“It is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth and listen to the song of that siren, till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it.” Patrick Henry
Since last week’s mystery aircraft was challenging to identify, according to the number of correct answers I received, this week I have provided another interesting aircraft type. Please send your answers to me at email@example.com. I will publish the names of those that identified the aircraft correctly within the Thursday edition of APAnews.
Graphics designer position at African Pilot
Unfortunately the person we appointed to this position did not work out, mainly due to the fact that she oversold herself and soon proved she was not capable of the work required by magazines such as African Pilot and Future Flight. Although I have placed this advert onto several platforms, potential respondents who have already sent their CV’s clearly do not read, since the advert is very specific about the essential requirements for the graphic designer. Please read the advert carefully, before responding so that you do not waste your time and my time by sending me your CV with inadequate qualifications and experience. 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 material deadline for the October 2023 edition of African Pilot was on Wednesday 20 September 2023, but we will close this edition on Wednesday 27 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.
Rand Airshow 2023
SA Navy submarine SAS Manthatisi incident off Kommetjie 20 September 2023
The SA Navy submarine SAS Manthatsi was en-route to Cape Town while conducting a vertical transfer by means of an SA Air Force Maritime Lynx helicopter on the afternoon of 20 September. At or about 14h30, off Kommetjie, high waves swept seven crew members out to sea. The VERTREP evolution was immediately cancelled and efforts were launched to recover the members. A surface swimmer was dispatched from the helicopter to assist with the rescue. Unfortunately, the recovery operation was negatively affected by rough sea conditions.
A distress call was made to Cape Town Radio who then dispatched the NSRI from Kommetjie. All seven members were recovered but sadly there were three fatalities with one senior officer in critical condition. The remaining members, including the surface swimmer, are currently being treated in hospital. The names of the members will be released once the next-of-kin have been informed.
An inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the incident will be convened in due course. The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Chief of the SANDF, Chief of the SA Navy and Flag Officer Fleet extend their sincere condolences to the families of the members who tragically lost their lives. The SANDF further extends its sincere thanks and appreciation to the emergency services who assisted in the recovery of the stricken submariners.
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.
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
Audio from F-35 crash response ‘He just lost it in the weather’
Much about the recent crash of a US Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighter in South Carolina remains unknown, but some additional details have now emerged thanks to recorded air traffic and first responder radio calls. Video of the site where debris from the jet was found has also now become available. The first word that something had happened came on 17 September after the F-35B’s pilot ejected safely. However, the jet was on autopilot and continued on its own for some time. Its transponder was rendered inoperable at some point in the incident, hampering subsequent efforts in the air and on the ground to locate the crash site.
User @aeroscouting on X, formerly Twitter, shared an audio recording of radio calls on 17 September between Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controllers at Charleston International Airport. Charleston International Airport is collocated with the US military’s Joint Base Charleston, which was the focal point for subsequent efforts to find the missing F-35B from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501). VMFAT-501 is based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, also in South Carolina, located to the southwest of Charleston International Airport/Joint Base Charleston.
The recording has heavy background noise and portions are entirely unintelligible. However, air traffic controllers can be heard trying to raise military pilots using the callsigns Swede 11 and 12, as well as anyone else in the area flying F-35s. Swede 11 appears to have been the callsign of the F-35B that went down over the weekend. Someone can be heard toward the end of the air traffic control recording saying that contact with Swede 11 had been lost and that they would be treated as a ‘NORDO’, a term for a plane without a functioning radio or that is otherwise not communicating.
X user @ChrisJacksonSC separately shared a recording of local emergency services personnel responding to the incident after the pilot of the doomed F-35B had parachuted down to the ground. “He is unsure of where his plane crashed,” the dispatcher can be heard saying at one point. “Said he just lost it in the weather.” It is unclear whether or not this means that weather was a factor in the incident or that the pilot had simply lost sight of the aircraft as it flew on due to clouds or other ambient conditions. Available weather data does show there was scattered rain in Charleston and areas to the northwest around the time of the mishap. Otherwise the dispatcher makes it clear that they are still trying to get more information about the incident at that time. At one point the dispatcher also relays locational information about a site identified as being approximately ‘10 miles out from runway one-five.’ This appears to be a reference to Runway 15 at Charleston International Airport / Joint Base Charleston, which points northwest.
