Important changes at African Pilot
From March last year when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit South Africa, all African Pilot’s staff members were forced to work from their respective homes. Even when the lockdown was partially lifted, the decision was for the team to continue working from their homes. This meant that I was the only person in my commercial building for nearly a full year. On 26 February I also decided to work from my home and the new owners of my Barbeque Heights commercial building have taken occupation. This has resulted in several changes at African Pilot.
Please note the following:
- We have given up our Telkom lines.
Please contact Athol Franz for editorial matters cell: 082 552 2940
Adrian Munro for marketing information cell: 079 880 4359.
- We have cancelled our PO Box therefore all correspondence should go the following:
Athol Franz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrian Munro: email@example.com
- Physical address: No.72 Kyalami Ridge Estate, Whisken Avenue, Kyalami, Midrand.
- Website: africanpilot.co.za remains the same.
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
The Northrop XP-79, USAAF project number MX-365, was an ambitious design for a flying wing fighter aircraft, designed by Northrop. It had several notable design features. Among these, the pilot would operate the aircraft from a lying down position, permitting the pilot to withstand much greater G-forces in the upward and downward direction with respect to the plane. The plane had a welded magnesium monocoque structure instead of riveted aluminium.
I was amazed at how soon after APAnews was published that my inbox was filled with so many correct answers. It appears that with more correct answers that ever before, this exercise is becoming rather popular, so I will keep it going and look for more difficult aircraft to identify in future. Thanks to all of you that identified this unique aircraft correctly.
Those persons that identified the aircraft correctly this week: Righardt de Plessis, Bernard Stander, Willie Oosthuizen, Selwyn Kimber, Hilton Carroll, P. Rossouw, Wouter van der Waal, Ted Michel, Erwin Stam, Dawid Hanekom, Greg Pullin, Ari Levien, Nigel Maistry, Raul Del Fabbro, Sid Peimer, Herman Nel, Ralph Schlaphoff, Robert Green and Nic Manthoulos.
For single pilot operations, without the use of an autopilot, what minimum RVR must be observed for a category I ILS approach?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org or 084 622 3931
Annelie Reynolds: Annelie.email@example.com or 083 308 1251
Aero Club of South Africa communique
Reminder of the upcoming 80th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the members of the AeCSA. Visit the Aero Club website for the AGM documents. http://www.aeroclub.org.za/annual-general-meeting/. Should you wish to place any items on the agenda under general, please notify the Aero Club office at firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion. Any nominations to be made to serve as council office bearers can be to the same address.
Date: 16 March 2021
Time: 18:00 for 18:30
Place: Virtual Meeting (Zoom) – https://aerosud.zoom.us/j/91041663050?pwd=Z3dMUStNR2VsQ0JzVFNiYjBOMVg5Zz09
Feedback of the recent GA/RA ILF meeting held between the CAA and Industry that was held on 12 February 2021
ATF renewal delays. The main topic of discussion revolved around the continuous delays in ATF renewals and as last reported in the Aero Club December communique the SACAA advertised that their backlog would be up to date by 10 December. Unfortunately, this did not happen as when the year started the turnaround times regressed and we continue to see delays beyond their stated 20 days, mainly due to SACAA internal approval cycles, which is being addressed. We continue to advocate strongly to the regulator to support renewals within their SLA turnaround times – given the risk that owners will go and fly on the strength of a payment advice. The AeCSA continues to work closely with the SACAA to deal with overdue ATFs and to note delays in Inspector allocations which is supposed to be within five days. If any member is having difficulties in their renewals, please contact the AeCSA so that we can escalate the matter.
There is further an initiative to review the ATF documentation requirements, anniversary dates and regulatory anomalies found in two General Notices issued in October 2019, which will be gaining traction with discussions with the SACAA for a regulatory update. This should go some way to alleviate current frustrations on ATF submissions. Further to this there will be a plan to constitute ATF documentation seminars to assist owners in preparing ATF renewal submissions.
The plan to go fully to digital ATFs is still in progress. The SACAA has essentially completed the IT and document format and security requirements and we will be advised when this goes live. At this point digital ATFs are being provided on request, in lieu of collections that take place later.
The SACAA is still working on a card type licence plan, details of which will be shared with the industry soon.
