“Journalists cannot serve two masters. To the extent that they take on the task of suppressing information or biting their tongue for the sake of some political agenda, they are betraying the trust of the public and corrupting their own profession.”
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
Once again even though this is Easter time and many people are on holiday, I was amazed at how soon after APAnews was published that my inbox was filled with so many correct answers, which are increasing every week. Thanks to all African Pilot’s readers that identified this unique aircraft correctly, but why do ladies not enter this quiz?
Those persons that identified the aircraft correctly this week: Bernard Stander, Righardt du Plessis, Ari Levien, Mickey Esterhuysen, Hilton Carroll, Wout van der Waal, Nic Manthopoulos, Anthony Bass, Erwin J.W. Stam, Dawid Hanekom, Selwyn Kimber, P. Rossouw, Conrad, Ralph Schlaphoff, Brian Millett, Kevin Farr, Rennie van Zyl, Pierre Hanekom, Greg Pullin, Willie Oosthuizen, David Plew-Chisholm, Johan Dries, Nigel Maistry, Herman Nel, Karl Jensen, Brian Melmoth, Karen Heydenrych, Peter Moir and Johan Venter.
With regards to GPS, how many Satellites are required in order for Fault Detection Elimination (FDE) to occur?
Another aviation legend passes. Bob Allison passed away on Sunday. Bob was a well-known Air Traffic Controller who often provided his wonderful ATC services free of charge at EAA events. Bob will be remembered for his crisp clear voice over the air waves, with a touch of humour. Bob also wrote several articles for African Pilot over the years. Bob may your journey to that great ATC tower in the sky be filled with wonderful memories
Boeing places its Commercial Airplanes headquarters campus outside Seattle on sale
On Tuesday, nearly six months after Boeing first acknowledged it might sell its local Commercial Airplanes headquarters building in Renton, it officially listed the Longacres campus for sale. As Boeing seeks to drastically lower costs during the pandemic-driven aviation downturn, the 215-acre Longacres site joins five other Boeing properties in the Puget Sound region now up for sale. The company aims to shed approximately 2.5 million square feet of office space a 7% reduction in total Boeing office space in the region, plus more than 300 acres of unused land.
Conrad Chun, vice president of communications at the Commercial Airplanes division, denied that the sale of the headquarters and other sites indicates a gradual withdrawal of Boeing from its Puget Sound roots. Chun said the sell-off reflects a reassessment of the aerospace giant’s office needs, given Boeing’s 15,000 jobs cut in the state last year and the experience during the COVID-19 pandemic that remote work is a viable option. He said the Commercial Airplanes headquarters will still be in Seattle, just not in a building. “We are going to be more flexible in where and how people work,” Chun said. “People will not be tied to large offices but when they need to be, they will be closer to where production and delivery occurs.”
Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal has relocated to an office overlooking the flight line at the Boeing Field 737 delivery center in Seattle and will move around as needed to other sites in Everett, Renton and elsewhere in the region, as well as making regular visits to the Boeing South Carolina complex in North Charleston. “There is a headquarters but you have to think of it differently than a traditional headquarters building,” Chun said.
Worldwide, major companies are downscaling their staff compliments and office requirements, yet in South Africa the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) still operates from the two buildings it leases in Midrand with no commitment to reducing staffing levels. The fact that the South African regulator is ‘technically bankrupt’ and must be continuously bailed out by the Department of Transport (DoT) to pay the inflated salaries of its overstaffed situation, shows another failed state organisation. As the South African public has seen with almost every State-Owned Enterprise (SOE), the losses incurred by these once profitable businesses has become a significant drain on the fiscus.
What are the options? Whilst private aviation businesses, including African Pilot have scaled back to accommodate staff members to work from their homes, the same cannot be said about the SACAA, where it is clear that the management of the regulator continue as ‘normal’ as if this pandemic has not actually made any difference to South African aviation. Technology has taught the world that it is no longer necessary to have expensive offices when remote working in one’s personal home environment is a far more efficient option. However, this also requires the serious commitment of the employees who need to ensure their personal work ethic and discipline is of the highest standard.
