“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
Who decides a flight can’t continue beyond the outer marker (or equivalent position), unless the reported RVR is equal to or better than required conditions:
1. Air traffic controller
2. CAA inspectors
4. Passenger vote
Prosecutors warn of rampant corruption in South African Airways
In an ongoing investigation by South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the prosecutors presented their preliminary findings in front of the South African Parliament, describing rampant corruption at the airline. SIU began its investigation into South African Airways (SAA) in December 2019, as the unit alleged that the airline and the government ‘may have suffered losses that may be recovered.’ The investigation took a deeper look into alleged maladministration, unlawful conduct by employees of SAA and unlawful appropriation of public funds, amongst other things, which took place between January 2002 and December 2019. SIU also investigated the purchase of Airbus aircraft, maintenance and legal services and service providers to support the implementation of the SAA turnaround plan, which was contracted by the airline in December 2019.
Shady aircraft purchases
The investigators appeared to present their results in front of the South African Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA). For example, the SIU depicted that SAA approved a sale-and-leaseback (SLB) transaction for 20 Airbus A320 aircraft in September 2012 to the Bank of China (BOC). Conversely, following considerations regarding the risk profile associated with BOC, the number of sold aircraft to the bank dropped to five. The rest of the A320s were placed into a bidding process between three parties, including BOC, Standard Chartered / Pembroke and ICBC / Standard Bank. Pembroke won the bidding contest for 10 of the jets, paying $41 million per A320 to the South African Carrier. The airline itself previously paid $38.9 million for one Airbus aircraft, making a profit on the SLB transaction.
However, SIU found holes in the whole transaction. South African Airways paid Airbus $115.4 million for Pre-Delivery Payments (PDP), under an agreement signed on 24 January 2013. When SAA and Pembroke agreed to the SLB transaction, the leasing company had to reimburse the PDP. The SIU had not received any proof of that occurring. Furthermore, SAA paid a monthly lease fee of $323,500 per month, for a lease period of 12 years. The total value of the lease would put the price of an aircraft at $46.5 million, excluding maintenance, which was the responsibility of the airline, according to the contract. “Even though this was an operating lease, SAA had to accept risks and rewards and to maintain its own aircraft and then submit the receipts to Pembroke within six months after maintenance,” commented Zodwa Xesibe, a Programme Manager at SIU, during the session with Parliament members. According to the investigators, the airline lost up to R356.9 million ($23.7 million) on the SLB. Xesibe also pointed out that the unit was still awaiting all proof of Pembroke’s payments to South African Airways.
Investigators also looked at two additional sets of contracts. One was a dry lease agreement with Flyfofa Airways to lease second-hand cargo charters, which the investigators determined followed an irregular procurement process. Xesibe pointed out that one aircraft was grounded for eight months, yet SAA kept paying Flyfofa Airways for its services, as one of the abnormalities of the agreement between the two sides. “We are looking at a possible recovery of R300 million ($19.9 million) in this matter,” she added, as SIU is also preparing evidence for criminal prosecution. The second set of contracts, which involved five aircraft, were also found to be highly irregular. For example, even though the airline paid for one of them, it had not taken a single flight for the airline.
A further 84 maintenance agreements were also investigated. For one, a contract with McKinsey, worth over R12 million ($798,912), was again full of irregularities. “As a result of the evidence that we presented to them, McKinsey offered to pay the entire contract value before appearing in front of the State Capture Enquiry,” stated Xesibe. The SIU is also still investigating the airline’s employees abusing the travel rebate policy, which has allegedly cost SAA around R600 million ($39.9 million) in FY2018 / 2019 alone. “There were allegations that members of SAA were selling the travel benefit for financial gain,” said the investigator.
Problems with the turnaround plan
The latest findings by the SIU, in addition to the funds that the State is looking to recover, were revealed as the airline is still amidst its turnaround plan, initiated in December 2019. The company hired two service providers: one to overlook Business Process Management, while the other was responsible for Revenue Assurance Management. In total, the two contracts were worth R170 million ($11.3 million) and both were awarded to TATA. Once again, SIU found irregularities in the two contracts. “The person that was dealing with this procurement was conflicted because he had relations with this company. However, he resigned from SAA and what we have done we recommended the cancelation of this contract immediately,” which allowed the airline to save up to R130 million ($8.6 million), in addition to another R78.7 million ($5.2 million) that the investigators are hoping to recover.
