“We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth…For my part, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and to provide for it.” Patrick Henry
Blohm & Voss BV 238 Wiking
(Pronounced ‘Veeking’) was a large, six-engined German flying boat of World War II. Originally designed as a commercial transport, it was the largest seaplane to attain production status during the war. Prior to World War II, the German airline Luft Hansa had carried out many transatlantic mail flights. Their main interest was passenger transport, and they initiated a programme in 1936 for which Hamburger Flugzeugbau offered the Ha 222, a very large flying boat designed by Dr. Richard Vogt. By the time an order for three was received and work began, the company had changed its name to that of its parent company, Blohm & Voss and the design was redesignated the BV 222.
Construction of the first prototype, V1, began in January 1938, with construction of the V2 and V3 following within weeks. V1 made its test flight on 7 September 1940, carrying the civil registration D-ANTE. During trials it demonstrated that it could carry up to 92 passengers, or 72 patients on stretchers over short distances at a maximum speed of 385 km/h (239 mph). The flight characteristics were found to be satisfactory, but with some improvements required. Further trials lasted until December 1940, when the V1 passed into Luftwaffe service, receiving a military paint scheme and the Stammkennzeichen individual alphabetic military aircraft registration code of CC+EQ, later changed to the alphanumeric Geschwaderkennung ‘wing code’ designation of X4+AH, when in service with Lufttransportgruppe.
The type had a long flat floor inside the cabin and a large square cargo door aft of the wing on the starboard side, with such a flat floor for the hull interior being a welcome novelty for that era. The usual balance floats for a flying boat design were ingeniously designed as a matching pair of retracting float units per side, which extended from beneath the wing’s outer panels in ‘clamshell’ fashion when fully extended and fit fully flush with the wing panels’ undersides when retracted. Only 13 aircraft are thought to have been completed.
Originally powered by Bramo 323 Fafnir radial engines, later aircraft were powered by six 746 kW (1,000 hp) Jumo 207C inline two-stroke opposed-piston diesel engines. The use of diesels permitted refueling at sea by special re-supply U-boats. C-13 aircraft was a sole example fitted with Jumo 205C and later Jumo 205D engines. Early aircraft were identified as V1 to V8. Production examples were designated C-09 to C-13.
Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, plans were made to connect Germany and Japan by air using Luftwaffe aircraft modified for very long-range flights since commercial flights to the Far East by Luft Hansa were no longer possible and it had become very dangerous for ships or U-boats to make the trip by sea. Field Marshal Erhard Milch authorised a study into the feasibility of such direct flights and various routes were considered, including departing from German-occupied Russia and Bulgaria and a sea route using a BV 222 flying from Kirkenes in north Norway to Tokyo via Sakhalin Island, a distance of 6,400 km (4,000 mi).
Three BV 222s were captured and subsequently operated by Allied forces: C-011, C-012 and C-013. C-012, captured at Sørreisa in Norway after the war along with V2, was flown by Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown from Norway to the RAF station at Calshot in 1946, with RAF serial number ‘VP501’. After testing at Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Felixstowe it was assigned to No. 201 Squadron RAF, who operated it up to 1947, when it was scrapped.
C-011 and C-013 were captured by US forces at the end of World War II. On 15 August and again on 20 August 1945 LT Cmdr. Richard Schreder of the US Navy performed test flights along with the German crew of one of the BV 222 aircraft that had been acquired by the US. In two flights resulting in a total flight time of 38 minutes they experienced four engine fires. While many spare engines were available, they were of substandard quality due to the lack of quality alloys near the end of the war and caught fire easily. Since the aircraft was not airworthy with these engines, the aircraft was taken out to open water and sunk by a navy destroyer.
