African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
I was amazed at how soon after APAnews was published that my inbox was filled with so many correct answers. It appears that with so many replies, this exercise is becoming rather popular, so I will keep it going and look for more difficult aircraft to identify in future.
Those persons that identified the aircraft correctly this week: Ralph Schlapoff, Vratislav Pechanec, Raul Del Fabbro, David Plew-Chisholm, Francois Jordaan, Ted Michel, Pete Pienaar, Karl Jensen, Rene Van Zyl, Alex Berry, Mark Cope, Peter Clem, John Illsley, P Rossouw, Ari Levien, Pieter Gent, Willie Oosthuizen, Mike Tanski, Francois Greef, Roger Beazley, Dirk de Vos, Herman Nel, Righardt du Plessis, Chris Schutte, Nigel Hamilton, Ret Orsmond, Hilton Carroll and Greg Pullin.
How the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we conduct our business that has changed almost everything we do for good. This is my final month in African Pilot’s Kyalami offices and from Friday 26 February, I will be moving my office to a spare bedroom in my Kyalami home. Since March 2020, all African Pilot’s staff members have been working from their respective homes anyway, with a visit to the office for a few hours once per month. It was pointless trying to hold onto a large commercial building, when all these months I have been the only person working from the building. Now that I have managed to sell the building, during the past week the process of selling furniture and equipment no longer required has been successful and what we still require as a team has been placed into a storage unit close to the business.
With African Pilot having now gone fully digital to readers FREE of charge all over the world, the most important consideration has been the extensive computer server system that provides a direct link for all African Pilot’s staff members to work with a link up. The main server will now be installed within a safe area in my home connected to fibre for fast internet service. The logic is, why pay for two sets of rates and taxes, estate levies, security, maintenance, electricity and water etc when one set of costs is all that is actually needed. At the same time African Pilot’s staff members are very happy working from their respective homes, because they do not have to travel to work and they all have their desks and computer equipment at their homes. Cost savings all around is the ‘new normal’ as we explore the exciting digital world of publishing.
African Pilot’s March 2021 edition
The March edition featuring Turboprop aircraft, turboprop engines and propellers is complete and will be distributed this week. This feature also includes information about the many aftermarket enhancements available for turboprop aircraft types. As you will notice with ALL editions of African Pilot, we publish important aviation news, historical aviation features as well as news from the Experimental and Space sectors. There is no other African Aviation or International Aviation publication that provides as much information together with superb pictures to its audience.
African Pilot’s April 2021 edition
The April edition will feature Business Jets, FBOs and Jet engines worldwide. We will also feature those companies involved in the Charter and Maintenance of Business Jets not just in southern Africa, but throughout the world. In the past, advertisers have reported excellent reaction resulting in sales due to the African Pilot aircraft features, since the magazine provides genuine information, not just cover to cover advertising with little editorial content. We are offering all Business Jet and Jet Engine sales representatives the advertising opportunities to accompany this specific feature.
African Pilot Digital Calendars
Wallpaper calendar for the months of February and January
Since we are not printing the paper magazine any longer, African Pilot is making digital calendars available to all its readers. We will be releasing a new one each month. Examples are January and February to download, print or use as your computer’s background wallpaper. Go to our website to download the calendars in three different resolutions. Look out on Monday for the month of March to download.
GPS units for sale – contact Athol Franz 082 552 2940 or E-mail: email@example.com
AvMap GeoPilot II with bracket and suction cup R6500
Garmin GPSmap 96C with control stick bracket R2500
About African Pilot
There is no doubt that African Pilot provides the finest overall aviation media reach in Africa.
We are positioned to provide professional video and stills photography, website development, social media platforms, company newsletters as well as several other important media services to our customers.
The monthly magazine is available as a digital edition where ALL advertisers enjoy the direct routing to their websites at a touch on a smart phone or tablet as well as a click of the mouse on a computer screen or tap on any smart phone device.
Then of course this APAnews service has been part of African Pilot’s line-up since the inception of the magazine 20 years ago.
Do you want instant aviation news and opinions?
Visit www.APAcom.co.za and register yourself as a user
African Pilot’s shop window
Over the past few weeks, I have received several e-mails asking for my assistance to place aviation friends in contact with service providers or to supply important information to assist them with answers within aviation. Understandably, I am not an expert in many aviation subjects, but via African Pilot’s considerable media reach including APAnews, I can assist to provide people with answers as who to contact for the respective inquiries. Please note that this is yet another FREE service to anyone in aviation and all you need to do is contact me via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
View and download African Pilot’s last three (3) 2020 editions.
