Extract from a prayer ‘For my old age’: “I ask for sufficient grace to be able to listen to the accounts of other People’s illnesses and complaints. Help me to suffer this with patience but seal my lips when I begin to talk about my own aches and pains. They are increasing and the satisfaction I find in dwelling on them grows greater as the years pass by. Help me not to become garrulous and save me above all falling into the fatal habit of thinking that I must have something to say on every subject and on every occasion. At all times remind me of ‘one-upmanship’ is fatal to friendship.” Anonymous
Since last week’s mystery aircraft was relatively easy to identify, according to the number of correct answers I received, this week I have provided another interesting aircraft type. Please send your answers to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will publish the names of those that identified the aircraft correctly within the Thursday edition of APAnews.
Graphic designer position at African Pilot
Unfortunately, the person we appointed to this position did not work out, mainly because 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, of the many respondents who have sent their CV’s to me clearly do not read, since the advert is very specific about the essential requirements for the graphic designer. I have probably binned more than one hundred applications where the persons CVs are not even close to the advertised requirements. 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. In addition candidates should live within a 30-kilometre range of Kyalami, Midrand.
The October edition of African Pilot featuring Aircraft Maintenance and Refurbishment has been completed and will be published early this week. This edition also features the high successful Children’s Flight, the disappointing Rand airshow, Durban, Virginia airshow, pipistrel aircraft now represented by Absolute Aviation, Textron and NetJets significant order, Airbus Helicopters PHI order, USAF F-15EX evaluation and USAF Red Hawk trainer amongst many other exciting features. I also wish to thank the many loyal advertisers that supported this special edition of African Pilot.
The November edition will feature Southern African airlines, Gifts for Pilots and Aircraft Leasing. 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 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: email@example.com. Thank you.
The insane engineering of the F-35B
Wouter Botes Air Crash Investigation
The most successful multi-season series ‘Air Crash Investigation’ has been viewed by millions of viewers on various media platforms worldwide. This series has an unlimited lifecycle, as new cases are added to the aviation industry, on a daily basis. The aforementioned series focuses more on the airline industry and some of the charter and military sectors of aviation, as cases in the General Aviation industry are not as much in the international public’s eye and is mostly reported on at a local community level. There are however exceptions to the rule if the accident or incident involves a famous person, world leader, or celebrity. There have been numerous cases of famous people losing their lives in aircraft accidents worldwide through the ages. These include country singer Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, cricketer Hansie Cronje, band leader Glenn Miller, etc.
In South Africa we have most certainly had our share of not only airline accidents, but mostly General Aviation accidents and incidents. Although South Africa’s history of airline accidents is rare and far between, which we can attribute to high standards of training and regulation. We have had three major airline accidents in our history. The first was the Vickers Viscount ‘Rietbok’ accident on 13 March 1967 near East London off Kaiser’s Beach, followed by the Boeing 707 accident at Windhoek Airport on 20 April 1968 and the crash of the Boeing 747 Helderberg’ on 28 November 1987 near Mauritius into the Indian Ocean.
However, the General Aviation sector has not been as shielded. This can mostly be attributed to accessibility to the industry by private aviators and also our very extensive training facilities nationally. The so-called smaller aircraft are also more vulnerable to weather conditions and are in many cases utilising local airstrips and airfields, which can be challenging to some aviators flying with limited experience and ratings. The aforementioned is a generalisation but has been proven to be a deciding factor in both the fixed wing and helicopter sectors.
If we can improve safety and save lives by analysing every type of accident or incident and at the same time communicate these findings to the industry as a whole, we will most certainly achieve the safety goal. The investigation, analysis and safety recommendations of any accident or incident lies heavily on the shoulders of the appointed regulator of any country. It is therefore critical that all appointed persons in all sectors of any regulatory authority, be duly trained and qualified and given guidance in the effective processing of information gathered after each occurrence. This will ensure promotion of not only safety standards but will create a close and healthy relationship between the regulator and the industry as a whole. The sharing of skills, experience and knowledge needs to be promoted in order to ensure a mutually beneficial aviation sector for any country.
Editor comments: Wouter will be presenting the next illustrated talk in his series at the EAA Auditorium, situated at Rand airport on Saturday morning 07h30 on 7 October. Once again, I will introduce Wouter to the audience and we will be filming this talk for another You Tube video to be published by African Pilot.
