“The shaft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagle’s own plumes. We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction.” Aesop
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 email@example.com. I will publish the names of those that identified the aircraft correctly within the Thursday edition of APAnews.
SACAA Aviation Industry Awards
Unfortunately, I have become aware of several outspoken critics of the SACAA Aviation Industry Awards spectacular function on Friday night simply because these persons do not understand how the industry awards work. Whilst some people claim they were not aware of the industry awards the fact is that the process was widely advertised not only within African Pilot on this platform and within the monthly magazine, but also on various other media platforms. There were many entries, but as explained by Arthur Bradshaw (chief judge) many of the entrants simply copied and pasted their business profiles, without actually reading the rules. When the finest airline in South Africa, FlySafair cleans up at these awards and one of South Africa’s largest and most prestigious General Aviation businesses ExecuJet comes in a close second then I do not believe that the awards were unfair. Even Airlink and Morningstar Flying Club received awards as did many of the entrants who read the rules. The fact that Felix Gosher received recognition for all the work he has done over several years with the Children’s Flight and Elders Flight was amazing. This event was also the celebration of the 25 years of the SACAA and I was very happy to have been invited to this prestigious occasion. We all need to learn to work with the regulator where possible and give credit where and when it is due.
The 244-page November edition featuring Southern African airlines, Gifts for Pilots and Aircraft Leasing was published on Tuesday 31 October and sent to the world. 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 a NBAA-BACE 2023 Las Vegas report. When you compare the quality of African Pilot’s production and presentation with other South African aviation magazines, there is always a distinct difference in readability, quality of pictures and information and the number of pages. In fact, African Pilot is larger than all the other aviation magazines combined and certainly has far greater value within the overall content of the magazine.
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, Grasslands 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Aerobatics with a model glider
SACAA Industry Awards
Christine and I attended the SACAA’s Aviation Industry awards on Friday evening at an exciting new venue known as the Focus Rooms over looking the Modderfontein Reserve. The setup was beautifully decorated with modern finishes and décor, congratulations to the SACAA marketing team. Various dignitaries were present including the Minister of Transport, officials from the Department of Transport and several SACAA board members as well SACAA management personnel. Interestingly the only aviation media persons present were Garth from Flightline Weekly and African Pilot. Although the were 16 categories, FlySafair and ExecuJet took most of the awards as runner up of the winner of a particular category. My observation is that many of the excellent aviation businesses did not enter or they did not understand the process of judging according to the rules of the competition.
I was particularly pleased with the award presented to Felix Gosher by Ms Poppy Khoza (DCA) for the amazing work he has done of the past few years with both the Children’s Flight as well as the Elders Flight. To all those persons who were involved in both successful events this past year, Felix thanks you because as he said he could not have done this without your amazing assistance. There were several other aviation industry awards including Morningstar Flying Club, to Sling Aircraft and to the research work on ‘Forced Landing into Trees’. I wish to thank Siza from the SACAA’s marketing and communications department for inviting African Pilot to attend the prestigious awards, which will be featured within the December edition of your favourite aviation 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.
13 to 17 November
Dubai Airshow 2023
EAA Chapter 322 breakfast fly-in to Airspan
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
19 to 21 November
55th African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Annual General Assembly (AGA)
Speke Resort in Entebbe, Uganda. Dedicated website: https://aga55.afraa.org/
Aero Club Awards 50 Viking Way Rand Airport (Menno Parsons hangar)
Contact Sandra Strydom firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 011 082 1100
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
Wonderboom Safety Symposium 18h00 at Villa San Giovani Restaurant
Contact David E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 073 338 5200
8 & 9 December
SACAA ICAD annual airshow Bisho
Contact Noel Godwin E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 414 7702
9 & 20 December
Saudi Airport Exhibition Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center
Contact Stephanie Ramos E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: +971 50 395 2025
Aviation events 2024
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering at Tedderfield Air Park
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
EAA Chapter 322 monthly gathering at EAA Auditorium
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
MayDay SA golf day and industry dinner Serengeti Estate
Contact WhatsApp 083 797 7001 Website: www.mayday-sa.org.za
12 to 14 February
African Air Expo and conference CTICC, Cape Town
EAA Chapter 322 fly-in breakfast to Kitty Hawk
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
20 to 22 February
African Aviation MRO Africa Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Contact Nick Fadugba E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
26 to 29 February
HAI Heli-Expo Anaheim Convention Centre, California, USA
US Reaper drone shot down over Red Sea
On 8 November US defence officials confirmed that Iranian-backed Houthi forces shot down a US MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft over the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. The Reaper was reportedly on a surveillance mission over Yemen and the US said it was in international airspace and over international waters when it was hit by missiles. About an hour later, the US announced it had initiated air strikes against Houthi forces in Syria.
