“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Elie Wiesel
Since last week’s mystery aircraft was challenging to identify, according to the number of correct answers I received, this week I have provided another interesting aircraft type. Please send your answers to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will publish the names of those that identified the aircraft correctly within the Thursday edition of APAnews.
APAnews from Oshkosh
At last we have arrived in Oshkosh, my 21st trip to the largest aviation event in the world. Had it not been for the pandemic, this would have been my 23rd trip and for those who do not know, African Pilot was founded under the mulberry tree in the South African camp some 23 years ago. Now some 22 years later, Future Flight was also founded on my return from Oshkosh last year and to date our team has published 10 editions. It seems that whenever I travel to this amazing week-long exhibition, airshow and member gathering in the Wisconsin city of Oshkosh, I come up with new ideas and I am sure that this year I will discover something new to improve not only African Pilot, but also Future Flight.
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. I will be travelling to the United States on Friday 21 July to attend EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh for the 21st time – only missing the two pandemic years. I have already made several appointments to meet with specific exhibitors such as Bose, Garmin, Textron, Diamond, Piper, Pipistrel (now part of Textron), Vans Aircraft, Sonex Aircraft, Embraer, Daher, Pilatus, Cirrus, Continental Motors, Lycoming Engines, Rotax and many others.
The material deadline for the August 2023 edition of African Pilot was on Friday 21 July 2023, but we will hold this edition for a few more days until 25 July so that I can prepare some of the most recent content directly from Oshkosh.
All editorial content should be sent to me Athol Franz
For advertising opportunities please call Cell: 079 880 4359
Our team completed the July 2023 edition of Future Flight on Friday 14 July and the magazine was released to the world on the dame day. This 144-page edition has nine picture galleries and 13 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 our 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: email@example.com. Thank you.
EAA Taildraggers at Warmbaths 2023
Eastern Cape Health Department cancels air ambulance contract
On Thursday 13 July, several months after an East London company won a multimillion-rand tender to provide an air ambulance service to the Eastern Cape, the contract has been cancelled after the company failed to place a single helicopter into the air. Leli Investments won the tender in 2020 but after a legal tussle with one of the losing bidders only got the green light to go ahead with the service in July last year. The company was headquartered in an exclusive gated residential estate in East London. In papers before court, rival bidders claimed that its director, Sibongile Gobile, had no experience in the aviation industry.
In 2020, Leli Investments in consortium with Black Eagle Aviation received a multimillion-rand tender to provide air ambulances for 36 months to the Eastern Cape Department of Health. A legal saga followed when one of the losing bidders, NAC, challenged the award in court on 7 October 2020 and asked the court to issue an interdict to stop the department from awarding the contract. On 17 November 2020, an interdict was granted halting the implementation of the contract pending a review hearing. However, this interdict was lifted in July 2021 as the court ruled that it was unacceptable to have a ‘stop-gap’ contractor render an essential emergency service like air ambulances and that Leli Investments in partnership with Black Eagle Aviation should be allowed to continue rendering the service while the review application was being finalised. Lawyers for the consortium had argued that it would suffer irreparable harm if it was not allowed to continue with the service.
At the time, Leli Investments claimed in papers before court that the following had been done, according to one judgment in the drawn-out legal saga:
- The consortium had purchased specialised equipment and the customised fittings thereof in all three of its helicopters, both those owned and those leased by the consortium.
- It had paid for the refurbishment and overhaul of equipment required by the contract.
- It had embarked on the requisite training and orientation of the department’s Control Centre team and the helicopter teams and paid for specialist training.
- Pilots had been contracted and employed specifically for this service and should the service not be required lengthy employment relations procedures would have to be initiated.
- Recurrency training had also been conducted for the pilots to ensure competency as per the requirements of the South Africa Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).
- Specific aircraft insurance relating to aeromedical operations had been secured and paid for.
- Purchase agreements had been concluded for two helicopters intended to replace the two leased helicopters.
- Motor vehicles had been purchased and lease agreements concluded for the accommodation of the pilots at the three operational bases (Mthatha, East London and Gqeberha).
- Sundry set-up costs had been incurred at the three operational bases, including for renovating and the purchase of appliances.
