“I do not trust my eyes to tell me what a man is: I have a better and more trustworthy light by which I can distinguish what is true from what is false: let the mind find out what is good for the mind.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca
The Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster was an experimental American bomber aircraft, designed for a high-top speed. The unconventional approach was to mount the two engines within the fuselage driving a pair of contra-rotating propellers mounted at the tail in a pusher configuration, leaving the wing and fuselage clean and free of drag-inducing protrusions. Two prototype aircraft were built, but the end of World War II changed priorities and the advent of the jet engine gave an alternative way toward achieving high speed.
Initially the XB-42 was developed as a private venture; an unsolicited proposal was presented to the United States Army Air Forces in May 1943. This resulted in an Air Force contract for two prototypes and one static test airframe, the USAAF seeing an intriguing possibility of finding a bomber capable of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress’s range without its size or cost.
The aircraft mounted a pair of Allison V-1710-125 liquid-cooled V-12 engines behind the crew’s cabin, each driving one of the twin propellers. Air intakes were in the wing leading edge. The landing gear was tricycle and a full, four surface cruciform tail was fitted, whose ventral fin / rudder unit prevented the coaxial propellers from striking the ground. The pilot and co-pilot sat under twin bubble canopies and the bombardier sat in the extreme front behind a plexiglass nose.
Defensive armament consisted of two 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns each side in the trailing edge of the wing, which retracted into the wing when not in use. These guns were aimed by the copilot through a sighting station at the rear of his cockpit. The guns had a limited field of fire (25 degrees left right and +20 -15 in elevation) to the rear, but with the aircraft’s high speed it was thought unlikely that intercepting fighters would attack from any other angle. Two guns were fitted to fire directly forward. Initially ordered as an attack aircraft (XA-42) in the summer of 1943, this variant would have been armed with 16 machine guns or a 75 mm (2.95 in) cannon and two machine guns. Considering the danger of bailing out and being pushed into the rear propellers, designers installed an explosive arrangement to sever the props from the tailcone in event of an emergency.
The first XB-42 (43-50224) was delivered to the USAAF and flew at Palm Springs, California on 6 May 1944. Performance was excellent, being basically as described in the original proposal: as fast as the de Havilland Mosquito B.XVI but with defensive armament and twice the bombload over short distances. The twin bubble canopies proved a bad idea as communications were adversely affected and a single bubble canopy was substituted after the first flight of the second prototype.
Testing revealed that the XB-42 suffered from some instability as excessive yaw was encountered, as well as propeller vibration and poor engine cooling, all problems that could probably have been dealt with. Due to the ventral vertical stabiliser and rudder surface set’s tip being located underneath the fuselage, careful handling during taxiing, take-off and landing was required because of limited ground clearance. An integral shock absorber was added to the ventral fin to reduce excessive bending force in the tailcone from a ground strike. The end of World War II allowed the USAAF more time to develop new aircraft and leaders decided to wait for the development of better jet bombers rather than continue with the B-42 programme.
In December 1945, Captain Glen Edwards and Lt. Col. Henry E. Warden set a transcontinental speed record by flying the second prototype XB-42 (43-50225) from Long Beach, California to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. (c. 2,300 miles). In 5h17, the XB-42 set a speed record of 433.6 mph (697.8 km/h).
The record-breaking XB-42 prototype was destroyed in a crash on 16 December 1945. On a routine flight out of Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., suffered in short order, a landing gear extension problem, failure of the left engine and as coolant temperatures rose, failure of the right engine. Major Hayduck bailed out at 1,200 feet, Lt. Col. Haney at 800 feet and the pilot Lt. Col. Fred J. Ascani, after crawling aft to jettison the pusher propellers, at 400 feet – all three survived. The aircraft crashed at Oxon Hill, Maryland. The classified jettisonable propeller technology caused a problem for authorities in explaining what witnesses on the ground thought was the aircraft exploding. Possible fuel management problems were speculated, but this hypothesis was never proven by subsequent investigation.
