“To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Though it is held before our eyes, pushed under our noses, rammed down our throats; we know it not.”
The year 2019 is rapidly coming to an end and this edition of APAnews will be the penultimate publication. We will send out the final APAnews for 2019 on Friday 13 December, which is also the last day of business for African Pilot this year. Our business will re-open on Monday 6 January 2020, when APAnews 01.2020 will be published.
Stew Lithgow’s memorial service
It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Stew Lithgow who passed away as a result of a tragic aircraft accident on 3 December in Plettenburg Bay. Stew was a retired SAA captain who served the airline with distinction. I flew in the back of the Flying Lions Harvards several time when we travelled to airshows together. Stew had a huge love for aviation and he was semi-retired in Plettenburg Bay where he regularly flew his RV and his motor-glider. Goodbye to a wonderful friend who was deeply respected by everyone he knew.
Changes at African Pilot
I am sorry to see Lara Bayliss leave us on Tuesday 10 December, her last working day. Over the past two years Lara has been an inspiration with her wonderful friendly nature and many of the magazine’s customers have enjoyed her thorough honesty as African Pilot’s marketing executive. We wish Lara good fortune in the new position she will take up in 2020. In her place we have appointed Adrian Munro who has extensive experience in aviation and who is well-known to many of African Pilot’s customers. Although Adrian has been working with Lara for the past three weeks, from this week onwards he will be on his own as African Pilot’s marketing manager responsible for the magazine budget as well as many of the other services we offer to our customers.
We are also saying goodbye to Johan Botes who for the past two years has been African Pilot’s digital specialist. Although Johan is leaving our full-time employ, he will still be a consultant to African Pilot. In January 2020, we will advertise for a new digital specialist to manage this most important and growing part of African Pilot’s business.
African Pilot’s December 2019 edition
The final magazine produced this year features business at OR Tambo International Airport as well as our annual Drones / UAV’s feature has completed its distribution phase and is available in retail outlets as well as pilot shops in South Africa and African countries. Digital subscribers all around the world received their magazines on 25 November.
African Pilot’s January 2020 edition
The January 2020 edition will feature Aviation Professional Services and the magazine has closed for editorial and advertising. The January edition will also contain a FREE A2 wall calendar with the main aviation events featured. We will also print 1000 A2 flat calendars that will have the South African aviation organisation chart that African Pilot developed on the flip side that will be handed out to ALL aviation businesses in South Africa. For advertising positions please contact Adrian Munro at Tel: 0861 001130 Cell: 079 880 4359 or e-mail: email@example.com. Thank you.
About African Pilot
There is no doubt that African Pilot provides the finest overall media reach of all aviation publications in Africa where we are in a position to provide professional video and stills photography, website development, social media platforms, company newsletters as well as several other important media services to our customers. Naturally the monthly printed magazine has an incredibly long shelf life due to its excellent design and layout. Then of course the monthly magazine is also available as a digital edition where ALL advertisers have enjoy the direct routing to their websites at a touch on a smart phone or tablet as well as a click of the mouse on a computer screen.
Do you want instant aviation news and opinions?
Visit www.APAcom.co.za and register yourself as a user
Video of the week: The Elders Flight 2019
Should you be interested in having your aviation event filmed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Neil Bowden’s Sun ‘n Fun tour to Florida USA
SOUTH AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
Industry and economic implications of a SAA business rescue
The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) notes President Ramaphosa’s decision to have South African Airways (SAA) placed under immediate business rescue, a move that should provide some security and clarity for South Africa’s air transport, trade, logistics, travel and tourism sectors.
While AASA may not comment on SAA’s business or its shareholder’s decision, it is important to consider them within the industry and broader socio-economic contexts within which the sector subsists.
South Africa’s domestic air transport market is one of the most robustly competitive in Africa, with local carriers engaged in fierce competition. It benefits the entire economy by providing choice, affordable, safe and reliable connectivity to destinations and markets throughout the country, while reducing the cost of travel and doing business. It is a situation AASA, its members and crucially, their customers and presumably also Government, would prefer to see maintained.
There is also a high level of co-dependence across the industry with SAA playing a significant role, such as:
• SAA Technical (SAAT), which, in addition to SAA and Mango, is contracted by BA-Comair and Kulula to maintain their aircraft.
