“The question about progress has become the question whether we can discover any way of submitting to the worldwide paternalism of a technocracy without losing all personal privacy and independence. Is there any possibility of getting the super Welfare State’s honey and avoiding the sting?” C. S. Lewis
The Eagle Aircraft DW-1 is an agricultural airplane with a bizarre set of characteristics. It was designed by a man named Dean Wilson, who also designed the Avid Flyer and the Global Explorer, a twin-engine amphibious aircraft optimised for the exploration of remote parts of the globe. In every case, Wilson prioritised function over form and in every case, he delivered an aircraft that delivered on its technical promises.
For the DW-1, Wilson harnessed his experience with sailplanes and aerial application (crop dusting) to completely reimagine the Agplane. An experienced sailplane instructor, he understood the benefits of a long wingspan with a correspondingly high aspect ratio. Such a configuration had the potential to reduce the wing loading and enable slower flight, both of which would allow an Ag pilot to quicken their turns and spend more time actually spraying crops.
In addition to being more aerodynamically efficient, the massive wingspan also requires fewer passes over a field when spraying crops. At the same time, a wing with a greater span would be inherently beneficial in that each pass would result in a wider swath of spray, reducing the number of passes required for each field. Wilson’s overall goal in designing the unique DW-1 was aimed at creating an Agplane that was more efficient and thus more profitable than the competition.
The result was a biplane with seemingly mismatched components. Long, thin, sailplane-esque wings with a 15:1 aspect ratio were mounted to a fabric-covered steel tube fuselage. While the prototype utilised a Jacobs radial engine, production aircraft would all be fitted with a sleekly cowled 300 horsepower Lycoming IO-540, an engine more commonly found on things like the Piper Navajo and Cessna 206.
Eclipsed by the massive wingspan, the choice of a compact flat-six engine provides superior forward visibility, a smaller frontal area and is a design feature that might go unnoticed. The Eagle’s 55-foot wingspan dwarfed other similarly-powered agplanes such as the Piper Pawnee (36 feet), the Embraer Ipanema (38 feet) and the Cessna AgWagon (41 feet). At the same time, the Eagle’s 386 square foot wing area easily topped the others, which ranged from about 180 to 215 square feet. Clearly, Wilson was not afraid to commit to his initial design concepts.
Wings of such length are not typically as manoeuvrable as shorter-span wings, particularly when filled with fuel and festooned with spray equipment. This presented a roadblock to Wilson’s goal of enabling the high roll rates necessary for quick 180-degree turns while spraying a field. The solution? Long, thin roll-control spoilers on each lower wing that worked in unison with the ailerons to deliver a quick, crisp roll rate. Roll-control spoilers work in unison with the ailerons to deliver the snappy roll rate necessary for aerial application.
When the Eagle entered production in the late 1970s, Wilson took advantage of a slowing economy by hiring a number of workers from the Bellanca aircraft company. He was able to use their significant experience in wooden aircraft structures and fabric covering to manufacture around 100 examples of the wooden-winged DW-1 and exported them as far as Australia and New Zealand. While the airplane was ultimately not profitable for the manufacturer, it performed its mission as designed and served its operators well for decades. Today, around 30 examples remain on the US register. Largely hidden from public view by virtue of being based among remote, rural crops in the Midwest US, the Eagle is a unique blend of engineering that is a particularly rare sight.
Those persons who correctly identified this aircraft: Wouter van der Waal, Righardt du Plessis, Erwin Stam, Peter Gilbert, P. Rossouw, Steve Dewsbery, Willie Oosthuizen, Colin Austen, Mickey Esterhuysen, Ret Orsmond, Ari Levien, Alf Ljungqvist, Dave Lloyd, Selwyn Kimber, Jan Sime, Bob Gurr, Rennie van Zyl, Danie van der Merwe, Brian Ross, Nic Manthopoulos, Kevin Farr, Pierre Brittz, Wayne Mansfield, Hilton Carroll, Ahmed Bassa, Karl Jensen, Rex Tweedie, Greg Pullin, Brian Melmoth, Andrew Peace, Johan Venter, Gregory Yatt, (32)
The June edition featuring Flight Training and Aviation Careers and Flight Simulators was completed last week and this edition has been fully distributed to the world-wide audience. This 268-page edition contains 20 videos and nine picture galleries a new record. African Pilot has embraced the digital publishing age so that the magazine can be read on smart phones or any digital device. African Pilot changed its publishing philosophy nearly two years ago to embrace the digital age so as to discontinue publishing a typical print style magazine that is impossible to read, even on laptop computers.
