“There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.” Friedrich August von Hayek
(Information from Wikipedia)
The Sikorsky XV-2, also known by the Sikorsky Aircraft model number S-57, was a planned experimental stoppable rotor aircraft, designated as a convertiplane, developed for a joint research programme between the United States Air Force and the United States Army. The programme was cancelled before construction of the prototype began.
The XV-2 was developed as part of a joint US Air Force and US Army programme intended to explore technologies to develop an aircraft that could take-off and land like a helicopter but fly at faster airspeeds, like a conventional airplane. The XV-2’s stoppable-rotor design was intended to allow it to hover and fly at low speed like a conventional helicopter. It utilised a single-rotor design; a counterweight provided stability to the rotor system, while a tip-jet arrangement powered the rotor, which retracted into the upper fuselage when stopped, the XV-2 then flying like a conventional aircraft on delta wings. A single jet engine was provided for forward flight. The XV-2 prototype was assigned the serial number 53-4403, but the project was cancelled before construction could begin.
Those persons that correctly identified this week’s mystery aircraft: John Kimble, Brian Millett, Jan Sime, Michael Schoeman, P Rossouw, Wouter van der Waal, Lyle Grace, Rex Tweedie, Howard Long, Pierre Brittz, Righardt du Plessis, Adrian Maree, Brian Melmoth, Colin Austen, Kevin Farr, Charlie Hugo, Hilton Carroll, Lance Williams, Danie Viljoen, Brian Spurr, Bruce Margolius, Bruce Prescott, Carl von Ludwig, Andrew Peace, Keith Chiazzari, Ahmed Bassa, Selwyn Kimber, Johan Venter, Piet Steyn, Andre Breytenbach, Mike Tanman, Dave Lloyd, Mike McLaughlin, (33).
Set up day at AERO South Africa
What a pleasure it was to arrive at Wonderboom airport on Wednesday to set up African Pilot’s show stand, to see that everything was in place and since I understand the complexity of preparing for a major aviation exhibition, I was impressed with the friendliness of everyone who was there. With excellent hot winter weather and clear skies today and predicted for the next three days the AERO SA show is a must for everyone that has a passion for aviation. There are so many exhibitors ready to speak to you about their products and services as this most important annual General Aviation exhibition. For those of you who visited the 2022 AERO South Africa exhibition, this year’s show is larger and more diverse, which is a credit to the organisers. This is an ideal opportunity for all aviators to visit the AERO show free of charge so that you can spend your valuable time obtaining more information on the advancements within the aviation industry right here in South Africa. Should you be visiting AERO, please come to African Pilot’s show stand situated within the large marque. Thank you.
The July edition of African Pilot with Paul Ludick’s excellent cover picture featuring Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), amateur built aircraft and South African built aircraft was published on 02 July 2023. This 264-page edition has 18 embedded videos and 17 picture galleries. African Pilot is also easy to read on all digital devices and is substantially larger by page number that any other South African aviation magazine. For advertisers, inevitability in real terms just one sale will be a great return on investment and African Pilot’s track record certainly shows that ALL advertisers within the monthly magazine continue to achieve excellent results from direct inquiries as well as significant direct hyperlinked exposure to their e-mail addresses and websites.
There were many aviation events scheduled for the month of June including the amazing Maputo airshow (exclusive), CAASA AGM (exclusive), Cosford airshow England (exclusive), interview with the winners of the PTAR 2023 (exclusive), EAA’s annual convention (exclusive), Parys airshow, the Children’s Flight Zambia and many more features. I always find it concerning when the other South African aviation magazines that do not personally attend aviation events and they simply troll social media to steal pictures and information to place second-hand reports within their own publications. This situation has happened within at least two of the local media aviation publications in the past year. There is no doubt that African Pilot strives to report personally on as many of the local and international events as possible.
