“It was not the tycoons of big business, it was not the working classes, it was the intellectuals who reversed the trend toward political freedom and revived the doctrines of the absolute State, of totalitarian government rule, of the government’s right to control the lives of the citizens in any manner it pleases. This time, it was not in the name of the ‘divine right of kings’, but in the name of the divine right of the masses. The basic principle was the same: the right to enforce at the point of a gun the moral doctrines of whoever happens to seize control of the machinery of government.” Ayn Rand
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.
Did you watch the Rugby final? I am pretty sure that almost everyone in South Africa is very proud of the Springboks who will be bringing the World Cup home again. Congratulations to FlySafair for being the airline sponsors of the Springboks. You certainly backed the right team. It is interesting that FlySafair’s slogan ‘For the love of Flying’ that has now been ‘stolen’ by another aviation magazine. Come on where is your originality?
The December edition of African Pilot will feature some of the lesser known regional airports within Gauteng and its immediate surrounds. If your airport is interested in being part of the feature, please contact me at e-mail: email@example.com
The November edition featuring Southern African airlines, Gifts for Pilots and Aircraft Leasing is nearing completion and this edition will be published on Tuesday 31 October. This edition also features the Airbus Beluga story, Luxaviation Fleet additions, End of India’s MiG21s,m Pilatus PC-24 upgrades, Air France celebrates 90 years, Great Train Race to Heidelberg, Lift Airline and Disney co-branding and RNBAA-BACE 2023 Las Vegas report.
The December 2023 edition’s main feature will feature the lesser-known regional airports in and around Gauteng. These will include Springs, Brakpan, Petit, Rhino Park, Brits, Krugersdorp, Tedderfield, Panaroma, Vereeniging and Eagles Creek airfields. If your airfield is not included in this list, then please contact me and I will endeavour to include your airfield. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 thirteenth edition of Future Flight will be sent out to the world-wide audience on Monday 16 October. This 144-page edition has seven picture galleries and 14 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.
Van’s business announcement
SAPFA Spot landings at Brits and Stellenbosch airfields
On Saturday I drove to the Brits airfield where the up-country spot landings were taking place as well as an EAA Chapter 322 breakfast fly-in. As an EAA member I was impressed that the Chapter paid for the breakfasts of all arriving members and the breakfast was delicious. Brits Flying Club has one of the finest clubhouses in this region and the friendship of the club members is wonderful. The runway towards the southern end had been marked up with a metre wide yellow ‘bingo line’ and white lines painted at one metre intervals before and after the main landing spot. After the briefing the seven contestants were divided into two groups of three and four to fly the circuit for three spot landings: 1) Normal powered approach, 2) Power off glide approach from 1000 feet and 3) powered approach over a two-metre obstacle. The same system was used in Stellenbosch which had six pilots enter.
Results were as follows:
1) Ron Stirk Brits 95
2) Dale de Klerk Brits 119
3) James Spilsbury Stellenbosch 288
4) Tarryn Myburgh Brits 409
5) Thys van der Merwe Stellenbosch 485
6) Alewyn Burger Stellenbosch 565
7) Mike Blackburn Brits 590
8) Jaco van Zyl Brits 614
9) Jury Steyn Stellenbosch 796
10) Tony Russell Stellenbosch 825
11) Chris Burger Brits 914
12) Frank Olsen Stellenbosch 1134
African Pilot will provide a full report in the December edition of the magazine.
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.
24 October to 4 November
SAC Advanced World Aerobatics Championships Las Vegas
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SACAA Safety Management System Johannesburg Industry Workshop
Contact Nomhle Dlamini E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 083 451 2628
1 & 2 November
Drones in disaster and risk management conference Century City Conference Centre
November Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cape Town.
