“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return.”
Leonardo da Vinci (or John Hermes Secondari)
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
Mystery aircraft: Curtis-Wright XP-55 Ascender
The Curtiss-Wright XP-55 Ascender is a 1940s United States prototype fighter aircraft built by Curtiss-Wright. Along with the Vultee XP-54 and Northrop XP-56, it resulted from United States Army Air Corps Proposal R-40C issued on 27 November 1939 for aircraft with improved performance, armament and pilot visibility over existing fighters; it specifically allowed for unconventional aircraft designs. An unusual design for its time, it had a canard configuration, a rear-mounted engine, swept wings and two vertical tails. Because of its pusher design, it was sarcastically referred to as the ‘Ass-ender’. Like the XP-54, the Ascender was designed for the Pratt & Whitney X-1800 engine but was re-designed after that engine project was cancelled. It was also the first Curtiss fighter aircraft to use tricycle landing gear.
June 1940, the Curtiss-Wright company received an Army contract for preliminary engineering data and a powered wind tunnel model. The designation P-55 was reserved for the project. The USAAC was dissatisfied with the results of these tests. Accordingly, Curtiss-Wright built a flying full-scale model they designated CW-24B. The flying testbed was powered by a 275 hp (205 kW) Menasco C68-5 inline engine. It had a fabric-covered, welded steel tube fuselage with a wooden wing. The undercarriage was non-retractable.
July 1942, the United States Army Air Forces issued a contract for three prototypes under the designation XP-55. Serial numbers were 42-78845 through 42-78847. During this time, the Pratt & Whitney X-1800 H-block sleeve valve engine was delayed and was eventually cancelled. Curtiss decided to switch to the 1,000 hp (750 kW) Allison V-1710 (F16) liquid-cooled inline engine because of its proven reliability. Armament were to be two 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon and two 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns. During the mock-up phase, engineers switched to the 1,275 hp (951 kW) V-1710-95. The 20 mm cannons were also replaced by 0.50 in machine guns. One feature of the XP-55 was a propeller jettison lever inside the cockpit to prevent the pilot from hitting the propeller during bailout. The jettison device was invented by W. Jerome Peterson while working as a design engineer for Curtiss-Wright.
The first XP-55 (42-78845) was completed on 13 July 1943 with the same configuration as the final prototype CW-24B. The aircraft made its first flight on 19 July 1943 from the Army’s Scott Field near the Curtiss-Wright plant in St Louis, Missouri. The pilot was J. Harvey Gray, Curtiss’ test pilot. Testing revealed the take-off run was excessively long. To solve this problem, the nose elevator size was increased and the aileron up-trim was interconnected with the flaps so it operated after the flaps were lowered.
November 1943, test pilot Harvey Gray, flying the first XP-55 (S/N 42-78845), was testing the aircraft’s stall performance at altitude. Suddenly, the XP-55 inverted into an uncontrolled descent. The pilot was unable to right the airplane and it fell out of control for 16,000 feet (4,900 m) before Gray was able to parachute to safety. The aircraft was destroyed. The second XP-55 (S/N 42-78846) was similar to the first, but with a slightly larger nose-elevator, modified elevator-tab systems and a change from balance tabs to spring tabs on the ailerons. It flew for the first time on 9 January 1944. All flight tests were restricted so the stall-zone was avoided. The third XP-55 (S/N 42-78847) flew for the first time on 25 April 1944. It was fitted with four machine guns and incorporated some of the lessons from the loss of the first XP-55. Engineers discovered the aircraft’s stall characteristics could be improved by the addition of four-foot wingtip extensions and by increasing the limits of the nose elevator travel. Between 16 September and 2 October 1944, the second XP-55 (42-78846), modified to the standards as the third aircraft, underwent official USAAF flight trials.
The performance of the XP-55 was inferior to conventional fighter aircraft. Sealing its fate, by 1944, jet-powered fighters were in development; that terminated development of the XP-55. The third prototype XP-55 (s/n 42-78847) was lost on 27 May 1945 during the closing day of the Seventh War Bond Air Show at the Army Air Forces Fair at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. After a low pass in formation with a Lockheed P-38 Lightning and a North American P-51 Mustang on each wing, its pilot, William C. Glasgow, attempted a slow roll, but lost altitude and crashed, sending flaming debris into occupied civilian ground vehicles on a highway near the airfield. The crash killed Glasgow and four civilians on the ground.