Within this edition African Pilot will feature the AERO South Africa exhibition, avionics and instrumentation as well as headsets as features. However, once again African Pilot will be filled with exciting features, reports from the world as well as from within South Africa.
We completed the tenth June 2023 edition of Future Flight on Wednesday 14 June and the magazine was released to the world on the same day. This 120-page edition has six picture galleries and eight embedded videos. Due to the nature of the subject material, compiling this exciting new publication has been most rewarding, whilst at the same time, the magazine allows many of African Pilot’s advertisers to have their adverts placed in the second monthly magazine FREE of charge. When I started Future Flight on my return to South Africa from AirVenture, Oshkosh 2022, the objective was to reduce the overall size of African Pilot to a more reasonable page count and this has been achieved. The next milestone will be to attract advertisers to make this publication sustainable and I have given myself a year to reach this goal. I would love to receive your feedback about this new digital publication:
Maputo Airshow 2023
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6 to 8 July
AERO South Africa at Wonderboom National Airport
Register for your free trade visitor ticket to South Africa’s leading General Aviation event today and let the adventure begin! Registration link: https://app.messereg.com/events/visitor/aero-south-africa-2023
No news to report in this edition
Pilot killed in Montana P-40 accident identified
The pilot of a Curtiss Wright P-40E WWII-Era fighter aircraft who lost his life in the 27 June 2023 accident at Hamilton, Montana’s Ravalli County Airport (HRF) has been identified as Paul Ehlen, founder and owner of Bloomington, Minnesota’s Precision Lens, a manufacturer of therapeutic, surgical and pharmacological products germane to the field of ophthalmological medicine. The aircraft in which Ehlen perished, a restored Curtiss Wright P-40E Warhawk was registered to one of the deceased’s LLCs. Initial information indicates the crash occurred during or shortly after the plane took off from the airport.
In a statement of its own, Precision Lens asserted: “Precision Lens is saddened by the passing earlier today of its founder Paul Ehlen. Paul had a passion for restoring and flying vintage military aircraft and he was killed this morning when the single-engine P-40 he was flying back to Minneapolis suffered a mechanical failure on take-off. Above all else, Paul was a family man and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children whom he loved so dearly.”
Pilot dies after Sukhoi-30MK2 crashes during fly-past exercise in Venezuela
President Nicolás Maduro confirmed that a pilot was killed when a Sukhoi-30MK2 fighter jet crashed in the mountainous area of Guaicaipuro, Venezuela, the crash occurred at approximately 09h45 local time on 2 July 2023, when the aircraft from the Bolivarian Military Aviation division was performing a fly-past exercise in preparation for Venezuela’s Independence Day celebration. “Both crew members managed to eject. However, unfortunately, Col. Paulino José Millán Sabino died when he fell to the ground,” President Maduro said in a statement.
The Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft is a twin-engine, two-seat supermanoeuvrable fighter jet developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. The aircraft is versatile, being able to perform various combat and non-combat roles. It is equipped with a 30mm autocannon and hardpoints capable of carrying various missiles. Venezuela and Russia, along with Iran, China and Turkey, signed military cooperation agreements since the government of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (1999-2013). As part of these agreements, Venezuela acquired 24 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 aircraft in 2006 to replace the French Dassault Mirage 2000 fighter jet. However, this incident is not the first fatal crash to involve a Sukhoi-30 in Venezuela. Two pilots were killed in similar incidents with the aircraft type in September 2015 and October 2019.
Colombian Air Force Tucano crash
On 1 July 2023, at about 1728 local time, two Colombian Air Force AT-27M Tucanos (Embraer EMB-312A) trainer aircraft, operated by Escuadrón de Combate 212, Grupo de Combate 21, Comando Aéreo de Combate 2, collided while flying in a five-ship formation over Captain Luis F. Gómez Niño Air Base (API/SKAP), Apiay, Colombia. One of the aircraft crashed and was destroyed, whilst the other was able to conduct a safe emergency landing. One of the pilots onboard the crashed aircraft perished.
