“Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual” Terry Pratchett
African Pilot’s aircraft of the week identification quiz
This is the final APAnews for 2020. African Pilot’s staff will be going on leave and we will re-open the office on Monday 4 January 2021, when APAnews will resume twice per week. On behalf of African Pilot, I would like to wish you all a happy festive season and a safe New Year.
200ft cloud Base and 550 meters RVR
African Pilot’s January 2021 edition
The January edition will go into international circulation this week. This edition features Professional Aviation Services in terms of aircraft and pilot insurance as well as aircraft financing and other aviation financial services. Advertisers can now see the benefits of marketing their products and services to a vast international aviation audience including short videos, picture galleries and actual virtual shops, they will realise that marketing is most important for future profitability. In South Africa and the African continent, African Pilot is the only aviation publication that has purchased the latest 3D software to provide digital enhancement to any advertiser anywhere in the world. At the same time African Pilot is also the only aviation magazine that is easy to read on any digital smart device, because our team understands the importance of ensuring the ease of use in this ‘new normal’ digital age. It is now obvious that ALL other aviation publications are attempting to copy what African Pilot has pioneered, but this was to be expected. However, at least African Pilot publishes correct aviation information such as the calendar of events on a regular basis.
African Pilot’s February 2021 edition
The February edition of African Pilot will feature Piston engine aircraft over 600 Kg as well as the piston engines and propellers that power these aircraft. In 2021 we decided to no longer feature the major South African General Aviation airports, mainly due to the new international nature of the magazine. Instead, I will be featuring many of the smaller airfields and flying clubs at these airfields. Some of these airports have remarkable histories as well as colourful pilots that are building interesting aircraft. The idea is to expose more about sport and recreational aviation within South Africa as well as the rest of the world.
The material deadline for the February 2021 edition is on Friday 22 January 2021.
All editorial content should be sent to me Athol Franz e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For advertising positions please contact Adrian Munro
Tel: 0861 001130 Cell: 079 880 4359 or e-mail: email@example.com
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Video of the week:
View and download African Pilot’s last three (3) 2020 editions.
Click on the covers below.
Launch of Wouter Botes’ e-book ‘Flights to Nowhere’
Wouter Botes’ E-book on Flight to Nowhere is available by visiting www.africanpilot.co.za and click on the button provided on the home page. We have provided an option for payment of R60 per download on the page.
AERO South Africa news
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SOUTH AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
CAASA 2020 awards staged at CAASA House Lanseria International Airport
As a result of a long hard year in which the COVID-19 pandemic disallowed gatherings exceeding 50 people under the government regulations, it was with considerable relief that the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa decided to undertake the 2020 awards function in real time. I always enjoy my visits to CAASA House at Lanseria International Airport, but this year’s awards ceremony staged on the afternoon of Friday 11 December was especially special as many CAASA members enjoyed to South African sunshine and facilities at the airport. As always with his exceptionally ‘dry sense of humour’ CEO Leon Dillman and the CAASA team ensured that this year’s event was manged exceptionally well. Thank you to ExecuJet for sponsoring this years’ CAASA awards, which included a delicious braai and free liquid refreshments.
A visit to Petit airfield
On Sunday 13 December I drove to Petit airfield to attend a hastily staged fly-in to show the Kitplanes For Africa video series that is presently being broadcast on DSTV. Petit airfield is situated north east of Benoni and is surrounded by farmlands. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many pilots arrived and all the time the circuit was busy with small planes taking off, overflying and landing. Stefan founder of KFA and his team had set up breakfast refreshments – thank you. It was an ideal opportunity to meet several of the local pilots and view the aircraft they were building. Thank you to everyone who made the effort to enjoy this delightful airfield, which soon will be owned by a consortium of its residents.
Des Barker receives another international award
Retired South African Air Force (SAAF) major general Des Barker added another award to his impressive list of achievements when the Herman R Salmon Technical Publications Award was presented to him by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP). Barker won the award for ‘Flight Test Report: Focke Wulf Piaggio P149D-Turbo Prop’ published in the SETP quarterly journal Cockpit as 2020’s best technical paper.
SETP is an international organisation that seeks to promote air safety and contributes to aeronautical advancement by promoting sound aeronautical design and development; interchanging ideas, thoughts and suggestions of members, assisting in the professional development of experimental pilots as well as providing scholarships and aid to members and the families of deceased members.
