Roadshow Stellenbosch, Cape Town
Contact Ms Charmaine Shibambo E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
8 to 10 March
Aero Club Airweek venue Middleburg airfield
Contact Sandra Strydom E-mail: email@example.com Tel: 011 082 1100
8 to 10 March
EAA National Convention Middleburg airfield
Contact Paul Lastrucci E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAPFA ANR at Middleburg airfield
Contact Iaan Myburgh E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 449 2531
DCA Industry Roadshow Mangaung, Free State
Contact Ms Charmaine Shibambo E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
EAA Chapter 322 fly-in breakfast to Brits airfield
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
22 & 23 March
Stellenbosch airshow – Fashkosh
Contact Anton Theart E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 079 873 4567
Robertson annual fly-in breakfast Robertson airfield
Contact: Alwyn du Plessis. E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 270 5888
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering at the EAA Auditorium
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAPFA ANR National Championships – venue TBA
Contact Iaan Myburgh E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 449 2531
6 & 7 April
SAC Eastern Cape regionals Wings Park airfield
Elder’s Flight Brakpan airfield
Contact Felix Gosher E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 066 1919 4603
EAA Chapter 322 fly-in breakfast to Eagle’s Creek airfield
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
Contact Chris Theodosi E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 071 220 1245
Nigerian acquisition of AH-1Z Viper helicopters
In April 2022 the US approved the possible sale of 12 Bell AH-1Zs to Nigeria for $997 million. The proposed deal included 28 T-700 GE 401C engines, 2 000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) guidance sections, M197 20 mm guns, sighting systems, night vision equipment, technical and logistics support. For some time Nigeria has shown interest in acquiring AH-1Z helicopters, but the deal was placed on hold over concerns about possible human rights abuses by the Nigerian government. Under former President Barack Obama’s administration, arms sales to Nigeria were cut back, but when Donald Trump assumed power in 2016, his administration agreed to sell Nigeria 12 A-29 Super Tucano turboprops manufactured in the United States by Sierra Nevada Corporation and these have been used to combat terrorists.
The AH-1Z sale is now proceeding, with the US Department of State revealing that in August 2023, ‘Nigeria delivered the first payment for 12 AH-1Z attack helicopters worth a total of $997 million. The foreign military sales case includes an additional $25 million of funding allocated for Nigeria’s AGI programme, which continues to train the armed forces of Nigeria on developing targeting processes that are legally compliant with International Humanitarian Law.’ On 19 December 2023, the US Department of Defence announced a contract awarded to Northrop Grumman for the production and delivery of an additional 32 ‘H-1 tech refresh mission computers in support of the AH-1Z aircraft for the government of Nigeria’. Work is expected to be completed in June 2024.
The AH-1Z programme was originally launched in 1996 by the US Marine Corps; the AH-1Z first flew in December 2000. The Viper model features a 10 000 flight-hour airframe, higher rated transmission system, a new four-bladed tail rotor and drive system, upgraded landing gear and new foldable four-bladed hingeless and bearingless main rotor system. The new rotor configuration provides greater agility, a higher top speed, faster climb rate and reduced vibration. Top speed is 370 km/h and cruise speed 260 km/h. New avionics include a full digital / glass cockpit with large multifunction liquid crystal displays and TopOwl helmet mounted displays. The TopOwl system has a day/night capability and its visor projects forward looking infrared or video imagery. The AH-1Z is powered by two General Electric T700-GE-401C engines (1 800 shp each) that greatly increase its ordnance payload compared to older AH-1 models. The engines have infrared suppression systems to reduce the exhaust signature. The AH-1Z’s primary weapon system is the Hellfire missile, 16 of which can be carried. In addition two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles can be carried, together with rocket launchers. The helicopter’s main gun is a 20 mm cannon.