New regional commercial aircraft outlook published
A fresh market outlook came courtesy of Embraer’s analytics at the recent Paris Air Show, showing $650B up for grabs and a need for 11,000 new regional aircraft. As global passenger volume rose to 3.2% annual growth, the industry watched its fortunes rise in turn, seeing widespread demand for narrowbody and short-haul aircraft. A long list of growing markets throughout the East have also served to boost interest in smaller aircraft that are suited to shorter, rougher fields.
Some of Embraer’s biggest news has come from a burgeoning business overhauling first-gen passenger-layout E-jets to freighter spec, giving Chinese operators a cheap, effective cargo hauler. Demand for the region stands out amongst its peers in growing markets, with 4.4% annual growth expected. Overall, Asia should see 3,180 new sub-150-seat jet deliveries through 2042. The next-highest growth market lies in Latin America, where expanding infrastructure and markets will see 960 deliveries and a 4.1% growth rate. Trailing behind them lies Africa, with 530 deliveries and a 3.7% growth rate.
Jets will remain the favourite, despite the sometimes-expected preference for high-wing turboprops throughout the fastest growing markets of the global south. Only 2,210 turboprop deliveries are expected through 2042, with 8,790 jets slated for delivery around the world. Of those, Latin America, Africa and the Middle east will account for 20.3% of turboprop deliveries, only a moderate amount more than their share of jet deliveries at 16.4%.
Israel to purchase another 25 F-35 Joint Strike fighters
On 3 July Israel announced that it will acquire 25 additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, with a price tag of approximately $3 billion, which will be paid for by American military aid funding. The new jets will comprise a third squadron for Israel, where the F-35 is known as the Adir. Jerusalem already has placed orders for 50 F-35s, with 36 operational; the first F-35s arrived in 2016 and saw combat for the first time in 2018.
An Israel Ministry of Defence spokesperson said in a statement that Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant approved the recommendation to acquire the third squadron, based on a proposal of IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Director General of the Israel Ministry of Defence Maj. Gen. (Res.) Eyal Zamir, and Commander of the Israeli Air Force Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar. According to the ministry statement, the Israeli Ministry of defence’s mission in the USA will issue an official letter of request (LOR) to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Programme Office (JPO). “This step will facilitate the approval and signing of the transaction in the coming months,” the ministry’s statement said.
“As part of the original agreement between the governments, the aircraft’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin and the engine manufacturer, Pratt and Whitney, have committed to involving Israeli defence industries in the production of aircraft components sold,” the Ministry said. “This new agreement will ensure the continuation of cooperation between American companies and Israeli defence industries in the production of aircraft parts.”
The F-35 includes technology that is connected to Israeli companies, such as the helmet made by a joint venture between Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins and F-35 wings made by IAI. In 2022 IAI said it was scheduled to produce a total of 811 pairs of F-35A wings by 2034, deals worth around $2 billion.
Discussions regarding the purchase of a third squadron of F-35s go back several years. Israel’s air force has also sought to modernise its tanker fleet by acquiring the KC-46A refuelers and also has purchased new CH-53K helicopters. Israel also operates F-16s and F-15s. A significant amount of Israel’s purchasing power is funded through the American Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme, where Washington send funds to partner nations to help them buy American-made weapons.
US approves $5.6 billion F-35 sale to Czech Republic
On Monday 3 July the US State Department approved the potential sale to the Czech Republic of 24 Lockheed Martin-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as a plethora of weapons, parts and equipment, in a deal worth up to $5.6 billion. “The proposed sale will improve the Czech Republic’s defence capabilities as well as support NATO operations by guarding against modern threats and maintaining a constant presence in the region,” the State Department said in a statement, though it added a claim that the new fighters ‘will not alter the basic military balance in the region.’
