“When a government controls both the economic power of individuals and the coercive power of the state …this violates a fundamental rule of happy living: Never let the people with all the money and the people with all the guns be the same people.”
P. J. O’Rourke
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
Where will we find logging of IF time?
As things are slowly returning to ‘the new normal’ the aviation sector, especially sport and recreational aviation has started to pick-up. Christine and I camped on the airfield, together with many other aviation friends and this was a most enjoyable experience, similar to a mini Oshkosh. For the many pilots and their families that attended the Aero Club of South Africa’s (AeCSA) Middleburg AirWeek this past weekend this was a clear indication that pilots from all over South Africa are wanting to attend fly-aways and enjoy the company of like-minded people. Between the AeCSA, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Sports Aerobatics Club (SAC) and other sections of the AeCSA almost all forms of aviation were represented. To be able to be present at and report on aviation events is a most important component of African Pilot.
African Pilot’s May 2021 edition
The exciting May edition featuring helicopters from all over the world as well as helicopter operators and training schools is complete and will be distributed this week. 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 digital 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 positioned to provide world-wide coverage of a significant range of aviation subjects.
African Pilot’s June 2021 edition
The June edition will feature aviation training as well as aviation careers. As in previous years we deal with this subject in June in order for young people wishing to follow an aviation career after their matric year they can read about what is offered in the exciting world well before they write their matric exams at the end of the year.
African Pilot Digital Calendars
Wallpaper calendar for the months of April and May
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.
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
For those of you who will be following the FLIGHTS TO NOWHERE TV series, herewith the daily broadcast schedule premiéring tonight at 18:00 and 21:00 on People’s Weather DSTV Channel 180 and Openview Channel 115.
April 19 – 22 Episode 1 to 4
April 26 – 29 Episode 5 to 8
AERO South Africa 2021 exhibition cancelled for this year
2021 Sling Africa Tour invitation
Feel free to share this as you wish:
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 & 22 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
Until 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
The Aero Club of South Africa (AeCSA) awards at AirWeek Middleburg
When I arrived in the late afternoon on Friday the Middleburg airfield was filled with aircraft and tents. Members of the Middleburg Aero Club hosted the event went out of their way to accommodate the visitors from all parts of South Africa. This event was not officially open to member of the public and was not an airshow. However, the AeCSA planned displays of various aircraft depicting the various sections of the Aero Club. In addition, several teams that have their own display certificates presented routine displays for all the members of the Aero Club that were present. I do not have an official count of visiting aircraft, but I guess there were in the region of 150 aircraft, gyrocopters, helicopters, hot air balloons, and some powered para gliders present.
The evening awards ceremony was held in Richard Lovett’s large hangar as a sit-down dinner. AeCSA chairman Rob Jonkers delivered a talk on the AeCSA’s situation now that the COVID-19 lockdown is easing. AeCSA vice chairman, Martinus Potgieter then presented certificates for deserving persons as follows:
- Soft spot certificate to Middelburg Aero Club event Organiser – Jock Nel
- Soft spot certificate to safety officer – Nigel Musgrave
- Soft spot certificate to SACAA Special Air Event Manager – Piet Fourie
- Soft spot certificate for AeCSA centenary banners and museum – Quintin Hawthorne
The following persons were recognised by the Aero Club with awards:
- Most enthusiastic team – Rise Above Aviators – Goitse Diale
- Piping Hot Award – Hot Air Balloon – Richard Bovell – ZS-HOI
- The old and Beautiful Awards – Best Vintage Aircraft Classic Flying Collection Team – ZS-EUU
- The Fairy Award – Best Light Sport Aircraft – Rhyne Maclean – ZU-FPX
- Bob the Builder Award – Best Homebuilt Aircraft – Daan Conradie – ZU-DJC
- Smoothest Operator Paraglider Award – Riaan Struwig
- Aerial Antics Award – Best Aerobatics Award – Jason Beamish – ZS-EXT
The full feature with pictures and a video will be published in the June edition of African Pilot
What happened in aviation over the past week?