The US and Nigeria have enjoyed a strong security partnership for more than 50 years, the US Department of State said, with the relationship “among the most important in sub-Saharan Africa, given Nigeria’s status as Africa’s most populous country.” Recent highlights include in 2011 and 2015 Nigeria receiving $15 million in defence equipment granted under the Excess Defence Articles programme. Apart from the AH-1Zs, the Nigerian Army is acquiring 12 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters from MD Helicopters and in November last year received the first of six T-129 ATAK helicopters from Turkish Aerospace Industries.
Private pilot allegedly commits suicide in an airplane
A release from the Texas Department of Public Safety states the airplane a 2023 Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP (N23107) was stolen from ATP Flight School at Addison Airport, located just north of downtown Dallas, by Logan Timothy James (23) from Stokesdale, North Carolina. James was alone in the airplane. The FAA pilot database shows James was issued a first-class medical certificate in May and held a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating issued in December.
According to Aviation Safety Network, the airplane took off from KADS around 19h00 CST. The aircraft’s ADS-B track shows that it then headed east, turned north over Sulphur Springs, Texas, then turned again heading northwest toward Paris, Texas. The aircraft then entered a steep dive, with the ADS-B showing a descent of 4,736 fpm. It impacted the ground in an open field nine miles northeast of Telephone, Texas, around 20h00.
The recording of James’ last conversation with Addison tower has gone viral. “Addison Tower, Career Track 655 is actually going to depart to the east, uh, I’m climbing up through the clouds and then just gonna head out outside of everything. And about right now you’ll probably realize that I’m not gonna listen to y’alls instructions and I’m heading to East Texas and I’m Career Track, so, uh, I’m gonna pull the Comm 1 circuit breaker and Comm 2 circuit breaker right as soon as I un-key the mic.” The tower controller calls Career Track 655, asking “Say again?” But there was no reply. Authorities stated James left a suicide note at a residence in Dallas.
World’s largest aircraft leasing company hit with ransomware attack
AerCap Holdings, the world’s largest aircraft leasing company, notified the SEC on Monday that it experienced a ransomware attack, losing a terabyte of sensitive data to an unknown hacker. Based in Dublin, Ireland, the company said it has not suffered any financial loss related to the incident and the investigation into the extent to which data were infiltrated or impacted is ongoing.
AerCap filed a Form 6-K with the SEC Monday to notify them of the cybersecurity incident that took place on 17 January. A new ransomware group, known as Slug, has claimed responsibility for the attack, listing AerCap as its first public target. Cyberattack analysts in the group Hackmanac, which finds data published on the Dark Web and publishes information about the attack, posted an image from the reported group. The group planned to leak 5G of data within three days, 30G within a week and all within two weeks. Without an agreement, all the stolen data could be released. Hackmanac reported the ransom deadline as 29 January.
The company has a portfolio of over 1,700 aircraft, about 1,000 engines and over 300 helicopters. Customers include Emirates, Qantas, Aer Lingus, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, LATAM Airlines Group, Air Canada, American Airlines, Pratt & Whitney, United Airlines, Southwest and Delta Airlines. Despite the data breach, AerCap said it had control of its IT systems. The investigation is ongoing to determine what data was stolen and how many, if any, customers have been affected by the attack.
According to Cyber News, the aviation sector was hit by multiple cyber-attacks in 2023, including an attack on AerCap’s customers Air Canada in September 2023 and Kenya Airways on 8 January. Boeing also suffered an attack in November 2023 and Japan Aviation Electronics, all by different ransomware groups. ThreatLabz, a Twitter account reporting threat intelligence and security research, said Slug was performing data extortion attacks only, with no file encryption. File encryption means encoding files, including sensitive data, to send them securely. Encoring prevents unauthorised access to data and malicious tampering. This has been described as a ransomware attack, which forces a business to pay or lose the stolen data, but data extortion involves threats to publicly release information. AerCap has described the incident as a ransomware attack. Currently, AerCap is the only known victim of the mysterious group Slug.
