““From the moment the first leader of the first clan in human history took charge, he busied himself with this question: ‘What can I say and do that will make my people react the way I want them to.’ He was the first Pavlov. He was the first psychologist, the first propagandist, the first mind-control boss. His was the first little empire. Since then, only the means and methods have changed.” Jon Rappoport
Since last week’s mystery aircraft was very 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.
2024 aviation events calendar
Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for their contributions towards the compiling of the 2023 aviation calendar, which is also used by ALL the other aviation magazines and blogs. African Pilot’s calendar of aviation events is published within the African Pilot and Future Flight magazines every month, the African Pilot website and most important within every Monday edition APAnews, with weekend ahead reminders within the Thursday edition of APAnews (100 times per year). For the sake of General Aviation and so many of us who wish to see the calendar function correctly, thank you for your assistance. Please send the information to me email@example.com
Once again there have been several unnecessary clashes of events such as this past weekend with EAA’s annual Friday / Saturday camp over and Saturday morning pancake breakfast clashing directly with the Vans RV fly-in to Kitty Hawk. Given that there are 52 weekends in the year, with advance planning this becomes unnecessary. The most important clash happens at the end of September between the EAA’s Sun ‘n Fun to be held at Tempe airfield and the Great Train race to be staged at Heidelberg airfield. If possible, I would like to prevent this significant clash of two major events happening in 2024. My appeal to event organisers is to consult African Pilot’s 2024 calendar and then decide as early as possible to secure the day of your planned event. I have already sent the 2024 calendar to many organisers, but if I have missed you, then please send me an e-mail and I will forward the calendar as it exists at the stage to you. Thank you.
The 216-page September 2023 edition with eight picture galleries and 17 videos was completed and released to the world on Monday 4 September. This edition features EAA AirVenture and the UK airshow Flying Legends as well as many South African and international aviation features. African Pilot is also the only aviation publication that records aviation events correctly within the monthly calendar of events. In addition, the aviation calendar is published three months ahead in every Monday edition of APAnews and for this reason there is no excuse for the other publications to publish information that is dated or erroneous.
The October edition of African Pilot will feature Aircraft Maintenance and Refurbishment. Our marketing team has contacted all known AMOs as well as aircraft refurbishment shops to include as many of the amazing businesses that keep South Africa’s aircraft airworthy and in good shape. 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 of 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. African Pilot is also the largest aviation magazine in the world by number of pages and is well ahead of all other South African aviation publications in terms of overall quality and relevance to the aviation market.
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.
Rand Airshow 2023
EAA Silver Creek pancake breakfast and camp over
Late on Friday afternoon I arrived by road at the beautiful Sliver Creek Estate to see how the local residents had prepared the airfield for the many expected aircraft the next day. Around 10 aircraft arrived on the Friday evening and we all shared excellent company with ‘hangar talk’ and a delicious braai and liquid refreshments. Although the weather was clear, the cold westerly wind did pickup in the evening, but most of the campers had a good nights rest.
Early on Saturday morning some of the arriving aircraft flew overhead for a landing on the westerly uphill runway and by 11h00 there were around 55 aircraft parked in two neat rows on the airfield. The pancake breakfast had an excellent variety of fillings including delicious ice cream as a desert. The Silver Creek ladies managed the breakfast with ease and there were many very satisfied customers. Exhibitors were Century Avionics, EAA Chapter 322, Santam Insurance, Silver Creek, a Cheese and snack stand (made on the estate) and Will2Fly. A full report with pictures will be published in the October edition of African Pilot.
Vans RV fly-in to Kitty Hawk
By Charlie and Fiona Hugo
Once again Kittyhawk Aerodrome was the venue for the ever-popular annual fly-in of the Van’s RV family of homebuilt aircraft. The day was a pleasant highveld spring day although the gusting wind did cause some pilots anxious moments. Around 45 various aircraft and helicopters flew in for the breakfast festivities with approximately 35 various models of the RV family in attendance. The pilots gathered from early for a general admiration of the aircraft and chinwag over breakfast. In contrast to previous events the tricycle undercarriage versions where present in large numbers with the four-seat Rv-10 variant dominating. A few late arrivals from the EAA Pancake breakfast held at Silver Creek Estate fly-in boosted the numbers from around 10h00 onwards.
