“Why is it when times get rough only the people have to look for ways to cut back? Why is this always just absolutely impossible for government?”
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
The Douglas XB-19 was the largest bomber aircraft built for the United States Army Air Forces until 1946. It was originally given the designation XBLR-2 (XBLR denoting ‘Experimental Bomber Long Range’).
Design and development
The XB-19 project was intended to test flight characteristics and design techniques for giant bombers. Despite advances in technology that made the XB-19 obsolete before it was completed, the Army Air Corps believed the prototype would be useful for testing despite Douglas Aircraft wanting to cancel the expensive project. Its construction took so long that competition for the contracts to make the XB-35 and XB-36 occurred two months before its first flight.
The plane first flew on 27 June 1941, more than three years after the construction contract was awarded. In 1943 the Wright R-3350 engines were replaced with Allison V-3420-11 V engines. After completion of testing the XB-19 was earmarked for conversion into a cargo aircraft, but modifications were not completed and the aircraft flew for the last time on 17 August 1946. It was eventually scrapped at Tucson in June 1949.
The new US Air Force had plans to save the B-19 for eventual display, but in 1949 the Air Force did not have a programme to save historic aircraft and the Air Force Museum had not yet been built. The B-19 was therefore scrapped, but two of its enormous main tyres were saved. One was placed on display at the Hill Aerospace Museum at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah and the other has been on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, in the ‘Early Years’ gallery for many years.
Those persons that identified the aircraft correctly this week: Glen Kieser, Anthony Bass, Nathan Lategan, Righardt du Plessis, Hilton Carroll, Bob Gurr, P. Rossouw, Rennie van Zyl, Kevin Farr, Jaco van Jaarsveld, Erwin Stam, Ahmed Bassa, Bernard Stander, Charlie Hugo, Richard Collocott, Wouter de Waal, Willie Oosthuizen, Nic Manthopoulos, Danie Viljoen, Selwyn Kimber, Colin Austen, Ari Levien, Steve Dewsbery, Michael Schoeman, David Plew-Chisholm, Mickey Esterhuysen, Greg Pullin, Herman Nel, Gregory Yatt, Les Smith and Brian Melmoth (31)
Does a Part 121 Operator have to comply with Part 91 of the regulations?
Pilot Phil Parsons writes about SAA retrenchment
“SAA, you have finally done it. Sixteen months after last paying us and 26 years since hiring me, you have pulled the plug and retrenched us all. A sad day indeed. My sadness transcends the beautiful machines I have had the privilege of flying or the wide world SAA allowed me to play in. Most of all my heart is filled with sadness at the loss of the friendships and our camaraderie as South African Airways Pilots, a select band of brothers and sisters. Not all house friends, but the kind I would welcome into my home anytime.
Aviators from every walk of life, from the Head of the AWB Airwing to ANC exiles, the SAAF war heroes to cadets from far flung rural villages, from the naughty to the God fearing, from the Casanovas to the moms with kids at home. Everyone with a flying or life story to learn from. It sounds so cliche but our diversity was truly our strength, with varying skills and experience levels but everyone with a common love of flying, and our company, in equal measure.
Who can forget the excitement of opening our rosters on the 16th of every month for a sneak peek into the following month’s fun? It was like opening a lucky packet. Some you preferred more than others, but all sweet none the less. Remember having to literally suck a lemon to get the smile off our faces while preparing for work or whistling while walking to our cars?
Whether on the jump seats to Jozi, in the corridors at work, at the sign-on counter at dispatch, at the door on a crew change in Accra, in the hotel lobbies or even bumping into each other on the streets of Hong Kong, New York or Frankfurt and London, the perpetual banter was unrivalled. Every encounter inevitably involved a quick whinge about management, some humorous stories about our colleagues or a belly laugh about the shenanigans on a recent trip.
Friendships cemented over hours and hours in near darkness, crossing continents and oceans. Generally avoiding politics and religion we explored each other’s passions, loves, losses, adventures, dreams, family dramas or crazy business ideas. Often while devising a mean plan of action involving exploring our exotic destination, interrupted only by some serious eating and drinking at our favourite haunts. From the wild parties to the quiet meals or even the solo exploring, every trip an adventure, every single time.
To say the last year and a half has been testing for all of us would be a gross understatement. Many will give up flying and for the rest it will take a few years to return to the flight deck, under completely different circumstances, I am sure? Hang in there my friends, this crazy world will eventually right itself.