Click on the covers below.
Wouter Botes’ e-book ‘Flights to Nowhere’
Wouter Botes’ E-book on Flight to Nowhere is available by visiting www.africanpilot.co.za and click on the button provided on the home page. We have provided an option for payment of R60 per download on the page.
AERO South Africa news
Date: Thursday, 25 February 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has been with us for more than a year and 2021 started off with more aircraft accidents than in the past. Now is the time to discuss ways to prevent accidents and to ensure mental fitness prior to taking flight, ensuring all safety measures are in place for your flight. The 2020 / 2021 theme for Safety First Aviator Campaign is Prop Clear with this webinar’s focus on COVID-19 creating a ‘Perfect Storm’ leading to aircraft accidents.
It brought about a lot of uncertainty, stress, anxiety, and fatigue during lock down, as well as a lack in competencies, aircraft on the ground, maintenance and support issues. Everything is a bit rusty. So, what now? How do we as pilots make a difference? Resilience through compliance!
Join us for this informative webinar where Cobus Toerien (ALPA-SA), Santjie White (South African Search and Rescue), Lauren Smith (South African Weather Service) and Keith Cunningham (MayDay-SA) will delve into the challenges, solutions to give pilots guidance for Safety and Compliance during these uncertain times. Franz Smit, from Pilot Insure will moderate the webinar.
Some points that will be discussed:
- My Safety Culture
- My ‘Rules and Regulations’ for Safe Flight
- Mental fitness and Wellbeing during and after the Perfect Storm
- ARCC Tips for combatting the Covid-19 storm
- What is resilience for aviators
- How I can build/improve my own resilience (eight steps)
FREE WEBINAR REGISTER NOW
Marlene Bosch: Marlene.email@example.com or 084 622 3931
Annelie Reynolds: Annelie.firstname.lastname@example.org or 083 308 1251
Aero Club member support initiative
Aero Club coffee table Centenary Yearbook
The AeCSA Centenary Yearbook is now available to purchase from the online shop. Please visit www.aeroclub.org.za/shop.
What is scheduled for this weekend?
SAPFA 17th Rand Challenge navigation rally 27 February
This rally was initially planned for 30 January but was postponed due to weather. The rally will now take place this Saturday 27 February (as a replacement of the planned Brakpan rally) at Rand Airport
Organiser – Frank Eckard
Contact email@example.com Tel: 083 269 1516
Those pilots that did the training on the 30 January, let see how much you learned about the sport.
Those who have SAPFA loggers, please bring them along.
Entry Fee: R850 per a/c
See the rules at the following link http://www.sapfa.co.za/index.php/rally-regulations or http://www.sapfa.co.za/index.php/fun-navigation for Sportsman’s Class
Programme of the day:
- From 08h00 Breakfast available at the Harvard Cafe
- 09h00 Compulsory Briefing
- Prize giving after the event – time to be advised.
All are welcome, but for those interested in taking part in the World Championships in November in Stellenbosch, it is a must.
EAA Chapter 322 monthly meeting and more
Many thanks to all those who attended our combined Chapter 932 and 322 gathering earlier this month. Feedback from both sides of the Atlantic indicates the gathering was well received and enjoyed by all. A big thank you to all who participated and helped in putting that evening together!
Saturday 27 February 2021
Please join us for breakfast fly-in to Circus Airfield. Arrival from 08h00 / 08h30 and details for this will be published on Whats App during the week. MACH credits will apply.
Drive-in night Jack Taylor Krugersdorp – postponed
Please remember that, due to lockdown restrictions at the time, a decision was made to postpone the Drive-in night at Krugersdorp this Saturday night (27th February 2020). Instead, we will be holding a fly-in and drive-in night on Saturday 27 March at Krugersdorp airfield. Diarise this event.