A north-westerly direction would be in line with what is known about the focus of the initial search effort for the plane, which was centred on the Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion areas. Those bodies of water are situated further to the northwest of Charleston International Airport / Joint Base Charleston. The debris field was subsequently located more to the northeast of Charleston International Airport/Joint Base Charleston. Video that has now emerged of where the debris was located shows damaged trees and disturbed earth. It is unclear whether this reflects the near-total destruction of the jet on or following its impact with the ground, or if more substantial parts might have ended up deeply buried in the ground.
An investigation into the incident is ongoing. Subsequently the Marine Corps’ announced that it had now ordered all of its aviation units to conduct a so-called safety stand-down ‘to ensure the service is maintaining operational standardisation of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews.’ This is common following major mishaps, but the loss of the incident over the weekend is also the third major Marine aircraft accident to occur in the past six weeks.
Original World War I Nieuport severely damaged in a landing accident
On Sunday 17 September the Collings Foundation’s Nieuport 28 World War I-vintage fighter crashed on landing at the foundation’s home airport in Stow, Massachusetts. According to reports from the Stow Police and Fire Departments, the aircraft reportedly suffered a landing gear failure, perhaps after a loss of engine power. It flipped onto its back and was seriously damaged, but the pilot suffered only minor injuries. The accident occurred shortly before 11h10 local time during the museum’s World War I Aviation Weekend at the American Heritage Museum.
The Nieuport is not a replica, but a factory-built example that was constructed at a factory outside Paris in 1918. After the Armistice in November of that year, the US government imported about 50 Nieuport 28s to help launch its Army Air Service. Later the aircraft flew in Hollywood during the 1930s in films such as Hell’s Angels and The Dawn Patrol. It was among the collection of movie aircraft operated by legendary film pilots Paul Mantz and Frank Tallman. After being sold at auction in 1968, the aircraft ‘largely disappeared from public view until 2019, when the American Heritage Museum started the restoration,’ according to the museum’s website.
The restoration was completed by Mikael Carlson in Sweden, who found that ‘much of the original structure was in excellent condition,’ according to the website. Likewise, the original nine-cylinder Gnome Monosoupape 9N rotary engine from 1918 was also well preserved and readily overhauled.
The Nieuport was returned to the Collings Foundation and flew in last year’s World War I Weekend. While the damage from the accident is substantial, the largely wood construction of the aircraft lends itself to rebuilding more readily than later, mostly metal aircraft.
Pilot on trial for manslaughter after wingsuit skydiver decapitated by plane
In France a pilot is on trial for manslaughter after a wingsuit skydiver was decapitated by the left wing of a plane that he was flying in 2018. Nicolas Galy (40), an experienced skydiver, was one of 10 skydivers onboard a Pilatus aircraft when he leapt from the plane on 27 July 2018, above Bouloc-en-Quercy in France. According to The Times, around 20 seconds after Galy jumped from the aircraft the pilot, named Alain C, rapidly descended and caught up with Galy and another wingsuit skydiver. The pair had already dropped 10,000 feet and had begun the process of gliding in their suits when Galy was fatally struck. Alain C, who worked for the local parachute school, confirmed in court that he had not briefed any of the 10 skydivers and had lost sight of the two wingsuit skydivers so assumed he was clear of them. Alain C claimed in court that Galy did not ‘follow the expected course’ and that it had been the ‘tragedy of his life, but I am not at fault’.
The prosecutor, Jeanne Regagnon, said Galy was the only one who ‘obeyed the rules without negligence’. The prosecution is requesting a 12-month suspended sentence for Alain C and a $10,000 fine for the parachute school. When the incident was investigated by the French aviation authorities it blamed the tragedy on a failure to brief the skydivers, the aircraft’s steep decent and lack of procedures used by the French Parachute Federation for wingsuit skydivers. The incident led to much stricter rules being brought in for wingsuit skydivers. The court’s verdict will be delivered in November 2023.
CFM says a UK firm sold thousands of unverified jet engine parts
On Wednesday Jet engine manufacturer CFM International said thousands of engine components may have been sold with forged paperwork by a British distributor, as the fallout from a probe into falsely certified parts reached London’s High Court. Matthew Reeve, a lawyer for CFM and its co-owners General Electric (GE.N) and Safran (SAF.PA), said AOG Technics had engaged in a ‘deliberate, dishonest and sophisticated scheme to deceive the market with falsified documents on an industrial scale’.
