“Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”
Justice Robert H. Jackson
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
Once again, I was surprised 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? (One lady gave the correct answer)
Those persons that identified the aircraft correctly this week: Selwyn Kimber, Righardt du Plessis, Wouter van der Waal, Andrew Peace, Erwin Stam, Ted M, P Rossouw, Rennie van Zyl, Mickey Esterhuysen, Ari Levien, Dawid Hanekom, Hilton Carroll, Gregory Yatt, Willie Oosthuizen, Jaco van Jaarsveld, Pierre Hanekom, Russel Tait, Nick Manthopoulos, Kevin Farr, Rex Tweedie, Greg Pullin, Johan Venter, Ralph Schlaphoff, Herman Nel, Bernard Stander, Deryck Leathers, Theo Meyer, Brian Millett, Geoff Street, Brian Melmoth and Peter Moir, Marie Reddy. 32 people – a new record.
What visual contact is required for circling manoeuvre?
b) The Pilot has the landing threshold in sight.
c) The required obstacle clearance can be maintained and the aircraft is able to carry out a landing.
Aerial picture taken on Saturday at Middleburg airfield
Bruce Perkins was fortunate to fly in a helicopter to capture the overhead picture represented here at the height of the Aero Club’s AirWeek staged at Middleburg airfield on Saturday 24 April. I counted more than 146 aircraft, because to the right of the picture there were about six more aircraft parked that are not in this picture. My discussion with Nigel Musgrave and Rob Jonkers has revealed that with some of the aircraft that arrived and flew out again on Sunday as well as the aircraft that arrived for the South African Power Flying Association (SAPFA) on Monday, Middleburg was the busiest airfield in South Africa this past long weekend.
With close to 240 aircraft, EAA Home and Plans Built as well as Vintage and Veteran aircraft, Helicopters, Hot Air Balloons, Gyrocopters, Powered Parachutes and even one Glider, this was certainly one of the most successful aviation events that I have ever attended with nearly all sections of the Aero Club represented. Thank you to the Aero Club of South Africa and all the sections that attended. If you did not make this event, there is always next year when hopefully we will all become engaged in making this event even better with more participation, especially from those sections of the AeCSA that were obviously absent this year.
African Pilot’s May 2021 edition
The exciting 280-page May edition featuring helicopters from all over the world as well as helicopter operators and training schools is complete and will be distributed from today onwards. Within the same edition we also featured 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. With this edition, African Pilot now has almost more pages that all the other South African aviation magazines put together. Since the only income that African Pilot receives these days is via advertising content, you will notice that African Pilot’s ‘paid for advertising’ exceeds all the other South African aviation magazines put together. 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, including futuristic aviation projects.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
North meets South
SAA Museum Fair
Absolute Aviation announcement
As the authorised Textron parts distributor and the only stocking distributor for Textron on the African continent, Absolute Aircraft Parts is positioned to offer an extensive inventory of proprietary and general aircraft parts. In addition, Absolute Aircraft Parts is the distributor for several Original Equipment Manufacturers and Parts Manufacturer Approval international parts brands, as well as factory aircraft engines and performance enhancement products.
The Absolute Parts Online store was created to make the ordering of aircraft parts easier, more efficient and convenient for Aircraft Maintenance Organisations (AMOs) and owners across the African continent. It has both a USD and ZAR login view. You can add more info maybe as you experience the site’s look and feel and ease of navigation.
Link to Parts online site: https://absoluteaircraftparts.co.za/
Link to main website parts info: https://www.absoluteaviation.co.za/maintenance-parts/
SAPFA Speed Rally at Middleburg Airfield
Once again, the organisation of the South African Power Flying Association (SAPFA) and Jonty Esser and Rob Jonkers was exceptional. Of course, the local Middleburg Aero Club members were amazing for the extended weekend, so a BIG shout out to the team! To fully appreciate this extended long weekend, I pitched my tent on Friday late afternoon and only packed up to drive home late on Tuesday afternoon when the Speed Rally was completed and the results were announced.
