“In a free society the state does not administer the affairs of men. It administers justice among men who conduct their own affairs.” Walter Lippmann
Since last week’s mystery aircraft was relatively easy 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 email@example.com. I will publish the names of those that identified the aircraft correctly within the Thursday edition of APAnews.
Preparation for next year
The past few weeks have been almost a sensory overload with the many aviation events that I have attended and this past weekend was no exception. Unfortunately due to several clashes of events all on the same day, I was not in a position to cover the other two events. However, Charlie and Fiona covered the Springs Aero Club’s breakfast fly-in whilst Christine and I covered the SAPFA Speed Rally in Groblersdal. This meant that the Sports Aerobatics at Klerksdorp was not covered by African Pilot.
I am hoping that with next year’s calendar the various organisers will plan to combine certain events such as EAA events together with SAPFA events at the same airfield as was done this year at the EAA Taildraggers in Warmbaths. This was also done with the Soutpansberg airshow and the SAPFA Speed Rally at the same airfield in July that was covered by Charlie and Fiona Hugo, whilst I was in Oshkosh. Now the opportunity arises to start planning next year’s aviation calendar preferably sooner than later so that all the South African sporting events will be covered by our relatively small team of photographers and writers.
Thank you for your co-operation and please send the details to me via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Within this 220-page edition of African Pilot with seven picture galleries and 14 videos features 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 travelled to the United States on Friday 21 July to attend EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh for the 21st time – only missing the two pandemic years. Within the August edition, we have published a brief report on the largest aviation airshow and exhibition in the world, featuring the amazing South African group that camped with Neil Bowden’s Air Adventure Tours. However, the full report with a substantial video and picture gallery will be featured within the September edition of African Pilot.
The September 2023 edition will be featuring Southern African charter companies as well as Aviation Safety. EAA AirVenture and some of the British airshows will also be featured within the September edition. In addition, African Pilot features all aspects of aviation from Airline business to recreational and sport aviation, whilst helicopters, military aviation, commercial and technical issues are addressed monthly. Within African Pilot’s monthly historical section, we feature the Best of the Best, Names to Remember and the monthly aviation Fact File. Overall African Pilot has the finest balance between nearly all aviation subjects brought to you within a single publication every month and the best part is that the magazine is FREE to anyone in the entire world at the click of a single button.
Our team has almost completed the August 2023 edition of Future Flight and the magazine will be released to the world this coming week. 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.
Cassie De La Roche – Flying at 99 years old
Massive corruption trial in South Africa concerning SA Express Airways to begin soon
Four people are expected to have their day in court in May next year in a case related to tender fraud amounting to some R400 million. The tender was awarded to now bankrupt airline SA Express by the North West Provincial Government (NWPG) in 2014 and was subject to scrutiny at the State Capture Commission, which subsequently recommended a criminal probe into the matter.
In the dock in May 2024 will be the former head of the provincial Department of Transport (DoT), Thabang Mohlokoleng; Tebogo Van Wyk, Nothando Dube and Sipho Phiri, together with companies Batsamai Investment Holdings, Sevilex Investment Holdings and Lavao Estevao (Pty) Ltd. The four face 34 charges, including fraud, corruption, money laundering and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act, with charges of racketeering also expected to be added to the docket.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) regional spokesperson Henry Mathomane, the charges stem from the provincial government’s 2014 bid to reintroduce commercial airlines to airports in Mmabatho and Pilanesberg on a subsidy of some R400 million. “An amount of R183 million was paid to SA Express between 2015 and 2017 for the services rendered by the ground management companies, which Van Wyk, Dube and Phiri are linked to. The State alleges that of the amount, R51 million was channelled irregularly through the charged companies,” he said. Mathomane said the tender awarded to the airline was done without “following the proper supply chain management processes”.
“The irregularly secured agreement is said to have been signed by the fourth accused. Mohlokoleng signed on behalf of the Department of Transport as the then Accounting Officer in his capacity as the head of the department. The deal was allegedly riddled with procurement irregularities and monies were paid for services not rendered. “The irregularities prejudiced the North West government of millions of rands that could have been directed to service delivery,” Mathomane said. Pre-trial conferencing is expected to commence in January 2024.’