Boeing 737 MAX 9 return-to-service inspections approved
The FAA has approved a pathway for Boeing MAX 9s to return to service. The inspection process is expected to take 12 to 24 hours and both Alaska Airlines and United have announced their MAX 9s will begin returning to service on Friday (Alaska) and Sunday (United). In addition, Copa Airlines, the national flag carrier of Panama, has announced its 21 MAX 9s will be inspected according to the FAA criteria and some will resume flying through the weekend. The inspection process will cover bolts, fittings and guide tracks for the door plug and ‘detailed inspections of dozens of associated components,’ according to the FAA statement. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said, “The exhaustive, enhanced review our team completed after several weeks of information gathering gives me and the FAA confidence to proceed with the inspection and maintenance phase.”
The FAA ruling came with a sharply worded warning to Boeing from Whitaker that began: “The 5 January Boeing 737 MAX incident must never happen again.” His statement continued: “Let me be clear: This will not be back to business as usual for Boeing. We will not agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or approve additional production lines for the 737-9 MAX until we are satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved.”
What is scheduled for EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh 2024
The Canadian Force Snowbirds, one of the most popular military aerial demonstration teams in the world, announced that EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is part of their 2024 schedule, returning to Oshkosh for the first time since 2016. “The Snowbirds are one of the world’s finest military aerobatic flight teams, so their presence at Oshkosh in 2024 is a wonderful addition to AirVenture week as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programmes, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions. “Along with their elegant precision aerobatics that define their aerial performances, we discovered in 2016 that the team members were enthusiastic and fully engaged in the aviation culture at Oshkosh and truly enjoyed being with the tens of thousands of fellow aviators on the grounds.”
The Snowbirds are currently scheduled to have a public practice session over the grounds on Friday, 26 July, with a full performances during the daily afternoon airshow on Saturday and Sunday. The team is officially designated as 431 Air Demonstration Squadron and was established in 1971. It has a nearly 50-year connection to EAA, being the first military team to perform at Oshkosh when they flew at the EAA fly-in during the 1970s.
“As a team, we are extremely excited to be representing the Canadian Forces at AirVenture during the centennial year of the Royal Canadian Air Force,” said Maj. Brent Handy, Snowbird 1 and Team Lead. “The opportunity to share our display with such a large gathering of aviation enthusiasts and the chance to meet with our fans will be one of the many highlights of this important year for our dedicated team of pilots, technicians and support personnel.”
The Snowbirds typically fly the Canadair CT-114 Tutor jets at approximately 60 airshows each year. The nine aircraft used in the performances are flown by experienced team members from the Royal Canadian Air Force. During the show, the pilots fly at speeds ranging from 110 to 465 mph (180 to 750 km/h) and in formation with distances as close as four feet of wing overlap. Comprised of exciting loops, rolls and solo passes as well as graceful nine-jet formations, the Snowbirds’ show includes more than 50 different formations and manoeuvres in each 35-minute performance.
Military and jet demonstration teams added to AirVenture 2024 lineup
Several military aircraft demo teams and a unique private jet group have been added to the airshow lineup for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2024. EAA AirVenture 2024 has received commitments from the F-22 demo team, the F-16 Viper demo team and the F-35B demo from the US Marine Corps. In addition, the Polaris Ghost Squadron has confirmed its appearance at Oshkosh following popular aerial demonstrations in 2022 and 2023. “The entire spectrum of aviation comes to Oshkosh and jet demonstrations are always among the popular displays throughout the week,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programmes. “These commitments are in addition to the already-announced participation of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, which will make 2024 an unforgettable year on the Oshkosh flightline and there is still more to come.”
The F-16 Viper team and the F-35B are scheduled to fly at Oshkosh at various times throughout the week, while the F-22 team will be present between 22 and 25 July and the Polaris Ghost Squadron between 22 and 24 July. Along with the aerial demonstrations, several of the aircraft will be on display at AirVenture’s showcase Boeing Plaza. EAA AirVenture features nine airshows over seven days, including night airshows on 24 and 27 July. The shows feature performances by aerobatic champions, military units, innovative technology and unique aircraft from the entire history of flight. More details on airshow lineups will be announced as they are finalised.