African Pilot will publish its popular Light Sport Aircraft, Amateur Built Aircraft and South African built aircraft in the July edition of the magazine that will be distributed to the world during the last week of June 2022. The feature is an opportunity for all Light Sport Aircraft manufactures, Amateur Built aircraft and South African built aircraft. The feature provides an important shop window for advertisers to display their Light Sport Aircraft in a focused manner which includes editorial content to cover the features of their business.
Wallpaper calendar for the month of June. Go to our wallpaper page to download the calendars in three different resolutions.
Comair suspends flights pending receipt of funding
Comair has announced that regrettably it is obliged to suspend all British Airways (operated by Comair) and kulula.com flights from Tuesday evening 31 May 2022 pending successfully securing additional funding. The company’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) have advised that the process to raise the necessary capital is in progress and that there is reason to believe such funding may be secured. Once received, the airline will be able to recommence operations, but regrettably under these circumstances, the practitioners have no choice but to voluntarily suspend all scheduled flights until the funding is confirmed. British Airways (operated by Comair) and kulula.com ticket sales have also been suspended with immediate effect.
“We deeply regret the inconvenience this suspension will cause our customers. We did everything we could to avoid it. Comair, the BRPs and the lenders are working all out to get the funding in place so that we can resume our normal flight schedule as soon as possible,” says Comair CEO, Glenn Orsmond. “Comair is inherently a viable business. We have the two of the best airline brands in the country. We are on track to carry over four million passengers this year and generate R5.3 billion in revenue. We have excellent staff, a modern fleet, good sales and distribution channels and low operating costs, which is why we believe the funding will be secured.”
For customers on British Airways (operated by Comair) flights, British Airways’ booking with confidence policy will apply. Details can be found here: https://bit.ly/36cfJYC Customers may also contact the Contact Centre on BAContactCentre@comair.co.za
kulula.com customers on suspended flights have the option of a Travel Bank credit or can request a full refund of their ticket value. The Travel Bank credit can be used by the passenger or someone else. Customers can e-mail MNContactCentre@comair.co.za.
Limited tickets still available for first ever IFIS event hosted on African soil
There is still limited space available to sponsor and book an Exhibition Stand at the historic International Flight Inspection Symposium (IFIS) to be held at Durban International Convention Centre (ICC) later this month, between 20 and 24 June 2022. The biannual, five-day event will take place for the first time on African soil with no better scenic destination than the popular seaside city that will attract approximately 300 guests from the continent and across the globe for the gathering of airspace technocrats.
Ms. Poppy Khoza, the Director of Civil Aviation for the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) also confirmed a list of high-profile international speakers that will form part of the IFIS event. “We will have in the region of 20 world-renowned technical experts and speakers at the Symposium as we all look at the future of aviation and the technological advancement of this dynamic industry of ours post the COVID-19 period,” said Khoza. “The importance of IFIS is to give participants from our continent and the globe that work in the Aviation / Navigation sector an opportunity to experience the importance of their field of work. It is a chance to fully grasp their contribution towards safety in world airspace integrated system.
“This event is hosted in collaboration with the International Committee for Airspace Standards and Calibration (ICASC) and we are proud to announce our headline international sponsors and partners which include AeroData, Textron Aviation, Safran and Norwegian Special Mission whose contribution has been enormous towards the success of this event and to the flight inspection sector.”
Some of the 18 focus topics over the five-day Symposium include the following:
- Influence of New 5G Communication Interference on Flight Inspection – Mr. Rolf Seide (Germany)
- Human Factors and CRM: Increasing efficiency and managing errors within flight inspection mission by improving non-technical skills – Ms. Andrea Gioia (Italy)
- Reducing the risk of bird strikes for low-level Flight Operations Ms. Isabel C Metz (Switzerland), Mr. Markus Schwendener (Germany)
- Flight Inspection crew safety and emergency procedures training -Mr. Vincent Rocchia (France)
- Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) – Euiho Kim (South Korea)
“The city of eThekwini has staged several national and international events of this calibre, with the IFIS event being another feather in their cap”, according to Khoza. She said: “The City is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations in the world and one that will offer great service and leisure to all of our guests joining us for the Symposium. It will offer great stories that they will take home to their families.
In the same vein as Cape Town do with the Mining Indaba, this is an opportunity to explore Durban as a destination for aviation events and exhibitions.”
WRFC 2022 Newsletter #1
Hello fellow pilots, this the first of a series of newsletters giving information for the up-and-coming World Rally Flying Championships that will be held at Brits airfield in November 2022. This will be the third attempt to secure this event in South Africa, after having had the original date planned at Stellenbosch in November 2020 disrupted by the pandemic as well at the second attempt in November 2021 as the fourth wave of the pandemic peaked.