“The state of SAA at the moment is dire,” bluntly put it Andy Mothibi, Head of the SIU. “In this case, the airline is actually almost at its disintegration,” he continued. “Although my colleague indicated that it is an on-going investigation and it has been proclaimed just over a year ago, factoring COVID-19, the team threw up a project plan that the investigation would probably end in 2022. But we would like to fast-track that,” as Mothibi asked for more resources from the Committee. “We need to determine as quickly as possible where we can recover or ensure that SAA claims back whatever has been lost from anyone,” he concluded.
South African Airways has been under bankruptcy protection since December 2019. The airline, which has not seen a profitable year since 2011 and more than $2 billion in bailout sums, has not flown since March 2020. The company plans to lift off the ground once again in May 2021, starting by operating domestic and regional flights. International flights are suspended until at least 30 October 2021.
Having read the above preliminary findings for the South African Parliament, would you ever book a ticket on SAA again? Secondly what expectation do you have that SAA will operate again? How is it possible that the South African government allowed this situation to become as bad as it appears to be? I am interested in your views: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
African Pilot’s March 2021 edition
The March edition featuring Turboprop aircraft, turboprop engines and propellers was completed last week and distributed to the international audience. This feature also includes information about the many aftermarket enhancements available for turboprop aircraft types.
As you may have noticed with ALL editions of African Pilot, we publish important Aviation News, Safety Features, Historical Aviation features as well as news from the Experimental and Space sectors. If you examine African Pilot’s competitor magazines in South Africa, we have published more than 100 pages than our nearest competitor, whilst the lowest placed South African magazine only published 60 pages that cannot be read on any digital device without enlarging the text considerably. There is no other African Aviation or International Aviation publication that provides as much information together with superb pictures to its local and international audience.
Thank you to our valuable South African advertisers and international advertisers that supported this edition. Due to FREE distribution throughout the world, the only income digital publications can expect is from advertising support.
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 March
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 to download, print or use as your computer’s background wallpaper. Go to our website to download the calendars in three different resolutions.
GPS units for sale – contact Athol Franz
Cell: 082 552 2940 or E-mail: email@example.com
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.
Video of the week:
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
Early bird rates available for the ONLY dedicated General Aviation show in South Africa
AERO South Africa is the perfect platform to showcase your products and services and build profitable relationships whilst engaging with over 4000 visitors across the general aviation industry. Exhibitors to the show will also benefit from FREE landing, approach and ground handling fees, making AERO South Africa the most cost-effective opportunity to reach a niche target audience of general aviation enthusiasts and businesses.
Book your space at the premier General Aviation Business-2-Business event and benefit from a discounted rate, contact:
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 happened in aviation over the past week?
Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa news
This is a most important announcement for all commercial aviation business in south Africa. In future CAASA will provide your company with the service (at a cost) to be the go between the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and your company. This means that CAASA’s experts will be positioned to check your documentation, determine any discrepancies, log the time and date of submission to the regulator and keep tracking the progress of your work pack. The CAASA’s inspectors cannot victimise CAASA, which means that this service will become a most useful tool within the aviation industry’s battle with the South African regulator to undertake is mandated work as required.
This process is similar to what the Aero Club of South Africa (AeCSA) does for its members also for a fee, this takes a huge amount of pressure off aviation companies. Further announcement from CAASA will follow.
EAA Chapter 322 CRM safety talk by Mango Captain Rob Brand
On Wednesday evening at EAA Chapter 322’s zoom meeting Captain Rob Brand delivered an excellent talk of Crew Resource Management, which is something that I have believed should be part of every Private Pilot’s curriculum in the future. More on this subject to follow in weeks to come.