In all 20 teams took part where the slowest aircraft take-off first, with the fastest aircraft departing sometime later. In all the difference in time between the slowest and fastest aircraft was about 45 minutes. The idea is that if all the competitors navigate the course correctly and keep to or improve their handicapped speeds, so that the complete field should arrive overhead the finish line together. Of course, this never really happens, because some become lost, whilst others wander off the allocated route. However, on Tuesday the finish was good with most of the field arriving overhead within five minutes of each other. It is also interesting to note that African Pilot was the only South African monthly aviation magazine represented at the Aero Club’s official centenary celebrations in Middleburg this past weekend. The full report with pictures and a video will be published in the June edition of African Pilot.
Aviation expert says the extent of Mango’s financial troubles are unknown
Last week flights by the low-cost carrier were grounded indefinitely, reportedly due to money it owes to the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA). Aviation expert Joachim Vermooten says Mango increased its fleet from four to 14 aircraft shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Vermooten says this decision was unsustainable because of the pandemic on the sector. The present situation is the outcome of what has been happening in Mango for some time. In addition, the airline has not issued any financial statement for many years so it is difficult to estimate the exact financial situation that it was at the time. He says the airline was given an option by leasing companies to give back the aircraft and lessen the burden, but it declined the offer. The simple hard fact is that Mango is just running out of cash and the cash is more than R900 million that they require to recapitalise it for now. The airline has said it is waiting on national treasury for assistance with bailout money. Vermooten estimates the bailout needed would be between R1 and R2 billion to cover leasing agreements and creditors. Vermooten says he believes business rescue is no longer an option to try and save the company.
Mango Airline: statement by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA)
ACSA can confirm as reported earlier today that it had suspended Mango Airlines from using its airports due to outstanding debt. ACSA has since lifted the suspension on Mango Airline with immediate effect. This follows negotiations that were entered into earlier between the two entities. The airline has made part payment today (Wednesday 28 April) towards the amount owed to ACSA for landing fees, parking fees and passenger service charges. The airline has made further undertakings to settle the remaining debt. It is under these circumstances that ACSA has agreed to lift the suspension on Mango Airline. The approach of ACSA to its business relationship with Mango Airline is consistent with our approach to other airlines based on the terms and conditions entered into contractually, details of which remain confidential.
NAS and Colossal Africa to acquire South Africa’s largest ground handler – BidAir Services
South Africa’s largest ground handling company, BidAir Services will be changing hands. National Aviation Services (NAS), Colossal Africa and a consortium comprised of the current executive management team have signed an agreement to acquire BidAir Services from the Bidvest Group. The closing of the acquisition is subject to fulfilling final requirements from the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) that manages South African airports as well as other regulatory approvals.
BidAir Services provides quality-handling services including passenger and ramp handling, load control and operations, cleaning, toilet and water services, amongst others at nine South African airports. The airports include three main international gateways: OR Tambo International in Johannesburg, Cape Town International and King Shaka International in Durban. BidAir’s clientele of more than 28 major airlines includes international carriers such as Emirates, Etihad Airways, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air France, Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir.
Discussing the acquisition, Hassan El-Houry, Group CEO of NAS said: “NAS prides itself on its global expertise and local knowledge. We believe that the success of the aviation industry in Africa is tied to its economic prosperity and have made significant investments into the industry across the continent. We look forward to adding BidAir Services, the largest South African ground handling company to our expanding network.”
NAS and Colossal Africa are committed to investing into the development of facilities and infrastructure, latest equipment, technology, recruitment and training. Green technology and paperless digital platforms will also be an important part of the operational landscape. The inclusion of the executive management team as part of the acquiring group will also ensure that there is a smooth transition to the new owners with no disruption to the excellent services that BidAir’s clients have become accustomed.