Great Train Race to Heidelberg
African Pilot’s three photographers and video photographers attended the Great Train Race to Heidelberg airfield on Saturday, whilst Charlie Hugo went to the railway station to photograph the Rovos steam locomotive with some unique vintage cars at the station. This annual event was very well organised with more than 50 aircraft, many of them vintage planes and four helicopters arrived at the airfield. Speed fencing had been erected to separate the aircraft parking from the vintage vehicle parking and the general public areas.
The guests who travelled on the Rovos train were bussed in luxury busses to the airfield where a Bedouin tent with a temporary floor and beautiful furniture had been placed. The Rovos team members were amazing with the service they presented to the 24 passengers from the train whilst serving them from a fully stocked bar complete with Champaigne and all liquid refreshments that one could wish for. The delicious food was equally displayed on a decorated table with staff members in attendance. We were fortunate to interview Rowan Vos, the owner of Rovos Rail on video and this interview will be presented together with the overall report to be published within the November edition of African Pilot. The only way to describe the Rovos Rail passenger experience is this unique trip was punctuated by excellence of vintage rail travel at its very best – truly world class.
All in all a very well attended event that was huge fun for everyone who travelled to Heidelberg on Saturday with plenty of vendors, food and refreshments, helicopter rides provided by Henley Air, a model steam train circular track providing rides and an entertaining 60s band. Thank you to the main organiser Christopher Van who had already reserved the date for the 2024 Great Train Race to Heidelberg.
EAA Sun ‘n Fun at Tempe airport, Bloemfontein
Report from Neil Bowden
At the request of Kassie Kesselman of the Bloemfontein Flying Club this year it was decided to hold our annual Sun ‘n Fun at New Tempe Airfield Bloemfontein. EAA jumped at the idea as this central venue would allow members from all over the country to participate. The Bloemfontein crew are well versed with holding big aviation events, so it was with confidence that we handed over to them the running of our event.
Arrivals began on Friday afternoon extending into Saturday morning. A big plus holding an event a reasonable distance from the country’s main centres is that folk tend to stay over and not treat it as a morning breakfast fly-in. Accommodation options are plenty in Bloemfontein and camping was also facilitated on the airfield, ensuring that nearly all attendees were there for the weekend, a chance to catch up with aviation friends. The Friday and Saturday evening get togethers were great fun and it was good to socialise with our members from near and far.
A big thank you must go out to our Safety Officer, Nigel Musgrave, who, despite no help from ATC, made sure movements were smooth and safe. Also to the folk at the Bloemfontein Flying Club, Kassie Kasselman, Lucas Wiese (chief marshal) and their crew and of course a big thank you to all of our EAA members and friends who attended. We look forward to attending the next EAA function to be held at this wonderful venue.
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.
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
EAA Chapter 322 gathering at the Rand airport auditorium talk by Wouter Botes
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com Cape Town.
EAA Chapter 322 breakfast fly-in gathering, boot sale, fly market EAA Auditorium
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
13 to 17 November
Dubai Airshow 2023
EAA National & Chapter 322 Annual Awards Dinner Venue TBA
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com Tel: 011 082 1100
27 and 28 November
AfBAA African Business Aviation Association conference Cape Town
Contact Sam Keddle E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: +27 (0)63 717 3460
DCA Industry Roadshow East London, Eastern Cape
Contact Ms Charmaine Shibambo E-mail: email@example.com
Niger closes its airspace to French aircraft
The military rulers of the Republic of the Niger, a landlocked West-African nation of some 25.4-million inhabitants have banned ‘French aircraft’ from over-flying the nation’s airspace. So states the Agency for the Safety of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), a Dakar, Senegal-based air traffic control agency managing 16.1-million-square-kilometers covering the Flight Information Regions (FIRs) of Antananarivo (Madagascar’s capital city), Brazzaville (the Republic of the Congo’s capital city), Dakar (Senegal’s capital city) Oceanic and Terrestrial, Niamey (Niger’s capital city) and N’Djamena (Chad’s capital city).
A statement on ASECNA’s website set forth Niger’s airspace remains ‘open to all national and international commercial flights except for French aircraft or aircraft chartered by France, including those of the airline Air France.’ Moreover, the ASECNA website stated Niger’s airspace remains closed to ‘all military, operational and other special flights,’ unless such flights received prior authorisation from the appropriate Nigerien authorities. In a press statement, Air France disclosed only that its aircraft were ‘not flying over Niger airspace.’
