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The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift. Albert Einstein
African Pilot’s June 2018 edition
The June 2018 edition of African Pilot featuring Lanseria International Airport as well as the EAA South Africa’s annual convention in Vryheid, the excellent SAAF Museum airshow, the Lowveld airshow as well as many other interesting feature articles has almost completed its distribution phase. Thank you to the many aviation businesses and individuals that assisted with various aspects of this edition.
African Pilot’s July 2018 edition
Perhaps one of the most important editions of the entire year, the July edition will be featuring all aspects of aviation training. This year African Pilot will be undertaking a far more in-depth look at the value of training organisations in South Africa with particular focus on the youth of our country who would like to become involved in the exciting world of aviation. This is the ideal time to present the ‘Aviation Training’ feature, because later in the year matric students will be preparing for their final examinations and they certainly don’t have time to focus on career options.
Does your training organisation wish to be part of this annual feature?
This edition will also feature the President’s Trophy Air Race (PTAR) in Bloemfontein as well as the Botswana Wesbank Matsieng International airshow over the same weekend.
The deadline for the July edition is Friday 8 June. For advertising positions, please contact Lara Bayliss Cell: 079 880 4359 Tel: 0861 001130 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion into this edition. Thank you.
What is changing at African Pilot?
Now you can get your favourite aviation magazine online
Since our digital capability has grown substantially, we have started developing daily aviation news blasts throughout the week that feature on the African Pilot website.
We have also re-designed the option for the electronic version of African Pilot to be uploaded via our website. The cost of a single download is R16 (US$2) or R160 (US$20) for a 12-month subscription. In addition, we have created several other options. If you happened to miss out on a particular article or edition, back editions are available.
Video of the week
F-15 lands with one wing
SOUTH AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
SA Civil Aviation Authority suspends SA Express operating permits
On Thursday 24 May the SACAA suspended SA Express’s Air Operator’s Certificate (AoC) as well as the airline’s Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) approvals. In addition, the SACAA has also suspended the Certificates of Airworthiness (CoA) of nine (9) of the twenty-one (21) aircraft being operated by the airline. This effectively means that as Thursday, 24 May 2018, SA Express PTY (SOC) can no longer continue to operate as an airline. In order to be able to operate, SA Express will have to reapply and be issued with relevant approvals, i.e. an air operating certificate and an approval for the aircraft maintenance organisation, and certificates of airworthiness for the grounded aircraft.
Serious non-compliance uncovered
The decision to revoke the airline’s permits comes after the SACAA conducted an audit at the airline and its maintenance organisation in the past several days, which uncovered severe cases of non-compliance that pose serious safety risks. While the SACAA does not make the details of its audit findings public; it can be revealed that there were seventeen (17) findings, of which five (5) are categorised as Level 1 findings in civil aviation terms. A Level 1 category finding can be described as a ‘severe non-compliance or non-conformance that poses a very serious safety or security risk to the public and will necessitate the immediate exercising of the discretionary enforcement powers vested in the authorised persons, in the interests of safeguarding aviation safety or security’. The airline could not ensure that operational requirements and most importantly, safety obligations are met at all times. Therefore, the grounding of SA Express operations was inevitable, because in simpler terms the safety management system of the airline was found to be deficient.
“As the custodian of aviation safety and security in the country, the SACAA cannot turn a blind eye to any operation where there is overwhelming evidence that safety measures are compromised, because that automatically poses serious danger for the crew, passengers, and the public at large,” said Ms Poppy Khoza, who leads the SACAA as Director of Civil Aviation.
“The SACAA is fully aware and regrets the inconvenience and disruption this decision would have on passengers. However, it is equally important to note that decisions to revoke licences are naturally challenging but are necessary and in the interests of ensuring that the operator’s safety systems are beyond reproach and that its aircraft can take-off and land at the intended destinations relatively safely and incident-free,” Khoza explained.
Following this grounding, it is expected that the operator would make arrangements with the SACAA to fly all affected aircraft back to the home base. “The SACAA as the regulator implores all operators and licence-holders to uphold unquestionable levels of aviation safety and security at all times. Compliance to the applicable regulations is mandatory and should never be treated as an after-thought or an optional operational requirement. We should all work towards keeping our skies safe in order to preserve lives; and in the process maintain South Africa’s impeccable zero percent (0%) accident fatality record in the airline and scheduled operations sector, which has been standing for many years,” Khoza concluded.