Other reports indicate the US captured aircraft were flown or shipped to the US. Convair acquired one for evaluation at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, the intensive studies leading to the hull design of their Model 117 which in turn led to the R3Y Tradewind. Their subsequent fate is unknown. The V2 aircraft briefly wore US markings in 1946. The V2 aircraft had identification markings from the original V5 aircraft for Operation Schatzgräber. V2 was later scuttled by the British who filled it with surplus waste from the base at Ilsvika to weigh it down. V2 was towed to a position in Trondheimsfjord between Ilsvika and Munkholmen, where it now rests on the seabed at 65 m (213 ft) deep, perfectly preserved due to low oxygen levels in the water. There are plans to raise and restore this aircraft.
Those persons that correctly identified this week’s mystery aircraft: Mark Cope, Rennie van Zyl, Charlie Hugo, Brian Millett, Willie Oosthuizen, Colin Austen, Rex Tweedie, Erwin Stam, Trevor Miller, Dave Entwistle, Mickey Esterhuysen, Michael Schoeman, Johan Prinsloo, Ulrik Wiinblad-Rasmus, P Rossouw, Karl Jensen, Dave Lloyd, Kevin Farr, Wouter van der Waal, Peter Gilbert, Alf Ljungqvist, Ahmed Bassa, Mike McLaughlin, Hilton Carroll, Jeremy Rorich, Steve Dewsbery, Danie Viljoen, Jaco van Jaarsveld, Jan Sime, Hugh Flynn, Jeffrey Knickelbein, David Plew-Chisholm, Darren Greenberg, Brian Ross, Carl von Ludwig, Johan Venter, Greg Pullin, Nic Manthopoulos, Pierre Brittz, Pierluigi Ferro, Brian Melmoth, Dawson Botes, John Moen, Daniel van der Merwe, Kirsten Johnstone, John des Fountain, Steve Duley, Zack Fourie, Aiden O’Mahony, Herman Nel, Gregory Yatt, Andrew Peace, (52)
Africa’s leading show for General Aviation is back
AERO South Africa starts today at Wonderboom National Airport and continues until Saturday 9 July 2022 and there are more than 40 aviation companies that will be exhibiting at this prestigious show. Come to AERO and identify the large propeller and the hub on which it stands at African Pilot’s show stand for a chance to win R1000 cash. Entry is FREE and we will award the cash to the first correct entry drawn on Saturday at around 13h00. Once again African Pilot was commissioned to produce the AERO South Africa official digital show guide.
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 326-page edition of African Pilot featuring our popular Light Sport Aircraft, Amateur Built Aircraft and South African built aircraft was released to the global audience on Thursday last week. The July edition features 22 Videos and 10 Picture galleries. This edition also features the annual EBACE exhibition, Newcastle and Parys airshow reports and the Sports Aerobatics Nationals staged at Wings Park in East London all with videos.
African Pilot will be publishing its annual Avionics and Instrumentation and will include our annual headset review within 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 feature 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.
Royal Impression Academy (RIA) was launched in 2009 and has grown into a unique training and skills development institution, with a focus on offering accredited courses and meaningful interventions in addressing the triple threat of unemployment, poverty and inequality faced by various communities, spanning the Southern African region.
We are particularly proud of the fact that RIA is the only company in the country accredited by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) to offer training on Aviation Cyber Security – a topic that has been brought into the spotlight recently with the scramble to move online and use more tech-based interventions in direct response to the coronavirus pandemic.
RIA’s Aviation Cyber Security course covers topics ranging from Cyber threats and vulnerabilities, Social engineering, Malware, Mobile phone security, Security issues around passwords, websites, emails, removable media and social media, as well as Cyber security risk management strategies.
Wallpaper calendar for the month of July. Go to our wallpaper page to download the calendars in three different resolutions.
News from Sling
The Oshkosh community has been waiting three years to see the beauty of the Sling High Wing to grace its skies and exhibition spaces. This year, it is going to happen with the expected departure date, on Sunday 10 July. No less than three Sling High Wing aircraft are flying from Johannesburg to Oshkosh.
