“Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness.” Thomas Paine
(Information from Wikipedia)
The Renard R.36 was a Belgian all-metal fighter aircraft designed by Alfred Renard to replace the Fairey Firefly IIM within the Belgian Air Force. Designed to improve on the Renard Epervier, which was never adopted by the Belgian government, the prototype R.36 first flew on 5 November 1937. Following testing the R.36 was selected by the Belgian Air Force in late 1938, with 40 aircraft provisionally ordered, to be delivered in two years.
However, on 17 January 1939 the prototype, OO-ARW, crashed near Nivelles, killing pilot Lt. Viscount Eric de Spoelberch. The official investigation was inconclusive, no evidence of material failure being discovered, with the most probable causes being radio equipment coming loose during a high-G manoeuvre, jamming the controls, or the pilot becoming incapacitated. The airframe had accumulated 75:30 hours’ flight time. The order was then dropped in favour of license production of the Hawker Hurricane by SABCA.
R.36: Single-seat fighter powered by a 680 kW (910 hp) Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs engine, one built. Planned armament was four X 7.7 mm FN Browning machine guns and one X 20 mm autocannon or three X 20 mm autocannons. Several variants were also planned but not built.
R.36B: a two-seater variant, the R.36E, a lightened two-seater training variant with a reduced power engine (400 to 600 hp) and the R.36R, a standard R.36 but with smaller wings (16 m2 instead of 20).
R.37: Version of R.36 powered by an 820 kW (1,100 hp) Gnome-Rhône 14N-21 radial engine, one aircraft captured by German forces in May 1940. The planned armament was four X 7.7 mm FN Browning machine guns or two X 13.2 mm FN Browning shell firing guns. Technical documentation from the ‘Ateliers Renard’ also mentions the possibility of fitting the R.37 with a composite armament of two X 13.2 mm FN Browning machine guns and two X 20 mm autocannons or with six X 7.7 mm FN Browning machine guns. The R.37 was also tested with Pegasus XX and Mercury engines out of concern of shortages of the Gnome-Rhône engine and possible overheating.
R.38: A derivative of R.36 aircraft powered by a 770 kW (1,030 hp) Rolls-Royce Merlin II. One built, which was first flown on 4 August 1939 reaching a speed of 545 km/h (339 mph) during testing. The prototype was evacuated to France but captured by German forces and scrapped. Planned armament was four X 7.7 mm FN Browning machine guns or four X 13.2 mm FN Browning shell firing guns. Technical documentation from the ‘Ateliers Renard’ also planned the use of four X 20 mm autocannons.
R.40: An unfinished variant of the R.38 built at the request of the French air force. It was supposed to be a high-altitude fighter with a detachable cabin armed with four X 7.7mm FN Browning machine guns or four X 13.2mm FN Browning machine guns. Technical documentation from the ‘Ateliers Renard’ also planned the use of four X 20 mm autocannons.
R.42: Proposed twin fuselage variant of the R.40, like the F-82 Twin Mustang. The proposed armament was four 13.2 mm FN Browning shell firing guns and four 20 mm autocannons, with an estimated top speed of 680 km/h.
Those persons who correctly identified this week’s mystery aircraft:
Ari Levien, Hilton Carroll, Erwin Stam, Righardt du Plessis, P. Rossouw, Charlie Hugo, Andre Visser, Colin Austen, Carl von Ludwig, Ahmed Bassa, Karl Jensen, Johan Venter, Jana Pretorius, Andrew Peace, Gregory Yatt, Rex Tweedie, Jan Sime, Dave Lloyd, Selwyn Kimber, Wouter van der Waal, Piet Steyn, Danie Viljoen, (22).
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 every month, the African Pilot website, the Future Flight’s 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
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 material deadline for the October 2023 edition of African Pilot was on Wednesday 20 September 2023, but we will close this edition on Tuesday 26 September.