Total technical support for Comair
The South African airline Comair Limited and Lufthansa Technik have signed a comprehensive long-term Total Technical Support (TTS®) contract. In the frame of the new agreement, Lufthansa Technik will provide engineering, planning, line maintenance and component support including consumables and expendables supply for the customer’s future Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet. The services will commence in January 2019, when Comair, as part of its fleet renewal programme, will take delivery of the first two of eight 737 MAX 8 aircraft on order.
Erik Venter, Chief Executive Officer of Comair, says: “The imminent arrival of the 737 MAX 8 was an opportunity for us to evaluate our future technical requirements. Lufthansa Technik’s experience with the aircraft type and the operational efficiencies we believe we’ll gain in terms of maintenance turnaround times will enable us to further leverage the benefits of our investment in the new fleet and improve customer service.”
As part of the TTS®, Lufthansa Technik supports Comair with a Technical Operations Management (TOM), integrating all MRO activities contracted in the agreement into a comprehensive service package. Robert Gaag, Vice President of Corporate Sales EMEA at Lufthansa Technik, says: “We feel honoured by the trust and confidence of the Comair management, which has chosen Lufthansa Technik to take on this important responsibility. I hope this is the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with Comair.”
In conjunction with a TTS® contract, TOM is a service package which enables operators to enjoy efficiency advantages resulting from synergies in service integration and reduced complexity for their fleets. Comair’s in-house engineering and fleet department will continue to oversee all maintenance, repair and overhaul services. More information on Technical Operations Management is available here.
What happened in aviation over the past week?
President’s Trophy Air Race (PTAR 2018)
President’s Trophy Air Race 2018
Course distance 588.52 Nm
1) 76 ZS-MYB Beach Be33 Joggie Prinsloo & Rufus Dreyer Harrismith Flying Club, Free State
2) 84 ZU-KKL Jabiru 230 Clive Louw & Leonard Hawkins Bloemfontein Flying Club, Free State
3) 32 ZS-ACA Cirrus SR22 Simon Abbott & Chris Shillaw Hertfordshire West London Aero Club
4) 56 ZU-SAX Vans RV10 Stephan Fourie & Derek Bird Gauteng
5) 64 ZS-BNA Beech F33A Hennie Bisschoff & Dandre Bisschoff KwaZulu-Natal
6) 39 ZS-KOB Piper PA-28-235 Mark Bristow & Quinton Warne Gauteng
7) 44 ZU-IHH Vans RV7A Johan van Eeden & Cor Esterhuizen East Rand Flying Club, Gauteng
8) 10 ZU-DCB Lancair Legacy Dieter Bock & Dale de Klerk Krugersdorp Flying Club, Gauteng
9) 4 ZS-WAP Piper PA-28R-200 Philip Jacobs & Nico Smith Bethlehem Aero Club, Free State
10) 58 ZS-NFI Beech A36 Gustav Bester & Helius Smit Stellenbosch Flying Club, Western Cape
Having covered the PTAR for many years (16) at various venues throughout South Africa, I would have thought that having the race scheduled back at Tempe Airport in Bloemfontein this year would have been well-supported. However, with fewer than 35 entries, another ten entries were ‘given away free’ to encourage some sort of participation. I remember the years when all 100 places were booked up several months before the race and that the types of aircraft were very diverse.
The general consensus amongst pilots who raced in the past and many that raced this year has been that there is far too much ‘aviation politics within the South African Power Flying Association (SAPFA)’, especially within the PTAR committee. African Pilot was the only South African print aviation magazine present, which is yet another indictment of the sad situation regarding this prestigious race. Hopefully with a newly elected committee and Rob Jonkers as the helm as chairman many of the historical problems will be sorted out in the coming year, especially since the 2019 PTAR will be held at Saldana Bay in the Western Cape.
Having said this, the hospitality of the Bloemfontein Flying Club was fantastic, whilst the gala dinner arranged at Ramblers Club was excellent. On behalf of African Pilot, I wish to congratulate all those pilots and navigators that took part on being most ‘sportsman like’ this year. This matter was reflected on by the organisers, who said that much of the ‘unhappiness’ of the past appeared to have been ‘shelved’ this year, which certainly made for an improved atmosphere. More about the PTAR with many pictures and the results will be a feature of the July 2018 edition of African Pilot.