Monthly meeting Wednesday 3 March 2021
On Wednesday 3 March Chapter 322 will stage its next monthly gathering, this will be a zoom event and will feature an interesting talk by Sean Cronin, with details of his recent trip to Tanzania, as well as a CRM safety talk by Mango Captain Rob Brand. Connect virtually for our meeting as follows:
Time: 18h30 Start
Zoom: Connect from 18h00
Meeting ID: 85971564317
Kulula.com back at Lanseria from 1 April 2021
South Africa’s low-cost airline kulula.com, announced that it will restart its operations at Lanseria International Airport from 1 April 2021, servicing its Durban and Cape Town routes. Similar to the re-introduction of its other routes, kulula.com will commence with a limited schedule, adding additional frequencies over the next couple of months. Customers are now able to book flights from Lanseria via various distribution channels at market related fares. For bookings visit kulula.com, call the kulula.com Contact Centre on 0861 KULULA (585852) or contact your local travel agent.
SA domestic airline comparison: What you get for your buck
By Clinton Moodley
South African airlines are constantly reinventing their offerings to entice travellers, especially after the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the aviation sector. We compare the various South African airlines, from their routes, prices and on-board catering.
From Cape Town International Airport, Airlink flies to Kimberley, George, Upington, Hoedspruit, Nelspruit, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Victoria Falls, Maun and Harare.
From OR Tambo International Airport, Airlink flies to Durban, Upington, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg, Mthatha, Sishen, Port Elizabeth, Polokwane, Nelspruit, Skukuza, Hoedspruit, Cape Town, Kimberley and East London. It also operates African regional flights to Lubumbashi, Dar es Salaam. Maseru, Eswatini, Harare, Bulawayo, Gabarone, Windhoek, Kasani, Walvis Bay, Ndola, Lusaka, Pemba, Tete, Beira, Maputo, Vilanculos, Nosy Be, Antananarivo, Saint Helena and Maun. From King Shaka International, Airlink flies to Johannesburg and Nelspruit. From Nelspruit Airport, Airlink flies to Livingston and Vilanculos.
On-board meals: On select flights operated by its fleet of Embraer E-jets, travellers enjoy an intra-continental-style business class service with all snacks, meals and select beverages served on crockery. On domestic flights, Airlink serves a breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack or a dinner snack with a choice of beverage.
Rates: Airlink said the airline offers ‘affordable and competitive’ fares.
What is next: Airlink is preparing to announce new routes within the next few weeks. The airline plans to increase frequencies
South Africa’s newest airline LIFT launched in December. The airline offers a daily Johannesburg-Cape Town route. Co-founder Gidon Novick said the airline opted to start with the Johannesburg-Cape Town route as it one of the busiest in the country for domestic and international travellers. “We want to focus on this route and offer an amazing service to our passengers,” he said.
On-board meals: LIFT serves complimentary Vida e coffee and a snack on morning flights. The airline launched ‘happy hour’ on all afternoon flights with passengers enjoying complimentary local South African wines or gins with a light snack.
Pricing: Rates start from R565 one way. Travellers have the option to change or cancel their flights up to 24 hours before departure without the hefty prices attached to it.
What is next: LIFT transported 30 000 passengers during its first month and is currently running 99% on time. “Our goal is to be the most customer-obsessed airline on the planet,” said Novick.
Mango flies to seven destinations in South Africa, including Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town, George, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and East London. The airline operates one regional flight to Zanzibar on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
On-board meals: The airline offers a reduced catering on-board due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Pricing: Rates start from R572 one-way. Mango said the airline offers ‘competitive and affordable fares which include free 20kg free luggage.’
Future plans: Mango is working towards growing its seat-share capacity numbers to reach pre-COVID-19 2019 figures.
From OR Tambo International Airport, FlySafair flies to Cape Town, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and George. From Lanseria International Airport, the airline flies to Cape Town and Durban.
From Cape Town International Airport, FlySafair flies to Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria International Airport). From East London Airport and Port Elizabeth International Airport, the airline flies to Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport). From King Shaka International, the airline flies to Cape Town, Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria International Airport), East London and Port Elizabeth. From George Airport, the airline flies to OR Tambo International Airport.
On-board meals: FlySafair does not offer in-flight catering due to COVID-19.
Rates: Rates start from R422 one way. Kirby Gordon, chief marketing officer at FlySafair, said the airline operates on a demand and supply scale for flight costings. “The longer flights are booked in advance, the cheaper the flight will be,” he said.
What is next: The airline will commence two flights from Mauritius and South Africa once Mauritius lifts COVID-19 travel restrictions. Gordon said the airline is “always exploring value-added partnerships and opportunities to expand with demand.”