In June 2019, Barker became only the second South African to be named an honorary fellow of the prestigious Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS). The Society is an international, multi-disciplinary professional institution dedicated to the global aerospace community with more than twenty-two thousand members. In the 101 years the Honorary Fellowship title has been awarded since the first in 1917, only 191 Honorary Fellowships have been awarded. Other awards Barker holds are from the SAAF, the European Airshow Council 2011 Paul Bowen Award, the Jock Maitland Sword of Honour 2018 and The Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Guillaumaud Trophy 2012. Having retired from the SAAF in 2017 Barker joined the CSIR. He was the contract research and development manager at its defence, peace, safety and security (DPSS) division until he finally retired.
South Africa’s new domestic airline, Lift started flights on Thursday (10 December) as it aims to carve out space in an industry that has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. The low-cost carrier will offer two routes as part of its initial offering: Johannesburg to Cape Town and Johannesburg to George. The airline is owned by Johannesburg-based leasing company Global Airways and will operate three Airbus SE A320 jets on these routes.
Co-founder Gidon Novick told Bloomberg that the airline is looking to take advantage of plunging start-up costs due to an oversupply of planes due to the collapse in demand and low oil prices. “The opportunity is here now to go into the consumer airline space, especially given the current environment,” he said. “The current cost structures are about 40% lower than what it would have cost to start an airline before the pandemic.”
The new airline’s staff are kitted out by the online fashion retailer Superbalist and travellers are treated to coffee from Vida e Caffè on morning flights. Afternoon flights feature wine tasting from a selection of South Africa’s top wineries, which Novick said will give valuable exposure to South Africa’s top wine farms.
Ticket prices start at R525, but Novick said he expects these prices to increase as demand for flights grows. “Prices will go up. There is currently an oversupply in the market which drives prices down. That will change over time,” he said. Novick has said that the new airline is not planning to engage in a price war with other domestic airlines like Kulula and FlySafair. “Cutting prices is not a sustainable strategy. It is easy to do, but everyone will then lose money.” He said that customers’ payments will be kept in a separate structure until after the flights have been flown, to avoid them losing money in the event the airline goes bust. This is a departure from industry norms globally, he said. “It is our basic belief that customers should not fund airlines and neither should governments,” he said. “No rational argument has been put forward that gives anybody confidence that it is necessary to put money into SAA that should have been invested in social projects and health care.”
How the SACAA got it all wrong again!
The full statement made on the regulator’s website has been ‘pulled and apparently was an entertaining read. Here is an excerpt from the script:
‘Publicity should not supersede and dictate operational requirements. That would be a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. As much as the move of introducing a new airline is celebrated and encouraged by the SACAA, there are rules to abide by. It cannot be right that anyone can secure an aircraft, chose a catchy name, sell tickets and just take to the skies without all the necessary documentation in place. Such a move would border on being reckless and match characteristics of a miscreant with little regard for laws. If that is the type of behaviour we would allow, then there should be nothing stopping Vuyo’s Cross Border Trucks or Vuyo’s Long Distance Taxis to start flying tomorrow as FlyVuyo Airways. If that happens, we will have to adapt and adopt a suitable fruit name for our country and no longer refer to it as the Republic of South Africa.’
On Thursday afternoon the SACAA issued a statement on LIFT operations:
‘It has come to our attention that a rough draft of a holding statement regarding LIFT was erroneously placed on the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) website. The SACAA can confirm that LIFT complies with the requirements necessary to operate and is in possession of all the essential permits and certificates. We apologise for any embarrassment caused to LIFT.’
In the title of this saga, I was being polite to the SACAA. Unfortunately, this situation is mind-boggling, that the regulator can publish a rubbish statement on its official website. We all know that there are profoundly serious problems at the SACAA with respect to undertaking the various tasks required of the regulator, but this latest incident shows that many of the operatives employed at the SACAA are like ‘children playing in an adult world!’ Of course, Lift Airline and Global Aviation would have the right to instigate a serious law suite, but all this would achieve would be further victimisation from the SACAA.
Terminal buildings at three international airports will be open to the public
From Monday, 7 December 2020 Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) announced that terminal buildings at three international airports are now open to members of the public since. COVID-19 protocols have until now required that only passengers in possession of a ticket be given access terminal buildings. On Thursday 3 December, the Department of Transport notified ACSA that regulations had been revised to allow for general access to airport terminals.