Yet, by January, despite assurances by Dr Rolene Wagner, the superintendent-general of the Eastern Cape Department of Health that the service would start on 1 November 2021, the province still had no air ambulances. On Thursday, Wagner confirmed that the department had terminated the aeromedical service with the awarded provider ‘for being in breach of the service level agreement.’
“The department is embarking on a new competitive process for aeromedical services,” she said. “The procurement plan and timelines will be communicated once the recent communication from Treasury regarding the Constitutional Court ruling on procurement is considered.”
The Democratic Alliance’s Jane Cowley said the termination of the contract was a victory for common sense but urged the department to act with speed in the appointment of a new service provider as the Easter holidays, traditionally a peak time for vehicle accidents in the Eastern Cape, were around the corner. She said it was unclear how much money, if any, was paid to Leli Investments before the cancellation of the contract. “Sadly, this means that Eastern Cape residents will be deprived of an air ambulance service until at least June, which is when the new contract is expected to come into effect.
“The DA is calling on the health department to urgently ensure that an interim air ambulance service is in place over the Easter holidays, notorious for high numbers of car and bus accidents. “Despite the company’s claims in court that they were ready and able to begin operations immediately, this was not the case. It was patently clear then that they never had the requisite capacity or skills to render the aeromedical service.
“Instead of desperately trying to justify the appointment of Leli Investments, Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth should have terminated the contract when it was apparent that the company was incapable of fulfilling its mandate. “These delays have effectively deprived the residents of the Eastern Cape of live-saving services for an entire year,” she said. She added that questions needed to be asked, such as why the Bid Adjudication Committee favoured Leli Investments if it was clearly not functional and what role bias played in the adjudication process. “The entire air ambulance contract debacle smacks of contracts for cronies.”
Editor comments: Yet another blatant example of the government’s failed BBBEE system where lucrative contracts are handed out to ‘connected people’ that do not have the skills to manage the said contracts. I have repeatedly said that BBBEE is worse than apartheid was due to the fact that this evil system has made around a million ‘comrades’ filthy rich, whilst at the same time it has impoverished the vast majority of the people of South Africa.
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Arrival in Oshkosh
After more than 34 hours of travelling from our home in Kyalami to OR Tambo, flying 10 hours on an old and noisy Turkish airlines Airbus A330, the briefest of aircraft changes in Istanbul for the next long-haul 10.5-hour flight on an almost new Airbus A350, which was far quieter and more comfortable. Then through Chicago arrivals that took less than one hour and onto the Lamers coach with 49 people for a three-hour drive to Oshkosh. At last we arrived to find Neil Bowden’s Air Adventures Tours campsite set up for the 155 + visitors that would be camping with us this year. The mood was electric as old friends met with new friends and our hosts welcomed us. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening more campers arrived and in turn they were welcomed the beautifully set up ‘Kamp Plakkerfontein’. The fridges were stocked, the beer and wine was cold – what more could anyone ask for on arriving at the greatest aviation event in the world.
My job was to ensure that the 20 people who travelled on Turkish airlines made the trip without any issues and then the 49 on the bus were thoroughly briefed about what to expect on arrival in Oshkosh. Since I have camped with Neil’s Air Adventure Tours 21 times, I was probably the correct person to assist Neil as the tour leader. On the bus trip to Oshkosh we went through rain showers twice and as we approached Oshkosh the skies looked ominous and very heavy with dark clouds. However, fortunately the storm had already passed through Oshkosh and the rain had cooled things down as the bus negotiated puddles of standing water to arrive at our campsite. Even after not sleeping that well on the two long haul flights, the excitement was too much for some of the campers that they partied until late in the evening. More exciting news to follow in Thursday’s edition of APAnews and next Monday with a full illustrated report in the September edition of African Pilot.
African Pilot’s 2023 calendar We will publish the aviation calendar within APAnews three months ahead, but you can always visit African Pilot’s website: www.africanpilot.co.za if you would like to obtain the full calendar for the entire year.