All editorial content should be sent to me Athol Franz
For advertising opportunities please call Cell: 079 880 4359
The twelfth edition of Future Flight was sent out to the world-wide audience on Monday 18 September. This 126-page edition has five picture galleries and 17 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.
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
Final Reno Air Race shut down after T-6 mid-air accident
“The Reno Air Racing Association is heartbroken to announce that around 14h15 on 17 September, two members of our racing family, Nick Macy and Chris Rushing, passed away in a landing accident. Both expertly skilled pilots and Gold winners in the T-6 Class, Macy piloted Six-Cat and Rushing flew Baron’s Revenge. Families of both pilots have been notified and support services are onsite as they deal with this tragedy. There were no civilian casualties and RARA is doing everything we can to support the families and friends of the involved pilots. After conversations with the families and with the race classes, we have made the decision to cancel the remainder of the races.”
“I am completely devastated and heartbroken today,” said Fred Telling, Chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association and President of the T-6 Class. “These two pilots were not just an integral part of the National Championship Air Race family; they were a part of my family. My heart goes out to their own families and to all of the spectators and fans who have so enthusiastically supported us this week.”
Safety is the foremost concern of RARA and we work year-round to host the safest event possible. As we always do, we are cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA and all local authorities to identify the cause of the accident and ensure that all of our pilots, spectators and volunteers have the necessary support during this time.”
Why the missing F-35 was hard to find — and did not stray too far
President Donald Trump once referred to the F-35 as ‘invisible.’ At least as far as officials in South Carolina are concerned, he might have been right. On Sunday, a pilot from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort punched out of his F-35B near Charleston. The pilot is safe, a spokesman for the station said , but what is unusual is that his Joint Strike Fighter was not found until a full day later, with officials announcing its recovery Monday evening. While the search caused a flood of jokes on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, there may be very good reasons for why the jet was so hard to find, one expert said. Originally authorities focused their search ‘around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion,’ which led the hunt for the fighter in coordination with federal, state and local agencies. On Monday evening, the base announced that the fighter’s ‘debris field’ was located in Williamsburg County, a few dozen miles beyond the lakes.
Local news reported on Sunday the mishap pilot landed safely near a street adjacent to Charleston International Airport and that his wingman successfully touched down at Joint Base Charleston, which is co-located with the airport. Before the debris field was located, the base urged the public to call them with ‘any information’ leading to the missing F-35’s whereabouts. “There is nothing more important than the health and wellness of the pilot involved,” Russ Goemaere, a spokesman for the F-35 Joint Programme Office said in a statement. “Our team will work with the USMC, industry and all other stakeholders, to assist in the investigation efforts.”
In a separate statement, the USMC has directed all its aviation units to conduct a two-day stand-down in flight operations following three Class-A aviation mishaps involving Marine aircraft over the past six weeks. Though the three incidents were not specified, they most likely include:
- The F-35B crash on 17 September 2023
- An F/A-18D Hornet crash during a training flight in the vicinity of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on 24 August 2023
- A V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crash during an exercise in Northern Australia on 27 August 2023
“During the stand down, aviation commanders will lead discussions with their Marines focusing on the fundamentals of safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance and flight procedures and maintaining combat readiness,” the USMC explained. “This stand down is being taken to ensure the service is maintaining operational standardisation of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews.”
Debris of missing F-35 located, US Marine Corps grounds all flights
On 17 September 2023, a USMC F-35B fighter jet went missing in South Carolina after the pilot was forced to eject from the aircraft. The F-35 was reportedly set on autopilot when the pilot ejected, meaning that the stealth fighter continued to fly until it exhausted its fuel supply. Consequently, the US military sought public assistance to locate the aircraft. Late on 18 September 2023, Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina announced that personnel from the base and from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, in close coordination with local authorities, had successfully located a debris field in Williamsburg County. The discovery of the wreckage, approximately 70 miles (112 kilometres) northeast of Joint Base Charleston, prompted efforts to secure and investigate the crash site.