Fundi Sithebe, Chief Operating Officer of Airports Company South Africa, says the move to open terminal buildings is part of a process of gradual easing of restrictions that the company has followed since domestic flying re-started in June. Airports that have already opened terminal buildings for members of the public are OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport and King Shaka International Airport. General terminal access for regional airports: Port Elizabeth International, East London Airport, George Airport, Bram Fischer International, Kimberley Airport and Upington International will not be opened immediately. Since the opening of air travel under lockdown Airports Company South Africa gave a guarantee that the re-opening of airports will be done in the most responsible manner and with the priority being our passengers’ health. Due to capacity constraints at regional airports and the difficulty for people to adhere to physical social distancing when running at full capacity, the decision to open for non-travellers will be reviewed at a later stage.
“We are pleased to be able to further relax the restrictions. This will benefit passengers and their friends and families. The change in terminal access requirements also provides the opportunity for airport retailers, restaurants and other concessionaires to begin recovering from the devastation their businesses have suffered since 27 March,” says Sithebe. “While ACSA has implemented rental relief and other steps for airport retailers and concessionaires, we believe the time is right to take further steps to support their recovery.” The company anticipates that passenger volumes in the upcoming holiday season will be considerably greater than experienced in the months since June, particularly as more airlines will be operating domestically during this period. “It is certainly safe to fly, but the constrained economic circumstances of many South Africans mean that domestic air travel will perhaps be about half of what it was in the 2019 holiday season.
“For international travel, the change in Level 1 regulations is most welcome and our international airports are geared to facilitate more passengers from other countries. However, we recognise that the countries that are our greatest sources of tourists are experiencing significant increases in COVID-19 infections and it may be challenging for people to travel from those countries,” says Sithebe. She says that ACSA appreciates that some of the airport protocols in place since June have been inconvenient but that protecting the health of everyone who uses an airport while still facilitating flights has been and remains the company’s priority. Sithebe emphasises that opening terminal buildings to the public will be accompanied by the continued application of COVID-19 protocols. Masks, hand sanitisation and physical distancing will be enforced in terminal buildings, including at retail, food and car hire outlets. Temperature screening and sanitisation will take place at entrances to terminals.
Interim SAA board announced
The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) has announced an interim six-member South African Airways (SAA) board as the airline prepares to relaunch in 2021. The persons names are Geoff Qhena 9chairman), Peter Tshisevhe, June Crawford, Bembe Zwane, Professor Edna van Harte and Nick Fadugba. The DPE said the are expected to restore proper governance and oversight of the airline during the implementation of a business rescue plan.
Qhena is a qualified Chartered Account and a seasoned finance executive. He is a former Chief Executive Officer of the Industrial Development Corporation, where he was at the helm for 13 years.
Tshisevhe is a mergers and acquisitions lawyer with extensive experience in transaction advisory services. He is a director and partner at TGR Attorneys, a leading commercial law firm in Johannesburg. He is also a part-time lecturer at Wits University Law School. He has been retained from the previous board to provide continuity.
Crawford, who leads the Aviation Working Group of the South African Business Council, is a leading aviation and tourism leader and professional. She has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Board of Airlines Representatives of South Africa, director at the Air Traffic and Navigation Services and Deputy Chairperson of the Tourism Council of South Africa.
Zwane is an aviation entrepreneur who is a part-owner in an aviation training solutions provider, a car rental business and an aviation logistics business. She is a former executive at Imperial Logistics and Equity Aviation.
Professor Van Harte is an academic and former dean of the faculty of Military Science at the South African National Defence Force’s military academy at Saldanha Bay and former Chairperson of the Defence Service Commission. She has served on various boards and commissions.
Nick Fadugba is an aviation professional with many years in consulting and promoting aviation development on the African continent, including leading the African Airlines Association. He has served as the Chairperson of African Business Aviation Association and has been involved in discussions on a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
Aero Club support
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.
Picture of the week
What is scheduled for the next few months?
African Pilot’s 2021 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.