Air Navigation Rally Wonderboom Airport
I spent a lovely morning at Wonderboom National Airport today covering the first navigation rally staged by My Aviation Life. Thanks to the Aero Club of South Africa and the South African Power Flying Association, for their valued assistance. This was a live streamed event that initially attracted more than ten teams, but eventually only five teams participated. However, lots of fun was had by all, even those that become lost. A more detailed report will be presented in the April 2021 edition of African Pilot.
Sports Aerobatics Club Judges Trophy
Under beautiful blue skies, the Sports Aerobatics Club staged its ‘Judges Trophy’ at Baragwaneth airfield on Sunday. Although not a spectator sport, I went along to learn more about how the competition in conducted. After the briefing but chief judge John Gaillard, five pairs of the judges placed themselves in a row under some shade marquees and cast their eyes towards the brilliant clear skies of Baragwaneth, which incidentally has the only permanent aerobatic box in South Africa. More on this competition flown by eleven competitors in the April edition of African Pilot.
What is scheduled for the next few months?
African Pilot’s 2021 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.
12 & 13 March
Bethlehem Aero Club event TBA
Contact Stephan Fourie E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 072 344 9678
Postponed until further notice
Aero Club of South Africa AGM venue TBA
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 804 7032
19 and 20 March
FASHKOSH airshow at Stellenbosch airfield
Contact: Anton Theart E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 079 873 4567
22 to 25 March
HAI Helicopter Association International La Nouvelle New Orleans Los Angeles USA
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cancelled for 2021 – rescheduled for 2022
24 to 26 March
Aerospace and Defence Trade Show (ATDS 2021) Lanseria International Airport
Contact Louise Olckers (GM) Cell: 082 847 3403
SAPFA Brakpan Fun Rally at Stellenbosch airfield
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 1516
26 & 27 March
Uitenhage Wings and Wheels
Contact Lourens Kruger E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 320 2615
2 to 5 April
Sandstone Steam Festival – train rides all day from 10h00
Contact 051 933 2235 Website: www.sandstone-estates.com
Garden Route Airshow at George Airport
Contact Brett Scheuble E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 084 418 3836
EAA Chapter 322 monthly meeting virtual and MOTH hall
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 084 674 5674
15 & 17 April
SAPFA Rally Nationals and Fun Rally – Stellenbosch Airfield
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 1516
Robertson Flying Club annual breakfast fly-in with spot landing competition
Contact Alwyn du Plessis E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 270 5888
17 & 18 April
Sports Aerobatics Club Eastern Cape Regionals Wings Park Airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
EAA South Africa at Middelburg Airfield AGM details to be announced
24 & 27 April
Aero Club Airweek at Middelburg Airfield
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 804 7032
SAPFA Middelburg Speed Rally at Middelburg Airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 855 9435
As further dates are sent to me, I will continue to update the aviation calendar.
African airlines’ cargo demand soared 22.4% in January
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released January 2021 data for global air cargo markets showing that air cargo demand returned to pre-COVID levels (January 2019) for the first time since the onset of the crisis. Due to comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons to follow are to January 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.
Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres (CTKs), was up 1.1.% compared to January 2019 and +3% compared to December 2020. All regions saw month-on-month improvement in air cargo demand, whilst North America and Africa were the strongest performers. The recovery in global capacity, measured in available cargo tonne-kilometres (ACTKs), was reversed owing to new capacity cuts on the passenger side. Capacity shrank 19.5% compared to January 2019 and fell 5% compared to December 2020, the first monthly decline since April 2020.
The operating backdrop remains supportive for air cargo volumes:
- Conditions in the manufacturing sector remain robust despite new COVID-19 outbreaks that dragged down passenger demand. The global manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was at 53.5 in January. Results above 50 indicate manufacturing growth versus the prior month.
- The new export orders component of the manufacturing PMI – a leading indicator of air cargo demand– continued to point to further CTK improvement. However, the performance of the metric was less robust compared with Q42020 as COVID-19 resurgence negatively impacted export business in emerging markets. Should this continue or expand to other markers, it could weigh on future air cargo growth.
- The level of inventories remains relatively low compared to sales volumes. Historically, this has meant that businesses had to quickly refill their stocks, for which they also used air cargo services.