Wesbank Botswana International airshow 2018 in Matsieng
Now in its seventh year, this extremely popular airshow continues to draw the South African aviation fraternity across the border to the Matsieng Flying Club for a weekend’s fun in the Botswanan bushveld. Absolute Aviation continue to support this event in a major way and 2018 saw Blue Chip Aviation Flight school fly seven of their aircraft with around 40 student pilots and support crew on what for most, was there first cross border excursion. A full report with pictures will be published within the July edition of African Pilot magazine.
What is scheduled for the next few weeks?
Aero Club of South Africa would like to notify you that due to the failure of a quorum being present at the Special General Meeting held 15 May 2018 the financials were not approved. As per the Aero Club of South Africa’s Articles of Association the Aero Club need to adjourn the Special General Meeting to Tuesday 29 May 2018 at 18h00 in the EAA Auditorium in Rand Airport, Germiston. Kindly make every effort to attend the meeting to approve the financials and confirm your attendance to the meeting on or before 25 May 2018.
Tel: 011 082 1100 E-mail: email@example.com
29 to 31 May
European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland.
Contact Bianca Dorneanu E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +32 2 766 00 72
Contact Johan Pieters E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 923 0078
6 to 10 June
Zim Navex Prince Charles Airport Harare, Zimbabwe
Contact Marion Kalweit E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +26 37 725 7009
SAPFA Bethlehem Fun Rally Bethlehem Airfield
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 804 7032
Brakpan Aero Club Cessna Fly-in from 08h00 for the day
Contact: Cell: 071 5422 993 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The new committee of the Brakpan Aero Club is wanting to place FABB firmly on the map for breakfast fly-ins and so much more. With our excellent restaurant ‘The Flying Grace’ run by the delectable Minnie van der Merwe, two kilometers of tarred runway and tarred taxiways, competitively priced fuel, clubhouse and swimming pool, the folk at FABB believe that they have the best airfield and Flying Club for a thousand square miles. This will be a fabulous day for all pilots and their friends.
Reef Steamers Train vs Vintage Planes, Cars and Bikes
From Krugersdorp departing 09h15 to Magaliesburg return 15h00
Contact: Ian Morrison E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 903 9463
24 to 28 June
South African Hot Air Balloon Championships Skeerpoort North West Province
Contact Richard Bovell firstname.lastname@example.org
28 to 29 June
Drones Conference and workshop 2018 at Emperors Palace Convention Centre
Contact Jerry Davidson E-mail: email@example.com
28 June to 1 July
Race for Rhinos at Sua Pan, Botswana
Contact Chris Briers E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 568 7988
13 to 15 July
Taildraggers Fly-in to Nylstroom
Contact Richard Nicholson Cell: 082 490 6227
SAPFA Hoedspruit Fun Rally Hoedspruit Civil Airfield
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 1516
14 to 15 July
SAC Nationals Coastal venue TBA
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
73rd CAASA Annual General Meeting CAASA House Lanseria International Airport
Contact email@example.com Tel: 011 659 2345 Time: 09h30 for 10h00
23 to 29 July
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA
Camping on the airfield contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotels in Appleton contact Calvin Fabig E-mail: email@example.com
Action, education, entertainment and everything in between makes EAA AirVenture Oshkosh your perfect, affordable northern hemisphere summer destination! For seven days from sunrise to well past sunset, your Oshkosh day is filled with dazzling displays of aerobatics, informative programmes and hands-on workshops, diverse aircraft spanning all eras of flight, concerts to keep you rocking into the night and much, much more. Fun for the whole family that you will only find in Oshkosh is waiting for you at the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration! African Pilot will be attending again this year – my 18th consecutive year in a row and I am looking forward to meeting all of wonderful friends in Camp Plakkerfontein again this year.
Grand Central Airport Oshkosh competition
To be drawn together with the June fuel competition. Refer to the website: www.grandcentral.co.za
1 to 5 August
SAC National Championships Tempe Bloemfontein
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
5 to 11 August
SAPFA World Rally Flying Competition Dubnicac Slovakia
Contact Website: www.akdubnica.sk
16 to 26 August
SAC Advanced World Championships in Romania
Contact Annie Boon E-mail email@example.com
Rand Airshow (Sunday) Rand Airport
Contact Stuart Coetzee E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 011 827 8884
24 & 25 August
Contact Stefan Fourie E-mail: email@example.com
SAPFA Sheila Taylor Fun Rally at Krugersdorp Airfield
Contact Grant Rousseau Cell: 082 329 3551E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
Ethiopian Airlines marks African aviation history with 100th aircraft in active service
Ethiopian Airlines, the largest Aviation Group in Africa and SKYTRAX certified Four Star Global Airline, is pleased to announce that on 5 June the airline will take delivery of its 100th aircraft. A Boeing 787-900 the first for an African airline to operate 100 aircraft fleet in the history of the continent, thus maintaining its pioneering aviation technology leadership role and ascertaining its leadership position in all aspects of Aviation Services in the continent.