Falko completes sale of two Embraer E190 jets to Airlink
Falko Regional Aircraft Limited (Falko) has completed the delivery of two Embraer E190 aircraft bearing MSNs 19000147 and 19000150 on lease to South African carrier Airlink. The aircraft were delivered to Airlink following the re-delivery from the previous lessee, Azul. “Airlink is proud to have received these two Embraer E190 aircraft from Falko. These aircraft will augment our well-established fleet of Embraer Regional Jet airliners and facilitate organic growth within our network. The Embraer E190 perfectly presents the right size capacity fit to market demands on most of Airlink’s routes”, said Rodger Foster, Airlink’s CEO and Managing Director. He added, “Falko is an important lessor and business partner to Airlink – we have many similarities in our business cultures, and we enjoy working with the highly effective and efficient Falko team.”
Falko, a large asset manager and aircraft lessor, focuses solely on the regional aircraft leasing segment. Falko is one of the longest standing and largest managers of regional aircraft globally. Falko’s strategy is focused on growing its portfolio of funds and aircraft under management and the continued development of products and services in support of its aircraft lease management activity.
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.
Stellenbosch Flying Club 50th anniversary fly-in
Contact Sam Cell: 082 828 4553 or Anton Cell: 079 873 4567
SAPFA Stellenbosch Navigation Rally Stellenbosch airfield
Contact Alewyn Burger Cell: 082 416 1952
Baragwanath fly-in day morning of fun with free entry
Fly of drive to Baragwanath airfield, Westonaria
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
Great Train Race Heidelberg airfield
Contact Christopher Van E-mail: email@example.com
30 September to 7 October
SSSA Gliding Nationals at Potchefstroom airfield
Contact Carol Clifford E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
6 & 7 October
SAC World Advanced Aerobatic Championships training camp venue TBA
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
7 October @12h00
360 Aviation Safety Summit & Open Day Hangar 11C, Wonderboom Airport
1 & 2 November
Drones in disaster and risk management conference Century City Conference Centre
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cape Town.
EAA Chapter 322 breakfast fly-in gathering, boot sale, fly market EAA Auditorium
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
Brakpan Aero Club Cessna fly-in
Contact Clarissa E-mail: Clarissa@airborneaviation.co.za Cell: 074 113 2911
EAA Chapter 322 breakfast fly-in venue TBA
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
13 to 17 November
Dubai Airshow 2023
EAA National & Chapter 322 Annual Awards Dinner Venue TBA
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
19 to 21 November
55th African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Annual General Assembly (AGA)
Speke Resort in Entebbe, Uganda. Dedicated website: https://aga55.afraa.org/
Aero Club Awards 50 Viking Way Rand Airport (Menno Parsons hangar)
Contact Sandra Strydom firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 011 082 1100
Boeing forecasts intra-African passenger traffic to quadruple in next twenty years
Boeing projects that intra-African passenger traffic will more than quadruple in the next twenty years, placing the continent’s growth among the highest globally. To support this, 1,025 new airplanes will be needed over the next two decades. Overall African air traffic growth is forecast at 7.4%, the third highest among global regions and above the global average growth of 6.1%. Boeing included the data as part of its 2023 Commercial Market Outlook (CMO), the company’s long-term assessment of global demand for commercial airplanes and services. “African carriers are well-positioned to support intra-regional traffic growth and capture market share by offering services that efficiently connect passengers and enable commerce within the continent,” said Randy Heisey, Boeing managing director of Commercial Marketing for Middle East and Africa. “We forecast an increase in the average aircraft size and seats per aircraft for the African fleet, as single aisles, like the Boeing 737 MAX, will be the most in demand for the continent.”
African aviation traffic has recovered at a strong pace in 2023 led by pent-up demand and economic growth driven by higher global commodity prices. African airline flights are currently 8% above pre-pandemic levels. Africa’s above global average, long-term annual economic growth of 3.4%, combined with increasing rates of urbanisation and a growing middle-class population, will continue to drive Africa’s long-term traffic demand, according to Boeing. Economic and growth Initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area and Single African Air Transport Market are expected to further stimulate trade and intra-regional connectivity.
