“At the end of a century that has seen the evils of Communism, Nazism and other modern tyrannies, the impulse to centralise power remains amazingly persistent.” Joseph Sobran
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I will publish the names of those that identified the aircraft correctly within the Thursday edition of APAnews.
At the invitation of the Eagles Creek Flying Club, on Sunday Christine and I visited Eagles Creek airfield where the Austin Healy Club was enjoying a hearty breakfast in the club house. Whilst from time-to-time flying clubs and flying organisations experience turbulence, usually due to one on more individuals based at the club acting as though they are the most important persons on the airfield, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the board that runs the Eagles Creek Flying Club appears to have none of these issues. In addition, to a superb breakfast, it was good to meet not only several of the pilots who own hangars at the airfield, but also the owners of the pristine Austin Healy vintage cars that attended, mostly with their wives.
I was informed that the Eagles Creek Flying Club is completely independent of the original developer and the committee of five persons has been elected to look after the interests of the 109 pilot members and hangar owners. The club has decided to stage regular combined breakfast meetings with various automobile clubs as well as other interested organisations so as the add value for the members and also provide a steady stream of visitors who can enjoy the atmosphere of the club house and enjoy the meals provided. African Pilot will be planning a full story of the Eagles Creek Flying Club in a future magazine.
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.
The eleventh edition of Future Flight was sent out to the world-wide audience on Saturday 26 August. This 144-page edition has 13 picture galleries and 15 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.
SAPFA Speed Rally at Groblersdal – 19 August 2023
News from Absolute Aviation
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.
Children’s Flight at Orient airfield, Magaliesberg
Contact Felix Gosher E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 086 191 4603
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering 07h30 Auditorium Rand Airport
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
Tedderfield spring fly-in at Tedderfield Air Park
Contact Tel: 083 702 3680
Rand airshow now only on the Sunday
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 078 486 6888
Helicopter fly-in to Krugersdorp airfield
Contact David le Roux PilotInsure E-mail: David@pilotinsure.co.za
Lydenburg fly-in festival
Contact Coenraad Cell: 076 466 9999
Eagle’s Creek presents Landy’s and Lates Eagles Creek airfield
Contact Kevin Moore Cell: 083 628 8202
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 Pancake camp over & pancake breakfast Silver Creek airfield
Contact Sean Cronin E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 447 9895
16 & 17 September
SAC Limpopo Regionals Phalaborwa airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stellenbosch Flying Club 50th anniversary fly-in
Contact Sam Cell: 082 828 4553 or Anton Cell: 079 873 4567
26 & 27 September
Drone-X Trade Show and Conference ExCeL – London
Contact Scarlett Russell E-mail: email@example.com
DCA Industry Roadshow Durban KZN
Contact Ms Charmaine Shibambo E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
29 Sep to 1 Oct
EAA Sun ‘n Fun Tempe Airfield
Contact Kassie Kasselman 082 404 1642 Lucas 082 566 0656
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering 18h00 at Tempe airfield
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
Saldanha West Coast airshow
Contact Clive Coetzee E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 084 614 1675
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
24 October to 4 November
SAC Advanced World Aerobatics Championships Las Vegas
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
SAPFA SA Landing Championships – Brits & Stellenbosch airfields
Contact Ron Stirk E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 804 445 0373
Russian mercenary leader’s jet crashes
Russian authorities are investigating the crash of an Embraer Legacy 600 last week that reportedly killed Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin and his close associates. After departing from Moskva-Sheremetyevo Airport (UUEE) just after 18h00 local time to fly to Saint Petersburg-Pulkovo Airport (ULLI), airspace tracking service Flightradar24 said the aircraft made a ‘dramatic’ descent nine minutes after levelling off at 28,000 feet. A report by Flightradar24 indicates the aircraft descended by more than 8,000 feet in around 30 seconds. The company said it used multilateration data to track the aircraft because GNSS jamming in the area appears to have affected its ADS-B system.