Ethiopian was the first airline to avail jet service in the continent back in 1962 and operated the first African B767 in 1984, the first African B777-200LR in 2010, the first African B787-800 Dreamliner and B777-200 freighter in 2012 and the first African A350 in 2016 and the first African B787-9 aircraft in 2017. Ethiopian now operates one of the youngest and most modern 100 aircraft, with an average age of less than five years. Fleet modernisation and expansion is one of the four critical pillars of our Vision 2025 strategic roadmap, in support of our fast expanding network, which has now reached over 110 international destinations covering five continents. Ethiopian operates a mix of state-of-the-art aircraft with an average fleet age of five years. The Airline has five more Boeing 787-900 and 16 Airbus A350 airplanes on order, among others.
Rwanda receives ICAO’s aviation safety compliance certificate
On 22 May 2018 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) awarded Rwanda with a certificate that recognizes the country’s improved competencies in aviation safety and security oversight. The progress that Rwanda has made in aviation safety compliance over the past few years, is significant even by its own standards. According to ICAO, its Council President Certificate was awarded to the East African nation, one of its member states, “for the commendable recent progress the State has made in meeting the Effective Implementation requirements measured by the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP).”
The audit reportedly showed that the country had achieved an overall result of 73.7% in terms of aviation safety controls, which is above both African and global average. The result is also a sharp increase from ICAO’s 2012 evaluation, in which Rwanda made 44%. “These latest assessments looked at all eight Effective Implementation (EI) areas and confirmed that Rwanda had achieved an overall result of 74%. This is the 6th highest score for any state in Africa and well-above the global average of 67%,” the president of ICAO Council, Dr Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, was quoted as saying on 22 May 2018.
The recognition comes as Rwanda prepares to introduce new reforms and regulations on its civil aviation sector. The reforms are expected to facilitate the flag carrier’s RwandAir eligibility for easy access to European and North American markets as they include the requirements for the airline by civil aviation agencies from those regions, local media reports.
What does this mean for African aviation?
ICAO’s certification for Rwanda was presented on the side-lines of a four-day Africa Aviation Safety Management Symposium that opened in the country’s capital, Kigali, on 22 May 2018. It is part of the agency’s worldwide series of regional safety management symposiums and workshops that promote the use of risk-based aviation safety approaches by its member states in Africa. Upon receiving the agency’s certificate, Rwanda’s Minister for Infrastructure, Claver Gatete, said that the recognition is an encouragement for the country to continue improving its aviation industry while being part of Africa’s Single Air Transport Market, a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063.
WORLD AVIATION NEWS
JIT says MH17 shot down by Russian troops’ missile
On 17 July 2014, a Boeing 777 of Malaysia Airlines flying from Amsterdam (The Netherlands) to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) was shot down above Eastern Ukraine, near Donetsk. The 283 passengers (193 Dutch victims) and 15 crew members all died in the crash. International Criminal Investigation Team (JIT) believes that the missile that downed the flight MH17 of Malaysia Airlines above Ukraine in 2014 was provided by a Russian military unit. The conclusions were presented by a team of investigators from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, during a press conference on May 24, 2018, in Bunnik, the Netherlands.
The Russian-made anti air BUK missile that was allegedly used in the fatal accident was supplied by the 53rd anti-air brigade based in Kursk, Russia, said Wilbert Paulissen, a Dutch investigator of the JIT.
Shortly after the crash, in 2014, an independent journalist team named Bellingcat presented a report to the Dutch authorities identifying the missile as a Russian BUK. In October 2015, the Dutch Safety Board reached a similar conclusion. A year later, in September 2016, using the photos and videos it collected, the JIT was able to recreate the path of the missile system from its base to the Ukrainian territory and back into Russia. It also stated that the missile was shot from pro-Russian rebel-controlled territory.
To support their conclusions, the JIT only presented open-source videos and pictures already used by Bellingcat in their report. However, they affirmed possessing additional evidence that would only be disclosed in a courtroom. “We are entering the last phase of the investigation,” said Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke. The Dutch authorities informed that any law procedures that would follow the investigation would be judged by a court in The Netherlands.