The 24 fighters will be the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) variety, better known as F-35As, like the kind flown primarily by the US Air Force. The Czech Republic made its F-35 ambitions known a year ago, when it announced it had chosen the American fifth-generation jet over the F-16 or the Saab-made Gripen fighter. Presently the Czech air force operates Gripens. “Our decision to select this option is based on the analysis by the Czech Armed Forces, which clearly articulates that only the most advanced fifth generation fighters will be able to meet mission requirements in future battlefields,” Czech Defence Minister Jana Černochová said at the time according to a news release.
Beyond the fighters themselves, the potential deal announced today includes a host of missiles, bombs, electronic warfare and radio capabilities, as well as ‘classified software’ and software development. The purchase also includes 25 Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines. The State Department noted that the final cost of the deal would likely be less than $5.6 billion ‘depending on final requirements, budget authority and signed sales agreement(s), if and when concluded.’ It is also possible, though unlikely, that the US Congress could object to the deal. Assuming the sale goes through, the Czech Republic will join nine other foreign military buyers, in addition to seven foreign F-35 ‘partners’ to the US in the programme. Just a day before this announcement, the State Department also publicised its approval for the sale of small diameter bombs for use on Norwegian F-35s.
Pilatus’s PC-12 NGX makes Japanese debut
The aircraft was ferried from Pilatus’s Stans, Switzerland manufacturing facility to Osaka, where it was greeted, despite the gathering at night and lack of official word of its imminent arrival, by numerous plane-spotters gathered to catch a glimpse of the ‘Swiss Made’ novelty. By virtue of its new PC-12 NGX, OpenSky Inc. intends to offer discerning clientele a travel experience unique in Japan.
Earlier this year, OpenSky took delivery of a PC-24 Super Versatile Jet by way of which the Japanese air-carrier will offer business flights. What is more, the company has placed an order for a second PC-24, which is slated to be delivered in autumn 2024. Pilatus describes its PC-24 as ‘the only aircraft combining the versatility of a turboprop with the cabin size of a medium-light jet and the performance of a light jet.’
Pilatus’s PC-12NGX derives of the Swiss plane-maker’s popular PC-12 pressurised, single-engine, turboprop, of which the company has produced over 1800 since 1994. The PC-12NGX improves on its forebear by means of its 1,200-shaft-horsepower PT6E-67XP powerplant, which in addition to motivating the aircraft to a cruise-speed of 290-knots, features dual-channel, Full-Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC). The PC-12NGX’s single power-lever governs both engine power-output and propeller RPMs. What’s more, pilots can select a propeller low-speed mode for reduced cabin and over-flight noise.
The PC-12NGX cockpit features Honeywell avionics with outstanding babysitting functions such as tactile feedback in unusual attitudes, an Emergency Descent Mode (EDM) and a Crew Alerting System (CAS) that automatically populates the aircraft’s Multi-Function-Display (MFD) with electronic checklists the aircraft deems situationally appropriate. PC-12NGX pilots enjoy availing themselves of four ten-inch LCD displays, Honeywell’s SmartView Synthetic Vision System with HUD based performance symbology, an Interactive Navigation (INAV) system, fully integrated Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), dual Flight Management Systems (FMS), Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System I/II (TCAS), graphical flight-planning, touch-screen controllers and a Cursor Control Device (CCD).
Bell sees an opening in militarising ‘cost-effective’ commercial helicopters for foreign buyers
With increased demand worldwide for low-cost armed helicopters, Texas-based Bell says it has found a balance between demand, supply and Foreign Military Sales-related obstacles offering militarised commercial helicopters to some customers on tighter budgets. At this year’s Paris Air show, a Bell 429 helicopter was exhibited in the static display in its police configuration, which the company says can be militarised through weapons integration upon request to become what is known as a special mission aircraft (SMA). “Because many countries do not have the budget to afford a military helicopter like AH-64 Apache or modern, large, purpose-built helicopter like the AH-1Z Viper, countries request cost-effective platforms,” Douglas Wolfe, managing director of sales and strategy international sales at Bell, said. He added that a Bell 412 helicopter that is fully militarised can be equipped with rockets, guns and missiles and is highly modular. Should the buyer want other capabilities, the company said the transformed helicopters can also be outfitted with platforms specific to MEDEVAC, ISR or other non-combat missions. “We build all of our commercial aircraft at Mirabel, Canada and then move them to the finishing centres, where we test them for flight and integrate weapons management system, different kinds of ISR and radios and armaments according to the customer requirements,” Wolfe said.