29 & 30 July
SAPFA Speed Rally No.3 – Louis Trichardt FALO
Contact David le Roux E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 073 338 5200
28 & 29 July
Soutpansberg airshow Louis Trichardt FALO
Contact Jaco 082 353 6002 or Bianca 084 297 7274 at E-mail: email@example.com
29 July to 5 August
SAPFA FAI Rally Flying World Championships – Mâcon, France
Contact Leon Bouttell at E-mail: Leon@lbaa.co.za Cell: 076 294 1363
EAA Chapter 322 Saturday breakfast fly-in/ gathering 07h30 EAA Auditorium
Contact Neil Bowden at E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
South African Airways Museum Society AGM, Boeing 747SP
RSVP E-mail: email@example.com
EAA Chapter 322 breakfast fly-in venue TBA
Contact Neil Bowden at E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
19 & 20 August
SAC North-West Regionals Klerksdorp airfield
Contact Annie Boon at E-mail: email@example.com
19 & 20 August
SAPFA Speed Rally No4 Groblersdal airfield
Contact David le Roux at E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 073 338 5200
Children’s Flight at Orient airfield, Magaliesberg
Contact Felix Gosher E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 086 191 4603
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering 07h30 Auditorium Rand Airport
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 and 3 September
Rand airshow over two days
Contact manager Kevin van Zyl Tel: 011 827 8884
5 to 7 September
Commercial UAV Expo, Las Vegas, USA
Contact E-mail: Berndtson@aol.com
Virginia Durban airshow
Contact Brendan Horan E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 078 486 6888
Helicopter fly-in to Krugersdorp airfield
Contact David le Roux PilotInsure E-mail: David@pilotinsure.co.za
MAYDAY-SA Industry Dinner Serengeti Estate, Kempton Park
Contact Jaco van der Westhuizen E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
13 & 14 September
Aviation Africa Abuja, Nigeria
Contact Alison Weller E-mail: email@example.com
Saldanha West Coast airshow
Contact Clive Coetzee E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 084 614 1675
FlyNamibia to promote network offering worldwide flights via Airlink
FlyNamibia, the privately-owned domestic and regional airline, is joining Airlink to promote its flights and services to travel agents worldwide on the Global Distribution System (GDS). Through the GDS, Airlink, the premier independent South African-based airline, has global reach and the ability to display and sell its inventory in many markets. From 24 July 2023, FlyNamibia will enjoy the same global access on a franchisee basis.
In September 2022 Airlink acquired a 40 percent stake in FlyNamibia in an investment that signalled its confidence and faith in Namibia and its bright economic prospects. Although FlyNamibia’s inventory will be displayed on the GDS from 24 July, all bookings for flights taking place up to and including 28 August, will be managed on FlyNamibia’s current reservation system, www.flynamibia.com.na . Reservations for FlyNamibia flights from 29 August onwards will be processed on the GDS with customers able to follow instructions on the website which will be linked to the new booking portal. FlyNamibia will maintain parallel systems for six weeks to ensure a smooth transition.
United 767 loses emergency slide in flight
A United Airlines Boeing 767-300 lost an emergency evacuation slide shortly before landing at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) on Monday. No problems were experienced in flight and the missing equipment was discovered by a maintenance crew after the aircraft landed. The slide itself was found in a neighbourhood approximately four miles east of ORD when Chicago police were called to the site. “We immediately contacted the FAA and are working with our team to better understand the circumstances around this matter,” United said. No injuries have been reported and the slide has been retrieved. A nearby house reportedly sustained minor damage when the slide came down in the backyard. The aircraft, United Flight 12, was travelling to ORD from Switzerland’s Zurich Airport (ZRH) with 10 crew members and 155 passengers onboard. The FAA is investigating the incident.
Turbulence injures four aboard Allegiant Airbus A320
Four passengers aboard an Allegiant Air Airbus A320 narrow-body airliner were injured in severe turbulence over St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday, 12 July 2023. Then operating as Allegiant Air Flight G4-227, the A320, registration N249NV, was carrying 179 passengers and six crew-members. Allegiant’s website indicates subject flight departs North Carolina’s Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) and proceeds non-stop to Saint Petersburg’s Florida’s Saint Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE).