“Air cargo traffic is back to pre-crisis levels and that is some much-needed good news for the global economy. But while there is a strong demand to ship goods, our ability is capped by the shortage of belly capacity normally provided by passenger aircraft. That should be a sign to governments that they need to share their plans for restart so that the industry has clarity in terms of how soon more capacity can be brought online. In normal times, a third of world trade by value moves by air. This high value commerce is vital to helping restore COVID damaged economies, not to mention the critical role air cargo is playing in distributing lifesaving vaccines that must continue for the foreseeable future,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
African airlines’ cargo demand soared 22.4% compared to the same month in 2019, eclipsing the 6.3% year-over-year increase for December 2020. Robust expansion on the Asia-Africa trade lanes contributed to the strong growth. January international capacity decreased by 9.1% compared to January 2019, reduced compared to the 17.8% capacity decline recorded in December 2020 versus December 2019.
Mozambican Air Force gets Gazelle helicopters
According to press reports the Paramount Group has supplies two Gazelle helicopters to the Mozambican Air Force as efforts to fight the Islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado continue. It is understood that the Gazelles form part of a larger number of helicopter platforms provided by Paramount to the Mozambican government. According to Scramble magazine, they are part of a batch of 30 former British Army Air Corps Gazelles acquired at auction by Paramount. The two Gazelles spotted in Mozambique were part of a group of 13 stored at Stapleford Tawney in the United Kingdom since 2012. It is understood that additional Gazelles are being prepared for export from the UK.
According to Aviafora, four ex-UK SA 341B Gazelles from Stapleford are being readied for shipment to South Africa. Photographs from late February revealed the aircraft being partially disassembled ahead of delivery. “Whether these four aircraft will serve in Mozambique, at the Paramount Academy in Polokwane or with some other African defence force, we are not yet sure,” Aviafora reported.
Last year in December Africa Intelligence reported that an agreement with Paramount covers at least 12 Marauder armoured vehicles and four Gazelle helicopters, with the Gazelles to be delivered by February. Africa Intelligence reported that fifteen Mozambican pilots have been trained at the Paramount Technical Training Academy based at Polokwane International Airport. Burnham Global is also providing training in the operation of the armoured vehicles on the ground in Mozambique.
Paramount has supplied Gazelles to a number of operators, including Malawi. Four ex-UK Gazelles were delivered in 2015 while Paramount donated a single Gazelle to South African National Parks in 2013 and another Gazelle to Gabon for counter-poaching in 2016. Gazelle helicopters have been used to support Paramount’s anti-poaching duties and is often used by the company’s canine training academy, which specialises in training tracking dogs mainly for counter-poaching duties.
Cessna 182 down near Swadini
This aircraft was used as a fire spotter for the Letaba Fire Protection Association and tragically was destroyed in the resulting impact with terrain killing the pilot. Seim Venter (64) was well-known as a spotted pilot from Tzaneen. Speculation indicated that he may have had a medical problem, because he stated he was no feeling well and called Hoedspruit requesting a direct routing. Apparently a little later he said something about his vision blurring. RIP Seim Venter and condolences to his family and friends.
Fatal accident in South Sudan on Tuesday 2 March 2021
An unidentified commercial plane crashed on Tuesday afternoon, 2 March leaving no survivors in South Sudan. According to reports by The Aviation Herald and the African media, the commercial aircraft of the airline South Sudan Supreme Airline, registered under registration number HK-4274, was carrying out a charter flight from Pieri to Yuai, both in South Sudan, with eight passengers and two crew members, when it crashed right after Pieri’s take-off at 17h05 local time. The governor of Jonglei State, Denay Jock Chagor, confirmed, in a statement, that the HK-4274 aircraft crashed near Pieri’s runway.
Despite the identification of the license plate, whose code is used by airplanes flying in Colombia, there is no mention of the aircraft model and it is not possible to trace this numbering in fleet records or in aeronautical photographs. The plane was reportedly recently incorporated by the airline and not yet registered in the country’s registration system.