Witbank Aeronautical Association fun rally and fly-in
More information at: www.speedrally.co.za
SAPFA Rand Airport challenge
Contact Frank Eckard E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 083 269 1516
SAPFA AGM also at Rand Airport after the rally
Contact Rob Jonkers e-mail: email@example.com cell: 082 804 7032
30 & 31 January
Sport Aerobatics Club Gauteng Regionals Vereeniging Airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SAPFA Witbank Speed Rally at Witbank Airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 855 9435
6 & 7 March
Sport Aerobatics Club Judges Trophy Venue TBA
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
12 & 13 March
Bethlehem Aero Club event TBA
Contact Stephan Fourie E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 072 344 9678
19 and 20 March
FASHKOSH airshow at Stellenbosch airfield
Contact: Anton Theart E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 079 873 4567
* Postponed indefinitely
22 to 25 March
HAI Helicopter Association International La Nouvelle New Orleans Los Angeles USA
Contact E-mail: email@example.com
22 to 26 March
Flight Inspection Symposium (IFIS) and Trade Show ICC Convention Centre Durban
Contact Christo van Straaten (IFIS chair) Tel: 011 545 100 Cell: 083 451 2632 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
24 to 26 March
CAASA AAD Trade Show Lanseria International Airport
Contact Louise Olckers (GM) Cell: +27 (0)82 847 3403
SAPFA Brakpan Fun Rally at Brakpan Airport
Contact Frank Eckard, E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 269 1516
26 & 27 March
Uitenhage Wings and Wheels
Contact Lourens Kruger E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 320 2615
As further dates are sent to me, I will continue to update the aviation calendar.
AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
France to supply further Epsilon trainers to Senegal
In 2021 Senegal’s Air Force will take delivery of a further three TB-30 Epsilon piston-engine trainers from France. According to Air & Cosmos, which reported this emerged during the 13 November visit to Senegal by Chief of Staff of the French Air and Space Force, General Philippe Lavigne. Lavigne also visited the Air Force School at Thies, 70 kilometres from Dakar, to see how G5 Sahel countries are strengthening their air forces. The General met with Air Brigadier General Papa Souleymane Sarr and discussed support for the development of aviation in Senegal and the G5 Sahel countries. The Socata TB 30 Epsilon is a light tandem seat military trainer aircraft that first flew on 22 December 1979. It is powered by a Lycoming O-540 piston engine giving a maximum speed of 380 km/h. Its largest operator is the French Air Force, but it has also been exported to Portugal and Togo.
WORLDWIDE ACCIDENTS AND INCIDENTS
Five dead after rescue helicopter crashes in Alps
A helicopter crash in the Alps left five people dead and a sixth (the pilot) in a critical condition, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Tuesday. Three other helicopters were dispatched on a rescue mission but were unable to reach the site of the accident due to fog. Nevertheless, a rescue team had managed to establish contact with the one surviving passenger. The local prefecture reported that the accident happened near the community of Bonvillard shortly after the pilot triggered an alarm. The search and rescue helicopter was carrying out a training mission when it went down at 1,800 meters (5,905 feet). The pilot was able to eject before alerting the local authorities to the incident.
The SAF is a private company specialising in medical evacuations and deployments in skiing areas. It is believed that the survivor is an employee of the company. France’s air accident bureau announced that it was opening an investigation into the accident and would send a team to the site.
Severe weather conditions blamed for Jet2 Boeing 737 runway incursion
A Boeing 737 aircraft belonging to Jet2, a British low-cost carrier, experienced a serious runway incursion due to very gusty weather conditions. On 9 February 2020, a Jet2 Boeing 737-800, registered as G-DRTN, was scheduled to complete a regular flight from East Midlands, the UK to Tenerife, Spain when the Commander decided to abort the take-off after the aircraft had already reached the recommended speed limit. As the initial report showed, the incident occurred when the aircraft was accelerating for take-off from East Midlands Airport (EMA) in gusty weather conditions while carrying 193 passengers and six crew members onboard.
On 10 December 2020, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) of the United Kingdom released a bulletin regarding the investigation of the incident. The AAIB concluded that on the day of the incident, as a result of Storm Ciara, the weather conditions at EMA airport presented strong gusts of wind. As the weather forecast indicated, the speed of the wind reached 32 knots (59 km/h) with gusts of 45 knots (83 km/h). During the crew briefing, the Captain of the aircraft initially decided that he would take-off despite the thorny weather conditions.