SAAF helicopters take part in fighting fires on Table Mountain
Two South African Air Force’s (SAAF’s) Oryx helicopters from Western Cape-based 22 Squadron, joined civilian helicopters to fight the blaze that destroyed hectares of indigenous vegetation and threatened homes on the slopes of the Table Mountain National Park and adjacent areas. Working on Fire (WOF) helicopters were first to be dispatched to combat the fire that started on the mountain on 18 April and was spread by strong winds. These aircraft were forced to land by prevailing strong winds and low cloud which severely limited visibility. When weather conditions allowed, the pair of Oryx helicopters joined the fire-fighting teams on Tuesday last week.
Altogether a hundred and three Bambi buckets dropped 206 000 litres of water. Aircrews flew a total of 9.4 hours using 3 552 litres of fuel. The Oryx helicopters landed safely at 13h35 and remained on standby until 18h00. The fire has now been contained and only a small crew is on the mountain monitoring the situation. At the peak of efforts, more than 250 firefighters were deployed along with four helicopters. SANParks estimates the fire destroyed 600 hectares of land, all carrying endemic fynbos, in the TMNP.
The Molteno reservoirs became a public attraction as the helicopters routinely filled the Bambi buckets. Concentrating on the task in hand the crews had little time to acknowledge the appreciation shown by the public but the actions of a group of children caught the eye of WO1 Patrick Vermaak on each pass as they would interrupt their training to show their support with enthusiasm. Having passed by a number of times the group suddenly formed a heart shape with their bodies which WO1 Patrick Vermaak managed to photograph before the helicopter headed for the mountains above Vredehoek. Really impressed by this spontaneous gesture WO1 Vermaak found it somewhat disappointing that he was the only member to have spotted the heart shape and decided to attempt tracing the venue via Google Earth on their return to AFB Ysterplaat and send them the photograph.
Romaney Pinnock, founder of the Badgers Football Academy for girls, was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call and immediately confirmed that the heart was in fact formed by Grade seven students of the French school, Lycée Français du Cap. A facility that has students from (30) thirty different nationalities between the ages two to 18 years. (Tuition conducted in French 70% and English 30%)
Sports teacher, Emmanuelle Livet, found her class interrupted as the pupils would spontaneously show their support every time the helicopter passed but were concerned that they were not heard or seen. They then requested permission from their teacher to form the heart whilst still waving and shouting. Their actions certainly did not go unnoticed. A truly unique tribute to each and every one assisting in the fight against the raging mountain fire!
New CEO for South African Airways
A new interim CEO has been appointed as part of the ongoing efforts to revive South African Airways.
Thomas Kgokolo took up his appointment on 13 April 2021, as confirmed by the SAA board. Taking over from Philip Saunders who resigned in December 2020, Kgokolo’s appointment makes him the fifth chief executive to be appointed to the position in just five years.
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.
SAPFA Middelburg Speed Rally at Middelburg Airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 855 9435
30 April to 2 May
North meets South Gyrocopter fly-in at Gariep Dam airfield
Contact Tommie Jordaan E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 802 3221
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
EAA Chapter 322 monthly meeting virtual and MOTH hall
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 084 674 5674
3 to 5 June
France Air Expo the only General Aviation Exhibition in France
Lyon Bron Airport – LFLY Website: www.franceairexpo.com
Newcastle airshow at Newcastle airfield
Contact Johan Pieters E-mail: Johan@champ.co.za Cell: 082 923 0078
SAPFA Silver Queen Rally at AFB Zwartkops
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 804 7032
RV fly-in day at Kitty Hawk airfield – public holiday
Contact Frank van Heerden E-mail: email@example.com
Sling breakfast Fly-in Tedderfield Airpark
Contact Shanelle McKechnie Tel: +27 (0) 11 948 9898 Cell: +27 (0) 66 224 2128
20 to 24 June
Flight Inspection Symposium (IFIS) and Trade Show ICC Convention Centre Durban
Contact Christo van Straaten (IFIS chair) Tel: 011 545 100 Cell: 083 451 2632
21 to 27 June
54th International Paris Airshow at Le Bouget Exhibition Centre
Postponed until 2023
Sport Aerobatics Club National Aerobatics Championships Tempe Airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
24 & 25 June
Drones and Unmanned Aviation Conference at Emperors Palace Convention Centre
Contact Tawanda Mandaza E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 063 580 6400
As further dates are sent to me, I will continue to update the aviation calendar.