Ottawa man charged with stealing and damaging a Cessna 140
A 64-year-old Ottawa man who gained access to Ottawa-Rockcliffe Airport (YRO) then stole and crashed a Cessna 140 is facing charges of theft exceeding $5,000, dangerous operation of a conveyance, and operation while prohibited. The Rockcliffe Airport is owned by the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, the Great White North’s national aviation history museum and is operated by the Rockcliffe Flying Club.
On Thursday, 14 September 2023, Emergency crews responded to an 18h30 EDT call reporting an aircraft mishap on the Sir George-Etienne Cartier Parkway in the vicinity of the aforementioned Canada Aviation and Space Museum. To the subject of the theft, police stated: ‘The suspect attempted to fly the plane from the airport but gained minimal air and then crashed, striking two parked planes in the process.” he purloined Cessna suffered serious damage, coming to rest in an unmaintained area of the airport. The condition of the two parked airplanes struck by the accident-aircraft remains unclear.
According to an Ottawa paramedic spokesperson, after being arrested at YRO the suspect was transported to an area hospital with minor injuries and in stable condition. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSBC) was advised of the crime but referred the investigation of such to the Ottawa Police Service. TSBC officials temporarily closed the Rockcliffe Airport to all inbound and outbound air traffic for purpose of facilitating the police investigation.
The extent of the damage wrought upon the stolen aircraft compelled Canadian aviation specialist Phyl Durdey to state: “It looks like the wing spar is broken. As you can tell, it has been bent pretty bad. You have to sit there and evaluate whether it is repairable in the way of cost if it is cost-effective to fix the aircraft. It is a classic airplane; a lot of people do rebuild them because it is a classic.” Durdey also remarked on the infrequency of aircraft thefts, saying “The aircraft are in a secure area, the aircraft are locked, the doors are locked on the airplane and the keys are usually kept with the owner.”
Pilot was asked to ‘show something new’ before plane lost both wings and crashed
On 17 August a Piper PA-28 Cherokee crashed into a building, killing one flight instructor and seriously injuring the other. The ride purpose of the ride was a proficiency check in order for the flight instructor in the right seat to begin instructing at the flight school. One instructor asked, “Can you show me something new?” before conducting a manoeuvre that resulted in both wings separating from the plane and the aircraft descending through a building and partially into an RV.
During the flight, the left-seat instructor told the NTSB the right-seat instructor had satisfactorily demonstrated manoeuvres such as chandelles, lazy eights and slow flight. The right-seat instructor then asked the left-seat instructor to show him something new. The left-seat instructor responded that since he was already an instructor, there were no new manoeuvres to show, but he added he told the instructor “I can show you an EASA manoeuvre.”
He told NTSB investigators the manoeuvre involved a power-off aerodynamic stall and recovery without the use of engine power. The left-seat instructor took over the flight controls and began the demonstration, pitching up and entering a full aerodynamic stall with the power at idle. After the plane stalled, he pitched to ‘Vg’ (glide airspeed at 73 knots) to recover. During the recovery with the power at idle, he told the NTSB the right wing had come off and there was a sudden banking tendency to the right. The left-seat instructor recalled retracting the flaps and adding rudder and aileron application but said his eyes were getting blurry. He told investigators he was starting to see white and that the plane was losing altitude like crazy. He noticed a lot of wind entering the cockpit and his next memory was waking up in the hospital. He said he did not remember observing any other components leave the plane.
Numerous witnesses near the accident site reported hearing booms or bangs with varying fast-changing low and high-power revving engine noises. Some witnesses reported seeing the plane descend in a near-vertical spinning descent with both of the wings separated from the fuselage and many pieces of debris falling from the sky. The prelim stated that a cell phone video showed one wing falling to the ground. The fuselage with the engine attached impacted an aluminium frame building with an RV inside. The plane descended into the building and partially into the RV. Both of the wings and two horizontal stabilator sections separated from the plane in flight and were found about 700-800 feet east of the fuselage. Parts of the cabin door were also found several hundred feet from the fuselage, as well as other items from the cockpit.