I am sure that many aviation companies in South Africa have also changed the way they conduct their business, with certain staff members working remotely form their homes. What is your comment about the present aviation regulatory environment in our country? Should you wish to provide your comment anonymously this is acceptable, given the high levels of victimisation from the SACAA of aviation businesses in South Africa. E-mail: email@example.com. Thank you.
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
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 #1 - Update on Airweek
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
Presidents’ Trophy Air Race (PTAR) newsletter #3
By Rob Jonkers
Hello fellow Air Racers, this our third newsletter of the year in the run up to the PTAR which is less than two months to go. The following is important information. Firstly, entries are still open. Please go to the SAPFA website for the entry link.
Date: Friday and Saturday 21 & 22nd May 2021
Where: Ermelo Airfield, Mpumalanga
Fees are as follows:
- Entry fee R3 850 per aircraft as the early bird fee (this amount can be paid into the SAPFA bank account – First National Bank – Account No: 62879279307. Fees will increase after 30 April to R4 500
- Membership fees Aero Club and SAPFA R900 per crew member – to register or renew https://aeroclub.blueboxonline.com
- FAI licence R260 per crew member (can also be purchased online on the Aero Club Bluebox payment system)
If neither of the crew are SAPFA members then the total fee per crew is R2320. If preferred, this total amount can be paid to SAPFA, SAPFA will apportion to Aero Club the membership fees.
- Additional banquet tickets R 450 each (the two crew members get a banquet ticket each as part of the entry fee of R 3 850)
- Accommodation: we have negotiated rates at Ermelo Inn for the competitors and guests (see website for details) – please mention PTAR in your booking
- Car hire: Options for the hire of vehicles will follow
The race format will follow what was established in 2019 in Saldanha, which has also been successfully executed in the Speed Rally series. Organisation of the event in Ermelo is progressing well, the Race Committee have conferred and have held meetings with the club, have prepared the proposed airfield layout, and are busy getting the necessary approvals in place.
Home page for PTAR – http://www.sapfa.co.za/index.php/presidents-air-race (watch this space)
Further details of the planning and run up to PTAR 2021 will be communicated in due course. Your comments are most welcome to email@example.com
Till next time, fly safely,
Rob Jonkers (race director)
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
Airlink suspends flights to Polokwane due to airport non-compliance
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) advised that with immediate effect the Polokwane airport had been de-categorized to CAT2 which is below the minimum level required for scheduled commercial air services. The current status of the airport presents as an operational safety concern and it would be illegal to operate scheduled services at the airport. It is regrettable that the airport did not advise Airlink of the impending threat of de-categorisation and its inability to provide the minimum level of emergency services required to maintain its aerodrome license category. Airlink has explored all options including the possibility of operating at the ‘Pietersburg Civil’ aerodrome, which also offers no rescue firefighting services and therefore is unable to accept scheduled commercial flights.
Airlink management will work with Polokwane airport management to establish when the airport will address its non-compliances and regain the minimum category required to accommodate schedule commercial air services. In the circumstances, Airlink has had to cancel its services. We are unable to ascertain at this stage whether the airport will meet the minimum requirements for future services. Customers will be contacted directly and an update will be provided as soon as Airlink receives more information from the Polokwane airport.
South Africa’s Pegasus vertical business jet gets ready for lift-off
The Pegasus Vertical Business Jet (VBJ), being developed in South Africa, is entering its next phase with two quarter-scale models to be ready for testing and engineering by May 2021 and a full-scale unmanned hover model by the end of the year. This follows the successful hover demonstration of a 1/8-scale model in July last year and the registration of patent rights in South Africa, Europe and the US. The aircraft is set to revolutionise business travel globally and free travellers from the burden of the time-consuming drive to the airport.
The aircraft, that combines and enhances the characteristics of a helicopter with the luxury, range and speed of a business jet, has been hailed by the urban mobility project as the sixth most likely to succeed globally in a 2019 independent review by Abbott Aerospace. The review included 100 different projects, including some sponsored and supported by Boeing, Airbus and various governments around the World as well as venture capital companies with billions of Dollars in funding. “Most of these are of the air taxi type, therefore, more compelling and exciting for us, is that we were ranked first in the VTOL airplanes aimed at business jet type mission profile,” says Dr Reza who first conceptualised the Pegasus VBJ.