Whether the Russian troops or pro-Russian separatists shot the missile is yet to be determined. However, Russia has repeatedly denied the conclusions of both Bellingcat and JIT investigations.
After the 2016 JIT report, the Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Igor Konashenkov commented: “I remind that all data presented, in the briefing of the investigation team had two main sources; the internet and the Ukrainian special services. Therefore, the impartiality of this data and consequently the conclusions made on its basis cannot help but cause doubts”.
Cuban plane crash is a reflection of Cuba’s aviation crisis
Almost 40 years old by the time it crashed on Friday 18 May just outside of Havana, killing 110 people, the ageing Boeing 737 had changed ownership nearly a half-dozen times; passing from operators in the United States to Canada, from Cameroon to the Caribbean. Although the cause of the crash has not been determined, the plane itself is a powerful symbol of Cuba’s troubled aviation industry.
As tourism to the island surges, Cuba’s national airline finds itself struggling to acquire enough planes to meet the demand and maintain its decrepit fleet. Cuba’s economy has long been in shambles and experts say the troubles plaguing its aviation sector stem from the same obstacles that have bedevilled the country for decades: economic mismanagement and the US embargo of the island. Some experts say the sanctions have crippled the nation’s ability to gain access to the vendors and financing needed to get new aircraft.
Cuba’s problems have got so bad that, a few weeks ago, the country grounded most of its domestic flights because of safety concerns over its fleet. To keep the aviation sector flying, officials have been forced to lease planes from foreign outfits that sometimes use decades-old planes, like the one that crashed right after takeoff last Friday, killing nearly everyone on board. The old Boeing 737 had been leased to Cubana de Aviacion, the state airline, by a relatively unknown Mexican company with just three aircraft in its fleet. Although Mexican officials said the plane had passed safety inspections as recently as November, it is one of just 100 of its model still in circulation across the globe, reflecting the limited options the Cuban government has to continue operating its state airline.
Two emergency landings in a row involving Onur Air
Saudi Arabian Airlines confirmed that the aircraft that crash landed on 21 May 2018, was wet-leased from the low-cost airline Onur Air, meaning that the flight crew was entirely composed of employees from the Turkish airline. The incident was the second of two mishaps involving Onur Air in a week. An A330-200 of Saudi Arabian Airlines carried out an emergency landing in King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on 21 May 2018, resulting to 53 passengers being injured. The plane was forced to undergo a belly landing, as the hydraulic system in its front landing gear malfunctioned. The bottom of the aircraft suffered heavy damages after its nose sank into the ground.
On 20 May 2018, an Airbus A321-200 of Onur Air was diverted to Volgograd International Airport (VOG) for an emergency landing after its cabin lost pressure. The flight took off from Antalya Airport (AYT) in Turkey and was bound for Chelyabinsk Airport (CEK) in Russia. 226 passengers and eight crew members were aboard at the time. The plane (registered as TC-OBZ) was about 2h10 into its flight, above the Russian city of Oktyabrsky, when the pressure dropped in the cabin. Oxygen masks were released and pilots immediately initiated a descent of 24,000 feet in less than eight minutes before being diverted to Volgograd where they landed about 20 minutes later.
No injuries were reported among the passengers. Some were accommodated in a hotel of the region; others were transported by another A321-200 of the company registered TC-OBJ that reached Chelyabinsk Airport twelve hours behind schedule. After a day of maintenance, TC-OBZ resumed operations on 22 May 2018.
Plane crash at Honduras airport breaks private jet in half, passengers and crew all survive
Crew and passengers are all alive after a private jet traveling from Austin, Texas, crashed off the end of the runway of the Honduran capital’s international airport and broke in half. Video images posted online showed what appeared to be Tegucigalpa residents pulling people out of the damaged fuselage of the white Gulfstream jet, while others sprayed it with hand-held fire extinguishers. Firefighters arrived at the scene and doused the wreckage with foam. Photos appeared to show part of the plane lying across a street. Federal Aviation Administration records show the plane registered to TVPX Aircraft Solutions Inc in North Salt Lake, Utah.
Airbus A330 launch operator completes maiden flight
The first A330neo for launch operator TAP Air Portugal (MSN1819) completed its 4:32 hours maiden flight. The aircraft now joins the fleet of two A330-900 test aircraft already performing flight tests since 19 October 2017. MSN1819 is the first aircraft fitted with the Airspace cabin by Airbus. It is equipped with light Flight Test Instrumentation during its test phase to check cabin systems such as air conditioning, crew rest etc.