Last month, Houthi militants fired missiles believed to be aimed at Israel, but they were destroyed by defensive missiles fired by the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Carney stationed in the Red Sea. ABC News reported at the time it represented the first time US forces took direct action to defend Israel during its current conflict with Hamas militants. ABC reported that Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a news briefing that the destroyer had brought down four cruise missiles and 14 drones.
B-21 Raider makes its first flight
The Northrop Grumman-built bomber was captured on camera flying over the California desert by independent photographer Matt Hartman on Friday 10 November. The B-21 was accompanied by a fighter serving as a chase plane. A spokesperson for the US Air Force confirmed that the Raider has entered flight testing. The new bomber was unveiled officially to the public in December 2022.
“The B-21 Raider is in flight testing,” US Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said in a statement. “Flight testing is a critical step in the test campaign managed by the Air Force Test Center and 412th Test Wing’s B-21 Combined Test Force to provide survivable, long-range, penetrating strike capabilities to deter aggression and strategic attacks against the United States, allies and partners.”
The Raider is slated to replace both the stealthy B-2 Spirit and the B-1 Lancer. The US Air Force is planning for a minimum fleet of 100 of the long-range bombers and Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota will be the first installation to receive the aircraft, according to Stefanek. Six test aircraft are in production and Edwards Air Force Base, California will lead testing.
Northrop Grumman has long warned investors that the aircraft’s low-rate initial production (LRIP) could result in a loss of up to $1.2 billion, which Chief Executive Officer Kathy Warden reiterated in the company’s recent third quarter earnings call. The US Air Force had tied award of the LRIP contract to the aircraft’s first flight, meaning a contract could be coming soon. In a company statement, Northrop said “As confirmed by the US Air Force, the B-21 Raider is in flight test. The robust flight test campaign is being executed by a Combined Test Force comprised of Northrop Grumman and US Air Force personnel that will validate our digital models and moves us another step closer to reaching operational capability.”
Canadian Air Ambulance operator inks PC-12 order
Canadian aeromedical services provider Ornge has placed a firm order with Pilatus for 12 PC-12 turboprop singles. The Ontario-based operator is familiar with the type, having eight PC-12NGs in its fleet of fixed and rotary-wing aircraft since 2009. These will be rotated out of service as the new airplanes are delivered between 2026 and 2030. Ornge operates the country’s largest air ambulance and critical care land ambulance fleet, performing approximately 20,000 patient-related transports annually. It serves more than 13 million people in an area of nearly 400,000 square miles, with its operations control center in Mississauga coordinating the logistics of Ornge’s 14 bases Ontario.
“The Pilatus PC-12 has played a significant role in Ontario’s air ambulance programme for many years. Its performance, versatility and reliability have helped us deliver high-quality care in transport across the province, including many remote Indigenous communities in the north,” said Dr Homer Tien, Ornge’s president and CEO. “With the renewal of our fleet, we know that this aircraft will continue to help us save lives and deliver health equity for generations to come.”