Desmond ‘O Connor, Executive Head Revenue Management at Comair, said Kulula.com operates flights to Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, East London and George.
Pricing: Kulula.com said prices differ by route. Customers can find the best pricing on the website.
On-board meals: The airline does not serve meals or snacks during the flight. Passengers can request water.
What is next: The airline hopes to fly a full schedule by mid-year.
Desmond ‘O Connor, Executive Head Revenue Management at Comair, said British Airways (operated by Comair) operates flights from Cape Town Johannesburg Durban and Port Elizabeth. The airline will fly to East London from mid-March.
Pricing: Comair said prices differ by route. Customers can find the best pricing on the website.
On-board meals: British Airways (operated by Comair) offers pre-packed cold meals and snacks to limit contact. A selection of alcoholic beverages is served in Club (Business Class). Comair will cater to select special meal options.
Newly appointed Chairman and CEO of Tunisair revoked
On 22 February, Olfa Hamdi who was appointed Chairman and CEO of Tunisair early in January has been revoked. She had replaced Elyes Mnaki. The new Minister of Transport and Logistics, Moez Chakchouk explained this decision during a press conference. He said that Olfa Hamdi had made ‘numerous mistakes’ and was ‘unable to respect secrecy’ entailing leakage of ‘internal documents.’ On Sunday, Olfa Hamdi had responded to attacks from the UGTT trade union on her Facebook account.
The foreclosure lift on accounts of companies of Tunisair Group was announced last Friday after a working session headed by Moez Chakchouk.
Representatives of Tunisair, TAV Tunisie and the Office of Civil Aviation and Airports (OACA) had participated to these discussions. To be recalled that TAV Tunisie which operates Enfidha-Hammamet and Monastir Habib Bourguiba airports had proceeded to a seizure of the bank accounts of Tunisair to recover eight million euros out of a total of 20 million euros, excluding late fee penalties dating back to 2015. It was also decided that Tunisair Group and TAV Tunisie will start negotiations to determine the total amount of debt due and to reschedule repayments. Negotiations will also include payment of social contributions and the working conditions of OACA agents. Agreements will be signed at the ministry of Transport in presence of parties concerned on Friday 26 February.
Tunisair has seen its passenger traffic and its turnover fall by approximately 70% during 2020. A restructuring plan had been announced by the Tunisian authorities last year, including a recapitalisation and layoffs. In the meantime, there is growing uncertainty and discontent within the national airline. Bold decisions are needed to get Tunisair out of this financial turmoil which was ongoing long before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preliminary probe finds that Netcare 911 helicopter ‘broke up in flight’
A preliminary investigation by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) confirmed the helicopter which crashed en route to KwaZulu-Natal last month killing Netcare 911 medics and its pilot broke apart in mid-air and the impact was ‘not survivable’. The Bell 430 helicopter took off from Ultimate Heli heliport in Midrand, Gauteng, heading to Hillcrest Hospital in Pietermaritzburg on 21 January. On board were a helicopter paramedic, two doctors and a theatre nurse and 12 bottles of oxygen.
“After approximately 1.5 hours in flight and cruising at 725 feet above ground level, the helicopter started to spin uncontrollably, breaking up in flight whilst rapidly losing height. The helicopter impacted the ground and immediately post-impact fire erupted which destroyed the helicopter. All five occupants on board were fatally injured,” reads the report. The wreckage was scattered in a 500m radius at the scene of the crash in Winterton. The report said eyewitnesses travelling on the N3 Highway as well as a farmer reported that the helicopter “suddenly started to spin around while losing height rapidly. The witnesses then saw what looked like helicopter parts breaking off before it crashed and burst into flames. “The witness (farmer) stated that he saw a red and white helicopter spinning around with objects being flung out of the helicopter. The helicopter maintained a south-easterly direction but started to lose height rapidly. The loss of control continued until the helicopter impacted the ground and burst into flames just after flying over the main road underpass which crosses the N3 Highway.”
Objects flung from the helicopter included airframe parts severed by one or more of the helicopter’s main rotor blades while spinning out of control, as well as some airframe parts that broke off during the accident sequence. The Bell 430 had been operating in Angola before being imported, in parts and being reassembled in South Africa.