C-145 Skytrucks commissioned by Kenya
Three surplus C-145 aircraft were received from the United States and commissioned by the Kenyan Air Force. They will assist with the replacement of the accident-prone Y-12 fleet. Speaking during the reception ceremony, Major General Francis Ogolla expressed gratitude to the US government for the acquisition that will go a long way in enhancing the mission readiness of the Kenya Air Force. In reply the US Defence Air Attaché to Kenya Major Matthew Yan thanked the Kenyan Government for the mutual cooperation and assured of continued support from the US Government. In August 2016 the United States allocated three surplus C-145As to Kenya, after it had requested six under the Excess Defence Articles (EDA) programme. They are worth $9 million (versus the $30 million spent on their acquisition). The EDA database lists three aircraft delivered to Kenya.
From September 2019, Kenya Air Force pilots and loadmasters underwent training on the C-145 at Hulburt Field, Florida. They were trained by airmen from the US Air Force’s 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron and 492d Special Operations Wing. The C-145 is the US Air Force designation for the PZL Mielec M28: USAF Special Operations Command (AFSOC) acquired 18 C-145A Skytruck / Combat Coyotes, which entered service from 2009, being acquired through Sierra Nevada Corporation, which prepares the aircraft for their specific roles prior to delivery. The Skytrucks are flown in locations across the globe performing infiltration, exfiltration, resupply and other missions as well as foreign air force training.
The M28 is built in several guises, including for passenger, VIP, cargo, paratroop, medical, SAR and maritime patrol missions. The M28 has good short take-off and landing performance and can land on unprepared airstrips less than 345 metres long thanks to its high lift wing, thrust reversing propellers and low-pressure tyres. It is powered by two 1 100 hp Pratt &Whitney Canada PT6-65B turboprops which are protected by inlet particle separators. The 7 500 kg M28 can carry 2 300 kg over 450 km. It can cruise at speeds of up to 356 km/h.
United Nigeria Airlines looks to expand
The chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Obiora Okonkwo, has said the airline plans to consolidate its domestic operations with two more EMB-145LRs. He also revealed in a recent press conference the airline aims to set up its own Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility. Okonkwo said: “The ERJ145 is a good, fuel-efficient aircraft and we are negotiating and finalising an additional two Embraer aircraft and by then we would have consolidated on certain routes and we would have consolidated on certain passenger loads and then we plan to probably consider a large body aircraft. As you may know, the ERJ may have all its advantages, but it also has its own little bit of disadvantage in terms of (overhead) luggage and all that. A typical Nigerian will want to travel with a lot of things and so the challenges are there. We would want to do something to accommodate that shortly and very soon. So far, we are getting around those challenges.”
New KLM Boeing 777-300ER damaged at Schiphol International airport
On 22 April 2021, a brand-new Boeing 777-300ER from the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines fleet suffered minor fuselage damage during the pushback at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS). The Boeing 777-300ER, was scheduled to conduct a cargo flight from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) via Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN). However, during the pushback, KLM’s Boeing 777-300ER bumped into a still connected jet bridge, which caused minor fuselage damage. No injuries among the crew were reported. KLM Boeing 777-300ER was changed into another aircraft and took off with a delay of approximately five hours to its destination. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has a total of 31 Boeing 777 aircraft: 15 Boeing 777-200s and 16 Boeing 777-300ERs. The damaged Boeing 777-300ER, registered as PH-BVV, was delivered to KLM on 24 March 2021.
Delta Air Lines boosts its Airbus A321neo order to 125 jets
On 23 April Airbus announced American air carrier Delta Air Lines boosted its order from the European aircraft manufacturer to 125 Airbus A321neo jets. The airline already had an order for 100 aircraft, to which it added 25 more jets powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engines. Delta placed its initial order in 2017. The airline is expecting to receive the first jet of the now-125-planes-strong order in the first half of 2022. In addition to the expanded order, the airline also accelerated deliveries of Airbus widebodies; two A350-900s and two A330-900neos to the second half of 2022. Mahendra Nair, the Senior Vice President at Delta Air Lines, said that the A321neo order expansion would help the company to reduce its carbon footprint as well as increase the efficiency of the customer service.