EAA Chapter 322 breakfast fly-in gathering, boot sale, fly market EAA Auditorium
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
SAA Museum Society Technical tour of historical aircraft
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Cell: 076 879 5044
Brakpan Aero Club Cessna fly-in
Contact Clarissa E-mail: Clarissa@airborneaviation.co.za Cell: 074 113 2911
Gyro fly-in to Kitty Hawk
Contact Juanita Cell: 082 040 9798
EAA Chapter 322 breakfast fly-in venue TBA
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
13 to 17 November
Dubai Airshow 2023
19 to 21 November
55th African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Annual General Assembly (AGA)
Speke Resort in Entebbe, Uganda. Dedicated website: https://aga55.afraa.org/
Aero Club Awards 50 Viking Way Rand Airport (Menno Parsons hangar)
Contact Sandra Strydom firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 011 082 1100
SAA Museum Society Trains, Planes and Automobiles hobby fair
Contact E-mail: email@example.com or Cell: 076 879 5044
SAA Museum Society SA 295 Helderberg 36 years on 08h00
Contact E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 076 879 5044
27 and 28 November
AfBAA African Business Aviation Association conference Cape Town
Contact Sam Keddle E-mail: email@example.com Cell: +27 (0)63 717 3460
DCA Industry Roadshow East London, Eastern Cape
Contact Ms Charmaine Shibambo E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering, fly-in breakfast EAA Auditorium
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
2 to 3 December
SAC ACE of Base Heidelberg airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
4 to 7 December
Egypt Defence Expo (EDEX) Egypt International Exhibition Centre
Contact E-mail: email@example.com
8 & 9 December
SACAA ICAD annual airshow Bisho
Contact Noel Godwin E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 414 7702
9 & 20 December
Saudi Airport Exhibition Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center
Contact Stephanie Ramos E-mail: email@example.com Cell: +971 50 395 2025
Drone-based LiDAR survey of oil and gas assets in the jungle of Gabon (80 000ha)
In difficult-to-reach places in Africa, LiDAR surveys are often prohibitively expensive and can take a long time to perform. Delays due to poor weather, long ferries and bureaucratic processes make it a challenge to undertake accurate and critical information regarding terrain conditions. Drone and LiDAR technology has evolved significantly in the past few years allowing high-resolution data to be made available over some of the largest and remotest areas.
DroneMapping was contracted by a prominent Oil and Gas producer in Gabon to perform a comprehensive survey of its assets and expansion projects. The requirements were to produce ground-level DTM and high-resolution orthomosaics over 80,000 ha. The entire site is covered with dense rainforest jungle. This data would help engineers better plan for pipeline routes and road extensions between new extraction platforms. Using a specialised fixed-wing VTOL drone, the project could be surveyed with an adapted LiDAR scanner. The 3.4m wingspan drone used for the project is specially modified for long-range and heavy lift capabilities that can carry a 3kg scanner unit for up to three hours while travelling at approximately 80KPH. The LiDAR scanner was an essential part of the operation due to its ability to penetrate vegetation and measure ground levels.
A total of 5 215km was flown over 11 days to cover the 80,000-ha site. This was flown in very challenging conditions due to high levels of humidity, dust and other pollutants. Communications were particularly challenging as the dense jungle reduced radio broadcast power significantly. A total of 5TB of raw data was captured and processed into useful DTM and orthomosaic products in under three weeks.
Off-duty pilot accused of trying to crash plane faces new charge
According to charging documents made public Tuesday, an off-duty airline pilot riding in an extra cockpit seat on a Horizon Air flight said “I am not OK” just before trying to cut the engines mid-flight and later told police he had recently taken psychedelic mushrooms as his mental health worsened. State prosecutors in Oregon filed 83 counts of attempted murder against Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph David Emerson (44) on Tuesday just before he appeared in court, with his attorney, Noah Horst, entering not guilty pleas on his behalf. Federal prosecutors meanwhile charged Emerson with interfering with a flight crew, which can carry up to 20 years in prison.
According to a probable cause statement filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Emerson told Port of Portland police following his arrest that he had been struggling with depression, that a friend had recently died and that he had taken psychedelic mushrooms about 48 hours before he attempted to cut the engines. He also said he had not slept in more than 40 hours, according to the document. Police reported that Emerson did not appear to be intoxicated at the time of the interview and in a statement on Tuesday, Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon, said neither the gate agents nor flight crew noticed any signs of impairment that might have barred him from the flight. An FBI agent wrote in a probable cause affidavit in support of the federal charge that Emerson “said it was his first-time taking mushrooms.”