South African Air Force confirms the grounding of the Cessna Caravan aircraft fleet
The SAAF confirms that the C-208 Cessna fleet has been grounded. This decision has indeed led to limited air exposure for aircrew. It is confirmed the SAAF is awaiting placement of the product support contract for the Caravan Aircraft.
Joint ATNS-SAAF media statement on published media article
On 18 August 2023 Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) and the South African Air Force has taken note of an article published in a particular media outlet dated 7 August 2023, under the headline, ‘SAAF to help ATNS with air traffic control amid staff shortage’. ATNS and SAAF were not offered the opportunity to contribute to the article in question, which in our view, is filled with misinformation and inaccuracies. The article is and remains unbalanced and therefore malicious. We strongly believe that the article was written and published with the intent to mislead and consequently damage the two organisations’ good standing and reputation.
On 19 July 2023, ATNS and SAAF signed a Master Cooperation Agreement, intended to facilitate cooperation by ensuring the provision of cost-effective and professional air traffic services and navigation infrastructure. This agreement was a review of the agreement signed by ATNS and DOD (on behalf of SAAF) in 2002 / 2003, which largely remains the same today. This Master Cooperation Agreement allows ATNS and the SAAF to work together in several pertinent areas of common interest, largely in the deployment of infrastructure, training, human resource sharing and airspace management. Furthermore, ATNS and SAAF have standing workgroups that meet regularly. In such meetings, there are deliberations on a variety of issues, the subject of which remains strictly classified, and restricted.
ATNS CEO, Ms. Nozipho Mdawe and the Chief of SAAF, Lt-Gen Wiseman Mbambo, have no knowledge of any other agreement that is in existence, that has provisions and or amendments, relating to SAAF assisting ATNS with ATC services. Both organisations are working together to prevent the unwarranted and reckless leaking and or sharing of documents, especially those that are still under review, which has the potential to compromise the safety and security of the South African airspace. Such activities are deemed serious criminal offenses under the South African Criminal Act.
The above statement has been edited to take out the name of the media organisation that was named in this joint statement by the two organisations. Since this is largely a political spat, African Pilot would prefer to distance itself from such utterings. The reality id that ATNS is losing controllers at a significant rate and this I heard directly from ATNS CEO Ms. Nozipho Mdawe at a public SACAA gathering earlier this year.
SAPFA Speed Rally at Groblersdal
Christine and I drove to Groblersdal on Saturday morning to attend the final SAPFA Speed Rally for this year that attracted 20 entries. The day was sunny with fine weather and only a slight breeze from the north-west, but rather hazy due to the many veld fires that are burning at this time of the year. On arrival the airfield had been superbly prepared by the Groblersdal Vlieg Klub with a large Bedouin tent with tales and chairs so that visitors could keep out of the late winter sun. As always, the club had a superb kitchen set up in one of the hangars for delicious breakfasts and rolls for the duration of the day. Another hangar was used for the pub, whilst the centre hangar was used for the Speed Rally briefing complete with sponsors banners, a data projector and screen for the briefing part of the early morning event.
I managed to meet the two ATC’s who were placed at the centre of the airfield in a make shift raided control tower. Gugu Modikwe is based at Wonderboom tower and Barnard Nkadimeng is based at Lanseria International Airport. As always Nigel Musgrave gave up his Saturday to be the overall safety officer as well as assisting the organisers with the rally management. David Le Roux from Pilot Insure has taken charge of the Speed Rally series and by all accounts his various presentations and recognition of the sponsors is widely appreciated. Other valuable sponsors on the day were Santam Insurance, Pilot Insure, Century Avionics, Bona Bona, AERO South Africa, Villa San Giovani, Graphix, Chrome Water and Ice and Holborn Assets.