To JZ, Dudu and your cronies, the toxic mix of your greed and incompetence destroyed a once proud 87-year-old airline of world repute. You should be riddled with guilt but, as most of the country have discovered, you have no shame. Enriching yourselves you have sewn a trail of destruction in your wake. Thousands of upstanding, hardworking and loyal workers’ lives have been upended. For the suffering you have caused you all deserve a special kind of pain. May you rot in hell.
To those of you who are entrusted to carry on the legacy in Version 2, I wish you well. May you prove the naysayers wrong. Fly the flag and fly it safely. Lastly, to all my colleagues and friends, I thank you for the fun and the laughter. Every one of you has left an indelible mark and I will cherish our memories forever. May you all find happiness beyond SAA. I will miss you all dearly.
Godspeed my friends.
There is not much one could add to Phil Parsons’s narrative above, except to say that the same situation applies to almost all State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) where good people with the correct qualifications have been ‘up ended’ for the sake of South Africa’s failed BBEEE system. This system that is much worse than ‘apartheid’ has enriched about a million-black people, whilst at the same time it has impoverished 50+ million people. If SAA ‘version two’ ever gets off the mark, it will be interesting to see if this airline will ever make any money ever again. The jury is out to consider the verdict, but after the events of the past two weeks, I for one do not trust anything the government does any longer.
African Pilot’s July 2021 edition
The July edition of African Pilot featuring Light Sport Aircraft types (LSA), South African designed and manufactured light aircraft and South African light aircraft assembled from kits has been fully distributed. This 260-page publication is one of the largest we have ever produced and incorporates 25 embedded picture galleries and 28 embedded videos, also another record. This year the LSA and South African manufactured aircraft feature is a whopping 80 pages. On behalf of the African Pilot team, I would like to thank those advertisers that have supported this amazing edition. Without your commitment there is no way we could have produced a publication of this excellence.
African Pilot’s August 2021 edition
The August edition will feature Avionics, Instrumentation and headsets, especially the aircraft retrofit market. Over the next few days African Pilot will be sending information to all known avionics and instrumentation companies in South Africa as well as the remainder of the world. Now that the magazine reaches anyone with an interest in aviation throughout the world, African Pilot is now considered to be an international publication.
African Pilot Digital Calendars
Wallpaper calendar for the months of May and June. Go to our wallpaper page to download the calendars in three different resolutions.
View and download African Pilot’s last three (3) 2020 editions.
Click on the covers below.
The mystery of Flights to Nowhere
I have watched and enjoyed the full series to date and I was impressed with the production of the various episodes that African Pilot published as a series during 2019 / 20 and that we consolidated into Wouter’s eBook. I understand from Wouter that the series has been so popular that the television station will be re-broadcasting the series on Mnet catchup for the next few weeks.
Flights to Nowhere eBook
Aero Club coffee table Centenary Yearbook
The AeCSA Centenary Yearbook is now available to purchase from the online shop. Please visit www.aeroclub.org.za/shop.
Aero Club support
Breaking news from the South African Power Flying Association (SAPFA)
Dear SAPFA Protea Team Members & Media,
It is with regret to announce that at the GAC meeting held last night, the committee deemed it requisite to cancel the World Rally Flying Championships planned for Stellenbosch in November. This is of course a blow to our plans to bring the WRFC to South Africa and has affected us for a second year running. The current uncertainty of travel restrictions into and out of European countries which are mostly different, the uncertainty of further lockdown restrictions locally and with time running out for the pre-planning still required to be done, as well as committing funds has put us up against a wall.
Many options were debated: to look at a 2022 double event (Precision & Rally), the potential risk that even 2022 will still be restrictive, rescheduling to 2023. France has already committed planning and resources, then 2025 is scheduled for Italy which is already out of the immediate time range where we will need to start over again from scratch.
SAPFA has invested significantly in time, resources, funds for us to host the event and have teams prepared. We will be holding a committee meeting soon to weigh up options, with the possibility of being able to hold a qualifying international event so that we can capitalise on all the hard work we have put into making the now cancelled WRFC work. Will keep you posted on the outcome of these deliberations after the necessary research has been concluded.
As sad day for our sport in SA!
News from CAASA
The Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa (CAASA) via the KZN Air Fund and the relief mission have enabled the communication and co-ordination of industries air assets to enable the movement of emergency medical and food supplies to various disaster struck destinations within the province.