While waiting for the new jets, the company works on planned retirements of older aircraft in its fleet. According to the Planespotters.com data, the air carrier presently operates a fleet consisting of 779 aircraft with an average of 13.9 years.
“With our customers ready to reclaim the joy of travel, this agreement positions Delta for growth while accounting for the planned retirements of older narrow body aircraft in our fleet. We thank Airbus for their steadfast partnership during the pandemic and look forward to working with them as we take delivery of the A321neo as well as our accelerated A350 and A330-900neo deliveries,” Nair was quoted in the Airbus statement.
According to Airbus, the recent order made by the airline brings the total number of the A321neo jets to nearly 3,500 aircraft with more than 500 planes already delivered to the customer airlines globally. The manufacturer counted that while providing the additional range of up to 500 nautical miles, the A320neo Family jets also cut the fuel amount per-seat by 20%.
Garmin announces updated eLearning course for TXi flight displays
Garmin® International has announce thed TXi™ Essentials 2.0 eLearning course, a new pilot training opportunity that provides comprehensive instruction on fundamental operation of the TXi touchscreen flight display. Designed for pilots new to the system, experienced pilots looking for recurrent training on their avionics, or pilots returning to flying after some time off, this updated course offers best practices for operational use, including instruction on features included in recent software updates as well as the many other capabilities and benefits of the TXi flight displays.
With the TXi Essentials 2.0 eLearning course, pilots receive in-depth instruction to better prepare for flights through scenario-based training intended to build understanding and proficiency with TXi flight displays. Using a computer, tablet or smartphone connected to the internet, pilots can access the courseware immediately through the eLearning platform. The TXi Essentials 2.0 eLearning course allows pilots to learn at their own pace. With this flexibility, pilots can pause lessons as needed and return later to complete the lesson at any time. For continued learning or to quickly refresh on key topics, pilots can retake specific lessons or even the entire course at any time during the two-year subscription period. When used in combination with the free TXi PC trainer, or TXi Trainer App available for download on the Apple App Store®, this course gives pilots a way to become familiar or remain proficient with system features before a flight.
Air India sale saga: will the government get rid of a debt-ailing airline?
Air India, the national carrier of India, was founded by the entrepreneur and chairman of Tata Group, Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata as Tata Airlines in 1932. The airline started its operations in 1946 and was nationalised after India’s independence in 1948. The airline now counts 74 years in the Indian aviation industry. Currently owned by Air India Limited, the government agency created to merge the two main state-owned airlines in the country, Air India has been on sale since 2017. However, its sale is yet to be finalised.
In 2007, Air India (AI) and Indian Airlines, one of the two state-owned air carriers with a primary focus on domestic routes and some international services to Asia, were merged under Air India Limited. Since then, the company has been unprofitable. However, even prior to the merger, the Indian government attempted to sell off a part of the airline. Back in 2001, the government planned to raise more money through the privatisation of AI and had hoped that by getting rid of some state-owned companies, the Indian industrial base would become more efficient and capable to compete on a global scale.
This willingness to privatise AI immediately caught the attention of two bidders at the time, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) and Tata Group and the UK-based Hinduja business group. The government planned to raise approximately $2.5 billion by offering to bid for a 40% stake in AI and 26% in its domestic counterpart, Indian Airlines. The plan nearly succeeded and AI could be partly sold to the Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY)-Tata Group venture. But Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) backed out of the deal at the last minute.
It was after this unsuccessful sale attempt that the merger between Air India and Indian Airlines was implemented and the two companies were rebranded as Air India Limited. The merger continued to be headquartered in Mumbai, India with a fleet consisting of 130 jets. The process was finalised in February 2011 but had already encountered major financial challenges.
In financial year 2011 / 12, Air India’s loss had already exceeded $1 billion. Over the next four years, the company continued to make significant losses. After the FY15-16, the airline’s loss totalled more than $513 million (Rs38.4 billion), the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) proposed that the Ministry of Civil Aviation should carry out the divestment of Air India. Then in 2017, 10 years after the merger and when AI was running on a bailout fund of around $3.97 billion (Rs 300 billion), the government gave the go-ahead for a second attempt at selling the airline.