The remaining prototype was used in flight test programmes, including fulfilling a December 1943 proposal by Douglas to fit uprated engines and underwing Westinghouse 19XB-2A axial-flow turbojets of 1,600 lbf (7.1 kN) thrust each, making it the XB-42A. In this configuration, it first flew at Muroc (now Edwards Air Force Base) on 27 May 1947. In testing, it reached 488 mph (785 km/h). After 22 flights, the ventral fin and rudder were damaged in a hard landing in 1947. The XB-42A was repaired but never flew again and was taken off the USAF inventory on 30 June 1949. Unit cost was $13.7 million for the programme, including the B-43 project.
The first prototype 43-50224 is in storage awaiting restoration in the Restoration Hangar at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The prototype was removed from the USAF inventory in 1949 and given to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in whose care it remains although it has never been placed on display. The wings were removed for transport but have since been lost. In 2010 the fuselage was transferred, along with the Douglas XB-43 Jetmaster, to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio where they are awaiting restoration in the Restoration Hangars. Once completed, they will be displayed in the museum’s Experimental Aircraft Hangar.
(Information from Wikipedia)
Those Persons that correctly identified this week’s mystery aircraft:
Brian Millett, Ari Levien, Wouter van der Waal, Bernard Stander, Righardt du Plessis, Lance Williams, Pierre Brittz, P Rossouw, Willie Oosthuizen, Michael Schoeman, Colin Austen, Andre Visser, Rex Tweedie, John Skinner, Selwyn Kimber, Charlie Hugo, Steve Dewsbery, Andrew Peace, Greg Pullin, Jan Sime, Jeffrey Knickelbein, Jeremy Rorich, Brian Melmoth, Bruce Margolius, Magiel Esterhuysen, Piet Steyn, Bary Eatwell, Danie Viljoen, Rennie van Zyl, Alex Wagner, Jaco van Jaarsveld, Hilton Carroll Joh Moen, Aiden O’Mahony, Samuel Rawlins, Johan Venter, Clint Futter, Erwin Stam (38).
The English language
The official language of aviation is English, or should I say American. However, what we are seeing more often in South African press releases, editorials, magazines and newspapers is that American English is fast becoming the norm. It seems that some people do not know how to set their computers to English South Africa or at the very least English UK. Having edited African Pilot for 23 years, I am always aware that press releases that come from American companies will use English USA, whilst press releases coming from European companies are likely to use English UK. However, I find it rather sad when I receive a press release from a South African company that is clearly filled with spelling errors such as program, tire, color and all the American words where the s is replaced with a ‘z’. In addition the date: Americans write the date as the month first, followed by the day and then the year. Actually this should be far easier with the day first (a number) followed by the month (a word) and then the year (a number) with no comma in between the two numbers. Now you may think I am being pedantic, but well-written English is important and if we allow our standards to slip, then what will happen to our mother tongue?
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 15th edition of Future Flight was sent out to the world-wide audience on Wednesday 15 November. This 134-page edition has seven picture galleries and 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. I would love to receive your feedback about this new digital publication: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
The material deadline for the December 2023 / January 2024 edition of Future Flight is on Friday 12 January 2024.
All editorial content should be sent to me Athol Franz
For advertising opportunities please call Cell: 079 880 4359
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/
Henley Air Flight Training strengthens partnership with Tanzania People’s Defence Force
This week Henley Air Flight Training (HAFT) marked a significant milestone as the formal signing of a second training contract for ten Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) Commercial Pilot Licence Helicopter (CPL(H)) cadets took place at the TPDF headquarters in Dar es Salaam. The occasion was graced by the presence of Brigadier General Senzia and a distinguished team of senior TPDF officers who actively participated in overseeing the signing ceremony. The event underscores the commitment of both Henley Air Flight Training and the TPDF to the ongoing collaboration, solidifying the partnership established during the initial visit in January 2022.
