“Education is a private matter between the person and the world of knowledge and experience and has little to do with school or college.”
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
On the approach chart, who decides the FAOR/JNB on the top left of the chart?
SAA in the news again for all the wrong reasons
The past week there have been many claims and counter claims aired in the media about the SAA and SACAA saga regarding Flight SA4272 to Brussels, where the crew miscalculated the take-off weight by 90 tons. If it had not been for the sophisticated computer systems on board the nearly empty Airbus A340-600 causing the ‘alpha floor’ event, this crew may have perished in the resulting crash shortly after take-off from the Belgium capital. Of course, it was recorded that the crew said, ‘the aircraft was lying!’ This is a developing story, which hopefully will not be ‘swept under the carpet’ like so many other issues in aviation have been in the past few years, due to the incompetence of the regulator.
Claims of successful SAA rescue complete fiction
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has slammed the government’s plan to rescue the bankrupt South African Airways, stating that claims of a successful rescue are complete fiction. In a recent statement, DA Member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) Alf Lees said that the business rescue process has cost South African taxpayers R7.8 billion in bailouts since it began in December 2019. “The DA will make every effort to ensure that the SAA BRPs (Business Rescue Practitioners), SAA board and Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan cease their collective obfuscation and give clear and unambiguous answers when they appear before SCOPA on Thursday 25 March 2021,” Lees said. “The facts are that the business rescue has cost the taxpayer and poor South Africans in particular, a massive R7.8 billion in cash taxpayer bailouts since the business rescue process started on 5 December 2019. In addition, the business rescue will continue to drain at least another R8,0 billion in a futile attempt to begin minuscule flight operations and to keep our dead national bird operational,” Lees said. Lees added that the ‘successes’ touted by the BRPs could have been achieved without additional bailouts by the liquidation of the failed state-owned airline.
Results of liquidation
Lees argued that while liquidation would have required bailouts for SAA liabilities guaranteed by the government, it would also have resulted in the following:
- The entire R38 billion in liabilities and not just the R35.7 billion could have been written off.
- All of the SAA workforces could have been retrenched at a fraction of the cost of the Voluntary Severance Packages totalling R2.8 billion.
- Overheads would have been eliminated and not just reduced.
- The preservation of critical memberships of the airline is of no consequence as SAA as a state-owned or majority state-owned entity will undoubtedly continue to run at taxpayer-funded losses if it finally becomes operational.
Lees added that the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA’s) granting of 13 exemptions for SAA’s recent flight to fetch vaccines from Belgium were “the scariest of the failures in the fifteen-and-a-half months-long business rescue process”. “If true, the SACAA will have destroyed its reputation,” Lees said. “There was, in all likelihood, massive political pressure on the CAA from Minister Gordhan to bend the rules, resulting in an allegedly unqualified flight crew to take the helm of a flight during which an extreme in-flight incident occurred that could have proven fatal.”
“Considering the fact that the ANC and the Department of Public Enterprises have abandoned SA Express and allowed it to be liquidated, so should they have let SAA be liquidated and used the billions wasted on it to stimulate the economy and save at least some of the millions of jobs lost as a result of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s irrational lockdown regulations,” Lees said.
SAA cargo business will be profitable
In defence of the flight to Belgium to source COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Public Enterprises previously said that this was a proof-of-concept exercise for the imminent relaunch of SAA’s cargo business. “This flight was also a test relaunch of the SAA Cargo business,” the DPE said. “Many airlines around the world, including Lufthansa and Ethiopian, have intensified their cargo businesses while the passenger loads declined sharply, to bring in revenue. There will be many such flights by SAA in the months to come.” The department argued that over time, cargo will become a profitable business for the airline. “Partnerships with the private sector will be considered at the appropriate time. These flights will become commercially viable.” The DPE said claims by disgruntled pilots and SAAPA that the flight was expensive are incorrect and only serve to sabotage the relaunch of SAA Cargo.
Unfortunately, no matter which way the DPE uses ‘smoke and mirrors’, the DA’s Alf Lees is correct with his observations about SAA and the SACAA. I am willing to bet that in five years from now SAA will continue to be unprofitable and will have to be bailed out by the state.