Those who identified this aircraft correctly: Ari Levien, Bob Gurr, Righardt du Plessis, Brian Millett, Erwin Stam, Dawid Hanekom, David Plew-Chisholm, Willie Oosthuizen, Selwyn Kimber, Colin Austen, Jan Sime, Hilton Carroll, Mickey Esterhuysen, Pierre Brittz, Gregory Yatt, Jaco Van Jaarsveld, Kevin Farr, Cecil Thompson, Shaun Dowling, Rennie van Zyl, Rhyno Pretorius, P. Rossouw, Neil Bowden, James Mc Alpine, Ralph Schlaphoff, Gert du Plessis, Michael Schoeman, Marcel Nijdam, Ahmed Bassa, Terence Patrick Harris, Marco Petteri Tuunainen, Barry Eatwell, Greg Pullin, Jeffrey Knickelbein, Wouter van der Waal, Danie Viljoen, Rex Tweedie, Deon Steyn, Francois Greef, Dave Hann, Peter Gilbert, Johan Vorster, Karl Jensen, Charlie Hugo, Steve Dewsberry, Brian Melmoth, Rory Paul, Richard Collocott, Lodewyk Schuermans, Johan Prinsloo (50).
Where will I find “Requirements for Private Pilots Licence HELICOPTERS”?
The SA Post Office has destroyed many businesses, but revenge is sweet!
After years of corruption, mismanagement and strikes that gutted the South African Post Office (SAPO) this once efficient business is in complete disarray. Its financial situation is so dire that it is not paying its employees’ taxes and medical aid, many landlords are not receiving rentals and suppliers are out of pocket. According to the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, the Post Office would need a minimum of R1.8 billion to continue as a going concern. Many stakeholders are concerned about the demise of the Post Office, especially those who rely on the institution for their livelihood.
Does this story sound familiar? Is this not the case with all institutions managed (read damaged) by the ruling ANC party that also cannot pay its staff and also owes millions to the Receiver of Revenue and the Un-Employment Fund (UIF)?
Solidarity’s Anton van der Bijl highlighted that innocent employees are now suffering due to the mismanagement and corruption at the Post Office. However, not everyone is equally sympathetic. I started African Pilot 21 years ago and due to the SAPO’s inability to reliably deliver printed magazines, I have little sympathy for the SAPO employees. In 2016 when the first strikes started, I received many complaints as to why subscribers were not receiving the magazines they had paid for. So now these same people are crying because all over South Africa post offices are closing whilst at the same time the PO Box system has collapsed. When the employees went on an extended strike, they not only crippled the Post Office, their employer, as a business but also affected hundreds of other businesses such as African Pilot that relied on a reliable postal system.
Of course, as the internet became more sophisticated, the SAPO was bound to collapse at some time so I cannot understand why the government should bail this failed business out yet again. This would be likened to pulling the toilet chain to see yet another pile of taxpayer’s money delivered to the sewage farm. No wonder the few active taxpayers in this country are seriously upset, as they watch the thoroughly corrupt ANC ruling party continue to embrace corruption from within its own ranks, promote connected people and squander what few resources that are left to their thieving cadres.
African Pilot’s October 2021 edition
The October edition featuring aircraft / helicopter maintenance was fully distributed two weeks ago. This 256-page edition has 21 embedded videos and 27 picture galleries making African Pilot the largest aviation monthly publication in the world. Within this edition African Pilot has showcased many AMOs and aircraft refurbishing companies where no single company shares any part of a double page spread with any other company. In addition, African Pilot is the only South African aviation magazine that presents embedded videos and picture galleries to increase its advertisers exposure to the market. After 18 months of the COVID-19 shut down, all of South Africa’s other aviation publications are still stuck in the past with print type layout and design – they have not embraced the ‘new normal’!
African Pilot’s November 2021 edition
The November edition will feature African Airlines, Gifts for Pilots and Aircraft Leasing. African Pilot has already undertaken research on African Airlines and we will present factual information about these operational airlines, not just an inaccurate listing of airlines (badly published by another SA magazine), many of which have ceased to exist. My research of 94 African Airlines is complete and now the checking stage is continuing. The Gifts for Pilots feature allows for the pilot shops and on-line companies to market their merchandise. Finally, Aircraft Leasing is a sector of the aviation industry that is often neglected and this feature will present an opportunity for leasing companies to present their business profiles. African Pilot is the ‘only aviation magazine’ that provides its advertisers with quality coverage within a well-designed publication that has South African, African and International reach.