As the surface of the runway at EMA airport was wet, the plane was limited to a 25 knot (46 km/h) crosswind component for a take-off. Following further discussion, the First Officer informed the Commander that the guidance of the airline allowed him to use the same climate limits as the Commander. Taking into account the weather conditions, the airport decided to stop using high-lift vehicles, which are used to help People with Reduced Mobility (PRM) to board the aircraft. In response, the Commander anticipated that there would be many difficulties that would consume his attention in preparation for departure and decided to delegate the preparation process for take-off to the First Officer in order to be able to focus on other matters.
During the cabin briefing, the flight crew also discussed the possible actions for the Shear Wind Escape Manoeuvre (Windshear) and a Rejected Take-off (RTO) performance in case of various wind stages. While the aircraft was refuelled more than planned, the flight crew decided to taxi to the end of the runway and wait for clearance for take-off. Regarding the relatively stable wind direction, the flight crew counted that the maximum wind speed and the direction, which was 210⁰ to 29 knots, would give a 25 knots side wind component.
As the aircraft approached the waiting point for Runway 27, the flight crew received clearance for take-off. Meanwhile, the plane experienced a wind of 220⁰ to 32 knots that was at the counted limit and the flight crew applied the take-off thrust. Then, at 120 knots (222 km/h), after the Commander noticed a transient decrease in airspeed between 10 and 15 knots, he warned the First Officer. When the aircraft accelerated again, the Commander decided to continue the approach.
The investigation found out that during the approach V1 with a speed reaching 134 knots (248 km/h) the aircraft drifted dramatically from the central line to the right. The commander estimated that the deviation reached between 20 ° and 30 ° heading. After noticing a major downward trend in the airspeed indicator, the Commander decided that the First Officer’s attempts to control the course were ineffective. Following Jet2’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), the Commander took control of the aircraft and performed the take-off rejection (RTO).
After the RTO, the plane stopped in the center of the runway between taxi lanes M and H, with approximately 600 meters to go. Meanwhile, the Commander made a public announcement to alert the cabin crew. Then the flight crew informed the Air Traffic Control (ATC) about the decision to clear the runway while suggesting ATC to inspect the runway as the Commander was concerned that the plane could have hit sidelights of the runway.
As soon as ATC granted permission, the flight crew decided to return to the ramp where the aircraft was shut down normally. An engineering investigation showed that during the incident the aircraft suffered fourth wheel and brake unit damage. As noticed in the AAIB bulletin, the damaged brake unit was replaced as well as all wheels and tyres.
The Quick Access Recorder (QAR) registered that almost immediately after the moment when the airspeed dropped from 142 to 129 knots, the aircraft changed its course to the right. The AAIB clarified that between the V1 and the beginning of RTO, the plane turned to the right at 8 °. Once the RTO was started, the aircraft quickly turned left about 14 ° before returning to the center line of the runway. Around the beginning of the RTO, there were substantial changes in lateral g-force, proportional to the rapid changes in direction.
The human factor
The Boeing 737 G-DRTN involved in the incident was equipped with a preventive wind detection system, which should warn the flight crew by an audible alert in the cockpit in case the aircraft is below 2,300 feet in altitude. However, the flight crew did not receive any predictive wind warning or warning during take-off.
The AAIB analysed that the weather conditions during the incident were severe and the aircraft was being operated to the limits of Jet2’s documentation. Regarding the guidance of Jet2, before deciding who should operate the aircraft, the Commander must take wind, pilot experience, track width and surface conditions into account. The AAIB noticed that the First Officer had three times as many hours of work as the Commander and was more familiar with the airport. This means that the First Officer was also allowed to operate within the same limits as the Commander.
In addition, the AAIB noticed that after the airspeed decreased while the aircraft was passing V1, there was a noticeable change in lateral g-force and the Commander was concerned that the plane might leave the runway. The authority explained that the reduction in the wind during the incident changed the ratio of the airspeed and travelled distance along the runway in an unpredictable way. In this case, in addition to the wind, the Commander noticed the aircraft moving away from the center line immediately after V1.