While psilocybin is illegal in most of the country, Oregon legalised it for adults this year. The Food and Drug Administration in 2018 designated it a ‘breakthrough therapy’ that might be used for mental health conditions or substance use disorders. An Alaska Airlines pilot from Pleasant Hill, Emerson was arrested on Sunday night after the flight crew reported that he attempted to shut down the engines on a Horizon Air flight from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco while riding in the extra seat in the cockpit. The plane was diverted to Portland, where it landed safely with more than 80 people on board.
The FBI affidavit said Emerson, who as an off-duty pilot was authorised to fly in the cockpit’s jump seat, made casual conversation with the captain and first officer when the plane was between Astoria, Oregon and Portland, before trying to grab two red handles that would have activated the plane’s fire suppression system and cut off fuel to its engines.
After what the flight crew described as a brief struggle, lasting only about 30 seconds, Emerson left the cockpit, the FBI said. Flight attendants placed Emerson in wrist restraints and seated him in the rear of the aircraft, but as the plane descended, he tried to grab the handle of an emergency exit, according to the document. A flight attendant stopped him by placing her hands on top of his, it said. Emerson walked calmly to the back of the plane after being told to leave the cockpit and told a flight attendant, “You need to cuff me right now or it is going to be bad,” the affidavit said. Another flight attendant heard him saying, “I messed everything up” and “tried to kill everybody.”
According to the affidavit, he asked police if he could waive his right to an attorney: “I am admitting to what I did. I am not fighting any charges you want to bring against me, guys.” He also told them he thought he was having a nervous breakdown and said: “I pulled both emergency shut off handles because I thought I was dreaming and I just want to wake up,” according to the affidavit.
Mark Angelos, a senior flight instructor at the NRI Flying Club in Concord, California, has known Emerson for more than 10 years. Emerson used to be president of the club and designed its safety programme, meaning he was in charge of making sure instructors followed standard operating procedures, Angelos said. Angelos said that when he and other club members initially heard the news, they thought Horizon Air must have been conducting an emergency drill to test its crew. They could not believe that a person they saw as a family man who loved his children could be accused of such a thing. “It just couldn’t have been our Joe,” he said.
Major announcement from Van’s Aircraft admits to serious issues
Van’s Aircraft, the famed light-sport aircraft marque and maker of the perennially popular RV6/6A, RV7/7A and numerous additional kit aircraft models, is facing serious cash-flow issues resultant of a confluence of unfavourable events and circumstances, principal among which are:
Pandemic driven costs: The shutdowns and supply-chain issues by which the COVID exigency was characterised drove up Van’s costs, doubled the company’s inventory levels, slowed deliveries and severely strained cash-flow. Ironically, resurgent post-COVID markets dramatically increased Van’s orders, requiring the company to hire and train more staff. However, a global shortage of workers occasioned increased wages and a five-fold increase in shipping costs. In short-order, through no fault of its own, Van’s found itself selling kits below its own costs.
Subcontractor issues: While attempting to ride-out COVID’s repercussions, Van’s learned one of its overseas contractors had used an inferior primer, resulting in aluminium corrosion by which a great many quick-build kits were adversely affected. Scrapping subject kits worsened Van’s position, as did the necessity to ramp up production to replace such.
Outsourced parts issues: As Van’s fell behind shipping orders, the company was compelled to subcontract the manufacturing of some aluminium parts, albeit at increased cost. Vans determined the only timely option was to have some parts laser-cut rather than CNC-punched, as is Van’s convention. According to Vans, the decision was “made after completing a formal manufacturing process evaluation and extensive fatigue testing of materials used in the manufacturing process, with the purpose of increasing the production capacity for some parts during a period of high demand.”
Regrettably, between February and June 2022, a significant number of Van’s customers reported cracks having formed in parts with laser-cut holes. Van’s immediately commenced researching the issue and engaging in apposite testing. Over time, the Van’s personnel discovered many of the parts in fact met established design requirements. Nevertheless, many builders deemed the parts unsuitable for use, thereby inundating Van’s with requests for replacement parts and, worse yet, cancelled orders. Currently, upwards of 1,800 Van’s customers are affected by the described issue.