During the GAC (General Aviation Commission) as a section of the FAI conference held in November 2021, after submission of a further proposal to find a way to host this event in South Africa, we secured approval to host it again in November 2022, with the event moved to Brits. This decision based on the premise that fewer participants would be attending given economic conditions and that the next WRFC would be held in 2023 in France. The 2020 expectation would have had over 60 teams participating.
Planning for the 2022 commenced earlier in the year, with the publication of the local rules and a website update, inviting the world to compete here in South Africa. The preliminary entries closed at the end of April, where we have secured 34 teams from 10 countries to take part. South Africa will field the maximum of 10 teams. The Rally Nationals that will select the SA team will be held at Brits over three days from 16 – 18 June 2022, anybody wishing to take part are welcome to join, either in the qualifying class or for fun. Please refer to the WRFC website for more information: www.wrfc2022.com.
Rob Jonkers (WRFC 2022 competition director)
10th Newcastle Airshow
Contact Johan Pieters at E-mail: Johan@champ.co.za Cell: 082 923 0078
SAPFA Krugersdorp ANR at Jack Taylor airfield, Krugersdorp
Contact Frank Eckard at E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 1516
RwandAir cancels DRC flights after being hit with government ban
RwandAir has suspended flights to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in response to action taken by the DRC government. “Following the decision of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to suspend RwandAir flights, RwandAir has decided to cancel all flights to Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Goma with immediate effect said RwandAir in a statement on its website. The suspension went into effect on 28 May 2022 and no additional information was provided by the airline regarding the duration of the flight suspension.
On 28 May the DRC Government announced the ‘immediate’ suspension of RwandAir flights into the DRC over allegations that Rwanda is supporting rebel group M23. DRC Government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya released a clip of a press briefing on Twitter, stating: “In view of the Rwanda’s support for the M23 terrorists, it has been decided to immediately suspend RwandAir flights to our country, a warning to the Rwandan government which is disrupting the peace process.”
Addressing the disruptions to its customers RwandAir said it will waive change of reservation fees and offer re-issues or refunds for those affected. “We will provide updates when we have them and be in touch with our customers to provide assistance where we can,” added the airline.
Mark ‘Sammy’ Sampson killed in aircraft accident
It is with terrible sadness that we report that one of South Africa’s well-known aerobatics pilots Mark ‘Sammy’ Sampson, died in a plane crash at Charles Prince airport in Harare on Tuesday 31 May. The accident took place during a solo display at the end of an airshow at which he was performing. We wish his girlfriend Roxanne and his family all the best during this difficult time and ask all members to please refrain from speculation as to the cause. Sammy was and will always be remembered as, an outstanding pilot and a true gentleman. Our sincerest condolences to all involved.
Training Piper Arrow 200 down in Stellenbosch
A light training aircraft from Cape Town 4 Aviators ZS WAP performed an emergency landing on the R44 close to Winery Road in Stellenbosch leaving two pilots injured, but fortunately no fatalities were reported. ER24, Western Cape Fire and Metro Rescue services arrived to find the wrecked aircraft in the middle of the busy road. Two men were seen seated near the aircraft and it is believed that one had serious injuries and the other had minor injuries. This is a developing story. More to follow.
King Air crash near Port Elizabeth
The pilot responsible for this accident wrote the following on an aviation forum. Please note that I have not corrected any of the spelling or grammar:
“I was the pilot on this very short flight. 09:45B 28 May 2022.
On take-off on a somewhat uneven runway the aircraft bounced whilst at more or less 60 kts. I checked the control columb slightly back to keep it from getting another bounce as a result of coming down on the nose wheel. As planned we came back to the ground on the main wheels. In that rythm we hit another bump that sent us slightly higher in the air, at a slower speed than King Airs should be so high in the air.
The resulting high nose, take off power setting and low speed caused a left yaw. Caused by the assymetric blade angle. At this time it would be a good time to abort the take off. But as luck would have it the runway has a bend to the right, at that exact point. So I was already heading for the bushes with full right rudder(that obviuosly has very little effectivity at those speeds). So I tried to fly her out.
Unfortunately the power couldnt overcome the situation and we mushed into the bushes.
The plane was performing perfectly as it should
It was a 1km runway
There was no wind
2150lbs of fuel on board
4 people on board. I only bumped my head and one pax pulled a muscle in his back.
I am saddened by this. But thankfull we came out unharmed.
Hope this helps
Editor responds: Obviously we will have to wait for the ‘official’ SACAA accident report before making any further comments, but I have one question: Why did the pilot operate this King Air B200 into this landing strip in the first instance?