Wouter Botes new TV series Plane Wreck Hunter
African Pilot Digital Calendars
Wallpaper calendar for the months of September and October. Go to our wallpaper page to download the calendars in three different resolutions.
View and download African Pilot’s last three (3) 2021 editions.
Click on the covers below.
Aero Club coffee table Centenary Yearbook
The AeCSA Centenary Yearbook is now available to purchase from the online shop. Please visit www.aeroclub.org.za/shop.
Aero Club support
SAA disaster in the making
Less than three weeks after taking to the skies again, South African Airways (SAA) is already facing a backlash from staff, cancelled flights and support problems. Only days after relaunching flights on 23 September 2021, SAA made significant changes to its new international schedule. Some flights to Kinshasa and Lusaka were cancelled and the airline delayed the launch of daily flights to Maputo.
Testing by MyBroadband further revealed that the airline’s support services, specifically its refund department are not operating. Calling the SAA’s refunds helpline triggers an automated message, after which the call is disconnected. A reservations agent told MyBroadband that the SAA Refunds Department had been closed down and they could not assist with any refunds. MyBroadband contacted SAA’s communications department for clarity about this issue, but the request for comment went unanswered.
In the latest blow to the airline, SAA workers represented by the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and Numsa will picket outside the Airways Park office in Kempton Park on Tuesday. These workers are unhappy about unfair working conditions, including a 35% pay cut and the airline’s bloated management structure. SACCA President Zazi Sibanyoni-Mugambi said that while their members had to take a 35% pay cut, SAA management has increased their salaries. She added that employees who have taken voluntary severance packages are being employed again when current SAA employees can fill those positions. “The biggest concern to us is that we have an SAA CEO who refuses to see the unions,” Sibanyoni-Mugambi said.
To make matters worse, there is still no deal yet between the SAA’s new equity partner, Takatso Consortium and the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE). The Takatso Consortium is set to take a 51% shareholding in South African Airways and pump billions into the struggling airline. This deal has not happened yet, which means Takatso is not currently involved in any SAA operations.
Speaking to Moneyweb on 29 September, Takatso CEO Gidon Novick said he naively thought the deal could be done a lot quicker. Novick dismissed speculation that Takatso’s shareholders, Harith and Global Aviation withdrew from the process. “Both are involved. Harith is the key strategic funding partner, whilst Global and the team at Lift are involved as technical partners. So, it is very much in play, very much intact,” Novick said. However, Novick could not commit to a timeline on when they will make a deal with the DPE.
It means SAA is currently operating without its promised equity partner, it has staff and union challenge and its customers are faced with uncertainty about flights and support services. This is familiar territory for South Africans who are tired of funding a failed airline gutted by mismanagement and corruption, and which burned through billions in bailouts.
Discount flights as Airlink partners with Discovery Vitality
From next year, Airlink and Discovery Vitality customers are in line for discounts of up to 75 per cent on local and regional flights as a result of a new partnership which sees Airlink join Discovery’s Vitality Travel platform.
South African-based Airlink is Africa’s largest independent airline with a growing fleet of more than 50 modern jetliners serving over 45 routes in 13 countries. Discovery is a publicly traded South African headquartered financial services business. It’s Global Vitality Network, which is an alliance of some of the world’s largest insurers, has over 20 million members. Through the partnership, Vitality members can get significant discounts on flights, accommodation, car hire and holiday packages. All members qualify for a 10 per cent base discount on all flights booked on the Vitality Travel platform. Vitality Health members get between 15 and 35 percent discounts on flights. Vitality members who are also with Discovery Bank can get between 15 and 75 per cent off on their travel.
“Discovery and Vitality were obvious partners for Airlink. We have a common approach to creating sustainable business built on providing great value for our customers, who are at the centre of everything we do,” explained Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster.
“Discovery clients value travel and we enjoy making their travel more rewarding. In a typical year, Vitality clients book more than one million flights and 100 000 hotel-room nights through Vitality Travel. From 2022, the new Discovery Bank travel platform will facilitate seamless bookings and great discounts on a wider range of local and international flights, accommodation and holiday packages based on Vitality Health, Drive and Money integration. The platform makes viewing travel options, making bookings and storing travel details much easier. Our partnership with Airlink and its network lets us offer Discovery Bank clients an extended local airline range, providing discounted flights to over 45 destinations across Southern Africa,” said Dinesh Govender, CEO of Vitality.
