“Whoever controls the volume of money in any country is absolute master of all industry and commerce.” James A. Garfield
Mitsubishi Ki-20 Heavy Bomber:
is a Japanese bomber variant of the Junkers G.38 airliner. Mitsubishi manufactured six aircraft under license from Junkers. These aircraft, designated Army Type 92 Heavy Bomber, served through the 1930s. During World War II, the Ki-20 served in a variety of transport and support roles.
In the late-1920s, as Junkers developed the Junkers G.38, Mitsubishi representatives in Germany expressed an interest in a military version of this civilian transport. At the time, the G.38 was the largest landplane in the world. Junkers completed a design study for a military bomber / transport, based on the G.38, designated the K.51. This design was not accepted by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium.
The K.51 design study was of interest to Japan. A licensing and manufacturing agreement was reached and in 1932 the first two Ki-20s were completed by Mitsubishi, utilizing Junkers-made parts. A prototype was successfully flown in Japan by a German test pilot in that year. Four additional Ki-20s were built between 1933 and 1935. All these subsequent models used Mitsubishi-built parts. Ongoing development focused on engine upgrades to all examples to address the persistent issue of the aircraft being underpowered. Several engine upgrades were completed during the lifetime of these aircraft. The initial Junkers L88 engines were replaced by the more powerful Jumo 204 engines, also built under license by Mitsubishi. In addition, Kawasaki Ha-9 engines were utilised for testing purposes.
During World War II, the Japanese originally intended to utilise the Ki-20s to attack the forts at the entrance to Manila Bay in the Philippines and for deep penetration missions into Siberia. For these purposes, they were armed with six-gun positions and structurally enabled to carry a 5,000 kg (11,020 lb) bomb load. These aircraft were the largest operated by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and their existence within it was kept secret. As a result, they were issued their out-of-sequence Kitai number ‘20’ only when they were finally revealed in 1940.
A single example survived to the end of hostilities as a museum piece in the Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Hall. All examples of this aircraft were either destroyed during the war or broken up for scrap during the latter portion of the 1940s.
(Information from Wikipedia)
Note: several persons identified this aircraft as the German Junkers G-38 (not correct) and some persons corrected their answers in subsequent e-mails.
Those persons who correctly identified this week’s mystery aircraft:
Wouter van der Waal, Righardt du Plessis, P Rossouw, Erwin Stam, Andre Breytenbach, Danie Viljoen, Kevin Farr, Selwyn Kimber, Pierre Brittz, Andre Visser, Bruce Prescott, Rennie van Zyl, Willie Oosthuizen, Jan Sime, Hilton Carroll, Ari Levien, Rex Tweedie, Mike McLaughlin, Piet Steyn, Sam Basch, Charlie Hugo, John Moen, Johan Venter, Aidan O’Mahony, Colin Austen, Herman Nel, Michael Schoeman, Brian Ross, Andrew Peace, Rahul Vala, Ahmed Bassa (31).