- ZU-SHW – The factory ‘Development Prototype’ Sling High Wing, piloted by James Pitman and his good friend, Matt Cohen
- N915HW – The first Sling High Wing delivered to a customer, in kit form and assembled by its American owner, Linda Sollars, here in Johannesburg. N915HW will be piloted by Linda and Mike Blyth
- N669JP – The first Sling High Wing Taildragger delivered to a customer, again in kit form, assembled by its Namibian owner, JP ‘The Candourist’ Schulze, also here in Johannesburg, and piloted by JP and his Australian buddy William
Route plan: We invite everyone to follow our trip by tracking our progress as we go since each airplane will have an IndigoDUO Hybrid Satellite Tracking and Messaging Device from IndigoSat, which will plot onto a world map live and which will be found on our Sling High Wings Expedition Page once installed, tested and live! As before, we promise to post photos, stories, return love and generally just try to bring the world along with us as much as we can. JP will also be posting content (VLOGS!) on a daily basis, being so much younger and more competent than James and Mike at these sort of things, there is generally more to see in his posts. Also check out his Instagram page or on his YouTube channel.
7 to 9 July
AERO South Africa at Wonderboom National Airport
Contact Annelie Reynolds at E-mail: email@example.com
Ethiopian Airlines resumes 737 MAX8 order, receives first since 2019 accident
Ethiopian Airlines (EA) has resumed its Boeing 737 MAX8 order after taking delivery of the first aircraft of the type since the fatal accident of flight 302 in March 2019. According to newsaero, the aircraft, registered ETAWJ, departed Boeing’s facility in Seattle, Washington on 30 June 2022, headed for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a stopover at Manchester Airport. The aircraft’s delivery to its final destination took place on 2 July 2022. According to Planespotters.net data Ethiopian Airlines now has five B737 MAX aircraft in its fleet. The delivery of EA’s newest Boeing 737 MAX8 follows the airline’s decision to return the aircraft type to its scheduled services in February 2022.
In a statement published in early February 2022, former Ethiopian Group CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said: “It is in line with this guiding principle that we are now returning the B737 MAX to service not only after the recertification by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), EASA of Europe, Transport Canada, CAAC, ECAA and other regulatory bodies but also after the fleet type’s return to service by 36 airlines around the world.” Boeing’s MAX variants, the 737-8s and 737-9s, were recertified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 18 November 2020. Ethiopian Airlines has an order book for 25 737 MAX8s and further deliveries are expected to take place in 2022.
Textron T-6C contract for Tunisia take shape
On 30 June the US Department of Defence announced it had awarded Textron Aviation Defence a modification to a previously awarded contract for the Tunisia T-6C aircraft procurement effort. The contract modification is for the procurement of eight T-6C aircraft, spare parts, spare engines, aircraft support equipment, training systems and other items. Work will be performed in Wichita, Kansas and is expected to be completed by 30 September 2026.
In October 2019 the US State Department approved the sale of up to 12 T-6 aircraft to Tunisia for an estimated $234 million and in late 2020 the Tunisian defence ministry announced eight T-6C trainers were being acquired, in addition to four AT-6C light attack aircraft. On 11 June 2021 the US Department of Defence announced that Textron Aviation Defence had been awarded a $12 million contract for long lead items and an in-country basing survey for the eight T-6 II trainers for the Tunisian Air Force.
Tunisian Air Force students undertake their basic training on SF-260s. Tunisia received nine SF-260CTs and 12 SF-260WT Warriors between 1974 and 1978, whilst about 18 SF-260s remain in use. Tunisian student pilots then move on to the jet-powered Aermacchi MB-326, some 10 of which remain in service. They are the survivors of eight MB-326Bs delivered in 1965, five MB-326LTs and seven single-seat MB-326KT light-attack aircraft delivered in 1977.
The AT-6C Wolverine light attack aircraft has seven hardpoints, allowing it to carry 1 860 kg of ordnance including HMP-400 .50 calibre machineguns, Mk 81 and Mk 82 unguided bombs, GBU-12, GUB-58, GBU-49 and GBU-59 Paveway II guided bombs, laser-guided rockets, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and flares. Targeting is through an MX-15D multi-sensor suite with colour and infrared cameras, laser designator, laser illuminator and laser rangefinder. The T-6C and AT-6 share an 85% commonality in structure, avionics and other systems.