• SAA provides financial administrative and disbursement services to its code-share and franchise partners, SA Express and Airlink.
• The tariffs and charges in respect of the Airports Company South Africa, Air Traffic and Navigation Services, SA Weather Service and SA Civil Aviation Authority are predicated on an expected number of flights and passengers. So too are their capital expenditure infrastructure programs.
• The entire industry value chain, from the airlines, air transport infrastructure and service providers through to the tourism, trade, logistics, engineering and construction sectors require predictability in determining their operations, managing their revenues, cash flow and costs.
The air transport and tourism industry, which Government has identified as a primary strategic sector to create jobs and drive economic growth, are vulnerable to any sudden loss of market confidence and loss of bookings as a result of cancellations. Similarly, our industry makes an important macro-economic contribution to South Africa. A 2018 Oxford Economics study of the value of the air transport sector to South Africa showed that the air transport and broader travel and tourism industry directly, indirectly and catalytically supports more than 470 000 jobs, contributes about USD9.4bn (about ZAR150bn) in gross value add representing 3.2% of South Africa’s GDP.
This debunks the myth that the air transport industry is a service to the wealthy. On the contrary, it is a socio-economic lynchpin for South Africa and everyone who lives here. The net effect of any uncontrolled SAA exit, against which the air transport and tourism industries are unable to implement contingency plans, would be slowed, or even negative, economic growth, which will compound fiscal shrinkage. The Business Rescue scenario must provide the aviation and allied industries the ability to adjust, adapt and ensure that their customers, the markets and communities they serve, are provided with sustainable, competitive, capable, reliable and safe services. AASA’s members include all of the domestic airlines in South Africa and most airlines in the SADC region and the Indian Ocean islands.
Chief Executive Officer AASA
‘Operations normal’ and business as usual for Airlink
Airlink flights and schedule will continue to operate as normal regardless of South African Airways being placed in business rescue. Airlink, which is a privately owned airline, is an SAA codeshare and franchise business partner.
“As a creditor and business partner, we have been concerned about SAA’s financial crisis. However, Airlink is a financially sound, commercially agile and robust business with the resilience to see out the storm. Airlink customers can be assured there will be no disruptions to our schedule as a result of the latest SAA developments and we will continue to do business as usual,” said Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster.
“Airlink welcomes President Ramaphosa’s instruction and the SAA Board’s decision for SAA to be placed in Business Rescue and the associated funding commitments. It is a watershed moment for our entire industry and will no doubt herald change. Crucially, it averts any immediate and uncontrolled collapse of SAA and should provide clarity and greater security to Airlink, SAA’s other creditors and stakeholders, but most importantly the traveling public and our customers,” he added.
“It enables Airlink to take a carefully-considered approach in charting our course going forward, ensuring we remain strong and sustainable. Crises always present new opportunities and we will be ready for these,” concluded Mr Foster.
SAAF could come to ‘a grinding stop’
Yet another reply to a Parliamentary question raises further doubt about the ability of the South African Air Force (SAAF) to remain a force, with concern that it may become nothing more than ‘a dismal air wing’. The concern comes from Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais. He wanted Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to provide at least some detail as regards problems facing the SAAF in keeping its fleet of fixed and rotary-wing aircraft airworthy.
Bearing in mind the fleet includes C-47TPs which are more than 70 years old and C-130BZs, operated by 28 Squadron for over 50 years, it would seem a valid and deserving question. Marais also alluded to the troubled State-owned defence and technology conglomerate Denel asking if its problems could impact on serviceability of at least some SAAF airframes. In this regard, Denel is an authorised MRO (maintenance and repair organisation) for Lockheed Martin, manufacturers of the C-130 range of military medium-lift aircraft and is the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) for the Oryx medium transport helicopter. It is also OEM for South Africa’s home-grown Rooivalk combat support helicopter.
In her reply the Minister did not go into specifics saying, among others, engagements were taking place between the Department of Defence (DoD) and National Treasury to ‘address funding challenges of the SANDF in general’. Last month Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) was informed Parliament was ‘still awaiting the National Treasury response’ to the portfolio committee’s budgetary review and recommendations report. Once received, it will be forwarded to the committee but no receipt date is given.