EFTA spreads its wings to expand pilot pipeline
Emirates Flight Training Academy (EFTA), which was started with a focus on the national cadet pilot programme for Emirates, now offers its world-class training to cadets from all over the globe. Besides the staggering success of its graduates, who have all been snapped up by Emirates after a stringent recruitment process, the academy is flying high on the integration of three brand-new Diamond aircraft into its training programme. Although the majority are students who have recently graduated from high school, the cadets range in age from 17 to 26 years. In fact, an Emirates cabin crew is now a cadet at EFTA, having met the academy’s strict eligibility criteria.
EFTA’s cadets now also fly the Diamond DA42-VI light piston twin-engine aircraft, which has successfully introduced multi-engine piston training at the academy. This means cadets train on three different aircraft types, single-engine, twin-engine and multi-engine light jets. This is a rarity among flight training academies that generally train cadets on just one or two aircraft types. Flight deck careers have seen a huge resurgence post-pandemic and are riding another wave of popularity. Salaries have increased, airlines are fast tracking career paths and expanding at a phenomenal rate, aircraft are more sophisticated, demand for travel is booming, all these and more have made aviation a sought-after career. According to Oliver Wyman’s latest research, the gap between supply and demand of pilots is currently about 17,000 and it will increase to 24,000 in 2026.
EFTA combines cutting-edge learning technologies and a modern fleet of 29 training aircraft including 22 Cirrus SR22 G6 single-engine piston, four Embraer Phenom 100EV very light jets and three Diamond DA42-VI light piston twin-engine aircraft. EFTA’s state-of-the-art facility, which is spread over 12.5 million ft² (1.2 million m²) equivalent to 200 football pitches, currently has 36 modern classrooms, six full-motion flight simulators, an independent Air Traffic Control Tower and a dedicated 1,800m runway.
Accidents involving home-built aircraft declining
The FAA’s 2023 fiscal year ended on 30 September, thereby closing the proverbial book on annual statistics the likes of total numbers of Part 121, Part 135, Part 91 and military flight operations; unruly passenger incidents; airport closures; flight delays and cancellations and of particular interest fatal accidents involving Experimental category and amateur-built aircraft during the 12-month period. While the rate of accidents based on flight-hours will not be made public until the FAA releases its General Aviation survey data in 2024, the incidence of accidents involving Experimental category / amateur-built aircraft in fiscal 2023 was the lowest on record.
All told, fiscal 2023 saw a total of 28 fatal accidents involving amateur-built aircraft. Serendipitously, the cited figure represents a 28-percent year-over-year decline from fiscal 2022, during which 39 such mishaps occurred. In addition, the forty fatal accidents involving Experimental category aircraft which transpired in fiscal 2023 represented a thirty-percent decline over the previous 12-month interval, falling seven below the FAA’s not-to-exceed period for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
EAA vice president of advocacy and safety Sean Elliott stated: “The activity data is necessary to paint the full picture, but the initial indications are very positive indeed. It shows a continuing trend toward safer operations, even as total hours flown increase. It reminds us that safety is an ongoing journey that always needs the highest attention of our flying community.” Considered across a longer timeline, the nine-year period spanning 1998-2007 saw 598 fatal accidents involving home-built aircraft. Conversely, only 338 such accidents occurred during the nine-year period spanning 2014-2023. The drop is ascribable, in part, to a number of safety initiatives by the EAA during the latter period; these included the EAA Flight Test Manual and the FAA-approved second safety pilot option. Subject programmes complemented the long-established EAA Technical Counsellor and Flight Advisor programmes.
Founded in 1953 by a group of aviation enthusiasts headed by veteran aviator Paul Poberezny, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is an Oshkosh, Wisconsin-based non-profit aviation and aerospace organisation dedicated to growing participation in flight, aircraft construction and other aeronautical endeavours via the sharing of the spirit of aviation. Globally, the EAA’s two-hundred-thousand-plus-strong member base is organised into nearly one-thousand chapters.