Starlite Aviation at Virginia Airport has been a staging point for many mercy missions, linking with Margate and Richards Bay Airport. King Shaka International Airport has been a staging point for the larger aircraft. Many selfless individuals and companies have been flying missions carrying essential emergency goods such as baby formulae, chronic medications, vital emergency rations as well as evacuating the sick and elderly. This was at its height while the major roads were closed and the alternate supply chains had not been re-established. The N3 between Johannesburg and Durban re-opening and the community-based security initiatives, along with mobilising the NGOs and supply chains for unaffected parts of the country are now in full swing and ramping up.
CAASA along with many volunteers have assisted in numerous food movements by small aircraft of which 73 had been recorded by early morning on 19 July 2021. We concentrated on small packages and essential emergency items hence the tonnage was not huge. The focus was on efficiency and targeted deliveries of aid.
As the road infrastructure with larger capacity mobilises fully, the aviation initiative will start slowing down only to move to vital requirements. However, we will remain vigilant and on standby if the situations escalate once more. The present focus now moves to outlying areas that are difficult to get to by road as and when the need arises.
CAASA compliments the industry pilots and other role players with their initiatives that came together to aid our fellow South Africans. People like Santjie White, ex ARCC Chief, made sure each of our aircraft were flight followed and confirmed when the pilots, some fatigued from doing so much flying, landed safely at their destinations. Companies such as Starlite Aviation, Comair Flight Services (CFS), NAC, CEMAIR, Absolute Aviation and ExecuJet, to name a mere few, have been involved in sponsoring pilots, providing charters or providing space on aircraft to move goods. The evacuation of people and animals via either paid for or sponsored flights has been inspiring. It is at times like these that we see the true grit of our aviators and where their hearts are. They are South Africans and look after their own. The absence of government assistance was once again noted and the help of each citizen surely made the difference in these difficult times.
The CAASA Team
KZN Air Fund: CAASA in collaboration with the Aviation Industry formed the ‘KZN Air Fund’ to raise money to assist people affected by the current unrest in KZN and surrounding areas. These funds will be utilised for the provision of Transport of Emergency Goods and Services. If you are able to assist, please contact Louise Olckers Cell: 082 847 3403 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. All funds received will be for the sole use of providing relief to those affected in KZN and surrounding areas. Donations can be made to:
The Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa
Account Nr: 202520692
Branch Code: 001155
Reference: KZN Air Fund
Please forward your Pop to Louise Olckers E-mail: email@example.com
Dye-stained damaged bank notes
During last week’s looting spree, more than 1400 ATMs were forced open and compromised. The South African Reserve Bank has also warned that those in possession of dye-stained banknotes make themselves suspects of a criminal investigation. The central bank has also urged South Africans who were given or unknowingly accepted such notes to take them to their nearest police station immediately. Affected banks are currently assessing the impact of the excessive destruction of ATM’s. It is important to remember that it will hamper the customers’ ability to withdraw their salaries and make payments. BASA (Banking Association of South Africa) noted: ‘When bank operations are forced to close and services are suspended to protect employees from violence, it is the most vulnerable in our communities who suffer most. Many children support grants, pensions and other social security grants are accessed through the banking system. It will cause near-immediate suffering and distress if many of the 11.5 million South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) beneficiaries, who use ATMs and other point-of-sales devices, are not able to collect their grants.”
US military carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden
On Tuesday, the United States carried out an air strike against al Shabaab militants in Somalia, the first strike in the country since President Joe Biden came into office. Al Qaeda-linked insurgent group al Shabaab is seeking to topple the government and establish its own rule in Somalia based on its own strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law. In a statement, the Pentagon said the strike took place near Galkayo, Somalia. While the United States has frequently carried out air strikes in Somalia against al Shaabab, this was the first since 20 January when Biden took office. The group’s campaign of bombings and gun attacks has targeted Somali military bases and civilian infrastructure including hotels, bars and schools in both Somalia and other regional countries.
Balloon pilot falls to his death whilst passengers continue flying
One of hot air ballooning’s most respected pilots died in a bizarre incident that also sent three of his passengers on a free flight over rural Vermont and into New Hampshire. Brian Boland (72) took off from Silver Maple Lodge in Fairlee, Vermont on Thursday with four passengers who had purchased the flight through the lodge. The balloon eventually landed in a nearby field and the basket tipped, throwing one of the passengers out but not hurt. As the lightened balloon ascended, Boland got tangled in some gear on the basket and hung underneath until falling to his death. The remaining three passengers travelled about 1.5 miles across the border into New Hampshire until the balloon descended into some trees and they were able to climb down unhurt. All the authorities are looking into the accident and the hot air ballooning community is paying tribute to Boland.