Van’s Aircraft faces numerous challenges requiring the company to perform an internal assessment of its inventory, production and shipping capabilities, as well as its overall operating efficiencies. During this time, which will span 27 October through mid-November 2023, Van’s will evaluate means by which to satisfy builder concerns most comprehensively and efficiently regarding laser-cut parts. Also, the company will review the costs of its parts and kits. During the aforementioned period, shipments of Van’s parts will be delayed, kit orders will not be processed and refunds will not be issued. In addition, and with regret, Van’s will conduct neither factory tours nor demo flights.
Finally, Van’s is adjusting its daily operating hours. Starting Monday 30 October 2023, the company’s offices and facility will be open Monday through Friday from 08h00 to 16h00 Pacific Time. Van’s builder technical support hours will shift from 08h00 to 09h30 and 15h00 to 16h00 PDT each business day. The latter change is permanent. Van’s is storied among kit aircraft marques, having built its reputation on superb design, utmost quality and excellent customer service and support. In keeping with its guiding ethos, the overtly transparent company expressed gratitude to its customers, thanking them, one and all, for their ongoing confidence and pledged to provide further information in the coming weeks.
Aviation war insurers cancel coverage over Israeli-Hamas conflict
Industry sources with insurance knowledge say as the conflict in the region intensifies and flight cancellations mount, aviation war insurers are making ready to cancel coverage for several air-carriers domiciled in Israel and Lebanon. Aviation war insurers based in Europe, the United States and the Lloyd’s of London market are legally entitled to issue seven-day notices of cancellation or other changes to policy terms and conditions in the event a major conflict is determined by underwriters to pose a legitimate threat to commercial aircraft operations, thereby rendering long-term insurance coverage overly risky. Insurers for Israeli flag carrier El Al Airlines. Israir and Arkia previously iterated their ability to issue such notices on account of the war between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. Comes now 23 October 2023 and as-of-yet undisclosed Israeli airlines have received notices of imminent policy cancellation.
Hive Underwriters chief underwriting officer Bruce Carman stated: “War underwriters’ appetite for continuing to cover these risks for no additional reward differs and some are now looking to withdraw cover, especially given the news the Israeli government has provided a backstop to cover flights.”
Israel’s parliamentary finance committee has approved a plan to provide a state guarantee of $6 billion to cover insurance against war risks to Israeli airlines. Spokesmen for Israeli airlines El Al and Arkia did not directly respond to questions pertaining to whether insurers had yet served notice of policy cancellation, but disclosed the Israeli government is currently providing sufficient coverage to permit aircraft operations to continue safely. A spokesman for Israir reported the airline had not yet been served notice by its insurers but provided no additional details. Israeli carriers have continued to fly while most foreign airlines have cancelled flights to Tel Aviv, expanding flights to bring back those traveling abroad and those called up to reserve service for the military.
Airlines normally take out two types of policy: an ‘all-risks’ policy which covers both regular damage to the hull and passenger liability and a ‘war’ policy to cover war or terror-related losses to the aircraft. “Certain underwriters have not allowed or not provided insurance for war risk and other allied perils insurance for some operators,” remarked Garrett Hanrahan of Marsh’s Global Aviation. Hanrahan added: “These operators did not have operational experience flying into Israel and not under conditions where there is a conflict taking place.”
Another of the insurers’ biggest concerns is for aircraft stuck on the ground in conflict zones. Middle East Airlines this week said it will keep five of its 24 airplanes in Turkey, following rocket, missile and artillery exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah. Airlines based outside Israel and Lebanon are not suffering from cancellations to their cover for the region but are reportedly facing other restrictions.
A spokesman for insurance buyers’ association Airmic’s aviation group said, “Insurers want regular updates, each airline has a different risk profile and therefore different risk mitigation strategies.” The airlines are not yet facing additional premiums for their scheduled flights, the aforementioned industry sources asserted. However, two of the unnamed sources suggested air-carriers operating in the vicinity of the conflict may be required to leave their aircraft on the ground at airports in Tel Aviv or Beirut for no more than three hours, or to avoid refuelling stops at those airports.
Hanrahan stated: “If for whatever reason aircraft are delayed, they need to be communicating with underwriters.” Special flights undertaken for purpose of evacuating people from Israel would require a ‘material change’ to an airline’s policy and airlines are facing additional premiums of between 0.05-percent and 0.1-percent of the value of the aircraft for those flights, one broking source reported. Norwegian Air recently cancelled a planned evacuation flight due to lack of insurance to fly via Tel Aviv, but later scheduled such a flight from Eilat in southern Israel.