“These platforms are having significant interest around the world,” he explained, though he said the US military is still the company’s ‘primary customer.’
Wolf said that when foreign nations do place orders, militarising a civil aircraft shortens the time for approvals needed, since it is not the whole airframe itself that needs approval but the weapons systems that would be added to it. “The Foreign Military Sales ‘process does take a while, particularly for bigger procurements like the Zulu. But for commercial aircraft and through our agreement with the American armed forces office, the process is much quicker,” Wolfe said. “We cannot put a specific timeline on each effort, but a key benefit is that these aircraft can be outfitted, acquired and fielded much more quickly and affordably when compared with purpose built military aircraft.”
Although the company official would not say exactly what countries have shown increased interest in the cheaper militarized birds, Wolfe claimed geopolitical events have highlighted the need. “The Russian war in Ukraine has really heightened everyone’s awareness and interest in their self-defence. We are seeing demand globally and in the Middle East,” he said.
Electric motor reaches 1,300-Hp record
Wright Electric hit a record one megawatt using its aerospace-specific motor-generator. The record is a new high for the company, breaking the 1,300-horsepower mark with a single unit. The record led the firm right into announcing a recent Space Act Agreement with NASA that will see their equipment tested at altitude using the NASA Electric Aircraft Testbed. The versatile Wright propulsion system can be operated as a motor or a generator, enabling its installation as a standard APU or turbogenerator for direct propulsion. The firm also has an eye on terrestrial use, seeing a day when the Wright is installed in a range of heavy ground and rail equipment.
Jeff Engler, Founder and CEO of Wright Electric, was happy to extol the virtues of the firm’s new accomplishment. “Achieving 1 Megawatt, specifically 1 Megawatt of shaft power, is an important step in reaching Wright’s goal of making all single-aisle flights under 800 miles zero emissions. Commercial class airplanes need megawatt-sized propulsion systems for a full passenger load take-off. We are excited to bring our motor to the NEAT facility at NASA, where it will be tested at up to 40,000 feet and we are confident our motor is more than ready for that challenge.”
Air4TM in Poland acquires an ALSIM AL250 simulator
ALSIM, the global flight simulator manufacturer headquartered in France, is strengthening its presence in Poland, as Air4TM has recently acquired an ALSIM AL250 simulator. It will be the first AL250 simulator located in Silesia, Poland. The AL250 simulator addresses initial phase training needs (PPL, CPL, IR/ME) and is SEP/MEP re-configurable simulator certified as an EASA FNPT II. In addition, it offers both, classic and glass cockpit for each flight model at the simple flick of a switch. This device has been extremely well received since its creation and more than 100 of these have already been installed and are in successful operation worldwide.
Michal Dyga – Air4TM’s Head of Training, explains their choice, “The primary purpose of the AL250 simulator is to serve as an essential training tool, enhancing the quality of training and undoubtedly creating additional opportunities. It perfectly complements Air4TM’s professional approach and reliable training methods. The simulator will be used throughout every stage of the training process to become a Professional Pilot, specifically for acquiring the CPL(A) license.”
Anna Lezoray, ALSIM’s Sales Account Manager, emphasises, “We are extremely happy to work with Air4TM. Team at Air4TM and ALSIM share a common passion for aviation and quality training. We are proud that addition of our AL250 to their fleet will enhance their offer and strengthen their position on Polish dynamic market.”