According to Airbus, with more than 1,700 orders, the A330 is the most popular wide-body aircraft ever, performing nearly 1,000,000 flights every year. Today, more than 1,400 aircraft have been delivered to almost 120 customers worldwide on a wide range of routes, from domestic and regional flights to long range intercontinental services. Offering the lowest operating costs in its category and thanks to continuous investments in latest innovations, the new generation A330neo is the most profitable and best performing aircraft in its size category. The A330neo first delivery is planned in summer 2018.
Mars helicopter to fly on NASA’s next Red Planet rover mission
The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. “NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery and exploration missions to Mars.”
Started in August 2013 as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Mars Helicopter had to prove that big things could come in small packages. The result of the team’s four years of design, testing and redesign weighs in at little under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Its fuselage is about the size of a softball and its twin, counter-rotating blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm, about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth. The helicopter also contains built-in capabilities needed for operation at Mars, including solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries and a heating mechanism to keep it warm through the cold Martian nights. But before the helicopter can fly at Mars it has to get there. It will do so attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover.
“The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up,” said Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL. “To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinise everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be.”
Once the rover is on the planet’s surface, a suitable location will be found to deploy the helicopter down from the vehicle and place it onto the ground. The rover then will be driven away from the helicopter to a safe distance from which it will relay commands. After its batteries are charged and a myriad of tests are performed, controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous flight into history.
“We don’t have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time,” said Aung. “Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground and then fly the mission on its own.”
The full 30-day flight test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally farther flight distances, up to a few hundred meters and longer durations as long as 90 seconds, over a period. On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet (three meters), where it will hover for about 30 seconds.
As a technology demonstration, the Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project. If it does not work, the Mars 2020 mission will not be impacted. If it does work, helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel. “The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers,” said Zurbuchen. “We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit. With the added dimension of a bird’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we can only imagine what future missions will achieve.”
Mars 2020 will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is expected to reach Mars in February 2021. The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life and assess natural resources as well as hazards for future human explorers. Scientists will use the instruments aboard the rover to identify and collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in sealed tubes and leave them on the planet’s surface for potential return to Earth on a future Mars mission. The Mars 2020 Project at JPL in Pasadena, California, manages rover development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NASA’s Launch Services Programme, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.
Boeing’s 777X folding wingtips FAA approved
On 18 May 2018 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved folding wingtips on the future Boeing 777X, whilst on the same day, Boeing announced that the wingtips entered the assembly line in Everett plant. The first wings for #777X flight test airplanes are coming together using the latest technology in the aerospace industry. The retracting wings should allow the new version of the 777 to fit in the same airport stands as its predecessor. The folding tips give the 777X an additional 23 feet of wingspan, increasing the aircraft lift capacity. The $2 billion assembly line was specifically created for this new technology.
As no similar technology exists on a commercial aircraft, the FAA agency had to create airworthiness conditions from scratch. One of the criteria is to guarantee the folding mechanism cannot trigger during a flight. However, folding wing technology is applied on military planes operating from aircraft carriers, such as the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The mechanism is a practical way to reduce the space needed for parking the planes in the tight hangar of an aircraft carrier.
The 777X body was delivered in March 2018, whilst its custom GE9X engine is already flight tested on a Boeing 747. The massive engine radius is as wide as the body of a McDonnell Douglas MD-90. The 777X will be the first twin-engine jet to be able to carry more than 400 passengers. It comes as a serious rival of two most spacious models of Airbus: A350 and A380. Nine airlines already showed interest for the new 777X, with a total of 326 planes ordered. First flight is expected for 2019, with deliveries starting in 2020.
Pilot shortage: Emirates parking 18% of its fleet
Although the pilot shortage has mainly manifested in regional flight cancellations in the US, the largest Persian Gulf carrier, Emirates, is reportedly ready to park 18 percent of its fleet. Airline Geeks says Emirates will also reduce pilot staffing on long-haul flights and that its deployment of pilots might be part of the reason it’s having trouble attracting them. The website says the airline will idle 36 Boeing 777s and 10 A380s by July and it has cut the frequency of flights to some destinations and eliminated flights to others.
The site reports Emirates pilots are well paid but Chinese airlines are offering signing bonuses of up to $300,000 and allowing pilots to commute to work from anywhere in the world. Working conditions at Emirates are also part of the problem. Emirates pilots work 90 hours per month and the crew rest requirements of its aviation regulators in the United Arab Emirates are more lax than in most countries. That means the airline will be able to start staffing 12-hour and longer flights with three pilots instead of four. Plans are to operate three-pilot crews to Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Sydney, Sao Paulo, New York and Melbourne starting 1 July. Pilots also reportedly don’t like the work schedule. Most flights leave between midnight and 04h00, meaning their circadian rhythms are frequently out of whack.