The crash claimed the lives of anaesthetist Dr Kgopotso Rudolph Mononyane, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Curnick Siyabonga (Sia) Mahlangu, and specialist theatre nurse Mpho Xaba, Netcare 911 advanced life-support paramedic Sinjin Joshua Farrance and pilot Mark Stoxreiter, from National Airways Corporation. The preliminary report was compiled based on information gathered during the ongoing investigation and may change as new evidence is uncovered.
United Airlines Flight 328
On 21 February, the US National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that two fractured fan blades are among the damage found in its probe of a catastrophic engine failure which forced a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 to return to Denver International Airport on 20 February shortly after take-off. The FAA has been as finalising an emergency inspection order targeting the blades and Boeing is calling for operators not to schedule affected aircraft until the new protocols are in place.
The FAA has been meeting with Boeing and Pratt & Whitney representatives to finalise the inspection order. Boeing said operators of PW4000-powered 777s should keep the airliners out of service until the US agency acts. Boeing’s statement came after the only US operator, United Airlines, pulled its 24 affected aircraft from service, whilst Japan’s regulator ordered its airlines to ground the airliners.
In an investigative update by the FAA late on 21 February said two blades were damaged. One was fractured ‘near the root,’ whilst an ‘adjacent fan blade was fractured about mid-span’ Investigators found part of one blade imbedded in the engine’s containment ring and the ‘remainder of the fan blades exhibited damage to the tips and leading edges.’
The incident, which took place as the 1994-built aircraft was in the initial climb phase bound for Honolulu, led to debris from the No. 2 Pratt & Whitney PW4077 being scattered over Broomfield, Colorado, a city to the northwest of Denver. Video of the event taken from inside the cabin and images of debris on the ground pointed to not only a fan blade failure, but also the loss of the inlet cowl lip and nacelle casing.
Fatal Mexican Learjet 45 accident
On Sunday afternoon, 21 February a Mexican Air Force jet crashed during take-off. According to information from the Mexican government, the jet was taking off from Xalapa, a city 280 km west of the capital. The plane is a Learjet 45XR and had six people on board, all of whom died on the spot. It is not known for certain what happened to the aircraft, but the crash site is next to the airport. It appears that the jet ran the 1,700-meter-long runway but was unable to get off the ground. In the images after the accident, it is possible to see that the fuselage and the wings were destroyed, leaving only a section of the rear and a small part of the front, where the cockpit is located.
Boeing 747 jet engine exploded in mid-air Saturday over the Netherlands
A cargo jet operated by charter company Longtail Aviation, began experiencing engine problems shortly after it took off from the town of Maastricht in the Netherlands, bound for New York City. Witnesses heard explosions and air traffic control informed the pilot that one of the plane’s engines was on fire. The plane scattered parts over the Dutch town of Meerssen, injuring two people and damaging property. One widely circulated photo of the destruction shows what appears to be a part of an engine blade wedged in the roof of a car like a knife stuck in a block of butter. The plane made an emergency landing at Liege Airport, in Belgium. The Boeing 747-400 freighter was powered by a smaller version of the same engines on the United Airlines Boeing 777 involved in a similar incident in Denver, also on Saturday, in which an engine exploded on a United Airlines flight bound for Honolulu, raining debris on Denver suburbs. A Boeing spokesperson referred questions about the company’s 747 planes to the Dutch Safety Board and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which are investigating the incident in the Netherlands.
Boeing 757 bound for Seattle makes an emergency landing
The Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 made an emergency landing Monday afternoon after flight crew noticed an indicator warning of a possible problem with one of its engines. Delta flight 2123 was diverted to land in Salt Lake City ‘out of an abundance of caution,’ the company said in a statement. The aircraft landed safely and fire crews at the airport said the engine did not appear to be damaged. The 16-year-old jetliner was powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, the same manufacturer behind two engine failures Saturday on Boeing planes.
Pilot distracted by door unexpectedly opening in flight
On 22 February 2019, a Beech 65 hit terrain near Colby, Kansas, while manoeuvring for a precautionary landing. The commercial pilot was not injured, but the airplane sustained substantial damage. Day instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight was originating from Shalz Field Airport (KCBK) in Colby, Kansas and destined for Denver, Colorado.
According to the pilot, shortly after take-off, he noticed the crew hatch door, located next to the left front seat, had unexpectedly opened. He attempted to close the door, without success. While focusing on trying to close the door, he ‘wasnot able to fully control the airplane normally (mainly heading and pitch),’ so he initiated a precautionary landing back to KCBK. While manoeuvring at a low altitude to stay in visual flight rules conditions (overcast ceiling at 300 feet), the airspeed decreased and the wing tips were dipping back and forth.