All of the flight controls were found within the debris area. Rudder control continuity was confirmed from the cockpit to the control surface but aileron control continuity could not be determined due to the wing separation in flight. Cable separations displayed frayed ends, which is consistent with overload separation. The NTSB retained aircraft parts for the investigation. Preliminary investigation of the wing fracture surfaces found that both by the unaided eye and by a stereo microscope, all fractured surfaces showed features consistent with overstress separation. There were no indications of fatigue fractures. Based on maintenance records, the most recent 100-hour inspection was completed on 29 June 2023. The plane had also complied with a wing spar integrity Airworthiness Directive.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene to find the two flight instructors in the plane. The left-seat instructor was transported to a local hospital and the other instructor died at the scene. The NTSB is investigating and will release a final report one year after the crash. A final report will include witness statements, video and photos, plane and pilot records and probable cause.
Textron Aviation, NetJets ink deal with options to purchase up to 1,500 Citation jets
NetJets reached a sizeable fleet agreement with Textron Aviation, with options to acquire up to 1,500 additional Cessna Citation business jets over the next 15 years. The deal includes Cessna Citation Ascend, Citation Latitude and Citation Longitude aircraft. NetJets is slated to be the launch customer for Textron Aviation’s latest aircraft, the Citation Ascend, with the first deliveries expected in 2025, once the aircraft completes its development phase.
Initial performance goals set by Textron suggest a high-speed cruise power range of 1,900 nautical miles (3,518 kilometres) for four passengers (with a potential maximum range estimated at 2,100 nautical miles or 3,889 kilometres), a cruising speed of 441 knots (815 kilometres per hour) and the capability to ascend directly to an altitude of 45,000 feet (13,716 meters). To date, NetJets has taken delivery of over 800 aircraft from Textron Aviation, including more than 300 Citation Latitudes and Longitudes in the past eight years alone, according to the manufacturer.
‘Not uncommon’ for American jets to be intercepted by China 10 times a day
American jets flying missions in international airspace near China are intercepted as many as 10 times a day, according to the commander of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). While Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach said the ‘majority’ of those intercepts are not necessarily a concern, a number involve Chinese pilots performing unsafe manoeuvres, risking injury to both countries’ pilots and raising the chances of an international incident. When confronted about these ‘completely unprofessional and totally unsafe’ run-ins, he said, the response from the People’s Liberation Army is less than conciliatory. What is disturbing is the typical response ‘This is your fault, because this would not have happened if you were not here,’ he said in cases where American officials have been able to confront their Chinese counterparts on unsafe intercepts. ‘What they are saying is, they do not want us to exercise the same right that they have to be in international airspace, which is agreed upon by just about everyone on the planet that international airspace is just this’.
Wilsbach, speaking with reporters at the Air & Space Forces Association’s Air, Space & Cyber conference, emphasised Chinese forces have the right to conduct intercepts just as American pilots do in US air identification zones, but he stressed that their behaviour needs to improve to avoid catastrophe. Speaking at a separate media briefing Gen. Mark Kelly, head of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, explained that both China and Russia have become more emboldened in their alleged harassment of US flights because the US Air Force has shrunk and become older.
With the US Air Force seeking about $1.2 billion for Agile Combat Employment (ACE) initiatives in the fiscal 2024 budget, where the service seeks to make operations more dispersed with a hub-and-spoke model to prevent Chinese attacks on bases from crippling regional operations, Wilsbach said getting a new budget is critical for realizing the service’s ACE concept. With US officials very vocal about plans to shift strategy in the Indo-Pacific, Wilsbach said he hadn’t seen evidence yet of Chinese officials changing their own strategy in response, though he cautioned that it is probably happening without his knowledge.