The rally itself was safe and all teams that I spoke to were rather upbeat about their respective performances but most of all they said they thoroughly enjoyed the rally. The full results for this Speed Rally and the final results for the 2023 season will be published in the September edition. However the top five combined results on Saturday were:
- Quintin Kruger and Johan Whiteman flying a PA28-235 accuracy 0.86% final score -1.85%
- Leon Joubert and Jonty Esser flying the Lancair 4ESX accuracy 1.39% final score -0.25%
- Fanie Scholtz and Herman Haasbroek flying a Sling 2 accuracy 1.64% final score -0.23%
- Stefan Lombard and Martiens Marais flying a PA24-250 accuracy 1.47% final score -0.03%
- Hendrik Loots and Adel Loots flying a Sling 2 accuracy 0.99% final score 0.02%
East Rand Flying Club (Springs) annual breakfast fly-in
By Charlie Hugo Pictures by Charlie and Fiona Hugo
For several years the East Rand Flying Club (ERFC) based at Springs airfield has hosted its annual flying day and breakfast. The club members have a passion and use the day to raise funds for a local charity. With the demise of their first choice a couple of years back, the funds raised during the day are donated to the local branch of the Society for Prevention to Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). On a pleasant late winters’ day in August around 30 aircraft arrived at Springs airfield and the pilots and crew enjoyed a filling breakfast and sat around chatting about their aircraft. There were a few interesting aircraft that attended with two Ultralights, an Aviatika 890 and a Quad City Challenger II standing out. What a great initiative and support from the club and pilots for this worthy cause.
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.
SACAA’s National Aviation Gender Summit Radisson Hotel and Convention Centre
Contact Ms Paballo Makgato E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Tedderfield spring fly-in at Tedderfield Air Park
Contact Tel: 083 702 3680
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
Vans RV fly-in at Kitty Hawk
Contact Frank van Heerden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
EAA Slivercreek pancake day camp over on Friday night
Contact Sean Cronin E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 447 9895
DCA Industry Roadshow Durban KZN
Contact Ms Charmaine Shibambo E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saldanha West Coast airshow
Contact Clive Coetzee E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 084 614 1675
30 September to 7 October
SSSA Gliding Nationals at Potchefstroom airfield
Contact Carol Clifford E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
West Coast FlyFPV SA Championship and West Coast RC Flight Championship
Contact Clive Coetzee E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 084 614 1675
6 & 7 October
SAC World Advanced Aerobatic Championships training camp venue TBA
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
6 to 8 October
EAA Sun ‘n Fun Tempe Airfield
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering 18h00 Tempe airfield
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
14 to 22 October
SAC World Advanced Aerobatic Championships training in the USA
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
24 October to 4 November
SAC Advanced World Aerobatics Championships Las Vegas
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAPFA SA Landing Championships – Brits & Stellenbosch airfields
Contact Ron Stirk E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 804 445 0373
Ethiopian Academy graduates 1,500 aviation professionals
Ethiopian Aviation Excellence Center in partnership Ethiopian Airlines, flag-carrier of the east African nation of Ethiopia has graduated over 1,500 students from its pilot-training, aviation-maintenance, cabin-crew, commercial and hotel-operations curricula.
Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mesfin Tasew stated: “Human capital development is one of the key pillars in Ethiopian Airlines growth strategic road map and this graduation is a testimony of our commitment to ensure that we invest a lot on our aviation brainery. As part of our continental commitment, we will continue to provide Africa with skilled aviation professionals. We are delighted to see today’s youths from seven African countries completing one chapter and opening another in their aviation endeavour. We believe in the potentials of Africa’s youths to shape the continent’s aviation and continue to educate them at our center of excellence. Today the industry welcomes 660 male and 891 female graduates.” Since its formation in 1956, Ethiopian Aviation Excellence Center has been offering various aviation courses, mainly to African youths. Today youths from Rwanda, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and Sudan completed their education.