Filling the right seat
It’s arguably the best time in history to begin a flying career. Never before could a pilot expect to become a jet first officer so rapidly. Sure, it’s a challenge to log the time needed to earn the ATP that is now required. But demand is so great that as soon as a pilot meets that minimum, he or she will be snatched up by a regional carrier and given that all-important seniority date.
Flight schools are having a hard time finding and retaining instructors. The US nationwide flight instructor shortage has become endemic. The good news is that instructor pay and benefits are increasing. But frankly, most CFIs are only passing through at any price, taking the instructional pathway to the career they want. Even a few extra months teaching and they will never catch up with their contemporaries on the airline seniority lists. Instructor pay helps, but it does not fix the problem.
The Transportation Department turns to the old standby: “Launch an initiative to assess the level of interest among veterans in becoming pilots.” Even if interest among vets increases dramatically, it still does not solve another nagging problem: the lack of experienced flight instructors. Why don’t we call on industry to promote hiring of experienced, retiring airline captains into the flight instructor ranks?
In addition to increasing pay to make this attractive, such a plan needs a high-limits instructor liability policy to cover the captains. One of the biggest disincentives for these folks to teach what they have learned in a lifetime of flying is that they usually have significant personal assets they put at risk if they instruct. Fix pay packages and liability insurance and we might be able to attract a lot of airline retirees to instructing. We can fill the right seats with CFIs who have a lifetime of experience to pass to the next generation.
Dubai Aerospace Enterprise eyes massive airliner order
Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE), one of the leading aircraft leasing companies, is negotiating with Airbus and Boeing about acquiring 400 single-aisle aircraft. If discussions with the manufacturers are inconclusive, the UAE-based lessor is ready to buy out a rival. Firoz Tarapore, Chief Executive at DAE, told Reuters on 17 May 2018, that the Dubai public company was interested in 400 of Airbus A320s and Boeing 737 MAXs. The order would not be evenly shared between the two plane makers. Such an order would represent a contract of more than $40 billion at list prices, even though a discount would most likely be applied. So far, the price offered by the manufacturers does not satisfy Tarapore. On 20 August 2017, DAE bought its Dublin-based rival AWAS Group. Thanks to this acquisition, it expanded its fleet to over 400 aircraft, valued at over $14 billion, making DAE to be one of the top 10 global aircraft lessors.
Lufthansa acquires 16 Boeing and Airbus planes
On 7 May the supervisory Board of Lufthansa approved the order of 16 new planes from both Boeing and Airbus, for a total cost of around €2.1 billion. Deliveries are expected by 2022. The German airline wants to order up to six Airbus A320 in their older ‘current engine option’ (CEO) to cope with the delays of A320neos deliveries. These planes should be deployed in 2018, whilst an option for six A320neo has also been turned into a firm order. Airbus suspended deliveries of its most successful model of the A320neo family in February-April 2018, due to PW1100G engine glitches. The subsequent delays also slowed down Lufthansa’s growth in 2018, hence this new acquisition.
As for Boeing, Lufthansa ordered two long-haul Boeing 777-300ERs for its subsidiary Swiss and two B777Fs for Lufthansa Cargo. Both companies had a financially successful first quarter of 2018, with Swiss showing a 9% profit margin and up to 10% for Lufthansa Cargo. The Swiss national carrier (bought by Lufthansa in 2008) already operates six B777-300ERs in three classes’ configuration. The two new ones are expected for the beginning of 2020 and will be used to expand the Swiss route network. The two B777Fs for Lufthansa Cargo will join the five others that the subsidiary already operates and are destined to replace some of the 12 McDonnell Douglas MD-11 currently active in the fleet. This will help to reduce ‘fuel consumption, noise emissions and unit costs’.
Southwest Airlines reaches farther with 50 new international routes
The largest airline in the U.S. by passenger numbers as well as the largest low-cost carrier in North America has been flying near-international routes. But now, the one-time regional airline is looking to fly further outside the US, with up to 50 untapped destinations including South America. The Dallas-based carrier commenced operations in 1971, starting out with flights only within three Texas cities: Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. This allowed it to avoid the Civil Aeronautics Board’s (CAB) monopoly regulation on airlines and operate a low-cost model.