What do you think? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Media Statement from the South African Civil Aviation Authority 25 March – unedited published as received from the SACAA’s spokesperson
Please note that the text contained in the PDF document has been published exactly as received from the SACAA’s spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba, complete with grammar and spelling errors. One would have thought that with something as serious as this situation has become that the SACAA would at least use the services of a proof-reader to review official statements, before they are sent to the media.
Also please note that this is a developing story that will have far reaching consequences from the international community, especially the European regulator (EASA) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
African Pilot’s April 2021 edition
The April edition features Business Jets, FBOs and Jet engines worldwide is almost complete and is now available free to download on our website. This edition also features 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 including excellent pictures to illustrate the features, 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’s May 2021 edition
The exciting May edition will feature helicopters from all over the world as well as helicopter operators and training schools. Within the same edition we will also feature Insurance and Financing of all aircraft types. With its extended reach throughout the world, African Pilot as set the benchmark for aviation publishing, not just in South Africa, but all over the world. Without dedication, perseverance and a deep understanding of aviation matters, no aviation publication will be in a position to provide world-wide coverage of a significant range of aviation subjects.
African Pilot Digital Calendars
Wallpaper calendar for the months of March and April
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.
About African Pilot
There is no doubt that African Pilot provides the finest overall aviation media reach in Africa.
The African Pilot team is 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.
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Visit www.APAcom.co.za and register yourself as a user
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’
A new eight-part series, Flights to Nowhere that premieres on People’s Weather (DStv CH-180 and OpenView, CH-115) on Monday, 19 April 18h00, will have viewers glued to their seats as it investigates some of South Africa’s most famous aviation mysteries. There is nothing that grips the imagination as a story shrouded in mystery and intrigue; one that leaves you hanging, questioning and desperate to know the answers. As humans, we are wired to tie up all the loose ends; to make sense of the unknown and the nonsensical and to keep asking ‘why’ until we know. Veteran commercial pilot, Wouter Botes, who hosts this fascinating series, understands this and has made solving mysteries his life’s work. Best described as South Africa’s own Indiana Jones, flying detective and relentless clue-searcher, Botes takes viewers into the world of the seemingly unsolvable cold case. Based on his recently published eBook published by African Pilot, the series looks at some of this country’s most inexplicable aviation disasters and disappearances to uncover the truth about them. Join Botes as he uncovers the facts of numerous flights that seemingly went nowhere, such as Flight SA 406, aka the Rietbok a Vickers Viscount that disappeared into the sea off East London in 1967; the two young soldiers who disappeared near God’s Window in Mpumalanga, never to be seen again and the Beechcraft Baron 58 twin-engine aircraft, that took off from Robertson in the Southern Cape on 10 July 1985, destined for Cape Town, but disappeared without a trace.
What drives Botes in his quest for answers for these and many more unsolved South African aviation stories? “The only reason we have unsolved flight mysteries is that either the wreck has not been located yet or no-one is talking,” says Botes. “I love the chase in trying to solve them. Taking the ever-present weather and fuel, the pilot’s state of mind and the facts leading up to and after the disappearance or crash, there is always a golden thread that runs through each story. My passion is to link these up to try and make sense of what happened.” Botes’ success in trying to piece together bits of a story, he believes, lies in his ‘eye for clues’ and understanding aviation and that he can immediately ‘see the gaps in the timelines.’ “That is where you begin, the spaces in-between the story that no-one is talking about, or no information can be found,” says Botes.
People’sWeather CEO Stephan Le Roux said: “We are delighted to be broadcasting this original series and for anyone interested in the inexplicable, the unsolved, the mysterious and the unexplained, Flights to Nowhere is a fascinating must-watch show. Add to that the fact that Wouter is so passionate about his work, and you have a series that will have you glued to your TV screens!”
Of particular interest to aviation fanatics is that all the featured flights were recreated for this series. As an experienced veteran pilot, Botes was able to fly these on a flight simulator at Blue Chip Flight School at Wonderboom National Airport in Pretoria.
1) The Rietbok: In 1967 flight SAA 406, a Vickers Viscount known as the Rietbok, will take off for the last time. Join commercial pilot Botes as he investigates the last moment of this flight.