Currently, the University offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in aerospace and hospitality fields. Courses being offered at the University include Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, Aviation Maintenance Engineering, Aviation Management & Operations, Bachelor of Arts in Tourism & Hospitality Management, Master of Science in Data Science and Master of Business Administration in Aviation Management. The University also offers diploma and certificate programmes in Aircraft Maintenance Technician, Pilot Training, Cabin Crew and Commercial Training, Leadership & Career Development, as well as Catering Training, in addition to ICAO courses and online courses.
Suspected drone attack kills 26 civilians in Ethiopia’s Amhara region
According to VOA, a suspected drone attack on Sunday 13 August 2023, was carried out in the central town of Finote Selam, in the West Gojam Zone. The BBC has claimed that the bombing was carried out by the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF), following clashes with a militia group, called Fano, in the Amhara region since 3 August 2023. The protesters were said to be demonstrating against plans by government forces to enter the area. A doctor at a local hospital told VOA that injured people started arriving around midday.
“There are many people who died at the site of the accident, but we do not have the exact numbers. But the ones who arrived here and passed away are around 26 people as of now,” the doctor said. Around 55 people are thought to be being treated for injuries sustained in the attack. The Fano militia recently fought alongside the government against Tigrayan forces during a two-year war that ended in November 2022.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it has received ‘credible reports of strikes and shelling, including from Debre Birhan, Finote Selam and Burie, resulting in many civilian casualties and damage to residential areas and public spaces’. According to the EHRC fighting broke out ‘following the decision by the Federal Government to dissolve and reorganise Regional Special Forces’. A state of emergency was declared by the government on 4 August 2023.
Total chaos at Hosea Kutako airport
According to a source at the airport, travellers, personnel and airlines are ‘totally lost’ after the Namibian Airports Company (NAC) confirmed that Paragon Holdings is taking over Menzies’ ground-handling services. “It is total chaos! Three airplanes are stuck in Johannesburg and do not know if they should leave. Tour operators do not know if they will still need to pick up tourists. People do not know if flights are suspended or not. This is a total nightmare for Namibian tourism and our country,” a source said.
A service provider at the airport earlier confirmed the chaos, alleging that Paragon presented a ‘stop list’ that Menzies was not allowed on site and that all the company’s permits must be confiscated. According to the source, none of the service providers at the airport, including security were informed by NAC about the latest developments. This means that the service providers cannot remove Menzies’ personnel because they still have a contract with the company, while Paragon’s contract for the placement of personnel is not finalised yet.
In a statement released on Friday, Menzies said the public can be assured that it will for ‘at least the next 12 months’ deliver services at the Hosea Kutako International Airport. This follows a High Court order on 9 August that the company and the NAC indeed have an agreement in place, in spite of the fact that the previous one had lapsed. The court ordered that if the NAC wanted to end the contract, it must give Menzies 30 days’ notice to evacuate the airport. Menzies yesterday claimed the High Court’s finding that a 30-day notice must be given was made in circumstances where the court was not aware of the effects of a rent ordinance. Paragon opted to not comment.
787 captain collapses in mid-flight and dies later
On Sunday a LATAM Airlines flight from Miami to Santiago was diverted to Panama after the captain died after becoming ill in a bathroom. Capt. Ivan Andaur collapsed about 40 minutes into the flight. There were two other pilots on the Boeing 787 and they took over. A nurse and two doctors who were passengers on the flight tried to save him and could not. The nurse reportedly said on social media that the aircraft ‘did not have the necessary or sufficient supplies to perform a good resuscitation.’
The medics worked on the pilot until after the plane landed in Panama City and the aircraft was evacuated of other passengers. The airline said its staff and the medical personnel did their best to save the pilot. ‘All the necessary protocols were followed during the flight to safeguard the life of the affected pilot,’ the airline said in a statement to the New York Post. ‘Unfortunately, after landing and receiving further medical assistance, the pilot passed away.’