Jet powered truck crashes at US airshow
The driver of a truck powered by jet engines was killed during a high-speed accident in front of spectators at an air show in Michigan, police and relatives said Sunday. Chris Darnell (40), died on Saturday at the Battle Creek Field of Flight airshow, where he was driving the SHOCKWAVE Jet Truck down a runway at more than 300 miles per hour, police said in a statement.
“We have lost our youngest son Chris in an accident doing what he loved; performing with SHOCKWAVE,” his father Neal Darnell said on Facebook. In a separate post, he said the accident was a result of ‘a mechanical failure on the Jet Truck.’
Qatar Airways 777 avoids collision with hot air balloon landing in São Paulo
A Qatar Airways Boeing 777 airliner was involved in an unusual incident while performing a flight between Doha in Qatar and São Paulo in Brazil. The passenger aircraft was forced to make an evasive manoeuvre to avoid collision with an unmanned hot air balloon. The incident happened on 3 July 2022, when a Qatar Airways Boeing 777-300 aircraft, registered A7-BEV, was performing a regular scheduled long-haul passenger flight QR779. According to the flight history found on Flightradar24.com, the plane departed from Hamad International Airport (DOH) at 02h46 a.m. (UTC) and was scheduled to touch down at São Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) in Brazil at 10h00 (UTC) but was disrupted due to the peculiar event.
The aircraft was on approach to the airport of arrival when a hot air balloon drifted into the plane’s flight path. Noticing the object, the pilots made evasive manoeuvres to avoid a collision. Luckily, this was successful and when the jet passed the balloon it returned to its correct alignment. The plane landed at GRU airport safely at 10h16 (UTC), experiencing a minor delay of 16 minutes. However, if the aircraft had hit the balloon, it could have been ingested by the plane’s engine, causing major damage and could have even resulted in a serious incident.
Emirates A380 flies from Dubai to Brisbane with one-meter hole in wing root
After it landed in Brisbane on 1 July, a large hole was discovered in the wing root fairing of an Emirates Airbus A380. The aircraft, registered as A6-EVK, took off from Dubai (DXB) at 11h10 GMT. According to unconfirmed reports in the local and international media, the crew suspected a tyre was blown during take-off. Following the landing 13.5 hours later, a large hole was noticed in the left-wing root fairing. The Aviation Herald reports that the hole likely resulted from a detached landing gear bolt.
According to The Daily Mail, multiple passengers said they heard and felt a loud bang approximately 45 minutes into the flight. However, the flight crew remained calm and the rest of the flight went smoothly.
Judging from the photos posted online, the hole in the wing root fairing appears to be at least one meter in diameter. However, the reports indicate that the pressurised section of the aircraft sustained no damage. According to Flightradar24 data, the return flight was cancelled and, as of 3 July, the damaged aircraft remains in BNE.
Icelandair to expand its 737 Max fleet to 20 aircraft with new lease agreement
Icelandair will add two new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft to its fleet following an agreement with Singapore-based lessor BOC Aviation (BOCA). The aircraft, which will be leased under long-term operating leases, are scheduled to be delivered in the fall of 2023, according to a statement released by Icelandair. “This transaction will bring the total number of 737 MAX in the Icelandair fleet up to 20 aircraft,” the statement continued.
Bogi Nils Bogason, CEO of Icelandair Group said: “We are pleased to announce the new agreements with BOCA, a long-lasting business partner. Locking in these aircraft on favourable terms enables the company to expand our fleet of Boeing 737 MAX and supports our future growth plans. The aircraft offer excellent fuel-efficiency from previous generation aircraft which also contribute to our efforts of reducing the carbon emissions from our operations.” The news follows an earlier statement released by the airline in June 2022, announcing its intent to purchase four Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The aircraft were built in 2018 and are scheduled to be delivered in the fall of 2022, the airline said.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport avoids protesting farmers’ fury
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) managed to avoid flight disruptions after becoming one of the focal points during a protest organised by Dutch farmers. The farmers that are protesting the government’s plan to impose new emissions standards, started blocking the roads around AMS with heavy equipment. Minor clashes with police have also been reported by local press. It has been reported that the farmers planned to enter the airport’s premises and block the runway in a move the protesters described as ‘shutting down the country’. Both AMS and the Dutch national airline KLM warned travellers about possible flight disruptions.