European business aviation facing uncertain political climate in 2024
In terms of European Union regulations, the business and general aviation sector experienced an intense year in 2023 with the adoption of new green financing rules and legislation commanding a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) blending obligation in the bloc’s 27 member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. However, 2024 is poised to be even more demanding with nearly 10 parliamentary elections set to take place across the continent. Notably, a new EU Parliament is scheduled to be elected in June and the appointment of the new EU Commission is slated for the fourth quarter of 2024. “There are a few things we are still actively pursuing from a legislative regulatory perspective,” General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) v-p for European affairs Kyle Martin said. This includes further work to include business aviation in the EU’s sustainable investment criteria, known as the taxonomy and the future adoption of a book-and-claim system in the ReFuelEU Aviation regulation to overcome the complexities in the SAF supply chain.
The EU developed the taxonomy to provide a clear definition of what is ‘sustainable’ for investment and financing projects. Industry leaders are concerned that the exclusion of business aviation in the taxonomy could result in higher interest rates or dry up green financing altogether as banks and other investors will look at other projects to support. “I think we lost the fight on the taxonomy case, but we are not giving up. We are now working directly with some of the banks to try and make sure they understand what business aviation is doing and their sustainability advances,” Martin noted. “We are also working with the European Commission’s DG Fisma (the commission department responsible for EU financial policy) to see if there’s a different way of interpreting what they have proposed.”
The taxonomy criteria and disclosure requirements linked to the new activities are applying gradually from 1 January, following their publication in the EU’s Official Journal in late November. Concurrently, the Commission has set up a request mechanism for stakeholders to submit suggestions on new activities that could be added to the EU taxonomy or on changes to existing activities. An expert group of the European Commission has already been tasked with developing a new batch of taxonomy criteria, including for the manufacturing of emergency aircraft. “We understand from the Commission that if we meet certain standards, on the usage of SAF, all of business aviation might still be included in the taxonomy,” said European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) COO Robert Baltus. EBAA is currently placing a strong emphasis on understanding the interpretation and implementation of the new taxonomy criteria and disclosure requirements, he said, expressing his view on the EU’s decision to exclude the manufacturing and maintenance of business aviation aircraft from the list of green investments as ‘unfair.’
EBAA and its members have been extremely active in environmental sustainability in Europe, Baltus maintained. “We want to make sure that the business aviation commitment to climate change is also reflected in the legislation and meets or exceeds the standards of whatever Europe comes out with,” he said. He feels that, despite the sector’s dynamic outreach and advocacy, still too many “do not understand what we do and what the merits are of business aviation.”
EBAA’s primary focus in its lobbying efforts this year will be to familiarise itself with the new members of the EU Parliament and the incoming Commission. “It is going to take some time for us to see who we need to talk to and who will take which portfolio,” said Baltus. The task will be extensive, given that an increasing number of Commission departments are becoming involved in both business aviation and aviation as a whole. “We are very active always with DG Move (directorate-general for transport and mobility) and there are some very smart and capable people there; we know them well. But I think that the playing field in the Commission has changed whereby we see that, for instance, DG Clima (directorate-general for climate action), DG Taxud (directorate-general taxation and customs union), and the DG for energy have taken a more front seat in some areas that really affect us. So we will have to monitor that as well as the transition to a new Commission and assuring that they appreciate what we do.”
However, the text incorporates an SAF flexibility mechanism which, among other things, requires that the European Commission by 1 July 2024 to draft a proposal to the EU member states and the European Parliament on how an SAF book-and-claim system could be integrated into the ReFuel regulation. The Commission has tasked a consultancy to work on the file. “We are actively following this and working with other stakeholders, including the fuel suppliers, to make sure we make a strong case for this,” said Martin. “So the process has started and we are gathering evidence from our members as to how we can make it clear to the Commission that a SAF book-and-claim is essential.”