The A320 encountered the turbulence passing through FL210 on its descent into PIE. The turbulence was of sufficient severity to throw several cabin crewmembers to the aircraft’s floor. As the initial paroxysm of turbulence subsided, the A320 dropped precipitously, impelling the downed crewmembers and numerous additional passengers not wearing seatbelts violently about the aircraft’s cabin. Some travellers were hurled upward and crashed headlong into the Airbus’s ceiling. Online flight-tracking indicated the A320 plunged in excess of eight-thousand-feet in two-minutes.
At 15h15 EDT, some 17-minutes after encountering the turbulence, Allegiant Flight G4-227 landed at PIE without further incident and taxied directly to its arrival gate. Waiting paramedics assessed the injured, deeming two crewmembers and two passengers in need of precautionary hospitalisation. In a post-incident statement, Allegiant Air spokesman Andrew Porrello asserted the Las Vegas, Nevada-based air-carrier intends to investigate the incident in cooperation with both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. Porrello said that the airline would release further information as such became available.
United States approves FAA reauthorisation bill
The US House of Representatives passed the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act (H.R. 3935) on Thursday in a 351-69 vote. The bill, which will reauthorise the FAA through 2028, was introduced on 9 June by House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo. and co-sponsored by full Committee Ranking Member Rick Larsen, D-Wash., Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves, R-La. and Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. The T&I Committee approved the bill by unanimous vote on 14 June.
“This bipartisan legislation improves the safety of our system, our airport infrastructure and the quality of service for passengers,” said T&I Committee Chairman Graves. “Not only that, but this bill will also make the FAA more efficient, encourage the safe adoption of new and innovative technologies and address growing workforce shortages, from pilots and mechanics to air traffic controllers. In addition, this bill provides the first title dedicated specifically to our critical general aviation sector, the backbone of the American aviation system.”
H.R. 3935 (PDF) includes provisions aimed at improving FAA efficiency and operations, growing the aviation workforce, providing airport infrastructure funding and encouraging the testing and integration of new technologies. In addition, it looks to address safety issues, improve the airline passenger experience and reauthorise the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The T&I Committee noted that the bill has gained support from more than 1,000 aviation leaders and stakeholders. To become law, reauthorisation legislation will also need to be passed in the US Senate and signed by the president. The FAA’s current authorisation expires on 30 September.
Airbus Helicopters H175 granted CAAC certification
This certification will allow H175 deliveries to begin in China, one of the most demanding markets worldwide for civil helicopters with a growing need for the super-medium segment. Four H175s will be delivered to Chinese customers in 2023. “The Chinese certification of the H175 is another great achievement in the continued successful partnership between Airbus Helicopters and the Chinese helicopter industry,” said Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “The H175’s advanced state-of-the art performances and reliability will serve to provide the people of China with the ability to perform critical life-saving missions even in the most severe conditions”, he added.
To sustain the helicopter market growth in China, Airbus Helicopters is committed to jointly work with the Chinese industry to develop the Chinese civil market with products such as the H175, aiming to serve the interests of the Chinese people and the economy. In service since 2015, Airbus’ H175 belongs to the super-medium class of helicopters. Combining long-range with advanced quality of flight, it provides the best solution for a number of missions, including offshore crew change, SAR, all public services and private and business aviation. The 53 H175s currently in service have accumulated over 185,000 flight hours in 13 countries.
Belgian Government considers new air traffic noise limit
Belgium’s mobility minister, Georges Gilkinet, has put forward a proposal to reduce noise pollution caused by air traffic at Brussels Airport by around 20 percent starting in October 2024. The draft ministerial decree, which was presented during inter-cabinet consultations on 14 July is based on adjusting the existing quota count (QC) system that governs the maximum noise level for each aircraft type taking off and landing at Brussels Airport.
The major proposed change is that no aircraft noise would be permitted between 23h00 and 06h00 local time for aircraft movements. In addition to the night curfew, the average noise level would be reduced by 30 percent between 09h00 to 11h00, 20 percent between 06h00 and 07h00 and seven percent between 07h00 and 21h00. There would be different QCs for weekdays and on Sundays and public holidays, during which the oldest and noisiest types of aircraft would not be allowed to operate.