US Army awards Textron Aviation contract for three Beechcraft King Air turboprops
Textron Aviation has been awarded a contract by the US Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, AL, for the Cessna SkyCourier, Cessna Grand Caravan EX, Beechcraft King Air 360 and Beechcraft King Air 260 turboprop aircraft in support of Foreign Military Sales (FMS). The indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract allows up to US$100 million for the acquisition of Textron Aviation aircraft over a five-year period. The initial award is for three King Air 360 Extended Range (KA360ER) aircraft, of which two are destined for the Peruvian Naval Aviation Force (Fuerza de Aviación Naval) and one for the Ecuadorian Naval Aviation (Aviación Naval Ecuatoriana).
“This IDIQ aligns with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent tasking memo directing improvement and acceleration of DOD’s institutional processes to execute FMS cases. It will provide highly capable commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) aircraft that can be equipped with COTS releasable technology and it will accelerate acquisition and contracting timelines from many months or years to weeks,” said Bob Gibbs, Vice President, Special Mission Sales for Textron Aviation. “We are honoured the US Army created this multiyear IDIQ contract with Textron Aviation, which provides the ability to rapidly procure COTS aircraft and modification for FMS allies and partner nations.” All three of the initial King Air turboprops awarded will perform maritime patrol to enforce the sovereignty of Peru and Ecuador over their respective Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
Citing valve damage, UND drops unleaded fuel and returns to 100LL
After an extensive trial, the University of North Dakota’s flight school has dropped Swift UL94 fuel and resumed use of 100LL. The school said ongoing maintenance monitoring of aircraft using UL94—almost exclusively Lycoming-powered Piper Archers and Seminoles, resulted in measurable exhaust valve recession. The school made the switch back to 100LL on 27 October.
Partly because students were interested in a less-polluting fuel, the school switched to Swift Fuel’s ASTM-spec UL94 in late June. In four months of flying totalling 46,000 hours, the school found evidence of significant valve recession in some of the Archers. On 8 November, the school’s director of maintenance, Dan Kasowsk said that the total number of aircraft impacted is not known yet because the data is still being collected. The data is being forwarded to Lycoming for analysis. “The fuel is on-spec, so that is not a problem. I do not want to speculate on what it could be. We are waiting for Lycoming to tell us,” Kasowski said.
Valve seat recession was a known problem when unleaded fuels were introduced in the automotive market starting in the 1970s. Lycoming addressed this issue in its cylinders during the 1990s and was believed to have valve seats and guides suited for unleaded fuels. Lycoming said it was ‘proactively evaluating’ the data received from UND and would provide appropriate guidance based on its analysis. Swift’s Chris D’Acosta confirmed that Lycoming is looking at materials, pilot operating methods, flight telemetry and additional data to understand the findings at UND. “The comment attributed to equivalent spark plug fouling and replacement vs 100 LL is generally not consistent with our own experience with UL94. This may be an indication of different operating methods at UND than elsewhere,” D’Acosta said.
UND’s Jeremy Roesler said when the school made the switch in June, it did so only after setting up a maintenance monitoring programme to track potential issues with UL94. “We are overcautious,” he said. “When we started finding these issues, we needed to ask ourselves how bad it has to get before we switch back to 100LL?” he said. With intense daily flight operations, aircraft down for maintenance were a worry for UND. “We are big on how it affects our students. It is causing some delays. So it is not in our best interest to accelerate back to UL94,” he added.
To monitor for cylinder wear, the school conducted regular compression checks on its fleet of Archers and also did the so-called ‘dry tappet’ check. This involves removing and cleaning the tappets and reinstalling them with the pushrods in place. The clearance between the rocker arm and the valve stem is then checked. If the valve seat is recessing, this clearance will progressively diminish as the valve recedes farther into the cylinder head. Kasowski said the Lycoming specified minimum clearance is 0.028 inch and some of the cylinders exceeded this limit. If the recession is deep enough, the valve will not close against the seat and power loss or burned valves can result. Recession was measured only on exhaust valves, not intake valves. In addition to data sent to Lycoming, UND is also sending both cylinders and engines for further analysis. Kasowski said after 46,000 flight hours, the school had about the same replacement rate for spark plugs as on 100LL, nor was spark plug fouling noticeably reduced.