Rosaviatsiya, Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency, confirmed the Legacy 600 was registered under the tail number RA-02795 to MNT Aero, a leasing group that appears to have been operating it for the Wagner group. The agency said the flight manifest listed seven passengers and three crew. Passengers on board were reportedly Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner Group co-founder Dmitry Utkin, along with Sergey Propustin, Yevgeny Makaryan, Alexander Totmin, Valeriy Chekalov and Nikolay Matuseyev. The crewmembers were identified as Alexei Levshin, Rustam Karimov and flight attendant Kristina Raspopova.
The crash occurred exactly two months after the mercenary leader led a short-lived mutiny against Russia’s military leadership over their conduct of the war in Ukraine. Prgozhin’s widely reported confrontations with Russian President Putin have prompted observers to question whether the country’s accident investigators will be able to provide an objective and transparent explanation for the fatal accident. According to AviationSafetyNetwork (ASN), the Legacy 600 (MSN 14501008) crashed around 60 miles north of the Russian capital and burst into flames.
However, several western observers urged caution on identifying the passengers because Prigozhin was known to have numerous passports and body doubles who travelled under his name. “Until we know for certain it’s the right Prigozhin, let uss not be surprised if he pops up shortly in a new video from Africa,” Keir Giles, Russia analyst at the London-based Chatham House think tank, told The Washington Post. “We are unlikely ever to know the true cause of the crash,” he noted, because “there is no chance of any investigation that will be either transparent or reliable.”
At this time, it is unclear whether the Brazilian manufacturer will be invited to join Russia’ investigation of the crash, as is customary in civil aviation accident investigations. In a short statement to AIN, the company said: “Embraer is aware of the accident that occurred with the Legacy 600 in Russia, but so far does not have any further information about the case. The company has complied and continues to comply with international sanctions imposed on Russia leading to the suspension of the plane’s support services starting in 2019.”
Soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, leading Western nations-imposed sanctions intended to block the export of aircraft and parts to Russia. Prigozhin has been subject to US sanctions since 2019 and many other wealthy associates of Putin have also been personally sanctioned since then in moves that have completely isolated Russia’s business aviation community. However, according to research into customs records published by Reuters, at least $1.2 billion worth of spare parts have been delivered to Russian aircraft operators since May 2022. The news agency indicated that the sanctions have been evaded by various intermediary dealers in countries that have remained close to the Putin regime including the UAE, Turkey, China and Kyrgystan.
The Legacy 600 executive jet, which entered service in 2002, has an excellent safety record. According to Air Safety Network, the Wagner jet is the first Legacy 600 to suffer a fatal crash and there has been only one other recorded accident involving the type, which occurred in 2006 when it crashed midair into a Gol Boeing 737-800 scheduled to be delivered from the Embraer factory at São José dos Campos Airport to the US. Rosaviatsia said RA-02795 belonged to MNT-AERO, which has leasing of aircraft and aircraft equipment listed as its core activity. It also confirmed that the ‘flight of the Embraer was carried out on the basis of a permit for the use of airspace issued in accordance with the established procedure’ and that a specially created commission has begun investigating the circumstances and causes of the accident. “The Commission of the Federal Air Transport Agency is starting initial actions at the scene of the accident and has also begun collecting factual materials on the training of the crew, the technical condition of the aircraft, the meteorological situation on the flight route, the work of dispatch services and ground radio equipment,” Rosaviatsia said in a statement.
Widespread speculation that the Wagner aircraft was destroyed by missiles will likely be viewed in the context of the Russian government’s role in the 2014 attack on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine after departing Amsterdam for Kuala Lumpur. In November 2022, a Dutch court in The Hague found two former Russian intelligence officers and a Kremlin-backed Ukrainian separatist to be responsible for shooting down the Boeing 777 airliner with Buk anti-aircraft missiles. The Putin administration refused to cooperate with the court order to arrest the men to serve life sentences in prison.
Just a few hours before the crash of the Wagner aircraft, state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti reported sources close to the Kremlin as confirming the firing of the head of the Russian air force, General Sergei Surovikin. Little has been seen of Surovikin since soon after an attempted coup in May by Prigozhin, who had expressed public support for the general after berating other senior military leaders.