ALPA boss repudiates proposal to lower pilot standards
In a letter to FAA Administrator Billy Nolen, Airline Pilots Association president, Joseph G. DePete excoriated Republic Airlines’ proposal to lower the required pilot minimums for its R-ATP programme from 1,500 hours to 750. Republic’s R-ATP programme is a proposed, closed-loop system that the airline would operate within its subsidiary, LIFT Academy training programme. Republic claims the benefit of the closed-loop system is that pilots selected to participate are trained entirely in house, in keeping with Part 141 training standards specific to ATP requirements. The requested exemption would allow selected civilian pilots who complete the R-ATP programme to apply for an airline transport pilot certificate concurrently with a multiengine airplane type rating with a minimum of 750 hours of total flight time. Republic cites concerns over future pilot shortage as rationale for the proposal.
DePete refutes Republic’s claims, stating that talk of looming pilot shortages is false rhetoric and an attempt to both distract and deceive the flying public and lay the groundwork for weakening Congress’s clear intent when it strengthened First Officer qualification and training requirements in 2010. DePete goes on to say, “Any assertion about a lack of available pilots is simply not based on fact.” DePete’s assertions are substantiated by a joint, US Bureau of Labor Statistics / Federal Aviation Administration report that posits there are more than enough certified pilots to meet current demand. In his letter, DePete, who attests that over the past ten years, the United States has produced more than enough pilots to meet airline hiring demand, accuses Republic Airways of attempting to circumvent the clear intent of the law and suggests the airline’s proposal is ‘a solution in search of a problem.’
Norwegian Air Shuttle recommits to acquire 50 Boeing 737 MAX by 2028
On 30 May 2022, Norwegian reached an agreement in principle with Boeing to acquire 50 737 MAX 8 jets with options for an additional 30 aircraft. Norwegian’s recommitment to the Boeing 737 MAX comes after it had previously threatened to cancel a previous order for 92 of the type in June 2020, amid the global grounding of the aircraft model. However, the move never materialised. A month later, it even filed a lawsuit in which it accused Boeing of breaching its contract over the way the manufacturer handled the production and delivery of its aircraft.
The Norwegian low-cost carrier said the new planes will be delivered between 2025 and 2028 and that the delivery schedule coincides with the expiration of current leases. The airline estimated that following the agreement with the plane manufacturer, it could boost its equity by booking a net gain of up to $212 million (NOK 2 billion). “The company intends to finance the outstanding balance of pre-delivery payments through positive cash flow from operating activities,” the Norwegian Air Shuttle statement read. “A significant share of the aircraft will be owned by the company, ensuring an optimised and balanced aircraft financing structure.”
Since the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft is 14% more fuel-efficient compared to its previous generation jets, the carrier expects that the new arrivals will help it to meet its target to reduce carbon emissions by 45% in 2030 compared to 2010. In February 2022, Norwegian Air Shuttle announced plans to lease ten Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft from Irish lessor AerCap. At the time the carrier said it expects the jets to be delivered as early as the first half of 2023. Norwegian also said it planned to operate a total of 80 airliners by the summer of 2023. According to the statement, the recent agreement with Boeing should be concluded by the end of June 2022.
Russian Airbus and Boeing aircraft banned from Chinese airspace
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has reportedly banned Airbus and Boeing aircraft operated by Russian airlines from entering Chinese airspace. Russian news site RBK reports, several Russian airlines received and later published memos citing the ban. According to the report, some memos claim the ban extends only to the aircraft that have ‘double registration’ due to being reregistered in Russia, while others say all Russian-operated aircraft of the two manufacturers were banned. A source within one airline explained that China justified the ban because some aircraft ‘stopped meeting ICAO and IATA requirements’, RBK reports.
Meanwhile, according to sources cited by the Telegram channel Aviators China, the Russian airlines that operate domestically-made aircraft, such as the Tu-204 and the Il-76, continue flying to China.
After the sanctions that were declared by the US and the EU following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, many aircraft operated by Russian carriers but owned by Western leasing firms, have been effectively commandeered, with the airlines failing to return them to the legal owners.
In March 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing the reregistration of foreign-owned aircraft within Russia. While some of the jets were paid for, most remain in limbo as lessors look for ways to reclaim them. In addition, in March and May Russian aviation laws were overhauled, getting rid of numerous safety regulations relating to maintenance and certification. With sanctions also affecting maintenance and parts of non-Russian-made aircraft, Russian airlines are facing an upcoming struggle to keep the aircraft airworthy.
Two more Felons: new Sukhoi Su-57s spotted in Russia
If photos by Russian plane spotters are to be believed, two more Sukhoi Su-57s have recently taken to the skies, bringing the grand total of mass-produced Russian fifth-generation fighter jets to five. The two jets were spotted on 25 / 26 May 2022, in Novosibirsk, according to a Russian plane spotting channel.
The aircraft sport fuselage numbers 53 and 54, making them fourth and fifth mass-produced Su-57s in existence.