Another operator that has been monitoring for more than two years is Rabbit Aviation Services in San Carlos, California. The company oversees maintenance and fuelling of a pair of flying clubs totalling nearly 10,000 hours of flight per year. Rabbit CEO Dan DeMeo said experience with UL94 has been universally positive with less spark plug fouling and cleaner oil. Rabbit has been offering UL94 for two and a half years.
NH Company completes autonomous helicopter flight test programme
On 7 November Nashua, New Hampshire-based Rotor Technologies announced it has completed a test campaign for its uncrewed R220Y, a derivative of the Robinson R22 piston-powered helicopter. Rotor, which self-describes as a developer of autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, claims theirs is the first-ever test programme involving an uncrewed full-scale civilian helicopter. The flight test regime involved two examples of the R220Y autonomous helicopter. Modifications from the stock R22 include removing seats, pilot controls and instrument panels. All flight functions of the test helicopters were automated by Rotor’s technology, according to the announcement. The test regime included more than 20 hours of flight time and more than 80 hours of engine-run time.
According to the Rotor statement, “These flights successfully proved Rotor’s flight control systems, autonomous hover and velocity modes as well as vision-based perception systems. The campaign also developed the aircraft’s long-distance flight capability through in-flight testing of long-range radio equipment and cellular LTE communication links, although all flights were conducted over a limited radius within direct line of sight of a ground control station.”
Rotor Founder and CEO Dr Hector Xu said, “Our artificial intelligence (AI) pilot system is already expert-level at tasks like precision flight control and navigation in poor visibility conditions and we are increasing its capabilities every day.” Robinson Helicopter is fully on board with the programme. Rotor’s ‘next step’ is developing its R550X, a similarly modified version of Robinson’s four-seat R44 Raven II. Rotor chief commercial officer Ben Frank said, “We are taking all the technology that we have developed on the R220Y and are placing it on a similar and even more capable platform. We are working with a set of close partners to put the R550X into revenue operation in 2024.”
The R550X is expected to have a payload capacity of 1,212 pounds and more than three hours’ endurance. Potential mission types for the autonomous helicopter include examples of the classic ‘three Ds’ often targeted by developers of uncrewed aircraft, Dirty, Dangerous and Dull. They include firefighting, crop dusting, construction, humanitarian aid and remote cargo delivery.
Peering even further into the future, Rotor anticipates an eventual move into passenger operations for its autonomous aircraft. The company notes that a 200-mile, traffic-snarled journey (such as Boston to New York) could be accomplished in 90 minutes with its aircraft.
Wizz Air CEO reveals new details about three Airbus A320s stranded in Ukraine
On the afternoon of 13 September 2022, the aviation world was gripped when a Wizz Air Airbus A320-200, registered as HA-LWS, flew out of Ukraine while battles raged, after it had become stranded due to the Russian invasion. Despite Ukrainian air space being closed, though, the Hungarian low-cost carrier jet made its daring escape. The Airbus A320 took off from Danylo Halytskyi International Airport Lviv (LWO) and found safety at Katowice Airport (KTW), Poland, seven months after it had first become stranded. However, HA-LWS was not the only Wizz Air A320 that was stuck in Ukraine as a result of the invasion by Russian troops. At Sikorsky International Airport Kyiv (IEV), three other A320s were also caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The aircraft registered HA-LWY arrived in Kyiv from Italy, whereas HA-LPJ arrive from Germany and HA-LPM from Hungary.
Now, 20 months on, Wizz Air CEO József Váradi has revealed in an interview with Corriere Della Sera what has happened to the three aircraft and whether they are still operable. According to the CEO, the engines from two of the aircraft were transported across the border into Poland whereas the other aircraft is still intact in Ukraine. A spokesperson for Wizz Air said that in the future the engines could be refitted to the two aircraft, which could then be flown. The spokesperson said: “None of Wizz Air aircraft based in Ukraine at the start of the conflict has been damaged. Wizz Air managed to rescue one aircraft from Lviv, as well as remove and transport to Poland the fitted engines from two of the three aircraft based in Kyiv. Wizz Air can re-install these engines onto the subject aircraft and, following performance of required maintenance checks, fly them again.