Earlier this week, Rosaviatsia reported that flights in and out of Moscow’s four main airports Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Vnukovo and Zhukovsky were disrupted due to airspace closures imposed by defence forces in response to alleged drone attacks from Ukraine. The Russian government has repeatedly accused its enemy of being behind reported drone attacks around the capital, which have yet to be independently verified.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy denied any involvement in the crash, seemingly anticipating Kremlin attempts to deflect suspicion from President Putin. “Everybody realizes who had something to do with it,” Zelenskiy told reporters. French government spokesman Olivier Veran commented, “We do not yet know the circumstance in which the crash took place but we can have reasonable doubts.”
CassuTT owner Creighton King killed in crash
The family of CassuTT owner Creighton King has confirmed he died in the crash of his race plane near West Jordan Airport in Utah on Wednesday. The tiny single-seat plane went down on a soccer park near the airport that local media say has been used twice for emergency landings in the last year. The aircraft crashed on the soccer pitch and went through a chain link fence before crossing a road and stopping next to a sidewalk. The pilot was declared dead at the scene and has not been formally identified. However, tributes are pouring in on social media for King.
King was well known in Formula 1 airplane racing circles and the kit industry for his adaptation of the venerable CassuTT design. The T-tailed CassuTT has set speed records and was a modernised version of the original design.
Van’s provides updates regarding defective parts
In early 2022, Van’s Aircraft commenced subcontracting the manufacture of select aircraft parts to fabrication concerns utilising laser cutting processes. The decision to subcontract parts manufacturing was, according to Van’s, ‘made after completing a formal manufacturing process evaluation and extensive fatigue testing of materials used in the manufacturing process, with the purpose of increasing the production capacity for some parts during a period of high demand.’
Between February and June 2022, a significant number of Van’s customers reported cracks having formed in parts with laser-cut holes. The company immediately undertook corrective action, conducting testing of cracked parts for purpose of assessing the nature of the defects and devising corrective measures germane to such.
Van’s determined the parts of greatest concern to be:
- Vertical stabiliser, rudder and elevator spars on all RV-7, RV-8, RV-9, RV-10 and RV-14 empennage / tail kits.
- Horizontal stabiliser spars in RV-7/8 empennage kits.
- Flap and aileron spars shipped early in the laser-cutting process, in RV-7, RV-8, RV-9, RV-10, and RV-14 kits.
On 4 July 2023, seeking to safeguard its customers and the larger aviation community, Van’s stated on its website: ‘We encourage people to pause building of the above specific kits that include laser-cut empennage / tail, aileron and flap-spar parts. We will be replacing these components and providing further guidance. Even though testing of these specific parts is not yet complete, Van’s is erring on the side of caution by identifying those parts now and will recommend the replacement of these parts due to the relatively high loads carried by those specific parts. We will communicate directly with all affected customers concerning these parts via e-mail, to inform those customers as to what steps should be taken. We are executing an initial run of replacement parts on our punch presses now and will be making additional production runs.’
The statement continued: ‘Our testing programme for this issue is ongoing and focused on reviewing the various hole diameters and material thicknesses / types that were used to produce the laser-cut parts. These variables, as well as variations in manufacturing process parameters, can result in a marked difference in the potential for a crack to form in a given hole. We will prioritise testing and manufacturing of replacement parts based on these differences. We are also reviewing the metallurgy of the holes at the third-party test lab, in order to better understand the origin and cause of the observed cracks. From that, we will gain a greater understanding about these cracks and at what stages in the process they are formed (when cut, when dimpled, when riveted). We expect to receive those results soon, even before the full spectrum of overall testing is completed and we will communicate that information when available.’