US DoT publishes a report on ATC staffing woes
A disconcerting report from the US Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General reviewed a few ongoing problems in the ATC network, pointing to staffing challenges and an uncertain training pipeline as chief concerns. The FAA made ‘limited efforts to ensure adequate controller staffing at critical air traffic control facilities,’ began the findings brief. Also worrisome, it added, was that ‘the Agency also has yet to implement a standardized scheduling tool to optimise controller scheduling practices at these facilities and FAA officials disagree on how to account for trainees when determining staffing numbers.’ That lack of clear direction bears out in a few other ways, where locations stand shorthanded due to unclear and changing training timelines.
The report said that the FAA continues to face staffing challenges, as expected to some degree after a two-year interruption in training and stable operations, but disconcertingly ‘lacks a plan to address them’. The DoT report said that lack of planning ‘poses a risk to the continuity of air traffic operations’, with spot checks revealing that 20 of 26 (77%) critical facilities are staffed below the FAA’s minimum 85% threshold and it is not just backwater, low traffic regions of the country. High-traffic centres like New York Terminal Radar Approach Control and Miami Tower sit at eyebrow-raising 54% and 66% staffing.
In addition, the COVID interruption continues to be felt throughout the ATC circuit, with years of training pauses stacking up to compound an already inconsistent flow of fresh blood into the industry. The training pause added another two-year delay, which will ‘significantly increase controller certification times’. Like the rest of the report, the FAA, does not really have a plan for this, either. The DoT said ‘The FAA will not know the full impact of the training suspension on certification times for several years because training outcomes vary widely and it can take more than three years to train an air traffic controller. Due to these uncertain training outcomes, the FAA cannot ensure it will successfully train enough controllers in the short term.’
The report issued a pair of recommendations to safeguard minimal staffing levels. First, the review of the models used to distribute certified professional controllers for ATC facilities and update interim staffing levels as necessary. Secondly, the implementation of a new labour distribution system with features for timekeeping, overtime and Controller-in-charge tracking.
Smoke clearing in Oshkosh as AirVenture preparations continue
Like much of the northern area of the US, Oshkosh has been choking under smoke drifting in from forest fires in Canada but AirVenture officials say the annual show will go on as planned in late July. Readers have reported poor visibility and terrible air quality in recent days, but AirVenture spokesman Dick Knapinski says there is plenty of time for things to improve. “We are still more than three weeks out,” Knapinski said. “We are watching it, just as we would weather events. The event will go on.”
The air quality in Oshkosh was rated as unhealthy for a week until improvement started Thursday and it has been in the moderate range since. The smoke is expected to significantly clear over the weekend as thunderstorms push into the area and by early next week the air quality is expected to be good. Long range, it looks like the typical summer pattern of warm days with convective activity will dominate, which should keep the smoke out but will, of course, create its own issues.
But the forecasts only go out two weeks and there is no guarantee that the smoke will not return. The northern US normally welcomes the cool breezes from the north, but if they return, they will almost certainly carry smoke with them as Canada battles its worst-ever year for forest fires, particularly in the east. In the west, a couple of weeks of rainy weather has helped control fires in Alberta and like its southern neighbours in Washington, Oregon and California, southern British Columbia, a normal hotspot, has enjoyed a relatively slow start to the wildfire season.
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ESA’s Euclid mission equipped with Airbus telescope
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid science spacecraft has been successfully launched from Kennedy Space Centre. A high-precision 1.2m diameter telescope and payload module designed and built by Airbus will enable Euclid to explore the composition and evolution of the Universe including the role of dark matter and dark energy. Built by Thales Alenia Space for ESA, Euclid will collect high-resolution images in visible and infrared wavelengths. Within six years of observation, covering more than one third of the entire sky, Euclid will measure the shapes of, and distances to, more than one billion galaxies.
Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus said: “Euclid is another world-inspiring space mission that will aid humanity’s understanding of the structure and evolution of the Universe. This is the largest telescope with the highest optical performance ever designed and integrated by Airbus and testament to the skills and expertise of our space instruments team.”
Euclid will create a map of the large-scale structure of the Universe and will explore how the Universe has expanded and how structure has formed over cosmic history, revealing more about the role of gravity and dark energy. Euclid will also examine the effects of ‘weak lensing’, an effect that distorts the shapes of distant galaxy images due to the presence of dark matter between the Earth and those galaxies. In this way it will map out the distribution of dark matter across the Universe with unprecedented accuracy.
The full silicon carbide telescope will have to operate in extremely cold conditions of 100 Kelvin (-170°C), it builds on Airbus’ world-leading expertise in silicon carbide technology for space, already proven in orbit on ESA’s Herschel and Gaia missions. Euclid is a ‘medium class’ mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme. Thales Alenia Space was the industrial prime contractor for the satellite and Airbus was responsible for the payload module, of which the telescope is the main instrument. Euclid will reach its operational orbit around Lagrange two four weeks after launch when testing will begin, with full operations expected to start after three months.
SkyDrive selects Thales for flight control system for eVTOL
Drive Inc., an eVTOL aircraft manufacturer based in Japan, announced the company has selected Thales to provide flight control system for its production eVTOL, the ‘SKYDRIVE’. With ground traffic congestion and associated pollution becoming a major concern in cities around the world, eVTOL aircraft represent a disruptive solution to mobility challenges. With the mission of ‘taking the lead in the once-in-a-century mobility revolution,’ SkyDrive is developing eVTOL aircraft to create a future where everyone has access to eVTOL as their daily transportation.
SkyDrive has been selected to participate in Advanced Air Mobility ‘Smart Mobility Expo’ Project at Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan and the company aims to fly its ‘SKYDRIVE’ eVTOL aircraft at the Expo. Designed to be flown with one pilot and two passengers on board for intra-city flights, the ‘SKYDRIVE’ requires flight control solutions securing safe flights above populated areas. Flight control system is one of the key elements of eVTOL aircraft. Calculating and adjusting the position of the aircraft’s control surfaces and managing engine thrust, the fly-by-wire system is a critical element of flight safety.
Thales pioneered Fly-by-wire solutions in the 1980s with the first installation on Airbus A310. Since then, more than 12,000 aircraft have been equipped with Thales’ solutions. Today, Thales FlytRise materialises a new generation of flight controls, offering the ‘SKYDRIVE’ the combined benefits of proven experience and adaptation to eVTOL requirements, in particular lightness, compactness and autonomy-readiness.
Arnaud Coville, SkyDrive Inc. Chief Development Officer, said “We are very pleased to have Thales as our partner in the field of flight control for our eVTOL aircraft the ‘SKYDRIVE’. Thales’s flight controls have long been trusted in the aviation industry. As an eVTOL manufacturer, SkyDrive values safety above all, and we believe that partnering with Thales in flight control, which is a key safety-related technology, will enable us to achieve the safety objectives of our aircraft.” Jean-Paul Ebanga, Thales VP Flight Avionics, said “While mobility is seeking new sustainable solutions, we are proud to support SkyDrive in opening the skies to urban transportation, thanks to our new generation flight controls solution enabling ‘SKYDRIVE’ to fly safely.”
Cargo drone with ultra-efficient Channel Propulsion-CP and thrust augmentation
A design that led to rapid development for the present concept is the Custer Channel Wing, a largely forgotten attempt to create ultra-short take-off and landing (USTOL) airplanes nearly a century ago. Willard Custer came up with the idea of reversing the normal method of powered flight: instead of using the engines to push the aircraft through the air, he used the engine to suck the air across and through the wing, creating lift immediately when engine power was added. Custer discovered the idea for his creation in the 1920s when he took refuge in a barn during a severe storm. He was stunned and fascinated to see the storm suck the roof off the barn and carry it away. Interested in aviation but not a pilot, Custer began a series of experimental aircraft designs incorporating large channels in the wings, which has been likened to a half-barrel shape. He was awarded 27 patents for his discoveries between 1929 and 1974; he built three different twin-engine aircraft in the 1940s and 1950s with his trademark curved ducts to channel air around the rotating propellers.