With Europe remaining the most prominent origin / destination for travellers to and from Africa, airlines in the region will grow their fleets by 4.5% per year to accommodate passenger traffic growth. Single-aisle jets are expected to account for more than 70% of commercial deliveries, with 730 new planes mainly supporting domestic and intra-regional demand. In addition, African carriers are estimated to need 275 new wide bodies, including passenger and cargo models, to support long-haul routes and air freight growth. Approximately 90% of African jet deliveries are expected to serve fleet growth with more fuel-efficient models such as the 737 MAX, 777X and 787 Dreamliner, with nearly one in five deliveries replacing older airplanes.
Estimated demand for aviation personnel will rise to 69,000 new professionals, including 21,000 pilots, 22,000 technicians and 26,000 cabin crew members. Commercial services opportunities such as supply chain, manufacturing, repair and overhaul are valued at US$105 billion.
Nigerian carrier Air Peace orders five new Embraer E175s
Nigeria based Air Peace, West Africa’s largest airline, has placed a firm order for five Embraer E175 aircraft. This strategic decision marks a significant step forward and is in alignment with Air Peace’s ongoing strategy of modernising its fleet. This acquisition is in line with Air Peace’s determination to become the operator of the largest and youngest fleet of aircraft in Africa. It reinforces Air Peace’s commitment to enhancing its domestic and regional network connectivity and paves the way for further regional expansion. Deliveries of the 88-seat aircraft start in 2024. The value of the order, at list price, is US$288.3 million.
Already an operator of Embraer’s newest and largest jet, the E195-E2, these smaller aircraft will complement the airlines’ existing fleet, allowing Air Peace to dynamically match capacity to demand, protecting yields and route viability. The Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said: “This is another important step in helping to realize our ambition to connect the whole of Nigeria with the entire African continent, while also feeding passengers into long-haul flights from our Lagos hub. The acquisition enables us to continue delivering on our ‘no-city-left-behind’ initiative, connectivity is what our passengers and Africa, demand. The deal also paves the way to establish local maintenance capabilities in Nigeria, with direct support from Embraer.”
Arizona airport hit by monsoon – 20 planes, multiple hangars damaged
The Falcon Field Airport (FFZ) in Mesa, Arizona faced serious damage after a strong monsoon swept through the area on Tuesday night, flipping over planes and ripping off hangar doors. About 20 aircraft on the field were overturned or damaged. “Aircraft that were chained down on tight ends were blown and tipped over,” said Dee Anne Thomas, Falcon Field Airport spokesperson, to 12 News. “We had some aircraft that were inside hangars that got blown out of hangars.”
According to Fox 10 Phoenix, many of the hangars held historic WWII-era planes and even some of the uprooted trees in the area date back to the 40s. One pilot told Fox 10 that the repairs would likely cost millions. Videos and photos show the devastation at the airport. One business owner at the airport told ABC15 Arizona the airport looked like a warzone, with the entire side of her hangar ripped off, leaving just metal framework and installation. ABC15 reported that the storm was so strong that weather centres at the airport were knocked out for hours, just after the wind gusts climbed to over 70 miles per hour. The National Weather Service in the Phoenix area said the peak wind was estimated between 60 and 90 mph on Tuesday evening.
According to ABC15, one WWII-era plane was dragged over 200 feet across the runway, crushing part of its wing. Videos from witnesses and local news show the apocalyptic state of the airport. Hangars were missing parts of the entirety of the roof and many were missing doors. Planes were scattered about FFZ in various states, some flipped over on the runway and some were buried under piles of debris. The owner of Red Mountain Aircraft Maintenance, Mark Torgerson, told 12 News about watching the surveillance video during the storm Tuesday night when a door was torn off in the hangar, he leases at FFZ.
The heavy rain storm followed a heatwave, reaching a record-breaking 110 degrees Fahrenheit for the 54th time this year. In the hot Arizona summers, thunderstorms play a sinister role in bringing heavy rain, high winds, flooding and lightning. This is part of the North American monsoon season when an increase in summer precipitation occurs between mid-June and late September. While weather can be predicted, it cannot be controlled.
