“Patterning your life around other’s opinions is nothing more than slavery.”
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?
South African Airways Pilot Association statement
The South African Airways Pilot Association (SAAPA), which represents 89% of all pilots at SAA, has been locked out of the workplace since 18 December 2020, whilst pilots have not been paid in a year. SAAPA members have been targeted in a vindictive and slanderous fashion by the BRPs and the DPE both in the press and recently at SCOPA, where the Minister himself targeted SAAPA and made a statement that “the SAA Pilots’ Association was sabotaging the relaunch of SAA”.
The reality is somewhat different. The very pilots needed to undertake the required training have been locked out by the Company, with the blessing of the DPE and any attempt SAAPA has made to work together with the Company or the BRPs for the last 15 months, has been met with disinterest and our many attempts to assist or reach a compromise have been blocked at every opportunity.
The Company, the BRP’s and the DPE have used business rescue and COVID-19 to wage a war of attrition on the pilots of SAA claiming that the Regulating Agreement, which governs the working conditions of ALL pilots, regardless of race or gender and was signed in 2014, as the main reason for SAA’s demise.
A cursory knowledge of the State Capture Commission hearings as they relate to SAA and SAA Technical and the court ordered delinquency of Ms. Dudu Myeni reveal the real reasons for SAA’s misfortune, along with years of publicly known mismanagement and ineptitude, all under the auspices of the Department of Public Enterprises. The fact that the BRPs have not instituted a single court action to recover monies stolen, misappropriated and wasted by SAA and SAA Technical staff and managers and have also not replaced a single person in the woeful SAA management ranks, while waging war on the pilots of SAA and other employees, speak for itself.
SAAPA agreed to cancel the Regulating Agreement in October of 2020 but would not accept the unlawful manner in which the BRP’s wanted to retrench the pilots. In an unprecedented move, SAAPA has now not only demanded the cancellation of the agreement but also, we have demanded to be retrenched as there is simply no reason why SAA and the BRPs have not done so, other than to further their agenda and attempt to prejudice the pilots of SAA.
SAA management and the BRPs have relished that SAA currently has minimal costs, with no aircraft leases or operating costs and a very low headcount and has used this advantage to attempt to starve out the pilots. SAAPA pilots have endured and withstood over three months of lock out and were last paid a year ago. The Company has now realised it needs the highly skilled pilots it has locked out and is attempting to force a selected few back to work, while comically attempting to blame the pilots for the decision to lock them out.
Late on the evening of 29 March, the Company sent out a communique to unlawfully cherry pick pilots that belong to SAAPA, in an attempt to unlock only those pilots needed whilst the lockout of all SAAPA pilots is still in full effect. SAA, the BRPs and the DPE cannot have their cake and eat it too. The prejudicial and unnecessary lockout of SAA pilots has not worked, as the pilots have refused to bow to the bullying and attempted financial siege by those looking to scapegoat us. In the interim, the BRPs have authorised payment of another four months back pay to all SAA staff other than the pilots, to whom they still owe payments from 2019. This is prejudice, abuse of power and malice at its worst.
SAAPA embarked on a strike ballot in accordance with the LRA and our Recognition Agreement, conducted under the auspices of a TOKISO observer. The results were counted and 98.77% of SAAPA members voted in favour of a strike. This is the first time in SAAPA’s over 50-year history that SAA pilots will embark on a strike and the SAAPA Executive has informed the Company of the results and given the Company 48 hours’ notice as is required by the LRA. We hold ourselves always open to engage the Company and bring an end to this protracted dispute.
All SAAPA pilots will embark on a protected strike on the following demands:
- That the Regulating Agreement, its annexures and all other collective agreements be terminated on the day following the date on which the last SAAPA member leaves the employ of the Company as a result of the section 189(3) notice dated 18 July 2020.
- That the proposed terms and conditions relating to dismissal of pilots for operational reasons and the notice period (The new terms and conditions that the Company themselves have tabled include three months’ notice pay) as contained in the Company’s proposed terms and condition for future pilots, be applied to the dismissal of current pilots because of the section 189 notice dated 18 July 2020.
- We demand that all pilots who are to be retrenched because of the section 189(3) notice dated 18 July 2020 be retrenched by no later than 15 April 2021 and that SAA pay these pilots their remuneration on termination, for the three (3) months’ notice that pilots would have received, in lieu of the pilots working their notice period.