FAA grounds the operator of ditched 737-200
Reuters is reporting the FAA has grounded Rhoades Aviation, whose Boeing 737-200 ditched off Honolulu on 2 July and has also revealed that action against the operator has been in the works since last fall. The company, which operated the 737-cargo flight under the Trans Air name, was notified on 13 June that it was losing its maintenance inspection authority in 30 days. It continued to operate and did not appeal the decision during the 30-day administrative grace period. The FAA announced it had grounded the operator on Friday. The FAA reportedly said the action was the result of deficiencies in maintenance and safety uncovered during its investigation.
The 45-year-old 737 took off from Honolulu for a half-hour flight to Kahului when the pilots reported they had lost an engine. On the way back to the airport they said the remaining engine was overheating and changed direction to a slightly closer small airport. The plane hit the water about two miles offshore and the injured pilots were taken to a nearby hospital. They were seriously hurt but both have since left the hospital.
Nigerian fighter jet shot down by criminals, pilot survives
On Monday, the Nigerian Air Force confirmed that heavily armed criminals have shot down a fighter jet in Nigeria’s northwest Zamfara state, adding that the pilot had safely ejected and evaded capture. The region has for years been terrorised by gunmen known locally as bandits, who maintain camps in forested areas and launch attacks on villages to loot, kidnap and steal cattle. Recently the gangs have scaled up mass abductions of students, prompting more military deployments to the area, including fighter jets, to end the violence. Nigeria’s air force said one of its fighter planes was ‘returning from a successful air interdiction mission’ on Sunday when it ‘came under intense enemy fire which led to its crash in Zamfara state.’ “Fortunately, the gallant pilot, successfully ejected from the aircraft,” air force spokesman Edward Gabkwet said in a statement. The plane was an Alpha Jet, the statement said. It did not give details as to how it was downed. ‘Using his survival instincts, the pilot, who came under intense ground fire from the bandits, was able to evade them and sought refuge in nearby settlements awaiting sunset,’ the statement said. The pilot found his way to an army base where he was finally rescued. In May, 11 officers including the top-ranking army commander Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru, were killed when their plane crashed in bad weather in nearby Kaduna state. President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general first elected in 2015, has been under increasing pressure from allies and critics alike over his government’s handling of mounting security problems in Africa’s most populous country.
French Mirage 2000 crashes in Mali, crew safe
A French Dassault Mirage 2000D crashed in a deserted area of the region of Hombori, central Mali, on 20 July 2021. Both crew members, a pilot and a weapons system officer, ejected and were recovered, according to the French armed forces. One of them was reportedly injured and transported to Gao military base. The aircraft, belonging to the 3rd Fighter Wing of the French Air Force, had taken off from the projected airbase (BAP) of Niamey, in Niger. An investigation will be initiated to clarify the cause of this incident.
The Mirage 2000 is a multirole fighter jet developed by Dassault Aviation in the 1970s. The D (Diversified) variant is an updated version of the airframe with two seats. Based on the Mirage 2000N (Nuclear), which was until 2018 the main nuclear strike platform of the French Air Force, the Mirage 2000D was designed for long-range precision strikes using conventional weapons. As for the nuclear role, it has since been taken over by the Rafale, another Dassault aircraft.
United Boeing 787-10 cleared to land on occupied runway in Paris
Last month a United Airlines 787-10 had a near-miss in Paris when ATC cleared it to land on an unexpected runway. As the runway was parallel to the original target, it was no big issue to make the switch. The problem was, there was already an aircraft on that runway. The flight proceeded without incident, the Dreamliner actually making up a bit of time on the journey. Having a published landing time of 07h45 the following day Paris time, United was firmly on final approach to the airport by 07h15. That is when things went a bit pear-shaped. According to the incident report on the Aviation Herald, the United Airlines aircraft had been lining up for a landing on runway 09L. This was the approach that the crew had been expecting, so it came as a bit of a surprise when ATC advised the pilots that they were cleared to land on runway 09R.
09R is a parallel runway to 09L, just to the right. As such, it was not too much trouble for the pilots to make a swing to the right in order to line up with the other runway. The crew read back the clearance to the tower. No mistake was noticed. However, runway 09R was already occupied, by an easyJet A320 on its way to Malaga in Spain. The easyJet plane had been cleared to line up on runway 09R and await clearance for take-off.
Thankfully, the easyJet pilots noticed what was going on. Clearly not keen to have a Dreamliner attempting to land over the top of their heads, the pilots reported the situation over the radio and the United crew were alerted. The Boeing 787 instigated a go-around from 260 feet above ground level. It circled and landed safely at CDG around 20 minutes later and still well ahead of schedule. The easyJet aircraft also took off safely around five minutes after the incident.