Rafale fighter jet collision at French airshow caused by human error
In May 2022, two French Air and Space Force Rafale fighters collided mid-air during an air display at the Cognac airshow in the southwest of France. Both pilots escaped unharmed and managed to land their aircraft. The final report of the French Investigation Bureau for State Aviation Safety (BEA-E) on the incident outlines a series of human and organisational factors that led to the collision.
On 22 May 2022, two pilots from the Vautour Bravo tactical display team of the 30th Fighter Wing were conducting a basic tactical presentation involving Rafale C fighter jets at the Cognac National Air Meeting. Unlike air displays conducted by aerobatic teams, basic tactical presentations are composed of sequences of non-complex manoeuvres that fighter pilots perform during operational training. The two pilots had successfully completed the same presentation the day before and had practiced the programme eight times in real training sessions and four times in simulators. Weather conditions were ideal for the presentation, with no restrictions in place and both aircraft were deemed airworthy and in accordance with the maintenance programme.
The incident occurred towards the end of the presentation when the pilots performed a ‘show of force’ (low-altitude, high-speed pass) along the air base runway, used as the presentation axis for the display. The leader initiated a sharp 180° right turn followed by a steep climb to execute a manoeuvre known as an ‘oreille’ ([ear in French, known as a high-speed Yo-Yo in English) to prepare for the next figure. The wingman followed, intending to follow the leader in close formation, but he noticed a significant closure rate due to the leader’s unusually steep climb. Questioned by the wingman, the leader indicated on the radio flying at a speed of 200 knots, which was lower than the typical 250 knots during this phase.
The wingman requested an acceleration, prompting the leader to increase power and adjust the aircraft’s pitch downward as the wingman approached from behind and beneath. Yet they could not avoid colliding, resulting in two successive impacts that caused substantial damage, including the loss of the wingman’s vertical stabiliser and significant damage to the leader’s right canard. Despite the damage, both aircraft remained controllable and the pilots managed to land safely at the 709 Cognac-Châteaubernard air base. Both pilots emerged from the incident unscathed. Debris from the collision damaged a house in the nearby town of Gensac-la-Pallue.
The investigation into the causes of the mid-air collision points to organisational and human factors. It found that a decision to deviate from the originally planned parameters for the ‘oreille’ manoeuvre, including a steeper climb, different altitudes and slower speeds, was made during training. However, it was not formally validated or documented, introducing unforeseen risks. The complexity of the modified programme reduced the margin for error during the manoeuvres. In addition, the lack of spatial awareness and poor communication between the pilots during a critical phase of the presentation contributed to the collision. The team’s limited experience in performing air displays for public audiences, combined with a desire for an aesthetically pleasing presentation and overconfidence, may have downplayed the associated risks. The interruption of airshows for two years due to the pandemic further eroded the collective experience of the ‘Vautour Bravo’ team in performing in front of live audiences and thus contributed to organisational mistakes and stress factors.
The report highlights the difference in skills between aerobatic teams such as the Patrouille de France, which are experienced in public presentations and the tactical display teams of the French Air and Space Force composed of fighter pilots. As a result of the investigation into the mid-air collision during the Cognac National Air Meeting, the BEA-É has identified several recommendations directed toward the French Air and Space Force, aimed at enhancing safety and preventing similar incidents in the future. The BEA-É recommended that the French Air and Space Force involve external expert pilots, such as air display pilots, to review and evaluate the content of tactical presentation programmes before their formal validation. This external perspective can provide valuable insights and help identify potential risks or deviations from safety standards.
To increase awareness of the risks associated with public displays during airshows, the BEA-É suggests that the French Air and Space Force implement a more structured and formalised training and awareness programme for tactical presentation teams. This training should focus on understanding the unique challenges and considerations when performing in front of live audiences, including the potential distractions and stress involved.