US aerospace and defence companies face Chinese sanctions over Taiwan deals
China is to sanction US aerospace and defence companies Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin for providing weapons, including aircraft tracking systems and fighter jets, to Taiwan. The sanctions will be imposed under China’s Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, said during a routine press briefing on 15 September 2023. “In disregard of China’s firm opposition, the US government deliberately supplies weapons to China’s Taiwan region,” Ning said. “We call on the US to earnestly abide by the one-China principle and the stipulations of the three China-US joint communiqués, stop arms sales to Taiwan, stop military collusion with Taiwan and stop arming Taiwan, otherwise it will be met with China’s resolute response.”
China accuses Northrop Grumman of having participated in the sale of weapons to Taiwan, which China claims as its territory ‘many times’, while Lockheed Martin was named as the prime contractor of the latest deal Taipei reached with the US, which was confirmed on 24 August 2023. The extent and consequences of these sanctions is unclear, given that neither company currently sells to China.
Lockheed Martin has supplied Taiwan’s military with numerous products ranging from the F-104 Starfighter to the F-16A/B MLU Block 20 Fighting Falcon jet, radars, helicopters and related equipment over the years. It also contributes to the island’s own fighter jet development. As a consequence, China had already imposed on Lockheed Martin. With the help of military equipment from the US, Taiwan has already converted 141 F-16A/B jets into F-16Vs and ordered 66 additional F-16Vs with new radar, vastly updated weaponry and avionics, to better compete with China’s Air Force, particularly its J-20 stealth fighters.
FAA warns of counterfeit helicopter parts in safety alert
On 12 September the FAA issued a Safety Alert for Operators, warning helicopter operators about suspected unapproved helicopter parts from a Bell 206B (N536T) which are actually from a foreign aircraft of unknown origin. The SAFO states that the alleged violator purchased the wreckage of a Bell 206B from a salvage company and transferred the data-plate, airworthiness certificate and registration number onto a foreign-registered Bell 206B and is now selling off parts, including life-limited parts, of the counterfeit copter as if they belonged to N536T.
The FAA’s South Florida Flight Standards District Office received a hotline complaint, alleging that an individual brought the foreign-registered Bell 206B to Miami, Florida before 2017. The aircraft was believed to have been registered in Venezuela under the registration number YV2100. In the US, the individual is alleged to have bought the wreckage of another Bell 206B, registered N536T with serial number 3195 and physically transferred components onto the other helicopter.
The individual allegedly transferred the aircraft data-plate, registration number and airworthiness certificate from the destroyed Bell 206B to the Bell of unknown origin. He is then alleged to have re-registered the counterfeit N536T with the FAA in their own name in 2018. The SAFO notes that as a result of the investigation, the individual immediately and voluntarily surrendered the counterfeit components, but the aircraft maintenance records were not provided to the FAA. The South Florida FSDO recently received information that the individual may be selling parts of the helicopter, including life-limited parts. Life-limited parts indicate any part for which a mandatory replacement limit is specified in the type design, maintenance manual or Instructions for Continued Airworthiness.
The alleged violator may be selling off the aircraft parts of the counterfeit N536T as if they belonged to the real, destroyed 206B. Aircraft owners, operators, air agencies, parts suppliers and maintenance technicians are encouraged to thoroughly review their aircraft, records and parts inventories for any component related to N536T Any parts or records identified as related to the counterfeit helicopter should be quarantined to prevent installation until its eligibility for installation can be determined.
The actual N536T registered helicopter was involved in a hard landing on 17 June 2014 at the Decatur Municipal Airport (LUD). A pilot-rated student and flight instructor were conducting a helicopter proficiency flight and after about two hours of manoeuvres, the instructor went to demonstrate a 180-degree autorotation which resulted in a hard landing. The NTSB final report stated that the instructor’s improper recovery from a practice autorotation resulted in a hard landing. On the FAA registry, the N number N536T is linked to two deregistered aircraft. The first registration was cancelled on 5 May 1981 and the second was cancelled on 2 March 2023. It is marked as reserved but there is no reserving party name or additional information.