Pilanesberg International airport burns to the ground
Although the thatch building structure had already been condemned some years back due to a lack of maintenance, this week the entire building was engulfed in flames and left to burn. This event just shows that the ANC ruling government has no idea about how to manage any sort of business, let alone an aviation business. This was a beautiful building, but being a thatch roof, continuous maintenance is required and I understand a considerable sum of money had been set aside to renovate this terminal building, but as usual under the present government’s watch this money appeared to simply evaporate into thin air. As we are witnessing in South Africa, systematically government owned infrastructure is being destroyed by ill disciplined people who have never had the benefit of a descent education. The result of years of corruption and blatant theft by so called ‘connected people’ under the flawed BBBEE government sponsored regime continues unabated. However, in the Western Cape where the Democratic Alliance rules the province, this sort of corruption has never been a factor. Yet the people continue to vote for the very ANC politicians that steal the food out of their mouths. Cry the beloved country.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
EAA AirVenture 2023, Oshkosh – Part One
News from Absolute Aviation
AERO SA 2024
1 September (Friday)
Children’s Flight at Orient airfield, Magaliesberg
Contact Felix Gosher E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 066 191 4603
Tedderfield spring fly-in at Tedderfield Air Park
Contact Alan Stewart Tel: 083 702 3680
3 September (Sunday)
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering 07h30 Auditorium Rand Airport
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3 September (Sunday)
Rand airshow now only on the Sunday
Contact manager Kevin van Zyl Tel: 011 827 8884
Airlink resumes cargo operations at Windhoek Hosea Kutako international airport
On Tuesday Airlink announced that its cargo operations at Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport resumed following constructive discussions with Paragon Aviation Services, the airport’s new ground handler. Airlink apologises to customers affected by the temporary suspension of cargo services at the airport and will expedite clearing its cargo backlog. For an interim period, Airlink personnel will support Paragon staff to familiarise them with Airlink’s cargo handling processes. This will ensure continuity and consistency in providing top-class reliable, on-time, safe and secure air freight services.
Airlink operates up to four return flights a day between Johannesburg and Windhoek and up to three a day between Cape Town and Windhoek. For more information and advice on Airlink flights, visit www.flyairlink.com or Airlink’s social media channels.
Air freight customers should contact Airlink Cargo’s customer care centre at +27 10 880 3631/2/3 or E-mail email@example.com for updated information and advice.
NTSB says Gulfstream G150 crew was racing before overshooting the runway
On 5 May 2021 business jet G150 was nearing Ridgeland-Claude Dean Airport (3J1) in Ridgeland, South Carolina carrying three passengers. The cockpit voice recorder revealed that when a passenger asked the two pilots about an estimated arrival time the pilot in command stated, “I’ll speed up. I’ll go real fast here.” The PIC said that one of the passengers on board liked to challenge the PIC to see how fast they could reach their destination. The captain talked about a previous flight where the PIC told the passengers the flight would be 40 minutes and the passenger challenged him to fly in 39 minutes instead. The passenger always likes to give the challenge,” the PIC said. “How fast can you go? How fast can you get there? But that is the name of the game. That is the reason you own a jet.”
The second in command stated that the plane’s airspeed was 300 knots and the altitude was 9,000 feet. Over the next few minutes, the PIC and SIC discussed how they could shorten the flight time since another jet was also headed to Ridgeland Airport. Shortly after 10h00 that morning the PIC estimated the arrival time was 10h35 and the other jet was estimated to arrive at 10h33. “They will slow to 250 knots below 10 000 feet and we will not” the PIC said to the SIC. “We know what we are doing right now we are trying to win a race.”
At around 10h28 the plane was cleared to 2,000 feet and the flight crew requested a straight-in approach to runway 36. Two minutes later the controller informed the G150 crew that a second plane was inbound to the airport and would be second in line, which excited the PIC. He then happily told the passengers the plane would be arriving ahead of the other jet.
A few minutes later the CVR recorded the autopilot being disconnected and the SIC asking if they should ‘S-turn this thing’ to which the PIC replied, “Nah we got it.” One minute later and the plane was on its final approach just 900 feet above ground level and 1.5 nautical miles from the runway threshold. The SIC called out an airspeed of 170 knots. However, the reference landing speed was 121 knots. The PIC said to add full flaps and roughly 10 seconds later the plane’s electronic voice issued a sink rate notice and the SIC responded, “We know it.” The SIC called out an airspeed of 150 knots and the electronic voice issued an alert, “sink rate, sink rate, sink rate, pull up.” The electronic voice then announced 200 feet agl and just one second later the sink rate warning began to echo in the cockpit once more. The SIC then called out an airspeed of 130 knots and the PIC said, “Yup, slowing.”