Baltus named the full implementation of the Single European Sky (SES), a package of regulatory reforms to streamline Europe’s patchy air traffic management, as ‘the one file’ EBAA wants the current Commission to complete before the end of its five-year term on 31 October 2024. “We have seen much good work by some parliamentarians and the Commission on trying to make the SES work,” he remarked while refraining from confirming widespread concern the SES will never be fully implemented. “There is a plenty of scepticism because it has been taking so long and some key member states still prefer to protect their own ANSP (air navigation service provider) over the environment. There is a solution to reduce CO2 by up to 10 percent. The member states that are attacking the industry for the CO2 it emits are the same member states that block the SES. It is extremely frustrating.” However, progress is unlikely. Negotiations on the SES2+ proposals, which were proposed by the Commission in 2013 between representatives of the Parliament, the Council (which represents the member states), and the Commission were deadlocked all of last year; Belgium, which currently is holding the six-month rotating Council presidency, has not placed this matter on the agenda.
Another challenging topic that both EBAA and GAMA, along with their members, will closely monitor in 2024 revolves around curbing the proliferation of aviation taxes at both EU and national levels. The European Commission aims to eliminate the current tax exemption on kerosene throughout the EU as part of its proposal to revise the Energy Taxation Directive (ETD) and achieve the objectives outlined in the ‘Green Deal’. Achieving the proposal’s approval requires unanimity among the 27 member states, but discussions have stalled, with some governments opposing the measures. But, as Martin pointed out, while some member states reject the idea of introducing EU-wide taxation on aviation fuel, many are simultaneously imposing various forms of new aviation taxes at the national level. For example in July 2023, Portugal expanded its carbon tax on passengers departing from the country’s airports to include non-commercial business jet flights.
“What we find particularly objectionable is the notion of governments imposing taxes on kerosene or carbon without any commitment to reinvest the revenues in the decarbonisation of aviation,” Martin asserted. “Charging the industry for its climate pollution and then not actively supporting efforts to decarbonise the industry does not make any sense. Whether it is SAF, electric propulsion, or hydrogen propulsion, these initiatives require massive investments.”
Skyborne signs for 30 Bye eFlyers
Skyborne Airline Academy has signed a letter of intent (LOI) for an additional 30 all-electric eFlyer training aircraft from Bye Aerospace. The agreement brings the school’s total commitment to 40 eFlyers. According to Bye Aerospace, it has received orders for 889 eFlyer 2 and eFlyer 4 aircraft, valued at $570 million, both of which are still in development. The company values its current total order book at over $1.4 billion. “Skyborne is an internationally respected flight school and this additional order is another tremendous endorsement of our product,” said Bye Aerospace president Rod Zastrow. “It builds on the excellent momentum we have gained in 2023. We are thrilled to kick off 2024 alongside the aviation training leader Skyborne.”
For the first time the two-seat eFlyer 2 flew in April 2018. Powered by the Safran ENGINeUS 100 electric motor, it will be equipped with the Garmin G500 TXi and come with a whole-airframe parachute system. A battery supplier for the production version has not yet been announced. The eFlyer 2 is expected to have a top speed of 135 knots, endurance of three hours and be capable of carrying a crew with a combined weight of 450 pounds.
FAA grants STC for wearable head-up display on 737NG
The FAA has approved a supplemental type certificate (STC) for installation of the AerAware enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) with wearable head-up display (HUD) on the Boeing 737NG. The AerAware EFVS was developed through a partnership between HUD manufacturer Universal Avionics and AerSale, which led the STC program.
The STC includes Universal’s ClearVision EFVS with dual SkyLens head-wearable displays, capable of providing enhanced vision (infrared), synthetic vision, and combined vision system imagery. The displays are fed by Universal’s EVS-5000 multispectral camera, and a unique feature of the SkyLens system is that pilots can view imagery in any direction and aren’t restricted to the field of view of a fixed HUD.