Aero Club Centenary and Airweek
Planning for this Centenary Airweek has resumed, since its cancelation from last year, an initial planning meeting was held at Middelburg on 12 February. Essentially the outline theme remains the same, with specific details that will be communicated soon. The dates are 24 – 27 April 2021, with early arrivals on 23 and the SAPFA speed rally planned for 27 April. The EAA annual convention will also take place during this weekend as will other sections of the Aero Club participating in their various disciplines.
Aero Club support
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.
ACSA ink pact with City of Tshwane to manage Wonderboom National Airport
Airports Company South Africa (ASCA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with City of Tshwane in relation to the management and operations of Wonderboom National Airport, Pretoria.
The agreement was signed between CEO Mpumi Mpofu and the executive mayor of the City of Tshwane, Randall Williams. The MoU seeks to facilitate collaboration on compliance and technical aviation advisory, management and the execution of identified projects at the City of Tshwane Wonderboom National Airport.
Mpofu stated, “Airports Company South Africa has evolved over the years building requisite skills and core competencies covering amongst others: airport property development; airport planning and design; aviation quality, safety and security; operations management; facilities and infrastructure maintenance.”
Apart from general aviation activities, Wonderboom airport is a training ground for hundreds of pilots across the country. Training activities account for 70 percent of the total airport traffic, with maintenance, flight charters, recreational flying, flyovers and private flying constituting the remaining 30 percent of the traffic mix.
For most users of the airport, this must come as excellent news. For more than a decade Wonderboom National Airport has been embroiled in mismanagement, local politics and general non-compliance. ACSA has an excellent team that I am certain will turn the airport around into what was once a profitable asset to the City of Tshwane. As more news breaks on this matter, African Pilot will keep you informed about the progress.
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.
The African battleground: Ethiopian Airlines vs Kenya Airways vs SAA
Over the past decade the African airline market has seen plenty of changes. As the situation at South African Airways worsened, that of Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways has improved. The two have battled to become the leading hub in East Africa. Ethiopian Airlines has moved ahead now, but this was not always the case.
South African Airways stands out historically as one of the oldest airlines in Africa and a leading international carrier. It has suffered setbacks, though, first with apartheid and later financial problems. It is currently grounded, with uncertainty over when it will get back in the air. Meanwhile, other airlines not facing these problems have expanded much faster. Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines stand out, with rapid expansion and growing international connections. The past decade has seen something of a battle between the pair to grow as African hub-based airlines. Both these airlines launched ambitious plans after the financial crisis of 2007 to 2008 but with different levels of success.
Data for the year to May 2019 shows the following passenger numbers for each airline (as reported by Routesonline). The situation has worsened, of course, since then, especially for South African Airways.
Ethiopian Airlines: 13.3 million passengers (top operator in Africa)
Kenya Airways: 4.9 million passengers (sixth place in Africa)
South African Airways: 4.6 million passengers (seventh place)
However, going back to 2010, paints a vastly different picture. At that time, South African Airways was flying eight million passengers and Ethiopian Airlines just over three million.
South African Airways was one of the first carriers in Africa, founded in 1934. Interestingly, Egyptair can claim to beat it (it was founded in June 1932), but the origins of South African go back five years earlier with Union Airways. The newly formed South African government acquired Union Airways in February 1934 and South African Airways was born. It has remained government-owned since.
Heir of aviation dynasty Olivier Dassault dies in helicopter crash
Olivier Dassault, son and grandson of aviation industrialists Serge and Marcel Dassault, died in a helicopter crash in Calvados, north western France. On 7 March 2021, the AS350 helicopter, registered as F-GIBM, was taking off from a private residence in Touques, France, when according to a source close to the investigation, the aircraft hit a tree. The 40-year-old helicopter crashed a hundred meters away from the property, killing both the pilot and its occupant, Olivier Dassault, French lawmaker and heir of the Dassault Aviation dynasty.
A preliminary investigation revealed that the take-off was atypical. “Instead of taking off at 90 degrees, rising off the ground at a right angle, the helicopter instead took off at a 45-degree angle and struck the branch of a tree,” said the prosecutor of Lisieux. “One blade was severed and the occupants of the helicopter were ejected.” An investigation was opened by the Bureau of Investigation and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA).
Who was Olivier Dassault?