Worryingly, Mapisa-Nqakula indicated in her response “(SAAF) capabilities will gradually come to a grinding stop if State Owned Entities like Denel and the DOD are not adequately resourced to fulfil on their various mandates”. As far as flying airworthy aircraft are concerned, she said “the decision to stop flying will be determined by airworthiness and aviation safety considerations”. Marais’ comment on receipt of the Ministerial response was “what a sorry organisation the SAAF has been degraded to”.
What happened in aviation over the past week?
ICAD airshow in Polokwane
The weather was not expected to be ideal for an airshow, with rain forecasted, but everyone involved tried their very best to make this Polokwane airshow happen. I accompanied Charlie and Fiona Hugo by road to Polokwane on Friday afternoon due to the inclement weather. However, what we experienced as the representatives for African Pilot on Saturday 7 December at the Polokwane International Airport was an excellent example of when the many elements of airshow and event organizing came together to ensure safety at what I refer to as a ‘washed out’ event. Fortunately there were some morning displays including the SAPS Airbus Squirrel helicopter that dropped parachutists from the ‘Special Task Team’ and then performed an excellent display, the Antonov AN-2 ‘Little Anne’ that dispatched civilian skydivers and then proceeded to entertain the crowds with a wonderful display. The South African Air Force (SAAF) Hawk provided a fast jet display that was later followed by a second-high speed fly-past, before returning to AFB Makhado where SAAF 86 Combat Air School is based. Unfortunately, due to the expected light rain scheduled for midday the remainder of the show was cancelled and the Gripen display did not happen. This was the correct call, because the cloud ceiling was only at a thousand feet, whilst the lateral view deteriorated to less than five kilometres. A full report with pictures will be published in the January 2020 edition of African Pilot.
What is scheduled for the next few weeks?
African Pilot’s 2020 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.
18 & 19 January
SAC Gauteng Regionals and Judges Trophy at Vereeniging Airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
SAPFA Rand Airport Challenge Rand Airport Germiston
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 269 1516
SAPFA AGM at Rand Airport at 14h00
Contact Rob Jonkers E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 804 7032
SAPFA Speed Rally Witbank Airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 855 9435
SAPFA Rally Navigation Training Course Venue AeroSud
Contact Mary de Klerk E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 084 880 9000
4 and 5 March
Aviation Africa Summit and Exhibition Addis Ababa 2020
Contact Tel +44 (0) 170 253 0000
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
4 to 8 March
IADE International Aerospace & Defence exhibition Tunisia
Website: www.expomediatunisia.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAPFA Brakpan Fun Rally at Brakpan Airfield
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 1516
7 and 8 March
SAC KZN Regionals at Ladysmith Airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAPFA Speed Rally at Bethlehem Airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082855 9435
The Airplane Factory breakfast fly-in at Tedderfield Airfield
Contact Shanelle McKechnie E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 066 224 2128
21 and 22 March
FASHKOSH airshow at Stellenbosch Airfield
Contact: Anton Theart E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 079 873 4567
31 March – 5 April
Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo. Lakeland, Florida, USA
Contact Neil Bowden Cell 084 674 5674
E-mail: Neil1@telkomsa.net or firstname.lastname@example.org
1 to 4 April
AERO Friedrichshafen, Germany Global show for General Aviation
Contact Stephan E-mail: Stephanie.email@example.com
2 to 4 April
SAPFA Rally Nationals and Fun Rally at Stellenbosch Airfield
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 269 1516
3 to 5 April
Groblersdal Flying Club fly-in at Groblersdal Airfield
Contact Richard Nicholson E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 490 6227
Robertson annual fly-in breakfast
Contact Alwyn du Plessis E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 270 5888
Wings and Wheels Festival at Uitenhage Airfield
Contact Lourens Kruger E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 320 2615
Aero Club of South Africa Centenary Banquet venue TBA
Contact Marie Reddy E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 259 7691
Aero Club of South Africa Annual General Meeting EAA Auditorium Rand Airport
Contact Sandra Strydom E-mail: email@example.com Tel: 011 082 1100
Garden Route Airshow
Contact Brett Scheuble E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 084 418 3836
AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
Egyptian MiG-29 fighter jet crashes after ‘sudden malfunction’
During routine military training an Egyptian MiG-29M fighter jet crashed on 5 December 2019. The pilot survived after successfully ejecting from the aircraft. The fighter jet was on a training flight southwest of Alexandria when it was affected by ‘sudden malfunction’ that forced the pilot to eject. The cause behind the malfunction is being investigated by a technical committee, said Egyptian military spokesman Tamer Al-Rifai said in a brief statement. Experts from Russia, where the aircraft was manufactured, should be sent to help with the investigation.