Two pilots rescued from downed DA40 off Lanai
The Coast Guard, Maui County Fire Department and Molokai Fire Department rescued two pilots from a downed DA40 Diamond Star aircraft eight miles off Lanai on Saturday 27 February. An Air Station Barbers Point MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew rescued the pilots and brought them to awaiting emergency services at the air station. There were no major injuries reported. “As a watchstander this is the type of outcome we want to see with every case,” said Lt. J G Makenzy Karnehm, a Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center watchstander. “Both the Coast Guard and our partners train together for incidents like this and once we received the call, we were able to quickly mobilise a robust response and rescue the pilots.” At 17h49 JRCC watchstander received a report from Honolulu Control Facility stating the aircraft was experiencing engine trouble and was likely going to ditch in the water. Watchstanders issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast notice to mariners and deployed the Dolphin and Station Maui 45-foot response boat-medium rescue crews.
Once on scene the Dolphin helicopter crew located the two pilots and deployed a rescue swimmer to give aid and hoist the pilots to safety. Maui County and Molokai Fire Departments deployed air and surface assets to aid in the rescue. It was reported that the aircraft sank and does not present a threat to navigation. The cause of the incident is under investigation.
Pilot’s failure to conduct starting procedures properly results in engine fire
The pilot reported that, during the landing roll at the airport in Savannah, Georgia, the wind pushed the Piper PA28 to the right and he overcompensated with left rudder. The plane veered to the left, abruptly rotated about 180° and the engine and airplane stopped on the runway at a taxiway intersection. The tower controller asked if the pilot could restart the engine or if he needed a tow. The pilot attempted to restart the engine four or five times. While attempting a ‘hot start’ he observed black smoke from the lower left engine cowling. He leaned forward and saw flames in the same location. He searched for a fire extinguisher but could not find one. He got out of the airplane without further incident. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage.
The pilot added that, during the multiple restarts, he engaged the starter for five to eight seconds and estimated that the time between attempts was about five seconds. He attempted a hot start for the first couple of attempts, then after he observed the engine fire, he attempted a flooded start. The pilot’s operating handbook contained section 3.7 titled, ‘Engine fire during start’, which stated: Engine fires during start are usually the result of over priming. It continued in section 4.13 titled, ‘Starting Engine’ which stated: Starter manufacturers recommend that cranking periods be limited to 30 seconds with a two-minute rest between cranking periods. Longer cranking periods will shorten the life of the starter.
Greenpeace vandalises Air France Boeing 777 at Paris CDG
The non-governmental environmental organisation Greenpeace invaded the apron of Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), the main airport of the French capital, to paint a parked Air France Boeing 777 in green. The activists denounced what they defined as ‘greenwashing’ from the French government. “While the climate emergency demands a reduction in air traffic, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari (France’s Transport Minister) still thinks that a (hypothetical) green plane will suffice,” the NGO said on Twitter.
The invasion of France’s main airport raises the question of safety. Djebarri ordered a new ‘security plan’ to be presented by Aéroports de Paris, CDG’s operator. An administrative investigation was opened. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, France presented a series of investments, mainly into hydrogen energy, to create a ‘green plane’ by 2035. However, for Greenpeace, it is too little too late. “The climate crisis is playing out now and it is now that the various sectors must reduce their emissions to avoid a climatic runaway,” the NGO said in a statement.
Chinese regulator has major safety concerns about the Boeing 737 MAX
The aviation regulator of China, CAAC, is still concerned about the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The Chinese authorities are still to conduct a final review of the jet only and plan to do so only after its safety-related issues are fully resolved. During a press conference in Beijing, China on 1 March 2021, Dong Zhiyi, the Deputy Head of the CAAC, pointed out that the authorities intensively communicated with Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the ‘major safety concerns’ of the 737 MAX jet, indicating that the country is not ready to unground the aircraft yet.
The Chinese regulator outlined that before the 737 MAX can operate in the country, changes of its design must pass approval for airworthiness and the flight crews must receive proper flight training “The technical review has not yet entered the certification and flight test stage,” Dong added. It remains unclear when that might happen. The operational approval by the Chinese authorities plays a significant role for Boeing since China, as well as Europe and North America, is a crucial market for the Boeing 737 MAX. If China gives it a green light, it will be an important step for Boeing’s commercial success. According to Boeing 737 MAX order and delivery list, Chinese air carriers have ordered up to 287 737 MAX jets.