Frank Borman, astronaut and avid GA pilot, dies at 95
On Tuesday 7 November, Astronaut Frank Borman, commander of the first manned flight to circle the moon. Borman spent almost 20 full days in space over two missions and later served as the leader of Eastern Airlines. He was a committed General Aviation pilot, very active in the effort to promote safety among the Mitsubishi MU-2 pilot community. Borman was the oldest living astronaut, a distinction now passed to Jim Lovell (95) who is 11 days younger. In a statement, current NASA administrator Bill Nelson said, “Frank began his career as an officer with the US Air Force. His love of flying proved essential through his positions as a fighter pilot, operational pilot, test pilot and assistant professor. His exceptional experience and expertise led him to be chosen by NASA to join the second group of astronauts. “In addition to his critical role as commander of the Apollo 8 mission, he is a veteran of Gemini 7, spending 14 days in low-Earth orbit and conducting the first rendezvous in space, coming within a few feet of the Gemini 6 spacecraft.”
Jack Pelton, chairman and CEO of the Experimental Aircraft Association, said, “We at EAA came to know him for more than 30 years as an enthusiastic aviator and supporter of programmes that would build on the legacy of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. We were honoured in 2018 when Frank donated his personal archives to EAA, which are now on display at the EAA Aviation Museum and always welcomed him back to Oshkosh when he could join us here. We express our condolences to Frank’s family and many friends and say to Frank, Godspeed and thank you.”
FAA launches rulemaking committee on pilots’ mental health
On 9 November, with concerns raised over whether pilots fear seeking treatment for mental health issues, the FAA announced it will establish a Pilot Mental Health Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to address the issue. According to the announcement, the FAA ‘expects the committee to provide recommendations on breaking down the barriers that prevent pilots from reporting mental health issues to the agency.’ Members of the committee will include medical experts and representatives from aviation and labour. In the coming weeks, the charter for the ARC will be finalised and the FAA will appoint its panel of experts.
Noting that work has already been accomplished on the subject, the FAA said the new initiative will build on that foundation. Among the areas given priority are increasing mental health training for aviation medical examiners (AMEs), providing support for industry-wide studies and research into pilots’ mental health, adding more mental health professionals to the FAA staff with the dual goals of expanding in-house expertise in the field and hastening ‘return-to-fly’ decision-making for pilots awaiting FAA action, performing clinical research and amending policies on cognitive testing for pilots taking antidepressant medication and ramping up efforts to connect with pilot groups to inform them of available resources. Newly confirmed FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said, “Mental health care has made great strides in recent years and we want to make sure the FAA is considering those advances when we evaluate the health of pilots.”
US Air Force X-37B spaceplane to launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket
The seventh mission of the reusable US Air Force X-37B spaceplane is scheduled to launch on 7 December on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The spaceplane has been built by Boeing and operated by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the US Space Force. The mission, designated USSF-52, will conduct a wide range of tests, including operating the reusable spaceplane in new orbital regimes, experimenting with space domain awareness technologies and investigating the radiation effects on materials provided by NASA, the Space Force said in a statement on 8 November. “We are excited to expand the envelope of the reusable X-37B’s capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Fritschen, the X-37B programme director. The NASA experiment onboard, known as Seeds-2, will expose plant seeds to the harsh radiation environment of long-duration spaceflight.
SpaceX was awarded a $130 million contract in June 2018 to launch USSF-52. The mission was originally scheduled to launch in 2021 and has been delayed by payload and range availability. The most recent X-37B mission, OTV-6, launched in May 2020 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 and landed in November 2022 after setting a new endurance record, spending 908 days on orbit. The X-37B spaceplane is a derivative of the X-37A designed by NASA in the late 1990s to deploy from the Space Shuttle. The programme later was transferred to the Defence Department. There are two X-37B spacecraft, which were originally designed for missions of 270 days, but have greatly exceeded that goal since the spaceplane’s first mission in 2010. The US Air Force for a decade kept the X-37B in a cloak of secrecy, but the Space Force is now showcasing it.