Plane plunges to ground in horror crash killing all 14 passengers on board
On Saturday 16 September an Embraer EMB-110P1 carrying American tourists to a holiday hotspot in Brazil has crashed killing all 14 people on board including 12 passengers, the pilot and the co-pilot. It is understood the aircraft was transporting tourists from the US to the Barcelos region in Amazonas when it was downed in the afternoon. This is breaking news and is subject to confirmation.
Private Learjet 45 aircraft skids off runway at Mumbai International Airport
According to Mint, the accident occurred at around 17h:00 local time (UTC +5.5), when the private jet, registered as VT-DBL, landed on runway 27 during difficult weather conditions. The local Meteorological Aerodrome Report (METAR) provided by flightradar24.com showed that at the time there was heavy rainfall with visibility of 800 meters (0.49 miles) at the airport. Meanwhile, videos shared on X (formerly Twitter) showed emergency crews attending the crash, with fire trucks watering down the aircraft at the accident site. The Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told the Hindustan Times the Learjet 45 was involved in a runway excursion, with six passengers and two crew members on board.
India takes delivery of first C295 aircraft
Airbus Defence and Space has officially handed over in fly-away condition the first of 56 C295 aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF) to begin replacing its ageing Avros-748 fleet. The C295, in transport configuration and with an indigenous electronic warfare suite, will leave Airbus’ production site in Seville, Spain, for Delhi, India, in the next few days, piloted by a joint IAF-Airbus crew. The first 16 C295s of the 56 aircraft on order will be assembled at the San Pablo Sur site in Seville, Spain, with the second aircraft due to be delivered in May 2024 and the next 14 rolled out at a rate of one per-month until August 2025. To boost self-reliance in the defence-manufacturing sector in India, the remaining 40 C295s of the IAF order will be manufactured and assembled, in partnership with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) at a Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Vadodara in western India.
The production of components of these aircraft has already started in the Main Constituent Assembly (MCA) facility in Hyderabad, southern India. These parts will be shipped to the Vadovara FAL, which is expected to be operational by November 2024. The first ‘Make in India’ C295 will roll out of the Vadodara FAL in September 2026 in what will be a milestone for the Indian aerospace industry; the final aircraft expected to be delivered to the IAF by August 2031.
With 283 orders from 41 operators, the C295 is the undisputed leader in its segment and stands out for its versatility. It can carry up to 71 troops or 50 paratroopers, airdrop cargo, be used for medical evacuation and take off and land in short and unpaved runways.
Bell begins HSVTOL testing at Holloman Air Force Base
Bell Textron Inc. has delivered a High-Speed Vertical Take-off and Landing (HSVTOL) test-article to Holloman Air Force Base for demonstration and technology evaluation. Testing teams will leverage the Arnold Engineering Development Complex Holloman High Speed Test Track for purpose of vetting the test-article’s folding-rotor, integrated-propulsion and flight control technologies at speeds representative of actual flight.
Bell, by dint of the forthcoming sled-test regimen, seeks to validate key technologies by way of a full-scale, integrated demonstration in a representative operating environment. Bell plans for the test-article to execute a series of HSVTOL high-speed transition manoeuvres, a first-of-its-kind capability for vertical lift aircraft. Prior to the HSVTOL test-article’s delivery to Holloman Air Force Base, Bell successfully completed functional demonstrations of the contraption at the company’s Flight Research Center.
Bell’s High-Speed Vertical Take-off and Landing (HSVTOL) technology amalgamates the hover capability of a conventional helicopter with the speed (four-hundred-plus-knots), range and survivability of a fixed-wing jet aircraft. Bell has developed high-speed vertical lift technology for more than 85-years, pioneering innovative VTOL configurations such as the X-14, X-22, XV-3 and XV-15 for customers the likes of NASA, the US Army and US Air Force. The antecedent vehicles build on Bell’s proven history of high-speed flight, which extends back to the Bell X-1, the storied rocket-powered experimental aircraft in which then Captain Charles ‘Chuck’ Yeager made the world’s first manned supersonic flight on 14 October 1947.
BAE-L3Harris delivers first EC-37B to USAF
British multinational arms, security and aerospace company BAE Systems and American defence contractor and information technology services provider L3Harris Technologies have jointly delivered the first of ten EC-37B Compass Call aircraft to the US Air Force. The service will presently commence formal combined developmental and operational testing of the aircraft.