Unlike the flight-reduction proposal announced by Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in April, Gilkinet’s proposal does not envision a specific ban on business aircraft. Nonetheless, the industry would be impacted by the new rules, if enacted. According to data collected by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), with 10,494 aircraft movements in 2022, Brussels Airport ranks as Belgium’s busiest airport for business aviation.
In a statement, Brussels-based EBAA said it was ‘closely following’ the recent proposals from Gilkinet. “We understand that these new proposals might significantly impact the business aviation sector and therefore we are committed to continuously monitoring the situation,” noted EBAA senior communications manager Roman Kok. “Our main objective is to foster a positive dialogue with all stakeholders and contribute to policy decisions that support a sustainable and thriving business aviation industry in Belgium and across Europe. We encourage the Belgian authorities to ensure a well-balanced and inclusive approach, considering the vital role of business aviation in the country’s economy and its connectivity.”
Last month, Gilkinet, who is a member of Belgium’s French-speaking green political party, Ecolo, revealed that he intends to introduce legislation prohibiting flights between two Belgian airports. These short hops ‘are often by private jets and sometimes they are empty…A nonsense,” he said on Twitter. Given the small size of the country, this ban on domestic movements will mainly impact repositioning flights and those needed for aircraft maintenance work. EBAA data shows that there were fewer than 3,000 business and General Aviation flights between Belgian airports last year, accounting for 9.2 percent of total business aviation flights in the country. Of this, only 56.5 percent were commercial flights.
Commenting on his proposal to reduce noise caused by air traffic around Brussels airport, Gilkinet said, “I do this in the general interest of all local residents regardless of whether they are Flemish, Brussels, or Walloon and with respect for the economic interests of the airport and the 65,000 people who work there.” He noted that the airport’s QC standards have not been revised since 2009.
However, the draft decree promptly drew fierce criticism from unions, the airport, airlines and other political parties, including government coalition partners Open VLD and CD&V, whose chairman, Sammy Mahdi, described the night flight ban plan as ‘green madness and degrowth in practice.’ This casts doubt on whether it will be adopted before the parliamentary elections in Belgium and the European Union in June next year.
Up to £5.8 billion lost luggage at airports in one year
Staff shortages and strikes have meant another year of disruption and travel chaos at airports across the globe this year. Following 2022’s unprecedented lost baggage crisis at airports, 2023 seems set to follow the same course. The experts at MoneyTransfers.com have analysed data on lost luggage in the past couple of years, revealing that a staggering 5.8 billion pounds worth of luggage was lost last year – with an approximate 13 bags predicted to be mishandled per 1,000 passengers in 2023, higher than any other year.
- 1.8 million bags were lost or stolen in 2022 – worth a staggering estimated value of £1.8 billion to £5.8 billion.
- Based on the current growing rate of mishandled luggage, in 2023, there will be an estimated 13.27 mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.
Jonathan Merry, travel expert at MoneyTransfers.com, comments: “The anticipation of a long overdue holiday by millions returning to the skies after the pandemic was sharply dashed by huge queues and unprecedented amounts of lost luggage last year and we can now reveal just how shocking the cost of that disruption was to holidaymakers. With airline passenger levels predicted to near pre-pandemic levels in 2023 and numerous airport strikes planned this year alongside urgent staff shortages, it seems likely that the mass disruption experienced at airports is only likely to continue before urgent change is delivered to improve the situation.”
While there were 26 million mishandled bags last year, most passengers were reunited with their belongings eventually. Here is a breakdown of the eventual outcome of those mishandled bags.
- Lost / stolen bags: 7%
- Damaged bags: 13%
- Delayed: 80%
A study predicted the average holidaymaker’s suitcase to be worth £3,225. However, most travel insurers will provide a limit of £1,000 of cover for lost baggage claims, so we have calculated the worth of lost luggage based on these two figures.
Beyond automation: how artificial intelligence is transforming aviation
More than a century after the invention of the autopilot, aerospace engineers are still working to bring more automated processes into aircraft cockpits to enhance safety, increase efficiency and reduce pilot workload. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), autopilot technology has evolved from simple devices that maintain an aircraft’s altitude and heading to fully autonomous flight control systems capable of performing gate-to-gate operations without any human input. One way or another, almost every aerospace and defence company is looking to exploit the potential for AI to improve their aircraft and other systems. This ubiquitous and rapidly morphing technology sphere has sparked extensive discussions at major international aerospace events recently, such as this year’s Paris Air Show and the annual European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition.