New Jersey-based National Guard F-16s deploy to Middle East
On 24 October Air & Space Forces website reported that more US Air Force F-16s have arrived at undisclosed bases in the Middle East. Fighting Falcons from the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, known as the Jersey Devils, have become the sixth fighter squadron to deploy to the region in response to concern over region-wide escalation of the ongoing Hamas-Israel conflict.
According to the military news outlet, a senior USAF official told reporters on Monday, “What has happened in the last several days is efforts by Iran and Iran proxy forces to seek to escalate this conflict.” According to a press release from Air Forces Central (AFCENT), the addition of more multi-role fighters to the region will “provide flexible options to coalition leaders directing air operations throughout the Middle East, including contingency response capabilities and deterrence mission.”
The release also noted that the New Jersey contingent is the third squadron of F-16s AFCENT now operates, along with two A-10 squadrons and an F-15E squadron, as well as ‘several strategic airlift, aerial refuelling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.’ AFCENT commander Lt. General Alexus G. Grynkewich said, “Air National Guard Airmen bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our mission in the Middle East. The arrival of these Airmen strengthens our ability to support our allied, coalition and regional partners as we work together to enhance regional stability and security.”
Aeroflot and Rosatom confirm Airbus and Boeing parts to be replicated from 2024
In September 2023, Aeroflot and Rosatom signed a memorandum of cooperation that will see the companies produce their own replica Airbus and Boeing aircraft parts that can be used for planes in Russia. Airlines in Russia have been starved of replacement foreign aircraft components and parts due to sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. The sanctions, put in place in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have made it impossible for airlines such as Aeroflot to import Airbus and Boeing parts legally. Currently airlines in Russia are forced to rely on their own engineers to fix maintenance issues rather than receive help from Boeing or Airbus.
According to Russian news publication Izvestia, full production of the replica parts will begin in the first half of 2024. While Aeroflot has the aviation knowledge, Russian state-owned Rosatom, has the technical ability and production capabilities. Izvestia spoke with the General Director and Technical Director of Aeroflot, Alexey Mikhalik, about the type of components that will be manufactured. “We will be engaged in the development, certification and production of aviation components for all types of foreign aircraft, for cabins, aircraft trunks, structural repairs and so on. The following areas are planned: air and water filter elements; plastic, metal, composite, honeycomb, rubber products; composite products; electronic equipment of the passenger cabin inverters, power supplies, sensors, heating and lighting components, lighting and display equipment,” Alexey Mikhalik, said.
According to Mikhalik scientific research, testing and production of products are already underway. All the parts and components will need to be certified by the Federal Air Transport Agency. “Currently, together with the Federal Air Transport Agency, the procedure for processing the required documentation for their use on aircraft is being clarified,” Mikhalik told the publication. Earlier in 2023 Izvestia reported that the Russian carrier S7 Airlines was already collaborating with Rosatom to produce water and air filters and brake discs.
British Army bids farewell to Gazelle helicopters
For many, the Gazelle is the ultimate helicopter and certainly for the Army Air Corps. So much so that when the Gazelle is withdrawn from active service at the end of October, 5 Regt AAC will be conducting a final fly past through the UK. The farewell flight was on Monday 23 October 2023 that departed from and stopping at or overflying, UK locations that have played an important role across the Gazelle’s service. The Aérospatiale / Westlands Gazelle entered service 6 July 1974 and has provided service for the UK in several arenas including Northern Ireland, Germany, Hong Kong, Falklands, Iraq, Kosovo, Canada, Kenya, Belize and Cyprus. The Gazelle has, at one time or another, served in every arm of the UK Armed Forces in training, reconnaissance, battlefield communication, direction of artillery fire, casualty evacuation and anti-tank roles.