The electronic voice then issued a 50-foot callout and the plane touched down shortly after. The PIC could be heard exclaiming “Come on thrust reversers” and an expletive. Moments later the SIC asked if he should apply the brakes as well and the PIC told him yes. Seconds after this conversation sounds consistent with a runway excursion were noted in the CVR, which stopped recording shortly after. The plane had come to rest nearly 400 feet past the end of runway 36 in wet and marshy terrain. The plane had serious damage to the wings and fuselage. Fortunately, both pilots and all three passengers walked away from the landing without injury. A witness reported notifying the other approaching jet that the airport was closed due to the excursion, forcing the other plane to divert to another location. The reporting witness saw the crash with the van driver there to pick up the passengers on the diverted jet, who called 911.
Based on the post-accident statement, the PIC applied the wheel brakes and thrust reversers upon touchdown but the ground brakes did not automatically deploy. During the landing, as the ground roll progressed the plane did not slow down so the PIC increased the power to the thrust reversers and the SIC began to brake without roughly 1,500 feet of the runway left. As the SIC applied the wheel brakes he said, “I have no brakes.” When asked if there was any mechanical malfunction or failures the PIC replied, “We did not have brakes, no thrust reversers and no ground air brakes.”
The NTSB found that the probable cause was the flight crew’s continuation of an unstable approach and the failure of the ground air brakes to deploy on touchdown which resulted in the overrun of the runway. The crew’s eagerness to reach the runway first and complete the flight as quickly as possible to accommodate the passenger’s wishes and its choice to land without a quartering tailwind that exceeded the plane’s limitations also contributed to the excursion.
Throughout the landing process, the electronic voice repeatedly provided warnings and indications to the crew members that the approach was not stable but they continued. While the PIC said the wheel brakes, thrust reversers and ground air brakes did not function after touchdown the witness and video evidence showed the deployment of the thrust reversers shortly after touchdown. The skid marks on the runway also indicated that wheel braking occurred during the ground roll and had increased during the final 1,500 feet of the runway and came to rest roughly 400 feet past the departure end of the runway.
The switch controlling the automatic deployment of the ground air brake system was found to be in a position that would have allowed for the automatic deployment on landing and there was not any evidence to show that a pre-accident malfunction or failure with the wheel brakes, hydraulic system, thrust reversers and weight-on-wheel switches or electric problems with either of the air brake switches. The NTSB investigation into whether the intermittent right throttle microswitch resistance had prevented the ground air brakes from deploying was inconclusive.
Based on landing performance calculations, without the ground air brakes, the landing ground roll had exceeded the available runway from the plane’s touchdown point around 1,000 feet down the runway. Video evidence also indicated that a quartering tailwind of around 10 to 15 knots was maintained during the ill-fated landing and exceeded the manufacturer’s tailwind landing limitation of 10 knots and would have increased the ground roll distance beyond what was calculated.
With multiple warnings indicating an unstable approach, the crew would have been aware the plane was approaching the runway high, fast and at an irregular sink rate. Both pilots had the opportunity to implement a go-around in an attempt to save the unstable approach. The NTSB report noted that the external pressures of the race to beat the other jet likely influenced the crew’s decision-making on the approach.
Sheriff’s Department helicopter impacts Florida apartment building
On 28 August 2023 two people lost their lives and at least four others were injured when a Broward County, Florida Sheriff’s Office EC135 helicopter carrying three occupants impacted a Pompano Beach apartment building. Witness Cary Allen reported looking skyward and perceiving, immediately, that the helicopter was imperilled. “I saw just a bunch of black smoke coming from the helicopter and I knew it was out of control,” Allen stated. “It started to circle and was out of control and plummeted down towards the apartment. I just heard three loud explosions, just boom, boom, boom.
Killed in the mishap were firefighter Terryson Jackson and a woman residing in the apartment struck by the helicopter. Speaking to the subject of Jackson’s death, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said: “He was one of my firefighters. We lost one of our captains today who was onboard serving his community, hoping that he would get a chance to do what he does best, which is to land and extract somebody else. Unfortunately, in the crash he was trapped, could not get out and we lost him.”