The pilot retracted the landing gear and applied full engine power to try and gain airspeed. He was unable to gain airspeed, the airplane was losing altitude and he knew it was going to hit terrain. Prior to the impact, he kept the wings level and the nose in a slightly pitch up attitude. The plane then hit the snow-covered terrain with the landing gear retracted. Post-accident examination of the airplane revealed the left wing and left aileron were bent. No evidence was noted that the crew hatch door malfunctioned during the flight.
International travel likely to reopen in 2022
Ed Bastian, Delta chief executive officer has spent much of 2021’s first quarter talking about the ‘year of recovery’ to come. With the hope of vaccinations that will restore consumer confidence in aviation, he is preparing to turn a profit by midyear- something that is sorely needed after record losses of $12.39 billion in 2020. The company saw improvement at the end of 2020 as it slashed its cash drain in half from the third to fourth quarter and fourth-quarter net losses of $755 million paled in comparison to those of American and United, both around $2 billion. But Delta and its competitors still expect a bumpy road ahead. “It’s always darkest before the dawn, and that’s exactly where we are,” says Bastian.
He expects the US to reach some initial stage of herd immunity in the early summer, barring the emergence of vaccine-resistant mutations of Covid-19. “That will be the key to getting travel going though it will just be one stage, one meaningful step, as we build back to a new normal.” The same milestone, he says, may be the trigger that allows Delta to reopen bookings for middle seats, which it has blocked for social distancing throughout the pandemic. Another meaningful step, he says, will be the reopening of international borders. “Specifically, in Asia, they will be very conservative,” says Bastian. “But in 12 to 18 months, I believe international travel will be back.” The bottom line, says Bastian, is that once the pandemic ends, “the real value for travel will be clear and people will place a higher premium on this.”
Extraordinary Martian descent and landing video released by NASA
New video from NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has chronicled the intense but major milestones during the final minutes of its entry, descent and landing (EDL) on the Red Planet on 18 February. The spacecraft plummeted, parachuted and rocketed toward the surface of Mars, while a microphone on the rover also has provided the first audio recording of sounds from Mars.
From the moment of parachute inflation, the camera system covers the entirety of the descent process, showing some of the rover’s intense ride to Mars’ Jezero Crater. The footage from high-definition cameras aboard the spacecraft starts seven miles (11 kilometres) above the surface, showing the supersonic deployment of the most massive parachute ever sent to another world and ends with the rover’s touchdown in the crater.
A microphone attached to the rover did not collect usable data during the descent, but the commercial off-the-shelf device survived the highly dynamic descent to the surface and obtained sounds from Jezero Crater on 20 February. About 10 seconds into the 60-second recording, a Martian breeze is audible for a few seconds, as are mechanical sounds of the rover operating on the surface. “For those who wonder how you land on Mars, or why it is so difficult, you need look no further,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “Perseverance is just getting started and has already provided some of the most iconic visuals in space exploration history. It reinforces the remarkable level of engineering and precision that is required to build and fly a vehicle to the Red Planet.”
FAA warns of decompression risk in Boeing 737 NG and MAX
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a new airworthiness directive (AD) concerning the Boeing 737 NG and MAX family aircraft, after reports of cracks on the stop fitting assembly of the forward entry door. After investigating multiple reports of ‘cracked or completely severed lugs in the upper aft corner stop fitting assembly of the forward entry door’, the FAA identified that the ‘undersized wall thickness of the lug made it susceptible to fatigue cracking.’ This could result in the forward entry door of the affected aircraft being unable to sustain the limit load, thus risking a rapid decompression of the cabin. The affected aircraft and operator were not specified in the AD.
As a corrective measure, the FAA asked operators to identify the stop fitting assembly installed on their aircraft and, if the faulty parts are found, to replace them ‘with a newly designed stop fitting assembly that has improved wall thickness and strength.’ The new AD, effective 29 March 2021, concerns both the Boeing 737 NG and MAX families and affects 1,075 airplanes registered in the United States. Operators have to comply before 10,000 total flight cycles on the forward entry door, or within 5,000 flight cycles after 24 January 2020, whichever occurs later.