In May, EASA released its new AI Roadmap 2.0, which is intended to advance ‘the human-centric approach to integrating artificial intelligence in aviation. The updated document incorporates progress achieved in the field since the publication of the air safety agency’s first roadmap was published in February 2020, drawing on AI use cases involving aerospace companies, research centres and academics.
According to EASA, the new roadmap, ‘provides a comprehensive plan for the safe and trustworthy integration of AIN in aviation, with a focus on safety, security, AI assurance, human factors and ethical considerations.’ In May, the organisation also published a new report on research it commissioned into machine learning application approval, which highlights approaches to evaluating and certifying AI-based systems.
But AI is not only changing the way airplanes fly, it is transforming nearly every aspect of aviation on the ground, too. As AI and machine-learning technology have matured in recent years, the aviation industry has explored ways to capitalise on it by making processes more efficient and often safer. For example, aircraft manufacturers and service technicians can use AI software and robots, including language learning models like ChatGPT, to streamline assembly and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) processes. Airlines and other operators can also use AI for fleet optimisation, flight planning, and ground operations. Engineers developing aircraft can use AI tools to facilitate and speed up the design and certification of products before they even hit the market.
AI is not just the way of the future. The aviation industry already has used at least some primitive form of AI technology for years, particularly for manufacturing and MRO. Traditional AI relies on human programmers to define rules and algorithms for pattern-matching and decision-making processes and it can analyse large datasets much faster than humans. For example, MRO providers might use AI to analyse data from the various sensors onboard an aircraft to predict potential maintenance needs before they arise.
Emirates launches regional charter with Phenom 100s
Emirates has launched a regional charter service in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states using Embraer Phenom 100 light jets based at Dubai Al Maktoum International Airport. “Operated by the airline’s Phenom 100 twin-engine aircraft, customers can fly to a wide range of GCC destinations both within and outside of the Emirates network, with quick turnarounds to points in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and within the UAE,” the company said.
According to Emirates, its twinjets can seat up to four passengers, each of which can check in one medium-sized bag weighing up to 15 kilograms (33 pounds), as well as a carry-on handbag. Emirates did not respond to an AIN query asking how many of the Phenom 100 fleet would be used for the new service, as the aircraft previously have been allocated to Emirates Flight Training Academy for jet-transition training. In 2015, the airline placed a firm order for five Phenom 100Es with options for an additional five. Emirates went on to order the Phenom 100EV. Meanwhile, the company did not provide an update on the status of an Airbus ACJ319 at its Emirates Executive division. That bizliner joined the fleet in 2013 alongside an ACJ318 operated by Constellation Aviation Services.
Rocket Lab launches satellites for multiple customers
Rocket Lab successfully launched seven satellites for NASA, Space Flight Laboratory and Spire Global from Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand. The Baby Come Back mission was Rocket Lab’s seventh launch for the year and the Company’s 39th Electron launch overall. In addition to delivering a flawless primary mission of deploying customer satellites to orbit, Rocket Lab completed a successful ocean splashdown and recovery of Electron’s first stage as part of the Company’s programme to make Electron the world’s first reusable small rocket. Around 2.5 minutes after lift-off, at an altitude of almost 75 km, Electron’s first stage separated from the second stage as planned. While the second stage continued onto orbit to deploy the seven satellites on board, Electron’s first stage began the journey back to Earth at speeds of more than 9,000 km per hour, reaching temperatures of 2,400 Celsius. At around 8.5 minutes after lift-off, the first stage successfully deployed a main parachute slowing its descent, enabling a soft splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. From there, Rocket Lab’s recovery team rendezvoused with the stage on the water, successfully bringing it onto a vessel using a specially designed capture cradle. The stage is now enroute back to Rocket Lab’s production complex for analysis ahead to inform future recovery missions and eventually re-flight of an Electron.