Qantas Group posts full-year profit, orders 24 wide-body aircraft
The Qantas Group has posted its first full year statutory profit since FY19. For the full year 2023 (FY23), the Group achieved an underlying profit before tax of AU$2.47 billion and a Statutory after-tax profit of AU$1.74 billion. This compares with AU$7 billion in accumulated statutory losses over three prior years. Underpinning the profit was completion of the Group’s AU$1 billion recovery programme (launched in the first year of those losses), a 132% increase in flying compared with FY22 and strong travel demand driving significantly higher revenue. As of 30 June 2023, the Group had liquidity sources of around AU$10 billion, including AY$4.4 billion in cash and undrawn facilities and AU$5.6 billion in unencumbered assets. The Board of the Group approved a return to shareholders of up to AU$500 million via an on-market share buy-back, which will commence in September 2023. This follows a return of AU$1.0 billion during FY23 via share buy-backs at an average price of AU$6.19.
The Group has announced a firm order for 24 widebody aircraft, consisting of 12 Boeing 787s and 12 Airbus A350s. With deliveries starting in FY27 and continuing into the next decade, these aircraft will replace the bulk of the current A330 fleet, with purchase right options stretching out until at least FY37 to provide flexibility for future growth and, ultimately, replacement of the A380 fleet. This order secures delivery slots for sought-after wide-body aircraft with pricing that represents an excellent opportunity for the Group. It is in addition to the order for 12 specially modified A350s to operate Project Sunrise flights, arriving in FY26.
The Group’s fleet plan has significant flexibility built in, allowing for adjustments depending on market conditions and its financial framework. As part of this new order, Qantas will partner with Airbus and Boeing to access to up to 500 million litres of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) per annum from 2028, including from the United States. This represents up to 90% of the SAF required to reach the Group’s 2030 interim target of 10% of its total fuel needs and enhances the Group’s pathway to reducing emissions.
Dassault Falcon 6X gains EASA, FAA type certificates
Following a two-year flight test campaign, the Falcon 6X is now a fully Type Certificated aircraft in both the United States and Europe. Dassault was happy to place a cap on 1,500 flight hours of testing for the 6X, which should see the first of its production brethren rolling off the assembly line in coming weeks. The ‘first extra widebody business jet’ sports a 5,500-nm range and top speed of 0.90 mach, enviable numbers for the kind of clientele the high-end bizjet brand courts.
“The certification of the Falcon 6X is a remarkable milestone for Dassault Aviation. We would like to recognize the EASA and FAA certification teams for their commitment in this demanding process and our customers for their confidence. The Falcon 6X is the first brand new business jet to comply with the latest regulations, which will enhance the safety and security of all new aircraft,” said Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. “The 10,200 km Falcon 6X combines the best qualities of Dassault Aviation’s world-leading business and fighter aircraft expertise to create the longest-range jet in its class with unparalleled passenger comfort and maximum mission flexibility”.
Embraer E195-E2 earns CAAC type certificate
Embraer’s E195-E2 single-aisle passenger jet has been granted its type certificate by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The model received its type certificates from the FAA, EASA and Brazil’s ANAC in April 2019, entering service with Brazilian airline Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras later that year. The first of Embraer’s E2 models, the E190-E2, received its CAAC certification last November.
An updated version of Embraer’s E195, the E195-E2 can be configured for 120 seats in two classes or up to 146 seats in a single class. According to the company, it offers a 25 percent improvement on fuel efficiency per seat compared to previous generation E-Jets. The largest member of Embraer’s E-Jet family, the E195-E2 has a range of 2,600 NM, top cruise speed of Mach 0.82 and maximum payload of 35,604 pounds.
Delta opens a training academy with Skyborne
Delta Air Lines has opened the Propel Flight Academy in Vero Beach, Florida as part of a greater push to train the next generation of company pilots. Working with Delta on the project is local flight instruction outfit Skyborne, itself a fairly big name in the zero-to-hero pilot pipeline scene. The firm is one of a few working along with the carrier on its long-term goal of fostering in-house talent for the flight deck, with a handful of differing paths. Delta has options for zero-time company people, commercial single pilots, and street hires to work their way through the FAA ratings up past entry-level flying work and turbine time building.
