“The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.”Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Since last week’s mystery aircraft was rather easy to identify, according to the number of correct answers I received. This week I have provided an interesting, rare aircraft to identify. Please send your answers to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will publish the names of those that identified the aircraft correctly within the Thursday edition of APAnews.
Three High Wing Slings are off to Oshkosh
There is an energy coursing through the veins of the team at Sling Aircraft HQ that can only be described as one of eager anticipation and excitement at the adventure ahead. We are on the verge of completing our three Sling High Wings to be flown across the Atlantic and on around the world to Oshkosh! That’s Linda Sollars,’ JP Schulze’s and our own demonstration aircraft, ZU-SHW.
We are thrilled to invite you to the Sling High Wings farewell breakfast just one week before their planned departure! The farewell breakfast will take place on Sunday, 3 July 08h00 to 11h00 and will be held at our premises, Tedderfield Airpark, 23 Nettleton Road, Eikenhof (FATA).
At just R100 per person paid on arrival, bring your mask (no longer necessary), bring your buddy, relish in a scrumptious breakfast and of course, celebrate with us as we say farewell, good luck and well done to the entire team of men and women who made this possible! Breakfast, tea and coffee will be served from 08h00 with a presentation commencing at 09h00. Publications and members of the public will also be invited to take pictures, shoot videos and ask Mike, James, Linda and JP all those burning questions you have always wanted answering!
If you would like to experience the Sling High Wings Farewell Breakfast for yourself, RSVP by Monday, 27 June, in order to avoid disappointment. Fly, drive, walk or bike, you will not be disappointed.
RSVP for the Sling High Wing’s farewell breakfast
Locate the Sling High Wing’s farewell breakfast venue
Africa’s leading show for General Aviation is back
AERO South Africa will take place at Wonderboom National Airport over three days from 7 to 9 July 2022 and to date there are more than 40 aviation companies that will be exhibiting at this prestigious show. Once again African Pilot has been commissioned to produce the AERO South Africa official digital exhibition catalogue. Should your business be interested in exhibiting at AERO South Africa, please contact Annalie Reynolds as soon as possible: Annelie.Reynolds@za.messefrankfurt.com.
Visitor attendance is FREE and we are looking forward to meeting you at the show. Please register now by clicking on this link: https://bit.ly/3simOir. African Pilot will have a show stand at AERO, so you can meet up with our team over the three days.
The July edition of African Pilot featuring our popular Light Sport Aircraft, Amateur Built Aircraft and South African built aircraft is almost complete and will go into world-wide distribution before the end of the month. This edition also features the annual EBACE exhibition, Newcastle and Parys airshow reports with videos and the Sports Aerobatics Nationals staged at Wings Park in East London.
African Pilot will be publishing its annual Avionics and Instrumentation feature in the August 2022 magazine. The feature to be contained within the digital interactive magazine is an opportunity for all avionics, instrumentation, headset re-sellers, installers and panel upgrade companies to showcase their work.
The supplement provides an important shop window for advertisers to display products and their abilities in a focused manner which includes editorial content to cover the features of their business.
SAC Nationals 2022 at Wings Park
Wallpaper calendar for the month of July. Go to our wallpaper page to download the calendars in three different resolutions.
AAD launches General Aviation Hub
FlySafair expanding its operations
Reliable information is that Safair have hired an additional 24 pilots to cope with their planned expansion; this in addition to the 13 pilots hired previously. Most of these crew are highly experienced pilots, previously employed by Comair. It goes without saying that they must also be taking on a significant amount of cabin crew. More information on developments within South Africa’s regional airlines to follow.
25 June SAPFA Speed Rally at Middleburg airfield
We arrived at the airfield on Friday afternoon to view threatening thunderstorm skies. The events of the evening staged in Richardt Lovett’s hangar were great as the race numbers were handed out by race masted David Le Roux. Unfortunately, the planned Speed Rally was washed out on Saturday, due to un-seasonal rains. However, the decision was to run this event on Sunday, but unfortunately Christine and I had to return to Kyalami on Saturday. This means that I will wait for Rob Jonker’s report and pictures to prepare a report for the August edition of African Pilot.