Although the serial production of the Su-57 was initially planned to start in 2016, it faced a string of delays and only started in 2019. The first aircraft crashed during a test flight before being delivered to the military. In December 2020, Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) received the second one, marked 01.
Two more Su-57s, 02 and 52 were delivered in December 2021. According to some reports, VKS also operates some of the 10 flyable prototypes manufactured between 2010 and 2017. In June 2021, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said that four Su-57s will be delivered in 2021 and their number will rise to 22 by the end of 2024. However, only two were delivered in 2021 and recent reports indicate that no more than four are expected in 2022.
In May 2022 Russian state news agency TASS reported that Su-57s have been used to launch stand-off weapons during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, although the reports have not been independently confirmed.
Doomed A-10 gets a life extension
Despite repeated attempts by the US Air Force brass to retire it, the A-10 Warthog is getting a billion-dollar lease on life. Boeing announced last week it had started delivering the first 50 of 112 sets of new wings for the close air support platform. The new wings will extend the life of the aircraft by 10,000 hours. In 2019, the company finished supplying wings for 173 Warthogs and two weeks later the Air Force announced it needed another 112, enough for the rest of the fleet of 281 with three spare sets. Boeing had to pull the tooling out of storage to build the wings.
The Air Force wants the Warthog dropped from inventory, saying the 50-year-old design will not survive a fight with modern adversaries in a contested environment. It wants F-35s to fill the close air support role. But Congress has overruled the generals and authorised the new wings in a bid to keep the flying machine gun in action for another 20 years. Boeing’s just happy to have the work. “The A-10 serves a critical role for the Air Force and Boeing is proud to extend our legacy of supporting the Thunderbolt and its mission,” Dan Gillian, vice president of US Government Services for Boeing Global Services, said in a statement. “In partnership with the Air Force and our established supply base, we have started full rate production and are actively supporting the customer’s installation schedule.”
Czech Republic gives Mi-24 attack helicopters to Ukraine
According to the US Department of Defence, the Czech Republic donated attack helicopters as part of its military support to Ukraine. The transfer was revealed in a press briefing by Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin. “I’d also like to thank the Czech Republic for its substantial support, including a recent donation of attack helicopters,” Austin told reporters on 23 May 2022. While the exact type or number of helicopters was not revealed, they were likely to be Soviet-designed Mil Mi-24 Hind gunships.
The model, still operated by the Ukrainian Air Force, is to be phased out of the Czech Air Force, which expects delivery of four Bell AH-1Z attack helicopters and eight UH-1Y utility helicopters to replace them. As of 2022, the Czech Air Force still operated 15 Mi-24V/35. Among various equipment supplied since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the US Department of Defence has already delivered 11 Mi-17 transport helicopters to Ukraine.
Airbus to support US Army with five-year contract
The United States Army has extended its contractual work with Airbus’ Contractor Logistical Support (CLS) to the Army’s entire fleet of 482 Lakota helicopters. In this agreement, Boeing will be responsible for providing engineering support, materials and spare parts to keep the Lakota UH-72A and UH-72B of training and utility helicopters mission ready. Boeing has previously enjoyed a lucrative long-term agreement with the US Army. According to Col Calvin Lane, US Army Utility Project Manager “this contract underscores the Army’s trust in the aircraft’s capabilities and we look forward to the continued support this contract provides to the UH-72 fleet”
Scott Tumpak, Vice President of Military Helicopters Division at Airbus added “we are proud of our more than 15-year record of providing excellent service and hope to continue this partnership for many years to come”. This 2022 CLS agreement has a potential value of more than $1.5 billion and will involve providing support to the Army and National Guard bases across 40-odd states, in addition their overseas operational sites, with an initial six-month base and four and a half option years.
As recently as 2016, a similar award was made consisting of one base-year and four one-year options for a potential value of more than $960 million, for Boeing to provide support across Army and National Guard bases spread across 40-odd states. It’s been stated that the Lakota fleet flew in excess of one million flight hours in 2022, since the Army took initial delivery of a UH-72A in December 2006.
Electric-hybrid general aviation plane recharges batteries in flight
Flying VoltAero’s Cassio 1 testbed, a parallel hybrid aircraft in a week-long deployment is part of the Netherlands’ Power Up initiative, which is aimed at positioning the country for the introduction of electric-powered commercial passenger flights within five years. The demonstration flights will include analyses of operational costs, noise, ground infrastructure requirements and technical support for the future use of Cassio family aircraft by commercial aviation operators.
According to company officials, the Cassio family of aircraft will range from four seats to 12 seats and is targeted at private aircraft owners, air taxi and charter companies, as well as for cargo, postal delivery and medical evacuation (Medevac) flights. Cassio aircraft use electric motors for all-electric power during taxi, take-off, primary flight and landing. The hybrid feature with an internal combustion engine comes into play as a range extender, recharging the batteries while in flight. In addition, this hybrid element serves as a backup in the event of a problem with the electric propulsion, they said.