SAAPA will avail itself for a meeting with the BRP’s or the Company to avert the strike but if all else fails we remain unified and ready to meet any challenges. While settlement discussions are ongoing and SAAPA is hopeful that an acceptable compromise can be reached with SAA and the BRPs, this action was forced upon the remaining pilots of SAA who are SAAPA members as they remain the only SAA employees who have not been paid their December 2020 salaries and their 2019 guaranteed 13th cheque, which forms part of their normal remuneration and should have been paid in April 2020.
These payments have been paid to all employees and pilots who took the voluntary severance packages as well as to a handful of pilots who had broken away from SAAPA late in 2020. The current lockout of SAAPA members has no bearing on the payment of these amounts and they cannot lawfully be withheld. The non-payment of these amounts is only an attempt to bring the SAAPA membership to its knees and to force them to give in to the unreasonable demands placed upon them.
SAAPA hopes that the SIU revelations into the large-scale looting, corruption and procurement rigging at SAA, particularly at SAA Cargo and SAA Technical, has been noted by both the public and the role players in SAA and calls on them to abandon the attempts to paint SAAPA members as the cause of SAA’s demise. A resolution to the numerous disputes is possible, should there be a bona-fide intention from the BRPs and shareholder to treat SAAPA members fairly and equitably, which is SAAPA’s only requirement for the pilots to agree to all demands including the cancellation of the much-maligned but innocent Regulating Agreement.
Captain Grant Back
Chairperson of the South African Airways Pilots’ Association (SAAPA)
What a tragedy that this mess has happened with serious discrimination against the SAA pilots, most of whom have not received a salary for the past year. Fortunately, I know some ex-SAA pilots who have managed to secure other employment, but they are in the minority. Then the appalling waste of R5 million for the sending an Airbus A340-600 to Brussels to collect one pallet of vaccines weighing less than a ton, when these vaccines could have been shipped on a freighter as a fraction of the cost. There is so much more that has to come out about the rampant corruption at SAA over the past 10 years, but will the perpetrators (read criminals) ever be charged?
African Pilot’s April 2021 edition
The April edition featuring Business Jets, FBOs and Jet engines worldwide was completed during the final week of March and sent to the world before the end of the month. 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, with excellent editorial content accompanied by superb pictures.
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.
Do you want instant aviation news and opinions?
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.
The mystery of Flights to Nowhere
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
There is less than 20 days to Airweek, taking place between 23 and 27 April, with final planning in progress. Programme updates on what will be happening at the airfield over the four days are as follows:
- EAA will be holding its annual convention
- Sports Aerobatic Club will be holding multiple displays
- Balloon flights daily with night glows
- SAPFA Speed Rally taking place 27 April
- Sling Aircraft will be bringing a build project for demonstration.
Please visit the website for more details. https://www.aeroclub.org.za/airweek/
Registration is also open for attendance: https://forms.gle/fNu45vALTcrRGzQMA
Those who wish to camp and hire tents: https://forms.gle/jHhK9t2PGQvVWSvB8
For Exhibitors wishing to book exhibition space, visit the website 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
SACAA releases a new Safety Newsletter
Click here to open the PDF
See link below to the SACAA’s new safety newsletter Skywatch under the auspices of the General Aviation Safety Initiative, that has valuable information for the general aviation pilot and a good refresher for potential risky manoeuvres and situations:
Training update – SACAA
There was common practice in the training industry to write PPL examinations while training for an NPL, with a view to upgrade to a higher licence later. This practice is not covered by the current regulations and being ambiguous, the SACAA has released this General Notice as per the link below to indicate the practice will no longer be entertained. There is a transition period for those in training already in progress. Note that there will be a longer-term plan to revisit this and propose a legislation update.
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
The SACAA has also taken exception with the leaking of SAA’s exemption to the public, saying ‘this was to deliberately confuse and mislead the public
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has hit back at what it claims are ‘allegations and accusations which are bordering on obsession’ regarding a safety incident involving a South African Airways (SAA) flight. Flight SA4272, which was headed to Brussels from Johannesburg and set to collect a consignment of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines on 24 February, was reportedly at risk of a so-called ‘alpha floor’ event due to the airline’s crew allegedly miscalculating the plane’s take-off weight.