African Pilot’s 2022 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.
1 to 3 July
EAA Taildraggers at Warmbaths airfield
Contact Richard at E-mail: Richard.email@example.com Cell: 082 490 6227
7 to 9 July
AERO South Africa at Wonderboom National Airport
Contact Annelie Reynolds at E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAPFA Kitty Hawk Rally
Contact Frank Eckard at E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 1516
Garden Route airshow at George airport
Contact Brett Scheuble Cell: 084 418 3836
18 to 22 July
Farnborough International Airshow
22 to 31 July
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA
Camping on the airfield contact Neil Bowden at E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotels in Appleton contact Calvin Fabig at E-mail: email@example.com
* African Pilot will be present at AirVenture this year and we will provide regular updates about the greatest aviation adventure in the world.
29 and 30 July
Soutpansberg fly-in Louis Trichardt
Contact Jaco at E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 353 6002
Krugersdorp Flying Club Spot Landing
Contact Nandi at Tel: 083 577 8894 E-mail: email@example.com
SAPFA Speed Rally at Groblersdal airfield
Contact David le Roux at E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 073 338 5200
26 and 27 August
Bethlehem Airshow at Bethlehem airfield
Contact Stephan Fourie at E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 072 344 9678
Vintage military helicopter crashes in West Virginia
On 22 June an ex-military Bell UH-1B ‘Huey’ helicopter crashed next to a rural roadside near its home base at Logan County Airport in West Virginia. All six on board were killed. Few details are available, but local law enforcement reported that the cockpit and cabin were consumed by post-crash fire.
According to FAA records, the helicopter, N98F, is registered to a local cardiologist. It was operated by maintenance provider Marpat Aviation based at Logan County Airport. The veteran helicopter was participating in the seventh annual Huey Reunion and the Marpat website offered 30-minute rides, including the chance to operate the controls, for fuel donations. A woman who witnessed the crash told television reporters she saw what she presumed to be fuel streaming from the cabin and tried to approach the burning helicopter to help, but the intense heat forced her to retreat.
According to the Marpat website description, the UH-1B was likely the oldest Huey still flying, the 488th of more than 10,000 built. It was manufactured in 1962, even before the original military designation changed from HU-1 (thus, the ‘Huey’ nickname) to UH-1 when the 932nd was delivered from the factory. N89F, then bearing the military serial number 62-01968, served in Vinh Long, Vietnam, with the 114th Assault Helicopter Company, the ‘Knights of the Sky’ and bore the nose-art ‘Miss Fit.’ Its wartime duties included gunship, troop carrier and medevac service. After being returned to the US in 1971, it subsequently served in the National Guard before working as an agricultural aircraft, firefighter and before the cameras of several feature films, including ‘Die Hard,’ ‘The Rock’ and ‘Broken Arrow.’
Norwegian Air Shuttle concludes deal for 50 Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets
According to a press release dated 22 June 2022, Norwegian Air Shuttle has reached an agreement in principle with Boeing for the purchase of 50 737 MAX 8 aircraft with options for another 30 aircraft. The carrier expects to receive all aircraft between 2025 and 2028 with the estimated delivery schedule closely corresponding with the airline’s existing agreements with aircraft leasing companies.
The carrier “intends to finance the outstanding balance of pre-delivery payments through positive cash flow from operating activities,” Svein Harald Oygard, Chair of the Board of Norwegian explained earlier in May 2022. “This is a landmark deal that sets out a path whereby Norwegian will own a large share of its fleet. This will result in lower all-in costs and increased financial robustness, enabling us to further solidify our Nordic stronghold. The deal also allows us to serve our customers with state-of-the-art aircraft that can run increasingly on sustainable aviation fuel,” Oygard.