Debt and disagreements
The government opted for the strategic disinvestment of AI and initiated the transfer of management control alongside the sale of 76% equity share capital of the state-owned air carrier. While the previous government attempts to fund the company’s turnaround plan by infusing capital at one time did not provide the required result, the proposal to sell AI should provide much-needed financial stability. Government spending was allocated under an uncertain schedule and each tranche of investment was used to cover salary payments and other overdue expenses, rather than being used to implement turnaround initiatives. As of March 2018, there were at least free potential bidders, including joint ventures of Tata and Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY), IndiGo and Qatar as well as a venture between Jet, Air France KLM (AFRAF) and Delta.
The Indian low-cost carrier IndiGO was one of the first bidders, which formally showed interest in buying a stake of AI in 2018. The airline was also attracted to the prospect of obtaining the foreign operations of AI and its subsidiary, AI Express. At the time, AI boasted 44% of the global passenger traffic among the national air carriers, while IndiGO only held 9%. So, the purchase of AI would allow IndiGO to expand its domestic and international services and increase its total market share to 53%.
Another bidder was the joint venture between Tata Group and Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY), which, in 2001, had already attempted to purchase a stake in AI. Since the proposed sale of AI was announced, it was alleged that Tata Group was informally negotiating its interest and government officials saw a prospect for its subsidiary, Tata Sons joint venture Vistara, to begin operating international flights after the purchase. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) was under pressure while competing with Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways with its major fleet of Airbus A380 jets. Under Emirates’ agreement with Qantas, travellers who were heading to Europe from Australia were able to fly through Emirates Hub in Dubai while skipping Singapore. The acquisition of AI could help Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) to redirect the passenger traffic through India for services to the UK, the US and Europe. As a result, the airline could fill its wide-body jet seats and strengthen its position in the foreign markets. However, the attempt to sell AI failed because the bidders disagreed on the governmental requirement to take over the entire AI debt, which exceeded $10 billion (Rs 50,000 crore) at the time.
A sweetened deal
By 2017, significant bidder interest had waned. So, the government decided to improve its offer by allowing potential purchasers to determine what part of the debt they were willing to acquire as part of the AI capital transaction deal. In January 2020, the government repeatedly initiated the sale of AI equity. This time the potential bidders were offered to purchase 100% of AI shares with an initial deadline for submitting bids in March 2020. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline was extended several times and bidding only came to a close in December 2020.
Potential bidders were offered full control of the 4,400 domestic and 1,800 international landing and parking slots at the domestic airports currently served by AI, plus 900 slots at foreign airports. The government also sweetened the deal by proposing full control of Air India’s subsidiary, Air India Express, alongside 50% of the AI cargo and ground-handling services.
Multiple entities submitted preliminary proposals for the debt-ailing airline, but the government officially shortened the list and named Tata Group and Ajay Singh, the Chairman of the Indian low-cost carrier, SpiceJet, as the final bidders. Initial submitters included a group of more than 200 Air India employees, led by its Commercial Director, Meenakshi Mali and the US-based fund Interrupts (ITUP). However, on the last day for submissions, ITUP withdrew its bid, arguing that, as per bidding rules, no two interested bidders, either individually or as a member of a consortium, is entitled to take the benefit of the financial strength of the same affiliate for the purpose of participating in the proposed transaction either directly or indirectly.
The 200 Air India employees attempted to purchase the controlling stake (51%) in the airline, while ITUP expected to hold the remaining 49%. While AI employees were not able to cooperate with any private company, they were allowed to create a partnership with a bank or financial institution. But the bidder exited the deal due to undisclosed reasons. The final official bid came from Tata Sons. Initially, the conglomerate attempted to negotiate with Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) through their joint venture, Vistara, offering to rule out a non-compete clause and join the proposed bid for Air India. However, SIA denied taking part in the initial stages of the bid. Then, the company decided to bid through AirAsia India, its joint venture with AirAsia Group, where it holds an 84% stake. Now, the potential new owners of AI must state the specifics of the airline debt that they plan to assume. They will also be required to arrange upfront payment for the asset.
Meanwhile, the Indian government has postponed the closure of Air India and moved this to the next financial year (2022). Bidders were only given access to the virtual data room (VDR) in January 2021, which suggests that the transaction of shares and the privatization process might be concluded in the new fiscal year.