Some of the country’s other airports, including Eindhoven (EIN) and Groningen Airport Eelde (GAE) also issued warning to passengers. According to news website RTV, GAE, which had already been blocked by protesters in June, called on the protesters to spare the airport. However, as of 4 July the farmers have not entered the premises of any airport, blocking road access instead.
AMS avoided protest-related disruptions and flights are still going to plan, a spokesperson for the airport told Dutch news website Nu.nl. There have also been no reports of disruption at any other airport. Numerous traffic jams across the country have been reported by local media, as the farmers blocked the roads and access to various infrastructure. The Royal Marechaussee, the Dutch military police, have been mobilised and armoured equipment has reportedly been used to prevent the farmers from accessing and blocking certain roads, including those in the vicinity of AMS.
South Korea’s KF-21 fighter jet conducts ground tests ahead of first flight
A KF-21 fighter prototype was spotted undergoing ground tests at Korea Aerospace Industries’ facility near Sacheon airport, South Korea. Footage shared on YouTube on 4 July 2022, shows the aircraft crossing a road that has been closed to traffic. It then proceeds to taxi at high-speed along a runway.
Located south of the country, Sacheon Airport (HIN) houses the headquarters of Korea Aerospace Industries, which develops and manufactures the upcoming 4.5 generation fighter jet. The 3rd Flying Training Wing of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) is also based in the vicinity of the airport.
The KF-21 Boramae is a result of the long-running KF-X development programme, a joint development between South Korea and Indonesia. Another partner of the project, GE Aviation supplies F414 engines used on F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and Saab JAS 39E/F Gripens. According to KAI, the maiden flight of the prototype is scheduled for the end of July 2022, and mass production will commence in 2026. The ROKAF hopes to receive 120 KF-21 fighters by 2032 to replace its aging fighters.
Top Gun: Maverick soars past $1-billion
Paramount Studios has announced that Top Gun Maverick, the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster that established Tom Cruise as an international action star surpassed $1-billion in worldwide box-office earnings. In a career spanning north of forty-years, Cruise has put up some big numbers. Neither Interview With the Vampire, A Few Good Men, The Firm, Jerry Maguire, Rain Man, nor the Mission Impossible franchise were box-office slouches, but none powered past the billion-dollar milestone as Maverick has.
In a rare instance of concordance, critics have added their enthusiasm to that of Maverick’s audiences. The film, in which protagonist Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell guides a gaggle of Generation ‘Z’ megalomaniacs from idiocy to mere stupidity has a dazzling, 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes. To date, Maverick has bagged more than $520-million domestically in the United States and more than $468-million overseas.
It is the 50th film in history to earn more than $1-billion at the global box office, not accounting for inflation and only the second movie of the pandemic era to surpass the lofty mark, joining last December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscor, an American media measurement and analytics company that provides marketing data to media concerns, advertising agencies and publishers states: “For any film to join the $1-billion club is a monumental achievement, but Top Gun: Maverick hitting $1-billion during the pandemic is a bit different.” Mister Dergarabedian added: “It was the perfect movie at the perfect time because it starred one of Hollywood’s last movie stars, in a movie that delivered on all fronts to all audiences around the world.”
Bell announces purchase agreements for seven helicopters in Europe
On 5 July Bell Textron announced signed purchase agreements for seven Bell 505 helicopters to European customers, further validating the success of the Bell 505 in Europe and around the world.
Two of these Bell 505 purchase agreements were signed by JB Investments, the longest-operating distributor of light aircraft in Poland. The signing ceremony was held in May at a customer event in Prague with Magdalena Karska, board member, JB Investments and Duncan Van De Velde, managing director, Europe, Bell.