The recently finalised aircraft acquisition agreement reflects the airline’s continuously strong commitment to operating a modern and fuel-efficient plane fleet, the carrier said and is expected to cut fuel costs by around 14%. Based on these calculations, Norwegian estimates that it could achieve its target of reducing emissions by 45% by 2030. Norwegian’s recommitment to the Boeing 737 MAX comes after it had threatened to cancel a previous order for 92 aircraft of the type in June 2020, when the aircraft model was grounded across the globe. The carrier filed a lawsuit a month later, accusing Boeing of breaching its contract over the way the manufacturer handled the production and delivery of its aircraft. Following the new agreement, the airline estimated that it could record a net gain of up to $212 million (NOK 2 billion).
Boeing is pushing the US Air Force for more money for Air Force One
Boeing’s next generation Air Force One plane is more than $1 billion over budget and at least two years late, but that has not stopped it from seeking more money from the Air Force for what the company sees as changes to previously agreed upon technical specifications, the Air Force’s top acquisition official said today. In 2018, the Air Force and Boeing signed a $4.9 billion fixed-price contract for the engineering, manufacturing and development phase of the VC-25B, commonly known as Air Force One when the president is onboard. After the programme became delayed due to issues with a now-bankrupt subcontractor, Boeing has racked up $1.1 billion in cost overruns that it must pay out of pocket.
However, the nature of the contract also gives Boeing wiggle room to ask for more money every time it can make a case that what the Air Force says it wants exceeds the stated technical requirements, a circumstance that Andrew Hunter, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, called a ‘problematic incentive’. Hunter did not elaborate on which specific systems or technical specifications Boeing and the Air Force are at odds on but said there is an opportunity to work through these issues as the parties discuss ‘consideration’, DoD speak for financial consequences due to a breach in contract, in this case Boeing’s failure to deliver VC-25B on time.
Boeing declined to respond specifically to Hunter’s comments, stating that it remains focused on delivering the two Air Force One planes. “We continue to make steady progress on the VC-25B programme, while navigating through some challenges. It is an honour to be entrusted with this responsibility and we take particular pride in this work,” Boeing said in a statement.
The Air Force expects Boeing to deliver the first VC-25B aircraft two to three years later than its original schedule, which set the milestone in 2024. Beyond the VC-25B programme, the Air Force has an effort underway to work through ‘a range of business issues’ with Boeing, including challenges with Boeing’s internal business systems and obtaining data needed to definitize contract agreements such as F-15EX, Hunter said.
Pilot shortage reignites mandatory retirement debate
The world airline industry is in a deplorable state. Thousands of flights have been and continue to be cancelled. Innumerable travellers remain stranded in airports throughout the world. To a frightening and incontrovertible degree, Part 121 operations have degenerated into a wilderness of outrage, apologetics, labour disputes and pilot shortages.
How did it happen and why?
During the COVID-19 debacle, thousands of pilots were alternately fired, furloughed, or driven to early retirements. These measures were enacted as baby-boomers, who at the time accounted for nearly fifty-percent of the commercial pilot ranks were nearing mandatory retirement age. Presently, the better part of six-thousand pilots a year are reaching 65. By 2029, not a single baby boomer will be able to legally fly a commercial aircraft. As they leave, these pilots take with them not only a substantial chunk of the labour-force, but decades of experience and expertise as well. As US airlines struggle to hire and train twelve-thousand pilots in 2022 alone, numerous knee-jerk solutions have been proposed. These include reducing the regulatorily requisite number of training-hours for airline pilots, providing increased financial-aid and additional incentives to young people pursuing pilot careers and raising the compulsory retirement age.
Senator Lindsey Graham is reportedly considering sponsoring a bill that would raise the FAA-mandated pilot retirement age from 65 to 67. However, many believe that legislation based solely on age is not only unjust, but manifestly illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Opponents of age-related retirement mandates contend: “If retirement age is vital to public safety, it seems puzzling that no medical profession has one. Pilots are not safe to work past age 65, but neurosurgeons are?” When the mandatory retirement age was raised from 60 to 65 in 2007, medical reports provided to the Senate Committee on Aging concluded that age had an insignificant impact on performance decrement in the cockpit.