Reserve fighter pilot reaches 1000 hours in F-35
On 18 February, a pilot in the 419th Fighter Wing became the US Air Force Reserve’s first operational F-35 pilot to reach 1,000 flying hours in the USAF’s newest fighter jet. Maj. Daniel ‘Mental’ Toftness joined the Reserve in August 2018 after 12 years on active duty. He now serves full time as an Air Reserve Technician. Toftness began flying the F-35 in 2014, even before the first operational F-35s arrived at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in September 2015. He accrued many of his F-35 flying hours at Eglin AFB, Florida and then Luke AFB, Arizona, as an instructor pilot. He also flew in the active duty 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB. Prior to becoming qualified in the F-35, Toftness flew the F-16, deploying three times to accrue about 150 combat flying hours. The 419th FW and 388th FW fly and maintain 78 jets in a Total Force partnership that benefits from the strengths of both the Air Force Reserve and active duty. Together, the wings have flown the F-35 in various military exercises around the world and completed three combat deployments to the Middle East.
Thai Airways plans to purchase 30 aircraft by 2025
Thailand’s flag-carrier Thai Airways is reportedly looking to buy from 20 to 30 new aircraft by 2025, the time when the airline expects to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The new purchase would strengthen its fleet and replace sold or decommissioned planes. According to Thai Aircraft Trading, the airline currently has listed 18 Boeing 777 family aircraft, 10 Boeing 747s, two Boeing 737-400s, nine Airbus A340s, two Airbus A380-800s and one Airbus A300-600 aircraft to find potential buyers. If sold, the new batch of aircraft would replace the listed airplanes.
However, it would not be the first time Thai Airways suggested a similar aircraft purchase plan. According to media reports, in July 2018, Thai Airways was looking to buy 23 new aircraft worth approximately $3 billion. In addition, Thai Airways also had plans to modernise its fleet by purchasing 30 aircraft in 2017. In 2003 and 2004, Thai Airways purchased 10 Airbus A340-500 and A340-600. However, the purchase led the airline to financial troubles, as the Airbus A340 maintenance resulted in significant losses.
Fake deaths of Thai Airways workers under investigation
Thai Airways staff have been allegedly faking their own deaths to claim funeral pay-outs, costing the airline almost half a million dollars. According to the National Thailand, since 2013, there have been 26 cases of fake death certificates issued for Thai Airways employees that have reportedly kept working for the airline. The schemes are estimated to have cost the company a total of 14 million baht ($466,000) or approximately $18,000 per employee. On 16 February 2021, 20 members of the Savings Cooperative for Employees of Thai Airways International and lawyers filed complaints with the Crime Suppression Division regarding these fake claims.
“The cooperative has found that the number of members filing for funeral allowance has increased suspiciously over several years,” said cooperative representative Weerayut Thuankong. “We checked the evidence they submitted and found that the death certificates appeared to be fake, as the persons declared dead are still working for the company. We only have evidence until 2013, but we believe there could be more members who have committed this fraud before that, so we are asking the police to launch a full investigation,” added Thuankong.
On 26 January 2021, continuously struggling Thai Airways announced a restructuring plan, which involved increasing revenue, cost reductions and preparation for sustainable operations in the future. On 19 February 2021, Thailand’s national carrier, which employs around 21,000 people, said it had cut around 240 executive positions as part of its bankruptcy restructuring process.
Russia and UAE to jointly develop supersonic aircraft
According to Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and the United Arab Emirates’ investment fund Mubadala will create a joint venture to develop a supersonic airliner. “For now, we are optimistic [about the time frame for a first concept to be revealed before the end of 2021, but maybe the beginning of 2022,” Manturov said at the IDEX 2021 defence convention in Abu Dhabi. “The key parameters have mostly been set: the speed will be Mach 1.5 to 1.8, taking into consideration that the flight time at a speed of Mach 1.8 is limited to four hours.”
An eight-seat business jet and a 30-seat commercial airliner are being studied. Manturov said the first delivery could take place in 2027. While no other specification was given on the aircraft, Manturov said the project dated back to 2019 and received an initial investment of $100 million. It was reported that two Russian supersonic civilian aircraft are being studied. Zukhovsky’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute started its own programme. In parallel, the manufacturer Tupolev has been considering the conversion of its Tu-160 supersonic strategic bomber into a passenger airliner.