Dr Reza, one of South Africa’s most renowned practitioners in the field of aesthetic medicine and an avid aeronautics scholar, was the founder CEO of Pegasus Universal Aerospace and now serves as chairman of the company. He expects the aircraft to turn the market for helicopters, business jets and short-range electronic vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft on its head. Feasibility studies have valued the potential market at $2 trillion over twenty years.
With a wingspan of 14.8m the Pegasus VBJ can take-off and land on any helipad, but thanks to its cool-air fan technology also on grass, wooden decks and even moving surfaces like a yacht, something that eVTOL craft cannot do. This means the Pegasus VBJ can free busy executives from the time-consuming trip to the airport, even on long-range flights. It can also provide a solution for dense urban areas where space to build airports are limited.
The aircraft will seat seven people, including the pilot and has a range of 4400km from a runway take-off and 2124km from vertical take-off. Its endurance is 6.6 hours (runway) or 3.18 hours (VTOL). Flight speed is up to 796km/h. The unique flight control system being developed by Callen Lenz in the UK will ensure enhanced safety and ease of flight from a pilot’s perspective.
Pegasus has partnered with Centurion-based aeronautical engineering company Epsilon Engineering Services in the further development of the aircraft. Transportation & Industrial designer Tamir Mizrahi joined Pegasus in January 2021 as the VBJ’s exterior & interior innovation designer. The company is already working with AWS Amazon to develop a smart manufacturing facility with Artificial Intelligence and robotics.
In 2019 the Pegasus Universal Aerospace appointed Robbie Irons, who has extensive experience in business aviation with companies like ExecuJet and Bombardier as CEO and since aviation heavyweight Andrew Dietrich joined the company as chief pilot and head of flight operations.
The developers are currently raising funds with an offer of profit sharing for investors participating in its seven-year note. The minimum investment is R10 000. Dr Reza says the current fund raising is the third of its kind. While there is a total of R261 million’s worth of shares available, the immediate target is R30 to R40 million. “We have more than delivered on the promises made at our previous fund raising. It is a big responsibility to work with other people’s money and we make sure that we stretch each rand as far as possible,” Dr Reza says.
Offers to become part of this unique project close in June 2021. The prospectus and a full presentation are available at https://pegasusua.com/.
Bell delivers first Bell 505 to Ugandan aviation company
Bell Textron announced the delivery of a Bell 505 helicopter equipped with the Med-Pac Inc. LLC Emergency Medical Services Lite Interior to BAR Aviation. This marks the first Bell 505 in Uganda and the first Bell 505 designed to complete medical evacuation (medevac) missions in Africa. “We are elated that BAR Aviation has chosen the Bell 505 as its Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) platform and will operate the first medevac Bell 505 in Africa,” said Lynette Loosen, regional sales manager, Africa. “By leveraging the aircraft’s unique design, competitive cost and flexible kit installation, the platform enables our customers to provide safe and reliable medical services to its patients.” BAR Aviation is a Ugandan aviation company known for being the leading operator in the region. Among its many services, BAR provides air medical evacuation services to support communities and connect them to life-saving medical support. The Bell 505 will support the work of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism and the police.
NTSB preliminary report Lancair Super ES
On 20 August 2020, an experimental amateur built Lancair Super ES airplane was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Ely, Minnesota. The pilot was fatally injured. The aircraft arrived at Ely Municipal Airport (ELO), Ely, Minnesota, about 12h00 and the pilot was given a minivan to use. The pilot returned to the airport 16h00 and asked airport personnel if he could continue to use the minivan. The fixed base operator at ELO closed at 17h00. The pilot was waiting for the destination weather at Grand Marai, Minnesota, which was fogged in, to clear.