“We are delighted to have delivered yet another successful Electron mission and would like to thank the teams at Space Flight Laboratory, Spire Globa and NASA, for entrusting us with their innovative science and tech demonstration missions,” said Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck. “With this mission we have made big strides toward reusability with Electron and we are now closer than ever to relaunching a booster for the first time.”
Satellites launched on Baby Come Back:
NASA: NASA’s Starling mission is a four CubeSat mission designed to advance technologies for cooperative groups of spacecraft, also known as swarms. Spacecraft swarms refer to multiple spacecraft autonomously coordinating their activities in orbit. Once positioned in orbit around Earth and spaced about 40 miles / 64 km apart, Starling’s spacecraft will demonstrate the ability to autonomously fly together while keeping track of each other’s relative positions and trajectories. They also will demonstrate the ability to plan and execute activities as a group, without guidance from mission controllers, including responding to new information from onboard sensors. Starling’s spacecraft also will demonstrate creating and maintaining an inter-spacecraft communications network that automatically adjusts to changing conditions. NASA’s Starling mission will test whether the technologies work as expected, what their limitations are and what developments are still needed for CubeSat swarms to be successful. Starling is funded by NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology programme based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington.
Space Flight Laboratory (SFL): Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) selected Rocket Lab to launch Telesat’s LEO 3 demonstration satellite that will provide continuity for customer and ecosystem vendor testing campaigns following the decommissioning of Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite. LEO 3 will serve an important role for low-latency customer applications testing and for supporting LEO antenna and modem development efforts in advance of the Telesat Lightspeed network deployment.
Spire Global: Spire launched two 3U satellites carrying Global Navigation Satellite System Radio Occultation (GNSS-RO) payloads to replenish its fully deployed constellation of more than 100 multipurpose satellites. Spire’s satellites observe the Earth in real time using radio frequency technology. The data acquired by Spire’s GNSS-RO payloads provide global weather intelligence that can be assimilated into weather models to improve the accuracy of forecasts. Rocket Lab is preparing to launch its 40th Electron mission before the end of July.
Nova-C Lunar lander passes complete spacecraft test run
Founded in 2013, Intuitive Machines, Inc. is a Houston-based technology concern with its focus in the space and lunar exploration, lunar payload, lunar lander, Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and flight-instrument sectors. Intuitive Machines announced it had successfully conducted a test run of its Nova-C lunar lander. The undertaking occasioned a significant technical achievement and evinced the company’s progress toward the completion of its lunar lander. The complete-spacecraft test run verified the Nova-C lander’s flight software, avionics, liquid oxygen and liquid methane loading, high-pressure helium system performance, propulsion system functionality and culminated in a hot-firing of the lander’s main engine.
Intuitive Machines co-founder, president, and CEO Steve Altemus stated: “This was the most comprehensive test to date short of flying the lander in space. This test run represents a crucial step forward in validating the performance of the entire Nova-C lunar lander system on its way to the Moon.” He added “The technical excellence the Intuitive Machines team showed during this comprehensive test has propelled the Company closer to delivering Nova-C to Florida for launch.”
Conducted at Intuitive Machines’s Small Vehicle Engine Verification Facility at the Houston Spaceport, the complete-spacecraft test run marked the culmination of a series of tests which collectively heralded the imminence of the Nova-C lander’s readiness for spaceflight. Comprehensive testing of Intuitive Machines’s Nova-C lunar lander, to include the powering-up and protracted operation of the entirety of the spacecraft’s systems, was an essential step in the process of verifying the lander performs to expectations. The whole of the lander’s constituent systems underwent extensive integrated functional testing in preparation for the fully integrated performance test.
Eve and Embraer announce first eVTOL production facility in Brazil
Eve Air Mobility (Eve) and Embraer have made a joint announcement regarding the establishment of Brazil’s inaugural electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL) production facility. The chosen location for this cutting-edge manufacturing plant is the city of Taubaté, situated in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. The plan is contingent upon final approval from the appropriate authorities and will involve expanding a designated section within Embraer’s existing unit in Taubaté.