“The Bell 505 has become a popular aircraft for European operators within the corporate and VIP markets due to its advanced avionics, customisable cabin and versatility, which make it easy for a weekend getaway or quick business trip,” said Duncan Van De Velde, managing director, Europe. “We are proud to see the success of the Bell 505 and we look forward to adding more European customers to the Bell family.”
“We are thrilled to see the growing interest for Bell products among our Polish customers,” said Magdalena Karska, JB Investments. “Thanks to unique capabilities in its class, we see great potential for the Bell 505 model to be operated not only by corporate but also governmental customers in Poland.”
The Bell 505 is a leading platform with the integration of advanced technology such as the Garmin G1000H NXi and FADEC. The five-seat aircraft is comfortable and provides excellent visibility for the pilot and passengers. There are more than 360 Bell 505s operating worldwide, 65 of them operating in Europe. With its high-quality design, cost-competitiveness engine, manoverability and customisation options, the Bell 505 can serve as an ideal vehicle for private and tourism purposes, but also can be a tailor-made solution for the public missions of organisations looking for enhancement of their transport, surveillance and secure services.
SAS files for Chapter 11
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States in order to make progress with cost-cutting measures and accelerate its SAS Forward restructuring plan. “The Chapter 11 process gives us legal tools to accelerate our transformation, while being able to continue to operate the business as usual,” Anko van der Werff, President and CEO of SAS, said in a statement dated 5 July 2022. SAS expects to secure additional debtor-in-possession financing for up to $700 million to support its operations through the restructuring process.
During a press conference Carsten Dilling, Chairman of the Board of SAS said that while the decision to file for Chapter 11 had been taken on the morning of 5 July 2022, it had been an option that the company had been looking at as part of the SAS Forward programme. Van der Werff highlighted that the company had warned during its second-quarter results in May that legal action might become necessary if progress was not made with the restructuring. “I think we have been very transparent and very open to people in saying this is what may happen, this is something we are considering. For instance, with our fleet deals, the fleet restructuring component. If people still do not come to the table, then at some point you do have to take the decision to take it, unfortunately to a court process. We were not planning on doing it today, tomorrow or next week but the strike accelerates this and we have to protect the company.”
Flight schedules will not be affected by the Chapter 11 proceedings, although, the strike by SAS pilots, which started on 4 July 2022, ‘will make an already challenging situation even tougher’, according to SAS. “A strike is the last thing the company needs right now. We urge the SAS Scandinavian pilots’ union to end the strike and engage constructively as part of this process,” van der Werff added. On 4 July the airline warned that SAS pilots’ behaviour is ‘reckless’ and threatens the survival of the company. The airline expects more flight cancellations as a result of the ongoing strikes.
The SAS Forward programme, which was presented in February 2022, aims to reduce annual costs by SEK7.5 billion ($765 million). As part of the plan, the company also wants to raise SEK9.5 billion ($968 million) in fresh equity to boost its liquidity and convert approximately SEK 20 billion ($2.04 billion) of debt and hybrid notes into common equity.
According to the company, the implementation of this plan is necessary to improve its financial strength and ability to compete, as it needs to adapt to new travel trends and deal with debts incurred resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. As of 30 June 2022, SAS has SEK 7.8 billion ($756 million) in cash.
Czech, Polish jets to protect Slovakia amid possible transfer of MiGs to Ukraine
On 3 July 2022, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the country is ‘ready’ to assist Slovakia in defending its airspace until the Slovakian Air Force receives its order of F-16 fighter jets. Poland’s readiness to share this mission with Czechia was confirmed in April 2022, when Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak discussed the details of the arrangement in a meeting with his Slovakian counterpart. Slovakia’s agreement with the neighbouring countries will allow it to ground its fleet of ageing Soviet-era MiG-29 jets, a move the country has been considering for some time. In addition, reports emerged in June suggesting that Slovakia is ready to transfer the grounded aircraft to Ukraine on the condition that its neighbours would temporarily take over the defence of the country’s airspace.