Undoubtedly, this was a chain of minor mistakes that could have added up to a major catastrophe. Thankfully, nothing untoward came about, although there will undoubtedly be some difficult conversations taking place right now. The French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile (BEA) has classed it as a serious incident and has opened an investigation.
Cirrus Aircraft unveils G2+ Vision Jet
On 20 July just in time for AirVenture, Cirrus Aircraft unveiled its re-imagined Vision Jet™, the G2+ Vision Jet, featuring optimised engine performance for expanded mission capabilities, Gogo® InFlight Wi-Fi for a connected cabin experience and bold, new colourways for added ramp presence. The G2+ Vision Jet is the latest demonstration of the company’s dedication to relentless innovation and joins a host of industry-leading technologies offered in the best-selling jet in general aviation, including Autothrottle, Safe Return™ Emergency Autoland and the Perspective Touch+™ by Garmin® flight deck.
Optimised performance for expanded possibilities
The Vision Jet is known as a versatile single-engine jet capable of adapting to the unique needs of business and personal travel missions. With the G2+ Vision Jet, the Williams FJ33-5A engine has been finely tuned with a newly optimised thrust profile that provides up to 20% increased performance during take-off. The optimised performance joins the expanded flight envelope to FL310, launched with the G2 Vision Jet in 2019, offering enhanced performance to increase range, carry more and enjoy added reassurance in hot temperatures and high elevations, providing access to additional airports at popular destinations across the globe.
Indian Navy receives American MH-60R helicopters
The Indian Navy has inducted two MH-60R Romeo multi-role helicopters from the US Navy. This is the first batch of Romeos India ordered in its biggest contract with Sikorsky yet. In total, 24 MH-60Rs were ordered for $905 million in a deal which was announced in May 2020. The Sikorsky MH-60R is a maritime utility helicopter with anti-surface and anti-submarine capability, capable of performing as search-and-rescue and communications relay aircraft as well. The formal ceremony of induction of the first two aircraft was held at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, in the presence of Commander USN Naval Air Forces, Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, Indian Navy Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff Vice Admiral Ravneet Singh and Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Indian Ambassador to the USA. The remainder of the aircraft are scheduled to be delivered through 2024. India has also signed additional contracts for logistics, sustainment and support services, with the total price of all the contracts topping at $2.6 billion.
Textron Aviation order for up to 150 Cessna Grand Caravan EX aircraft
On Tuesday Textron Aviation announced Surf Air Mobility Inc., has signed a purchase agreement for up to 150 Cessna Grand Caravan EX single-engine turboprop aircraft, with an initial fleet order of 100 aircraft and an option for 50 more. The order, which is subject to Surf Air Mobility obtaining financing, is part of an exclusive relationship between the two companies supporting Surf Air Mobility’s development of electrified Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft, beginning with a hybrid electric Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft powered by Surf Air Mobility’s proprietary powertrain technology.
Textron Aviation’s initial deliveries of the Cessna Grand Caravan EX aircraft to Surf Air Mobility, a company accelerating the adoption of electric regional air travel, are expected to begin in Q2 2022. Surf Air anticipates that its hybrid electric system for the Grand Caravan, upon certification, will power a 9-seat variant of the iconic single-engine turboprop. “Hybrid electric propulsion technology, deployed at scale for environmental and commercial benefits, is an important part of the future of travel,” said Ron Draper, President & CEO, Textron Aviation. “This relationship with Surf Air Mobility leverages the unique performance capabilities of the Cessna Grand Caravan in both passenger and cargo operations and continues to demonstrate the aircraft’s adaptability for innovative missions and configurations.”
The hybrid electric Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft is anticipated to be utilised by Surf Air Mobility across its own network, connecting more airports with short-haul direct service across the US on a path to creating a regional mass transport platform to sustainably connect communities. “The Cessna Grand Caravan EX is one of the most adaptable and prolific aircraft in flight today. Through this exclusive relationship with Textron Aviation, we are able to make electrified aircraft broadly available to existing and new operators, whilst bringing the benefits of lower cost, lower emission air travel to customers faster and at scale,” said Sudhin Shahani, Co-founder, CEO & Executive Chairman, Surf Air Mobility. “We believe electrifying the Cessna Grand Caravan is the most significant step that can be made toward reduced emission flying with the quickest path to market.” The transactions between Textron Aviation and Surf Air Mobility are subject to certain closing conditions, including the receipt of financing by Surf Air Mobility.