Strategically selected, the site enjoys excellent logistical advantages with easy access via two major highways and close proximity to a railroad. Additionally, it benefits from its proximity to Embraer’s headquarters in São José dos Campos and Eve’s engineering and human resources team. This proximity will foster collaboration and innovation, optimising production processes and further boosting Eve’s competitiveness and agility.
Andre Stein, co-CEO of Eve, expressed their vision for the facility: “As we embarked on the search for the perfect manufacturing location for our eVTOL, our goal was to revolutionise the aircraft’s production using the latest technologies and manufacturing techniques, in addition to focusing on supply chain and logistics. Our ultimate objective is to deliver safe and reliable products and services to the market while maintaining high manufacturing efficiency. Our team is excited to develop an optimized assembly line that prioritizes safety, quality, efficiency, productivity and sustainability.”
Back in May 2022, Eve has announced a collaborative venture with Porsche Consulting aimed at shaping Eve’s eVTOL global manufacturing, supply chain and logistics macro strategy. Since then, the two companies have been diligently collaborating to explore cutting-edge manufacturing and innovation concepts, drawing from their collective expertise in aeronautics and automotive industries. Through this joint effort, they have crafted a robust industrialisation concept for eVTOL aircraft, emphasising paramount aspects such as safety, quality, efficiency and unwavering customer focus.
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Zipline patent case update
In 2021 Zipline filed a patent for acoustic detection and avoid and Scientific Applications and Research Associates (SARA) raised a case to counter that. There has recently been a ruling in this case. SARA developed a first-of-its-kind acoustic collision avoidance technology for UAV’s and filed for patent protection on 17 October 2007. US Patent No. 7,606,115, entitled ‘Acoustic Airspace Collision Detection System’, issued on 20 October 2009. Since then, SARA has continued to enhance its acoustic DAA technology, demonstrating superior performance and scalability and has partnered with major players in the UAV industry.
This is what was filed last year against Zipline. According to the complaint, “Since at least April 2020, Zipline has been manufacturing, using, selling, offering to sell and / or licensing UAV’s featuring Acoustic DAA systems which infringe one or more claims of SARA’s ’115 patent. In addition, successful implementation of SARA’s Acoustic DAA technology into Zipline’s UAV’s requires the unauthorised use of SARA’s proprietary technology, trade secrets and know-how. On information and belief, Zipline has thus misappropriated and is using SARA’s trade secrets in violation of California and federal trade secret laws and in breach of the Confidential Non-Disclosure Agreement executed by the parties.’
Zipline’s announcement, on 7 June 2022, that it had developed an acoustic DAA system comes on the heels of its recent announcements of a partnership with Walmart for deployment of home delivery drone services and of having raised $250 Million of new funding at a valuation of $2.75 Billion. The complaint lays out a timeline of the relationship between SARA and Zipline: “In 2017, Zipline entered into discussions with SARA related to incorporating SARA’s acoustic DAA technology into Zipline’s delivery UAV’s. As part of these discussions, the parties entered into a Confidential Non-Disclosure Agreement.
That Agreement included a description of the proprietary information to be shared by the parties indicating that SARA would be sharing information related to its acoustic sense and avoid technology for UAV’s. During 2017 and early 2018, the companies’ ongoing discussions led to negotiation of a term sheet describing the proposed details of their partnership. As part of these discussions, Zipline was made aware of SARA’s ’115 patent and its Acoustic DAA technology. Zipline also obtained confidential, proprietary and trade secret information about SARA’s products and technology, subject to the Confidential Non-Disclosure Agreement between the parties. In 2018, Zipline ceased communications with SARA relating to this potential partnership.”
A spokesperson from Zipline said: “Our revolutionary Detection and Avoidance system uses proprietary technology that Zipline independently developed, specifically for our aircraft. This lawsuit entirely lacks merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves.”
This is merely a ruling on what is called ‘claim construction.’ That is just a process for clearly defining the terms used in the patent claims. So, no, that is not Zipline losing the case at all. In this claim construction Zipline is trying to say the term ‘noise’ is ‘indefinite,’ suggesting that in the scope of the patent it is not clear enough language to fully understand the intellectual property being claimed. The judge is ruling that anyone with skills in relevant technology would, indeed, understand what was being referred to by the word ‘noise.’
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