According to SACAA, SAA operations had changed drastically in past year ‘as a result of its woes which are widely publicised but are not related to safety and security non-compliance’. ‘Of concern to the regulator is that an application for an exemption to deviate from the set legal requirements, which was approved by the SACAA and which is a common phenomenon and certainly not unique to SAA, is being twisted to paint a picture that the SAA is receiving preferential treatment from the regulator,’ ’SACAA said in a statement. SACAA also took exception with the leaking of this exemption to the public, saying ‘this was to deliberately confuse and mislead the public in an area where they have limited understanding of the legislative prescripts and requirements, as espoused in the Civil Aviation Act’. ‘Moreover, misleading statements were made to the effect that the SACAA granted 13 exemptions whilst the truth is that only one exemption in relation to the competency and recency of the crew training was made,’ the statement read.
Earlier on Wednesday, SACAA denied allegations that it provided SAA with ‘special treatment’ following the incident. Mashudu Raphetha, general secretary of Dynamic People’s Union of South Africa (DYPUSA), a newly formed union in the aviation industry, similarly said the ‘so-called incident’ was being exaggerated but argued that racism was at play due to a lack of diversity among SAA pilots. The incident was being blown out of proportion because the flight was operated by non-white pilots, he said, adding that most of the pilots on that flight are members of DYPUSA and have among them more than 20 years of experience. “I want to appeal to all pilots, black and white to ensure that SAA restarts its operations as soon as possible,” said Raphetha.
Pilots sabotaging SAA from getting off the ground – Gordhan
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has accused South African Airways (SAA) pilots of running the airline into the ground. He blames the SAA Pilots Association for adding to the airline’s woes. Gordhan and SAA business rescue practitioners (BRPs) briefed the standing committee on public accounts on Thursday on the restructuring process. Members of Parliament (MPs) heard how SAA pilots were issued a lock-out notice in December following a deadlock in negotiations. The national carrier wants to renegotiate a long-standing agreement with the pilots whom it said were hampering transformation.
Minister Gordhan said: “The committee should also know, if you want to go into that level of detail and I referred to this earlier on, that members of the Pilots Association are doing everything possible, ultimately to their own detriment, to sabotage SAA from getting off the ground.”
He said SAA would not be receiving any more funding and would have to look at its new strategic partner for more cash. “The fiscus will not make any contribution in the future, let me emphasise that the fiscus will not be required to make contributions in the future, because the parallel process to this that is taking place is the acquisition of strategic equity partner,” Gordhan added.
I have placed both the above articles into this week’s APAnews so that you can make up your own mind about the SAA situation and the truth of what has been said. What a shame that once again the ‘race card’ is being played, but this appears to be the ‘new normal’ in South Africa.
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.
EAA Chapter 322 monthly meeting virtual and MOTH hall
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 084 674 5674
Steady Climb fly-in at Rhino Park airfield
Everyone is welcome
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
Classic Flying Collection at Springs airfield
Celebrating 75 years of the first flight of the DH Chipmunk
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.
Mozambique Palma’s hell on earth moment from Daily Maverick
While we were all busy watching to see whether that ship stuck in the Suez Canal was ever going to be freed, Mozambique’s ISIS-linked Ansar al-Sunna militant group launched its boldest attack yet. Dozens, if not more, have been killed in the attack, which included reports of widespread beheadings and general indiscriminate violence. At least ten South Africans living and working in Palma were believed to be missing this week.
Horror stories abounded, of an ineffectual Mozambican military response that melted away in the face of al-Sunna’s offensive and of a hotel besieged and eventually overrun, forcing its inhabitants to flee the killing any way they could, be it by bush or car. Those leaving in a 17-car convoy were torn apart in an ambush, leaving just seven vehicles unscathed. Chaos reigned.
The only credible response came from the hired Private Military Contractor Dyck Advisory Group (DAG). Flying above in armed light helicopters, DAG was able to fire upon suspected insurgents and ultimately mount a rescue for some of those besieged in the town. But while saving stricken ex-pats from a hotel may earn DAG the eternal gratitude of those directly rescued, it came at an expense. DAG had not any reliable refuelling plan in place and was scathing in its criticism of other organisations, including Total, for not assisting it during this crisis. As a result, the time in the air for the contractor group was preciously finite. The rescue of those in the hotel diverted critical action time from fighting the insurgents themselves and saving the many more numerous Mozambican civilians trapped in the town.