Ideological and empirical arguments notwithstanding, rigorous protocols must remain in place to determine when age, fatigue, ennui, or similar circumstances are engendering deterioration in older aviators. Ergo, Part 121 pilots are required to undergo medical checks every six months to ensure they are healthy and otherwise able to safely pilot modern, transport category aircraft. Furthermore, contemporary Part 121 Ops Specs and Part 25 aircraft certification criteria call for two-pilot flight decks. Robert Applebaum, a professor of gerontology and the Scripps Research Fellow at Miami University, asserts aging affects every individual’s health and abilities differently. Gerontologists, therefore, advocate for individual-oriented assessment of aging pilots rather than the setting of arbitrary age limits predicated on convention, folkways, or cognitive bias.
Spain to acquire twenty Eurofighters
The NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) has signed a contract for the acquisition of 16 single-seat and four twin-seat Eurofighter jets. The order, known as the Halcon programme, comprises the delivery of the twenty, E-Scan (Electronically Scanned), radar equipped fighter aircraft which will replace the F-18 fleet operated by the Spanish Air Force on the Canary Islands. The contract will see the Spanish Eurofighter fleet grow to 90 aircraft.
The new Eurofighters will enhance the Spanish Air Force fighter fleet and position it among NATO and EU nations operating the most modern fighter jet developed in Europe. The acquisition, valued at €2.043-billion, was approved by Spain’s Council of Ministers on 14 December 2021 and includes the aircraft, engines, a simulator and the necessary support services. The Spanish Eurofighter is assembled, tested and delivered at the Airbus Getafe site (in Spain) and provides more than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in Spain alone.
Eurofighter is Europe’s largest defence programme, involving the four core nations of the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany and Italy. In addition to its technological capabilities, it secures more than 100,000 jobs in Europe. To date, the Eurofighter programme has logged 681 aircraft orders to nine nations around the globe.
Netherlands to replace C-130 Hercules with Embraer C-390 transporter
The Dutch Ministry of Defence has selected the C-390 Millennium from Brazilian manufacturer Embraer to replace the four C-130H Hercules transport aircraft operated by the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF). In addition to replacing the Hercules, the fleet will also be increased by one aircraft, with five C-390 transport aircraft. The cost of the order is estimated to be between €1 billion and €2.5 billion ($1.05-$2.6 billion).
The RNLAF needs flying hours, as illustrated by the evacuation out of Afghanistan in 2021, Dutch State Secretary Christophe van der Maat explained in a letter to the House of Representatives. “The evacuation operations” have underlined the importance of guaranteed availability of transport capacity for the armed forces,” Van der Maat wrote. With an expansion from 2,400 to 4,000 flying hours, units can be supported better and more often.” The first delivery is expected in 2026. The Dutch C-390M aircraft are also expected to participate in the European Air Transport Command.
Rolls-Royce advances hybrid-electric flight with new technology
Rolls-Royce is officially announcing the development of turbogenerator technology, which includes a small new engine designed for hybrid-electric applications. The system will be an on-board power source with scalable power offerings and will complement the Rolls-Royce Electrical propulsion portfolio, enabling extended range on sustainable aviation fuels and later as it comes available through hydrogen combustion.
Current battery technology means all-electric propulsion will enable eVTOL and fixed-wing commuter aircraft for short flights in and between cities and island-hopping in locations like Norway and the Scottish Isles. By developing turbogenerator technology, that will be scaled to serve a power range between 500 kW and 1200 kW, it can open up new longer routes that the electric battery powered aircraft can also support.
Rolls-Royce experts based in Germany, Norway and Hungary are developing the turbogenerator design and working on its system integration and are focused on ensuring smart power distribution during flight. The turbogenerator will recharge batteries after take-off or power propellers directly, enabling aircraft to switch between power sources in flight. The research and development of this technology is being part funded by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.
Jordan places order for eight Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters
Jordan officially placed an order for eight new production F-16 Block 70 fighters from Lockheed Martin. “This F-16 acquisition reflects over 70 years of US cooperation and decades of partnership with Lockheed Martin,” said Aimee Burnett, vice president at Lockheed Martin Integrated Fighter Group Business Development in a statement released on 16 June 2022. “Our history partnering with Jordan strengthens regional security and helps protect citizens through 21st Century Security technologies that support critical missions today and into the future.”