Embraer adds autothrottle option for Phenom 300E
Embraer Executive Jets is adding autothrottle as an available option for new-production Phenom 300Es starting in the third quarter of 2024. It will also offer the new feature as a retrofit for in-service Phenom 300Es with ‘factory-incorporated provisions’ via a service bulletin available in the following quarter. According to Embraer, autothrottle will enhance the light jet’s ‘pilot-centric’ Prodigy Touch Flight Deck, which uses the Garmin G3000 avionics suite as its platform. Autothrottle will assist pilots in throttle control during various phases of flight; for passengers, this will translate to more comfort in the cabin, the company added. The Phenom 300 series has been the best-selling light jet for 11 years in a row and the most-flown business jet in the US, with more than 700 in service logging some two million flight hours, Embraer said.
SpaceX aspires to unprecedented 2024 launch cadence
SpaceX, the orbital and deep-space conveyance and exploration concern founded by billionaire boffin and loveable odd-ball Elon Musk, intends to undertake 144 space-launches in 2024, a number at once dizzying and unprecedented in the annals of human extraterrestrial exploit. While 2023 has already seen SpaceX surpass all previous private space-launch records, the company aims to end the year-of-the-water-rabbit with one hundred such operations in the proverbial books.
By way of comparison, SpaceX, in 2021, launched a total of 31 space missions. The following year due to the company’s Starlink initiative, SpaceX’s activity nearly doubled to 61 launches. The lively blast-off cadence SpaceX aspires to maintain throughout 2024 is attributable, largely, to the roll-out of Starlink Direct to Cell, a joint enterprise of SpaceX and T-Mobile described by the former as ‘seamless access to text, voice and data for LTE phones across the globe.’
Referred to on SpaceX’s website as a cell phone tower in space, Starlink Direct to Cell will offer conventional mobile services through Starlink’s expanding satellite constellation. Text messaging via the service is expected to debut in 2024; voice-calls and video-browsing are slated to follow in 2025. Starlink Direct to Cell promises to be particularly useful in areas lacking cell coverage and in instances of emergency.
SpaceX’s record-setting 2023 pace worked out to one launch every 3.5-days. To meet its 2024 target, the company will be obligated to conduct one space-launch every 2.5-days, a forty-percent jump in operational frequency. Since May 2019, upwards of four-thousand Starlink satellites have been placed into Earth orbit. Notwithstanding the significant numbers of SpaceX-branded contraptions in and imminently bound for Earth orbit, claims of Musk. Having a monopoly on satellite connectivity are wholly apocryphal and ascribable almost exclusively to a small but vocal contingent of detractors compelled to outrage by the billionaire’s acquisition and subsequent democratization of Twitter—now ‘X’.
SpaceX’s competitors in the satellite communication market are legion and include powerhouses the likes of: Inmarsat, Iridium, Globestar, OneWeb, Telesat, ORBCOM, Dish Network and Avanti. Amazon has also bellied-up to the broadband bar. In October 2023 the monster Bezos built launched the first two prototype satellites of a planned proprietary connectivity solution dubbed Project Kuiper. Jeff and his minions hope to grow Project Kuiper into a legitimate Starlink alternative comprising a vast satellite constellation and offering low-cost connectivity to underserved populations in remote areas.
While a fair number of pundits contend Amazon’s entry into the satellite communications arena is tardy and derivative, the sector’s leaders would do well to bear in mind that Bezos made his vast fortune by deftly amalgamating emerging technologies with the buy-low-sell-high ethos salient to the entirety of humankind’s innumerable markets.
Securities lawsuit against Archer dismissed
Formally requested on 21 September 2023, the dismissal came shortly after Archer’s 13 October 2023 filing of a motion to dismiss the case. Archer’s chief legal officer Andy Missan stated: “We are very pleased that the plaintiff has decided to dismiss the case. Archer continues to remain focused on delivering on its mission and creating value for shareholders.”
For the benefit of readers unfamiliar with the AAM enclave, Archer Aviation is a California-based designer and builder of electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft. By virtue of a favourable confluence of solid engineering, fortuitous timing and perceived environmental exigency, Archer is positioned in the vanguard of the emergent AAM sector.
In August 2023, Archer secured a $215-million equity investment from Stellantis, an American Italian French multinational automotive manufacturing corporation, Boeing, United Airlines and a number of financial institutions including ARK Invest. The capital infusion boosted Archer’s total to-date funding to over $1.1 billion. Furthermore, the FAA has granted Archer approval to commence flight-testing of its Midnight eVTOL aircraft, a frontrunner in the race to a viable AAM platform.