European regulators have said they are investigating reports that some parts supplied by the London-based firm without valid certificates had been found inside CFM56 engines, which power some Airbus and Boeing jets. AOG did not address the underlying claim of forgery in the hearing, which was called to discuss procedural issues. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its main number. The discovery has prompted airlines to change parts on a handful of planes and so far, only a fraction of the 23,000 existing CFM56 engines have been affected.
But Reeve said in court filings that CFM and its engine partners have ‘compelling documentary evidence that thousands of jet engine parts have been sold by (AOG) to airlines operating commercial aircraft fitted with the claimants’ jet engines’. These include parts for CFM56 engines, built by the GE-Safran joint-venture CFM and a small number of CF6 engines used mainly to power cargo planes and manufactured purely by GE. Industry sources said the majority of spare parts sold by distributors like AOG involve small items that are not made by the engine makers themselves and are not considered critical.
Even so, the number of planes that could have to be taken out of service for checks is approaching 100 and analysts say any disruption to the tightly monitored system of controls underpinning the safety of air travel must be tackled quickly. Reeve said that so far, 86 falsified documents known as release certificates had been identified. By Monday, the number of engines suspected to have parts with forged documents had risen to 96. “Potentially, that means between 48 and 96 aircraft being taken out of service whilst airlines arrange for the parts to be removed,” Reeve added. In a filing CFM said the sale of parts with fake or missing release certificates ‘potentially places aircraft safety in jeopardy’ and makes it impossible to verify airworthiness. A release certificate is akin to a birth certificate for an engine part, guaranteeing it is genuine.
The engine maker and its French and American parent companies took AOG and its sole director Jose Zamora Yrala to court to force them to hand over documents related to any remaining parts and paperwork linked to CFM56 and CF6 engines since February 2015. They said they were first alerted to the alleged forgery by a Portuguese maintenance and repair company in June, prompting a scramble to discover the extent of this issue. Lawyers representing AOG and Zamora Yrala said the defendants were ‘cooperating fully’ with an investigation by Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
AOG lawyer Tom Cleaver argued GE did not need a large number of documents in order to contact possible buyers of the parts. “Everybody now knows that AOG parts are not necessarily to be taken to be the claimants’ parts,” he said. Judge Richard Meade ruled that AOG and Zamora Yrala should disclose ‘invoices, release certificates, memos of shipment and purchase orders’ for 230 transactions.
CFM welcomed the court order, which it said would help the industry identify unapproved parts more rapidly. CFM56 engines power the previous generation of Boeing 737s and about half the previous generation of Airbus A320s. These are gradually being upgraded but thousands remain in service. The CFM56 is also used on Boeing P-8 maritime patrol planes sold to the United States and Britain, while the GE-built CF6 powers Boeing KC-767A tankers sold to Italy and Japan. There have been no reports of suspect parts on military aircraft. Boeing and Airbus had no immediate comment.
Maldivian opts for further ATR 42-600 aircraft
Maldivian, the national airline of the Maldives and aircraft manufacturer ATR have signed a firm order for two ATR 42-600 aircraft. These highly efficient new aircraft will join the airline’s existing regional fleet, including two ATR 72-600s and one ATR 42-600, to replace older-generation turboprops. With these modern aircraft, powered by extra efficient PW127XT engines and featuring a spacious and appealing cabin, Maldivian will offer further reliable and affordable connectivity to the archipelago’s communities and businesses, contributing to the Maldives’ economic dynamism while lowering emissions. Maldivian is the leading domestic carrier with a scheduled network comprising of 16 domestic sectors. The carrier operates the largest wheel-based fleet in the country which includes DeHavilland Dash 8 and ATR aircraft. Maldivian Seaplane, which consists of DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft, further enhances the airline’s domestic operation by providing specialised tourist air transportation service connecting customers directly to the doorstep of their chosen resort. Operating from its hub in Male’, the airline provides international scheduled flights to cities in India and Bangladesh.
McCauley’s newest Beechcraft King Air B300 propeller enters service
McCauley Propeller Systems has reported the first delivery and entry into service of its newest C780 propeller for the Beechcraft King Air B300 series, following its successful installation at Textron Aviation’s Tampa Service Centre. The new propeller, which features four aluminium swept blades and a 105-inch diameter, achieved Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification in July 2023. The Textron Aviation Service Center installed the first C780 propeller on a Beechcraft King Air 350 owned by ExecuJet Charter Service. Located in Florida, ExecuJet provides full concierge private air charter services to customers seeking flexibility and efficiency.