Injured in the accident were Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue employees Daron Roche (37), the helicopter’s pilot and firefighter paramedic Mikael ‘Mike’ Chaguaceda (31). Two persons on the ground were also injured. All four victims were transported to North Broward Medical Center.
Broward County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright disclosed during a news conference that the helicopter had been en route to North Lauderdale for purpose of picking up an accident victim when it encountered difficulty of an as-of-yet unknown nature. Sheriff Tony stated only that a fire had broken out aboard the helicopter and additional mechanical issues ensued. Video of the accident showed smoke emitting from the aircraft prior to its impacting the eighty-unit apartment building.
Ruben Chavez, who works in the vicinity of the accident-site, stated he heard the helicopter impact the building and rushed to render aid. “The top of the roof was all fire,” Mr. Chavez said. “A big ball of fire, that is all and then, a second explosion. I ran over there but the police, the first two cops who got there, pushed us back and that is when the second explosion happened. Surprisingly, the two men in their uniforms did not look like they had any injuries on them at all. One of them said that their ribs were broken probably, but they seemed fine. They struggled a bit climbing up the roof, but they got down; a police officer was asking them if they were okay, if they needed any help. They were taken to the hospital in fair condition.
According to air traffic controllers, Daron Roche, the helicopter’s pilot, reported engine failure moments before the accident. As the EC135 is a twin-engine helicopter, it remains unclear whether one or both the machine’s powerplants failed. The NTSB and FAA have undertaken investigation of the occurrence.
MiG airshow pilot says he ‘was not ready to eject’
On 13 August it would appear no one was more surprised than the pilot when he and a back-seat ‘observer’ ejected from the MiG-23 they were flying at a Michigan airshow. In the preliminary report on the incident, the NTSB says pilot and aircraft owner Dan Filer did not order the ejection but the back-seater might have. “The pilot reported that he was not ready to eject and was still troubleshooting the problem and manoeuvring the airplane toward runway 27 at YIP when his ejection seat fired and he was out of the airplane,” the report said. “He stated that if either occupant pulls the ejection handle, both seats ejected.”
The observer told investigators he believed he and the pilot ‘needed to get out’ after discussing the issue, but he is not absolutely certain he commenced the ejection. “When asked if he had pulled the ejection seat handles, he stated that he could not specifically remember but thinks that he would have pulled them,” the report says. The Cold War Soviet swing-wing fighter was part of the closing act of the Thunder Over Michigan airshow at Willow Run Airport and was setting up for a second pass over the runway when the ejection occurred. The aircraft ended up on the lawn beside an apartment building in Belleville, Michigan and fortunately no one on the ground was injured. Both occupants of the plane ended up in a lake with unspecified but non-life-threatening injuries and were quickly rescued.
Three US Marines killed in Osprey crash
On Sunday three US Marines were killed and five were hospitalised in the crash of an MV-22B Osprey during a training exercise in Australia. There were 23 Marines aboard the tiltrotor transport when the accident occurred. It happened about 09h30 local time on Melville Island, near Darwin in the country’s Northern Territory. Circumstances of the crash were not immediately released. The Osprey was part of the Marine Rotational Force taking part in a training exercise with troops from Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor in an exercise called Predators Run. There are about 2,500 Marines in Northern Australia. It was the second fatal crash for the Marine Corps in three days.
Super Hornet down at Miramar, San Diego
The US Marine Corps has confirmed an F/A-18 fighter crashed late on Thursday at its Miramar Air Station near San Diego, killing the pilot. The aircraft went down on federal property east of the developed portion of the base. Rescuers recovered the body of the pilot, who has not been identified, Friday morning The crash happened just before midnight and an emergency response was initiated immediately involving both military and civilian resources. The Marines said the aircraft belonged to the Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, a South Carolina-based unit known as the ‘Fighting Bengals,’ but was operating out of Miramar. The Marines said an investigation has begun and circumstances of the crash have not been released.