The pilot had not filed a flight plan and there was no record he obtained weather through an automated flight service station. There was no air traffic control contact with the pilot of the accident flight. Two witnesses at White Iron Beach Resort stated they had gone out to sit on the end of the dock for the evening and star gaze. They had been out on the dock for about an hour and a half. When they first sat down, the sky was clear and they could see the stars. However, a cloud layer began to develop and they could not see the stars anymore. They continued to have very good lateral visibility and could see the island out in front of them from the dock. Then they heard the noise of an airplane, looking out past the island and to the left of it, they saw an airplane diving down toward the water; they could see lights from the airplane and its silhouette. The airplane then climbed up and disappeared into the clouds. The airplane then came back down through the clouds and was aimed right at them on the dock. The airplane noise had been loud the entire time. They thought the airplane was going to hit the water in front of the dock, but one wing was lower than the other and the airplane pulled up just in front of them, turned left and climbed back into the clouds, disappearing from their view in a steep, straight-up climb.
Seconds later, the airplane came down in a straight down nosedive followed by a ‘boom’ and immediate silence. They immediately called 911 at 23h06. From the first time they heard and saw the first dive, to the third impact dive, less than three minutes had passed. The airplane noise was loud through the entire time they had witnessed the airplane with no popping or sputtering. The airplane impacted White Iron Lake and the wreckage was about 25 feet under water and about 5.5 nautical miles northeast of the ELO.
The ELO Automated Weather Observing System recorded at 1135: visibility – 10 statute miles, ceiling – broken at 700 ft agl, temperature and dewpoint, both 16 degrees Celsius. Dark night conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land rating. According to the pilot’s business partner, the pilot received instrument airplane instruction in preparation for an instrument airplane examination that he planned to undertake in the Fall of 2020. Post-accident examination of recovered airplane components revealed that the flight control cables exhibited features of overstress. The engine and propeller were not recovered.
Air France-KLM to get as much as €4bn in recapitalisation plan
According to a statement on Tuesday from the European Commission, Air France-KLM will receive as much as €4 billion and the French government could raise its stake to as high as 30 per cent as part of a recapitalisation plan for the indebted carrier slammed by the pandemic. Air France will get up to €1 billion in fresh capital as part of a shareholder subscription and convert a previous €3 billion French loan into hybrid instruments. In exchange, Air France will have to give up 18 daily slots at Orly airport outside Paris. The French government could become the biggest shareholder in the airline as part of the plan, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on France Inter radio.
The long-awaited package was the focus of at times tense talks between Air France-KLM’s biggest shareholders (France and the Netherlands) and the European Commission, which asked for a series of conditions to offset antitrust concerns. The governments last year granted the group a total of €10.4 billion in direct loans and state-backed guarantees. The aid from France will benefit only the French arm of Air France-KLM, the EU said. France had sought to soften Commission demands for measures aimed at boosting competition within the industry, including the surrender of coveted landing rights at Orly and Amsterdam Schiphol airports.
Japan Airlines to retire 777 planes with Pratt & Whitney engines after United incident
Japan Airlines said it had retired its fleet of 13 Boeing Co 777s with Pratt & Whitney engines a year earlier than planned, having suspended operations in February after an engine on a United Airlines plane shed debris. JAL said it would use newer Airbus SE A350s on domestic routes to Osaka’s Itami Airport and use international planes for other domestic routes to help maintain flight frequencies. The Japanese carrier had an incident of its own with the PW4000 engines in December, when a malfunction forced a Tokyo-bound JAL 777 to return to Naha airport. The engines are found on only a small number of older 777s operated by JAL, United Airlines Holdings Inc, ANA Holdings Inc, Korean Air Lines Co Ltd, Asiana Airlines Inc and Jin Air Co Ltd.
In February, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered immediate inspection of 777 planes with PW4000 engines before further flights after the National Transportation Safety Board found a cracked fan blade on the United flight was consistent with metal fatigue. In February, a spokeswoman for Pratt, owned by Raytheon Technologies Corp. said fan blades would need to be shipped to its repair station in East Hartford, Connecticut, for inspection, including those from airlines in Japan and South Korea. Analysts had said airlines might speed up retirement of the planes as a result of the need for additional checks.