NTSB Prelim: North American AT-6D
On 29 July 2023, at 09h05 central daylight time, a North American AT-6D airplane, N49961, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The pilot and the passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The airplane was at the annual Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture fly-in, held at the Wittman Regional Airport (OSH), Oshkosh, Wisconsin. According to Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) data, the airplane departed from runway 27 at OSH about 08h57. The airplane made a right turn toward the north for about three miles before it turned toward the east-northeast. The flightpath took the airplane over Lake Winnebago, outside of the OSH Class D airspace. The airplane proceeded out over the lake, reached a peak altitude of 3,900 feet, before it descended rapidly into the lake at 09h05. The airplane broke into pieces and came to rest at the bottom of the lake in about 20 feet of water. The airplane will be recovered for further examination.
Pilot flees crash scene and leaves injured passengers
A helicopter crash investigation has turned into a manhunt in rural British Columbia after the pilot of a Robinson R44 left three injured passengers at the scene of accident. According to Castanet, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are now looking for the pilot while his passengers recover in local hospitals near Enderby, B.C., about 200 miles northeast of Vancouver. The helicopter crashed on 12 August in a shallow section of the Shuswap River, about 20 miles east of Enderby, after apparently hitting a power line.
“The initial investigation determined four people were on board the helicopter when it crashed into the river bed,” RCMP Const. Chris Terleski said in a statement. “Three of the individuals were transported to hospital with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries. One person, believed to be the pilot, left the scene in a vehicle prior to arrival of emergency personnel and remains unaccounted for.” A small dog that was on the helicopter was later found dead.
The pilot is apparently notorious in the area for his low-level flights in the R44. He has not been officially identified by the police, but numerous witnesses have come forth saying they saw him flying the helicopter at low altitude over the river and in other locations in the area, which is a mix of farmland and forest. An hour before the crash, a resident snapped a photo of the helicopter landing on the roof of a building on top of a hydroelectric dam. The helicopter has a US registration N7529M and was last registered to Quicksilver Air Inc. in Fairbanks. According to Castanet the registration was cancelled on 6 July when the aircraft was sold to a Canadian owner but it does not appear to have been added to the Canadian registry.
Namibian Robinson R44 Ravin II helicopter crash aftermath
The helicopter crash that claimed two lives in July was not registered in Namibia. The registration under which it entered the country was ZS-HLG. The registration mark reserved for the Robinson R44 Ravin II in Namibia was V5-HGG, for which was applied for on 23 June but the owner did not proceed with the application. The helicopter did not have a valid Certificate of Airworthiness (CoA) for Namibia or South Africa.
The Robinson 44 arrived in Namibia on 22 February 2022 and the Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO) only applied for registration number V5-HGG in June 2023. The NCAA had reserved this registration despite the fact that the owner did not continue with registration. The helicopter also did not have a test flight permit. Instead of its original engine, the helicopter was equipped with an engine previously registered in a helicopter VS-HJL as stated in the accident report. According to the authorities the owner of the Robinson involved in the accident was Golden Game cc.
The factual information surrounding the accident provided in the report is as follows:
- The helicopter was bought from south Africa on a trailer in February 2022. The owner took the helicopter to an AMO for a maintenance inspection and certification. The helicopter and engine had to undergo a 12-year inspection.
- After the maintenance was completed the AMO informed the owner that they were ready for test flights. A test flight was undertaken on Friday 14 July and another on Saturday 15 July.
- On Monday 17 July the Robinson took off at Swakopmund for a maintenance test flight. The purpose of the flight was to do the final balancing of the rotors and perform auto-rotations.
- The fatal flight was undertaken on Monday 17 July when rotor-balancing and auto-rotations were to be performed.
- During autorotation, one main blade hit the tail section, which broke off and the helicopter crashed hitting the ground violently on its left side. The tail section was 158m from the remainder of the wreck, whilst the rotor blade was recovered 55m from the main crash site.
- Eyewitnesses and staff from the flying school at Swakopmund rushed to the scene and the police and emergency services were called.
The pilot, Jacques Jacobs (54) flight licenses were in order. The flight engineer was Von Weitz and an employee of the maintenance company was arrested in connection with the incident. She will appear before court again in Swakopmund in due course.