Swapping components like a data-plate is a fraudulent crime, in the eyes of the FAA and the court. On 15 September 2020 the US District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee sentenced UK citizen Richard Paul Harper was sentenced after pleading guilty to attempted aircraft parts fraud. He was sentenced to time served (amounting to nearly eight months), followed by three years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment. He was also ordered to surrender to an immigration official for deportation. Harper was the former owner and operator of Apple International, an aircraft repair station in Bristol, Tennessee and the UK. On 16 June 2020 he pleaded guilty, admitting that he obtained a damaged helicopter and rather than undergo costly repairs, the fuselage of the helicopter was switched with the fuselage of another wrecked helicopter and the original data plates were swapped to conceal the true history of the damage and repairs. Harper then tried to market and sell the helicopter to an aircraft broker and other unsuspecting buyers.
FAA accepts Universal Hydrogen’s STC bid for ATR 72 conversion
The move toward alternative fuel sources for airliners has taken a step forward as the FAA accepted Universal Hydrogen’s application for a supplemental type certificate (STC) for the conversion of ATR 72 regional airliners to electric motors powered by hydrogen fuel cells. On Thursday last week the FAA issued the G-1 Issue Paper that establishes certification criteria, including airworthiness and environmental standards required by the FAA to ultimately certify the Universal Hydrogen design for ATR 72 conversion to hydrogen power.
In addition, the company is building a hydrogen logistics network. According to Universal Hydrogen, its modular hydrogen capsules can be transported over the existing freight network from production directly to the airplane anywhere in the world. Universal Hydrogen is also working to certify a powertrain conversion kit to retrofit existing regional aircraft to fly on hydrogen.
In July 2022, Universal Hydrogen unveiled its test demonstrator aircraft, a modified ATR 72-500 at its facility in Toulouse, France. The airplane’s powertrain was converted from a conventional turboprop configuration to electric motors powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The conversion kits for ATR 72s include proprietary, liquid hydrogen modular capsules intended to make green hydrogen fuel transport and loading effective and efficient. Several air carriers are taking notice of the new technology. In 2022, Universal Hydrogen secured a deal with Connect Airlines for a firm order to convert 75 ATR 72-600s to hydrogen powertrains. The agreement includes an option to convert 25 additional aircraft. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2025.
Major investment sees ZeroAvia take next step towards hydrogen-electric engine certification
ZeroAvia has announced a major investment boost that will see the manufacturer of hydrogen-electric propulsion systems move one step closer to obtaining the necessary certification for its first hydrogen-electric engine. This latest round of investment has included Airbus, Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital and NEOM as co-leaders, with Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Alaska Airlines, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, AP Ventures and Amazon Climate Pledge Fund have also participating in the investment. ZeroAvia is working on hydrogen-electric propulsion systems as the most environmentally friendly and economically attractive solution to the impact of aviation on climate change. The company’s hydrogen-electric engines use hydrogen in fuel cells to generate electricity, which is then used to power electric motors to rotate the aircraft’s propellers, water being the only byproduct during flight. Airbus is a global leader in examining alternative propulsion using hydrogen. Fuel cell systems are an important part of its ZEROe aircraft concepts programme, designed to deliver low-carbon emission airframes of various sizes. The industry major has recently ground tested a hydrogen engine concept at 1.2 MW power.
SpaceX countersues Biden DOJ
SpaceX is fighting a puzzling lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which alleges the world’s leading private space-launch concern maintains discriminatory hiring practices. SpaceX asserts the DOJ’s lawsuit is unconstitutional and has responded to such with a compelling countersuit. On 24 August 2023, the Biden DOJ said, “The lawsuit alleges that, from at least September 2018 to May 2022, SpaceX routinely discouraged asylees and refugees from applying and refused to hire or consider them, because of their citizenship status, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The Department added: “In job postings and public statements over several years, SpaceX wrongly claimed that under federal regulations known as ‘export control laws,’ SpaceX could hire only US citizens and lawful permanent residents, sometimes referred to as ‘green card holders.” The cited laws bar foreign persons from being given access to export-controlled items without approval from the State Department or Department of Commerce, but permits US persons including citizens, residents, refugees and asylum seekers, so states the DOJ lawsuit. Immigrants ‘had virtually no chance of being fairly considered or hired for a job at SpaceX,’ the lawsuit states, contending SpaceX’s ‘hiring practices were routine, widespread, longstanding and harmed asylees and refugees.’ The Justice Department also characterised social media posts made by SpaceX owner Elon Musk as examples of ‘discriminatory public statements.’