South African Civil Aviation Authority annual report
What is scheduled for this weekend?
Krugersdorp Flying Club spot landing at Jack Taylor airfield, Krugersdorp
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First Bayraktar UAV delivered to Morocco
The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) have received the first Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) built in Turkey. Late in September pictures show the Bayraktar TB2s ready for shipment to Morocco. Apparently a further 13 UAVs will also be delivered after a deal was signed in April 2021. It has also been reported that Moroccan armed forces personnel started training on the aircraft in Turkey in July. While the North African country has used UAVs for surveillance purposes, notably Harfang aircraft, the latest acquisition shows that the Royal Moroccan Air Force may use UAVs for air-to-ground operations as the Bayraktar TB2 can be armed with a variety of munitions.
Morocco is already using French Heron (Harfang) and US MQ-1 Predator drones. It also has MQ-9B SeaGuardian aircraft on order from the US. On the smaller end of the scale, Morocco flies the BlueBird Aero Systems WanderB-VTOL aircraft. The Bayraktar TB2 has been sold to Ukraine, Qatar, Azerbaijan and Poland. Saudi Arabia, Albania and Latvia has also shown interest in the UAV.
Japanese F-2 fighter jet loses canopy during interception
On 10 October 2021, a Mitsubishi F-2 fighter of the Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) lost its canopy mid-flight during an interception. The fighter jet involved in the incident belongs to the 6th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 8th Air Wing, housed at Tsuiki Air Base, northeast of Kyushu island. Two F-2s had been scrambled from the base and were on their way to intercept a foreign aircraft potentially trespassing the Japanese airspace.
Five minutes after take-off, as it was flying over the mountains near the city of Asakura, the F-2 lost both its canopy made of aluminium and acrylic glass and weighing about 90 kilograms (200 pounds) and an emergency ladder of about 480 grams (1 pound). As a consequence, the fighter turned around and landed back at Tsuiki Air Base around 15 minutes after the incident. The pilot was not injured. Another aircraft was scrambled as a replacement to help carry out the interception. No damages on the ground were reported, the Japanese Ministry of Defence told the news agency Jiji Press after an emergency team was sent to recover the fallen parts. Upon inspection, a scratch was found on the vertical fin of the fighter jet. The whole fleet of Mitsubishi F-2 fighters of the JASDF will be checked for abnormalities.
Air Algerie loss of altitude at Paris Orly detailed by investigators
French accident investigators have detailed a serious incident involving an Air Algerie flight that lost altitude during a go-around at Paris Orly (ORY) airport. In its final report published 12 October 2021, the Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses (BEA) cited startle effect, a hybrid use of automatic systems, a missed approach procedure requiring high workload and a breakdown in crew cooperation in the incident, as factors that led to the plane deviating from its expected path. The Boeing 737-800, registered 7T-VJM, was approaching runway 25 at ORY at around 11h15 am on 6 December 2019. The flight was cleared to land, but when the aircraft was at 477 feet altitude, equivalent to a height of 193 feet above the ground, the controller ordered the plane to go around due to a vehicle erroneously triggering a warning from a runway incursion system.
The pilots had already disconnected all the automatics in preparation for a manual landing. Upon being told to go around, they pressed the TO/GA (Take-off/go-around) button and pulled the plane’s nose up. However, because the auto-throttle was disengaged, the plane did not apply the required thrust needed to go around. The crew then manually pushed the thrust levels forward. Due to the inertia of the jet and the time it takes engines to spool up, the plane descended to a height of just 73 feet (22 meters) above the ground before climbing away. The crew engaged the auto-throttle, but not the autopilot. They started the left turn that is part of the missed approach procedure too late and turned sharply, triggering a warning that the plane was banking too much.
The plane then exceeded the missed approach altitude of 2,000 feet by 70 feet and the crew pushed the nose down, descending below 2,000 feet. The crew was cleared to climb to 3,000 feet by the controller, at which point they changed the selected altitude on the mode control panel. However, with the plane in a descent at the time, the plane’s computer selected the current descent rate of 1,100 feet per minute as the target. The flight director guidance system on the pilot’s primary display, therefore, indicated that the pilots should push the nose down to keep the plane descending at this rate.