Dassault is not an unknown name for aviation enthusiasts. Olivier Dassault was the grandson of Marcel Dassault (born Bloch), founder of the plane manufacturing company known today as Dassault Aviation. His father, Serge Dassault, took over as president from 1986 to 2010. Shortly before the death of his father in 2018, Olivier Dassault resigned from his position at Dassault Aviation ‘due to incompatibility with his mandate as Member of Parliament.’ Thus, the company’s leadership left the hands of the family.
Fatal accident involving Robinson R44 helicopter ZS SBM
The Ministry of Transport and Communications of Botswana regrets to inform members of the public that a South African registered Robinson, R44 helicopter, ZS-SBM crashed on Friday 5 March 2021 at approximately 19h00. Apparently, the pilot was unable to execute a safe landing at Xumabee Game Ranch, in the West SandVeld (near Sojwe). Onboard the four-seat helicopter were the pilot and a passenger. The pilot survived the crash, with minor injuries while the passenger unfortunately sustained fatal injuries. Sasa Klaas was certified dead upon arrival at Sojwe clinic. The crash remains under investigation by the Directorate of Accident Investigation in the Ministry. The Ministry extends sincere condolences to the bereaved family and friends.
NTSB updates United Airlines Flight 328 engine failure investigation
The NTSB has published an investigative update for its ongoing investigation of the 20 February 2021, United Airlines flight 328 engine failure event. UAL flight 328 experienced a failure of the right Pratt & Whitney PW4077 engine shortly after take-off from Denver International Airport, Denver. There were no injuries reported and the airplane sustained minor damage.
The investigative update does not contain analysis and does not discuss probable cause in this ongoing investigation. As such, no conclusions regarding the cause of the engine failure should be made based on the information contained in the update. The information in the update is preliminary and subject to change as the investigation continues.
Facts gathered to date in the investigation and provided in the update, include:
- Initial examination of the right engine fire damage found it was primarily contained to the engine’s accessory components, thrust reverser skin and composite honeycomb structure of the inboard and outboard thrust reversers.
- The spar valve, which stops fuel flow to the engine when the fire switch is pulled in the cockpit, was found closed; there was no evidence of a fuel-fed fire.
- Initial examination of the right engine fan revealed the spinner and spinner cap were in place and appeared undamaged.
- All fan blade roots were in place in the fan hub, two blades were fractured.
- One fan blade was fractured 7.5 inches above the base at the trailing edge. The fracture surface was consistent with fatigue.
- The second fractured blade exhibited indications of overload failure, consistent with secondary damage.
- Initial review of maintenance and inspection data for the blade with the fatigue fracture, revealed it had experienced 2,979 cycles since its last inspection. This blade underwent thermal acoustic image inspections in 2014 and 2016. Inspection data collected from the 2016 inspection was examined again in 2018 because of a 13 February 2018, incident involving a Boeing 777 with Pratt & Whitney PW4077 engines.
The engine fan blade with the fractures consistent with fatigue was sent to the metallurgical laboratory at Pratt & Whitney for further examinations led by a senior NTSB metallurgist. Preliminary findings from the scanning electron microscope examination identified multiple fatigue fracture origins on the interior surface of a cavity within the blade. Efforts to further characterise the fracture surface, including identifying the primary origin and counting striations, are ongoing. Additional work is underway to further characterize secondary cracks identified through fluorescent penetrant inspection. The NTSB metallurgy group also plans to analyse the blade’s chemical composition and microstructure near the fracture surface.
NTSB preliminary report: Cessna 421
On 22 February 2021, a Cessna 421C was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at St. Marys Municipal Airport (OYM), St. Marys, Pennsylvania. The airline transport pilot sustained minor injuries and the two passengers were not injured. According to the pilot, while inbound to OYM, he believed the automated weather observation station reported the cloud conditions at 600 feet broken 1,000 feet overcast and visibility 1.5 miles in snow. Prior to being cleared for the GPS approach to runway 28, air traffic control provided notices to airman (NOTAMS) regarding an inoperative remote communications outlet and several lighted obstructions (towers) in the vicinity of the airport. He recalled these were the same NOTAMS that he had received prior to departure. As he began the approach, he was able to ‘pick up ground contact’ and just prior to reaching the minimum descent altitude, he saw the approach lights. As he flew over the approach lights, he could see the ‘outline of the runway.’ On touchdown, the airplane struck a snow berm on the left side of the runway.