Ukraine intelligence service helps Russian Mi-8 helicopter pilot defect
A pilot of the Russian Armed Forces reportedly defected to Ukraine with his Mi-8 helicopter following an operation by the Ukrainian military intelligence service (GUR). The story was first reported by the Ukrainian Pravda, citing ‘high-ranking sources within Ukrainian intelligence agencies.’ The mission lasted over six months and concluded with the Russian pilot rerouting his Mi-8 AMTSh assault transport helicopter during a logistical flight between two airbases, transporting parts intended for Su-27 and Su-30SM fighter jets. Two crew members were also on board the flight, which eventually landed in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. They were both neutralised during the operation. The family of the pilot was evacuated from Russian territory by the GUR. The Ukrainian media outlet published pictures showing the helicopter along with its content.
Fourth conspirator found guilty of aerospace industrial espionage
A California man has been found guilty of conspiracy to steal aircraft design and testing information as part of a plot devised for purpose of hastening the development and regulatory approval of a third-party’s aircraft technology. Following a five-day trial in the US District Court in Savannah, Georgia, Juan Martinez (53) of Yorba Linda, California, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to steal trade secrets. Martinez faces a statutory penalty of up to ten-years in prison, substantial financial penalties and restitution and up to three-years of supervised release upon completion of any prison term. The US Federal judicial system grants no paroles.
Steinberg stated: “The conspirators in this case schemed to abuse a position of trust inside a major company in the Southern District of Georgia in order to steal proprietary engineering information to provide an unfair advantage to competing products. We commend the hard work of our law enforcement partners in bringing this investigation and prosecution to a successful conclusion.”
Martinez, a contractor functioning as a technical lead for a small aeronautics company and his co-conspirators set out to illegally appropriate proprietary technical data belonging to a major aeronautical concern. The conspirators, according to court documents, sought to ply the stolen data to the development of derivative technologies they intended to sell, subsequently, as their own. Upon completion of a pre-sentencing investigation, US District Court Judge R. Stan Baker will schedule Martinez’s sentencing hearing.
Two of Martinez’s co-conspirators are currently serving federal prison terms after pleading guilty in the case. Craig German (60) of Kernersville, North Carolina, is serving seventy-months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Steal Trade Secrets, plus twenty-months for Perjury and False Statements to a Government Agency. German, during testimony given in his first sentencing, provided false information. Gilbert Basaldua (63) of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, is serving eighty-months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Steal Trade Secrets and Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property.
A fourth conspirator, Joseph Pascua, 61, of Escondido, California, is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty in a February trial of Conspiracy to Steal Trade Secrets. Pascua’s conviction is under appeal.
FBI Savannah Office senior resident Will Clarke remarked: “Martinez was a part of a bold scheme to steal the secrets of a US company rather than commit to putting in the money and hard work necessary to succeed on his own. As this conviction proves, the FBI is dedicated to identifying and prosecuting anyone who engages in illegal and deceptive practices to steal protected information.” The described case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant US Attorney Darron J. Hubbard and Senior Litigation Counsel Jennifer G. Solari.
Pentagon says Ukrainian pilots are to train on F-16s in US
‘Several’ Ukrainian pilots are expected to head to the United States in coming weeks to learn to fly F-16 Fighting Falcons in a new US-based training programme. “The Department of Defence announced that the United States will soon begin training Ukrainians to fly and maintain F-16 fighter aircraft in support of the international effort to develop and strengthen Ukraine’s long-term defences,” Pentagon Press Secretary US Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters.
The announcement is the latest evolution of the Biden administration’s stance on F-16s for Ukraine, as it had previously argued against sending F-16s to Ukraine at all, then only said it would support a Europe-led training regime, only to come around to stateside training for pilots who will eventually fly jets donated from other nations. The tentative plan in the US now is for the Ukrainian pilots to begin English language classes in September at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, before moving over to Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona, where F-16 flight training is planned to kick off in October, Ryder said.