General Electric’s GEnx engines achieve 50 million hours
GE Aerospace’s GEnx engine family achieved a milestone this year, with the 50-million mark passed faster than ever ‘for a commercial widebody engine’. While that niche is understandably small, it is still a point of pride for the brand, when the GEnx-1B’s entry into service stands at just over 10 years ago. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been the standard bearer for the type, racking up 32 million hours alone. The GEnx-2B has seen 18 million hours since its entry into service in 2011 on the 747-8. Today, the engine family serves more than 70 operators, with 450,000 flight hours added to the logbooks every month. To date, the family has nearly 3,000 engines in service, with an extensive backlog.
Russian aircraft operating in Alaska ADIZ detected by NORAD
The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) said it detected and tracked four Russian military aircraft within the Alaska Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ). The event occurred late on the night of 13 August, extending into the early hours of 14 August 2023. NORAD did not specify the model of the tracked aircraft. NORAD is a collaborative organisation between the United States of America and Canada, is responsible for safeguarding the airspace of both nations. It underscored that the Russian aircraft maintained their operations strictly within international airspace and did not breach the sovereign airspace of either the United States or Canada.
In May 2023, six Russian aircraft including SU-35 fighter jets, IL-78 tankers and TU-95 bombers, were intercepted in the same ADIZ while Alaska’s largest military drill of the year, Exercise Northern Edge 23 was ongoing. An ADIZ is a unilaterally declared region of international airspace that serves as a buffer zone before sovereign airspace. Its primary purpose is to facilitate the swift identification and monitoring of all aircraft entering this designated space. To monitor aircraft movements and respond if needed, NORAD utilises a multi-layered defensive system comprising satellites, ground-based and airborne radars, as well as fighter jets.
Romania expects F-35 Letter of Agreement in 2024, first aircraft in 2030
The Romanian Ministry of National Defence expects to sign a Letter of Acceptance (LoA) with the US government for the acquisition of 32 Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth generation fighter jets in 2024, after reports emerged earlier this month that the country’s parliament had been asked to approve the $6.5 billion programme. “After the Parliament approval, such as the law requires, the procedures specific to the purchase government to government type will be started,” a spokesperson for the Romanian MND said in a statement. “Therefore, it is expected that the signing of the acquisition contract type Letter of Acceptance (LoA) to take place in 2024 and the first aircraft will be delivered to the Romanian Air Force starting in 2030.”
The acquisition, otherwise referred to by the spokesperson as the ‘F-35 Endowment Programme’ is set to be completed in two stages, culminating in delivery of three F-35 squadrons. Parliament has only been asked to approve the purchase of two squadrons (the first step of the Endowment Programme). No timeline was offered by the MND for a third squadron order. A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin asked that any questions on foreign military sales be directed to the US government but said that the company ‘values our strong partnership and history with the Romanian Air Force and looks forward to continuing that partnership into the future.’ The initial order for 32 aircraft also includes 35 engines, weapons, ammunition, logistics support, training services and simulators, added the Romanian MND spokesperson.
Germany scraps state-owned Airbus A340s over minister’s flight fiasco to Australia
The German Air Force has confirmed that the two state-owned Airbus A340-300 aircraft will take out of service. The move comes after Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was forced to cancel her trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji after the government A340 she was traveling on suffered a series of problems after leaving Germany. The air force added: “With the #A350, robust and modern aircraft for long-haul flights are available to those ready to fly.”
The flight fiasco began on 13 August, when Germany’s 16+01 aircraft departed Berlin Airport (BER) for Canberra Airport (CBR) in Australia. After six hours of flying the A340 made a scheduled stop at Abu Dhabi Airport (AUH) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to refuel. After a two hour stop the government jet continued its journey but was forced to return to AUH following an issue with the aircraft’s flaps. Before landing back in the UAE, the plane was forced to dump its fuel, no doubt at a cost to the German TAX payer. It was decided while the plane was being repaired the delegation would spend the night in a hotel.