The first aircraft the company will submit for certification is the Cassio 330, with four or five seats, powered by a 330-kilowatt electric-hybrid power module. VoltAero’s follow-on six-seat Cassio 480 will have an electric-hybrid propulsion power of 480 kilowatts, while the Cassio 600 is sized at a 10- to 12-seat capacity with electric-hybrid propulsion power of 600 kilowatts.
VoltAero will be certified to Europe’s EASA CS23 specification as a single-engine, general aviation category aircraft and is designed from the start for a low cost of ownership, company officials concluded. KinectAir, a US-based charter company, has already struck a deal to add the VoltAero to its fleet once it is FAA certified.
FAA inspector took ‘money and hookers’ to ignore violations
On Thursday 26 May, a former FAA safety inspector admitted taking bribes in the form of shirts, dinners, money, prostitutes and an airplane from key executives of Guam-based Hansen Helicopters. During day 19 of the trial of USA v. John D. Walker (owner and CEO) and Hansen Helicopters, witness Timothy Cislo, formerly a US$102,000-a-year FAA Honolulu FSDO Aviation Safety Inspector, said he took these bribes in exchange for falsifying multiple airworthiness certificates for Hansen’s fleet of more than 50 Hughes 369 turbine single-engine helicopters. The company leased them out for $40,000-a-month each through a collection of Hansen-controlled, third-country offshore entities for use as tuna boat-based spotting aircraft in the vast Northern Western Pacific. Cislo also said he handled paperwork to help Walker, a licensed FAA A&P mechanic, to qualify for renewal of his FAA aircraft inspector authorisation.
Federal prosecutors have alleged that Hansen operated a fleet of ‘Frankenstein helicopters,’ assembled for as little as $82,000 each and replete with unapproved parts, falsified logbooks and mismatched data plates belonging to scrapped aircraft retrieved from salvage yards. The US government suggested that these practices were at least in part responsible for 30 accidents that killed nine over two decades. Walker has pleaded not guilty.
Earlier in the trial, Marvin Reed, formerly Hansen’s executive VP and a defendant in separate, related proceedings, acknowledged that the company had been using unapproved parts for years. “Yes, that is correct,” he told Marie Miller, the special assistant US attorney leading the prosecution. Reed, along with Hansen’s operations director Kenneth ‘Rufus’ Crowe and maintenance director Phillip ‘Turner’ Kapp had their cases severed in March and are expected to plead guilty to reduced charges during proceedings now scheduled for mid-June. Charges against another co-defendant, Frank F. Litkei Sr., owner of Spares Inc. in Florence, Oregon, were dropped after he died before the trial.
Under questioning from Miller on Thursday, Cislo admitted taking ‘money and hookers’ from Hansen between 2009 and 2017. Hansen also shipped Cislo, who lives in Hawaii, a vintage Taylorcraft single-engine airplane, which he assembled and flew. Miller produced a collection of e-mails, primarily between Cislo and Hansen’s Crowe, which the prosecution said showed a clear and ongoing criminal conspiracy and a mutually beneficial, informal and personal relationship. Cislo typically used his personal e-mail address for these communications and admitted to visiting Walker at his home hangar in Missouri.
In connection with the case, in 2018 Cislo pleaded guilty to three felony counts of honest services wire fraud. He has yet to be sentenced but could face penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and $250,000 in fines on each count. He no longer works at the FAA. During his testimony, Cislo characterised his relationship with Hansen as ‘completely unprofessional and unacceptable. Any regard for safety was thrown out the window, in the garbage can. I allowed them Hansen to operate. I looked the other way.’
Stratolaunch unveils Talon-A test vehicle
On Thursday last week Stratolaunch announced the public debut of its first structurally complete Talon-A test vehicle. While this version, TA-0, will not be powered in flight, future Talon-As are expected to be capable of carrying customisable payloads at speeds above Mach 5, eventually serving as fully reusable hypersonic test vehicles. The model is designed to be carried and launched from a pylon situated on the Stratolaunch Roc carrier aircraft’s 95-foot center wing section.
“We are proud to reveal our first test vehicle to the public and our key stakeholders,” said Stratolaunch President and CEO Zachary Krevor. “TA-0 represents the immense progress our company has made toward hypersonic flight in a short period of time. Our pace of development parallels the nation’s critical need for hypersonic test capabilities and we are putting forth every effort toward becoming a national test asset for our government and commercial customers in 2023.”