The pilots followed the cues from the flight director for some 20 seconds. The controller, spotting the descent, contacted the crew three times and the aircraft’s ground proximity warning system also sounded an alarm. The crew stopped the descent at 1,300 feet and levelled the plane off, accelerating to 292 knots, above the speed limit of 250 knots in place under 10,000 feet. They then resumed the climb and levelled off at 3,000 feet before making an uneventful second approach. The BEA report also noted that the investigation was hampered by the lack of cockpit voice recording from the incident or the inability to collect precise statements from the crew.
Cessna 340 crash in California destroys two houses
At least two houses were destroyed and multiple others damaged after a Cessna 340 crashed in the city of Santee near San Diego, California. According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, two fatalities are confirmed. One of them was the driver of a UPS truck that has been hit by the plane. Two more people were transported to the hospital. Local media reports that the aircraft was preparing to land at Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport (MYF), around noon on 11 October 2021. It crashed less than one kilometre from the runway. According to Aviation Safety Network, the aircraft, a Cessna 340A, registered N7022G belonged to Samarth Aviation LLC and departed from Yuma International Airport (YUM). An unconfirmed recording of an air traffic controller (ATC) and the pilot of the aircraft was obtained by KGTV, a local TV channel. According to the recording, the ATC issued multiple low-altitude warnings and urged the pilot to climb to 5,000 feet right before the crash. TV also posted what appears to be a security camera recording showing an aircraft plunging into the suburb and erupting in flames.
Russian parachuting aircraft crash kills 16
A Let L-410 crashed over the weekend, killing 16 and wounding six. The incident adds to the type’s troubled safety record, this being the fifth incident through 2021. The aircraft came down near Menzelinsky while carrying 20 parachutists and two crew members. It has been owned and operated by an aeroclub that routinely hosted events, including world and Euro championships, according to club manager Ravil Nurmukhametov. Initial statements from local Russian news agency RIA Novosti said local authorities suspect engine malfunction. However, this remains to be seen as previous incidents throughout the post-soviets have often been caused by crew error. Russian investigators have launched a criminal probe into possible violations of safety rules. Rustam Minnikhanov, Governor of Tatarstan, said the pilots had reported an engine failure and requested an emergency landing shortly after taking off. He reported the plane trying to avoid a nearby residential area on its final approach, but ‘the altitude did not allow this’. The aircraft came to a rest after colliding with a parked van, rolling multiple times. The emergencies ministry reported six people were rescued, now in serious condition.
Russia’s aviation safety record has been the target of reforms in recent history, as they have struggled to eliminate the stigma of passenger travel throughout the region. IATA reported increases in the jet hull loss rate throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States from 2017 to 2020, topping out at 2.21 losses per million sectors. However, the hull loss rate for turboprop aircraft has varied from 27.27 in 2016, to 8.19 only two years later. A mix of extreme northern weather conditions, aging aircraft and spotty safety considerations in distant rural locales all contribute to incidents.
Where do major US carriers stand on COVID-19 vaccination mandates for employees?
In September 2021, the Biden administration unveiled a detailed national strategy to combat COVID-19.
Included in that plan was a vaccination requirement for federal workers and contractors that do business with the federal government. Most, if not all, US carriers provide special flights, transport government employees, provide cargo hauling and other services for the government, meaning they are considered government contractors. This means these carriers are covered by the Biden administration’s requirements to have employees be vaccinated by 8 December 2021. Over the past three months, carriers have laid out respective vaccination policies. Here is a summary of the major US carriers’ current policies regarding vaccination requirements for employees.
United Airlines: Among all the carriers, United Airlines has taken the hardest stance from the beginning, requiring all its employees to be vaccinated or face termination. In September 2021, the airline said that employees who were granted exemptions from getting vaccinations against COVID-19 for religious reasons will be put on unpaid leave. United gave its employees a deadline of 27 September 2021 to upload proof of vaccination, or face termination. United Airlines reported on 30 September 2021 that the number of unvaccinated staff then dropped from 593 to 320. According to the airline, 97% of their employees have followed the mandate.
Alaska Airlines started off with positive reinforcement, announcing in September 2021 that vaccinated employees of Alaska and Horizon Air will be rewarded with a $200 bonus. By October 2021, the airline shifted its policy, telling its 22,000 Alaska and Horizon Air employees that they are required to get a COVID-19 vaccination as per the administration’s new rules.