First of 14 Slovakian block 70 Falcons delivered
The first Slovakian Block 70 Falcon was delivered in early September, shown off in some very orthodox F-16 livery. The delivery follows a year-long delay from the intended handover date in 2022, timelines stretched by the usual rationales of logistics and pandemic responses. Slovakia is the first in Europe to obtain the top-of-the-line F-16, bolstering their defensive posture with a capable, proven performer.
The new Falcon arrived just in time to bolster the Slovakian Air Force, who handed over $1.6 billion in older MiG-29 aircraft to Ukraine earlier this year. Those jets tended to be older and pretty rough, lending credence to the idea they’re intended more as parts planes than frontline-ready fighters.
Cirrus has the option to sell a new Rotax-powered trainer
With the pilot training market booming, Cirrus has in the wings a new trainer model, the SR10. Slightly smaller than the entry-level SR20, the airplane has three seats and is powered by the Rotax 915 iS, according to the type certificate approved by the FAA in April of this year. But it may not be pushing the sales button anytime soon. The SR10 was developed jointly in the US and China by Cirrus under contract with its parent, the Chinese-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). It is identical to the AG100 now undergoing certification in China after its first flight in 2020. Cirrus says AVIC has orders for the AG100. According to the US type certificate, it is certified in the US under CFR Part 23 as a day, VFR aircraft only. Maximum gross weight is given as 2150 pounds on a wingspan of just over 35 feet, compared to 38 feet four inches for the SR20. At 3050 pounds, the SR20 is 900 pounds heavier. The SR10 has two front seats and a single center-mounted rear seat and has the trademark Cirrus ballistic parachute system and Garmin avionics. Aside, although the Rotax 915 is approved for 91-octane fuel, the type certificate specifies 100LL. We do not know if the Chinese documentation approves lower octane fuel, which is more readily available in China.
PHI signs deal for 20 H175 and 8 H160 helicopters
PHIAirbus Helicopters and PHI Group (PHI) have signed a framework agreement that includes commitments for 20 super-medium H175 helicopters and 8 H160s to serve the energy market worldwide, including in the US. These 28 state-of-the-art helicopters will better position PHI to respond to the energy market’s expected growing offshore transportation needs. These commitments are composed of firm orders as well as purchase options that PHI may exercise during the course of the framework agreement.
PHI has been supporting the energy industry for 74 years. Today, PHI operates more than 200 helicopters across the globe serving a number of markets, including energy and air medical. PHI’s Airbus fleet consists of H125, H135, H145, H160 and H175 family helicopters, with the H175 being the latest addition. In service since 2015, Airbus’ H175 belongs to the super-medium class of helicopters, combining long-range with smooth flight qualities, making it the perfect solution for several mission profiles, including offshore crew change, public services and private and business aviation. 54 H175s currently in service have accumulated around 195,000 flight hours, of which 170,000 are flying for the energy sector.
Designed as a multi-role helicopter capable of performing a wide range of missions, the H160 integrates Airbus’ latest technological innovations. With its light maintenance plan, the H160 optimises operating costs and offers a new standard in availability. The helicopter is powered by two of the latest Arrano engines from Safran Helicopter Engines that offer a 15% reduction in fuel burn. Both the H175 and H160 are already certified to fly with as much as 50% sustainable aviation fuel.
KLM Flight Academy acquires 14 Diamond aircraft
Citing parent entity Air France-KLM Group’s commitment to greener flight training, KLM Flight Academy, the Dutch flying school and wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) is replacing its training fleet with 12 single-engine Diamond DA40 NG and two additional twin-engine Diamond DA42-VI aircraft. The firm order calls for the first deliveries of the antecedent aircraft to be made in 2024’s first quarter. Moreover, the acquisition will increase KLM’s fleet of Diamond training aircraft to a total 18 airplanes comprising six DA42-VI and 12 DA40 NG models.