Deriving of Gulfstream’s popular and eminently capable G550 commercial jet, the EC-37B marks the latest embodiment of the USAF’s ongoing mission to effectively employ Electromagnetic Attack (EA) capabilities in support of US and coalition air, surface and special operations forces. The Compass Call Airborne Electromagnetic Attack mission system, which disrupts enemy communications, radars and navigation systems and suppresses enemy air defences by preventing the transmission of essential information between adversaries, weapon systems and command-and-control networks is produced by BAE at the company’s Hudson, New Hampshire facility.
The integration of the Compass Call Airborne Electromagnetic Attack mission system with late-model Gulfstream G550 aircraft is accomplished by L3Harris at its Waco, Texas aircraft missionisation center. By dint of the G550’s superb performance, the EC-37B affords operators increased speed, endurance and service-ceiling by which to deliver EA effects.
Soyuz MS-24 docks at International Space Station
NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub arrived safely at the International Space Station (ISS), docking to the orbital facility’s Rassvet module at 18h56 Zulu on the evening of Friday 15 September 2023. The trio’s arrival via the Soyuz MS-24 mission brought the space station’s crew complement to ten space farers. The Soyuz 2.1a rocket by which Soyuz MS-24 was borne aloft lifted off from Site 31/6 of Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome at 15h44 Zulu, some three-hours prior to its arrival at the ISS.
O’Hara, Kononenko and Chub were originally to have travelled to the space station aboard Soyuz MS-23 in February 2023. However, the flight was scrubbed in December 2022 after an inflight coolant leak discovered aboard the docked Soyuz MS-22 capsule compelled Roscosmos to dispatch the MS-23 spacecraft to the ISS sans crew. Soyuz MS-22 eventually returned safely to Earth, also without a crew. Soyuz MS-23 and the Progress MS-22, 23 and 24 spacecraft have shown no signs of coolant leaks similar to those observed aboard Soyuz MS-22 and Progress MS-21 during their respective spaceflights. Roscosmos has officially ascribed subject leaks to ‘external impacts.’
The MS-23 spacecraft will return Soyuz MS-22 crewmembers, Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to Earth following the men’s extended stays aboard the ISS. The return voyage is scheduled to depart the space station no earlier than 27 September 2023. Prokopyev’s, Petelin’s and Rubio’s departure from the ISS aboard Soyuz MS-23 will mark the end of Expedition 69 to the orbital installation. Thereafter the Soyuz MS-24 crewmembers will join the Crew-7 astronauts as members of Expedition 70, as per the conventional process of changing flight increments aboard the ISS.
The Soyuz MS-24 mission occasioned the 11th Soyuz launch-vehicle flight of 2023. While the Soyuz rocket family has flown an estimated 1,900 missions since its 1966 debut, the vehicle’s (and Russia’s) overall launch cadence has diminished precipitously since its Soviet-era Cold War heyday. Moreover, the Russo-Ukrainian conflict and sanctions imposed upon Russia in relation thereto have prompted launch customers the likes of OneWeb and the European Space Agency (ESA) to take their spaceflight business elsewhere, thereby limiting the use of Soyuz rockets to ISS crew and cargo support flights and Russian civilian and military payloads. Notwithstanding geopolitical tensions deriving of the aforementioned Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the United States and the Russian Federation have agreed to go on flying each other’s nationals aboard their respective spacecraft. In addition to instantiating degrees of détente, the practice safeguards lives and national interests by ensuring the perpetuation of primary and redundant means of travel to and from the International Space Station.
NASA commissions a report on Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena
In response to a recommendation set forth by an independent study team, NASA has committed to assuming a more formal posture vis-à-vis humankind’s understanding of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP), known formerly and less equivocally as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). For purpose imbuing the undertaking with a caricature of legitimacy, the agency has appointed a director of UAP research. In a 14 September 2023 press release, NASA asserted it had commissioned the independent study to ‘better understand how the agency can contribute to ongoing government efforts to further the study observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as balloons, aircraft, or as known natural phenomena from a scientific perspective.’