El-Houry emphasised: “BidAir Services is known for its excellent customer service. With its experienced management team and dedicated workforce, we can add value by reinforcing its capabilities, training and investment into the company to further enhance its position in the local market. With NAS, Colossal Africa and BidAir Services joining hands, we will ensure the highest level of airport handling services in South Africa.”
Following the acquisition, NAS will also focus on training to develop the knowledge and skills of local South African youth while offering more employment opportunities and career options with an emphasis on employment equity. One of the key offerings will also include the integration of IT and healthcare to support civil aviation and government authorities during emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. El-Houry added: “NAS is the largest ground handler in Africa and this acquisition will further cement our position in the continent’s largest market. We will be growing our footprint with a presence in over 55 airports, managing more than 50 lounges with over 8,000 employees of 65 different nationalities at the core of our worldwide network.”
Cingashe Motale, Director of Colossal Africa highlighted: “As a 100% black-women owned (BWO) Investment Holdings company – managed and operating in the South African market, our strategy focuses on the development of local capabilities while building a globally competitive company through strategic acquisitions and partnerships in our chosen sectors. This transaction involves all the elements that form part of that strategy and working with a partner of such calibre as NAS puts us on a path that fits all the pieces together.”
Tragedy overhead VOR GAV
On Monday evening at around 19h30 hours, well after sunset two Cessna 172s from two different flight training schools had a mid-air collision overhead the VOR beacon GAV, south-west of Johannesburg. Each training aircraft had an instructor and a student and none survived this dreadful accident. On behalf of African Pilot my condolences go to Ian Stevens owner of Central Flying Academy based at Rand Airport and Mike Gough owner of Skyhawk Fight Academy based at Lanseria International Airport. To the owners of the two flight training schools, flight training instructors, students, families and friends our thoughts are with you. The chance of this accident happening are very remote, yet the holes in the Swiss cheese lined up at that moment.
SACAA preliminary report on ZS XAT fatal accident
On 4 February 2021 at approximately 09h32Z, the AT-502B aircraft registration ZS-XAT was destroyed on impact and by post-impact fire during an accident which occurred at Letsatsi Game Lodge. The aircraft, which was being ferried from Lanseria International Airport (FALA) to Hosea Kutako International Airport (FYWH) in Namibia, was operated under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) Conditions. However, at the time of the accident, instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed around Millvale area in Rustenburg. The flight was conducted under the provisions of Part 91 of the Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) 2011 as amended.
History of Flight
On 4 February 2021, two AT-502B aircraft registrations ZS-XAT and ZS-XAS took off from Lanseria International Airport (FALA) on ferry flights to Hosea Kutako International Airport (FYWH) situated in Namibia. The flights were conducted under the provisions of Part 91 of the Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) 2011 as amended. The pilot of ZS-XAS stated that he took off at 0858Z after ZS-XAT aircraft.
The two pilots were communicating via very high frequency (VHF) radio during the flight. He (ZS-XAS pilot) then routed right (Figure 2, blue line) of the planned flight path due to low-hanging clouds and climbed to flight level 055 (FL055). Thereafter, he contacted ZS-XAT pilot, who responded and notified him that he was climbing to FL100 and was flying to the left of the planned flight path. The pilot of ZS-XAS flew towards north of Rustenburg and turned in a south-westerly direction due to the
deteriorating weather conditions. He tried to contact ZS-XAT pilot to no avail. He then contacted Johannesburg (JHB) Information to get an update on the weather conditions. JHB Information advised that the weather was becoming more unfavourable to fly and the ZS-XAS pilot decided to fly back to FALA. The accident pilot had nearly 22 thousand hours and all of those within an agricultural environment.