Skyborne’s Vero Beach home is a solid choice for a training hub, boasting accessible travel connections and nice flying weather for most of the year. Skyborne’s location will train candidates from among longtime Delta employees (technically three years or more) with a PPL certificate. They will go on to gain their commercial certificate on to being a CFI, which will hopefully sustain them through to the point of moving on up to a Delta Connection carrier. From there, the pilots will spend ‘42 months or less’ at their small carrier before being tapped to make the jump to Delta’s main airline.
Airbus’ Perlan 2 takes flight over Patagonia
On 23 August the Perlan Project’s Perlan 2 space glider took flight, looking to take a jaunt over the Andes mountains of Peru to celebrate ‘National ride the wind day’, lofting themselves into an attempt at a world record of 90,000 feet in a crewed glider. Those interested in the Perlan Project got to track the live telemetry of the project, watching as the Perlan 2 was towed up to its initial altitude before lifting up and away off the bountiful, fierce mountain waves over the Andes. After 2.5 hours of flight, the Perlan 2 was making a good vertical speed of eight knots at a pressure altitude of 45,500 feet. By the end, the Perlan 2 was able to reach a max altitude just north of 60,300 feet, taking the better part of five hours to hit its maximum altitude.
The attempt follows a flight over Patagonia earlier this month, testing out the aircraft’s high and cold performance up to 60,000 feet. Unfortunately, the forecasts were correct, limiting the Perlan 2’s performance with an absence of lifting conditions. The Perlan’s best achieved lift was ‘only three knots, for only a few minutes’ according to the team. On the upside, they managed to make the best of things and revise procedures and evaluate modifications. New instruments needed updating, a rebreather required some leak detection and the crew enjoyed an emergency communications drill. The team managed to keep the chase helicopter in the air long enough to make the best of the ‘golden hour’ for some beautiful in-flight photography of the experimental glider, marking off the second somewhat-successful mission for the Perlan crew.
Latest flaw in 737 MAX construction likely to slow down deliveries
American plane maker Boeing has confirmed that the latest manufacturing flaw will likely slow down deliveries of the 737 MAX. Boeing has confirmed that fastener holes on the aft pressure bulkhead on some 737 planes were improperly drilled. Spirit AeroSystems, which manufactures the fuselage for the 737 MAX, has advised that because it ‘uses multiple suppliers for the aft pressure bulkhead, only some units are affected.’ While Boeing will continue to deliver 737 MAX aircraft unaffected by this particular problem, the company also made it clear that: ‘This issue will impact near-term 737 deliveries as we conduct inspections to determine the number of airplanes affected and complete required rework on those airplanes.’
The timing of the announcement has caused major problems for Boeing as it was in the process of ramping up production to meet increased demand for the single-aisle commercial jet from 31 to 38 units per month. However, the company is yet to confirm if this setback will have a longer-term effect on its forecast to deliver between 400 and 450 units in 2023. Spirit AeroSystems has confirmed that it will continue to deliver fuselages to Boeing. “We are working closely with our customer to address any impacted units within the production system and address any needed rework,” Spirit AeroSystems said in a statement. “Based upon what we know now, we believe there will not be a material impact to our delivery range for the year related to this issue.” This year through July, Boeing handed over 309 planes to customers, behind the 381 planes rival Airbus delivered in the same period.
Indonesia commits to purchase of up to 24 F-15EXs from Boeing
On Monday in a press release, Indonesian and Boeing officials have inked a memorandum of understanding for the Southeast Asian country to acquire ‘up to 24’ F-15EX fighter jets. The agreement was signed following a tour of Boeing’s production line in St. Louis. Dollar amounts and delivery timelines for the potential deal, which must be approved by the US State Department, were not specified.
The F-15EX, dubbed Eagle II, is the most advanced iteration of the fighter to date with enhanced capabilities like a new electronic warfare suite. The US Air Force is also procuring the jet as it seeks to recapitalise its aging fighter fleet, with officials deciding in the fiscal 2024 budget to extend the buy of the Eagle II for a total fleet size of 104. However, cost is an ongoing concern for the jet. A top Boeing official recently backed away from a sub-$80 million per copy price tag pledge for the US Air Force’s next two production lots, with budget documents showing that cost per-unit could rise to as high as $106 million in fiscal 2025.