The lawsuit cited a June 2020 post on X, formerly called Twitter, in which Musk wrote: “US law requires at least a green card to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are advanced weapons technology.” The suit notes that at a 2016 international conference, Musk stated SpaceX hires require ‘special permission from the Secretary of Defence or Secretary of State’ to comply with International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Several recruiters also allegedly cited the law to reject applicants. Between 2018 and 2022, SpaceX hired just one asylum seeker, four months after the Justice Department began investigating the company.
In response to the DOJ’s allegations, SpaceX has filed its own lawsuit. In the lawsuit, filed on Friday 15 September, the space-launch company asserted the accusations levied by the Biden DOJ are ‘factually and legally insupportable.’ SpaceX maintains the company’s goal vis-à-vis staffing has been and remains to employ the most qualified candidates for every position, regardless of citizenship, race, or socio-political status. SpaceX emphasised the large number of non-US citizens hired by the company to date, thereby definitively contradicting the Biden DOJ’s claims. In addition, SpaceX has challenged the constitutionality of the DOJ’s lawsuit, arguing the administrative judge who presided over the initial lawsuit was ‘unconstitutionally appointed.’ The company further averred its right to a jury trial is being infringed upon.
US Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who heads the Justice Department’s ironically designated Office of Civil Rights, brought the SpaceX suit following an investigation by the division’s Immigration and Employee Rights Section. Clarke has disparaged Musk for his immense wealth. Clarke declared: “Our investigation found that SpaceX failed to fairly consider or hire asylees and refugees because of their citizenship status and imposed what amounted to a ban on their hire regardless of their qualification, in violation of federal law.” Clarke also claimed that SpaceX recruiters and high-level officials ‘actively discouraged’ asylum seekers and refugees from seeking work opportunities at the company.
The DOJ stated the United States seeks ‘fair consideration and back pay’ for asylum seekers and refugees ostensibly deterred or denied employment at SpaceX due to the alleged discrimination. The DOJ lawsuit also seeks civil penalties in an amount to be determined by court and policy changes to ensure SpaceX complies with the federal non-discrimination mandate going forward. A court hearing date for the ongoing legal battle has yet to be scheduled.
Joby to build first scaled manufacturing facility in Ohio
On Monday Joby Aviation announced it has chosen to develop its first scaled aircraft production facility in the birthplace of aviation, Dayton, Ohio. The Wright Brothers lived and worked in the Dayton area, opening the first airplane factory in the US there in 1910. Now, the Dayton area will be a base for the commercial scaling of eVTOL aircraft. Joby will build a facility capable of delivering up to 500 aircraft per year at the Dayton International Airport. The 140-acre site will support up to 2,000 jobs. The site has the potential to support significant growth in the future, with enough land to build up to two million square feet of manufacturing space. Construction of the new Ohio facility is expected to begin in 2024 and finish in 2025. Joby will use existing buildings nearby to begin near-term operations.
The State of Ohio, JobsOhio and local political subdivisions offered incentives and benefits of up to $325 million in support of the development of the new facility. Joby plans to invest up to $500 million as it scales operations at the new site. On Monday the company also announced that it has been invited by the US Department of Energy to submit a Part II Application for financing under the Title XVII Loan Guarantee Programme, which provides access to low-interest loans for clean energy projects and would help to support the scaling of the Ohio facility.