For DAG, its lack of proper military planning reveals its origins, what mercenary stalwart Eeben Barlow called ‘counter-poachers’ and it appeared this week that the company’s contract will not be renewed, and for good reason.
Mozambique’s security forces are on the backfoot, forced to rely on a budget PMC to do the work that its own military should be doing but cannot. As such, when that PMC fails to fulfil any real security-related tasks to completion, it cannot be much of a surprise to anyone involved. While offering national assistance before, South Africa has not received any clear distress signal from Maputo. If there is one thing to take away from the Palma attack, it is that the Mozambican government has preciously little idea of how to fight what is now a full-blown insurgency.
Failed rescue operation
According to sources, after the deadly attacks, there was a rescue operation to get both foreign and local workers out of the town. Around 180 people, including foreign workers, had been trapped in a hotel for three days under the siege of militants. Most foreign workers were from Britain, France and South Africa.
Updates on this story
News broke on Friday morning that President Ramaphosa has ordered South African troops to Mozambique to secure the region and rescue South African citizens. Whether this will include the South African Air Force (SAAF) has not been disclosed. This is a developing story and African Pilot will update you as soon as news comes to hand.
Ethiopian 737 lands at airport under construction
Ethiopian Airlines Cargo flight ET3891 scheduled to operate from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Ndola, Zambia using an 18-year-old Boeing 737-800. This plane previously operated by Pegasus Airlines only joined Ethiopian Airlines’ fleet last week after being converted into a freighter. The plane was supposed to land at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Airport, which is the international airport currently being used in Ndola. Instead, the plane landed at Copperbelt International Airport, which is the new international airport in the city that is nearing completion, but not yet open.
This story gets even stranger. A pilot in an African aviation group on Facebook reports that another Ethiopian Airlines plane almost made the same mistake. Ethiopian Airlines flight ET871 was scheduled to operate from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Ndola, Zambia. The flight was operated by a five-year-old Boeing 737-800 registration code ET-AQP. According to the pilot, this plane did a last second go around at the airport under construction as well, before flying to the correct airport.
How could something like this happen?
As advanced as aviation is, this is far from the first time that a plane has landed at the wrong airport, and it will be far from the last time. The new airport looks a lot more like a major airport than the current one, whilst the two airports also have runways that are oriented in similar directions; of course, that does not justify landing at the wrong airport, but if they were on a visual approach, it explains what could have contributed to this situation. The fact that two Ethiopian Airlines planes allegedly made the same mistake on the same day is causing some to wonder whether
Nigerian Air Force jet goes missing during support mission
A Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) went missing in Borno state, northeast Nigeria on 31 March 2021. According to Edward Gabkwet, the NAF spokesperson, the aircraft was carrying out a ground support mission against Islamic insurgents when radar contact was lost. The jihadist terrorist organisation Boko Haram is known to operate in the region. A search and rescue operation was organised to locate the aircraft. The Alpha Jet is a military aircraft jointly designed by the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation and the German plane maker Dornier during the 1970s. It is intended for training and ground attack and is used by the French aerobatic team Patrouille de France. The NAF is operating the Alpha Jet since 1978 as a light attack aircraft.
Fuel exhaustion results in gear-up landing on frozen lake
The pilot reported that on a previous flight the Cessna 177RG had been filled and flown for about 3.8 hours. He attempted to refuel the plane but the self-service fuel station at the departure airport ‘failed to dispense fuel.’ The tanks were ‘checked visually’ and after calculations, he determined that there would be enough fuel to make the flight.
After departing, during cruise flight, about 1,800 feet above ground level, the ‘engine stopped.’ He set the ‘best glide speed’ toward a nearby airport. As he approached that airport, he said it ‘became apparent that they would not make the airport.’ He then executed a 180º turn and landed on a snow covered, frozen lake near Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, with the landing gear retracted. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left wing and fuselage.
NTSB preliminary report: Cessna 421
On 11 March 2021, a Cessna 421B was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at the Macon County Airport (1A5), Franklin, North Carolina. The pilot and two passengers were not injured. According to the pilot, this was a planned local flight. The pilot stated that it was a normal start, taxi and run-up before take-off. He initiated the take-off roll and called out speeds in 10 knot increments looking for a rotation speed of 100 knots. He said the airspeed reached 90 knots and the aircraft acceleration ‘lagged’ while only reaching a maximum airspeed of around 92 knots. He noticed that the runway length was decreasing and elected to abort the take-off with the remaining runway. He pulled both throttles to idle and initiated maximum braking.