After becoming the largest aviation market in the world, China aviation and its major players are continuing to expand. China was the first country to impose a flight ban on the Boeing 737 MAX jet after 346 people died in two fatal crashes of Lion Air in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines in March 2019. Both incidents were blamed on the MAX software issues that pushed the jets into nosedives.
Saudia to order 70 new aircraft from Boeing and Airbus?
Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) is in negotiations to acquire around 70 additional Airbus A321neo and Boeing 787 and 777 aircraft, according to the local media Maaal, citing anonymous sources. Already with 159 planes operating, Saudia is reportedly planning to reinforce its fleet with 70 new aircraft. The exact composition of the order is not known but includes the Airbus A321 and the Boeing 787 and 777. The plan to raise debt for an order of around 70 new jets was confirmed to Reuters by a banker. The order could be valued at around $3 billion according to Maaal. Neither Saudia, Airbus, nor Boeing has commented on potential negotiations. Saudia already has 46 Airbus A320 and 15 A321 aircraft on the single-aisle and 32 wide-body A330. Its current order book stands at 30 A320neo and 35 A321neo (15 LR variant and 15 in XLR.) As for Boeing, Saudia flies 13 787-9 Dreamliners, five 787-10s with five more to be delivered and 35 777-300ERs. In 2018, the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia had announced its intention to increase its fleet to 200 aircraft by 2020.
SpaceX Starship explodes after a near perfect landing
On Wednesday after weeks of trying, SpaceX finally succeeded in landing its Mars Starship booster. However, five minutes after touchdown, possibly due to a methane leak the rocket exploded in a spectacular ball of fire on the Boca Chica, Texas, recovery pad. Two previous attempts to land the booster after successful low-altitude test flights ended in fiery explosions or what SpaceX founder Elon Musk calls a RUD, for rapid unscheduled disassembly. In Wednesday’s test, designated SN10, the booster flew to a planned low altitude, completed its transition manoeuvre and backed down toward the pad on two engines. It touched down successfully, albeit at a slight tilt due to one of the six landing legs either failing to deploy properly or failing on touchdown.
As dust and gas clouds cleared after the landing, the rocket exploded in a spectacular fireball about five minutes later. The rocket rose briefly during the event before impacting on its side. Earlier in the day, the first launch attempt was aborted when onboard computers detected uneven thrust and shut the engines down before lift-off. SpaceX refuelled the vehicle, tweaked the software and completed the launch near dusk.
“The key point of today’s test flight was to gather the data on controlling the vehicle while re-entering and we were successful in doing so,” said John Insprucker, a SpaceX engineer who narrated the live video of the launch. Earlier in the week, Musk said the Starship system would be ready to launch people into orbit as soon as 2023. Ultimately, the Starship is designed to carry humans to Mars, which Musk has said will happen by 2026, just five years away. Musk has sketched out plans to eventually colonise Mars. SpaceX has several Starships in production to sustain what has been an impressive launch cadence. The company said SN19 is now being built.
Gulfstream G280 earns FAA affirmation of superior sound performance
Last week Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed that the super-midsize Gulfstream G280™ meets the certifying organisation’s recently intensified noise standards. Known as Stage 5, the standard lowers the noise limit for subsonic aircraft. The G280’s noise emissions have always fallen below the levels now classified as Stage 5. “The Gulfstream team continues its commitment to the future of the G280 programme, ensuring adherence to the most stringent standards, whether for safety, performance or noise emissions,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “Aircraft noise abatement goals are vital to ensuring the livelihood of the aviation and aerospace industries and demonstrating our efforts to be good neighbours to those who live or work near airfields, airports or flight paths.” Official approval to the Stage 5 noise standard ensures continued operational flexibility at noise-sensitive airports and those with time-of-day entry restrictions.
This update is reflected in the G280’s aircraft flight manual, with new noise data sheets being issued to operators.