The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) already operates a fleet of F-16 aircraft, which it has been progressively acquiring since 1997. It currently flies 44 F-16A fighters and 15 F-16B trainers. The Block 70/72 ‘Viper’ standard, the latest version of Lockheed Martin’s best-seller, features improved connectivity and an APG-83 SABR AESA radar system.
Lindbergh Foundation announces the creation of decarbonisation prize group
Opening up the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foundation announced a collaborative incentive effort with the XPRIZE Foundation, the NBAA and Prince Albert II of Monaco. The collective group, the Forever Flight Alliance, will look to quicken the transition to decarbonised aviation the same way the original transatlantic flight was made through prize offerings.
The Forever Flight Alliance hopes to focus the efforts of ‘innovators, solution seekers and thought leaders,’ on the problem of decarbonisation, accelerating the move to a less ecologically-impactful industry as a whole. Nearly 100 years on, aviation has grown tremendously, but the need for invention and engineering remains. The announcement of the Alliance is just the start, though with XPrize among the partners, it would stand to reason that future developments will bring out some considerable prize money in the seven to eight-figure range.
Pearl 10X engine testing spools up
Rolls-Royce is ramping up testing on the Pearl 10X engine that will power Dassault’s developmental Falcon 10X ultra-long-range business jet. To date, the powerplant programme has accumulated 1,000 hours, using both the initial Pearl 10X test engine and the manufacturer’s Advance2 demonstrator. First runs for the over 18,000lb thrust (80kN)-rated engine took place earlier this year, beating its targeted thrust levels.
Rolls-Royce says the testing to date ‘has proved the reliability of the engine’ and shows it will meet Dassault’s performance requirements. The Pearl 10X is the first Rolls-Royce powerplant to be selected by the French airframer. Evaluations so far have included trials of a new 3D-printed ultra-low-emission combustor, compatible with 100% sustainable aviation fuel and a new accessory gearbox. The first full powerplant housed within its Spirit AeroSystems-designed nacelle will enter the test programme later this year.
Dr Dirk Geisinger, director business aviation, Rolls-Royce, says: “Our Pearl 10X team is extremely focussed on the development of the engine and it makes me proud to see the continuous progress of the programme.” The Pearl 10X uses the engine core developed under the Advance2 programme and combines it with a new low-pressure system. Rolls-Royce claims the new turbofan is 5% more efficient than the previous generation of its business jet engines.
Brazil wants to cut Embraer KC-390 order further to 15 aircraft
According to a report in O Globo citing an Air Force official, Brazil is planning to reduce its order for KC-390 transport aircraft over budget uncertainties. “We cannot afford it in the short-term,” O Globo quoted the Lieutenant-Brigadier General as saying. The Brazilian Air Force had previously tried to cut the order to 15 aircraft, down from an initial 28, but reached a deal with Embraer in February 2022 to slim the order to 22 aircraft and space deliveries over a longer period of time. In response, Embraer told Reuters it had a contract with the FAB for 22 aircraft.
The KC-390 is a multi-mission aircraft, which can provide humanitarian support, medical evacuation, search and rescue, troop and cargo transport, as well as aerial refuelling. Presently the FAB has five KC-390s in operation and has been using them to help transport medical equipment and supplies across the country in the fight against COVID-19. Embraer also has orders for five of the transport aircraft from Portugal and two from Hungary.
New York area receives first pipeline for delivery of SAF
Last week, the New York area received its first shipment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) via pipeline. The Neste fuel, a blend of pure SAF and conventional jet-A destined to power a Delta Air Lines flight, underwent final processing at a Texas refinery. It was loaded into the Colonial Pipeline and travelled nearly 1,500 miles through 11 states before entering the Buckeye system for delivery to New York LaGuardia Airport, a journey that took approximately two weeks given the speed at which fuel travels through the pipeline. The delivery demonstrates the viability of the fuel and its ability to be transported anywhere there is an existing pipeline carrying jet-A.