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated: “At NASA, it is in our DNA to explore and to ask why things are the way they are. I want to thank the Independent Study Team for providing insight on how NASA can better study and analyse UAP in the future.” Nelson added: “NASA’s new director of UAP research will develop and oversee the implementation of NASA’s scientific vision for UAP research, including using NASA’s expertise to work with other agencies to analyse UAP and applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to search the skies for anomalies. NASA will do this work transparently for the benefit of humanity.” NASA warned the report ought be construed neither a review nor an assessment of previous UAP incidents.
The newly announced director of UAP research role will, ostensibly, centralise communications, resources and analytical capabilities to establish a robust database for the evaluation of future UAP. Additionally, the director will be tasked with leveraging NASA’s expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning and space-based observation tools to support and enhance the broader governmental initiative on UAP such as it is. Overall, the independent study team recommended NASA utilize its open-source resources, extensive technological know-how, data analysis techniques, federal and commercial partnerships and Earth-observing assets to curate a more comprehensive and robust dataset pertaining to UAP, a dataset supportive of the US federal government’s ongoing efforts to frame the possibility of extraterrestrial life in a politically advantageous construct.
In keeping with the study team’s recommendations, NASA will henceforth address UAP with a more open, objective and dispassionate tenor, thereby destigmatising interest in and the study of such occurrences and advancing citizen reporting thereof. The agency will engage with the general public and commercial pilots in hopes of building a broader, more reliable UAP dataset by which to identify future UAP incidents.
Nicola Fox, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. remarked: “Data is the critical lifeblood needed to advance scientific exploration and we thank the independent study team members for lending NASA their expertise towards identifying what available data is possible to understand the nature and origin of future UAP. The director of UAP research is a pivotal addition to NASA’s team and will provide leadership, guidance and operational coordination for the agency and the federal government to use as a pipeline to help identify the seemingly unidentifiable.” The independent study team’s report was predicated upon unclassified data deriving of civilian and government entities, commercial data as well as data from additional sources.
David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation and chair of the UAP independent study team, stated: “Using unclassified data was essential for our team’s fact-finding, open-communication collaboration and for upholding scientific rigor to produce this report for NASA. The team wrote the report in conjunction with NASA’s pillars of transparency, openness and scientific integrity to help the agency shed light on the nature of future UAP incidents. We found that NASA can help the whole-of-government UAP effort through systematic data calibration, multiple measurements and ensuring thorough sensor metadata to create a data set that is both reliable and extensive for future UAP study.”
The UAP independent study team consisted of 16 individuals, the expertise of which spanned diverse disciplines relevant to the potential academic study of unidentified anomalous phenomena. NASA commissioned the study to examine UAP from a scientific perspective and create a definitive means by which to employ the data and tools of science to further humanity’s understanding of UAP.
VoltAero showcases its sleek hybrid-electric aircraft
France has a long, rich tradition of aerospace innovation and manufacturing, so it should come as no surprise that a handful of French startups are playing a prominent role in efforts to decarbonise aviation with a new generation of clean-sheet aircraft designs. One of them is VoltAero, a firm based out of Western France that is developing a family of hybrid-electric aircraft it calls ‘the Cassio’. There will be three versions of VoltAero’s design, starting with the five-seat Cassio 330, with ‘330’ being a reference to its 330-kW powertrain. Next and a tad larger, comes the six-seat Cassio 480, powered by a 480-kW engine and finally, the largest of the trio, the Cassio 600, which will seat 10 to 12 and will be powered by a 600-kW engine. Of these three models, the Cassio 330 is expected to be the first certified.
The VoltAero Cassio 330 will allow for full-electric flight on distances of up to 200 km, although range can be increased to up to 1,200 km when using hybrid propulsion, which combines both thermal and electric engines. Perhaps one of the most eye-catching aspects of the Cassio family of aircraft is its unusual, sleek-looking design. This is mainly because they are built with what is called a ‘tri-surface configuration’, with tail, rear-mounted wings and the frontal stabilisers fitted at different heights. VoltAero underlines how this approach can deliver some aerodynamic benefits, as well as facilitating the handling of the aircraft and the achievement of faster cruising speeds. Access to the cabin and cockpit should be easier too since the central part of the fuselage is free of any protruding elements.