Garmin Autoland named 2020 finalist for esteemed Robert J. Collier Trophy
Seven aeronautic and astronautic achievements selected as nominees for annual prestigious award that recognizes the aviation industry’s greatest accomplishment. On 3 March, the Garmin Autoland system was selected as a 2020 Robert J. Collier Trophy finalist by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). For over a century, the Collier Trophy has been the benchmark of aerospace achievement and is awarded annually to recognize ‘the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.’ Part of the Garmin Autonomi™ family of autonomous safety-enhancing technologies, Autoland is the world’s first certified system of its kind with the ability to activate during an emergency situation to autonomously control and land an aircraft without human intervention.
Indigo, BOC Aviation ink SLB pact for eight A320neo aircraft
Most Indian airlines prefer to place significant aircraft orders with manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus, which are subsequently financed through sale and leaseback arrangements made with leasing companies. Singapore-headquartered aircraft operating leasing company BOC Aviation Limited has signed sale-and-leaseback agreements with InterGlobe Aviation Ltd-operated IndiGo for eight new Airbus A320neo aircraft. The sale and leaseback or SLB is a financial transaction in which the owner (airline), sells the aircraft and then takes it back on lease from the buyer (lessor). This kind of deal typically removes the aircraft and its associated debt, from the carrier’s balance sheet.
Airbus A400M achieves first airlift of Griffon armoured vehicle
Validating yet another tactical capability, for the first time the Airbus A400M Atlas was able to carry a VBMR Griffon, the brand-new armoured vehicle of the French Army. However, it now appears that the German side is hesitant to see the planned update move forward. After the Franco-German Council on defence and security held on 5 February 2021, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “for the standard Tiger 3, there is a whole series of negotiations to be conducted, in particular with Airbus for the German part.” According to Reuters, unlike the FCAS fighter jet programme, whose bumpy ride can mostly be blamed on political quibble, the reluctance over the €5.5 billion modernisation comes from the military itself. In particular, the German Army points at the low operational readiness of the Airbus Tiger.
Will Germany abandon the Airbus Tiger attack helicopter?
Designed in the early 1980s amid the Cold War, the Franco-German Tiger combat helicopter was adopted by the two countries’ respective armies in 2009. Initially thought of as an anti-tank platform that could counter a Soviet invasion, it was eventually transformed into a multirole attack helicopter, with several variants being developed to fit the needs of its operators. In May 2018, France and Germany formalised the modernisation of the Tiger, defined by the French Minister of Armed Forces as a ‘new stage for Europe of defence and the consolidation of our industry.’ On behalf of France, Germany and Spain, the European Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) contracted the manufacturers involved in the project, namely Airbus Helicopters, Thales and MBDA, to carry out risk reduction tasks.
The modernisation is due to bring the helicopters to the Mk3, focused on collaborative combat. For example, it should include the Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) which allows for a helicopter to control a drone. The Tigers of the French armed forces would also be able to share information with the newly induced frontline fighting vehicles of the Scorpion programme.
Maiden flight of Boeing’s Loyal Wingman drone
The Loyal Wingman drone, developed by Boeing for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), successfully completed its maiden flight. The test flight took place at the RAAF Woomera Range Complex, in South Australia. Operated from a ground control station by a Boeing test pilot, the aircraft took off under its own power before flying a predetermined route at different speeds and altitudes to evaluate its flight behaviour and ‘demonstrate the performance of the Airpower Teaming System design.’ Following the successful maiden flight, the Australian Ministry of Defence announced that an additional three Loyal Wingman aircraft would be ordered with an investment of $89 million, bringing up the total fleet to six test aircraft.
Boeing completed flight tests with five AI-controlled jets operating in formation at the new Queensland Flight Test Range in Cloncurry, Australia. The Loyal Wingman will compete in the Skyborg competition, an initiative of the United States Air Force to select an unmanned combat aerial vehicle intended to assist a manned fighter. “Obviously, the US market is a big market. That is a focus for us, achieving some sort of contract or programme of record in the United States,” Boeing airpower teaming programme director Shane Arnott told Reuters.
ICAO Council makes progress on new remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) standards
Last week during its ongoing 222nd Session, the ICAO Council adopted new and amended Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) driving important progress on the international safety and interoperability of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). The new provisions will become effective on 12 July 2021 and applicable as of 26 November 2026. The most important pertain to Annex 8, Airworthiness of Aircraft to the Chicago Convention and cover certification requirements for remotely piloted aeroplanes and helicopters, in addition to the remote pilot stations (RPS) they are operated from.