Bell restarts Venom production to meet Czech order
Bell Textron announced on 19 July that it has resumed UH-1Y Venom helicopter production to fulfil an FMS contract to produce and deliver eight UH-1Ys and four AH-1Z Viper helicopters for the Czech Republic. Subcontractor Crestview Aerospace completed manufacturing the first of eight UH-1Y cabins at its Florida facility. The aircraft will complete final assembly at the Bell facility in Amarillo, Texas. The company delivered the final UH-1Y for the USMC programme of record in April 2018, but it continued producing and delivering the AH-1Z under a production contract for 349 H-1 aircraft (160 Venoms and 189 Vipers). Bell noted that the UH-1Y shares 85% commonality of parts with the AH-1Z, including the same engines, integrated mission system and four-bladed rotor. This commonality has enabled critical component supply chains to remain active during AH-1Z production for the USMC.
Bell anticipates USMC production of the AH-1Z until early 2022, followed by continued production for foreign military customers, including Bahrain, which ordered 12 helicopters. According to Shephard Defence Insight, these Vipers will supplement a fleet of Royal Bahrain Air Force AH-1 Cobras (AH-1Es, AH-1Fs and TAH-1P trainer helicopters).
ALSIM delivered its first flight simulator to Russian S7 Aero
ALSIM, the global flight simulator manufacturer headquartered in France, is proud to announce its first sale in Russia. An ALSIM AL172 simulator has been delivered to S7 Aero and will be used for private pilots’ trainings at S7 Training. The AL172 is an exact replica of the Cessna 172 SP Skyhawk NAVIII. It features real Garmin G1000 NXI avionics and is equipped with the latest ALSIM VFR Visual System (VFRVS). The AL172, due to the unique ALSIM’s visual system matched to the accurate force feedback, provides students with the sense of motion in a fixed-base device. This immersion and depth perception allows the simulator to be used for even your most basic PPL training, cutting down time and costs required in an aircraft, in addition to instrument and other flight training. The AL172 was purchased with assistance from Mr Alexander Schaffler from Flight Simulator Trader (FST) in Germany.
Beam Global sets world record for longest flight in a production electric aircraft
On Wednesday Beam Global, the leading provider of innovative sustainable technology for electric vehicle (EV) charging, outdoor media and energy security, announced it successfully set the world record for the longest flight in a production electric aircraft powered by off-grid, renewable solar energy, proving zero emissions aviation is here. Starting in Fresno, the Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft flew 227 nautical miles over Central California with stops in Madera, Merced, Modesto and Lodi before following the same flight path back to Fresno. Beam Global partnered with Pilot Joseph Oldham, Founder and CEO of New Vision Aviation, to make the trip possible. EV ARC™ electric vehicle charging equipment was rapidly deployed at several airports and in some cases relocated to support the multi-leg flight, demonstrating that airports can support the electrification of aviation without construction, electrical work or large utility charges.
Currently, 62% of electricity from the grid in the US is sourced from fossil fuels and 29% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the transportation sector according to an April US EPA report on Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. As the momentum behind the electrification of transportation continues to grow globally, this world record highlights the coming renewable revolution of air travel ushering in a new era of clean transportation. These efforts are being led by the state of California, where Governor Gavin Newsom has dedicated a portion of the proposed 2021 state budget to mitigating the dangers posed by climate change, including efforts to prioritize zero-emission transportation.
Non-profit New Vision Aviation sees California’s Central Valley as an emerging innovation hub for the electrification of aviation and oversees educational programmes for disadvantaged youth to inspire and train them for careers in clean aviation.
Colorado cops say a man who ‘needed a vacation’ tried to steal a jet to fly to Hawaii
On Wednesday, a 30-year-old man apparently in need of a getaway hopped a fence at a Colorado airport and tried to board a taxiing jet. “We have all been at the point where we needed a vacation, but this took it a little far,” the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department said. The man breached a secure perimeter at the airport near Denver, then strolled onto a runway. He tried to board a Gulfstream jet that had just taxied onto the runway, but the crew refused him entry. A Denver Police Department helicopter at the airport heard about the commotion over the radio and responded, keeping watch over the intruder until deputies arrived. The man, who told deputies he wanted to go to Hawaii, faces charges including aggravated motor vehicle theft over $100,000 and trespassing.