Australian couple design world’s first hydrogen vertical lift-off EV plane
A Sydney-based aerospace startup, AMSL Aero, has secured $5.43 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to develop a hydrogen-powered electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft that could transform regional air transport in Australia.
The company, founded in 2017 by husband-and-wife team Andrew Moore and Siobhan Lyndon, has already created a battery-electric version of the aircraft called Vertiia, which can fly up to 250 km at 300 km/h. However, to extend the range and versatility of the aircraft, they are now working on integrating hydrogen fuel cell technology, which could enable it to fly up to 1,000 km. Vertiia, which has eight tilting wings and eight rotors, can take-off and land like a helicopter, making it suitable for various applications, such as emergency services, air ambulance and freight and passenger transport. It can carry up to five people and operate on demand between regional locations. The company aims to launch the aircraft commercially by 2026.
SkyDrive secures an order for 50 eVTOL aircraft from Korean lessor
SkyDrive has continued to expand its foothold in its surrounding markets, this time inking a deal for 50 of its electric VTOL aircraft to Solyu of Korea. The sale – or, more accurately, a memorandum of understanding, could provide Solyu with a new AAM aircraft well-suited to those passengers looking to ride far above the congested, gridlocked streets below. Should the firm go through with the agreed-upon preorder, Solyu will purchase ‘up to’ 50 SkyDrive 3-seater eVTOL aircraft. The aircraft is in the midst of acquiring its Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) certification.
Solyu just might be hedging their bets going for an MoU over a firm sale, given the variables at play with SkyDrive. Currently, it is anyone’s oyster to be first to market with a usable, reliable and sustainable eVTOL boasting all the right buzzwords. If a three-seater from Japan is the first to do this, then all the better for them, but Solyu seems to be holding off from committing too much just yet. The lessor has stood in the Korean finance industry for years, today increasing its focus on all the hot e-suffix aircraft. Now, it focuses on ‘providing customers with zero emissions vehicles such as eVTOL, eCTOL and eSTOL’ (distinctions between vertical, conventional and short take-off capabilities). In addition to filling out their hypothetical future fleet, Solyu will ‘continue to evaluate commercial eVTOL considerations such as vertiports, routes, infrastructure requirements and ecosystems with the Korean government and other interested stakeholders to launch new mobility solutions in Korea.’
SkyDrive & Suzuki partner to produce SD-05 eVTOL
In June 2023, SkyDrive an eVTOL concern based in Toyota City in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture and the Suzuki Motor Corporation entered into a partnership by which a SkyDrive-designed eVTOL aircraft known as the SD-05 will be built by Suzuki in a Japanese plant owned by the multinational mobility manufacturer. Per the provisions of the partnership agreement, the aforementioned plant will manufacture up to one-hundred SD-05 eVTOLs per-year. Production is slated to commence in spring 2024.
SkyDrive and Suzuki have also been collaborating on business and technology R&D, planning of manufacturing and mass-production systems, as well as development of overseas markets with an initial focus on India. SkyDrive is developing suitability use cases in India, particularly in historically significant sea and river-side locales frequented by tourists. Routes to subject locales are heavily travelled by Indian religious pilgrims and of interest, therefore, to companies in the business of regional mass-transportation. For purpose of addressing social mobility and health issues the likes of air pollution, vehicular emissions and urban roadway congestion, SkyDrive has entered into talks with local Indian stakeholders vis-à-vis the feasibility of an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) system predicated, in part, upon the company’s eVTOL aircraft. Over the last decade, Suzuki has contributed to mobility solutions throughout India, a fact beneficial to SkyDrive’s overtures.