Kyiv had been pleading for more than a year for Western fighter jets to replace the aging MiG-29s and Su-27s lost in combat before the Biden administration announced in May that it would support partner nations’ push to launch a joint training programme. Denmark and the Netherlands stepped up to lead a coalition of partner nations to train Ukraine pilots how to fly F-16 fighter jets in Europe, but that training has not started yet. On Monday, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters that the US could also host training stateside if Denmark and the Netherlands “do not have the capacity to train as many pilots as Ukraine wants to send or plans to send.”
As for the actual number of F-16 aircraft bound for Ukraine, Denmark is expected to provide 19 jets, while the Netherlands has 42 in its air force but hasn’t disclosed how many it will send. “We agree to transfer F-16 aircraft to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Air Force in close cooperation with the US and other partners when the conditions for such a transfer are met. Conditions include, but are not limited to, successfully selected, tested and trained Ukrainian F-16 personnel as well as necessary authorisations, infrastructure and logistics,” Denmark and the Netherlands wrote in a 20 August joint statement.
Norway also announced plans to donate jets but did not disclose how many. Since the planes were originally made in the US, the US government must approve of third-party transfers. Singh noted on Monday that for any third-party transfer to be completed, Ukrainian pilots must meet ‘certain criteria’ including English language training and logistics on the ground. “Once that criteria is met, we will be in a position to authorise the transfer,” she added. Ryder said F-16s would be delivered by Europeans when training is complete. “We are talking months, not weeks,” Ryder said. Still, he said F-16 training was more about the long-term security for Ukraine than the ongoing counter-offensive.
Cutting the time to search for crashed airplanes
The Civil Air Patrol has partnered with uAvionix Corporation to deploy an ADS-B receiver network to complement FAA sensor data with low altitude aircraft positions to shorten the time it takes to search for and rescue crashed and missing General Aviation aircraft. Volunteers in CAP squadrons in Virginia have assisted uAvionix in locating suitable receiver sites, according to uAvionix officials. Those volunteers also supported the installation of FlightStation ADS-B receivers at various airports in the state. The dual mode (1090Mhz and 978Mhz) FlightStations receive transponder data from aircraft, which is then sent to the National Radar Analysis Team (NRAT) at Maxwell Air Force Base, where it is combined with FAA sensor data to help locate missing aircraft.
NRAT is activated by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) when there is a report of a possible missing aircraft or crash. Once the team is activated, analysis and data can be provided in minutes to an incident commander, which is used by air crews to conduct their searches. Before NRAT was created, it could take hours, or days for this information to get to the CAP crews searching for downed aircraft, according to company officials.
According to uAvionix officials, the FlightLine roll-out consists of several ATC grade ADS-B receivers with overlapping coverage. They note that traditional ADS-B and radar concentrate mostly on airports and higher altitudes in support of Air Traffic Control. Most other available data sources exclude coverage for 978Mhz transponders, typically used by general aviation aircraft. “Virginia is the first state in the US to have 100% coverage down to 500 feet of altitude, rapidly expanding to other states,” uAvionix officials said.
FAA awards another $121 million to reduce close calls at US airports
The FAA announced the next batch of recipients to gain funding for improved taxiways, lighting systems and airport accoutrements in an effort to reduce runway incursions after a rash of high-profile incidents.
The money will come from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Programme and the recent infrastructure law. Winners of the funding include Ted Stevens Anchorage International, in Alaska; Willow Run Airport of Detroit, Michigan; Boston Logan International, in Massachusetts; Naples International in Florida; Jackson Hole Airport, in Wyoming, Richmond International, in Virginia, Eugene F Kranz Toledo Express, in Ohio and Ronald Reagan Washington National, in Washington DC. Anchorage will receive almost US$40 million to redesign the geometry of its taxiways and runway intersections, as well as improve lighting systems for low visibility conditions. Additional improvements will lengthen and widen some taxiways in order to meet the needs of larger modern aircraft using them.