Since declaring independence from France in December 1958, Niger’s people have dealt with the ratification and negation of no fewer than five constitutions and endured three periods of military rule, the most recent of which commenced by way of a 26 July 2023 coup d’état during which the country’s presidential guard removed and detained President Mohamed Bazoum. Subsequently, Presidential Guard Commander General Abdourahamane Tchiani declared himself the leader of a military junta and established the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland.
The United States, France and a number of other nations have involved themselves in Nigerien affairs on account of the Islamic insurgency in the Sahel, which led, in turn, to a Nigerien Jihadist insurgency spearheaded by Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and Boko Haram. In 2022, Niger became a hub of French anti-terror operations. Increased French military presence reignited latent anti-French sentiment, thereby paving the way for increased Russian influence and the entry of the Wagner Group operatives into the region. In addition, France has openly and repeatedly supported the West African bloc, a position that, since the coup, has occasioned the deterioration of relations between Paris and Niamey to an all-time low. As the aforementioned West African bloc threatened military action to restore the administration of deposed Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s military government, fearing the ‘threat of intervention from neighbouring countries’, closed the nation’s airspace on 06 August 2023.
On 04 September, in the absence of reason or rationale, Niger reopened its airspace to commercial flights. However, the military regime’s receptiveness was short lived and the country’s airspace was again closed on 24 September 2023.
British Airways pilot fired for drugs
On a Monday in August, a plane full of passengers travelling from Johannesburg to London was delayed for 24 hours while British Airways sorted out a staffing emergency. Pilot Mike Beaton sacked by British Airways and banned from flying after he snorted cocaine off a topless woman before trying to fly the passenger plane back to London. Married pilot Mike Beaton boasted about his antics to a stewardess who raised the alarm. Instead he was flown to Heathrow as a passenger the next day where he tested positive for drug use. In a statement to Sky News, BA confirmed the pilot is no longer employed by the airline.
In texts to his stewardess colleague, the disgraced pilot described partying with two local men, a female Welsh holidaymaker and a young Spanish woman. He said the group met at a nightclub before heading back to one of the men’s flats where the Class A drugs were apparently produced. “I have lost my shirt somewhere and one of the local lads produced a plate with a few lines of coke,” one of the text messages said. “So then there was a debate about whose chest is the best to do a bump off.”
The British Civil Aviation Authority has withdrawn Beaton’s medical certificate, banning him from flying. “An airline must immediately inform us if a UK pilot has misused drink or drugs boarding, or being on board, an aircraft,” a UKCAA spokesperson said. “In these cases we would immediately suspend the pilot’s medical which means he cannot fly. “In most cases the pilot would have an assessment with an expert medical team and if they wished to return to flying then a comprehensive rehabilitation programme would be put in place,” the spokesperson said. “At the end of that process the medical would only be reinstated if we were completely satisfied.” The British tabloid said the pilot’s wife has declined to comment.
Editor comments: What a complete ‘dickhead’ to throw away his airline career for a night of debauchery, especially when there are so many young aspirant pilots who would give anything to earn the right seat of an airliner. The mind boggles, but at least one more dangerous pilot is probably out of the skies for good.
Six killed as diamond mine plane goes down in Mashava
On Friday all six people onboard were killed when a Cessna 206 plane owned by diamond miner Rio Zim went down in the Zvamahande area near Mashava, Masvingo province. The plane, which took off from Harare and was going to Murowa Diamonds Mine in Zvishavane, broke into pieces on impact.
The cause of the crash which happened at around 07h00 is under investigation. National police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said emergency services were deployed and air crash investigators were also at the scene.
This is the second plane crash involving a Rio Zim plane in eight months. In February, a Piper 31 Navajo plane made an emergency landing in a field near Beatrice, injuring the five people onboard. The plane was flying diamonds to Harare. Large mining companies prefer flying high value minerals to their secure facilities in Harare for security reasons, but many of the small planes able to land and take-off from these mines are old and prone to technical faults.
Il-76 runway overrun and crash in Gao, Mali
The video shows the Il-76 attempting to land at Gao Airport. The aircraft is seen touching down very late on runway 06L. It then overruns the runway at high speed, collapses and bursts into flames.