Nigerian court orders the seizure of Emirates aircraft
A Nigerian court has ordered the seizure of an Emirates Boeing 777 to settle a decade-long dispute over a plane ticket. Simple Flying reports that the airline owes 8.1 million Nigerian Naira, or about US$22,400 to Nigerian citizen Miss Promise Mekwunye over a disputed ticket. Mekwunye purchased a ticket for travel in December 2007 from Dallas to Lagos and back. She says the $2,067 ticket was confirmed more than three times. But when she showed up at the gate, she was denied boarding with no other explanation than the ticket was cancelled. Emirates offered no compensation or other arrangements for her travel. Mekwunye got help from her father on a different airline using a longer route for $3,200. But there was no refund from Emirates.
The matter first went to court in 2010. A trial court awarded Mekwunye a full refund of the ticket, plus about $7,000 in damages and $700 in legal fees. Emirates won an initial appeal, but Mekwunye escalated it to the Nigerian Supreme Court, which reinstated the damages. Emirates has still not paid up, so a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the seizure of an aircraft to be held until such time as the airlines makes the proper restitution. “It is accordingly ordered that an attachment is hereby issued on the judgment debtor’s aircraft registered as ‘A6 Aircraft Type 77W EK: 783/784’, or any other aircraft belonging to the judgment debtor which flies into Nigeria Territory, to be arrested and detained until the judgment debt is fully paid: in default after 30 days, the aircraft shall be auctioned to satisfy the judgment debt,” Justice Mohammed Liman said in his ruling.
Emirates is also required to pay for storage and maintenance of the airplane until it is released. Simple Flying reports that it does not appear that any aircraft has actually been seized by Nigeria, despite multiple daily flights into the country. When contacted for a comment, Emirates said it ‘respects the judgement of the Supreme Court and will follow all legal procedures related to the specific case. In the meantime, Emirates will take every measure to safeguard its operations in Nigeria to avoid any disruption to our customers.’
Canada’s PAL Aerospace ISR aircraft in Mozambique
A Bombardier Dash 8 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft operated by Canada’s PAL Aerospace was seen in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. According to Moz24, the aircraft (C-GFMX) was seen last week at Pemba, the capital of insurgency-hit Cabo Delgado.
According to Africa Intelligence, PAL Aerospace has been carrying out maritime surveillance flights in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Seychelles since September at the request of the US military’s Africa Command (Africom). The Dash 8-300 aircraft (C-GFMX) was most recently recorded flying from Victoria Seychelles International Airport on 3 December, according to FlightRadar data. It had been spotted there in mid-September as well.
WORLD AVIATION NEWS
Dubai Airshow closes to acclaim
Last month the Dubai Airshow 2019 was hailed a success by exhibitors, delegates and sponsors alike, as a lively week of trading came to a close. With more than 1,288 exhibitors in attendance, 161 aircraft on the event’s static display and a packed schedule of conferences and keynotes, the programme was the show’s busiest to date, as evidenced by the 84,043 trade attendees. Sales were also booming, with the order book on site reaching $54.5 billion by close of business. Among those taking stands were 100 new exhibitors, including Saudi Arabia’s The Helicopter Company, which was also a key event sponsor.
Also making its debut this year was EDGE, a group comprising 25 local entities working in five aerospace capability clusters, which launched shortly before the show. Among the firms sitting under the EDGE umbrella is Al-Tariq and its CEO Theunis Botha said the Dubai Airshow had been a great way to establish the brand’s presence in the region. “EDGE has been very well received. We have been very busy and have been inundated with requests and interest from several friendly nations around us. I think we have enjoyed an excellent show, with lively interest in the product range that we are offering. Elsewhere, a host of speciality conferences, offering industry-specific keynotes, Q&A sessions and networking opportunities, attracted huge crowds of professionals. Set across two days, the Global Air Traffic Management (GATM) conference took a close look into the future of traffic control, with virtual towers proving to be a particularly hot topic.