SpaceX Crew-7 mission docks safely at ISS
On the morning of 26 August at 03h27 EDT NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7 mission blasted spaceward from Launch Complex 39A of Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Bound for the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endurance were mission commander and NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, pilot and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, and mission specialists Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov.
The quartet’s journey to the space station spanned nearly thirty-hours and culminated in a nominal docking to the ISS’s space-facing, US-built Harmony module at 09h16 EDT on the morning of Sunday, 27 August. At the moment of docking, Endurance and the ISS were soaring some 227-nautical-miles above Australia. The airlock between Endurance and the ISS opened at 10h58 EDT. Following the successful docking manoeuvre, Crew-7 mission commander Jasmin Moghbeli radioed SpaceX mission control, declaring: “Thank you so much. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a dream.” Moghbeli and her Crew-7 contemporaries are slated to spend the next six-months aboard the orbital outpost.
In a radio transmission of his own, Crew-7 pilot Andreas Mogensen advised SpaceX mission controllers: “This is the first step of the journey, the real mission begins now. Aboard the International Space Station, we have a lot of work ahead of us that we look forward to.” The Crew-7 astronauts joined the seven space farers already aboard the station for a brief welcome ceremony marking the commencement of the newcomers’ tenures aboard the orbital platform. The Crew-7 mission is the seventh operational commercial crew flight conducted by SpaceX at NASA’s behest and the company’s eighth overall for the US space agency. All told, Crew-7 is SpaceX’s 11th crewed mission.
Founded in 2002 and based in Hawthorne, California, SpaceX is one of two private space-launch concerns bound by multibillion-dollar contracts to fly personnel to the ISS on NASA’s behalf. Boeing, the other company, has suffered numerous setbacks in the development of its CST-100 Starliner space capsule, the first crewed flight of which was to have launched in 2017 but has been pushed back to 2024. Crew-7 is the first spaceflight for both Moghbeli, a US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and Borisov. While Morgensen and Furukawa have both previously flown to the ISS, Morgensen was the first European to pilot a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX’s Endurance capsule is also a salty space veteran, having conveyed personnel of the Crew-three and Crew-five missions safely to the ISS.
Licensed, modified RotorWay A600 on the way from Advanced Tactics, Inc
Californian defence contractor Advanced Tactics, Inc. has signed an agreement with Rotor X Aircraft Manufacturing Company (heir to RotorWay Helicopter Company) for the design, modification and production of a new and improved version of their A600 Turbo kit helicopter. Their decision to diversify away from the world of government contracting lies in their hopes of a tidal shift for light sport aircraft, particularly upcoming changes that could broaden the utility envelope and marketability of the homebuilt light helicopter.
The biggest change by ATI will be the addition of fly-by-wire controls, taken from the firm’s swing at the AFWERX VTOL ‘pilot-optional aircraft’ contract. The new aircraft, named the ATRX-700 when produced by Advanced Tactics Inc, will use ‘all the major A600 Turbo systems’ in its manufacture while integrating a ‘larger, more spacious cockpit, fuel tanks and simplified fly-by-wire controls’. The 180-horsepower turbocharged engine will remain, providing the ATRX-700 a MGTOW of 1,700 lbs, cruise of 100 mph, ceiling of 16,000 ft, and range of 300 miles.
The introductory price is aimed at US$188,000 upon release in 2025, though anyone familiar with the LSA industry knows those plans don’t always work out as intended. The ATRX-700’s release could well vary depending on how long it takes the FAA to finalise any LSA-Helicopter requirements. However, ATI seems optimistic about their future clientele, citing the wide breadth of customers that could obtain a recreational pilot’s license. To make a sale, all they need is someone to have 30 hours and a driver’s license, no aviation medical required. In order to smooth out the transition and maintain a good name for the brand, ATI and Rotor X will collaborate on flight and maintenance schooling. ATI’s ongoing military contracts will continue, with their ongoing AFWERKS projects continuing in the background of their diversification effort. The first is the development of a VTOL drone with a 500-lb payload and 300-mile range, while the second is a VTOL cargo aircraft sporting a rear-opening ramp to deliver 2,500 lbs of materiel.