2) Cheerio Boys: When the last words of a pilot are “cheerio boys” it usually ends in tragedy. Find out what happened on Max Kolb’s last flight and the reason for Ernest Christie to fly into an apartment block.
3) The Boy who Survived: Making the decision to fly when conditions do not permit can be fatal. Botes investigates the circumstances surrounding the final flight of a Cessna 182 and the fortunate boy who survived.
4) The Lost Boys: Two young men took off in a Piper Cherokee 180 never to be seen again. Botes investigates this flight and the mysteries surrounding it.
5) Missing in Africa: In 2003, two planes disappear in Africa never to be found. One a Piper Seneca on its way back to South Africa and the other a Boeing 727 stolen from an international airport in Angola.
6) Fire on Board: Two plane accidents – both as a result of a fire on-board. Botes investigates the final moments of these flights as they fell to earth in a ball of flames.
7) Green Hell: In 1999 a helicopter crashed in the dense Knysna forest and was only found seven years later. What happened? Botes investigates.
8) The Baron and the UN: Botes investigates two mysterious plane accidents. The short flight of the Baron and the notorious last flight of the Head of the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961. Both these cases remain open and answers are still needed.
AERO South Africa 2021 exhibition cancelled for this year
Due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Messe Frankfurt South Africa has taken the decision to postpone the AERO South Africa exhibition and conference to July 2022. The three-day event will take place at Wonderboom National Airport and is supported by AERO Friedrichshafen, organisers of the largest General Aviation event in Europe. The launch event in 2019 was extremely well received by the General Aviation sector and exhibitors are excited about the date change in the hope that the new dates will allow sufficient time for the impacts of the pandemic to settle. “Faced with the global unpredictability around event restrictions and international travel, we believe that we made the best decision for the event. This way we can provide a platform that is safe for exhibitors, visitors and staff and encourages high participation,” said Annelie Reynolds, show director for AERO South Africa.
The event planned for July 2022 will cover the full spectrum of General Aviation products, technology and services and already has commitment from some of the leading manufacturers and suppliers to the industry. Exhibitors and visitors wishing to fly to the show will benefit from FREE landing, approach and ground handling fees, making AERO South Africa the most cost-effective General Aviation show on the continent. Running alongside the exhibition are high-quality workshop sessions, a park & sell area, allowing private sellers the opportunity to be a part of the show and engage with potential buyers looking to purchase pre-owned aircraft, as well as demonstration flights allowing exhibitors to demonstrate aircraft first-hand to prospective buyers.
The African show for General Aviation, AERO South Africa presented in corporation with Messe Friedrichshafen, will take place in July 2022 at the Wonderboom National Airport, Tshwane. For more information about the event, please visit www.aerosouthafrica.com. For media related inquires queries out contact: Amanda Dube on +27 10 599 6170 or E-mail: Amanda.Dube@za.messefrankfurt.com.
2021 Sling Africa Tour invitation
Feel free to share this as you wish:
Aero Club Communique March 2021
Planning for the Centenary (+1) Airweek is now well underway, with detail planning having started after a kick-off meeting having taken place at Middelburg on 12 February. Essentially the outline theme remains the same. The dates are Friday 23 to Tuesday 27 April (Freedom Day) 2021, with early arrivals on the Friday 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. Please visit the AeCSA website for more details. https://www.aeroclub.org.za/airweek/
Registration is also open for attending – and those who plan to attend if you can register at this link https://forms.gle/fNu45vALTcrRGzQMA
Those who wish to camp and hire tents, the booking link is here https://forms.gle/jHhK9t2PGQvVWSvB8
For exhibitors wishing to reserve exhibition space: https://www.aeroclub.org.za/airweek-events-pg-2/
for details and exhibitor forms.
If you have any queries or require information, please e-mail email@example.com
If you are not a member and wish to join the Aero Club and any of its sections feel free to do so member-renewals-and-new-memberships.
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.
Aero Club support
EAA Chapter 322 movie night at FAKR
Chairman of EAA Chapter 322 had a plan, which was to stage an outdoor movie evening for EAA members as well as all aviators on Saturday 27 March at Krugersdorp airfield. Before the movie started, we were privileged to view three unique aircraft on the South African register that were parked for photographs. A nightfall loomed and with an incredible sunset the aircraft were returned to the safety of their respective hangars.