Examination of the runway by a Federal Aviation Administrator inspector, revealed tyre skid marks beginning around 1,200 feet from the runway end and continued off into the grass. The airplane continued down a slope and through a fence before coming to rest. All of the occupants exited the airplane safely and a post-crash fire ensued. The airplane sustained fire and structural damage to the fuselage.
FAA certifies Ryanair’s high-density 737 MAX 8200
The FAA certified the Boeing 737 MAX 8200 on 31 March 2021, as first reported by the Air Current. The MAX 8200, developed specifically for low-cost carriers, incorporates two additional exit doors in order to accommodate the increased passenger capacity. While a typical 737 MAX 8 is certified to seat up to 189 passengers, the MAX 8200 is now certified to accommodate up to 200 travellers in an all-economy class cabin layout. Boeing and Ryanair launched the MAX 8200 in September 2014. Most recently, Ryanair increased the total number of orders for the 737 MAX by 75 units, taking its total order book for the aircraft type to 210 in December 2020. The only other airline with an order for the MAX 8200 is Vietnam’s VietJet, which ordered 100 units of the type in 2016.
Dubai completes American Airlines deal for 18 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft
“This transaction reflects our agility, our balance sheet strength, our underwriting capability, our ability to assist one of our long-term customers and our belief in the product strength of the 737 Max 8 aircraft,” said Firoz Tarapore, the company’s chief executive. The announcement comes as the Boeing Max was given clearance by several aviation regulators to return to service. Airlines in the US and Brazil began to restart commercial flights with the Max late last year. In the Gulf, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have also given the Max clearance to operate again.
For Europe’s airlines, is summer travel season the last hope for survival?
Despite a round of positive news over the course of the past few months, including the beginning of the vaccination campaign, the reality has slowly crept back in as cases of COVID-19 surged across Europe. If in February 2021 the daily infection number dropped to its lowest point since October 2020, by mid-March, cases once again began to rise, pointing to a potential third wave. The resurgence in infections is coming at a time when the travel industry was hoping to begin turning the corner on the disastrous business year in 2020. While many airlines have survived, this was done at a cost of very high debt levels across Europe. The debt will have to be repaid and if airlines cannot earn enough during the peak season of travel during the warm months, autumn might finally be the time when consolidation truly kicks off within the continent.
EUROCONTROL data showcases that between 1 July and mid-September 2020, the number of flights in Europe began to recover. However, the slight recovery was short-lived and as cases once again surged, travel once again began to slow down. Capacity statistics from airlines also showcased that summer provided a short glimpse of hope.
Low-cost carriers were not the only ones to enjoy the glimpse of sunshine in the summer. For example, Lufthansa Group indicated that airlines within the group would utilise half of the group’s total fleet (380 aircraft) until October, which is 200 more aircraft than it did in June, per the company’s announcement in late-June 2020. International Airlines Group (IAG) (IAG), which has such brands as Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and others in its portfolio of airlines, Q3 2020 was by far the best quarter in terms of passenger numbers. During that quarter, IAG carried 6.5 million travellers, while in Q2 2020 the number was around 504,000, while in Q4 2020, 4.2 million passengers boarded aircraft that belonged to the Madrid, Spain-based airline group.
There is a good reason why Summer 2021 might become a make it or break it affair for many airlines on the continent. After it, the ever-looming predicted consolidation in the continent might finally become a reality. Airlines, across Europe and the world, whilst having survived 2020, survival meant taking measures to ensure they have enough liquidity to see the light of the day in terms of the recovery in travel. While some fared better than others, the consensus was that raising debt was a must to weather the storm. Governments, to the annoyance of some (especially Ryanair), were particularly keen on supporting air connectivity throughout the most difficult crisis that aviation has experienced. Perhaps the fact that the Norwegian government provided aid, in the form of a government-backed loan in May 2020, to the already-struggling Norwegian Air was a good indication that lawmakers across the continent understood the devastation that the pandemic has brought upon aviation.