The company has also struggled with production issues on the F-15EX line, the Government Accountability Office noted in a recent report, raising risks that the Air Force’s initial operational capability (IOC) date could be missed. Boeing must deliver six more F-15EXs, known as the programme’s Lot 1B fighters, before the programme’s IOC can be declared, which was previously planned for June 2023. In June, following the GAO report, an Air Force spokesperson said that all six of the F-15EX aircraft were still slated for delivery this calendar year. ‘While later than initially planned, Lot 1B aircraft deliveries and programme milestone dates remain consistent with the F-15EX programme’s acquisition baseline,’ the spokesperson said.
Last week, the company posted pictures on social media of one of those jets being moved to proceed with flight testing, with Boeing saying it will be delivered to the Air Force ‘later this year.’ (Two F-15EXs are already in the Air Force’s possession, which were delivered in spring 2021 to facilitate rapid testing.)
Bristow Helicopters awarded Irish search & rescue contract
The firm will begin taking on this contract in the fourth quarter of 2024, stationing six SAR-configured Leonardo AW189 helicopters from four bases located in Sligo, Shannon, Dublin Weston and Waterford, Ireland. In accordance with the contract to sport the ‘latest evolution of mission systems’ per the Irish Coast Guard, the AW189s will sport day / night/IFR avionics exceeding FAA and EASA Part 29 requirements.
In an expansion to current ICG services, Bristow will provide the services of a pair of specialized King Airs from Shannon Airport. Both will be equipped for the usual SAR and patrol mission, allowing them to take on environmental monitoring tasks when not required for their more emergent duties. Overall, the contract will create or sustain ‘more than 150 jobs’ ranging from ground support, engineering, flight operations and support in its bid to support the Irish Coast Guard. Should it work well for all involved, the contract may be extended another three years, with a separate provision allowing the Irish Air Corps to provide the fixed-wing support element should it be necessary.
No news to report in this edition.
Volatus infrastructure signs MOU with Ace eVTOL
Volatus Infrastructure, LLC has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Australian-based electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) company Ace VTOL. The MOU names Volatus as Ace’s preferred infrastructure partner and establishes a joint business development relationship designed to expand opportunities in the rapidly growing eVTOL market. Ace VTOL is a game-changing technology and transportation company focused on delivering safe and sustainable eVTOL aircraft to the global market with multirole airframes for commercial, logistics and municipal applications. eVTOL aircraft, or flying taxis as they are commonly known, will serve as a steppingstone to a flying car future, accessible to anyone through the company’s AI and personal flying ‘Muscle Car’ eVTOLs. Ultimately, Ace is committed to alleviating the issues associated with the existing transport ecosystem, increasing property and business valuation through connectivity and safely placing Australia at the leading edge of this exciting new transport demographic.
Founded in 2021, Volatus Infrastructure, LLC is connecting communities to the future with best-in-class eVTOL infrastructure technology to ensure society is ready for the future. Volatus offers three main eVTOL infrastructure designs, a vehicle agnostic charging station, plus an app and maintenance programs. By tailoring to specific needs while incorporating the latest technologies their work positively impacts clients and the communities they serve. Join the future with Volatus Infrastructure.
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Texas aerial firefighting efforts impeded by interloping drone
A drone operating in close proximity to the 150-acre Barth Fire in east-south-central Texas’s Caldwell County inadvertently neared to within feet of a helicopter engaged in fighting the blaze. The 18 August incident raised renewed awareness of the hazards posed by unauthorised drones to both aviation resources and firefighters on the ground.