The first visit, led by Andre Coetzee, Henley Air Group Executive Chairman and Captain William Rooken-Smith, laid the foundation for this strategic partnership. The successful completion of the Commercial Pilot Licence Helicopter (CPL(H)) training programme by the first group of cadets in August 2023 further solidified the efficacy of the training programmes provided by HAFT. The second group of ten cadets, who joined Henley Air Flight Training in early-September 2023, has shown commendable progress during the ground school phase of the programme. The signing of the contract on 14 November 2023, not only signifies the formalisation of this collaboration but also emphasises the trust and confidence the TPDF places in Henley Air Flight Training for the continued development of their aviation personnel.
“This is a momentous day for HAFT and the entire Henley Air Group of companies,” commented Andre Coetzee, Henley Air Group Executive Chairman. “The strengthened relationship with the TPDF is a testament to the quality of our training programmes and the dedication of our committed instructors. We are grateful for the warm hospitality and friendship extended by the TPDF and we look forward to welcoming more cadets in the future.” Henley Air Flight Training expresses its gratitude to the Tanzania People’s Defence Force for their continued support and collaboration. This partnership represents a commitment to excellence, ensuring the highest standards in helicopter pilot training for the TPDF cadets.
Plane hits a car after runway overrun
There were no injuries when a Lancair IV-P Jetprop overran the runway at Aero Country Airport in McKinney, Texas, on Saturday and collided with a car on a road adjacent to the airport. Jack Schneider, who was at the airport picking up an aircraft to trailer home, got his cell phone recording just in time to capture the crash sequence. According to WFAA News, the pilot told authorities the propeller would not reverse. According to the Aviation Safety Network, the pilot reported a pressurisation problem while climbing through 25,000 feet and descended rapidly to make an emergency landing. It went around on the first landing attempt and then overran the runway. The plane is registered to a company in Midland, Texas.
Airdrop bomb threat interrupts flight
On Monday night a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Vancouver was diverted to San Francisco after some passengers received an alleged bomb threat via Airdrop. ‘There was a threat that was ultimately deemed noncredible,’ the FBI said in a statement. The threat would have had to have been sent by someone onboard using an Apple device and only those onboard with Apple devices set up to receive Airdrop files would have received the threat. Airdrop uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to allow file sharing between Apple devices in close proximity. At least one passenger reported receiving the threat and being interviewed by the FBI. The FBI did not mention any arrests or further investigations. The A320 was over Northern California when the crew squawked 7700 and headed for SFO. The plane landed at 21h28 and was met by law enforcement. The flight resumed at 08h00 and landed in Vancouver at 10h20.
Boeing sees large airline fleet growth from Middle East
The Middle East airliner fleet will more than double by 2042 with the delivery of 3,025 new jets, according to the latest commercial market outlook (CMO) published by Boeing on Sunday. The airframer predicts that new widebody models, such as the 777-9 it is displaying at the Dubai Airshow this week, will account for almost 1,350 of those sales, along with 1,570 narrowbodies, some 70 purpose-built freighters and just 35 regional jets.
In a pre-show press briefing, Darren Hulst, Boeing’s vice president for commercial marketing, reported that Middle East scheduled carriers have mostly bounced back from Covid disruption to the air transportation market. As of September 2023, single-aisle capacity reached 24 percent above where it stood in September 2019, while widebody capacity lagged by six percent.
Boosting expectations of strong investments in fleet expansion and modernisation is Boeing’s assessment that load factors for the region’s airlines now exceed pre-pandemic levels, at 82 percent. The industry has seen a significant uptick in market conditions since September 2022, as revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) grew by 26 percent and available seat kilometres by 23 percent. At the same time, the Middle East’s active fleet is approaching pre-pandemic levels. Just 14 percent of the fleet sits parked at any time, which Boeing views as a normal rate.