The delivery and flight are supported by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which was the first US transport agency to embrace the Paris Climate Agreement and is working to accelerate the adoption of sustainable fuels. SAF in its neat form can provide up to 80 percent lifecycle carbon reduction over conventional fuel. While currently approved for use in blends of up to 50 percent, tests are ongoing for the eventual use of 100 percent SAF.
Risen microlight tops 400km/h – 215 knots!
The FAI, world authority for air sports, has recognised two records set by Alberto Porto in the Risen 914T last year: 400.45km/h on the straight course and 378.94km/h for the 50km closed circuit. The records were set in exactly the same aircraft as Porto set a sea level record of 337.51km/h in 2019 – but this time flown at 10,000 feet. The new records were Alberto’s response to the original record having been beaten by a rival manufacturer at the higher altitude. He’s not impressed and said, “The new FAI rule interpretation is not anymore comparing the airplane performance. Now it is all about having a big turbo compressor to go as high as possible. “The only limit will be flutter and the craziness of the pilot. Not a real safe evolution…” Porto is already working on the next Risen, the Super Veloce, which will be a 600kg microlight powered by the latest 141hp Rotax 915iS.
EHang partners with Tianxingjian on UAM project
EHang announced that it has received an initial purchase order for five units of EH216 AAVs from Tianxingjian Cultural Tourism Investment and Development, an affiliated enterprise of the Jishou city government in Hunan province, China. The two parties plan to develop a scenic flight project at the Aizhai Wonder Tourist Area in Jishou. Tianxingjian plans to purchase additional 25 units of EH216 as the project evolves. It is an implementation of EHang’s previous strategic partnership with the Jishou city government for in-depth and extensive collaborations on urban air mobility (UAM), such as aerial tourism, UAM infrastructure and operation center development, professional technician training, etc. It also represents one of EH216’s typical programs in the field of aerial tourism in China with great market potential and application opportunities.
In recent years, the State Council and the Civil Aviation Administration of China issued policies to propel and accelerate integrated development of general aviation and aerial tourism. Given this, EHang has been expanding cooperation with more partners to apply its AAV solutions in various tourism sightseeing use cases in China and overseas, leveraging its state-of-the-art AAV solutions’ advantages of safety, auto flight, fleet management for large-scale operations, cost-effectiveness and sustainability.
Archer resumes test flights with eVTOL technology demonstrator
In a 21 June blog, chief engineer Geoff Bower reported that flights restarted last week with what he said was the first use of the two-seat aircraft’s new tilt propeller system (TPS) that is deployed for hover control. According to Archer, the availability of the TPS clears the way for it to expand the flight test envelope as it seeks to achieve a full transition from vertical to horizontal flight by the end of 2022. In April, the California-based company told shareholders it will unveil the first full-sized ‘production-intent’ example of its planned four-passenger eVTOL in 2023. Archer had previously indicated this would be achieved by the end of this year.
The test flight campaign will now be stepped up to build on extensive ground testing conducted since last year. Archer said it will be focusing on data related to the following items: flight mechanics model validation (such as trim motor RPMs and power draw as a function of airspeed); control system stability margins; improvements to simulation models for vehicle aerodynamics, battery performance and motor efficiency; vibration and thermal environments for future airborne equipment qualification and acoustics.
Data from the flight and ground testing is being used to complete detailed design work on the full-scale eVTOL vehicle. Archer has formed an advisory committee with key investor and prospective customer United Airlines to review the design to take account of factors such as making it easy to maintain.
To advance plans for commercial operations, Archer recently appointed Tom Anderson as its chief operating officer for urban air mobility. He was previously COO of Breeze Aviation and also has management experience with airlines including JetBlue, Azul and Virgin America. In addition, he has worked for regional airliner manufacturer ATR, as well as Airbus and Boeing, in customer support and sales roles.
New York helicopter bans raise questions about eVTOL operations
Legislation proposed in the New York City Council would eliminate ‘non-essential’ helicopter flights from the two city-owned heliports in the Wall Street area and at East 34th Street. A related New York State bill that further increases pressure on helicopter operators is awaiting the signature of Governor Kathy Hochul. It would allow individual citizens to sue helicopter operators who ‘create an unreasonable level of sustained noise at ground level.’