SIA 777 suffered EGPWS incident after levelling off at 500 feet after take-off
A report by Singapore’s Ministry of Transport has found a single missing letter in the aircraft’s computer caused it to stop climbing and led to multiple activations of its ground proximity warning system. The crew of a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 inadvertently stopped a climb at 500 feet after take-off from Shanghai / Pudong in 2019, after the captain mistakenly keyed in the wrong altitude constraint in the jet’s flight management computer. On 2 September, a 777-300ER delivered to the operator in December 2006 was scheduled to fly between the Chinese city and Singapore. On departure from runway 35R, the widebody’s autopilot was engaged after gear retraction when passing approximately 360 feet. The aircraft then continued to climb through 500 feet and the pilot in command (PIC) and first officer (FO) noticed the increasing speed trend arrow. At this time, the captain believed the jet had crossed 1,000 feet and called for flap retraction. The FO then began this action. According to the quick access recorder (QAR), the 777 did not attain 1,000ft. Instead, after the autopilot was engaged, it climbed from 360 feet to 750 feet before descending back towards 500 feet.
The incident took place during the night just after 01h30 local time. During the initial stage of flap retraction, a ‘don’t sink’ caution alert from the enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) sounded. The crew was startled but nevertheless, the PIC did not rush into reacting as he deemed the flight to be stable and put it down to a decrease in pitch caused by a tailwind. Nine seconds after the first alert, a second ‘don’t sink’ was activated. At this time, the flaps were still being retracted and the flight crew was in the process of troubleshooting the first warning. This was followed by a third caution a further nine seconds later. The pilots then realised that the aircraft had levelled off and they needed to initiate a climb.
Incredible achievement - Robinson delivers 13,000th helicopter
On 23 April 2021 Robinson Helicopter delivered its 13,000 helicopter, R44 S/N 14438 to long-time Robinson dealer SKY Helicopters of Dallas, Texas. S/N 14438 has a brand-new paint scheme and is equipped with the latest in R44 options; a Lithium-ion battery, heated seats and a 4K cockpit video camera. The aircraft also includes a well configured glass panel featuring Garmin’s 700L TXi, GTN 650Xi navigator and a Genesys HeliSAS Autopilot. SKY president Ken Pyatt wanted a new generation R44 to round-out the company’s fleet. “We purchased this R44 for our Part 135 air taxi and tour operations,” said Pyatt, “because we needed a safe and reliable helicopter than can fly all day, every day.” A dealer since 1996, this latest acquisition puts SKY’s Robinson fleet at 27 helicopters. Robinson Helicopter Company has a come a long way since 1979 when its first two-place R22 was delivered. Fast forward 42 years, today’s Robinsons are offered in a multitude of sizes and configurations. Founded in 1973, Robinson Helicopter Company is the world’s leading manufacturer of civil helicopters.
Sun ‘n Fun 2021 USA proves itself with major Piper SETP sale
Piper reported that a M600/SLS was sold on Friday during the Expo. The Piper dealer partner for the Southeast region of the United States, Flightline Group, sold the aircraft to a Florida based customer. “This sale, during the first trade event since the beginning of the pandemic, highlights the continued demand for the M600/SLS with Halo Safety System and Garmin Autoland. Operationally, nothing matches the worry-free safety capability, cross continent performance and economics found in the SLS”, said Ron Gunnarson, Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Customer Support. “We have been delighted with the robust interest in our products during Sun ’n Fun and congratulate our dealer partner, Flightline Group, on the sale.”
The Piper M600 / SLS with HALO Safety System is the first GA aircraft certified with Autoland. The system supports digital technology that safely lands the aircraft at the nearest suitable airport if the pilot is incapacitated. In addition, the G3000 avionics suite includes auto-throttle, autoland, emergency descent mode, electronic stability and protection, surface watch, safe taxi and flight stream 510 all of which are designed to enhance safe operation of the aircraft. Beyond the flight deck, the six-seat M600/SLS is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A 600shp engine. The aircraft has a maximum cruise speed of 274 knots, a max range of 1,658 nm and a standard useful load of 2,400 lbs.