Cargo Connect, a show within the show focused on the air freight industry, with data sharing across both geographical and business boundaries being a key focus. For the first time in 2019, a growing focus on space exploration regionally was recognised with its own conference programme, opening with Women in Space, hosted by the UAE Space Agency and featuring speakers from the UN and Boeing, among others. Aimed at examining the key role female scientists, researchers, engineers and astronauts will play in the future of the global space industry, the conference proved a huge draw and former astronaut, the European Space Agency’s Claudie Haigneré, said she found the level of engagement very encouraging. “I felt that really something is going on here, and I’ve been really impressed because this shows a real possibility for change. The new generation coming up here is so refreshing.” Meanwhile, the Space Tech Talks schedule looked in-depth at the technological advancements needed for the next generation of space exploration, and the impact they are expected to have on the wider world.
Indeed, the impact of both technology and space research on all aspects of industry was evidenced across the show floor, where exhibits ranging from Dubai Police’s new flying bike for hard to reach emergencies to new products in the medivac field, through to the first commercial space flight suits from Virgin Galactic, were all on display.
“We always want to outperform our last show, and 2019 has gone above and beyond expectation, with so much great business being done alongside an engaging and innovative programme of conferences, exhibits and flying displays,” said Michele van Akelijen, Managing Director of show organisers Tarsus F&E LLC Middle East. “We have already seen exhibitors rebooking for the next edition and we look forward greatly to seeing what the next two years of aerospace development will bring to 2021 edition.”
The Dubai Airshow will return between 14 and 18 November 2021.
Three US soldiers killed in Black Hawk crash in Minnesota
On 5 December three US soldiers lost their lives in the crash a UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft belonging to the Minnesota National Guard 34th Combat Aviation Brigade and operated from the Army Aviation Safety Facility in St. Cloud Municipal Airport (STC). The aircraft was nine minutes into a maintenance test flight south of the facility when radio contact with air traffic controllers was lost. The flight crew sent a mayday signal. The wreckage was found between trees on a farm in Kimball. The three soldiers on board were killed.
United Airlines orders 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft
Last week United Airlines announced an order to purchase 50 new Airbus A321XLR aircraft, enabling the carrier to begin replacing and retiring its existing fleet of Boeing 757-200 aircraft and further meet the airline’s operational needs by pairing the optimal aircraft with select transatlantic routes. The state-of-the-art aircraft, which United expects to introduce into international service in 2024, will also allow United to explore serving additional destinations in Europe from its East Coast hubs in Newark / New York and Washington. United plans to begin taking delivery of the Airbus A321XLR in 2024. In addition, the airline will defer the delivery of its order of Airbus A350s until 2027 to better align with the carrier’s operational needs.
Two Canadian government planes out of order
Justin Trudeau fell victim to Murphy’s Law: after his official plane was damaged in a hangar last month, the Prime Minister of Canada had to take a spare aircraft to attend the NATO summit that took place in the United Kingdom on 2 December 2019. However, upon landing in London, a defect in the replacement plane’s engine was detected. A third aircraft had to be ferried to carry the prime minister home. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) waited until 2 December 2019, to reveal what happened to the official ‘Can Force One’. On 19 October 2019, the Airbus CC-150-01 Polaris that usually transport the Canadian Prime Minister was damaged during a towing operation on Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario, house of the 437 Transport Squadron that operates the governmental fleet.
The 30-year-old plane hit a towing tractor with an engine before ending its course nose-first against the wall of the hangar. It ‘suffered significant structural damage to the nose and right engine cowling,’ according to the air force’s spokesman Steve Neta. After Airbus inspectors assessed the damage, they concluded that the aircraft would not return to operations before August 2020. An investigation to identify the causes of the incident has been opened.
The CC-150-03, one of the country’s five, was used as a replacement plane to transport Trudeau to the NATO Summit. However, during a routine inspection, the RCAF discovered that some of the fan blades were damaged on one of the two engines, reports TVA Nouvelles. Consequently, it has been grounded for reparations until 5 December 2019. Fortunately, the Governor General of Canada Julie Payette was on an official visit to Italy at the same time. Her CC-150-02 was ferried to the United Kingdom in order to bring back Trudeau, his staff and the media, leaving Payette temporarily stranded in Italy.