Texas A&M Forest Service State Aviation Manager Jared Karns stated: “Pilots have no way to detect a drone or know there is one present in the airspace until they see it. Suppression aircraft can respond to wildfires quickly, increasing the likelihood that a new ignition remains a small, manageable wildfire. Utilising aircraft greatly enhances the state’s firefighting efforts, but they have to be able to fly in a safe environment.” In the event unauthorised drones are observed or otherwise detected in the vicinity of aerial firefighting efforts, operations of firefighting aircraft may be suspended until the drone(s) vacate(s) the area. Such interruptions are apt to result in the otherwise avoidable and often deadly spread of fires.
The Federal Aviation Administration, at the behest of Texas A&M Forest Service, has implemented Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) over and around active wildfires. All aircraft, to include Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are prohibited from operating in such areas. Moreover, wilful interference with firefighting aircraft, regardless of the establishment of TFRs, is a federal crime punishable by incarceration and fines of up to $25,000.
Walmart partners with Wing for drone delivery in Dallas Fort Worth
Retail giant Walmart and drone delivery provider Wing are poised to launch drone delivery service from two Walmart stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The partnership, which builds upon Walmart’s ongoing efforts to provide efficient last-mile delivery solutions and Wing’s expertise in drone technology, will bring an array of Walmart products directly to customers’ doorsteps.
Partnered with services provider DroneUp, Walmart has successfully implemented drone delivery service in the US across seven states and 36 stores, completing more than 10,000 secure deliveries. Building on this momentum, Walmart is adding Wing, an on-demand drone delivery provider backed by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, as a partner. The joint initiative will commence with operations at two Walmart Supercentres in the Dallas metro area, effectively extending the reach of the service to an additional 60,000 households. Wing’s drone technology, capable of flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), can cover an approximate six-mile radius around the participating stores.
Netherlands to double MQ-9A order to eight aircraft
According to manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has agreed to double an order for four MQ-9A Reaper medium altitude unmanned aerial vehicles to eight aircraft. The US firm revealed the move in a company statement on Monday, although the plan to order eight aircraft was previously disclosed in a national defence paper, published by the Netherlands Ministry of Defence in June 2022.
GA-ASI said that the first four MQ-9A Block 5 Reapers and associated ground control stations were delivered to the RNLAF in 2022. The aircraft are all due to be operated out of Leeuwarden Air Base, which also hosts Dutch F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets. Only one of the four MQ-9A drones is currently based at the facility for training purposes with the 306th Squadron, while the other three continue to cover missions out of Curacao, a Dutch Caribbean island, according to an August 15 RNLAF social media post.
The aircraft are all unarmed currently, but Christophe van der Maat, Netherlands state secretary of defence, informed the House of Representatives by letter in May 2023 that weapons will be procured for the drones. The first batch of four aircraft will need to be upgraded so they can be fitted with GBU-12 guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. The additional aircraft are ‘already technically prepared for this,’ added the MoD. The armaments will be ready for an initial deployment in 2025 and fully deployable in 2028, according to the MoD.
Iran unveils Mohajer-10 combat UAV, claiming extended range and payload
At a high-level ceremony attended by senior Iranian officials, the Islamic Republic recently unveiled its newest unmanned aerial vehicle, dubbed Mohajer-10, which according to state media it claims has a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles). According to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, Mohajer-10 is the upgraded version of Mohajer-6 drone and can carry a 300-kilogram payload, doubling the capacity of the older version, with several times increased range. The state news agency reported that Mohajer-10 can carry 450 litres of fuel, has a maximum speed of 210 km/h (130 mph), can stay in the air for 24 hours and ‘is equipped with various smart bombs with pinpoint accuracy as well as electronic warfare equipment and intelligence systems.’ In an apparent message to Israel, Reuters reported that an Iranian television segment on the drone included text saying ‘prepare your shelters’ in Hebrew and Persian.
The unveiling took place only one week after Tehran displayed a large variety of its unmanned systems at Army 2023 defence expo held in Russia. There Iran’s booth showcased the Arash, Ababil-5 Karrar, and Shahin combined-type UAVs. Samuel Bendett, an AI and unmanned systems expert at the US-based CNA research organisation said that it is hard to judge Mohajer-10 drone’s efficacy since it has not yet flown in combat missions.
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