Boeing bases its optimism about the Middle East market on more than just the fact that the region’s economy appears on track to outperform global GDP growth rate averages by 2025, ahead of Europe and North and South America. The company’s forecasters see its geographic advantage of being well connected to 80 percent of the world’s population and to regions expected to generate 70 percent of global economic growth over the next two years as putting the Middle East in a lead position for airline expansion. Flights to and from emerging markets in Asia and Africa will primarily drive growth for Middle Eastern airlines, according to Boeing. On that basis, the new CMO sees RPKs in the Middle East growing from 800 billion in 2022 to 2.7 trillion in 2042.
In addition to the 777-9 and 787 jets, Boeing sees the next generation 777X being ‘the next long-haul market leader when it enters service in 2025. Since 2019, airlines have added more than 100 new long-haul city pairs to the schedules of Middle Eastern airports while many local carriers use widebodies for short-haul routes. Boeing now claims to account for 66 percent of the region’s widebody fleet and 60 percent of aircraft on order in that category.
The manufacturer also sees scope for further growth in demand for its 737 Max narrowbodies, 80 of which have entered service with Middle Eastern carriers, with another 200 on order. The CMO report indicated that flight lengths for those aircraft average 1,016 nm, which Boeing says is 20 percent longer than the rival Airbus A320neo. Since 2019, more than 300 new city pairs have joined the region’s narrowbody network.
In the air cargo sector, Boeing sees further growth from passenger-carrying airlines also operating freighters. In 2022, Qatar Airways climbed to the number-two position among global freight carriers, followed by Emirates in fourth place. Boeing predicts its optimistic projections for airline growth between now and 2042 will spur $335 billion in supporting services, including maintenance, parts distribution, digital solutions and training. The company said the Middle East industry will need to recruit 215,000 new personnel, including pilots, cabin crew and technicians.
Skyryse performs world’s first fully automated autorotation landing in rotorcraft
In an impressive feat of safety innovation, Skyryse has completed the world’s first fully automated autorotation emergency landing procedure. Skyryse announced the achievement on Thursday, announcing that this feature will come standard on all Skyryse-equipped planes and helicopters, along with the first production helicopter equipped with the technology, including the first-ever simplified control system, in the first quarter of 2024.
The proprietary technology is a highly automated flight control system that can be installed on any aircraft. The technology is the first and only system to work with the pilot through a reimagined Human Machine Interface. The HMI works with the pilot by managing complex emergency procedures, even catastrophic scenarios like engine failure.
When helicopter pilots encounter engine failure, they have less than two seconds to perform a series of fully manual multiple control movements in a manoeuvre called autorotation. Due to the intricate nature of the current control systems, no helicopter can fully automate the manoeuvre, until now. Using the proprietary redundant flight controls and sensors, the Skyryse system works to swiftly recognise the power failure and launch multiple procedures, thus, making the landing uneventful. From the entry to a steady descent, the system will lower the pitch, align the nose, manage aircraft stability, complete the flair and land at the desired landing location.
Skyryse has undergone dozens of automated autorotations with its first fully automated autorotation, from altitude fully to the ground, in a Robinson R66 equipped with Skyryse technology. The autorotations were completed at the Los Angeles-area Flight Test and Performance Facility on 22 July 2023 with Guinness World Records. The July testing with Guinness certified the record for the first automated autorotation landing by rotorcraft.
Arrow 3 air defence system notches first successful intercept
This past week Israel’s Arrow 3 air defence system successfully intercepted a missile headed towards Israel, marking the first combat intercept for the system, Israel Ministry of Defence and Israel Defence Forces announced this evening. “Israeli Air Defence Array soldiers successfully launched an ‘Arrow 3’ interceptor operationally for the first time this evening. The interceptor effectively intercepted a target launched towards Israel in the Red Sea region,” the IDF said in a statement. (Although not stated by the IDF, that likely means the incoming weapon was launched from Houthi militants in Yemen). The intercept ‘marks the Arrow 3 system’s first operational interception since its operational deployment in 2017,’ the IDF added.