Diamond Aircraft’s DA40 NG is a four-seat low-wing fully-cantilever-winged monoplane constructed primarily of composite materials. The aircraft is simple and robust and features a fixed tricycle undercarriage and T-tail empennage. The DA40 NG is powered by a liquid-cooled, Austro Engine AE 300 168-horsepower turbodiesel powerplant capable of running on Jet-A fuel. Mated to the DA40 NG’s stock, three-blade MT propeller, subject mill compels the aircraft to maximum speed of 172-knots. The engine’s TBO interval is 1,800-hours. DA40 NG pilots can expect docile stall characteristics from the machine, for which Diamond’s literature lists a Vso stall-speed of 49-knots and a Vs stall-speed of 53-knots.
The DA40 NG’s 2,888-pound maximum gross weight includes the aircraft’s 1,938-pound empty weight, a 950-pound useful load, and a 677-pound payload. Fuelled to its 41-gallon (275-pounds) capacity, the DA40 NG manages a 984-nautical-mile range. The aircraft features Garmin’s G1000 NXi glass cockpit.
Currently, the worldwide fleet of DA40 variants numbers north of 2,500 aircraft. The four-seat, twin-engine DA42-VI is the most recent iteration of Diamond’s DA42 family of twin-piston-engine aircraft. The model features an all-composite airframe and Garmin’s G1000 NXi avionics suite with three-axis Automatic Flight Control System and optional electrically powered air conditioning. The DA42-VI is powered by a pair of the self-same Austro Engine AE3t00 jet-fuel-burning piston engines by which the DA40 NG is motivated. The two aircraft share the same MT three-blade, constant-speed propeller.
F-35 delivery dates slip into 2024
Lockheed Martin says that the expected, upgraded F-35 Lightning II’s slated for delivery this year will have to be delayed until 2024, pushing back the introduction of the Tech Refresh 3 (TR-3) package.
The change cuts into the expected F-35 fleet, with 97 TR-2 aircraft on tap for delivery this year, about 20 fewer than they had planned. Overall, the TR-3 software development process is delayed in typical F-35 fashion. Earlier admissions of prolonged development had already pushed 2023 deliveries from 147 to 153 aircraft down to 100 to 120. Lockheed has targeted a rate of about156 annual deliveries as a goal, now promising that it will be achieved in 2025.
Lockheed points the finger at ‘suppliers’, a wide-ranging group of international partners required to bring the F-35 to fruition. This time, company personnel backed up the assertion to reporters, plopping the blame on L3Harris’ desk. They said the firm’s INtegrated Core Processor had caused most delays due to ‘unexpected challenges’ associated with everything. Challenges with ‘hardware, software, system qualification testing, system integration testing and component integration. The TR-3 upgrade essentially depends entirely on the L3Harris module. In order to put the spur to the horse’s ribs, the Lockheed staffer said that they had deployed company personnel to L3Harris to help ‘expedite hardware delivery’. However, L3Harris was quick to clarify that they had tendered a ‘fully qualifiable Integrated Core Processor well over a year ago’, admitting only that the company ‘overcame some early design challenges’.
Taiwan operator signs for a surveillance version of Tecnam’s P2012
On 19 September Tecnam announced that Apex Aviation in Taiwan has signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire a special-mission P2012 Sentinel SMP. The piston twin will serve in the role of surveillance and maritime patrol equipped with IMSAR electronic sensor equipment, including two EO/IR cameras, a power box to feed all systems, radar, infrared sensor, AIS sensor and a data downlink installation. Based in Taitung, Apex acquired a P2012 for skydiving and aerial tourism in 2022, followed up by a second aircraft equipped for air ambulance service in June this year. Apex holds options for six more P2012s.
Terrorist actions compel Israeli officials to reroute air traffic
Surrounded by hostile nations and socio-theological discord, Israel has been the target of near-perpetual attacks by elements both known and unknown since the diminutive Middle Eastern nation’s May 1948 inception. In the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, attacks by groups antithetical to Israeli convention and hostile to its government and people have targeted numerous facets of the country’s infrastructure, including assets essential to safe air-navigation.