SpiceJet plans to boost fleet with 50 new aircraft
The Indian low-cost air carrier SpiceJet announced having signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the New York-based investment firm Avenue Capital over the financing of 50 new aircraft. The new agreement between the US investment firm and SpiceJet is expected to create a ‘strategic alliance in respect of the financing, acquisition and sale and lease‐back of 50 new planes to be ordered by the airline’, read the SpiceJet statement. However, the Indian airline did not specify which aircraft types the investment firm would finance under the new MoU.
SpiceJet operates a fleet consisting of 99 aircraft, including a single Airbus A321 jet, a single Airbus A340, 65 Boeing 737 Family aircraft and 32 De Havilland Canada DHC-8 (Dash 8) turboprops. According to the Boeing order and delivery list, the air carrier also has 136 Boeing 737 MAXs on the order of which seven have already been delivered to the company.
US Navy orders 11 Boeing P-8A Poseidon submarine hunters
The US Department of Defence awarded a $1.6 billion production contract to Boeing for 11 P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. Boeing detailed that nine aircraft will be delivered to the US Navy and two will go to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), a cooperative partner in the P-8A joint programme since 2009. The new contract brings the P-8A fleet of the US Navy to 128 aircraft and the RAAF to 14. Based on the fuselage of the Boeing 737-800, with the wings of the -900, the P-8A Poseidon is powered by two CFM56-7B engines from CFM International, giving it a range of 5,900 kilometres (3,666 miles). It can be equipped, both internally and externally, with an array of armaments dedicated to submarine and anti-ship warfare, such as torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and anti-ship missiles.
Textron announces entry into electric aviation market
Textron has formalised its entry into the electric aircraft market with the creation of a new division: eAviation. Textron’s eAviation is to be headed by Rob Scholl, a long-time senior executive who was previously the senior VP of sales and marketing and who will now serve in a senior VP role that will report directly to the chairman and CEO of Textron, Scott Donnelly.
Already well known for producing Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft, eAviation’s role will be a bit of an exploratory one; Scholl’s main role with eAviation was described to be as leveraging the ‘work across our aerospace and defence businesses to develop new opportunities and take advantage of our fixed-wing and rotorcraft expertise in emerging technologies.’ In addition, under Scholl, eAviation will also include assembling enterprise talent from throughout Textron, networking to create external partnerships and ultimately to create a path for further development and application of electric aircraft and related mobility technologies in the global market. As for eAviation’s stance on aerial mobility, Donelly for now intends to take a cautious approach to the industry, citing concerns with the state of domestic regulations regarding aerial mobility. “I do think we have to be cautious here in terms of not getting too far out front of a regulatory environment that is very uncertain to allow that business model to be successful.”
However, Bell Aircraft, a subsidiary of Textron, has been doing work with both manned and unmanned electric aircraft for some time now, most recently with its Nexus air taxi and Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) designs. Bell also established an office on Textron Aviation’s Wichita campus, showing that Textron does hold some interest in establishing a presence in this sector of the market. Textron’s move to the electric aviation market will mean several possibilities, from the electrification of some of the companies most popular Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft to a potential move into the aerial mobility market. Regarding aerial mobility, while Textron remains cautious for now, a favourable change in the regulatory state for aerial mobility could see Textron making its move into the fast growing sector.
Air Tractor produces 4,000th airplane
Last week; an Air Tractor 502XP, a single-seat agricultural aircraft, was delivered to its new owner during a send-off ceremony attended by employees and local dignitaries. It is the 4,000th airplane Air Tractor has produced since it began operations in 1972. “After 49 years of continuous production of airplanes, all of us here are really pleased to celebrate this moment,” said Jim Hirsch, Air Tractor president. “Only eight years ago we built our 3,000th airplane; now we just surpassed number 4,000. This year we find ourselves in the fortunate position to have historically strong demand for our aircraft. While we are subject to agricultural market ups and downs, our manufacturing continues year after year on a rising trend line.”
Vietnam Airlines flight attendant jailed for spreading COVID-19
A 29-year-old Vietnam Airlines flight attendant was sentenced to two-year suspended jail term and became the first person in Vietnam to be tried for breaking COVID-19 rules. In November 2020, he returned from Japan and ignored two-week mandatory quarantine by continuously visiting public places. Later in the month, he got diagnosed with COVID-19. As a result, at least three people got infected, while over 2000 had to be put in isolation and tested.