Although the weather threatened, fortunately the heavy clouds blew away towards the north, leaving behind crystal clear skies with an almost full moon. About 70 people attended sitting on their folding chairs, with snacks and warm blankets. The film, Flying the Feathered Edge Bob Hoover’s story, was projected onto a large blow-up screen and an excellent sound system ensured that even at 25 metres from the screen everyone was able to listen to the sound.
I thought that I knew all about Bob Hoovers life as a pilot, but how wrong could I be. If you can obtain this movie on Netflix, I seriously recommend you watch this masterpiece narrated by Harrison Ford, Sean D. Tucker and Bob Hoover himself. Neil Bowden came up with this idea from our EAA AirVenture experiences where most evenings EAA presents an outdoor famous aviation movie under the stars. Hailed as a huge success, by everyone I spoke to, this was a great idea and I am sure that EAA will repeat the exercise when the weather warms up later in the year.
Airlink adds flights to Maputo and Lubumbashi
South Africa’s privately-owned regional airline, Airlink will add flights to its Maputo, Mozambique and Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, schedules from 1 April 2021 in response to rising demand for air travel between those cities and South Africa. “Since launching services linking Johannesburg with Maputo and with Lubumbashi last October and November respectively, we have seen a steady increase in passenger traffic on those two routes. This reflects an uptick in trade and economic activity between South Africa, Mozambique and the D.R Congo. By increasing our schedule on these routes, we will cater to the increased demand while providing more choices to customers wanting to travel to destinations across South Africa and throughout Southern Africa,” explained Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster.
The additional services will allow travellers to connect seamlessly with Airlink’s flights linking Johannesburg with Cape Town, Durban and other important business and tourist destinations within South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Airlink’s great value for money Economy Class fares include a 20kg free economy class checked in luggage allowance plus a 15kg sporting equipment allowance. Onboard, our customers are treated to a complimentary light meal, refreshments, generous leg room and a choice of aisle or window seat (our flights do not have middle seats).
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 084 418 3836
EAA Chapter 322 monthly meeting virtual and MOTH hall
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 084 674 5674
15 & 17 April
SAPFA Rally Nationals and Fun Rally – Stellenbosch Airfield
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 269 1516
Robertson Flying Club annual breakfast fly-in with spot landing competition
Contact Alwyn du Plessis E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 270 5888
17 & 18 April
Sports Aerobatics Club Eastern Cape Regionals Wings Park Airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com Cell: 082 804 7032
SAPFA Middelburg Speed Rally at Middelburg Airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 855 9435
Military History Festival at the Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria
Contact E-mail: email@example.com
EAA Chapter 322 monthly meeting virtual and MOTH hall
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 084 674 5674
SAPFA Sheila Taylor Navigation Rally Krugersdorp Airfield
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 1516
Battlefields Country Lodge and Sports Resort annual fly-in
Contact Dave O’ Halloran E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 034 218 1614
8 & 9 May
Sport Aerobatics Club KZN Regionals Ladysmith Airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
14 & 15 May
Lowveld Airshow at Nelspruit airfield
Contact Willemien Hodgkinson E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 079 499 5733
Cancelled for 2021
SAA Museum Society Airline Collectables Fair – Rand Airport
Contact E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 076 879 5044
Fly-Mu breakfast fly-in and music festival at Springs airfield
Contact Fanie E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 789 5507
As further dates are sent to me, I will continue to update the aviation calendar.
First Pakistani PAC JF-17 Thunder arrives in Nigeria
An Il-76 transport plane belonging to the Pakistan Air Force arrived at the Nigerian Air Force’s 21st Makurdi Air Base loaded with a JF-17 fighter jet. In December 2014, during the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar in Karachi, Nigeria was reportedly buying between 25 and 40 JF-17s from Pakistan. Nigerian Air Force (NAF) chief Air Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu had visited Pakistan earlier in October 2014. The Nigerian Air Force has confirmed it is expecting delivery of JF-17 for use in military operations against Jihadi militants in Northern Nigeria.