The AAIB concluded that the Commander of the G-DRTN, ‘had a great deal of work managing the take-off and, to give himself time, decided that the copilot should take off’, read in the authority’s bulletin. In addition, the very strong wind was the main reason for the reduction of 13 knots in the airspeed while the crosswind during the take-off made the plane deviate to the right. The possibility that the aircraft might leave the runway forced the Commander to start RTO immediately after the V1 despite that the standard procedures (SOP) oblige the flight crew to continue the take-off when V1 is reached. In this case, the aircraft stopped on the runway with 600 meters of the runway remaining.
First flight bends homebuilt plane
The pilot reported that the flight was the first flight of the experimental amateur-built Zenith CH750. He was landing at the airport in Xenia, Ohio, when the accident occurred. He noted that he was lined up with the runway center line, that his airspeed was 60 mph and the tachometer registered 1,600 rpm, when he felt the right tyre touch the runway. “In an instant the left wing came down and the left tyre and axle were sheared off. The left wing contacted the runway and the plane skidded about 40 feet and came to a full stop.” The pilot said he used a higher landing airspeed since he had been told by other builders of that airplane that he needed to land with speed “so as not get near the stall speed as this aircraft does have leading edge slats and this equates to a high lift wing.”
The pilot stated that the wind was calm, the altimeter setting was 30.12 inches, and the temperature was 55°F. The wind recorded at an airport eight miles north was from 200° at 12 knots. Post-accident examination of the airplane revealed that the left-wing tip was bent up, the nose landing gear ‘U’ channel was bent 90° and the skin around the left wing strut and landing gear attachment points were buckled. There were no reported preimpact anomalies with the airplane.
WORLD AVIATION NEWS
November orders and deliveries: Airbus and Boeing suffer on different levels
The end of the year usually means a flurry of activity for aircraft manufacturers, but the changed circumstances changed the rules of the game. Aircraft deliveries and orders for more are scarce and the latest data by Airbus and Boeing showcase that fact. However, suffering is different for both manufacturers. While one battled one crisis at a time, the other still had to combat two.
Airbus: dwindling orders and stable deliveries
The European manufacturer managed to be somewhat stable regarding its deliveries throughout the year. Airbus delivered 64 aircraft in November 2020, the latest Orders and Deliveries data showcases. Customers took delivery of 54 Airbus A320 family aircraft, split into: one Airbus A319 current engine option (ceo), one A321ceo that went to Tibet Airlines and Delta Air Lines respectively, while 52 A320neo / A321neo were delivered fresh to various airlines across the globe. Air Canada (ADH2) welcomed two Airbus A220-300 jets, rounding up the narrow-body segment to a total of 56 deliveries during the month. In October 2020, the European manufacturer shipped off 55 narrow-body aircraft, while a month prior, Airbus delivered 48 single-aisle jets to customers.
In the wide-body segment, the Toulouse-based manufacturer handed off eight aircraft: one Airbus A330-900neo and seven Airbus A350 aircraft. In total, 64 aircraft were delivered throughout the month. In October 2020 that number stood at 72 aircraft, while during the first month of fall, Airbus gave away 57 aircraft to airlines. No fresh orders were booked during the month of November. On the other hand, 11 additional orders were cancelled: if in October 2020 Airbus indicated it had 308 net orders, a month later the number changed to 297, as customers reshuffled their order books amidst the biggest crisis in aviation. It was reported that Airbus found new owners for six A320 Family aircraft that were rejected by the former customer.
Boeing: continuing pain
While Airbus had to manage the COVID-19 crisis, two crises weighed on Boeing heavily. Although a bright spot appeared when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ungrounded the 737 MAX in November 2020, activity was yet to reflect that. In total, Boeing delivered seven aircraft: four freighter aircraft, including one 747-8F, one P-8A Poseidon, based on the 737-800 NextGeneration (NG) and one Boeing 777-300ER to Novus Aviation Capital, which went to British Airways. British Airways took delivery of a fresh-built Boeing 777-300 on 6 November 2020, as a part of its order of four Triple Sevens. Two deliveries remain out of the original order of four aircraft.
In the Orders department, the US manufacturer booked two KC-46 orders from the Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF) and an additional 25 units of the Boeing 737 MAX from Virgin Australia; the airline that has recently exited bankruptcy proceedings. The Australian carrier restructured its previous order of 25 Boeing 737 MAX-10 and 23 737 MAX-8 aircraft, delivered from July 2021 and February 2025, respectively, to a sole order of 25 737 MAX-10 delivered from mid-2023. While Virgin Australia announced the switch in December 2020, Boeing booked the order in November 2020.