Qantas flies Boeing 747 to US for the last time
Qantas has ended its last remaining Boeing 747 service between the United States and Australia. On 4 December 2019, the Australian airline operated a flight 74 from San Francisco to Sydney; the last with the Queen of the skies, as from now on the aircraft will be replaced by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Following the introduction of the first Boeing 747 all the way back in 1971, superjumbos had had a special place in both Qantas fleet and history. In 1989, for the first time in history, Qantas operated a direct commercial flight between Sydney and London. None other than a Boeing 747-400 aircraft was employed for the task. A total of 65 aircraft of the type have passed through Qantas’ fleet. Today, only six of them, all 747-400s, remain.
Garuda CEO fired to reportedly lose job over smuggling scandal
Garuda Indonesia chief executive officer is reportedly being fired after accusations of using the airline’s Airbus A330-900 delivery flight to smuggle goods into the country. State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir told the media that he would dismiss Gusti Ngurah Askhara Danadiputra (Ari Askhara), current CEO of the state-owned airline. Askhara has allegedly used the airline to smuggle a Harley Davidson motorcycle into the country, thus avoiding paying US$57,000 (800 million rupiahs) in taxes. The discovery of the high-end contraband was reportedly made by Indonesia’s customs officials in November 2019 after Garuda’s new Airbus A330 arrived from France on a delivery flight. Flight documents showed that aircraft was supposed to be only carrying the airline’s executives and employees.
Ryanair to close more bases as Boeing 737 MAX irritation grows
Ryanair Group has confirmed that it will receive only 10 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in 2020. Due to the drawback, it now expects to carry 1 million fewer passengers than previously planned in summer 2020 and is closing several bases. Ryanair will close at least two more bases, namely Nuremberg and Stockholm Skavsta, as it is ‘revising’ the summer 2020 schedule and growth projections, the company disclosed in a statement for investors on 4 December 2019. Ryanair has two aircraft stationed in Nuremberg and four in Stockholm Skavsta. The bases will be closed in March 2020.
Ryanair expects only 10 Boeing 737 MAX 8s in 2020
The decision is directly based on Boeing 737 MAX delivery problems. “We regret these two further base closures and minor capacity cuts at other bases which are solely due to further delivery delays to our Boeing MAX aircraft,” said Eddie Wilson Ryanair DAC CEO according to the statement. “We are continuing to work with Boeing, our people, our unions and our affected airports to minimise these capacity cuts and job losses.”
In late November 2019 news emerged that Ryanair would only receive 10 Boeing 737 MAXs in 2020 instead of the 20 expected. They also indicated that delays might be related to a newly discovered design issue with the over-wing exit on the airline’s modified MAX 8 model, but the information remains unconfirmed at the time. The planes are expected to arrive no earlier than May 2020, as the type remains globally grounded.
Boeing 737 aircraft makes up the vast majority of Ryanair’s 475 aircraft fleet, with the only exception being the 23 Airbus A320s operated by Lauda Motion. Since 2014, the Irish low-cost carrier has a firm order for 135 MAX aircraft, due to replace some of the oldest 737-800s. The company has high hopes for the new planes: they are to fit 4% more seats, be 16% more fuel-efficient and in general, ‘deliver significant unit cost savings for the next five years.’
Automation vs autonomy in urban air mobility
Self-piloting technologies are having a huge impact on mobility solutions, both on the ground and in the air but the leap from automated to autonomous is still a work in progress. Although fully autonomous aircraft are still many years away, urban air mobility vehicles are proving to be an excellent option to start the roll-out of self-piloting aircraft operations. Greater reliability, improved performance and reduced costs: the perceived benefits of automation have made it one of this century’s most significant industrial trends. In fact, automation in manufacturing has become so widespread that robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning are now an integral part of the manufacturing process.
In mobility, automation is also set to make a significant impact on how we move in the future. Automotive manufacturers around the world are exploring the potential of self-driving cars, which promise to drastically reduce vehicle accidents, improve road safety and free up valuable time. Whilst certain levels of automation are already available in many vehicles; such as cruise control, steering assistance and self-parking, it will be a number of years before self-driving cars are accepted on the roads. This is, in part, because road systems are highly complex environments in which hazards abound, from other road users to pedestrians and debris.