Neither bill specifically mentions the eVTOL aircraft that could start entering service in major cities by 2024. However, the bipartisan political support assembled to back the legislation suggests that the industry has more work to do to convince some cities to accept the new mode of transportation and how it differs from existing rotorcraft services in terms of noise.
The New York City legislation has been advanced by a group called Stop the Chop NY / NJ, which is looking to ban large numbers of helicopter flights across the wider metropolitan area. The legislation applies to ‘rotary-wing aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing.’ The only operations defined as essential and therefore permissible, would be those by the US military, fire departments, emergency services, police and newsgathering organisations. Evidently, private sightseeing charters and air taxi services would not be permitted.
In the early stages of eVTOL operations, the all-electric aircraft are expected to use current heliports. However, plans are being developed for dedicated vertiports that could be part of existing buildings, such as parking lots.
JetPack Aviation inks commercial flight and technical training deal with military customer
California-based JetPack Aviation (JPA) has signed an agreement to provide JetPack pilot and maintainer training to a military customer in Southeast-Asia. This is the first time that professional JetPack training has been delivered to a team of serving military personnel and represents a critical advancement in the use of personal aerial vehicles for government use.
Following the signing of a US$800,000 order for two JB12 JetPacks, the customer has contracted JetPack Aviation to train two pilots and two maintenance technicians at its California facility, with future options to teach additional personnel, including an instructor. The student pilots, already experienced military personnel but without flying experience, will initially receive on-tether instruction, subsequently moving off-tether for advanced training, following an FAA-approved syllabus created by JPA and the US Navy. Training, which will be undertaken close to JetPack Aviation’s Ventura, California headquarters, will be delivered on the customer’s own JB12 aircraft during summer 2022. Conducted over two weeks, the course will require a minimum of 50 six-minute on-tether flights before the trainees’ progress to free flight.
Once off-tether training is completed, the programme will conclude with advanced mission-specific manoeuvres, including operating in tightly confined spaces and landing on moving ‘targets’. Future developments may include in-country arrangements for initial and currency training, using purpose-built facilities. It is anticipated the Southeast-Asian customer will use the JetPacks to support complicated special missions.
US Air Force funds Transcend Air for more work on VTOL operations
The US Air Force’s Afwerx programme has awarded a Phase II small business technology transfer research and development contract to Transcend Air for work associated with its Vy 400 tiltwing aircraft. The Boston-based company will work with Alabama’s Auburn University to develop advanced flight control laws for high-speed flight in the turbine-powered VTOL model.
The contract, announced on 21 June, is intended to build on Phase I work conducted with the university last year. It will extend the development of the control law and simplified vehicle operations to allow the Vy 400 to operate in ‘nap of the earth’ mode to avoid detection in hostile territory by flying just above terrain contours. Afwerx is exploring the possible use of new VTOL aircraft for military applications.
According to Transcend, the partners will demonstrate control software using both a simulator and a one-fifth scale model of the five-passenger Vy 400. The company expects the aircraft to offer a range of 450 miles, speeds of more than 400 mph and per-mile direct operating costs that are one-quarter of those for medium twin helicopters with comparable cabin volumes and payloads. The Pentagon is keen to consider longer-range, higher-speed alternatives to helicopters.
The project will aim to prove that the software reduces pilot workload and enables sustained flight in close proximity to the terrain at speeds two or three times faster than current rotorcraft can deliver. Transcend says this capability will make it possible to rescue stranded military pilots in one-quarter to one-eighth of the time it now takes, potentially almost doubling the number of people who can be rescued. The company is mainly developing the Vy 400 for regional scheduled flights to connect city centres such as New York and Boston. It intends to certify the aircraft under the FAA’s existing rules for powered lift designs in 2025 and it aims to have a full-scale prototype ready to start flight testing in 2023.