Examination of the accident site by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed ‘ground’ scars in the snow to the left of the runway edge, beginning about 1,000 feet from the approach end of runway 28. The marks were about 250 feet long. One mark consistent with the fuselage began about six feet to the left of the left runway edge, in an estimated three- to four-foot-tall snowbank that remained from ploughing of the runway. A parallel mark consistent with landing gear was found to the left of the fuselage mark. Both marks tracked back to the right, toward the left edge of the runway as they progressed along the path. Photographs of the airplane prior to it being moved showed it at the end of the snow marks, oriented about 130° magnetic (rotated about 210° from the runway 28 heading). At the time of the accident, the runway was covered in snow estimated to be about three to five inches deep. The runway edge lights and runway end identifier lights were beneath the snow.
Examination of the airplane revealed substantial damage including bending/displacement of the forward pressure bulkhead, buckling of the floor just forward of the pressure bulkhead, and a slight displacement of the left wing from the fuselage at the wing root. The pilot reported that there were no pre-existing mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the airplane. A review of FAA records revealed that there were no NOTAMS regarding the snow on the runway, the obscuration of the runway lights, or any other field conditions issued prior to the accident. The 1135 weather conditions reported at OYM included clouds broken at 700 feet, overcast at 1,100 feet, visibility half a mile in light snow.
Non-military MB-326M jet trainer crashes near Edwards Air Force base in California
Details are still limited, but a contractor-owned and operated Aermacchi MB-326M jet trainer used by the National Test Pilot School, or NTPS, crashed near Edwards Air Force Base in California. Both pilots ejected safely. Flight tracking software had shown the contractor-owned and operated Aermacchi MB-326M jet trainer used by the National Test Pilot School flying in circles over the desert just to the west of Edwards before the feed suddenly stopped. The MB-326M in question, technically an Impala Mk I version built under license in South Africa, has the US civil registration code N155TP and belongs to Flight Research, Inc., which is based out of the Mojave Air and Space Port, situated less than 20 miles to the northwest of Edwards.
AD: Bell Textron Inc.
This AD was prompted by flight testing and fatigue analysis results. This AD requires reducing the life limit of certain tail rotor (T/R) blades and re-identifying them with a new part number (P/N). The FAA is issuing this AD to address the unsafe condition on these products. This AD is effective 13 April 2021. Supplementary Information: The FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend 14 CFR part 39 by adding an AD that would apply to Bell Model 205B helicopters with a T/R blade P/N 212-010-750-009 or 212-010-750-105 installed. The NPRM published in the Federal Register on 25 March 2020 (85 FR 16916). Flight testing and fatigue analysis by Bell indicated that these part-numbered T/R blades sustain greater loads when installed on Bell Model 205B helicopters compared to their use on other model helicopters. In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to require, before further flight, reducing the life limit of each affected T/R blade from 5,000 hours’ time-in-service (TIS) to 2,500 hours TIS; reidentifying the T/R blade P/N on its data plate by vibro-etching to change the last three digits of the existing P/N; creating a component history card or equivalent record and revising the Airworthiness Limitations section of the existing maintenance manual for your helicopter to annotate the new P/N and revised life limit. Finally, the NPRM proposed to prohibit installing any affected T/R blade that has not met the AD requirements. The FAA issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) to amend 14 CFR part 39 by adding an AD that would apply to Bell Model 205B helicopters. The SNPRM published in the Federal Register on 8 December 2020 (85 FR 78977). The SNPRM was prompted by a comment received on the NPRM requesting that the applicability paragraph be updated to include newly identified T/R blade part numbers. The FAA determined the NPRM should be revised to include the additional part-numbered T/R blades and the re-identification and life limit requirements for those additional part-numbered T/R blades. Since the FAA issued the NPRM, Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., has changed its name to Bell Textron Inc. This final rule reflects that change and updates the contact information to obtain service documentation.
SITA falls victim to cyber-attack
Airline technology provider SITA confirmed on 4 March that its servers were breached in a cyber-attack, ‘leading to a data security incident involving certain passenger data that was stored on SITA Passenger Service System (US) Inc. servers, which operates passenger processing systems for airlines’. The company said it took ‘immediate action’ after it confirmed the attack and contacted affected customers.