American Airlines employees have been given until 24 November 2021 to get themselves vaccinated if they wish to continue working for the airline. The airline accepts two exceptions from the policy though: religious and medical exemptions, which employees must apply and be approved for. To encourage vaccinations, the airline is giving newly vaccinated employees an extra paid vacation day and $50 in Nonstop Thanks points to US employees who submit their vaccine paperwork by the deadline.
Delta Air Lines among all major US carriers, Delta Air Lines is the only one remaining that has not made it mandatory for its employees to get vaccinated. In August 2021, the airline advised its employees that beginning November 2021, employees who are unvaccinated will be charged a $200 monthly fee to help maintain costs associated with preventing the spread of Coronavirus among its workforce. Delta has not changed its policy nor introduced a new one that has made vaccination mandatory. When asked whether the company may consider a mandatory vaccination policy for its employees, a Delta Air Lines spokesperson said, “Delta’s approach to encourage a high rate of employee vaccinations continues to work, with an 84% workforce vaccination rate and climbing daily.”
Southwest Airlines was another airline that rewarded its employees for getting jabbed. In September 2021, the airline introduced new incentives for employees who can show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Through a company memo, Southwest said that staff who can upload their proof of vaccination by 15 November 2021 will get 16 hours of pay. Pilots and flight attendants on the other hand, will receive pay for 13 trip segments. However, in October 2021 Southwest announced that it is now requiring its 56,000 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they wish to continue working for the airline. The staff have been given a deadline of 8 December 2021 to provide proof of vaccination.
Hawaiian Airlines In August 2021, Hawaiian Airlines sent a memo to its employees, announcing that it requires its US-based staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Employees will need to be vaccinated by 1 November 2021. Those who apply for medical and religious exemptions, if eligible, will have to be tested regularly.
Regional carriers While these major US carriers are racing against the deadline of 8 December 2021 to get all their employees vaccinated, some of the smaller, regional carriers that fly under the names of major US airlines still have not made the call to make vaccination a requirement for their staff. “I am concerned that if in the hypothetical we were to mandate a vaccination and there were other job opportunities that did not mandate vaccines some employees would leave,” commented Jonathan Ornstein, CEO of Mesa Air Group (which flies for American and United), expressing his concerns to CNBC. While Ornstein describes the rules as ‘somewhat murky’ he also said that executives are awaiting more clarity on the rules from federal officials and lawyers and that the carrier will comply with federal mandates.
Southwest Airlines disruptions continue with more than 300 flights cancelled
Southwest Airlines’ operations continue to suffer as the airline cancelled a further 360 flights on 11 October 2021. This follows a worrying weekend (9 – 10 October 2021), which saw more than 1,000 flights cancelled. According to FlightAware, a site that tracks commercial flights, in addition to the 360 cancelled flights, which accounts for 10% of the carrier’s daily flight numbers, more than 800 flights were delayed. To date, more than 2,200 flights have been cancelled by the airline and approximately 2,800 have been delayed.
There has been much speculation across social media with some members of the public suggesting that operations were disrupted due to employees protesting against the airline’s recent vaccination mandate. However, Southwest Airlines (LUV) continues to stand by its official statement that operational disruptions were ‘primarily created by weather and other external constraints’.
On 11 October 2021, the airline issued a public apology and an official statement:
“Southwest Airlines extends a tremendous apology to our customers and employees for the flight cancellations and delays which occurred over the weekend and on Monday. On Friday evening, the airline ended the day with numerous cancellations, primarily created by weather and other external constraints, which left aircraft and crews out of pre-planned positions to operate our schedule on Saturday. Unfortunately, the out of place aircraft and continued strain on our crew resources created additional cancelations across our point-to-point network that cascaded throughout the weekend and into Monday. Southwest Teams have been working diligently to restore stability to the network and we are experiencing less disruptions on Monday. We hope to restore our full schedule as soon as possible. As a note, the operational challenges were not a result of Southwest Employee demonstrations.”
NetJets purchases 100 Phenom 300s
After record contract utilisation by existing fractional owners, NetJets is going ahead with another purchase agreement similar to its 2010 deal with Embraer. Their newest agreement buys up to 100 additional Phenom 300 aircraft, in excess of $1.2 billion. Deliveries are expected to start in the second quarter of 2023 in the US and Europe. The Phenom has been a favourite of the NetJets fleet, with 102 of the type, a sizable proportion of their 760-strong total across all models.