Toyota, a long-term investor, has worked with Joby on the design and successful launch of its Pilot Production Line in Marina, California. The company plans to continue advising Joby as it preps to scale production of its commercial passenger air taxi in Ohio. “We are building the future of aviation right where it all started, in Dayton, Ohio,” Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said. “The Wright Brothers harnessed revolutionary technology of their time to open up the skies and we intend to do the same, this time, bringing quiet and emissions-free flight that we hope will have an equally profound impact on our world.”
Joby plans to begin hiring in the upcoming months and the early roles will focus on the build-out of the facility and machining of parts which will be initially incorporated into Joby’s California low-volume production line. The production aircraft is expected to transport a pilot and four passengers at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour with a maximum range of 100 miles. The aircraft will have a quiet noise profile that is barely audible in loud, bustling cities. Joby plans to operate the eVTOL aircraft as part of aerial ridesharing networks around the world beginning in 2025, already forming partnerships with Delta and Uber.
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Substantial growth predicted for loitering munitions market
Global aerospace and defence company Paramount has been developing armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and is confident a study it commissioned will bear out demand for its N-Raven addition to the international loitering munitions market. Backing Paramount’s bullish outlook is a Defence Insight report on loitering munitions it commissioned and released in London ate the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition.
“Our report on the Loitering Munitions market underscores the need for agile, adaptable solutions. That is why Paramount’s N-Raven is revolutionary as not only a product but a fully fledged technology transfer platform. It can be produced domestically within a year, fully embracing the idea of portable and indigenous production,” Steve Griessel, Paramount Group Chief Executive Officer, said.
The report highlights multiple, often interlocking, revelations, according to Paramount. Loitering munitions are strategically beneficial due to their versatility and economic efficiency, as seen by participants in the Russo-Ukrainian War utilising low-cost capability to strike high-cost targets at local and national levels. On the back of these advantages, the loitering munitions market is forecast to expand by 525% between 2020 and 2024, with yearly spending on the capability expected to surpass $600 million in 2023, 2024 and 2025. This growth made loitering munitions the third-largest UAV market in 2021 and 2022 and is forecast to maintain its over eight percent market share of the entire UAV market until 2025.
Regionally, North America is expected to contribute the most expenditure over the decade, with European expenditure on loitering munitions forecast to increase by over 2 000%, rising from 1.39% to 36% between 2021 and 2023. Most spending can be traced to the Russo-Ukrainian War, with nations taking short- or long-term measures to arm themselves for possible future conflict. Due to the conflict in Ukraine, short timelines characterise procurements contributing to this expansion.
Evidence is emerging, the Paramount-commissioned report states, of some customers moving to longer term acquisitions and programmes more often awarded to domestically produced systems with producers taking market share from incumbent suppliers. This is forecast to happen in Spain, Germany, and France and has happened in Taiwan, India and the United Araba Emirates.
Paramount’s N-Raven emerges as a crucial solution when taking the commissioned report’s findings into account. The N-Raven was first announced in 2021. At the time it featured a swept wing and T-tail mounted above the fuselage, but current renders of the propeller-driven munition show a straight wing (with winglets) and V-tail. Paramount said the N-Raven family will feature ‘swarm’ technologies. The N-Raven weighs 55 kg and will have a speed of 180 km/h and loitering endurance of two hours for the electric version, and 4.5 hours for the petrol version, and range of up to 100 km. The munition has a wingspan of 3.6 metres and carries a 13.5 kg payload.
In May Greek state-owned company Hellenic Defence Systems partnered with Paramount to produce its N-Raven as the Irix. This will be the first loitering munition manufactured in the Mediterranean country, for the Greek market as well as export customers. The partnership includes technology and skills transfer for local co-production of Irix as well as Hellenic Defence Systems’ ongoing participation in continued research and development of future Irix system upgrades.
In addition to the N-Raven, Paramount offers the Civet, Mwewe and Roadrunner (Meteorite) UAVs. Predecessor company Advanced Technologies and Engineering developed the 75 km range Vulture UAV, which was ordered by the South African Army for artillery spotting and fire control.
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