Bell celebrates 60 Bell 505 deliveries in Europe
Bell has delivered another Bell 505 to the Montenegro Air Force, making it the 60th Bell 505 aircraft in Europe. “Delivering 60 505s to Europe is an exciting milestone for Bell,” said Patrick Moulay, Senior Vice President, International Business. “This achievement is a testament to the performance of the Bell 505 and our customers’ confidence in the aircraft. Beyond the success of the Bell 505 in Europe, we see momentum in demand for the aircraft across international markets. We look forward to seeing more growth in the future.”
In 2020, Bell delivered more 505 aircraft to Europe than to any other continent – some of the customers include: ABR Invest, Elicompany, Montenegro Air Force, Centaurium Aviation and Mountainflyers.
Bell’s European customers continue to share their favourable thoughts on the dynamic aircraft:
- “With the 505, sightseeing passengers fit nicely and enjoy great front and side visibility. The passengers will have much more comfort and better views for the money they’re paying,” said Christoph Graf, Pilot & CEO, Mountainflyers.
- “The Bell 505 is one of the most modern helicopters that to recently enter the commercial market, and we know we made a great decision. With a small country and small military force, the key is modernization. Working with Bell, we believe that the helicopters are of high quality, and this gives us security knowing they allow us to complete the mission,” said Predrag Boskovic, now former Minister of Defence, Montenegro Air Force.
- “When I look at the Bell 505, it doesn’t look like other Bell products, but once you get in and start flying, you know right away it was designed by Bell. It’s a simple, light weight aircraft, but it has the ruggedness and reliability of a Bell product. You can count on it,” said Cristian Forghieri, Co-Owner & Flight Operations Director, Elicompany.
Bell supports European customers regionally by delivering aircraft out of their Bell support center in Prague, supplying parts out of the Bell Supply Center in Amsterdam and offering Bell 505 training through HeliDeal in France.
SpaceX launches four astronauts to space station, nails rocket landing
On 23 April a slightly sooty Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule took to the skies above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The launch kicked off SpaceX’s Crew-two mission, which will carry four astronauts: NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japanese space flyer Akihiko Hoshide on a 24-hour flight to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch countdown proceeded smoothly, with the closeout crews completing leak and communications checks ahead of schedule. The crew was relaxed and even enjoyed a quick game that resembled rock, paper, scissors while waiting for the leak checks to be completed.
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter logs second successful flight
On Thursday NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter successfully completed its second Mars flight, the 18th sol, or Martian day, of its experimental flight test window. Lasting 51.9 seconds, the flight added several new challenges to the first, which took place on 19 April, including a higher maximum altitude, longer duration and sideways movement. “So far, the engineering telemetry we have received and analysed tell us that the flight met expectations and our prior computer modelling has been accurate,” said Bob Balaram, chief engineer for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “We have two flights of Mars under our belts, which means that there is still a lot to learn during this month of Ingenuity.”
For this second flight test at “Wright Brothers Field,” Ingenuity took off again at 05h33 EDT (02h33 PDT), or 12h33 local Mars time. But where Flight One topped out at 10 feet (three meters) above the surface, Ingenuity climbed to 16 feet (five meters) this time. After the helicopter hovered briefly, its flight control system performed a slight (five-degree) tilt, allowing some of the thrust from the counter-rotating rotors to accelerate the craft sideways for seven feet (two meters).
“The helicopter came to a stop, hovered in place and made turns to point its camera in different directions,” said Håvard Grip, Ingenuity’s chief pilot at JPL. “Then it headed back to the center of the airfield to land. It sounds simple, but there are many unknowns regarding how to fly a helicopter on Mars. That is why we are here to make these unknowns known.”