“We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about security threats and, at the same time, cyber-criminals have become more sophisticated and active. This was a highly sophisticated attack,” the company said. “The matter remains under continued investigation by SITA’s Security Incident Response Team with the support of leading external experts in cyber-security.”
While SITA has not disclosed which airlines’ data were affected, some carriers have issued their own statements about the breach. Singapore Airlines said the breach affected around 580,000 members of its KrisFlyer and PPS programmes. Although Singapore is not a SITA PSS customer, it along with all other Star Alliance airlines, provide data from its frequent-flyer programme to the alliance, which other member airlines using the system then store.
“The information involved is limited to the membership number and tier status and, in some cases, membership name, as this is the full extent of the frequent flyer data that Singapore Airlines shares with other Star Alliance member airlines for this data transfer,” according to Singapore Airlines’ statement. “Specifically, this data breach does not involve KrisFlyer and PPS member passwords, credit card information and other customer data, such as itineraries, reservations, ticketing, passport numbers and email addresses as SIA does not share this information with other Star Alliance member airlines for this data transfer.”
Both Malaysia Airlines and Finnair also have notified customers about the breach and encouraged them to change their loyalty program passwords as a precaution, though both also said they had no evidence that passwords were disclosed in the breach.
Pilot shortage threatens airline recovery
According to a new study on the pilot supply, the pandemic-paused pilot shortage will be felt again by 2023 and back with a vengeance by 2025. The report, by the consulting firm of Oliver Wyman, says the aviation industry could be short as many as 50,000 pilots worldwide by the middle of the decade after full recovery from the pandemic. The study also says North American operators will see the shortage first and feel it hardest. “In North America, with an aging pilot population and heavy use of early retirements, the shortage re-emerges quickly and is projected to reach over 12,000 pilots by 2023 or 13 percent of total demand,” the report says.
The US industry has created the perfect conditions for an acute shortage by using early retirement incentives to get rid of high-price senior pilots. Most of those pilots will not return to the industry and they will be joined by a cadre of mid-career professionals who are tired of the cyclical nature of the business and have moved on to other work. The situation is compounded by the fact that the high cost of training and the anecdotal reports of the insecure nature of the job are discouraging young people from getting into aviation. Even banks that had recently started financing pilot training are having second thoughts.
The firm says the looming shortage is one of the greatest threats to airline recovery and says carriers must be proactive in attracting, retaining and training pilots and the sooner the better. “How quickly airlines can regrow their operation will be guided by how quickly they can regrow their pilot ranks,” the study says. “Those that take action now increase the agility of the airline to capture demand as it recovers.”
Textron ends production of King Air 90 and Sovereign aircraft
The company made the decision to align its product offerings with current and future market demand. The Citation Longitude super-midsize business jet received certification in 2019, while the Citation Latitude, certified in 2015, has continued its reign as one of the best-selling midsize jets on the market. The company said it is ‘taking the opportunity to minimise overlap within this customer segment.’
Textron recently introduced the newly upgraded King Air 260 and King Air 360 turboprops to the market, leaving little room for the King Air C90 series, which was first delivered in 1971. Customers of the Citation Sovereign, Sovereign+ and King Air C90 aircraft will continue to receive service and support from the company’s global service network as well as its product and parts support teams.
Bell scrambles to replace faulty collective handles in new 505s
Transport Canada has imposed its second emergency AD in two weeks on Bell’s newest helicopter after the collective handle on a nearly new 505 Jet Ranger X broke in the pilot’s hands during a pre-flight control check. The aircraft is built and was certified in Canada. The handle broke above the floor on a 2019 model flown by a police department in California in February. Bell issued an Alert Service Bulletin and TC followed with an AD requiring one-time inspections. Bell then discovered the broken handle and cracks found in another collective were caused by metal fatigue. That prompted another bulletin from Bell and a subsequent AD from the regulator requiring fluorescent penetrant inspection every 25 hours. It also banned flying from the right seat until those inspections are done.
Bell and the supplier of the collective handle are working on a fix and new parts should be available soon. “Initially, we will provide replacement collective stick assemblies on a case-by-case basis for those in the most urgent need,” the manufacturer said in a letter to operators. “As rework options get approved, we will increase the supply to meet the demand.” All costs will be covered by warranty, the letter said.