NASA’s Mars helicopter survives first solo cold Martian night
Evening temperatures at Jezero Crater can plunge as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius), which can freeze and crack unprotected electrical components and damage the onboard batteries required for flight. Surviving that first night after being deployed from where it was attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover on 3 April is a major milestone for the four-pound rotorcraft. In the days to come, Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet. Devising a craft small enough to fit onto the rover, light enough to fly in Mars’ thin atmosphere, yet hardy enough to withstand the Martian cold presented significant challenges. To ensure the solar array atop the helicopter’s rotors could begin getting sunlight as soon as possible, Perseverance was instructed to move away from Ingenuity shortly after deploying it.
Until the helicopter put its four legs onto the Martian surface, Ingenuity remained attached to the belly of the rover, receiving power from Perseverance, which touched down at Jezero Crater on 18 February. The rover serves as a communications relay between Ingenuity and Earth and it will use its suite of cameras to observe the flight characteristics of the solar-powered helicopter from ‘Van Zyl Overlook.’ The sole mission of Ingenuity, a technology demonstration, is to conduct flight tests in the thin atmosphere of Mars; the helicopter carries no science instruments. Within 30 Martian days, or sols (a Martian day is 24.6 hours), on the surface, Ingenuity will complete its testing and Perseverance’s scientific exploration of Jezero Crater will kick into high gear.
If all goes well with each of the myriad pre-flight checks, Ingenuity’s first attempt to lift off from the middle of its 33-by-33-foot ‘airfield’ chosen for its flatness and lack of obstructions will be no sooner than the evening of 11 April. Subsequent flight tests will be scheduled throughout the month of Ingenuity, with Perseverance’s cameras providing plenty of high-definition images of the historic mission.
Shell invests in sustainable aviation-fuel maker LanzaJet
Royal Dutch Shell Plc has invested in sustainable-fuels technology company LanzaJet, adding to a string of deals positioning the oil giant for the energy transition. The Anglo-Dutch major did not disclose financial terms, but its expansion into clean energy has so far comprised small acquisitions, as well as organic growth. That contrasts with European peers Total SE and BP Plc, which have acquired billions of dollars’ worth of renewable assets.
LanzaJet is building an ‘alcohol-to-jet’ facility in the US state of Georgia, with capacity to produce 10 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), a year from 2022. Its technology can use ethanol made from ‘recycled pollution’ for jet fuel production, according to a statement. As much as 90% of its fuels can be produced as SAF, with the remaining 10% as renewable diesel. For Shell, the LanzaJet deal adds to recent purchases of a virtual power plant operator and an electric vehicle charging network and is one of several inroads into greener jet fuels.
LanzaJet was created last year by alternative-energy technology company LanzaTech Inc. It plans to develop four plants to produce sustainable jet fuel as well as renewable diesel. LanzaJet’s investors include Suncor Energy Inc. and Mitsui & Co. In February, it teamed up with British Airways, which will use some of LanzaJet’s ethanol-derived fuel starting late 2022. In addition to its initial LanzaJet deal, Shell will be able to make further investments in the construction of new production facilities in the coming years.
South Korea plans to purchase additional attack helicopters
On 31 March South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) revealed more details about the country’s plans to acquire an additional 36 foreign-made attack helicopters for the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA). The country’s Defence Project Promotion Committee decided that the rotorcraft, which are intended to replace the RoKA’s Bell AH-1S attack helicopters, are to be acquired under the second phase of the ‘Large Attack Helicopter Project’. This programme phase, which has been budgeted at KRW3.17 trillion (USD2.81 billion), is scheduled to begin next year and be completed by 2028.
The new aircraft, which are to be sourced via a competitive bidding process, will supplement the RoKA’s current fleet of 36 AH-64E Apache helicopters, which were acquired from the United States for about USD1.6 billion under the first phase of the programme. The Yonhap News Agency quoted an unnamed DAPA official as saying, “We will begin procedures to select the exact type of this asset, as well as a company to purchase the attack helicopters,” adding that the budget earmarked for the second phase of the programme “has increased due to inflation and the necessary addition of some equipment and facilities”. The planned acquisition is motivated by the need for greater air attack capabilities to compensate for the reduction in manpower and the transition of wartime operational command from the US to South Korea, RoKA officials told Janes, adding that the 36 additional rotorcraft would cover “the extended operational range of ground operations”.