According to Stratolaunch, TA-0 will be used to test and validate the release system on the Roc along with characterising the separation dynamics of the Talon vehicle itself. The company says TA-0 will undergo functional and integration testing over the next few months with the first captive carry and vehicle flight planned for later this year. As previously reported, Stratolaunch successfully tested the release pylon during Roc’s fifth test flight earlier this month.
Next-generation SpaceX vehicles prepare for testing
After six months of relative inactivity, SpaceX has delivered a new Starship prototype to its Starbase, TX launch facility. The new activity illustrates how anodyne Starbase’s last year has been and raises hopes that 2022 will prove an eventful year, as the company makes ready for Starship’s first orbital launch attempt, albeit with an entirely different rocket.
SpaceX has not rolled a new and functional Starship prototype from its factory to the test-stand since the summer of 2021, when its Starship 20 underwent a series of successful, six-Raptor static fires. By the time it was retired in May 2022, Starship 20 was ostensibly ready for test-flight. Regrettably, Super Heavy Booster 4, the launch vehicle atop which Starship 20 would ascend, never made it even a fraction of the way to a similar level of flight readiness and SpaceX, therefore, never received the FAA environmental approval or launch license needed for an orbital launch attempt.
Only now, in May 2022, as Starship 20 and Super Heavy Booster 4 languish in obsolescence does it seem SpaceX will finally receive the necessary permissions for a limited orbital test flight campaign.
Enter Starship 24 and Super Heavy Booster 7, the new chosen ones assigned to Starship’s orbital launch debut. Both feature extensive design changes, including an upgraded version of the Raptor engine and innumerable lessons learned over the better part of a year spent troubleshooting and testing their predecessors.
Super Heavy Booster 7 has already completed several cryogenic proof tests and is currently being outfitted with no fewer than 33 new, Raptor engines. Upon passing a series of preliminary tests, Starship 24, will be installed on a suborbital launch and test stand that has been significantly modified for qualification testing. Rather than advancing Starship 24 directly to static fires, SpaceX will minimise the risk of catastrophic failure by first using hydraulic rams to simulate the thrust of six Raptor V2 engines while Starship’s steel tanks and plumbing are chilled to cryogenic temperatures. Only after Starship 24 completes stress-testing will SpaceX install new, Raptor engines and commence static firing.
Improved Raptor engines will subject Starship 24 to 1400 tons (~3.1M lbf) of thrust at lift off, almost 25% more than Ship 20 ever experienced. SpaceX has compensated for these stresses by provisioning Starship 24 with a sturdier thrust section. Ship 24 is also the first Starship SpaceX has outfitted with a next-generation nose, the first with a significant landing propellant tank redesign and the first with a potentially functional payload bay and door. Provided Starship 24 passes the planned cryo and thrust simulation tests, SpaceX has two test windows currently scheduled.
Joby Aviation hopes to fly passengers by 2024
Earlier this week, Joby’s all-electric aircraft received FAA Part 135 Air Carrier Certification, which clears the way for it to begin operating its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in on-demand air taxi operations in the United States. With this in hand, Joby Aircraft is now one step away from the certification trifecta (Air Carrier, Type and production) and expects to add the Type certificate in sufficient time to launch the aerial ride-sharing service by 2024.
Joby’s eVTOL has been 10+ years in the making, designed to operate with one pilot and four passengers, capable of traveling 150 miles on a single charge and sop speed to not exceed 200mph. It is being positioned as a green-saving timesaving utility transporter, particularly in busy metropolitan areas and to provide timely transportation while avoiding congestion. Ms. Bonny Simi a former airline pilot and, Head of Air Operations and People at Joby Aircraft stated “the procedures we have prepared lay a foundation for our future eVTOL operations. Over the coming months, we will use our Part 135 certificate to exercise the operations and customer technology platforms that will underpin our multi-modal ridesharing service, while also refining our procedures to ensure seamless journeys for our customers.”
Joby Aviation previously conducted environmental noise evaluations with NASA earlier this year and appears to be on track to get to market ahead of its competitors. Founded in 2009, it employs over 1000 personnel across offices in California, Washington DC and Germany.
Lithuanian TV raises money to offer Bayraktar TB2 to Ukraine
The Lithuanian media channel Laisves TV started a fundraiser to buy a Bayraktar TB2 armed drone for the Ukrainian armed forces. On 25 May 2022, Laisves TV founder Andrius Tapinas published an appeal on his personal Facebook page. The channel hopes to raise €5 million in three weeks to acquire the drone. The crowdfunding effort was approved by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence, its Turkish counterpart and the drone maker Baykar Technologies. “Now – probably for the first time in history citizens of one state can buy and donate such heavy weapons to another state,” Tapinas said. “Let our Bayraktar rise above undefeated Ukraine. Let this be the hour when Lithuania and Ukraine unsheathe their swords together.”
The Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone illustrated itself during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, proving itself as an attritable solution to destroy more critical assets, such as armoured vehicles, anti-aircraft systems, or even tanks. The drone was credited for helping to sink the Russian missile cruiser Moskva and bombing Russian anti-air defence systems on Snake Island. Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Lithuanian defence minister Arvydas Anusauskas announced plans to bolster the country’s capabilities with one billion euros ($1.09 billion) investment to acquire several new platforms for the Lithuanian military, including Switchblade loitering munitions colloquially known as ‘kamikaze drones’.
Commaris promises three+ hours with ‘Seeker’ VTOL UAV
Its mission is those applications that require a long flight time, three+ hours of flight time, carries a payload of 6.5 to 7.0 lbs, basically law enforcement, surveillance, inspection pipeline, rail line, oil, gas line and so on. Search and rescue is another application, as is agriculture, where they have multispectral cameras to do plant health; they can scan thousands of acres of farmland in just a few hours. Additionally, in the area of forestry and fire fighting, our drone can go up and survey, use infrared to look for hotspots and then we go up during an actual fire with video and have live video. Commaris’ Seeker also has pitot and barometric pressure sensors which can collect data that can be fed down so you can predict where a fire is going.
Mr. Beddard stated that everyone of those missions has a unique requirement, in the sense that it:
1) Seeker needs to be in the air for a long time
2) It needs to fly fairly fast (Seeker cruises at 45 mph and has a top speed of 62 mph)
4) Extremely reliable.
When asked how much time the Seeker has flown, Mr. Beddard said that they have put about 200 hours on the unit, have zero failures, considering they have been flying it at their flight operations center in Las Vegas, Nevada, with temperatures up to 114 degrees.
In response to the ‘piloting’ of the drone, Mr. Beddard added “it is not fully autonomous, it is remotely piloted. There is no joystick with flying this particular aircraft, everything is pre-programmed then, based on a flight plan and the pilot monitors the flight on the computer”. If there is any changes or deviations required, they touch the screen to move the aircraft, perhaps put it into a loiter position, change the flight path, make it land, or return to base. All of those things you would normally do with a joystick are all done through a touch screen.
When asked about the future of the platform, Mr. Beddard responded “the big challenge for everyone is BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight). I have an aircraft that can fly almost 200 miles on a battery charge, fly 60 miles per hour and it cannot do that because, you know, BVLOS. It’s the technology to get past that, so I think, there’s two paths:
1) You can load this down with technology, it reduces my payload, increases my cost dramatically, or you can look at some new tech. That is why we are here.
2) You can look at type certification. So, if you go into type certification, you know all the BVLOS goes away.
He concluded that, “until we see something in the next year or so from the FAA, to say this is where BVLOS is going to be, so we know where our money is going, we know how much we are going to spend and when we can have a product. Type certification, I think, is still on the table for consideration”.
One man engages in a private air-war on crime
A Seattle man is using ingenuity and aviation technology to fight the rampant crime and worsening lawlessness afflicting his home town. Angry and disgusted after having his car broken into and his trailer stolen, Tony, a 39-year-old husband and father, began seeking means by which to locate his purloined property. His search led him to a Facebook group called PNW (Pacific Northwest) Stolen Cars, a forum in which victims of theft share information pertaining to their stolen property in hopes of recovering it. Tony’s discussions with the group alerted him of an encampment underneath the First Avenue Bridge in Seattle’s Georgetown neighbourhood, just a few hundred meters north of the BFI, north field-boundary. The area is known as a de facto chop shop where people illegally deconstruct cars for purpose of selling their parts and homeless people use illicit drugs in plain sight. “It is just a big open piece of land. It has completely taken over with trailers and cars and trash, lots of trash. Absolutely disgusting,” Tony said after flying his drone over the area.
Tony has since flown his drone over the area on multiple occasions in search of stolen property. To date, he has helped two people recover stolen vehicles. In the second instance, tony recalls, “It got to be a little hairy. They (car thieves) were driving on the shoulder, then we got into some residential neighbourhoods up in Burien, (a Seattle suburb) and they were going really fast and reckless.” Tony states the thieves knew they were being monitored and eventually abandoned the vehicle, which the rightful owners later recovered. On yet another occasion, thieves in the Georgetown encampment noticed Tony’s drone flying overhead and fired on it with a BB pistol. The drone was not damaged.
News sources report Seattle police have been aware of the encampment for months but have been unable to do much about it. The reports are confirmed by Jamie Housen, spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office, who states, “over the last several months, the city has received complaints regarding a variety of issues in this area, including encampment obstructions, trash build-up, environmental impact and public safety.” Seattle residents ascribe the unremitting crime to cuts the city council has made in police budgets and new laws decriminalising drug use and vagrancy.
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