Of late, attacks on Israeli cities have interfered with the transmission and reception of GPS signals to such a degree that passenger aircraft bound for Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV) in the Israeli city of Lod (some 24-nautical-miles northwest of Jerusalem) have been obligated to operate along alternative routes over Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Subject routes are longer and less convenient than those facilitating direct approaches to Ben Gurion International Airport over the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
In the absence of reliable GPS reception, aircraft operating in the vicinity of TLV must rely upon legacy, ground-based navigational aids the likes of VORs. Similarly, aircraft inbound to TLV are limited to ILS and various non-precision approach procedures. While proven and sufficiently accurate to ensure safety of flight, such procedures are susceptible to signal jamming or corruption and can be negated altogether by means of Rocket-Propelled-Grenade (RPG) or Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks on VOR installations or localizer shacks.
Unhappy with the atypical aircraft traffic patterns, residents of Israeli settlements such as Modi’in Illit, Hashmonaim, Lapid and Kfar Oranim took to registering complaints vis-à-vis the ‘unbearable’ noise of passenger jets passing overhead at all hours of day and night. Confronted with large numbers of such complaints, Israeli authorities deigned to alert the public of the fact the unpopular route changes had been necessitated by terrorist attacks on the nation.
Rogue Russian pilot tried to shoot down a British Rivet Joint aircraft
The BBC is reporting that a reckless Russian fighter pilot did his best to shoot down a British Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft in 2022, but bad luck and bad equipment prevented a major international incident. The Rivet Joint, which gathers and analyses electromagnetic signals intelligence, was patrolling the Black Sea last October when two Su-27s intercepted it. BBC says its sources said one of the Russian pilots thought he had been given the order to destroy the high-value reconnaissance aircraft and its 30-member crew, so he gave it his best shot. The first air-to-air missile he fired missed and the second malfunctioned and fell harmlessly off his aircraft’s wing. At the time, UK government officials downplayed the seriousness of the incident at least in public. Although the then-Defence Secretary Ben Wallace called the incident a ‘potentially dangerous engagement,’ he later said he accepted the Russian explanation that it was ‘due to a malfunction.’ Meanwhile, according to documents released online by US airman Jack Teixera, US officials were calling it a ‘near shoot-down.’ RAF surveillance aircraft are now escorted by Typhoon fighters, the BBC said.
Rocket Lab suffers a failure on 41st mission
Following lift-off from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand Launch Complex 1, the rocket completed a first stage burn and stage separation, as planned, before an abnormality was observed at approximately two-minutes and thirty-seconds into flight. The nature of the abnormality resulted in the mission’s premature termination. Rocket Lab expressed regret, apologising to customer Capella Space for the mission’s loss. “We are working closely with the FAA and supporting agencies as the investigation into the root-cause commences. The Electron rocket has previously delivered 171 satellites to orbit across 37 successful orbital missions. We will identify the issue swiftly and implement corrective actions and return to the pad shortly.” The statement continued: “Our next mission, currently scheduled before the end of the third quarter, will be postponed while we implement corrective actions. We anticipate providing revised third-quarter revenue guidance in the coming days.”
Rocket Lab is a publicly traded, American space-launch concern with a New Zealand subsidiary. The company’s Electron rocket is a market-leader in the light space-launch sector. Electron is designed to carry a 200–300-kilogram (440–660-pound) payload to a 500-kilometer (310-statute-mile) sun-synchronous orbit, specifications ideally suited to the launch of CubeSats and similarly small payloads.
In May 2022, after four years of developing the requisite systems and procedures, Rocket Lab attempted to recover an Electron booster by helicopter as the stage descended from Earth’s upper atmosphere under parachute canopy. The manoeuvre was partially successful, which is to say the helicopter crew ‘caught’ the booster as it drifted towards earth but had to release it when the load shifted beyond pre-determined safety limits.
On 7 October 2022, the successful liftoff of Rocket Labs’s It Argos Up From Here mission from Launch Complex 1–the company’s private orbital launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula marked the 31st flight of an Electron rocket and the record-breaking eighth Rocket Lab launch of 2022–besting the company’s previous record of seven launches in 2020.
To date, 2023 has seen Rocket Lab successfully complete eight launches for customers: NASA, Capella Space, Rideshare, Leidos, BlackSky Global and HawkEye 360. Since its inception, Rocket Labs has demonstrated a marked propensity for ascribing tongue-in-cheek monikers to its launches. It is a Test, Electron’s first attempted launch; Return to Sender, the mission during which the aforementioned helicopter recovery was attempted; Running Out of Fingers, Electron’s tenth launch; and May 2023’s Rocket Like a Hurricane.