The following day the Airbus A340 once again took off but subsequently suffered the exact same problem shortly after take-off and the jet returned to AUH, but not before enough fuel to fly to Australia was dumped first. On 15 August 2023, the trip was called off and plans were made for the German Minister to return home on a commercial flight. Germany’s 16+01 aircraft joined the German Air Force in 2011.
China is building a runway on its closest island outpost to Vietnam
In the past few weeks, China has begun to build what appears to be a new airstrip on one of the islands it controls in the highly contested South China Sea. The size of the airstrip, as it currently stands, means it is hard to know exactly what purpose it is intended to serve. However, construction of this kind at this particular location, Triton Island, the closest in the disputed Paracels archipelago to Vietnam is significant in itself. The runway cannot be constructed more than 3,100 feet without extending the island’s footprint, although China is definitely capable of doing just this.
The sudden development on the Chinese-controlled Triton Island is revealed in satellite imagery. Clearly, work is still at an early stage, but it is startling just how rapid the progress has been so far. Construction of this airstrip only began a few weeks ago at the most. The War Zone examined imagery from Planet Labs from mid-July showing no such activity. In addition to the airstrip, satellite imagery reveals a huge new work area, including a cement plant. This has all sprung up within the last month. Previously, this Chinese outpost was home to an observation station with two radomes and some large Chinese flags, but not much more. The island was previously served by a small harbour and a helipad.
As US approves F-16 transfers, USAFE head warns Ukraine will not have them flying in 2023
On Thursday the US approved the transfer of F-16 Fighting Falcons from Denmark and the Netherlands to Ukraine. However, the top US air officer in the region is warning that the fighter jets will not arrive in 2023 and that it could be several years until Ukrainian forces can demonstrate ‘proficiency’ on the platform. According to Gen. James Hecker, commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, Ukrainian pilots undertaking F-16 training are typically pretty ‘young’ who have ‘barely any hours at all,’ and that many steps lay ahead of them before they will be ready to strap in to the Lockheed Martin-made Fighting Falcon.
The pilots first have to undergo language training in the UK, Hecker said and then after this “they are going to get a little bit more training on propellers and then go down to France and fly in the D Dassault / Dornier Alpha Jet for a little bit. That all is going to take time and this is probably not going to happen before the end of the year, this why it is going to be at least until next year until you see F-16s in Ukraine,” he added.
On 11 August the Washington Post reported that F-16 training for a first group of six Ukrainian pilots likely would not wrap up before summer 2024, with the country’s Air Force later confirming that the jets would not be delivered this year as previously hoped. Speaking during a discussion hosted by the Defence Writers Group, Hecker, echoed previous comments from top officials that the F-16 would help Ukraine meet its military objectives, pointing to elements like its existing interoperability with weapons being supplied by the West and ‘added capability’ in a fight, but similarly emphasised it would not be a ‘silver bullet.’ In addition, Hecker said significant time will be required to build ‘proficiency’ on the F-16, cautioning that it may be several years before Ukraine reaches that point.
No news to report in this edition.
FlyExclusive backs Textron’s plans for Nexus eVTOL aircraft
Business aviation services group FlyExclusive is to be the first member of the customer advisory group that Textron’s eAviation division is establishing for its new Nexus eVTOL aircraft. Tuesday the companies announced that FlyExclusive, which operates private charter flights and a fractional ownership programme, will provide Textron with input on the development of the hybrid-electric Nexus, including the perspectives of pilots and passengers.
For now, FlyExclusive has not indicated whether it intends to acquire the eVTOL vehicle. Its agreement with Textron eAviation is expected to cover joint marketing activities for trade shows, as well as collaborative efforts to develop advanced air mobility through engagement with regulatory authorities and work on public acceptance. Moves to establish a customer advisory group for the four-passenger Nexus have begun just over 12 months after Textron publicly confirmed it is actively working on the aircraft. A preliminary design was first unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2019, but Textron later suggested that work may have been suspended on the programme until the fall of 2021 when it was transferred from Textron’s helicopter-making division Bell to the new Textron eAviation business unit that was formed in March 2021.