Boeing-backed Aerion says NetJets takes purchase rights for 20 supersonic jets
On Wednesday last week Boeing Co-backed supersonic jet maker Aerion said Berkshire Hathaway’s private aircraft firm, NetJets, has obtained purchase rights for 20 of its AS2 business jets. The AS2 will be powered by engineered synthetic fuel and can reach supersonic speeds of up to Mach 1.4, or about 1,000 miles (1,610 km) per hour, which is 50% faster than conventional business jets, Aerion said. Production of the jets will begin in 2023 at the firm’s Aerion Park facility in Melbourne, Florida, with the first 300 AS2 aircraft planned for the first decade of production, the company said.
Aerion’s global order backlog for the AS2 is now valued at more than $10 billion. The company said it will also develop a supersonic flight training academy for civil, commercial and military supersonic aircraft in collaboration with Berkshire’s professional aviation training provider, FlightSafety International. US start-ups Aerion, Boom Supersonic and Spike Aerospace are working to reintroduce supersonic passenger travel for the first time since the Anglo-French Concorde retired in 2003.
Mars Rover landing site has a name
NASA has named the landing site of the agency’s Perseverance rover ‘Octavia E. Butler Landing,’ after the science fiction author Octavia E. Butler. The landing location is marked with a star in this image from the High-Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). MRO’s mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft. The University of Arizona in Tucson provided and operates HiRISE. A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterise the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis. The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. JPL built and managed operations of the Perseverance rover.
CBP AMO and Partners seize nearly two tons of cocaine
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) National Air Security Operations Center (NASOC) P-3 crews partnered with Federal Authorities to disrupt a narcotics smuggling attempt in the Eastern Pacific Ocean leading to the seizure of 1.7 tons of cocaine in February, denying transnational criminal organisations more than $58 million in illicit proceeds.
On 14 February in a Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) led operation, a NASOC P-3 Long Range Tracker crew detected a suspicious vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The aircrew conducted a hand-off to a partner aircraft that vectored US Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Munro (WMSL-755) for interdiction. A USCG team detained four people and seized 1.7 tons of cocaine. This interdiction was conducted under Campaign Martillo, a counter-narcotics operation to disrupt transnational criminal organizations that threaten global security and prosperity. Campaign Martillo is supported by SOUTHCOM and led by JIATF-S. AMO has two P-3 NASOCs, located in Jacksonville, Florida and Corpus Christi, Texas. These P-3 aircraft operate throughout North, Central and South America in defence of the borders of the United States and to prevent attempts to smuggle persons or contraband.
AMO safeguards the USA by anticipating and confronting security threats through aviation and maritime law enforcement expertise, innovative capabilities and partnerships at the border and beyond. With approximately 1,800 federal agents and mission support personnel, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels operating throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, AMO serves as the nation’s experts in airborne and maritime law enforcement. In fiscal year 2020, AMO enforcement actions resulted in the seizure or disruption of 194,220 pounds of cocaine, 278,492 pounds of marijuana, 15,985 pounds of methamphetamine, 952 weapons and $51.5 million: 1,066 arrests and 47,872 apprehensions of illegal aliens.
CBP Air and Marine Operations and Partners rescue three people lost at sea
A P-3 Long Range Tracker (LRT) aircrew with the CBP AMO National Air Security Operations Center (NASOC) partnered with Federal and International Authorities to rescue three distressed Panamanian nationals who had been adrift at sea for more than two weeks on Monday, 15 February 2021. The aircrew responded to a call about distressed occupants on a disabled 20-foot panga-style fishing vessel hundreds of miles off the coast of Ecuador. The P-3 LRT crew consisted of AMO personnel and three of their counterparts from the counter narcotics forces of the Government of Ecuador. After the location of the three panga occupants was established, an Ecuadorian aircrew member exchanged radio communications in Spanish with the captain of a nearby fishing vessel and translated all communications into English for the AMO aircrew and US Coast Guard counterparts.