Very little is known about the circumstances of this incident, which, as can be assessed from the available footage, has resulted in the total loss of the airframe. The Il-76 that crashed was reportedly registered as TZ-98T. Some reports have claimed the aircraft was linked to, or even owned by, the infamous Russian private military company Wagner Group, which has gained international notoriety because of its role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its murky role in several conflicts in Africa. The same sources report that the aircraft had recently been transferred to the Malian Air Force, for which it was carrying a supply flight. The fate of the aircraft’s crew is still unknown, though the footage of the crash leaves little hope for survival. It is unclear how many people were on board the aircraft.
In the same area on 9 September 2023, Malian government forces lost a Sukhoi Su-25 combat aircraft in unclear circumstances as it, reportedly, returned from a ground attack mission against rebel forces of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) in which it may have sustained damage. This was the second aircraft of the type lost in the area in a matter of months and it was the last remaining Su-25 in Mali’s air fleet.
Boeing 767 freighter hard landing
On 18 September 2023, at about 19h08 local time, DHL International Aviation flight ES160, a Boeing 767-323ER, registration A9C-DHAB, operating a cargo flight from Bahrain International Airport (BAH/OBBI), Bahrain, to Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY/OLBA), Lebanon, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in a hard landing on runway 16 at Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY/OLBA), Lebanon. The two pilots received minor injuries. The aircraft is still on the ground at Beirut ten days later. Photos from the airport show that the aircraft sustained significant structural damage (fuselage was wrinkled). Nighttime approaches to runway 16 at BEY are infamous because of the combination of city lights, coastline and dark sea.
South African pilot suicide in Hong Kong
A South African pilot known as Fabian August who took his own life whilst in Hong Kong. According to social media reports he was a well-respected person Fabian August was a joyful person who aspired to become a pilot from his childhood and he succeeded and completed his dream. He completed his flight training in Adelaide, Australia in the 1990s and spent a considerable part of his career flying cargo aircraft for South African Airways (SAA). As a pilot for the past 23 years Fabian his death sent shockwaves in his community. At the time of his death, Fabian was a pilot with Cathay Pacific Airlines. May his soul rest in peace.
FAA facing shutdown, lapse in authorisation
The FAA is facing the prospect of a double lapse with a potential government shutdown but also expiration of its operating authority on 1 October should the US Congress fail to reach an agreement on both. A comprehensive five-year FAA reauthorisation bill passed the House in July but got held up in the Senate over a dispute on the 1,500-hour rule, as well as landing slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. While the slots issue apparently is resolvable, lawmakers remain at loggerheads over the requirement for both the pilot and copilot to have at least 1,500 hours to operate under Part 121.
Measures have floated in the House and Senate that would seek to permit more simulator credit or alter the requisite 1,500 hours. The House version had called for up to 150 hours of simulator credit but lawmakers removed this measure before final passage in that chamber. This week the Air Line Pilots Association said it applauded Senate aviation subcommittee chair Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) “for holding the line on aviation safety during her remarks at The Aero Club of Washington, D.C., where she said that she will not let the FAA reauthorisation move forward if the 1,500-hour rule is under attack.”
With no agreement in sight, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Sam Graves (R-Missouri) crafted a ‘clean’ three-month reauthorisation extension and preferred its passage as a stand-alone extension. However, it is unclear whether that will be accepted in the Senate, which had discussed tying it to a short-term government funding continuing resolution (CR). Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg indicated in a press conference with reporters on Wednesday that there were many scenarios under discussion, one of which ‘has a different timeline for the extension than it does for the CR. We are trying to be ready and nimble to adapt to whatever Congress throws our way, but this is no way to run a ball club.’
Washington insiders were hoping to see some progress on a short-term extension in the short term. When asked about the consequences of an expiration of the FAA’s operating authority, Buttigieg said it would have “a number of negative impacts, and a lot of people would not be able to effectively do their jobs.” For starters, the agency would not be able to collect revenue from aviation excise taxes or spend revenue from the aviation trust fund, he feared “and some of that might never come back in so effectively, it is kind of like a tax holiday for airline charges that never come in to improve airports and meet other critical needs.” Buttigieg added, “It is right alongside the other forms of disruption is something that we just do not need right now.”
As for the looming shutdown, Buttigieg, acting FAA Administrator Polly Trottenberg and National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy, all have alerted of serious concerns should government funding lapse on 30 September. Key among them is a lapse in training for new air traffic controllers at a time when the agency is recovering from the pandemic and boosting staffing. “We are not going to compromise on safety and a big part of what the agency does is sort of in the exempted categories, including controllers,” Trottenberg told reporters recently. “But training and contracting, many issues will be disrupted. If we shut down for a couple of weeks, it takes a lot more than a couple of weeks to recover, particularly on the training side. It is going to be challenging for a 24/7 operational agency like the FAA if there is a shutdown.”