In April 2022, the Wichita-based group’s capabilities in electric aviation were significantly boosted by the acquisition of Europe’s Pipistrel, which has already certified its Velis Electra electric light aircraft in Europe and has invested significant resources working on eVTOL and other electric- and hybrid-electric designs. Pipistrel is part of a wider Nexus team that also includes Textron subsidiaries Bell and Kautex, and all are contributing to design work for a full-scale prototype that is expected to fly at some point in the next couple of years.
At a press conference during the October 2022 NBAA-BACE trade show in Orlando, the company unveiled a design featuring a larger wing span that it said would have an increased range of up to around 100 nm and speeds of around 120 knots. Unlike many other eVTOL aircraft developers, Textron eAviation has not published a specific timeline for getting the new model into commercial service.
Prospective eVTOL operators have their say
Textron also wants to get direct input from prospective operators as well, and this process is now starting with the formation of the customer advisory board. In particular, FlyExclusive is expected to provide Textron’s engineering and design team with guidance on optimizing both the cockpit and cabin.
“The Nexus eVTOL is being designed to offer customers sustainably powered mobility and flexibility in a variety of locations and missions,” Scholl commented. “Our collaboration with FlyExclusive demonstrates our strong focus on further developing the product and ensuring it delivers an exceptional customer experience. As we begin the building of our first eVTOL prototype aircraft, FlyExclusive’s input will be important as we finalise our aircraft design and as the technology and market evolve over the coming years.”
Based on an agreement to combine its business with special purpose acquisition company EG Acquisition, FlyExclusive is working on plans to raise fresh capital through an initial public offering. During an investors’ day event in June, the company indicated that it expects to complete the IPO in August or September. Textron has said that, in addition to passenger flights, it envisages the Nexus being deployed for services such as cargo transportation and emergency medical services.
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Russia-1 TV report highlights increased production of ZALA Lancet kamikaze drones
On 16 July 2023, a report aired on Russia-1 TV highlighted the increased production of the ZALA Lancet kamikaze drones. The report featured interviews with ZALA chief designer Alexander Zakharov, an interview with a Lancet drone operator, footage of Lancet drone strikes in Ukraine and footage of the Lancet production process.
Russian army destroys first Ukrainian Stormer HVM Starstreak air defence vehicle using Lancet drone. It was revealed that the production of Lancets has increased as much as 50 times since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Russia believes there are now enough Lancet units to target every NATO tank in Ukraine. But I think we all know it’s not as simple as that.
Alexander Zakharov said that the nickname ‘Lancet’ has been given to the drone because it is a surgical tool. He also explained that there are now three models of the Lancet drone, known as Item 51, 52 and Item 53. The three models differ in range and in the power of the warhead. Zakharov said that the Item 51 model has a range of 25 kilometres and a warhead of three kilograms. The Item 52 model has a range of 40 kilometres and a warhead of five kilograms. Item 53 is tube-launched.
DJI FlyCart 30 delivery drone
No doubt FlyCart 30 will be streets ahead of many of the VC funding offerings out there. But it is missing the secret sauce at the moment, the logistics back end. That said box or crane, it is a clever idea. Perhaps the software to go with the box delivery is just around the corner. The payload, 30kg sent 16km makes sense, it will cover so many use cases in the emergency or island delivery use case. The launch was low key, but this might be the real start of the scaling of delivery drones.
In container / cargo mode, the standard configuration is a general-sized EPP container with a maximum volume of 70 litres (internal dimensions are approximately: length 573mm, width 412mm, height 306mm). It can be disassembled and assembled within three minutes to facilitate loading and unloading. The cargo box supports weight and centre of gravity detection to ensure the cargo is loaded correctly and makes the flight safer and more stable. The crane system has a cable drop mode and supports automatic and manual control methods. The maximum retractable weight is 40kg, the maximum release length is 20 metres and the fastest retractable speed can reach 0.8 m/s.
The AR projection function helps users quickly select the delivery location of the goods, while goods can be automatically released when they touch the ground for precise delivery.
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