In October 2018 Pakistan approved of the sale and local Nigerian production of three JF-17s for US$184.3 million. The aircraft are rumoured to be of a later version than the initially agreed sale, providing more advanced systems. On 30 December 2020, the PAC rolled out three JF-17Ns – JF-17A Block 2s, for NAF, which are awaiting delivery. NAF may order 35-40 more JF-17s if the aircraft meets its requirements.
The PAC JF-17 Thunder is a lightweight, single-engine, fourth-generation multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. It was designed to replace the A-5C, F-7P/PG, Mirage III and Mirage V combat aircraft in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The JF-17 can be used for multiple roles, including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance. The JF-17 can deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air, air-to-surface missiles, and a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel autocannon. Powered by a Guizhou WS-13 or Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofan, it has a top speed of Mach 1.6. The JF-17 is the backbone and workhorse of the PAF, complementing the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon at half the cost. The JF-17 was inducted in the PAF in February 2010. 58% of the JF-17 airframe, including its front fuselage, wings and vertical stabiliser, is produced in Pakistan with the final assembly taking place in Pakistan.
Mission Aviation Fellowship begins COVID-19 vaccine delivery in rural Lesotho
Humanitarian organisation Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is delivering COVID-19 vaccines in the land-locked country of Lesotho to help combat the spread of the deadly virus. Lesotho’s mountainous terrain makes interior land travel difficult and MAF is acting as a last-leg carrier to ensure the vaccines stay at the appropriate temperature before being administered. This past week, about 140 workers in Lebakeng and 60 in Kubunyane were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been used exclusively in Lesotho. Due to limited supply of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Lesotho government prioritised vaccinations for frontline health care workers and clinic staff as they work to acquire additional vaccines for the entire population.
Mission Aviation Fellowship has been serving in Lesotho since 1978 and is supported by five field staff families and 13 local staff. The MAF Lesotho programme already has more flights planned to continue providing transportation of vaccinations in other remote areas in Lesotho. MAF uses four Cessna TU206G airplanes, based in Maseru, to deliver the vaccines.
Russian Air Force Tu-22M crew ejection
Three of four crewmembers of a Tu-22M Backfire bomber of the Russian Air Force were killed on Tuesday in a ground ejection sequence during pre-flight checks. The bang-seats were obviously not of the zero-zero type and the crewmembers were killed in the ejection process. It appears the commander, who was in the left-hand seat inadvertently initiated the ejection sequence. His co-pilot was the unit commander. The left-seater stayed with the aircraft and was uninjured. The Russian defence minister has confirmed the death of the three crew members. The incident happened on of a training flight involving supersonic long-range Tu-22M3 bombers at Shaykovka military airfield. Vadim Beloslyudtsev, commander of the Tu-22M3 strike forces, was confirmed as being among those killed. Two other members, named only as Major Sultanov and flight training instructor Podsoblyaev, were also confirmed to have been killed in the incident. According to Lenta, the pilot was the only crew member to survive and did so because he had buckled his seat before the unintentional ejection.
Border patrol agents locate downed aircraft and rescue passengers
Station in the search and rescue of a downed fixed-wing single engine aircraft in the southern end of the Pyramid Mountains. Lordsburg Station immediately dispatched Border Patrol Agents along with a certified Emergency Medical Technician. Agents were equipped with All-Terrain Vehicles, Utility Terrain Vehicles and night vision equipment. After an extensive search, Lordsburg agents were able to locate a pilot and passenger at the coordinates provided by NMSP. Both subjects were off-duty police officers with the Fulshear Police Department in Fulshear, Texas.
The pilot was injured but conscious and lying outside of the aircraft. The passenger, although conscious, appeared to have suffered injuries and required extraction from the aircraft by agents. Injuries to both victims included lacerations throughout their bodies, a broken leg and one of the victims was reportedly going into shock. After over four hours on the ground, feverishly conducting life-saving efforts, agents transported both subjects over harsh terrain to awaiting emergency medical services from Hidalgo County. Both subjects were transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Could helicopters solve the Suez Canal blockage?