Lockheed Martin F-35 orders
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has proven enormously popular around the globe, with new nations signing on annually and older members increasing their buys. It is a good problem to have but one that also has consequences, not just for the defence giant but for its biggest customer, the US Air Force. Orders for the jet now exceed Lockheed’s production capability, a top US Air Force general said and while the service wants to increase its buy rate for the fifth-gen fighter, a maxed-out production line, combined with budgetary constraints, means that will not be ‘possible in the very near term.’ In fact, Lt. Gen. Richard Moore, Air Force deputy chief of staff for plans and programmes said, “I think Lockheed will have to increase production in order to meet the international demand. They have already received orders that exceed what they are producing today.”
Moore made it clear he was not ordering Lockheed to invest in new production with his comments. Instead, he said, he was simply stating the fact as he sees it. There are simply too many jets on order for everyone to get what they want, at least in a timely way, if Lockheed’s goal of 156 new builds a year starting in 2025 does not increase. According to JJ Gertler, a senior analyst with the Teal Group, there are over 2,500 jets presently on order over a planned 14 years of remaining production. That works out to a rate of roughly 180 jets a year if the existing schedule holds, a rate that Lockheed was reportedly aiming for before the pandemic hit, but which represents 24 more than the current annual capacity goal of 156.
The question becomes, does the US allow other countries in line first and save procurement money and get its jets later? Or does it insist on getting its jets on time, which makes the other countries wait? Or is there some significant increase in production capacity? The international demand for the F-35, at least for about a decade, certainly looks strong, according to Richard Aboulafia, managing director at Aerodynamic Advisory.
Cathay Group orders 32 A320neo Family aircraft
Hong Kong’s Cathay Group has announced the purchase of an additional 32 Airbus A320neo Family aircraft as it continues to invest in expanding and modernising its fleet. The agreement doubles the Cathay Group’s total orders for the A320neo Family to 64, of which 13 have already been delivered.
The 32 additional aircraft will comprise both the A321neo and A320neo which will join the fleets of Cathay Pacific and HK Express. They will principally serve destinations in the Chinese Mainland and elsewhere in Asia. The A320neo Family incorporates the very latest technologies including new generation engines, Sharklets and aerodynamics, which together deliver at least 20 percent lower fuel burn and CO2 emission savings. With more than 9,700 orders from over 130 customers, the A320neo Family is the world’s most popular single aisle aircraft.
Ukrainian Air Force releases footage of pilots training to fly F-16 fighters
The Ukrainian Air Force has released footage of its pilots getting to grips with the US F-16 fighter jet using a flight simulator. These virtual reality sessions allow pilots to familiarise themselves with the F-16 cockpit, execute joint missions and even engage in simulated combat scenarios over Ukrainian territory, the Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement released alongside the video on 27 September 2023. The simulators, equipped with real maps of Ukraine, including occupied territories, provide a realistic training environment. While some pilots are undergoing hands-on F-16 training abroad, those in Ukraine are leveraging technology to get a head start ‘when there is a bit of free time,’ the statement added.
Several Western countries have committed to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets as part of an aviation coalition. Denmark announced it had started training eight Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16 fighter jets in August 2023. The US also announced that it will commence training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets in October 2023, following an English-language course as jet manuals are all in English.
US Department of Defence Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder highlighted that the training provided by the US would complement the ongoing F-16 pilot and maintenance training in Europe. Other European countries such as the Netherlands and Norway have expressed their readiness to supply Ukraine with F-16s.
In August 2023, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine aims to acquire between 50-60 F-16 jets, though it is estimated that the country requires 160 to effectively defend its airspace. The first batch of Ukrainian pilots training in the US are expected to complete their courses by the end of 2023. However, combat readiness could take a bit longer, with projections indicating operational capability by the winter of 2023-2024.
Seasoned pilot allegedly fired after reporting safety concerns to the FAA
A seasoned pilot with more than 25 years of flying experience has alleged she was fired by a New Jersey private aviation company after reporting safety concerns to the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Allegations put forward in court documents state that Pamela Mincey worked for Short Hills Aviation for approximately a year prior to her unlawful termination on 1 September 2022. “The termination of her employment was in retaliation for her multiple reports to company management and federal authorities of unsafe practices while carrying members of the public in its jet charter service,” claimed the lawsuit. Mincey has worked as a commercial pilot for over two decades and has served as a First Officer for Atlas Air where she flew a Boeing B747 aircraft.