EAA breaks ground on its museum expansion
On Monday, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) officially broke ground on a two-story, 30,000-square-foot addition to the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Part of the organisation’s Project 21 museum revitalisation initiative, the expansion will feature a Pilot Proficiency Center and hands-on youth education center. The new facility, which will be connected to the EAA Aviation Museum, is the first Aviation Center expansion in more than 20 years.
According to EAA, the $6.2 million project is being funded by a capital campaign separate from member dues. Construction is expected to be completed by May 2022 with the grand opening to be held at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2022 the following July. Project 21 is the first of a three-phase plan with the second phase involving ‘digital upgrades to create immersive dynamic experiences’ for museum exhibits and the third to introduce interactive experiences focusing on ‘the grassroots movement of experimental homebuilt aircraft.’
China now has the world’s busiest passenger airports
Seven of the top 10 airports for passenger traffic are in China with three in the US. Domestic air travel is beginning a modest rebound while international air travel remains depressed because of on-going travel restrictions. Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport in China recorded the most passenger traffic in 2020.
Airports Council International (ACI) World has published its preliminary world airport traffic rankings – covering passenger traffic, cargo volumes and aircraft movements for 2020, showing the dramatic impact of COVID-19 on what are ordinarily the world’s busiest airports. Global passenger traffic at the world’s top 10 busiest airports decreased by 45.7 % in 2020. Overall, passenger traffic at the world’s airports decreased by 64.6 % which shows that the impact of the pandemic and the early stages of recovery in air travel has not been uniform around the world. According to the preliminary data published, Guangzhou Bai Yun International Airport in China recorded the most passenger traffic in 2020, with Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in the United States just behind.
In most cases, domestic air travel is beginning a modest rebound while international air travel remains depressed due to on-going travel restrictions. For example, Hongqiao International Airport in China has moved from 46th position in 2019 to the 9th in 2020, illustrating the uneven nature of the impact of and recovery from, the pandemic across the world.
Air cargo was less impacted by COVID 19, with volumes decreasing by only 8.9 %, to an estimated 109 million metric tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 2016 levels (110 million metric tonnes). Air cargo volumes in the top 10 airports grew by +3 percent in 2020. These airports represent around 28 percent (30.6 million metric tonnes) of the global volumes in 2020. The gain can be attributed to the increase in demand for online consumer goods and pharmaceutical products and personal protective equipment. With a +6.7 percent increase, Memphis International Airport surpassed Hong Kong International Airport.
ACI World estimates that there were 58 million global aircraft movements in 2020, representing a drop of 43 % from 2019. The top 10 airports represent seven % of global traffic (4.2 million movements) and experienced a drop of 34.3 % compared to 2019. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport surpassed Chicago O’Hare International Airport, after leading in 2019 and 2018.
For airports, revenues are tightly correlated to traffic levels but, like many other capital-intensive businesses, a large proportion of airport costs remain largely fixed and do not fall at the same level as traffic throughput and revenues during the crisis. Even with reduced operations, the closure of terminals and staff layoffs, this imbalance remains.
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter completes its third flight
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter continues to set records, flying faster and farther on Sunday, 25 April 2021 than in any tests it went through on Earth. The helicopter took off at 04h31 EDT (01h31 PDT), or 12h33 local Mars time, rising 16 feet (five meters), the same altitude as its second flight. Then it zipped downrange 164 feet (50 meters), just over half the length of a football field, reaching a top speed of 6.6 feet per second (two meters per second).
After data came back from Mars, Ingenuity’s team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California was ecstatic to see the helicopter soaring out of view. They are already digging through a trove of information gathered during this third flight that will inform not just additional Ingenuity flights but possible Mars rotorcraft in the future. The Mastcam-Z imager aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, which is parked at ‘Van Zyl Overlook’ and serving as a communications base station, captured video of Ingenuity. In the days ahead, segments of that video will be sent back to Earth showing most of the helicopter’s 80-second journey across its flight zone.
The Ingenuity team has been pushing the helicopter’s limits by adding instructions to capture more photos of its own, including from the colour camera, which captured its first images on the second flight. As with everything else about these flights, the additional steps are meant to provide insights that could be used by future aerial missions.