With the Ever Given container ship blocking the Suez Canal and 10% of the world’s trade, would helicopters help the situation? The problem is that the ship is deeply lodged in the walls of the canal: at the front, its bulbous bow is calculated to be as much as five meters deep in the sand, while the stern also sits on the sand. Presently, the solution appears to be the removal of sand and the deepening of the canal all around the vessel. A difficult endeavour, since an incredible amount of sand has to be moved, much of it underwater. Another solution would be to make the ship lighter, so it would lift itself from the bottom of the canal. That means reducing its weight somehow.
Whilst the exact cargo the Ever Given carries is not published, its capacity is more than 20,000 20-foot-long (6.1 m) intermodal containers, although in its current configuration, pictures of the vessel show, the ship is mostly loaded with double-size, 40-foot-long (12,2 m) containers. One empty 40-foot-long container weighs 2,400 kilograms (5,290 pounds) and can fit a maximum of 28,8. kilograms of cargo, for a total maximum gross weight of whopping 30,480 kilograms. Whilst there is a high chance not all of the Ever Given’s containers are filled to the brim, logistics companies typically try to maximise the load of their containers, as shipping empty space is not exactly efficient. Also, from the pictures it appears the ship sits close to its waterline, meaning that it carries almost as much as it possibly can. Normally, containers are loaded heavy cranes that are the defining feature of ports all around the world. Tall and powerful, the cranes are built to lift fully loaded containers with ease. But there is a problem: they are huge and cannot be shipped to the middle of the desert.
There must be an easier solution. Some Egyptian officials have mentioned this solution: if nothing else works, removing some of the Ever Given’s cargo with helicopters, to make the ship lighter and thus easier to get unstuck. Can it be done? A fully loaded 40-foot-long container weighs more than 30 tons and a regular helicopter cannot lift this weight. The Mil Mi-8 can barely lift 4,000 kg (8,800 lb). The iconic tandem-rotor Boeing CH-47 Chinook is heavier, but it can only life 10,886 kg, a third of a fully loaded container. The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion, the most powerful helicopter in the US arsenal, can lift 16,329 kg, only a half of what is required. The Mil Mi-26, the most powerful and the heaviest mass-produced helicopter in the world can lift 20,000 kg.
The largest helicopter ever built was Soviet Union’s Mil V-12, which was able to carry 196 passengers. The empty weight of this giant was 69,100 kg. However, it was only a one-off prototype and even if anybody would be interested in taking it from the museum and restoring it, that would likely take years. So, to sum up, there is no helicopter in the world that could lift a fully loaded container off the deck of the Ever Given. If at least some of its containers are only filled to two-thirds, a fleet of Mi-26s would help. Some of those giants are even in the vicinity of the Suez Canal: The Royal Jordanian Air Force operates two Mi-26s and several more could probably be shipped from India or Russia, although that would take weeks.
Cessna SkyCourier begins flight certification tests
The Cessna SkyCourier turboprop has begun the certification flight test phase of the programme for the high-wing, large utility aircraft. Each major achievement has allowed the members of the flight test programme a better understanding of the aircraft’s strength, capability and durability. The fleet of three flight test aircraft has now completed more than 700 flight test hours and the programme continues toward FAA certification and first deliveries later this year.
Serial production final assembly for the SkyCourier begins this month on the company’s east campus in Wichita. State-of-the-art tooling, including high-speed machining, has been developed for the aircraft’s assembly. The SkyCourier aircraft will be offered in two configurations including a 6,000-pound payload capable freighter and a 19-seat passenger version, all based on the common platform. The SkyCourier will include single-point pressure refuelling as standard to enable faster turnarounds. The aircraft offers a maximum cruise speed of up to 200 knots and a maximum range of 900 nm.
Typhoon, C-130J and Puma retirements, FCAS investment headline UK defence review
As the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) targets a range of capability updates, it will retire its Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoons, Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical transports and Airbus Helicopters Puma HC2 rotorcraft by the middle of this decade. Detailed within a Command Paper publication released on 22 March titled Defence in a competitive age and covering the period to 2025, the MoD’s plan also includes major new investment in a future combat air system (FCAS) project but provides only vague details on its total commitment to the stealthy Lockheed Martin F-35B.