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ANRA achieves regulatory milestone for drone operations in the United Kingdom
ANRA Technologies is pleased to be a consortium partner for a United Kingdom (UK) based project called BLUEPRINT that recently achieved a significant milestone. In collaboration with Cranfield Airport Operations Limited, Project BLUEPRINT has been selected to take part in the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UKCAA) Temporary Reserved Area (TRA) Regulatory Sandbox, which will allow us to work closely with the subject matter experts within the CAA to progress towards our objectives of successfully trailing integrated BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) drone operations within UK airspace. We are thrilled to be part of the sandbox, which is coordinated by the UKCAA’s Innovation Advisory Service.
The aims of the Sandbox are to:
- Demonstrate and validate specific technologies, airspace management procedures and flight operation procedures needed to enable the safe, efficient and managed integration of BVLOS drone operations and crewed aircraft.
- Enable the UKCAA to validate the use of the airspace policy concept with real-world use cases to evidence how it supports and enables the accommodation phase of integrated operations within a Temporary Reserved Area (i.e., accommodation phase).
- Through the TRA, enable participants to scale beyond segregation towards integration of BVLOS drone flights with crewed aircraft (i.e., integration phase).
ANRA’s Project BLUEPRINT focus is effective Air Traffic Management (ATM), UAS Traffic Management (UTM) and digital communication systems. ANRA’s approach is to build an interconnected ecosystem of technologies connected in an open and standardised way. This will be developed for both controlled and uncontrolled airspace and the interface between them, using the airspace around Cranfield Airport as a testbed. ANRA will develop an Air Traffic Control user application to meet the strategic and tactical information requirements to support drone operations.
About Project BLUEPRINT
Project BLUEPRINT was one of the winning consortium projects of the UK Research & Innovation Future Flight Challenge Phase 3. The team is led by Neuron Innovations and includes Ebeni, Cranfield Airport, Cranfield University, University of Southampton, Drone Cloud, Anra Technologies, Sky-Drones, Distributed Avionics and Future Aerial Innovations.
The aim of project BLUEPRINT is to provide regulators, technology providers and operators with a ‘blueprint’ for the UK-wide rollout of BVLOS drone operations, which can be commercialised at scale. The blueprint will allow stakeholders to design, plan and build routine and persistent BVLOS drone capabilities that can be exported on a European level. Project Blueprint is working with Cranfield Airport, the UKCAA and other TRA Sandbox partners to develop a TRA BVLOS test environment at Cranfield Airport, which will enable drones and crewed aircraft to co-exist in a safe and efficient operating environment through the:
- Deployment of a low-cost ground-based detect and avoid network
- Development and integration of open-access UTM (UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Traffic Management) architecture into Cranfield Airport
- Production of six BLUEPRINTs to scale this concept of drone zone operation across the UK; applicable to specific category drone operations, both multi-rotor, single rotor and fixed wing drones up to approximately 500kg.
The project intends to complete research & development flights within the TRA to reflect the rotary and fixed wing use cases and related end-user benefits during the sandbox. This is to provide evidence to the regulator on the safety of ADS-B enabled BVLOS flight operations within TRA and aims to validate that ADS-B TRAs (Temporary Reserved Area) are effective in integrating all airspace users safely.
BLUEPRINT and the TRA Sandbox
The TRA will enable the live operational testing of operations and technology and will help validate safety risk-mitigating evidence and identified standards and which will enable the UKCAA to influence regulatory guidelines and acceptable means of compliance (AMC). These can be aligned with other TRA Sandbox users to ensure an increased set of test data and, therefore, improved validation. In turn, this improves the opportunity to increase the scale of integrated BVLOS sustainability by enabling regulatory guidance through trailing and testing. By flying within a TRA Sandbox, this will help BLUEPRINT to:
- trial the airspace that has been developed to determine whether this provides inclusivity to all airspace users
- learn from the trial operations and develop effective governance to manage aviation stakeholders
- test and trial the detect and avoid solution that has been developed, make observations, and determine lessons learned
- test the integration and success of a UTM minimum viable product
- safely integrate two use case drones within an airport environment
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