However, the sky is a very different story. Aircraft operate in a much sparser environment. Air hazards, such as other aircraft, birds and drones are rarely encountered compared to ground hazards, which are often minimised by applying safety means at landing and take-off sites. If a hazard is encountered, the aircraft can move in three dimensions to avoid the obstacle. When viewed from the perspective of risk and impact, the vast difference in hazard density and response options suggests that autonomy in aviation faces a significantly different challenge in getting off the ground than its automotive counterparts.
Although sometimes used interchangeably, automation and autonomy are not synonymous.
Two very different paths can be taken to achieve a fully autonomous aircraft. Fall-back pilot: During development, a ‘fall-back,’ or safety pilot is always on board to take control at any time, for any reason. As the autonomy system becomes more reliable, the fall-back pilot will eventually become redundant.
“Full autonomy from the beginning: Operating solely in constrained environments enables the autonomy system to be implemented from the very beginning for safe and extensive testing,” said Arne Stoschek, Project Wayfinder, A^3 by Airbus. “In ‘autonomous’ flight, the aircraft has to be able to make decisions and react to unforeseen events without the pilot’s intervention.” Using the fall-back pilot enables the aircraft to become airborne more quickly, but it requires significant investment in systems that will, ultimately, not be required. Starting with full autonomy eliminates the need for human-machine interfaces but obtaining certification and public acceptance can be a challenge.
Some manufacturers, such as Airbus, are already taking the latter option: new urban air mobility vehicles like Vahana have been designed to integrate self-piloting functionalities from the start. This is because flying taxi missions involve short, point-to-point flights along a restricted selection of routes using limited landing infrastructure, therefore making urban air vehicles an ideal choice for testing self-piloting operations in aircraft. Although the technology is still not mature enough to transport passengers, autonomy in aircraft operations will undoubtedly be shaped by self-piloting, flying taxi demonstrators like Vahana.
Terra Drone Indonesia demonstrates drone for pipeline monitoring
Terra Drone Indonesia, a group company of Japan-based Terra Drone Corporation, has conducted a demonstration to showcase the advantages of UAV-based pipeline monitoring to Indonesian oil and gas group Medco Energi Internasional Tbk PT. The demo was completed on 15 November 2019 in Purwakarta, West Java, using industry-leading Terra Bramor C4EYE UAS, manufactured by Terra Drone group company C-Astral. Armed with 12 years of drone manufacturing experience, Slovenia-based C-Astral has designed and developed fixed-wing Terra Bramor C4EYE specifically for high-endurance surveillance, monitoring, security patrol, surveying and remote sensing activities. During the demo for Medco Energi, Terra Drone Indonesia focused on how Terra Bramor C4EYE can directly monitor activities through real-time video and photos to shoot certain objects with very clear results. In addition, the drone can also easily identify anomalous objects that move in the area being monitored. Terra Bramor C4EYE is already being used by several security companies, to monitor theft activity on pipelines.
Silent Arrow 1-ton cargo delivery drone secures USSOCOM development contract
The US Special Operations Command has awarded a development contract to Yates Electrospace Corporation (YEC) for testing of its Silent Arrow platform. Under the ‘Silent Arrow Airdrop Development’ programme, USSOCOM will provide access to aircraft, test ranges and subject matter experts to establish the airworthiness and performance of Silent Arrow for resupplying tactical teams within a hostile environment, resupplying forward operating bases and delivering critical humanitarian aid and disaster relief without the need to land or place USSOCOM aircrew in harm’s way. USSOCOM developmental efforts under the contract are being led primarily by the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), with additional operational requirements coming from the US Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) for Silent Arrow applications for rotorcraft and other specialised tactical support.
Designed for logistical support for both military and relief operations, Silent Arrow’s tightly integrated packaging with spring-deployed wings transported inside the fuselage, high standoff distance and low cost have led to expanded military contracts with the US and allied foreign government Special Operators, as well as international aerospace & defence companies. Silent Arrow is designed for fixed-wing and rotorcraft deployment of critically needed supplies, cargo and fuel under austere operating conditions and timelines.
Weekly News from African Pilot
Should you miss out on any edition of APAnews, please visit the website: www.africanpilot.co.za and click on the APAnews link on the front page. All past weekly APAnews publications have been archived on the website.
Until next week, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)