Archer’s Midnight is a single-pilot, five-passenger eVTOL aircraft evolved from an antecedent Archer design known as Maker, from which Midnight inherited a flight-architecture comprising 12 electric-motor / rotor assemblies: six five-blade tiltrotors for forward and vertical flight and six two-blade fixed-rotors for vertical flight exclusively. The entirety of the aforementioned motor / rotor assemblies are affixed by pylons to a single, high wing of relatively high aspect ratio. The six tilt-rotor assemblies are positioned forward of said wing, while the six fixed-rotor assemblies are positioned aft of such.
Midnight’s 12 electric motors weigh a miserly 55-pounds apiece and have peak individual power outputs of 125-kilowatts (167-horsepower). The powerplants’ power-to-weight ratio is approximately 3.04-horsepower / pound. The motors are supplied electrical power by a sextet of proprietary eight-hundred-volt battery-packs comprising cylindrical, type 2170 lithium-ion battery cells provided by the Taiwanese battery manufacturer Molicel. Each of the six battery-packs supplies two motor / rotor assemblies and are interconnected in such a way that load may be varied and individual battery-packs isolated. In addition to providing redundancy in the event of motor or battery failure, the described Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) scheme facilitates reductions in power requirements of nearly twenty percent at the battery cell level, compared to conventional high-voltage battery designs.
Midnight attains and advertised cruise speed of 130-knots, a single-charge range of 17 to 43-nautical-miles, dependent upon aircraft loading and flight conditions and a cruising altitude of two-thousand feet MSL. Midnight’s ovular-cross-section fuselage sits atop a fixed, tricycle undercarriage; the machine’s empennage is of a V-configuration evocative of Beechcraft’s S-35 Bonanza.
Loaded to its maximum take-off weight, Midnight tips the scales at seven-thousand-pounds. The aircraft’s maximum payload is nebulously cited as ‘one-thousand-plus-pounds (454 Kg).’ Archer’s strategy for Midnight’s deployment is predicated upon an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) model comprising twenty-mile back-to-back routes conducted in rapid succession. As Midnight’s design targets a one-hundred-mile-per-charge range, numerous such legs could be flown by a single aircraft. For initial UAM operations, Archer will rely on existing infrastructure, such as the Manhattan heliport, which anchors a route to and from Newark; and Vertiport Chicago, a facility that will presently serve as the hub for an air-taxi route between the Midwestern metropolis’s famed downtown Loop and O’Hare International Airport.
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Official hashtags: #SAE2023 #saudiairportexhibition
Bayraktar TB3 carrier-based combat drone completes maiden flight
The Bayraktar TB3 is a carrier-capable armed unmanned aerial vehicle system and, as such, was designed with foldable wings. Slightly larger than its land-based predecessor, the Bayraktar TB2, the TB3 will also offer an increased payload capacity of up to 280 kilograms. The unmanned aircraft was first announced in October 2020 and is planned to eventually operate from the TCG Anadolu amphibious assault ship. The next stage of the test campaign will be to land the drone on the warship. The TB3 should fly alongside the Bayraktar Kizilelma, a carrier-capable ‘unmanned fighter jet.’ The TCG Anadolu was initially expected to carry US-made F-35B fighters before Turkey’s exclusion from the Joint Strike Fighter programme for acquiring Russian S-400 missile systems.
FAA teams with USAF on unmanned aircraft infrastructure research
On 26 October the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it is joining the US Air Force in a coordinated effort to safely integrate Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) aircraft into the US National Airspace System. The armed service and the FAA will exchange data and share technical and infrastructure assets and expertise to help test AAM development. The FAA signed the agreement with AFWERX, described in the announcement as ‘a Technology Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force.’
FAA technology development director John Maffei, said, “A new era of aviation is taking off and safe and efficient operations require collaboration. This data will help inform FAA certification efforts, policies, standards, and future airspace integration requirements.” Colonel Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director and chief commercialisation officer for the Department of the Air Force said, “With this memorandum of understanding and the ongoing AAM Interagency Working Group, we are accelerating a breakthrough in electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft. We are driving progress in propulsion technology, in manufacturing and materials and in test and safety for a novel class of air vehicles.”