Around 24 of the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) oldest Typhoons will be retired by 2025, with the saved support funds to be channelled into upgrades to its more modern Tranche 2 and 3 jets. This will include integrating MBDA’s Spear 3 air-to-surface missile and an active electronically scanned array radar. The service will continue to sustain its current seven-squadron strength with the type, including a joint unit formed with Qatar’s air force. More than £2 billion ($2.77 billion) will be invested in the FCAS activity by 2025, with the report detailing new investment from the UK worth £1.2 billion of this total. Work on the project, which also involves Italy and Sweden will include advancing a manned or unmanned Tempest fighter, plus supporting capabilities including an unmanned Mosquito ‘loyal wingman’ and what the report refers to as ‘swarming drones’.
Airbus adds more range to the A220
Airbus will offer its customers more range on the Airbus A220-300, as the manufacturer looks to increase the aircraft’s Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) by one tonne. The manufacturer found additional leeway in the structure of the aircraft itself, when Airbus engineers were “running through the numbers and looking through the reserve factors on the structure,” stated Airbus Vice President of narrow-body aircraft marketing, Antonio Da Costa. The MTOW will increase from its current weight of 69.9 tonnes to 70.9 tonnes, providing additional 200 nautical miles of range (370 kilometres).
The UK is leading Tempest project, with Italy and Sweden also involved
The report also commits to ‘grow the F-35B Lightning II force, increasing the fleet size beyond the 48 aircraft that we have already ordered’. No further detail about this plan has been released, but it is expected to cover the acquisition of additional examples within the coming years to ensure that this number of aircraft, required to ensure continuation of the UK’s Carrier Strike capability with the Royal Navy’s two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers for the next several decades is safeguarded.
Meanwhile, a project to replace the RAF’s Boeing 707-based E-3D Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft with five 737-derived E-7A Wedgetails has been cut back to just three airframes. Retirement of the RAF’s C-130J-30s by 2023 will see the A400M Atlas force increase its capacity and capability. Use of the Puma rotorcraft will be ended in the 2023-2025 period, with a replacement medium-weight helicopter to be acquired.
The MoD has not provided further details of this proposal, but notes: “The army is retiring its oldest CH-47 Chinook helicopters and investing, alongside the US, in newer variants of this operationally proven aircraft, enhancing capability, efficiency and interoperability. Investment in a new medium-lift helicopter in the mid-2020s will enable a consolidation of the army’s disparate fleet of medium-lift helicopters from four platform types to one,” it adds. In the training sector, the RAF’s remaining British Aerospace Hawk T1 trainers will be retired by 2023, apart from those assigned to the Red Arrows aerobatic display team, which will continue to fly the type until 2030.
Prepped for first solo? NASA Ingenuity Mars Helicopter readies for flight
NASA is targeting no earlier than 8 April for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter to make the first attempt at powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet. Before the four-pound rotorcraft can attempt its first flight. Ingenuity remains attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover, which touched down on Mars on 18 February. On 21 March, the rover deployed the guitar case-shaped graphite composite debris shield that protected Ingenuity during landing. Presently the rover is in transit to the ‘airfield’ where Ingenuity will attempt to fly. Once deployed, Ingenuity will have 30 Martian days (31 Earth days) to conduct its test flight campaign.
“When NASA’s Sojourner rover landed on Mars in 1997, it proved that roving the Red Planet was possible and completely redefined our approach to how we explore Mars. Similarly, we want to learn about the potential Ingenuity has for the future of science research,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. “Aptly named, Ingenuity is a technology demonstration that aims to be the first powered flight on another world and, if successful, could further expand our horizons and broaden the scope of what is possible with Mars exploration.”
US Navy recovers downed MH-60S helicopter from record depth
On Thursday 22 March, NAVSEA’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) recovered a downed Navy MH-60S helicopter from a depth of 19,075 feet off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. The helicopter, a twin-engine Sikorsky Seahawk, crashed into the Pacific Ocean last year while operating from the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19). The air crew was able to escape the MH-60S before it sank and no lives were lost in the accident.