Operating an aircraft in a controlled manner at Mars is far more difficult than flying one on Earth. Even though gravity on Mars is about one third that of Earth’s, the helicopter must fly with the assistance of an atmosphere with only about 1% of the density at Earth’s surface. Each second of each flight provides an abundance of Mars in-flight data for comparison to the modelling, simulations and tests performed on Earth. NASA also gains its first practical experience operating a rotorcraft remotely at Mars. These datasets will prove invaluable for potential future Mars missions that could enlist next-generation helicopters to add an aerial dimension to their explorations.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter project is a high-risk, high-reward technology demonstration. If Ingenuity were to encounter difficulties during its 30-sol mission, the science-gathering of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover mission would not be impacted. As with the first test, the Perseverance rover obtained imagery of the flight attempt from 211 feet (64.3 meters) away at ‘Van Zyl Overlook’ using its Navcam and Mastcam-Z imagers. The initial set of data – including imagery. “For the second flight, we tried a slightly different approach to the zoom level on one of the cameras,” said Justin Maki, Perseverance project imaging scientist and Mastcam-Z deputy principal investigator at JPL. “For the first flight, one of the cameras was fully zoomed in on the take-off and landing zone. For the second flight we zoomed that camera out a bit for a wider field of view to capture more of the flight.” Because the data and imagery indicate that the Mars Helicopter not only survived the second flight but also flew as anticipated, the Ingenuity team is considering how best to expand the profiles of its next flights to acquire additional aeronautical data from the first successful flight tests on another world.
Bye Aerospace Introduces Eight-Seat eFlyer
On Thursday Bye Aerospace officially unveiled its new eight-seat eFlyer 800 all-electric twin ‘turboprop class’ aircraft design. Aimed at the air-taxi, air-cargo, regional and charter aircraft markets, the eFlyer 800 will feature two wing-mounted electric motors with dual redundant motor windings, quad-redundant battery packs and a whole airframe parachute. According to Bye, operating cost for the aircraft will be one-fifth that of ‘traditional’ twin turboprops.
“The eFlyer 800 is the first all-electric propulsion technology airplane that achieves twin-turboprop performance and safety with no CO2 and extremely low operating costs,” said Bye Aerospace CEO George Bye. “This type of remarkable economy and performance is made possible by the electric propulsion system and advanced battery cell technology that results in significantly higher energy densities.”
Bye Aerospace is working with Safran on an electric powertrain for the eFlyer 800, which is expected to have a top cruise speed of up to 320 knots, 35,000-foot ceiling and 500-NM range with 45-minute IFR reserves. The company is also looking at offering an emergency autoland system for the aircraft along with options for supplemental power solar cells and in-wheel electric taxi. In addition to developing the 800, Bye is currently pursuing FAA Part 23 certification for its two-seat eFlyer 2, which flew for the first time in April 2018, and four-seat eFlyer 4.
MightyFly, an autonomous air cargo carrier set to revolutionise logistics
MightyFly, an autonomous air cargo carrier, announced today that it has closed US$5.1 million in seed funding. The round includes investments from 500 Start-ups, At One Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Graph Ventures, and Halogen Ventures. The funding will be used to expand hiring, scale up MightyFly’s fleet and build the infrastructure required to support a global network of hubs.
“MightyFly marries economies of scale with autonomy to completely disrupt logistics, making quick, cost-efficient, and carbon-neutral cargo accessible to all businesses and all areas,” said MightyFly Co-Founder and CEO Manal Habib. MightyFly is the only female-led drone company designing and manufacturing its own drones to operate a logistics service. “For me, aerospace is more than a profession, it’s a passion and a way to transform lives for the better.”
The MightyFly MF-100 is a hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with a cargo capacity of 100 lbs., cruising speed of 150 mph and range of 600 miles. It is approximately the size of a midsize car. A larger aircraft with a cargo capacity of 500 lbs. is planned. MightyFly aircraft can make multiple deliveries during the same flight, increasing utilisation and route efficiency.
Safety is the first priority at MightyFly. The aircraft are built to the same standards as every commercial airplane in the sky and designed for double redundancy across all systems, with a failure tolerance that is even better than manned systems. MightyFly aircraft will broadcast Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) in and out and will be in communication with Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM), as well as MightyFly’s own tower. Every MightyFly flight is supervised 24/7 by a human remote operator.
The MightyFly MF-100 has received a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA and test flights are being performed in California. The company aims to achieve FAA Part 135 certification and airworthiness certifications in other markets, like Australia and Asia. Presently the company is expanding its hiring to further the development of its fleet and is seeking business partnerships for proof-of-concept delivery service operations.
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Until Thursday, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)