The P-3 LRT aircrew guided the fishing vessel to the location of the distressed panga where they rescued the occupants. Interviews revealed the individuals had been adrift at sea for at least two weeks due to a malfunctioning motor. Ecuadorian aircrew members gathered information from the rescued individuals to facilitate notification of their families. Ecuadorian crewmembers served crucial roles in keeping the individuals who had been lost at sea and the rescuing fishing vessel crew calm and focused throughout the challenging operation. The P-3 crew passed port information to USCG District 11 partners. AMO has two P-3 NASOCs located in Jacksonville, Florida and Corpus Christi, Texas. These P-3 aircraft operate throughout North, Central and South America in defence of the borders of the United States and to prevent attempts to smuggle persons or contraband.
Volocopter raises $240M
Volocopter announced the signing of its Series D funding round raising €200 million ($240M US) in additional capital. The funding will be used to bring the VoloCity, the battery-powered air taxi for cities, to certification and by accelerating the launch of its first commercial routes. Volocopter is in the final stages of providing new, sustainable mobility options for cities around the world. Their future services range from electric autonomous air taxis flying passengers directly and safely to their destinations, to transporting goods with the company’s VoloDrone. It was reported several weeks ago that the first eVTOL company to receive Design Organisation Approval (DOA) by EASA, Volocopter expects its first commercial air taxi routes to be opened within the next two years.
Volocopter offers a holistic approach to the UAM market by developing a full ecosystem to connect all the vital parts to get the industry off the ground. This includes multipurpose aircraft (VoloCity and VoloDrone) and physical and digital infrastructure (VoloPort and VoloIQ), as well as partnerships with global leaders in their respective fields. In recent years Volocopter has performed several milestone flights in Helsinki, Stuttgart, Dubai and over Singapore’s Marina Bay. While the first routes are yet to be announced, the company has committed to establishing air taxi services in Singapore and Paris, with plans to expand many more routes in the US, Asia and Europe.
Teleport unit of AirAsia explores drone deliveries
The first phase of the project in Cyberjaya seeks to assess the capability, experience, approval process, deployment readiness and service expansion of the drone operators. Teleport, the logistics venture of AirAsia Digital, said it has partnered with Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), the Lead Secretariat of the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS), to launch the Urban Drone Delivery Sandbox and develop a long-term viability of urban drone delivery service.
The pilot project for the delivery of goods from AirAsia’s e-commerce platforms including AirAsia shop using automated drones is set to be carried out through a six-month phased approach at the third National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) test site in Cyberjaya. The service is currently at testing stage with two local drone operators VStream Revolution and Meraque Services.
The first phase of the project in Cyberjaya seeks to assess the capability, experience, approval process, deployment readiness and service expansion of the drone operators. The service will be deployed upon a successful trial phase and might be expanded beyond the sandbox environment. As a national solution coordination and facilitation centre, NTIS provides a critical step by eliminating all or selected processes and/or regulatory requirements to accelerate the development of innovative solutions from the R&D stage to being commercially ready.
In realising this project, NTIS has been working closely with Malaysia’s sole technical regulator, Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) to ensure the safety and security of Unmanned Air Services in urban settings meets the requirements and regulations as set by CAAM. This is to ensure that public safety remains the highest priority whilst facilitating technology advancement.
Unmanned aircraft require too many people says US Air Force commander
Some military brass say that unmanned aircraft need too many people to keep them flying. The issue came up with a proposed program called Operation Overwatch to supply armed airborne support for special operations personnel in isolated places. Those forces currently rely on the U-28A Draco, a militarised Pilatus PC-12 that bristles with sensors and antennas and gets in and out of austere airfields with relative ease. Special operations have been looking for a new armed platform. Among the contenders are such familiar players as the Textron AT-6 Wolverine and two versions of the Embraer Tucano. Now the MQ-9 Reaper drone has been thrown into the mix but at least one special operations leader thinks it is a long shot.
Air Force Special Operations Command Head Lt. Gen. James Slife said that while the drone has a lot of advantages, like its 32-hour endurance, it also needs a lot of coddling. The aircraft is flown remotely from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada but in theatre they are high maintenance. A ground crew if required for take-offs and landings while another crew is required to man a mobile air conditioner to keep the electronics comfortable in the searing heat of the places they operate. It also needs more runway than the manned alternatives. “That does not mean that the MQ-9 could not be made more compatible with the mission,” Slife told Air Force Magazine. “It just means we have not seen it yet.”
Twice Weekly News from African Pilot
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Until Monday, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)