ERAU electric aircraft reaches a milestone
After four years of development, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s ‘eSpirit’ electric aircraft has reached the taxi-test stage. The Diamond HK-36-based project, dubbed eSpirit of St. Louis as a nod to Charles Lindbergh’s ‘notion of balance between aviation and the environment,’ is a testbed for students and faculty to develop a unique electric propulsion system. According to ERAU, Dr Richard ‘Pat’ Anderson, director of the Eagle Flight Research Center, piloted the HK with student Joseph Thiemer and actively “programmed and monitored parameters in the motor inverter / speed controller and monitored the battery management system. Successful tests such as our most recent taxi are large steppingstones toward goals that are shaping the future of air transportation with hybrid and electric platforms,” said Joseph Thiemer, an Aerospace Engineering student completing his bachelor’s degree.
“I am ecstatic that we achieved this taxi milestone and look forward to our next milestone, flight an arduous task, but not an impossible one,” said aerospace engineering master’s student Sanay Satam. “We know the challenges that stand before us and are motivated to overcome them. It is all about the high fives at the end of the day, knowing that we were able to achieve our goals, thus fuelling, or should I say, electrifying our ambition to succeed in the flight phase.”
The eSpirit programme was first powered up in 2017. The pace is not unexpected, since, according to ERAU, “Retrofitting the aircraft is almost entirely a student-based project designed to give them hands-on and research experience in electric aviation and hybrid propulsion. Faculty provide oversight as three aerospace engineering students to work on overall implementation, project planning and management, test procedures and execution.”
Milkor unveils armed UAV at IDEX 2021
At the 2021 edition of IDEX staged in the United Arab Emirates, Milkor officially launched its unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV). Milkor displayed the aircraft with six guided weapons on the wings. Milkor worked with the UAE’s HALCON to display its Desert Sting guided munitions at the show. The Desert Sting unpowered munitions series features an inertial navigation system and GNSS for navigation with an optional semi-active laser seeker. The Sting series has a range of 16 kilometres but offers different warhead sizes, with the munitions weighing between 10 and 50 Kg. In November 2019 Halcon was awarded a $1 billion contract to supply Desert Sting 16 weapons to the UAE armed forces.
According to Milkor, the UCAV is a medium altitude long endurance UAV with surface ceiling of 30 000 feet and 35+ hours endurance. It has an 18.6 metre wingspan and can carry out line of sight operations up to a range of 350 km and beyond line-of-sight operations to a range more than 1 000 km with a satellite link. The maximum take-off weight is 1 300 kg and payload 210 kg. Top speed is 250 km/h and cruise speed 110-150 km/h. It has five hardpoints for various payloads and can carry SAR / ISAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar / Inverted Synthetic Aperture Radar), Communications Intelligence (COMINT), AIS (Automatic Identification System), communications relay, communications jammer and other systems including ‘swarm pods.’ In addition to the Milkor UAE UCAV, the company also offers a Surveillance version and the smaller MA80 and MA380 UAVs. It also developed the MA18 fixed-wing hand-launched portable UAV.
UMS SKELDAR first naval deployment of full ATOL capability of V-200 UAV platform
Europe’s leading provider of Rotary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platforms, UMS SKELDAR, is announcing a unique achievement for its flagship SKELDAR V-200 UAV platform, the successful automatic take-off and landing (ATOL) of a tactical UAV from a ship. While full ATOL capability on land is a native characteristic of the V-200, UMS SKELDAR are the first company to achieve this unique ATOL compliance milestone in a naval setting. In recognition of its value as part of a ship’s future capability requirements, this latest development is currently being tested by NATO customers.
Previously, platforms have operated in assisted mode with a crew manually overseeing take-off and landing via a joystick or computer control. Now, full ATOL capability enables both take-off and landing to be performed through the simple press of a button. The platform uses a laser altimeter and GPS combination to track its location and calculate the required altitude reduction, culminating in a smooth and safe landing.
In addition to this new capability, the SKELDAR V-200 continues to undergo both software and hardware developments to ensure continued improvement and maximum capability for customers. Willems adds: “We are focused on the continued improvement of both SKELDAR UAV platforms. Our ongoing modernisation programmes aim to not only review the platforms’ capabilities, but also analyse customer requirements with a view to increasing the service suite we provide alongside.”
Twice Weekly News from African Pilot
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Until Monday, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)