Wisk Aero accuses rival flying taxi firm Archer Aviation of ‘brazen theft’ in a new lawsuit
Wisk Aero, a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk, is suing rival air taxi firm Archer Aviation for allegedly stealing its trade secrets and infringing on its patents. Wisk is seeking unspecified monetary damages and an injunction against Archer to prevent it from using the allegedly stolen technology. In response, Archer says it has ‘no reason to believe’ that it possesses any of Wisk’s intellectual property.
In a complaint filed in the US District Court of Northern California, Wisk said it is suing Archer ‘to stop a brazen theft of its intellectual property and confidential information and protect the substantial investment of resources and years of hard work and effort of its employees and their vision of the future in urban air transportation.’
Santa Clara-based Archer came out of stealth in the spring of 2020 after having poached key talent from Wisk, the flying taxi company bankrolled by Google co-founder Larry Page. The company also hired engineers away from Airbus’ Vahana project. According to Avionics International, Archer was able to lure these engineers by offering higher salaries. Archer was founded by Adam Goldstein and Brett Adcock, co-founders of Vettery, a marketing software-as-a-service company, which the two sold to Switzerland-based staffing firm Adecco Group in 2018 for $100 million. But Wisk argues that Archer did not just steal talent, it also stole trade secrets. Wisk accuses Archer of misappropriating ‘thousands of highly confidential files containing very valuable trade secrets, as well as the use of significant innovations Wisk has patented.’ Archer’s emergence ‘surprised the industry,’ Wisk claims, based on its shortened time frame for going to market with its electric aircraft with just a fraction of the staff of other, more established urban air mobility firms.
According to Wisk:
Archer’s stated timeline for releasing an aircraft was a fraction of the time taken by its serious competitors, using a fraction of the number of employees of those competitors. The development of an entirely new kind of passenger aircraft requires years of engineering and significant expertise to get right, as demonstrated by Wisk and the other leading players in this space. For example, after 10 years of hard engineering and testing, Wisk is currently developing its sixth-generation aircraft, which it plans to certify with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We believe it is virtually impossible for Archer to have produced an originally designed aircraft in this timeframe that has gone through the necessary testing and is ready for certification with the FAA.
Most surprising to Wisk was the design of Archer’s prototype aircraft, mainly because it closely resembled Wisk’s own prototype. Both aircraft feature six front rotors, each with five blades, that can tilt either horizontally or vertically, as well as six rear rotors that each consist of two blades and remain fixed in a vertical position. Archer’s aircraft also includes an ‘unconventional’ V-shaped tail, similar to Wisk’s patented design. “The striking similarity in these designs could not have been a coincidence,” Wisk says. The month that Wisk filed its patent application was the same month that Archer hired away 10 of Wisk’s engineers, the company says.
With its suspicions raised, Wisk said it hired a forensic investigator, who returned with some ‘troubling’ ’information: We discovered that one of those engineers downloaded thousands of Wisk files near midnight, shortly before he announced his resignation and immediately departed to Archer. Those files contain our valuable trade secrets and confidential information about Wisk’s aircraft development spanning the history of the company, accumulated over countless hours of incremental progress by scores of engineers. Another engineer downloaded numerous files containing test data just before departing for Archer. Yet another wiped any trace of his computer activities shortly before leaving for Archer.
Wisk also points out that among its competitors, no two prototypes look the same, which makes Archer’s alleged theft of its trade secrets stand out even more. Archer has recently made news by raising $1.1 billion by going public through a reverse merger with a special acquisition company, or SPAC. The merger, which is valued at $3.8 billion, is also backed by Stellantis, the parent company of Fiat Chrysler, Peugeot and United Airlines. United has placed a $1 billion order for 200 Archer electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, with an option to purchase 100 more for $500 million.