Following deregulation in 1978, Southwest steadily grew to become a major U.S. airline within only a decade, when, in 1989, it exceeded the billion-dollar revenue mark. The era of affordability in air travel that followed was described by the U.S. Department of Transportation as ‘The Southwest Effect.’ In 2003, the airline topped the monthly U.S. domestic passenger rankings for the first time. Presently the airline flies more passengers than any other U.S. airline. For instance, according to its latest traffic report, Southwest flew 11.2 billion revenue passenger miles (RPMs) in April 2018 with a load factor of 82.5%. Overall, during peak travel seasons, the carrier operates more than 4,000 daily flights.
For the ‘granddaddy of low-cost carriers’, 2013 marked the year when Southwest began flying to a destination outside the 48 contiguous states in U.S. with service to Puerto Rico and only a year later, in July 2014, the once-regional carrier became an international airline with its first flights to Nassau, Bahamas; Montego Bay, Jamaica and Aruba, all in the Caribbean.
When talking to shareholders on 16 May 2018, Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly indicated that there are as many as 50 destinations in North America and parts of South America that the airline could serve, aside of (only) 14 international destinations it currently operates. 96% of the carrier’s flights are domestic. Only recently, Southwest began flying internationally, because some routes were inherited from AirTran Airlines, which merged with Southwest in 2011. However, others are the result of the expansion of Southwest’s own route network.
As of May 2018, Southwest Airlines serves 100 destinations in 40 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Presently Southwest is in the process of revamping its fleet with new Boeing 737 MAXs, a more fuel-efficient model of the plane. It was the launch customer of the 737 MAX in North America in 2017 and has a fleet of 717 B737s. Perhaps it will rethink those destinations after it upgrades its fleet with the 40 additional 737 MAX 8s it ordered back in January 2018, with deliveries scheduled in 2019 and 2020.
WORLD DRONES NEWS
Solar UAV to be developed with the potential to remain airborne for a year
A new solar electric unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which has the potential to fly for up to a year before needing maintenance, has become a step closer to reality following a new agreement between two cutting-edge British companies. Engineers from Prismatic and BAE Systems will collaborate on the development of the new solar powered High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) UAV known as PHASA-35™, with work already underway to prepare the first aircraft to be ready for flight tests in 2019.
The technology would offer a year-round, low cost persistent service for a wide range of needs including surveillance and vital communications to remote areas, using only the sun to power the aircraft during the day and recharge the batteries for overnight operation. Solar HALE vehicles offer a significantly cheaper alternative to conventional satellite technology, with PHASA-35™ (standing for Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft), being a concept solar electric UAV that uses proven, long life battery technology and ultra-lightweight solar cells to potentially maintain flight for up to 12 months.
The PHASA-35™ concept has a 35-metre wingspan and weighs just 150kg and its efficient build allows it to fly at high altitudes for long periods of time. A quarter scale model (named PHASE-8™) completed a successful maiden flight in 2017, with Prismatic Ltd and BAE Systems now looking to take the technology a step further. PHASA-35™ has the ability to revolutionise the way we think about beyond line of site communications.
LM small quadrotor UAS upgraded with high resolution thermal imaging capability
Lockheed Martin’s Indago 3, a small quadrotor unmanned aerial system has been upgraded with high resolution infrared sensors capable of day or night operations. “Providing an infrared capability for Indago further enhances the uses for this small but powerful system,” said Rich Bonnett, Indago programme manager with Lockheed Martin Procerus Technologies. “With its endurance and quick deployment ability, Indago can be used for tasks ranging from surveillance to supporting firefighting operations to search and rescue.”
Indago’s infrared system, called Noctis, consists of dual FLIR infrared cameras that provide real time streaming video and still imagery. Noctis uses wide and narrow fields of view with a digital zoom field of view from 32 degrees to two degrees, with seamless transition between cameras. Its vision processing provides feature tracking of objects, reducing operator workload. Noctis is offered in two variants, laser equipped, or non-laser equipped. The Indago 3 quadrotor UAS weighs less than five pounds and can be airborne in less than three minutes. Along with a low acoustic and visual signature during start-up and flight, the platform’s haze grey colour minimises visual detection during missions. Depending on payloads, Indago 3 can fly up to 50 minutes at a cruise speed of 25 mph and can operate at temperatures as low as 30-degrees below zero and as high as 120 degrees.
Weekly News from African Pilot
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African Pilot ‘Serious about flying’.
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