According to Vietnamese media, over 4.48 billion dongs (approximately $200,000) of damages were caused. On 30 March 2020, the man was convicted for ‘spreading infectious diseases’ by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City. Due to strict quarantine rules and rigorous tracing programs, Vietnam managed to maintain some of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the world. By November 2020, when the story took place, the county virtually eradicated the virus within its borders, having no active cases.
Virgin Galactic unveils new SpaceShip III
Last week Richard Branson’s space tourism firm Virgin Galactic unveiled a new space plane dubbed VSS Imagine. The first SpaceShip III addition to the company’s growing fleet of suborbital vehicles is a shiny, chrome-coloured ship designed for quicker reuse than SpaceShipTwo, the current centrepiece of the company’s effort to kickstart its space tourism business in 2022.
Functionally, SpaceShip III is the same as the company’s SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity. But SpaceShip III is designed in a ‘modular fashion’ that will enable a quicker turnaround time for re-flights. It is designed in such a way ‘that we can pull a panel off to get to an area that we might not have been able to get to in an easy fashion before with SpaceShipTwo. VSS Imagine’s first glide test, dropping mid-air from its carrier plane to glide back to land is poised for this summer at the company’s Spaceport America facility in New Mexico.
Fourth explosive attempt for SpaceX’s Starship rocket
After SN8, SN9 and SN10, the latest SpaceX’s Starship prototype SN11 crashed during a flight test on 30 March 2021. Like its predecessors, the SN11 rocket took off from Boca Chica Village, near the Texas-Mexico border. The spacecraft ascended to its 10-kilometer goal through a foggy sky. However, during the ascension low chamber pressure was reported on Raptor engine #2. Telemetry was lost as the spacecraft reignited its engines for the landing phase and as it was about one kilometre from the ground, SN11 exploded, sending debris all around the landing pad. Despite these failures, SpaceX is accumulating valuable data towards its goal to create a vehicle capable of coming and going into space with a cargo of 100 tons. Starship could even be the spacecraft used to one day colonise Mars.
NASA invites members of the public to share the excitement of SpaceX Crew-2 mission
NASA invites the public to take part in virtual activities and events ahead of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission. Lift-off of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket with astronauts is targeted for no earlier than 6:11 a.m. EDT Thursday 22 April from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission will carry NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, who will serve as the mission’s spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who will serve as mission specialists.
The crew is scheduled to work aboard the International Space Station (ISS) through the fall of 2021, conducting science research in areas such as medical technology, human health and materials to benefit life on Earth. Live coverage and countdown commentary will begin at 2 a.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website, as well as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch, Daily Motion and Theta.TV.
Members of the public can attend the launch virtually, receiving mission updates and opportunities normally reserved for on-site guests. NASA’s virtual guest experience for Crew-2 includes curated launch resources, a behind-the-scenes look at the mission, notifications about NASA social interactions and the opportunity for a virtual launch passport stamp following a successful launch. Organisations hosting launch-focused events are also encouraged to register and let NASA know that you are doing so. This would include school groups, museums, or even colleagues watching together!
DRONAMICS launches the first Cargo Drone Airline and appoints COO
DRONAMICS the world’s leading developer and operator of large cargo drones, announces the launch of DRONAMICS Airlines with companies in Ireland, Australia and Canada that will manage the airfreight operations for same-day delivery services with its proprietary unmanned cargo drone, The Black Swan. As part of its ramp-up for commercial operations, the company appoints the seasoned aviation executive Sergio Oliveira e Silva as the new Chief Operating Officer (COO), a new senior management team position. Sergio joins the organisation from his former position of Managing Director, Asia of a Global aviation services public listed company. Over a 25-year career, Sergio has held executive-level positions with some of the industry’s largest operating companies within different international regions for privately held and publicly listed companies.
As a COO of DRONAMICS, Sergio will be responsible for the set-up and operations of the airline business, the deployment of the droneport network, and the upcoming operational authorizations under the fast-evolving drone regulations around the globe. The appointment comes as the first step in building up our global structure that will support the roll-out of the same-day delivery service of DRONAMICS.
Twice Weekly News from African Pilot
Should you miss out on any edition of APAnews, please visit the website: www.africanpilot.co.za and click on the APAnews link on the front page. All past weekly APAnews publications have been archived on the website.
Until Thursday, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)