Meanwhile, the helicopter’s black-and-white navigation camera tracks surface features below and this flight put the onboard processing of these images to the test. Ingenuity’s flight computer, which autonomously flies the craft based on instructions sent up hours before data is received back on Earth, utilizes the same resources as the cameras. Over greater distances, more images are taken. If Ingenuity flies too fast, the flight algorithm cannot track surface features.
Vacuum chambers at JPL are filled with wispy air, primarily carbon dioxide, to simulate the thin Martian atmosphere; they do not have room for even a tiny helicopter to move more than about 1.6 feet (half a meter) in any direction. That posed a challenge: Would the camera track the ground as designed while moving at higher speed on the Red Planet? With this third flight in the history books, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team is looking ahead to planning its fourth flight in a few days’ time.
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was built by JPL, which also manages this technology demonstration project for NASA Headquarters. It is supported by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and Space Technology Mission Directorate. NASA’s Ames Research Center and Langley Research Center provided significant flight performance analysis and technical assistance during Ingenuity’s development. AeroVironment Inc., Qualcomm, Snapdragon and SolAero also provided design assistance and major vehicle components. The Mars Helicopter Delivery System was designed and manufactured by Lockheed Space Systems, Denver.
ASA Perseverance Rover’s Mastcam-Z captures Ingenuity’s third flight on Mars video:
Orbital management swap: new boss for the ISS
The International Space Station has a new commander now as four astronauts prepare for their return to Earth this Saturday. The orbital residents also sent off a Russian cargo craft Tuesday evening, completing its year-long stay at the orbital lab. The four SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts have a new splashdown date after mission managers waved off Wednesday’s planned departure due to weather conditions at the landing site. The quartet of Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, is now targeting a splashdown off the coast of Florida for Saturday at 11h36 EDT.
Hatch closure of the Crew Dragon Resilience is set for 15h50. Resilience with its four-person crew will then autonomously undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter at 17h:55 completing a 164-day station research mission. Walker handed over station command Tuesday to Akihiko Hoshide from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) during the traditional change of command ceremony. Hoshide, Japan’s second station commander, will now lead Expedition 65 until October of this year.
Hoshide arrived at the orbital lab on 24 April aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour with SpaceX Crew-2. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough commanded Endeavour riding alongside Pilot Megan McArthur and Mission Specialists Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet during the near 24-hour trip that began with a launch from Kennedy Space Center. Staying on the orbiting lab with the four Crew-2 astronauts are NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. The trio docked to the station’s Rassvet module inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship on 9 April and will stay on orbit until October.
Russia’s ISS Progress 75 cargo craft has been packed with trash and discarded gear and its hatch closed for an undocking Tuesday at 19h11. It will leave the Zvezda service module’s aft port and spend another day orbiting Earth on its own before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean for a fiery, but safe destruction.
Showroom opens for electric flying car
Pre-orders are now being taken for the ASKA, an electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle designed for consumers. The company has also opened the world’s first consumer flying car showroom. Located in Los Altos, the heart of Silicon Valley, the sales showroom features demonstration models of the ASKA and functions as a learning center about urban air mobility, according to company officials. The four-seater ASKA drives on the road like a car, is capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), as well as short take-off and landing (STOL) and flies like an aircraft.
Priced at US$789 000 a special limited edition of ASKA is now available for pre-order. Interested buyers can register at ASKA’s website to start the sales process. A $5,000 deposit is required to secure a place on the pre-order list. The deposit will be held in an escrow account and is fully refundable, the company adds. The price includes pilot training, customised interior/exterior design and a personalised license plate. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2026, following regulatory approval and certification, company officials add. ASKA’s development and flight testing are being conducted in accordance with FAA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines for certification.