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Canadian wildfire services contract awarded to Draganfly
Draganfly will be providing drone pilot crews and drone technology to assist emergency services in their mission to protect lives, property, infrastructure and ecosystems. Draganfly’s help will come in the form of conducting night-time missions, identifying fire line breaches and detecting hidden hot spots using thermal imaging technology. Furthermore, the company’s services will improve the firefighting operations, which protect critical infrastructure, towns, valuable natural resources and help mitigate air quality hazards from the devastating impact of wildfires.
The timing of the contract award could not be better as Canada is currently experiencing unprecedented numbers of wildfires which have already burned more than double the land area from the previous record of 7.1 million hectares torched in 1995. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) 5,881 fires have been recorded across the country this year so far, roughly 1,000 more than last year.
According to CIFFC figures, 1,036 active fires are burning throughout Canada with 652 categorised as ‘out of control’, 161 as ‘being held’ and 223 considered to be under control. Approximately two-thirds of all active fires are burning in the western province of British Columbia (376) and in the Northwest Territories (237). An additional 143 fires are burning in Yukon, 88 in Alberta and 66 in Ontario. While Canada experiences fires every summer, this year’s blazes have scorched at least 15.3 million hectares (37.8 million acres) of land, nearly ten-times more than 2022.
Aurora Flight Sciences celebrates 30 years
Aurora looked back on its heritage of making ‘low-cost, high-performance aircraft’ throughout its UAS developments like the Perseus Proof of Concept. Perseus was a battery-powered, autonomous aircraft designed under NASA’s Small High-Altitude Science Aircraft (SHASA) programme, which later evolved into the Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) project. The aim at the time was to develop a cost-effective, slow-flying UAV with the ability to support long-term science missions at altitudes above 60,000 feet. Under the ERAST programme, the project forked into four different models, between the original Proof, Perseus A and B and the THeseus. Later versions added more endurance and better high-altitude performance as they tweaked the airfoil and wingspan. Overall, the forms and designs look familiar today, looking much like any other uncrewed aircraft on the market in 2023, except for the fact the latest and greatest of the ERAST line was built in 1996.
Later on, Aurora set its sights on ‘optionally piloted aircraft’ with Chiron and Centaur, general aviation airframes modified to semi autonomy. Beginning with a Cessna Skymaster, the programme runs even today with a modified Diamond DA42. In 2003, Aurora set its sights on VTOL aircraft with an autonomous, ducted-fan UAV designated the GoldenEye series. They began as studies into the viability of free-wing tech and autonomous flight, only to expand in scope to become the basis for a number of VTOL aircraft designs for military and urban air mobility. Today, the lineage extends to the XV-24A LightningStrike, Excalibur unmanned air vehicle and the electric passenger air vehicle (PAV). The retrospective continues, with mentions of today’s X-66A demonstrator amid additional treasures from the Aurora archive.
France‘s BEA confirms investigation into Emirates Airbus A380 incident at Nice
France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety has confirmed that it is investigating a recent incident involving an Emirates Airbus A380 at Nice Cote d’Azur Airport (NCE). “During the approach to Nice airport, when switching to CONF 1, the crew heard an abnormal noise and felt slight vibrations,” BEA said, adding that the flight crew continued the approach into NCE. “On the ground, the upper part of the slat number two on the right wing was found to be severely damaged.” Preliminary reports by Aviation Safety Network alleged that the aircraft impacted a drone upon approach. However, the BEA has not detailed the nature of the damage to the A380’s slat. The French investigators classified the damage as ‘substantial’, adding that there were no injuries onboard the aircraft.
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