Bezos and three others blasted off into space on Tuesday
On Tuesday morning the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, blasted off in a rocket whose design and testing he directed and paid for, spent a few minutes floating weightless on the edge of space, then fell to earth in a capsule buoyed by three parachutes and landed safely. The brief, 11-minute flight, which rose into the sky at 06h12 Pacific time, is a technical triumph for Bezos’s space venture Blue Origin, and for the subset of its 3,700-strong workforce who have worked to develop the New Shepard rocket, about 400 core engineers based in Kent.
The rocket was designed to rise just above the stratosphere and release the passenger capsule, which should follow a parabolic arc to an altitude of about 350,000 feet or 66 miles up, before free-falling toward earth, then floating down safely to the ground buoyed by three large parachutes.
About 05h30, Bezos and the three other passengers crossed an aerial bridge from a fireproof shelter to the capsule, each ringing a ceremonial bell. Bezos was accompanied in the capsule by his younger brother, Mark Bezos; 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, son of a private equity CEO who bought the ticket for an undisclosed price and 82-year-old Wally Funk, one of the original female astronaut candidates for NASA who qualified for the Mercury missions but never got to go to space. A small band of invited journalists took a shuttle bus that departed just before midnight Monday from the nearest city, El Paso two hours’ drive from Blue Origin’s remote launch site. After the drive to the small town of Van Horn, the press bus picked up more journalists, then headed to the launch site in darkness.
Journalists had a quick middle-of-the-night safety briefing at the hangar, warning of the various dangers at the site and what to do if anything goes wrong, volatile gases, explosive materials, pressurised tanks, as well as rattlesnakes and tarantulas at the landing pad. In the immediate future the flight marks the realization of a once fanciful idea: space tourism, now real at least for the very wealthy.
Bezos has touted Tuesday’s brief excursion just above the stratosphere as a small step toward a much larger and altruistic goal: A future where, expanding beyond the planet’s finite and depleting resources, “millions of people live and work in space.” Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s astronaut sales director, said in an interview last week she has been ‘very busy’ selling space ride tickets to ‘very serious customers from around the world.’ Cornell would not disclose the ticket pricing, which is perhaps negotiated client by client, but rides are expected to cost between $300,000 and $500,000. Blue Origin plans two more flights with paying customers this year and to increase the frequency of flights after that.
Watch Jeff Bezos go to space on New Shepard:
FAA activates system to track spaceships in the US National Airspace System
Spaceships are flying in the US National Airspace System, at least part of the time during their journeys. For this reason, the FAA developed a way to track a space launch or re-entry vehicle in near-real time as it travels through the National Airspace System. “This vastly improves the FAA’s situational awareness of where the vehicle is as it travels to space or as it returns to the Earth,” FAA officials said. “In addition to existing tools, the FAA also can use SDI to manage air traffic more efficiently as a space operation progresses and address contingencies in the event of an anomaly during a mission.”
“This is a critical tool as the number of users of our already busy airspace increases,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “With this capability, we will be able to safely reopen the airspace more quickly and reduce the number of aircraft and other airspace users affected by a launch or re-entry.”
Presently, the FAA must close airspace for extended periods of time when a launch or re-entry vehicle travels through the National Airspace System. SDI will allow the FAA to manage airspace and minimise the impact on other airspace users, agency officials said more dynamically.
Telemetry data provided via SDI includes vehicle position, altitude, speed and if it deviates from its expected flight path. It also displays tracking for the vehicle during its full flight and allows the FAA to monitor whether the vehicle is performing as planned. In addition, the SDI capability can display and share aircraft hazard areas that may potentially contain falling debris from a launch or re-entry vehicle.
Space operators share the telemetry data on a voluntary basis. SpaceX is the first company to participate and has provided data to the FAA since 2016 in the early stages of the SDI concept research and development. Other partners include Blue Origin, Firefly and the Alaska Aerospace Corporation. The FAA also recently began using time-based procedures and dynamic windows as tools to manage launch or re-entry operations more efficiently in the National Airspace System. Both offer great promise showing the FAA reduced the length of airspace closures from an average of more than four hours per launch to just more than two hours. As the SDI capability evolves, it will help the FAA reopen the airspace even more quickly, FAA officials said. In 2020, the FAA safely managed 45 space launches and re-entries into the National Airspace System, the most in the agency’s history. For 2021, that number could exceed 70.
German armed forces enter the space battlefield
On 13 July, following in the footsteps of the United States and France, Germany put into service its own space command. This new command, whose 80 service members come from the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, will regroup all the activities of the German armed forces associated with space. Its main mission will be to monitor and protect the seven satellites currently used and planned in the fields of telecommunications and observation.