During her time with Short Hills Aviation, Mincey was assigned to fly second-in-command with a captain who told her not to touch the aircraft controls, which, according to court documents, is a violation of federal regulations, as pilots in a two-member crew must be independently qualified to fly the aircraft.
Mincey reported her concerns to a chief pilot, but no changes were made. In January 2022, Mincey wrote an e-mail to the chief pilot voicing her concerns about Short Hills Aviation’s safety culture with suggestions for improvement. One of the concerns Mincey pointed out was about a captain she flew with to Mexico who missed an approach to the airport and flew off a prescribed route, allegedly jeopardising the safety of the flight.
The documents allege that from January to March 2022, Mincey was paired with a captain who refused to use a company-issued iPad Mini designated as the primary onboard navigation system. On one occasion, the captain’s refusal to use the device caused the crew to ‘lose situational awareness’ and in incident reports that he made to the company, the FAA and NASA, the captain falsely blamed Mincey.
The FAA conducted an interview with Mincey, where she said she set the record straight by reporting the captain’s erroneous statements. The lawsuit said that shortly after the FAA interview, Short Hills Aviation terminated Mincey’s position.
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio returns to earth
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio has returned safely to Earth after serving out a record-breaking 371-day mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin undocked their Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft from the ISS’s Prichal module at 03h54 EDT thereby beginning a three-hour-twenty-minute trip back to the gravity, reality-television, rampant inflation and geopolitical tensions from which they had been largely free for 5,963 orbits of Mother Earth. The trio’s aggregate space journey, which spanned 157.4-million statute-miles, a distance roughly equivalent to 328 trips round-trips between the Earth and moon, culminated in a safe, 07h17 EDT, parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan, southeast of the city of Dzhezkazgan.
Rubio blasted off for the International Space Station aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-22 mission on 21 September 2022. He was to have remained in space for approximately six-months, returning to Earth in early 2023. However, damage to the aforementioned spacecraft stranded Rubio aboard the ISS prolonging his mission significantly. During his 371-days in space, Rubio bore witness to the arrivals and departures of 29 visiting spacecraft entailing manned and unmanned missions alike. Rubio’s protracted spaceflight surpassed the 355-day mark set by former US record-holder NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei. By virtue of their extended mission, Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin afforded researchers opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight and microgravity on human physiology and psychology. The data garnered during the three men’s marathon extra-atmospheric excursion will inform NASA’s ongoing Artemis Mission, which seeks to establish a permanent human presence on Earth’s moon.
After landing, Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin will be flown from the landing site to Karaganda, Kazakhstan, the capital and namesake of Kazakhstan’s Karaganda Region and the nation’s fifth most populous city. Karaganda will mark the divergence of Rubio’s path from Prokopyev’s and Petelin’s, as the astronaut will bid his comrades farewell, board a NASA plane and endure an additional ten-hour, twenty-minute flight back to Houston. For more than 22-years, astronauts have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station, maintaining the orbital facility, conducting scientific research and developing technologies and skills conducive to humankind’s aspiration to become a truly space-faring species.
Archer investors file lawsuit against eVTOL firm over ‘misleading statements’
Investors in the eVTOL developer Archer Aviation have filed a lawsuit in the United States claiming that the company made ‘materially false and / or misleading statements about its progress to commercialisation. Filed on 21 September, the lawsuit confirmed more details about the case. According to the Shareholders Foundation, the lawsuit claims Archer Aviation has ‘consistently touted the efficacy of its eVTOL aircraft design and flight-testing procedures, the profitability of its business partnerships and its ability to secure from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the necessary regulatory certification for the mass production of aircraft for commercial use’.
The securities class action alleges that between 17 September 2021 and 15 August 2023, the following:
- Archer Aviation relied on heavily edited videos of earlier flights to exaggerate the amount of flight testing it had actually performed and the sophistication of its eVTOL aircraft.
- Archer Aviation had misrepresented the nature and profitability of its business partnerships.
- The Company was unlikely to secure FAA certification in the timeframe it had represented to investors, thereby delaying the start of mass production of its aircraft for commercial sales.
- Accordingly, the Company had overstated its financial position and / or prospects.