The Vy 400 is powered by a 2,500-shp GE Aviation CT7-8 turboshaft engine, which last year replaced Pratt & Whitney’s PT6A turboprop in the design specifications. The engine powers the two main propellers through a mechanical drivetrain and generates power for all the other systems on board, including the electric tail fan, using all-electric actuation. In August 2021, Transcend selected helicopter manufacturer Kaman Aerospace Group to build the aircraft. Kaman will use its facility in Jacksonville, Florida, for the assembly line.
EuroLink’s Beluga drone bound for the US
EuroLink Systems, the Italian provider of hardware, software, data-management and robotics systems, is launching Beluga, the first of a family of multi-roll, multi-mission, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) with which the company seeks to enter the US drone market. Beluga’s sleek design is evocative of the Beluga whale, from which the vehicle takes its name. Researchers at both Eurolink and Italy’s University Niccolò studied the marine mammal’s morphology and translated aspects of its physiology into the design of Beluga’s fuselage. Additional cues from nature and Leonardo da Vinci were applied to the design of Beluga’s rotor-blades, which are patterned after the planform and cross-section of an owl’s wing. The non-ornithologically inclined are reminded that owls’ wings are virtually soundless in flight.
The end-result of EuroLink’s design-safari is an aesthetically-pleasing, whisper-quiet vehicle capable of carrying aloft a maximum payload of 33-kilograms or a lighter, 1.5-kilogram load for up to one-hour. Beluga is designed to fly in harsh weather conditions within a temperature-range of -25° to +55°C. The vehicle’s 110-kph (69-mph) top speed underscores its suitability to time-sensitive undertakings such as: emergency medical transportation of blood, plasma and pharmaceuticals; search and rescue, security, surveillance and military missions as well as large-scale agricultural operations.
Pietro Lapiana, President and Founder of EuroLink Systems states, “Beluga is a culmination of EuroLink’s decades of technology innovation and experience, which has now been implanted into the Beluga family of mini-drones. Given our experience within the European market, it is now time to extend our influence and build our position and business base in the US Market.” Planned, future iterations of the Beluga platform include tilt-rotor and marine variants which, despite outward dissimilarities will share a common electronic infrastructure and control-interface with the original model.
Intelligent Energy pushes drone run times with hydrogen fuel source
Intelligent Energy is a manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cells, typically for UAV’s. The ‘IE-SOAR’ product line, for example, allows an operator to extend the flight times of UAV’s by three to five times over state-of-the-art batteries. Additional benefits include long lifespan, zero maintenance and zero emissions at point of use. The gaseous hydrogen is stored in the cylinder at high pressure, 300 bar 4500psi. They are agnostic to the fuel source, in that they have customers flying on liquid hydrogen, and that is another ten times of flight time over batteries. When asked about where Intelligent Energy sees the utilisation of this technology, Mr. Douglas-Smith stated, “we are selling our fuel stop products to UAV manufacturers and those end customers are using the long endurance hydrogen fuel cell priority for long-linear asset inspection work, such as transmission lines and pipelines”.
In the USA, their customers are obtaining BVLOS waivers to fly fuel cell drones to undertake those long inspection routes, up to 100 miles a day. The commercial traction has never been higher, particularly in the parcel delivery and civilian market, where the need to carry those packages for longer distances is a key requirement of the industry. So that aspect is receiving a huge amount of growth Intelligent Energy. If a package delivery company is setting up its distribution centres to pick up packages and carry them longer distances, the potential higher efficiency is that they would need fewer distribution centres over a certain area when flying on these fuel cells.
The fuel cell the cylinder is quickly recharged. Hydrogen is filled into the cylinder after a few minutes compared to batteries that can take at least half an hour to recharge. In terms of handling requirements, for folks that are in the process of maintaining refuelling and so forth, what the consumer or drone builder needs to know to be able to utilise this technology, Intelligent Energy has spent three years working on making it simple to use. Mr. Douglas-Smith stated that they tried to make it as plug and play as possible, and for lack of a better term “idiot proof”. Mr. Douglas-Smith stated that “if any operator were to not pay attention for any period of time there is always a safety mechanism in place to stop the hydrogen overfilling, or for a connector to be loose, so no hydrogen will be leaked that is in the danger zone”.
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