Unfortunately, in the case of Custer design, the channel area is reduced and the positive high lift effect is limited. In our days, many people believe that unmanned aerial vehicles are opening the doors to move towards flying taxis. However, the greatest development happening at the moment comes in the form of cargo drones. Recently, a Brazilian company Moya was financed by the Brazilian government with two million dollars to develop a tilting body drone. CP is a new propulsion principle of thrust augmentation and high lift with a double biplane wing system, increasing substantially the channel surface.
CP has a double biplane wing structure that uses a thrust augmenter configuration to increase the lift in both vertical and forward flights. In static conditions and at slow speeds, the lift capacity increases due to higher circulation around the wings, improving the aircraft’s thrust to weight ratio characteristic. Consequently, the weight is balanced by the sum of the thrust produced by the propeller and the lift produced by the wings. Because each front wing of each thrust unit is placed in the inlet region of the propeller it will develop a certain amount of lift due to the suction effect. On the lower surface, the pressure will be equal to the atmospheric pressure, while on the upper surface, the pressure will be slightly lower. As in the case of the front wing, because each rear wing of each thrust unit is placed in the outlet region of the propeller it will develop a certain amount of lift as well due to the increased pressure exercised on the lower surface of the rear wing.
Moreover, the propulsion system can be seen as a channel wing propulsion where in stands of a circular channel (already confirmed as being a high lift configuration) is used a rectangular channel having a substantially larger dimension than Custer wings. In this case, the entire channel surface is airfoiled, therefore it can generate lift when air flows over it. With the placement of a propulsion system within the channel, close to its trailing edge, air can be sucked over the channel surface. The reason for placing the propulsion system near the trailing edge is to use the maximum possible channel surface to generate lift. When the electric motors are running and the aircraft is standing or moving with a low forward speed, the air flowing through the channel is high with respect to the speed of the air below the channel surface. Therefore a high-pressure region below the channel and a low-pressure region over the channel are created. Consequently, a high amount of lift is generated that could not normally be produced by a conventional wing arrangement. Even at high speeds, the increased velocity of the airflow around the entire wingspan generates an improved high lift.
Using this configuration, the propulsion system can have another important feature, respectively the propeller deactivation in cruising flight, without increasing the drag, but obtaining an improved efficiency. A CFD simulation was achieved for a preliminary configuration. This showed a substantially improved flying efficiency even though this variant does not use the entire wingspan as the last proposal.
A number of independent experiments were made to demonstrate the benefits of ‘over the wing propeller’ by Delft University of Technology, from Holland. Conclusion: even in the case of an isolated propeller there are substantial advantages compared with the current technologies. A cargo drone configuration was proposed. The fuselage has preferably an ovoid aerodynamic shape having substantially the same incidence angle as the wings. The fuselage is supported by two longitudinal beams. The drone uses two biplane thrust units merged by the two beams. In operation, the drone tilts progressively the body until the forward flight position. At cruising speed, the drone can deactivate 40% of the propellers, which greatly increases the flight efficiency.
The traditional way of determining vertical flight and hovering efficiency is to consider the power loading of the vehicle. This is a simple ratio between the vehicle’s weight and the installed power. A more efficient vehicle requires a less powerful engine to hover at a given weight. Another method of measuring hover efficiency is disc loading, i.e., (weight of vehicle) / (area of thrust-producing structure). An eVTOL aircraft with high power loading and low disc loading is the most efficient at hovering, as is the case for our cargo drone. The cargo drone configuration is considered to be certified faster than a passenger vehicle, so this will be produced first.
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