- All of the foregoing, once revealed, was likely to subject the Company to significant financial and / or reputational harm.
As a result, Defendants’ positive statements about the Company’s business, operations and prospects were materially misleading and / or lacked a reasonable basis at all relevant times. The legal action follows a report released by Grizzly Research on 16 August 2023, that claimed Archer was misrepresenting the amount of flight testing actually performed and the date when its eVTOL aircraft ‘Midnight’ will be certified by the FAA. When this news broke Archer’s stock price fell $0.41, or 6.5%, to close at $5.94 per share on 16 August 2023, thereby injuring investors.
Those with shares in Archer between 17 September 2021 and 15 August 2023 and wish to explore their options are being invited to do so by 20 November 2023. In an official statement from Archer Aviation a spokesperson said: “We believe the claims are without merit and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”
Editor’s comments: Is this situation one of the first of many that we will see in the coming years where emerging aviation technology, particularly within the futuristic eVTOL business starts experiencing ‘growth pains’. I have no doubt that Archer has fulfilled its mandate to its shareholders and that through all reports recorded has continued with its flight testing of the ‘Midnight eVTOL’ to a point where serial production is imminent. However, we live in a ‘fast developing technological world’ and investors always seek ‘instant results’, which in this particular case is simply a ‘pipe dream’.
Volocopter to show AAM progress with NBAA-BACE flights
Volocopter will provide NBAA-BACE 2023 attendees with a glimpse into advanced air mobility (AAM) through a series of demonstration flights involving its electric 2X. Plans call for Volocopter to conduct a series of flights from Henderson Executive Airport (KHND), the site of the static display for NBAA-BACE. Flights will begin on 17 October, the opening day of the show and continue through the final show day on 19 October. Because the eVTOL is currently categorised as an experimental aircraft, no passengers will be carried on these flights. NBAA said the flights will showcase the rapid progress the AAM industry is making toward full-scale introduction. The 2X is the predecessor and prototype to Volocopter’s two-seat VoloCity air taxi, which is on schedule for EASA approval in 2024 ahead of the Summer Olympic Games in Paris. Visitors at the games are slated to have the opportunity to be among the first paying passengers in an eVTOL. “Advanced air mobility represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in aviation history, with the potential to fundamentally change the way we think about safe, fast, efficient and sustainable on-demand air transportation,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “We are pleased to host Volocopter’s revolutionary AAM aircraft and see the 2X’s electric flights over the course of the three NBAA-BACE show days.”
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Brazilian drone delivery startup joins drone logistics ecosystem
Positioned as Brazil’s premier provider of safe and eco-conscious transportation solutions for both passengers and goods, MICAELIS Vertiport boasts a team of founders with extensive experience in the helicopter industry. Established in early 2023, the company conducted a comprehensive market assessment before venturing into what promises to be a transformative industry, redefining how people and products traverse our urban landscapes. Known for its remarkable urbanisation, Brazil faces persistent traffic challenges, making it the ideal backdrop for MICAELIS’s innovative approach. Operating within one of the world’s most mature Air Mobility markets, MICAELIS is well-prepared to tackle regulatory and infrastructure hurdles to meet the surging demand.
“At its core, MICAELIS stands as a pioneering force in this dynamic market, deeply rooted in a tradition of embracing groundbreaking innovation. Their strategic collaborations with leading international players have positioned us at the forefront of this evolving landscape. These partnerships will introduce cutting-edge products and services to the Brazilian market in 2024, marking a significant milestone in our journey. The current bottleneck in the industry lies in the certification process, a global challenge faced by the entire Urban Air Mobility (UAM) sector. As we eagerly await the industry’s first certification, major players are diligently working toward achieving critical type certification milestones, which will undoubtedly have a profound impact on securing the necessary funding for further advancements” said Vincent Kieffer CEO of MICAELIS Vertiport.
MICAELIS Veriport is a Brazilin Air Mobility company. The company promotes, sells and supports the world’s most advanced existing air mobility products and services, from eVTOL and Vertiport to infrastructure. MICAELIS betters mobility and brings its clients an eco-friendly future, by Provide a safe, comfortable and affordable air mobility, Decarbonise transport and cut air pollution and congestion, Speed up zero-emission goods deliveries, Integrate its services to tomorrow’s smart city, Boost the productivity of the world’s first agriculture, Build the necessary sustainable infrastructure integrated into the mobility landscape.
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