In a separate televised address on 3 July, Fiala confirmed the reports, but emphasised that details would not be disclosed. According to unofficial sources, the Slovak Air Force maintains at least six operational MiG-29s, including one training aircraft. In 2018 it ordered 14 Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fighter jets in the latest Block 70/72 configuration. Delivery of the aircraft is due to begin in 2023.
Elektra trainer impresses during maiden flight
Elektra Solar GmbH, the German aerospace concern with focuses in the fields of manned and unmanned aerial systems has successfully test-flown the Elektra Trainer, the company’s two-seat, electric, ultralight aircraft. With test-pilot Uwe Nortmann at the controls, the Elektra Trainer prototype departed Memmingen International Airport in southern Germany on 29 June. The aircraft rose, silently and sans-emissions, after an impressively brief, one-hundred-meter take-off roll and climbed at a brisk, eight-meters per second and remained aloft for twenty minutes. At altitude, the Elektra Trainer operated in a low-cruise mode that drew only about ten-kilowatts of power. Upon landing, Herr Nortmann remarked favourably of the aircraft, stating it exceeded the expectations of the developers.
The Elektra Trainer was designed to meet the needs of flight schools and flight clubs. Its low operating cost of less than €60 per hour is about half that of a traditional ultralight aircraft. The model also marks the advent of Elektra Solar’s Digital Aircraft Platform, a proprietary infrastructure that facilitates preventive maintenance by automatically monitoring the systems of in-flight aircraft and uploading the data to a cloud-based network, where it’s analysed with the help of AI-algorithms.
Errors and deviations from normal operating parameters are reported to the aircraft’s owner and/or a maintenance provider. The platform, which Elektra Solar plans to offer across its fleet, contemporaneously increases safety and reduces maintenance costs.
Having completed its maiden flight, the Elektra Trainer will now begin certification flight-testing with an eye toward receiving German UL certification by the end of this year. Thereafter, Elektra Solar looks to gradually expand its electric aircraft family. The company is confident it can develop and build a 10-seat, regional-mobility, community-friendly (low-noise) electric aircraft with a five-hundred-kilometre range within ten-years.
Virgin Orbit – another successful launch
This launch, named Straight Up, carried seven satellites to Low Earth Orbit for the United States Space Force (USSF), who procured this launch for the Rocket Systems Launch Programme, with payloads provided by the Department of Defence Space Test Programme (STP). In support of its mission partners, Virgin Orbit has now delivered a total of thirty-three satellites to orbit with 100% mission success. “It was incredible to see the Straight Up mission wheels up and satellites successfully deployed to support the mission of our customers. We are intensely focused on ensuring we are a key mission partner as we continue to accelerate the operationalisation of the LauncherOne system.”
The launch reached an orbit approximately 500km above the Earth’s surface at 45 degrees inclination. This was Virgin Orbit’s second time reaching that inclination, an orbit that no other system has ever reached from the West Coast.
The seven satellites deployed by the result of the Straight Up launch are from multiple government agencies and will facilitate experiments intended to demonstrate innovative spacecraft technologies, new approaches for satellite applications and Earth atmospheric science. The contract to launch this mission, also dubbed STP-S28, was awarded to Virgin Orbit National Systems in April 2020 by the United States Space Force as a three-launch mission. STP-S28A is the first of those launches.
The Straight Up launch marked the company’s fourth successful commercial flight. The US Space Force Rocket Systems Launch Programme is a first-time customer for Virgin Orbit. The US Department of Defence Space Test Programme is a three-time repeat customer of Virgin Orbit. “The LauncherOne rocket and Virgin Orbit team have made me immensely proud with today’s Straight Up mission,” said Virgin Orbit founder Richard Branson. “There is so much potential benefit for everyone from space if we just manage it well together. We are delighted for the opportunity to work with the US government to help make space a safe and fruitful environment for all.”