The ClearVision STC in the 737NG “marks the world’s first EFVS to achieve a 50 percent reduction in minimum visibility requirements and the first aircraft to be certified with a complete dual-pilot EFVS solution featuring a wearable [HUD],” according to Universal.
“Certified for EFVS operations all the way to touchdown and rollout in low visibility conditions, ClearVision improves accessibility to most airports and increases approach capacity at congested airports, leading to fewer delays,” said Universal Avionics CEO Dror Yahav. “AerAware serves as the only commercially viable retrofit solution that substantially increases situational awareness during low visibility operations for thousands of 737NGs, including over one hundred Boeing Business Jets, reducing natural visibility requirements on approach and increasing safety.”
NASA’s Mars helicopter bites the dust
After three amazing years exploring the Red Planet NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity has bitten the dust. According to NASA, the aircraft suffered damage to its rotor blades during a rough landing after its final flight on 18 January 2024. The Ingenuity helicopter, endearingly nicknamed Ginny, arrived on Mars in February 2021 after hitching a ride on the agency’s Perseverance rover. Three months later, it became the first aircraft to conduct controlled, powered flight on another planet. Mars’ thin atmosphere presented a challenge for the little rotorcraft, which had to spin its blades up to 10 times faster than helicopters on Earth to stay aloft.
During its 72nd and final sortie, Ingenuity lost contact with Perseverance, which served as its communication relay with Earth, shortly before touchdown. When NASA reestablished contact with the micro helicopter, new imagery revealed that ‘one or more of its rotor blades sustained damage during landing and it is no longer capable of flight,’ the agency said in a statement.
The $80 million aircraft, which weighs about four pounds on Earth, was designed to perform five flights over the course of 30 days. By the end of its three-year extended mission, the autonomous rotorcraft had logged nearly 129 minutes of flight time and covered 11 miles of ground, more than 14 times farther than NASA originally planned. “The historic journey of Ingenuity, the first aircraft on another planet, has come to end,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson. “That remarkable helicopter flew higher and farther than we ever imagined and helped NASA do what we do best. Through missions like Ingenuity, NASA is paving the way for future flight in our solar system and smarter, safer human exploration to Mars and beyond.”
New legislation to pave the way for flying cars on US roads
Next-gen aviation is changing the national airspace and legislation is now looking to the integration of flying cars, passing a bill known as the Jetson Bill, to ensure all roadable aircraft can easily be registered and licensed in all 50 states. There are two US companies and two European companies expected to start production on roadable aircraft in 2025. Samson Sky was among three flying car companies that provided input to New Hampshire’s House Transportation Committee and helped to bring about the historic Jetson Bill in 2020. The bill named after a futuristic cartoon discusses the very near possibility of integrating roadable aircraft on state roads and highways.
As with other smaller aircraft, a pilot is unable to take-off or land on public roads while in flying mode unless they have declared an emergency. The new legislation specifies that he drivers of roadable aircraft are required to adhere to any rules of the road while driving, just like any other vehicle. The Jetson Bill acted as a precedent for future flying car regulations. However, Samson is working with other states on similar legislation. The company’s legislative analyst, Russel Bousfield, confirmed that bills are actively being drafted and are projected to be introduced into committee this year in eight or more populous and forward-looking states. “We are very excited to provide industry input to State legislators who are laying the foundation for this new form of transportation,” Bousfield said. “It has been very rewarding to work with influential lawmakers that share a desire to bring about new technologies and advancements in aerospace.”
Samson Sky is producing a flying car, the Switchblade, which performed its maiden flight in November 2023. The flying car has a hybrid-electric system and uses unleaded auto gas rather than leaded aviation fuel. Owners can fuel up at an auto gas station and drive on the roads to the airport, transforming the futuristic vehicle by switching to flying mode and traveling through the air to the next destination. The unique system is not found in any other vehicles on earth.
Many states are looking to encourage job and industry growth. By adding more high-tech jobs, these states can bring more skilled job jobs into communities. “Legislation to help simplify the integration of roadable aircraft into the highway system will serve to benefit all flying car manufacturers,” Bousfield said. “ I would like to thank those legislative members who have drafted bills, for their contribution to advancing aerospace innovation.”