The new Annex 8 SARPs were complemented by new provisions adopted by the Council on C2 Links, the data links that connect the RPA and RPS, in Annex 10 to the Convention, on Aeronautical Telecommunications. They include Amendment 90 to Volume V, which addresses spectrum allocations that may be used for RPAS C2 Links and the adoption of an entirely new Volume VI, on RPAS C2 Link communications systems and procedures.
A second package of C2 Link SARPs, which is currently being developed by ICAO’s RPAS Panel, will address details for interoperability, spectrum utilisation and compatibility with existing communications and navigation systems, including the sharing of the proposed frequency bands. The latest RPAS progress required minor modifications to Annexes 1 (Personnel Licensing) and 2 (Rules of the Air) of the Convention and will eventually be supported by more substantial Annex 2 changes already in development. Previous Annex 1 Standards adopted by the Council in 2018 introduced a regulatory structure for the issuance of remote pilot licences for applicability as of November 2022.
As this extensive work continues through ICAO, it is presumed that all the 19 Annexes to the Chicago Convention will eventually require either significant or minor modification to achieve the safe, secure and efficient integration of RPAS into current global aviation frameworks.
Paramount Group launches long range swarming UAV system
In a move to bolster armed forces’ tactical situational awareness and precision strike capabilities while minimising personnel risk and collateral damage, Paramount Advanced Technologies (PAT), subsidiary to Paramount Group, the global aerospace and technology company, has announced the launch of its long-range, precision strike and cost-effective swarming UAV system, N-Raven. The N-Raven family of autonomous, multi-mission aerial vehicles featuring next generation ‘swarm’ technologies to accomplish numerous missions with pinpoint precision, debuted at the 2021 International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX 2021) held in Abu Dhabi.
The N-Raven family has been designed for technology transfer and portable manufacture from within partner countries with both unrivalled accuracy and affordability in mind. In doing so, the N-Raven addresses a myriad of mission requirements, including ‘future war fighter engagements’ where intelligent ‘swarming technologies’ combined with multiple munitions loitering and attack operations have been proven to ensure mission survivability. With a modular system allowing for flexible mission planning, operational units can launch the versatile N-Raven UAV from multiple land-based, naval and airborne platforms. Formation level commanders can further benefit from the advantage of the N-Raven’s precision strike capabilities against high-value targets, both static and moving, located deep within enemy territory, by utilising a ‘swarm’ of loitering munitions.
The 41 kg N-Raven operates with a covert, low signature in contested environments offering a cruise speed of approximately 180 km/hr and a loitering endurance time of approximately two hours. N-Raven swarm loitering munitions offer a variety of sensors with each being capable of carrying a 10 – 15 kg payloads up to a range of 250 km. The system provides detection, identification, location and reportage (DILR) against various targets. The N-Raven Series can be critical to the successful execution of modern fire missions, with swarm capabilities offering support for Multi-Domain Operations (MDO). As the platform’s onboard sensors and communication technologies continue to improve, they can serve as significant force multipliers for strategic and tactical assignments.
Equivalent to positioning multiple personnel on the ground in often austere, high-risk environments, the N-Raven is designed to saturate an area with Electro-Optical / Infra-Red (EO/IR), Semi-Active Laser sensor-driven target identification and tracking technologies to provide a rapid, data-rich picture of activity. This reduces threats to personnel safety while enhancing human end-user responsiveness in radically changing engagement scenarios. A field simulator is optionally available which connects to the system’s control unit, allowing the N-Raven crew to rehearse each mission before launch. The UAV’s recording capabilities allow for a full debrief and ensure a positive learning curve for the end-user’s personnel, while reducing costs and minimising risks in operator training.
Paramount Advanced Technologies has developed the N-Raven as a robust yet cost-effective technology solution, utilising proven commercial components and experience gained from the company’s long legacy in the development of UAV systems, including but not limited to the Meteorite.
Twice Weekly News from African Pilot
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Until Thursday, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)