Boeing delivered no aircraft from its cash-cow segment, the 737 MAX or the 787 Dreamliner. While the former was ungrounded by the FAA on 18 November 2020, the latter has suffered from unfavourable market conditions. Nevertheless, Boeing delivered the first 737 MAX since its ungrounding to United Airlines on 8 December 2020.
Road to recovery: Virgin Atlantic to sell its Dreamliners
Virgin Atlantic is trying to raise up to £70 million by selling and leasing back its two Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The deal was made with the aircraft lessor Griffin Global Asset Management, in partnership with the private US investment firm Bain Capital. The proceeds from the sale-and-leaseback could also be used to pay for some of the debt after the airline’s recapitalization completed in September 2020. Virgin Atlantic, as an all-widebody airline, has been hit hard by closed borders and international flight restrictions. Around 3000 jobs were cut in the early stages of the pandemic and a further 1,150 jobs were cut in September 2020.
In August 2020, the carrier concluded a rescue deal worth up to £1.2 billion with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group injecting £200 million, as well as £400 million of shareholder deferrals and waivers. The company hopes that the deal will help to secure Virgin Atlantic’s future for at least 18 months and save 6,500 jobs at the airline. The company aimed to cut as much as £280 million in costs, as it has retired older aircraft, including seven Boeing 747s.
Embry-Riddle adds 17 new aircraft to its fleet
As demand for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s collegiate professional Aviation programmes continues to grow, the university has introduced 17 new aircraft to its training fleet. Since March 2020, 12 new Cessna 172 Nav III ‘Skyhawk’ aircraft, from Textron Aviation and three Diamond DA42 NG VI ‘Twin Star’ aircraft, from Diamond Aircraft Industries (Canada), have been added to the fleet at Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus. At the Daytona Beach Campus, one new Diamond and one new Cessna were added during the same timeframe. With these additions, the Prescott Campus’ Department of Flight now houses a total of 45 aircraft. The Daytona Beach Flight Department’s fleet includes 63 Cessnas and 11 Diamonds. Embry-Riddle’s most recent major fleet replenishment was announced in 2019. The university replenishes its fleet, which is about the size of a regional airline, across both residential campuses every seven years.
Indonesia eager to order Dassault Rafale jets by 2021
During a visit to Paris in January 2020, the Indonesian Minister of Defence Prabowo Subianto mentioned for the first time a potential acquisition of 48 units of the Dassault fighter jets to strengthen the ties with France and renew the Indonesian Air Force fleet. Currently, the force operates a mix of around 50 F-16 A/Bs and C/Ds, along with about 10 Russian Su-27SKM and Su-30 fighters. The order of French aircraft was also a way to make up for the failed acquisition of 11 Russian Su-35 Flanker E fighters. Initiated in 2018, the negotiations with Russia fell through over financing conditions. The acquisition of Russian fighter jets could have also muddied the relationship with the United States, an important trade partner for Indonesia.
Eurofighter Typhoon: Austria examines Indonesia’s surprise offer
The Austrian Ministry of Defence is ready to move forward with the offer of the Indonesian government to acquire the fleet of fifteen Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets. Given the multiple interests shown by the Indonesian Defence Minister throughout the year, one could have assumed that the Dassault Rafale was not on the table anymore. Yet on 3 December, Florence Parly, the French Minister for the Armed Forces, told BFMTV the negotiations for a possible Indonesian order for 36 Rafale were at a ‘very advanced’ stage. ‘It is not yet quite signed, we have worked a lot on it,’ Parly said.
Not only is Indonesia still interested in the French fighters, but it is reportedly in a hurry to acquire it. The archipelago country would like to seal the deal before the end of 2020, forcing French negotiators to temper their eagerness to adjust the details, according to multiple sources cited by La Tribune. Depending on the configuration of the aircraft and the weapons included in the deal, the contract could exceed €7 billion.
If it were to go through, the contract would put a strain on Dassault Aviation and its subcontractors. Indeed, the French manufacturer is already about to receive an emergency order of 12 Rafale fighter jets to replace the second-hand aircraft taken from the French Air Force inventory for the benefit of Greece. Facing rising tensions with Turkey, the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced in mid-September that six new and twelve used Rafales F3R would be acquired as quickly as possible.