Responding to a US Pacific Command Fleet request, SUPSALV located and documented the wreckage using side-scan sonar and photographs of the helicopter as it lay on the ocean floor during North Pacific operations last spring. SUPSALV returned to the site this month at the request of the Navy Safety Center with CURV 21, a deep-water, remotely operated vehicle with the ability to meet deep ocean salvage requirements to a maximum depth of 20,000 feet. The SUPSALV team met the contracted salvage vessel in Guam, completed mobilisation of CURV and its deep-lift take-up reel and departed for the five-day transit. Arriving on the crash site 17 March, the team began recovery operations. Pulled from its depth of 19,075 FSW, the MH-60S’s recovery broke SUPSALV’s own world depth record for an aircraft recovery. The salvage vessel will proceed to Fleet Activities Yokosuka where the MH-60S will be offloaded for transport back to the United States.
Revolution.Aero Uplift: Landing the multibillion-dollar air taxi market
Duncan Walker, CEO, Skyports, told Revolution.Aero that the operations would be vehicle agnostic – meaning that they would be built and able to integrate with any eVTOL vehicle. Walker set up the company three and a half years ago, bringing his experience in the real estate sector. Now, Skyports has developed relationships with regulators, such as the FAA, the UK’s CAA and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) as well as manufacturers Volocopter and Joby Aviation. Walker said: “We have joint ventures with most of the leading vehicle manufacturers on the route to market in certain locations. We are operational in 15 cities, in Europe and the US, whilst working with the rest of the ecosystem to make this happen in the next two-three years.”
In 2019, Skyports built the first vertiport in Singapore as a proof of concept, where Volocopter’s VoloCity demonstrated a flight around the Marina Bay. “People genuinely could not hear the VoloCity flying above them. That partnership really set us on the pathway with the Singaporean authorities to turn it permanent at the end of 2022 or start of 2023.” The VoloPort is essentially the eVTOL equivalent of a private jet lounge, or fixed-base operator (FBO), with the typical facilities to host passengers pre-flight. Walker said the company’s next big project is an extension of the work it began in Singapore. Shortly after the test flight, Skyports entered into a partnership with the French airports owner and operator, Groupe ADP, to demonstrate air taxi operations at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
There are various workstreams to this project, said Walker. Skyports will build a vertiport and integrate all the enabling technologies including communications and software. The test flights and operational testing will be conducted by other partners such as EHang and Volocopter. Skyports expects construction to begin by the end of the year and test flights to take place in 2022. Groupe ADP is also one of the company’s shareholders, alongside Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures, German Railways, Levitate Capital and Irelandia Capital which participated in Skyports’s £6.3m ($8.7m) Series A funding round in December 2019.
In February 2021, Skyports began a three-month trial using small drones to fly the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) pathology samples and COVID test kits in areas of limited access in Scotland. It can take cars and ferries 36 hours or more to transport samples to and from the Isle of Mull, where the NHS hospital is located. “We were able to complete missions in 15-30 minutes on a journey which may have taken 24 hours plus waiting for the next ground-based transportation,” said Walker.
airBaltic and LMT to collaborate on drone innovations
Latvian national airline airBaltic and Latvian mobile telecommunications operator and innovator LMT have signed an agreement for collaboration within the drone industry. The agreement foresees a joined development of various drone solutions overseen by general aviation and the development of LMT’s learning programme for drone pilots. Both companies will also collaborate on testing the mobile network coverage in the air space. Fast-paced global digital transformation signifies the necessity for new products and solutions that enable a full-fledged use of technological advantages such as drones and mobile communications. Parcel delivery, territory surveillance and inspection, urgent transfer of medication or donor organs are just a few future scenarios for drones and UAVs driving the industry towards development. Despite drone flights Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) not being common due to a lack of legal regulations, it is estimated that in the future, 70% of all commercial drone operations will be held BVLOS. Ingmārs Pūķis, Vice President of LMT, comments on the topic:
The collaboration of airBaltic and LMT is significant from the industry innovations’ perspective and is an outstanding example of a long-term approach in development despite various limitations caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic. Talis Linkaits, Minister for Transport of the Republic of Latvia, comments: “It is remarkable how the leading Latvian companies of aviation and telecommunication industries manage to keep such a strategic vision and innovative outlook amid the global pandemic. It is important that, as the economy recovers, companies are prepared to move forward with innovative solutions and further development.”
Thanks to Zapiro for this brilliant cartoon.
Twice Weekly News from African Pilot
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Until Thursday, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)