MQ-9B: Taking on the world’s toughest RPA missions, from reconnaissance to rescue
Making it possible is the next-generation MQ-9B SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian® manufactured by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. As these aircraft grow in number and take on an increasing diversity of missions worldwide, they are changing the way professionals conduct maritime domain awareness, anti-submarine warfare, rescue and many other roles. Remotely piloted aircraft already changed the world once. What MQ-9B does today is thanks partly to the experience derived from those earlier-model aircraft, including the MQ-9A Reaper and MQ-1 Predator. That fleet has recorded more than eight million operational hours globally, many of them in combat, providing a huge trove of experience that informed the design of the new system.
This combination of proven performance with new design and technology is what makes MQ-9B stand apart. Operational today, it leads its category and incurs much less cost or risk than a design from a clean sheet. In every environment, in all four corners of the earth, the aircraft are actively proving what they can do. For example, US Air Force Special Operations Command uses the MQ-9B to pioneer a new regime for integrating large, medium and small unmanned aircraft. With a large central fuselage and a broad wingspan, the SkyGuardian makes an optimal mothership for other aircraft, such as GA-ASI’s Sparrowhawk®, which it can launch and recover in mid-flight.
American special operations personnel need intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; route clearance; early warning; communications and many other types of support during their missions. What AFSOC is showing with MQ-9B is how unmanned aircraft of various sizes can combine in novel ways to provide this. Through complex exercises off the West Coast of the United States, the US Navy has likewise shown that adding highly capable new remotely piloted aircraft changes the old way of doing business. MQ-9B aircraft, contracted for major fleet exercises, have responded to crisis calls, escorted carrier strike groups, served as communications relays for ships at sea and also helped prosecute simulated hostile submarines.
The SeaGuardian’s unmatched endurance means it can stay on station longer than any human-crewed aircraft ever could, which gives unblinking eyes and unfailing ears to crews hunting for submarines. In one exercise, Navy helicopters sortied from San Diego, dropped sonobuoys, ocean-riding sensors that can detect submarine targets and then MQ-9B SeaGuardian took over monitoring them. It was not long before the aircraft monitored the detection of a simulated submarine. This meant other helicopters could deploy to the scene armed with precise data about the target’s location and course and then go in for the attack.
The UK’s Royal Air Force is taking delivery of its variant of the aircraft, called the Protector RG Mk1, which is based at RAF Waddington north of London. The British government plans a broad range of missions for the system, ranging from military operations abroad to help with security and rescue around Great Britain itself.
For another example of the way MQ-9B is transforming rescue and security roles, look no further than the Japan Coast Guard, which flies the aircraft to assure maritime domain awareness around the Japanese home islands. Likewise with the Indian Navy, which has logged tens of thousands of operational hours on its aircraft in missions that have transformed its ability to see and respond around the Indian Ocean.
In early January, a cargo vessel in the Arabian Sea issued a distress call: it was being boarded by armed men. One of the first assets to arrive was the Indian Navy’s MQ-9B SeaGuardian, which helped coordinate initial assessments of the hijacked vessel and overwatch the rest of the Indian Navy’s response.
MQ-9B’s ability to remain on station for many hours and its high-definition video and other sensing capabilities gave Indian Navy commanders the ability to watch in real time as other ships and aircraft deployed and a team of naval special operators boarded the ship. MQ-9B does not require warm, equatorial conditions to deliver these kinds of capabilities. Its newest user is the Royal Canadian Air Force, which has selected the platform to serve as its new flagship multi-mission patrol aircraft. This milestone award followed dedicated cold weather validation testing in which GA-ASI engineers proved the aircraft’s de-icing, cold engine start and other features would be up to the job in helping secure Canada’s sprawling Arctic territory. All of these nations are finding that MQ-9B enables new ways of taking on their toughest missions and more are poised to follow suit.
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