While 2020 was not particularly kind to passenger airlines, business aviation has seen increased demand, with total flight hours set to close 2021 5% greater than their 2019 equivalent. The growing pains brought on by the influx of new owners came to a head last summer. In July, the company announced a number of changes aimed at maintaining its levels of service in the face of increased demand. Subsidiary company Executive Jet Management assisted in providing flex aircraft and crews when necessary and NetJets paused new buyers of their Card Programme.
New maintenance facilities in San Jose, Denver and Dallas, increased dispatch reliability and shortened turnaround time. While owners of the world’s largest private fleet, the increasing demand for aircraft throughout their network was still outstripping supply. In 2020, they added more than 30 new jets, exhausted production capacity of some OEM partners and paused aircraft disposals. For prospective customers hoping for a slot to open up on their waitlist, this could be just the news they have been waiting for.
Honeywell forecasts strong business aviation growth
According to Honeywell’s Global Business Aviation Outlook for the next 10 years, business aviation ‘has almost completely shaken off the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic’. The Honeywell forecast helps set the tone for NBAA-BACE, which officially begins on Tuesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Honeywell forecast shows an uptick in virtually all sectors and growth through 2031 at an average rate of about three percent. “Despite the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, flight hours have recovered and grown beyond pre-pandemic levels,” said Heath Patrick, president of Honeywell’s Americas aftermarket division. “The overall health of the business jet market is strong and growth is expected to continue.”
The strength of the industry is reflected in the robust market for used aircraft and that is going to end up being a backhanded boost to airframers. “The sharp increase in demand for used jets, coupled with a lower-than-ever inventory of used aircraft available for sale, will inevitably drive additional demand for new-build business jets,” the forecast says. Respondents also said the pandemic is a non-issue in their plans. “Nearly 100% of 2021 respondents said that they had not cancelled and do not plan to cancel a delivery on a new aircraft.” North America continues to be the top market for business aviation with almost two-thirds of demand for new aircraft coming from North America in the next five years. Europe accounts for most of the remainder.
NBAA 2021: Garmin G5000 Flight Deck
Garmin earned an STC for retrofitting its G5000 integrated avionics suite in the Cessna Citation Excel/XLS, an upgrade that gives these workhorses a sizable boost in capability and resale value. Larry Anglisano caught up with Garmin’s Dave Brown at the NBAA-BACE 2021 convention in Las Vegas for a product tour.
Blackhawk Aerospace launches PC-12 engine upgrade programme
Announced at the 2021 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE), Blackhawk Aerospace said that it is working on an engine upgrade programme for some Pilatus PC-12s. Once the supplemental type certificate (STC) has been approved, the XP67P Engine+ Upgrade programme will replace the stock Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B engine found on legacy PC-12s with a factory-new PT6A-67P. The -67P, which has higher internal turbine temperature (ITT) limitations and produces 142 more thermodynamic horsepower than the -67B, will increase the aircraft’s power and performance including allowing the PC-12 to maintain full power to 23,000 feet.
According to market research conducted by Blackhawk, there are currently 1,700 PC-12 models in operation, more than 600 of which will be eligible for the XP67P upgrade. Flight testing is expected to begin in early 2022. Blackhawk is targeting the first quarter of 2023 for STC completion and estimates that the upgrade will be priced at around $800,000.
IATA launches CEIV lithium battery certification programme
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched a new industry certification programme Center of Excellence for Independent Validators Lithium Battery, to improve the safe handling and transport of lithium batteries across the supply chain. Shipments of lithium batteries (alone or with finished products) must comply with well-established global safety standards for how they are manufactured, tested, packed, marked, labelled and documented. These requirements are a key element of the IATA Lithium Battery Shipping Regulations (LBSR) and of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) which combine regulatory and operational input from industry and government experts. CEVA Logistics is the first CEIV Lithium Battery certification for its operations at Hong Kong International Airport and at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, following an extensive period of piloting.