In addition to that, Dassault Aviation is currently competing in multiple tenders, namely India, Croatia, Finland, Switzerland. “We have to imagine all kinds of scenarios making it possible to deliver the various customers while taking into account the needs of the French Air Force”, explained Parly, whose minister is discussing a ramp-up of the Rafale production output with Dassault Aviation. In 2019, the French manufacturer delivered 26 Rafale jets to Qatar, Egypt and India.
Airbus Spain enters future combat air system programme
Spain made its official entry into the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) programme on 9 December 2020. Airbus announced that two framework contracts were signed with Spain. The European manufacturer should lead the Next Generation Fighter (NGF) development work for the first FCAS demonstrators in Spain. The first NGF prototype is expected to fly in the second half of 2026. In addition, Airbus Spain will be in charge of the ‘Low Observability’ module. Alberto Gutiérrez, President of Airbus Spain, said: “This signature builds on Airbus’ acknowledged role as the aerospace and defence prime contractor in Spain and ensures we can support Spain’s best interests by contributing our proven design, industrial and technical capabilities, as well as our experience in successful sovereign European programmes.” On 23 November 2020, the Spanish defence electronics group Indra was awarded the leadership of a concept study aimed at designing the sensors of the Future Combat Air System. It will be assisted by its French partner Thales and the German consortium FCMS.
Uber sells air taxi business Elevate to Joby Aviation
Uber has offloaded its air taxi enterprise Elevate to Joby Aviation, the last of several moon shots to be sold by the ride-hailing company in a pursuit to stick to its core business and reach profitability. The transaction announced last Tuesday is part of a complex deal that includes Uber investing $75 million into Joby and an expanded partnership between the two companies. Last year, Uber and Joby, which is developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft, signed on as a vehicle partner for Uber’s Elevate initiative. Joby was the first partner to commit to deploying air taxi services by 2023. Uber said, the $75 million investment comes in addition to a previously undisclosed $50 million investment made as part of Joby’s Series C financing round in January 2020. To date, Joby Aviation has raised $820 million. Uber has invested a total of $125 million into the start up. Under the deal, which is expected to close in early 2021, the two parent companies have agreed to integrate their respective services into each other’s apps.
While Joby is considered one of the leaders, Elevate did play a role in shaping the nascent industry, including establishing some of the benchmarks used by competitors. “The team at Uber Elevate has not only played an important role in our industry, they have also developed a remarkable set of software tools that build on more than a decade of experience enabling on-demand mobility,” Joby Aviation CEO, JoeBen Bevirt said in a statement.” These tools and new team members will be invaluable to us as we accelerate our plans for commercial launch.”
Boeing’s autonomous MQ-25 completes first test flight with aerial refuelling store
For the first time Boeing and the US Navy have flown the MQ-25 T1 test asset with an aerial refuelling store (ARS), a significant milestone informing development of the unmanned aerial refueler. The successful 2.5-hour flight with the Cobham ARS, the same ARS currently used by F/A-18s for air-to-air refuelling was designed to test the aircraft’s aerodynamics with the ARS mounted under the wing. The flight was conducted by Boeing test pilots operating from a ground control station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Ill.
“Having a test asset flying with an ARS gets us one big step closer in our evaluation of how MQ-25 will fulfill its primary mission in the fleet, aerial refuelling,” said Capt. Chad Reed, the US Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation programme manager. “T1 will continue to yield valuable early insights as we begin flying with F/A-18s and conduct deck handling testing aboard a carrier.” Future flights will continue to test the aerodynamics of the aircraft and the ARS at various points of the flight envelope, eventually progressing to extension and retraction of the hose and drogue used for refuelling.
The Boeing-owned T1 test asset is a predecessor to the engineering development model aircraft being produced under a 2018 contract award. T1 is being used for early learning and discovery, laying the foundation for moving rapidly into development and test of the MQ-25. Following its first flight last year, T1 accumulated approximately 30 hours in the air before the planned modification to install the ARS. Earlier this year the Navy exercised an option for three additional MQ-25 air vehicles, bringing the total aircraft Boeing is initially producing to seven. The Navy intends to procure more than 70 aircraft, which will assume the tanking role currently performed by F/A-18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters.
Twice Weekly News from African Pilot
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Athol Franz (Editor)