“This is an important step to strengthen the capacity to act in the spatial dimension,” commented Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the German Minister of Defence, during the inauguration of this new structure. “Space has become a critical environment that we need to secure.” The ‘Weltraumkommando’ will be based at the German Space Situational Awareness Center in Uedem. There, Germany opened its Air and Space Operations Center in 2020 from which it monitors objects orbiting around space using the GESTRA and TIRA radar systems.
In recent years, several major world powers have stepped up their military uses of space. In February 2019, US President Donald Trump signed the Space Policy Directive 4, which established the Space Force as a sixth branch of the US Armed Forces. The directive cited the increasing space capabilities of its ‘potential adversaries’. In July 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron also announced the creation of a space command within the French Air Force, which would be known as the Air and Space Force. Two years earlier, Defence Minister Florence Parly claimed that the Russian Luch satellite, also known as Olymp-K, had attempted to spy on the Franco-Italian satellite Athena-Fidus that provides high-speed and secure telecommunications services to the military forces and emergency services of both nations.
EHang announces completion of EH216F tech exam
Autonomous aerial vehicle developer EHang announced it has successfully completed the technical examination of its EH216F AAV firefighting model by the China National Fire-Fighting Equipment Quality Supervision Testing Centre (NFFE). The NFFE is a national firefighting equipment quality examination agency under the Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM) of the People’s Republic of China. Its nationwide responsibilities include standards development, centralised management, and technical guidance for firefighting equipment products, including firefighting unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The NFFE conducted a comprehensive 10-month technical examination on EH216F and 52 different types of tests were completed in areas such as flight control functions, hovering and return accuracy, high / low altitude flights, electromagnetic compatibility, wind resistance, high / low temperature adaptability, vibration/shock resistance, radiant heat resistance and smoke performance. EH216F was officially launched in July 2020. With key advantages in autopilot, quick response and cluster management, EH216F is designed to address pain points in urban high-rise firefighting and become a valuable complement to the existing firefighting system. This firefighting AAV model demonstrates the commercial capabilities of EHang’s AAV technology in practical scenarios such as aerial firefighting and emergency rescues.
Germany gets its first drone traffic system
According to a 15 July release, Droniq GmbH, a drone integration company and DFS are creating an unmanned traffic system for drones, U-Space Sandbox, in Germany’s Port of Hamburg. “In the future, U-Space will also allow the full potential of drones to be exploited in urban areas within an established framework,” Droniq CEO Jan-Eric Putze said in a statement. “For unmanned aerial transport, this is a milestone. We are proud to show for the first time what this future can look like.” The traffic within U-Space Sandbox will be coordinated by a U-Space Service Provider (USSP), which will be conducted by Droniq, according to the release. DFS will provide Droniq with relevant airspace and air traffic data functioning as the Single Common Information Service Provider (SCISP).
“Our drone traffic systems puts us in an excellent position internationally, providing a solid foundation for the integration of drone airspace. In this way, we are enabling fast and uncomplicated drone operations. This is an important step towards digital aviation, combined with a proven safety standard,” Friedrich-Wilhelm Menge, Managing Director Technology at DFS, said in a statement. Demonstrations for this technology will take place in the fourth quarter.
Delta Drone International appointed by Anglo American Platinum in Mogalakwena, South Africa
Delta Drone International’s ‘Rocketmine’ brand to manage end-to-end mine surveying and mapping services for a subsidiary of the world’s largest producer of platinum, Anglo American Platinum, in Mogalakwena, South Africa. The agreement, worth approximately A$120,000, will see Rocketmine’s mining specialist pilots and state-of-the-art drone fleet this year manage the end-to-end survey mapping, blast monitoring and inspection requirements for the mine, delivering rapid, accurate data. Delta Drone International CEO, Christopher Clark, said he believed Rocketmine could add real value to the mining multi-national as their preferred data services provider: “We welcome the Anglo-American Platinum group to Rocketmine and look forward to delivering their real-time data needs through our fully integrated drone-as-a-service business.”
About Delta Drone International
Delta Drone International is a multinational drone-based data service and technology solutions provider for the mining, agricultural and engineering industries. It provides aerial surveying and mapping, security and surveillance, and blast monitoring and fragment analysis through a fully outsourced service with AI and fast data turnaround that allows enterprise customers to focus on operations on the ground while Delta Drone International takes care of everything in the air. It has in-house enabling proprietary technology, an R&D and integration centre and specialist expertise in designing, developing and providing best-in-class autonomous safety systems for commercial drone deliveries, drone flights for crowd monitoring and in urban areas, as well as ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) missions.
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