Camera buff released after La Guardia security incident
The man at the center of the emergency taxiway evacuation of an American Eagle flight at La Guardia on Saturday was a vintage camera buff whose in-flight preoccupation with his hobby was misinterpreted by a seatmate. The unidentified passenger spent part of the flight looking at websites and watching videos about old cameras and a woman sitting near him thought he was looking at bomb-making sites. When he pulled a camera from his carry-on and started changing the settings on it, she reported him to a flight attendant. The flight crew declared an emergency and ordered the aircraft evacuated on a taxiway as soon as they had cleared the runway. After he had gone down the slide with his fellow passengers, the camera buff was tackled face first to the asphalt by two firefighters. He was arrested and taken into custody and the real story emerged to authorities. After a couple of hours of talking with local police and federal agents, he was free to go. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force, the FBI and the Port Authority Police Department determined that there was no criminality on the part of the passenger and he was released,” Port Authority spokesman Tom Topousis said.
Boeing showcases state-of-the-art Arctic drone technology in Denmark
In mid-October, UAS Denmark Test Center, one of Northern Europe’s leading hubs for drone technology development, is hosting ArcticX2021, a large-scale international demonstration of a new high-tech surveillance system for remote monitoring of the Arctic. The system has been developed by the IDG consortium with participation from, amongst others, Boeing’s drone company, Insitu. Aircraft and drone manufacturer Boeing and several other international companies are taking over HCA Airport in Odense, Denmark. On 13 and 14 October, Boeing’s drone subsidiary Insitu and the other partners in the IDG consortium presented a new, high-tech surveillance system, IRSA, for remote monitoring of the Arctic. Drones will form a crucial element of the IRSA project’s Arctic monitoring system and we are proud that our ScanEagle and Integrator systems have the range, endurance and payload to play that role. We are grateful for the excellent support we have received from HCA Airport and UAS Denmark, and it is great to feel Denmark’s strong focus on drone technology,” said Dave Funkhouser, Insitu’s Director of International Business Development.
Drones controlled remotely from the US
IRSA stands for Integrated Remote Sensing for the Arctic and is a system for the remote monitoring and reconnaissance of hard-to-reach areas in the Arctic region. IRSA integrates technologies such as drones, satellites, aircraft and underwater vehicles, including four different types of drone vehicles: High Altitude Long Endurance UAS (HALE), Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAS (MALE), Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA) and Small UAS. Both drones and underwater vehicles are designed to operate unmanned over long periods of time, as well as over long distances. This means that the IRSA system’s technologies can work together to solve a wide range of tasks in otherwise difficult-to-access areas, such as on search missions, for oil spill detection and during oil and gas field inspection. To underline the system’s applicability, the drones involved in the ArcticX2021 exercise will be remotely piloted from Insitu’s control centre in the US.
Funen has become a hotspot for drones
In recent years, Funen has built a strong ecosystem of drone and robotics technology and has emerged as one of Scandinavia’s leading hotspots for the development of new drone technologies. A recent analysis from September 2021 shows that the drone industry on Funen has grown by 150 percent since 2017 and the partners behind UAS Denmark test center expect further growth in the industry in the coming years.
Autel releases lightweight Evo Lite, nano drones
Autel robotics announced their newest evolution in the Evo Drone series last Monday, bringing to market more weight-conscious offerings in the Evo Lite and Evo Nano. This could be a shot across the bow for industry favourites from competitor DJI, aimed at their Air 2S and Mini 2 drones. The carbon-legged Evo Lite weighs a scant 1.8 pounds (820g) and offers a one-inch CMOS sensor and 4-axis gimbal for its improved camera. Autel notes enhanced night photography using the adjustable aperture and moonlight algorithms, good for 50mp photos and 6K video at 30 frames per second. The Evo Lite enjoys similar battery life to its Evo II and Pro stablemates, an estimated 40 minutes of flight time.
The packable Evo Nano weighs an even lighter 0.55 lbs (249g) yet brings a half-inch CMOS sensor capable of 48mp photos. Integrated autofocus and HDR modes allow for rapid, detailed photos and sharp 4k video at 30 fps. The flyweight size still manages a lively 28 minutes of flight and a first-in-its-class obstacle avoidance system usually reserved for larger, heavier drones.
Both models leverage Autel’s suite of apps and hardware for content creation, sharing and direction on the fly. With the SkyLink system, users enjoy a transmission range of 6.2 miles and constant 2.7k/30fps HD video link with better signal retention than past models. For those solo operators looking for the perfect tracking shot, Skyportrait software allows for dynamic subject following for vehicles, people, or animals in motion. Pricing and retail availability to be announced.
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