In the summer of 2023, VoltAero showcased a real-size mock-up of the Cassio 330 both at the Paris Air Show and at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in the US. Although not the final aircraft, the mock-up was realistic enough to provide a real sense of what flying on the Cassio might be like. One factor that stands out is that, despite its relatively small size, it has a fairly spacious cabin. No wonder that, in addition to the regular passenger configuration, VoltAero is also pitching versions for the cargo and medevac markets, including one specifically for wheelchair users.
The first Cassio 330 is expected to fly before the end of 2023, although at first it will do so using a Kawasaki Motors’ four-cylinder thermal engine. However, the Japanese firm is already at work on a much larger six-cylinder engine to equip future Cassio aircraft. Both the four and six-piston engines should eventually be capable of running on hydrogen. As the testing programme progresses, the Cassio 330 should also be able to use the Safran Electrical & Power ENGINeUSTM 100 electric engine.
In the meantime, VoltAero has been testing its technology on a retrofitted Cessna 337 Skymaster, which has flown more than 10,000 km to date. VoltAero is also working on its industrial plan, with the opening of a factory with three assembly lines, one for each version of the Cassio, adjacent to Rochefort-Charente-Maritime airport (RCO) in Western France. VoltAero is looking to employ around 150 people at this greenfield facility, which should come on stream by the summer of 2024.
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Israel’s air force receives new, secretive Spark UAV, ‘gateway’ to 5th generation drones
Recently the Israel air force officially received a new unmanned aerial vehicle, one about which the Israeli Defence Forces are saying very little, save that it is part of its ‘gateway’ into the forces’ fifth generation of drones. The aircraft, called Spark, was developed by the Israeli military with contractors Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and the Aeronautics firm, which is partly owned by Rafael. Spark, which is called ‘Nitzotz’ in Hebrew, was unveiled for the 144th UAV Squadron at the Hatzor Air Force Base on Sunday.
Though the drone was officially received over the weekend, the 144th has operated its family of systems since last year after it transitioned from its decades-long manned aircraft operations to unmanned vehicles, part of a wider reorganisation in the IDF that has focused on digitisation, a new multi-dimensional unit and new technology. The IDF operates a plethora of other types of drones, from the larger IAI Heron and Elbit Hermes 900 and 450 to smaller Skylarks that are used by the army.
When the 144th became a drone squadron, it was re-established as the ‘Phoenix’ squadron and the IAF said it would receive the new Spark. The IAF described the drone in 2022 as part of Aeronautics’ Orbiter family of drones and said that the squadron would form part of a new ‘Storm Clouds’ division. This week Bar said the Storm Clouds project had turned from ‘vision into a wonderful reality.’ Few details about the Spark are publicly available, but the family of drones consists of those usually around 55 kilograms in weight with a five-meter wingspan, depending on their configuration. The IAF describes the Spark as a new capability for the wider ‘UAV array, which constitutes the gateway to the fifth generation of the array in the IDF.’ It did not elaborate on the specifics of this array or what makes it fifth generation.
However, the air force said the new drone ‘will significantly improve the ability of the operating troops to act offensively and effectively according to data that will be received.’ It asserts that the drone will carry out various types of missions, ‘intelligence actions, escorting ground forces, directing strikes and more.’
The commander of the 144th, whose name was given as Lt. Col. ‘A’ due to security reasons also praised the Spark as the backbone of innovation that will ‘dramatically change the balance of troops on the future battlefield.’ He said that the UAV ‘combines innovation, creativity and motivation like no other. An aircraft that will give us as an array to continue to grow, expand and become, in due course, the cutting-edge of the IDF’s capabilities in the coming decades against our enemy on the other side.”
Only recently Israel began to reveal new details about its use of drones. Israel has been a leader in surveillance drones since the early 1980s. However, it did not say until last year that it uses armed platforms. This year Israel has used loitering munitions for targeted strikes in the West Bank and has been using the Hermes 450 Zik in the West Bank as well, the military said. This Zik is operated by Squadron 161 at Palmachim, one of several IDF drone squadrons.
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