All told, more than 41 attempted orbital launches, Rocket Lab has racked up 37 successes against only four failures, one of which was incurred during the Electron Rocket’s 25 May 2017 first test-flight. The numbers amount to a 90.24-percent success rate. To complement its Electron platform, Rocket Labs is developing the larger Neutron rocket, a reusable, medium-lift, two-stage launch vehicle capable of delivering an 8,000-kilogram (17,600 pound) payload to low Earth orbit. The company is also in the process of creating a new satellite-bus called Photon, by which Rocket Labs customers may eventually convey satellites to orbits around Earth’s moon and celestial bodies within the Sol system.
FAA proposes a rule to limit commercial space vehicles debris
The FAA has proposed a rule designed to limit new orbital debris from commercial space vehicles, citing the need to ‘reduce the potential for collisions with spacecraft and satellites to promote a sustainable space environment.’ According to the agency, current estimates put the number of orbital objects measuring 10 cm or greater at over 23,000 with projections for objects between one and 10 cm coming in at one-half million. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) focuses on how commercial operators will be required to dispose of the upper stages of their launch vehicles.
“If left unchecked, the accumulation of orbital debris will increase the risk of collisions and clutter orbits used for human spaceflight and for satellites providing communications, weather and global positioning system services,” the FAA said. “By strictly limiting the uncontrolled re-entry of upper stages, the FAA seeks to mitigate the risk to people on the ground and in flight due to its significant size and mass and the uncertainty of where it will land.”
The NPRM (PDF) lays out five upper stage disposal options including conducting a controlled re-entry, moving it to a less congested storage or graveyard orbit, sending it on an Earth-escape orbit, retrieving it within five years and performing an uncontrolled atmospheric disposal or natural decay within 25 years. The FAA noted that the proposed rule would ‘align commercial space orbital debris mitigation practices with those accepted by the US government for its space missions.’ The rule will be open for public comment for 90 days following its publication in the Federal Register.
EHang invests in battery company for eVTOLs
IATAAAV maker EHang announced its strategic investment in Shenzhen Inx Technology Co., Ltd. (“Inx”), a solid-state lithium metal battery technology company in China and its plan to cooperate with Inx on the research, development and production of solid-state lithium metal batteries for EHang AAV products. This PreA+ funding round of Inx was led by GL Ventures, with the participation from Connected Intelligence Fund, Qilu Qianhai Fund, EHang, and its existing investor Fenghe Capital. The funding will primarily be used for Inx’s R&D on solid-state lithium metal battery technologies, market expansion, production and deliveries. Founded in 2020, Inx is a high-tech company specialising in the research and production of solid-state lithium metal batteries with core patents in materials, processing, manufacturing and battery designs. The company gathers a world-class team with expertise on advanced battery technologies, plus an experienced engineering, manufacturing and sales operation team. An advanced 200MWh solid-state lithium metal battery production line, key material preparation line and solid-state battery analysis and testing platform have been established.
Inx’s solid-state lithium metal battery differs from existing traditional lithium-ion batteries by using lithium metal instead of graphite as the negative electrode and solid-state electrolyte instead of liquid electrolyte separators. This structural change enables a significant leap in energy density while ensuring extremely high battery safety.
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Red Cat signs contract with US Customs and Border Protection for Teal 2 Drone Systems
Last week Red Cat Holdings, Inc. a drone technology company integrating robotic hardware and software for military, government and commercial operations announced that its subsidiary Teal Drones has signed $1.8 million in contracts with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide Teal 2 systems to US Border Patrol. Teal will deliver 106 Teal 2 drones plus spare parts and training. Border Patrol is using the Teal 2 to provide supplemental airborne reconnaissance, surveillance and tracking capability, enhancing situational awareness for US field commanders and agents.
Announced in December 2021, the single-source contract is part of a Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) between CBP and five drone companies with a total estimated value of $90 million over a five-year period. Last October, CBP had initially ordered 54 Teal drones for US Border Patrol in a contract worth just over $1 million. Approved by the US Department of Defence as Blue UAS and available to purchase through the federal government’s GSA Advantage website, the Teal 2 is designed to Dominate the Night™ as the world’s leading small drone for night operations. The Teal 2 is the first sUAS to be equipped with Teledyne FLIR’s new Hadron 640R sensor, providing end users with the highest-resolution thermal imaging in a small form factor.
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