How drone warfare in Israel could dramatically change if Hezbollah joins the fight
As the war in Gaza reaches the three-week mark, the conflict between Hamas and Israeli forces so far has been characterised by rocket barrages, missile and artillery strikes and bombing raids. It has not, perhaps surprisingly, featured an outsized role for unmanned aerial vehicles. But that could change quickly, analysts said, should Lebanese Hezbollah enter the fight in force and present Jerusalem with a difficult aerial challenge. As part of its initial assault on Israel on 7 October, Palestinian Hamas did employ a novel use of drones, including using at least one quadcopter to help take out Israeli surveillance and communications installations and used other drones in concert with rocket salvos. Israeli forces have used what are likely larger, more expensive armed UAVs for some strikes.
But unlike the war in Ukraine, in which the extensive use of scores of drones prompted much spilled ink about revolutions in warfare, since the initial 7 October assault, unmanned systems in Gaza have so far taken a back seat, according to public reporting. That may be because the local drone power, Hezbollah, has so far engaged in relatively small-scale actions and appears reluctant to open a second front from the south, a strategy that could change any moment. “With regards to Hezbollah, the game changer is the quantity of its arsenal (which could easily overwhelm Israel’s air defence) but also its quality and diversity, be it drones and short-range ballistic missiles that Hamas does not have,” Jean Loup Samaan, senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore, said.
How Hamas has used unmanned platforms
Samaan said that for a while drone usage has been ‘increasingly visible’ in the running conflict between Israel and Hamas, like when the group reportedly sent a couple unarmed drones near Israeli offshore gas installations, but 7 October marked the first time Hamas has ‘really been able to use them effectively.’ Jean Marc Rickli, the head of global and emerging risks at the Geneva Center for Security Policy, said that it appears that Hamas has been inspired by the way Ukrainians have used drones.
Already in Ukraine, the low-to-no-collateral DroneHunter F700 counter-UAS system can now defeat faster and larger threats like the Russian Orlan-10 and Iranian Shahed-136. “Hamas’ 7 October attack used drones for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes but also to neutralise the Iron Wall’s CCTV cameras in simultaneous attacks, he said. “They also relied on fixed-wing kamikaze Al-Zawari drones to contribute with the numerous rocket launches to the saturation of the Iron’s dome system.” He added that Hamas is also known to have a home-grown, long-distance drone, the Shehab, which carries an explosive warhead weighing 30 kilograms and can fly up to 250 kilometres, but he said it is unclear if that was used in the 7 October assault.
Beyond what they may have developed, drone expert Samuel Bendett said Hamas could also make use of off-the-shelf options, like Ukraine and Russia have. “It is possible that numerous commercial drones like Chinese DJIs may be used by Hamas for ISR and combat against Israeli ground forces. But overall, wars are still fought by ground forces since wars are about holding territory, clearing out the adversary and controlling captured populations,” said Bendett, an AI and unmanned systems expert at US-based Center for Naval Analyses.
What chances do Israel’s air defences have?
As Hamas launched a rocket and drone barrage into Israel on 7 October, the Jewish nation’s famed Iron Dome system reportedly struggled to keep up. The multi-layered defence system is designed to counter several different kinds of threats, but it has been largely untested against drone swarms. “With regards to Iron Dome, its technology has evolved to include defending against drones,” MEI’s Samaan said. “The first case of Iron Dome intercepting drones was during the 2021 conflict, but because until now, the main threat was rockets, Iron Dome has not really been tested by UAVs.” He added that the trajectory of drones makes it harder for Iron Dome to reach the same level of efficiency as with drones. In addition, the Israelis are developing other systems, such as Iron Beam, which use laser technologies to counter drone attacks, but it is not yet mature,” he said.
Fabian said that if Hezbollah sends only four or five drones at a time, it is quite likely they will be shot down. “But if they managed to really launch a large number of drones and combine these attacks with rapid fire, it might be a more effective.” For now, all eyes are on southern Lebanon, where Israeli and Hezbollah actions over the next few days could set the course for the Middle East for decades to come, with or without drones.
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