According to company officials, the initial limited model of ASKA has a flight range of up to 250 miles powered by electric motors and is equipped with a range extender as a ‘redundant safety system’. The full electric system architecture of ASKA enables future models to convert range extenders to any other energy source, such as hydrogen, company officials add.
People can board ASKA, which is the size of a large SUV in drive mode at their home, on the street or in a parking lot and drive it like a regular car. To transition to flight mode, ASKA lifts off and lands vertically in a designated vertipad launch space. As the wings open, ASKA transitions to flight, programmed to the driver’s destination. Flying the vehicle will be made simple through semi-autonomous technologies, although pilot training will still be needed to operate ASKA in the air, company officials explain. Full scale flight demonstrations are expected to take place in 2022, added officials with the company, which is part of NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign.
Denel lost a Seeker 400 in a 2020 crash
During a test flight last year, a Denel Seeker 400 crashed, resulting in significant damage being sustained to the airframe. Recently pictures emerged on social media of the crashed aircraft, which apparently came down in the northern part of the country. The aircraft descended by emergency parachute, indicating engine failure, but sustained a broken horizontal tail and damaged engine bay. The propeller was more or less intact, indicating it was not rotating at the time of impact. The landing gear partially collapsed in the impact and the nose and sensor turret (Hensoldt Optronics LEO) were damaged.
The South African National Defence Force (Defence Intelligence) was the launch customer for the Seeker 400 and took delivery of its first aircraft in late 2015, although operational testing and evaluation by Defence Intelligence division was still underway in 2019 ahead of the type being granted full military type certification. In its 2019 / 20 annual report, Denel stated that the Seeker 400 achieved its interim military type certification and was in operational test and evaluation with the end user. In 2019 Denel revealed that an undisclosed customer in the Middle East (the UAE) had ordered six Seeker 400 aircraft in its first export order. During the IDEX show in February 2021 the UAE announced a further order for Seeker 400s for its Presidential Guard.
The Seeker 400 is somewhat unusual in that it can carry two sensor payloads (weighing a combined 100 kg) at the same time, such as an optronic sensor turret like the Argos II and a synthetic aperture radar or electronic intelligence package. The Seeker 400 can be used for a wide range of military and civilian missions, including maritime surveillance and disaster reconnaissance. It has up to 16 hours endurance at altitudes up to 18 000 feet. At typical operating altitudes of between 4 500 and 9 000 feet, it is not visible from the ground by the human eye and is effectively inaudible. The UAV’s line-of-sight range is 250 km from its ground station, but this can be doubled by using a forward ground station with deployed forces. The Seeker 400 can be armed, including with lightweight Impi and Impi-S missiles or the P2. The Impi series is based on the laser guided Mokopa but scaled down for lightweight platforms like UAVs.
Kaman announces first flight of unmanned K-MAX TITAN™
On 27 April Kaman Air Vehicles, a division of Kaman Aerospace Corporation, announced the first flight of its new unmanned helicopter, the K-MAX TITAN™. The world’s first heavy lift unmanned helicopter for the commercial market, K-MAX TITAN™ leads the way in repetitive, heavy lift without the constraints of manned operations. With a focus on enabling safety and operational efficiency, the proprietary K-MAX TITAN™ system will redefine the helicopter external lift market by increasing future mission capabilities in any location and any type of weather.
Concurrent with commercial development, Kaman is working with the US Marine Corps on upgrading the autonomous capabilities of their two USMC K-MAX® air vehicles through a funded government contract. Flight-testing is expected to start in May 2021. The USMC experiment includes Kaman’s K-MAX TITAN™ unmanned system and Near-Earth Autonomy’s sensor-based autonomy suite. The new K-MAX TITAN™ system will be available for existing K-MAX® aircraft as well as on new production K-MAX® helicopters. The K-MAX® is a rugged, low-maintenance aircraft that features a counter-rotating rotor system and is optimised for repetitive external load operations. The aircraft can lift 6,000 pounds (2,722 kg) with unmatched performance in hot and high conditions.
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Until Monday, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)