The launch’s name, Straight Up, is inspired by American singer Paula Abdul’s breakthrough song from her debut studio album, Forever Your Girl. Following the success of this launch, the Virgin Orbit team is preparing for its first international launch later this year in collaboration with the United Kingdom Space Agency, the Royal Air force and Space Port Cornwall. This will be the first orbital launch ever from / over UK soil.
EASA drafts world’s first rules for city air taxis
The world’s first regulations for the operation of drones, eVTOLs and air taxis have been published in draft form by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The proposed new regulatory framework, NPA 2022-06, is open to public consultation until 30 September 2022 and covers airworthiness, air operations, flight crew licensing and rules of the air. “With this, EASA becomes the first aviation regulator worldwide to release a comprehensive regulatory framework for operations of VTOL-capable aircraft, which will offer air taxi and similar services,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “We have done our best to address general societal concerns and the expectations of EU citizens with respect to safety, security, privacy, environment and noise.” Manufacturers in Europe, Volocopter and Lilium principally, but there are others, have said to EASA that they will be ready for certification of VTOL aircraft in the next few years.
Among the measures
- Definitions of what is a helicopter and what is another type of rotorcraft, such as a multi-prop eVTOL.
- Operators will need to hold an air operator certificate (AOC).
- The AOC requirements and process are the same as for operators of aeroplanes and helicopters.
- Pilots of air taxis will need to be holders of commercial pilot licences for aeroplanes or helicopters (CPL(A) and CPL(H)) and issued with a VTOL-capable aircraft type rating.
- Standardised European rules of the air (SERA) will apply, including the underlying principle of ‘see and avoid’ and minimum heights for both VFR and IFR flights.
- Fuel / energy reserves: The aircraft must carry a sufficient amount of usable fuel / energy and reserves to safely complete the planned flight and to allow for deviations from the planned operation.
- EASA NPA-2022-06
US Army buys Penguin drone, Bayraktar TB2’s Latvian lookalike
Edge Autonomy announced a deal with the US Department of Defence (DoD) to produce an unspecified amount of long-endurance Penguin drones for the US Army. The company manufactures a range of light drones capable of carrying a range of payloads for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), as well as targeting. Edge Autonomy’s press release indicates that the company has previously supplied its products to the DoD. However, it did not disclose the extent of either the new or existing orders. Penguin C, one of the models the company manufactures, has a payload capacity of 25 kilograms (55 pounds), a range of 180 kilometres (112 miles) and a payload-dependent endurance of up to 25 hours.
While outwardly similar to the famous Bayraktar TB2, the Penguin is significantly smaller and occupies a different niche while retaining similar endurance. Edge Autonomy was established in Latvia in 2009 as UAV Factory. In early 2022 the company merged with Jennings Aeronautics and was rebranded. With offices in Riga (Latvia), California and Virginia, the company manufactures several variants of the Penguin, including an electric-powered Penguin BE and a vertical take-off and landing-capable Penguin B VTOL. It also provides various components for drone operations, such as payloads, launchers and control stations. According to Edge Autonomy, both military and civilian variants of Penguin drones have been exported to customers in more than 40 countries.
India conducts maiden flight of stealth drone technology demonstrator
The Indian Air Force’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has conducted the maiden flight of a flying wing combat drone technology demonstrator. The aircraft took off from the Aeronautical Test Range, Chitradurga, Karnataka on 1 July 2022. Its flight and landing were fully autonomous and went smoothly, according to a DRDO press release. According to earlier reports, the demonstrator, called SWiFT (Stealth Wing Flying Testbed), has a wingspan of five meters (16 feet). It is designed to test various technologies intended for eventual use on the DRDO Ghatak, a domestically manufactured combat drone.
The SWiFT was built by DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), with most of the aircraft’s components produced in India. While there is little information on the characteristics of Ghatak, its full-scale prototype is expected to start flying in 2025 following the completion of SWiFT’s extensive testing programme. The aircraft is expected to be similar to the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel and the Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik, as well as other flying wing reconnaissance and combat drones with stealth characteristics.
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