In an interview with The Verge last month, the start-up’s co-founders gave a lot of credit to Page’s Kitty Hawk and Wisk for helping launch the eVTOL industry, while also acknowledging having poached many of the key players from Wisk to help start Archer. A spokesperson for Archer called the lawsuit ‘regrettable’ and denied the allegations that the company had stolen Wisk’s intellectual property. “It is regrettable that Wisk would engage in litigation in an attempt to deflect from the business issues that have caused several of its employees to depart,” the spokesperson said. “The plaintiff raised these matters over a year ago and after looking into them thoroughly, we have no reason to believe any proprietary Wisk technology ever made its way to Archer. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”
The choice of batteries by some eVTOLs could make them commercially unviable
Horizon Aircraft, the advanced aerospace engineering company that has developed the Cavorite X5, the world’s first eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) that can fly most of its mission exactly like a normal aircraft, says the current battery technology being used by some eVTOL aircraft could make them commercially unviable. It warns some of the batteries used are simply too heavy for long-range commutes, whilst the charging times too slow to support the number of flights required. Furthermore, the lifecycle of many batteries being used is also too short. Many prototypes currently under development must use advanced, high energy density variants. However, these lighter batteries can be damaged easily, increasing the rate at which they need to be replaced, which will increase costs.
Brandon Robinson, CEO and Co-Founder of Horizon Aircraft said: “The type of batteries used by eVTOL aircraft will also impact what vertiports and vertistops they can use. One of the biggest operational barriers to deploying a VTOL fleet in cities is finding sufficient locations to place landing pads, and the facilities needed to recharge and service aircraft. eVTOL aircraft with heavy batteries or ones that take too long to recharge will have access to fewer vertiports and vertistops.
“eVTOLs need to be safe, affordable and have an operational cost structure that makes them economically viable. The batteries used by some eVTOL aircraft will make this impossible to achieve.” The weight of batteries used for the Cavorite X5 is only 200 kg, providing it with a range of 500 km with a hybrid-electric power system. Some high-profile eVTOLs are using batteries that weigh 600kg or more and have a range of between 100km and 200 km.
Martin UAV unveils V-BAT 128
Martin UAV announced the public release of the unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the V-BAT 128, for defence and commercial use, including search and rescue, firefighting, logistic resupply, energy as well as oil and gas operations. Martin UAV previously demonstrated its upgraded version of the V-BAT featuring an increase in power, payloads and endurance at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE). Over the course of several weeks, the V-BAT 128 flew numerous missions, showcasing its VTOL capabilities and the versatility of its small footprint; one of the impressive features noted from those involved in the exercise is the aircraft’s ability to transition from take-off to a vertical hover and persistent stare capability while maintaining a sensor line of sight, despite difficult terrain.
As the interest and adoption of UAV / UAS increases across commercial industries, the company stated a renewed commitment to support these verticals adapting to new technologies. Most recently, the company announced the addition of industry veteran Bill Irby as the Chief Operating Officer, who previously held leadership roles with Textron, L3 Harris and Northrop Grumman. Martin UAV strives to make UAVs more accessible and easier to implement, empowering organizations to streamline operational efficiencies, security and increase the safety measures for its staff.
The V-BAT 128 is designed to make transportation and rapid tactical deployment easier for both defence and commercial applications. It can be assembled by two personnel in less than 30 minutes. The aircraft’s duct fan propulsion design provides for top operational safety by eliminating exposed rotors, which are commonly found in propeller-driven VTOLs.
V-BAT 128 is ideal for take-off and landing on both stationary and moving platforms, in areas with a footprint of less than 12-feet by 12-feet. The upgraded V-BAT provides significantly enhanced payload capacity of 25 pound and interchangeable payloads to meet mission-specific requirements. Increased endurance of up to 11 hours and higher thrust were made possible by leveraging a more powerful engine, the Suter TOA 288 model. With a wingspan of 9.7 feet, the V-BAT 128 can reach over 90 knots reaching altitudes of 20,000 feet.
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Until Monday, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)