The Arrow system, produced by Israel Aerospace Industries, is the top tier of Israel’s multi-layered integrated air defences, focused on incoming ballistic missiles. Arrow-3 is the most advanced variant currently in service; the Arrow-2 had its first successful intercept on 31 October. the Arrow 3 system was recently sold to Germany as Berlin sought a solution to threats in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine. Israel announced it was working on an Arrow 4 system to build on the success of Arrow 3 in 2021.
The middle tier includes the David’s Sling air defence system, which was also jointly developed with the US. The David’s Sling is similar to the Patriot system, which Israel has also used during this war. (A Patriot was also used today to intercept another incoming threat.) Rafael Advanced Defence Systems is the primary contractor on David’s Sling, which has been sold to Finland. In addition, Israel successfully notched an airborne air defence kill when it used F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to shoot down a cruise missile last week.
The lower tier of the air defences in Israel is taken up by the Iron Dome system, also produced by Rafael, which is the workhorse of Israel’s air defenders. According to IDF figures released this week, Iron Dome has intercepted 2,000 incoming threats to Israel since the 7 October assault by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 Israelis.
Over 9,500 rockets have been fired from Gaza since Hamas since 7 October per IDF figures. Generally, only threats heading for urban areas are intercepted; The IDF estimates 12 percent of incoming rockets misfire and fall back into Gaza, while many more hit open areas in Israel. Most missiles and rockets from Gaza reach a range of around 40 miles, though Hamas does have a limited arsenal of missiles able to stretch more than 100 miles. However, not everything coming from outside Israel is being successfully intercepted. On Thursday last week, a drone alleged to be from Yemen struck a school in Eilat, the city where roughly 60,000 Israelis who evacuated communities near Gaza and the northern border have been evacuated to hotels.
The Iran-backed Houthis have carried out several attacks on Israel since the start of the Gaza conflict, involving cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones. On Wednesday, the Houthis successfully downed a US drone and in response the US carried out airstrikes in Syria. Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria have also targeted US forces in more than 40 attacks since 7 October, according to the Pentagon.
Airship backed by Google co-founder prepares for first flight
On 8 November LTA’s first prototype, called Pathfinder 1, was lifted for the first time at Moffett Field, California, in preparation for its upcoming testing programme. Initially the first flights will be tethered, with the Pathfinder moving just a few meters off the ground. Later on it is planned that the airship with conduct some flight testing over the waters of San Francisco Bay. In September 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a special airworthiness certificate for a period of one year, until 1 September 2024.
LTA Research is one of a handful of companies currently revisiting the airship concept, which fell out of favour in the 1930s, as an energy efficient and sustainable form of air transport. The new generation of airship developers, which in addition to LTA includes companies such as Flying Whales in France and Hybrid Air Vehicles in the United Kingdom, take advantage of new materials and technologies to make airship travel attractive again. For example LTA uses fly-by-wire controls, Lidar sensors and electric motors developed by Pipistrel, one of the pioneering firms in electric aviation (at first these will be powered by diesel generators, but the firm plans to transition to fuel cell or batteries at a later stage).
Buoyancy is provided by 13 self-contained bags filled with helium, an inert, non-flammable gas. These are, in turn, contained by a structural ‘rib cage’ made of 3,000 titanium tubes and 10,000 carbon fibre-reinforced polymer tubes. Pathfinder 1 will be able to lift up to four tons of cargo, but LTA Research is already working on a larger Pathfinder 3 capable of carrying larger payloads. Transporting cargo and emergency support in parts of the world with limited ground infrastructure are expected to be among the first missions the Pathfinder family of airships will fulfill, although there may be other commercial uses, such as passenger transportation in the future.
NASA conducts geological survey using repurposed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft
NASA has embarked on a mission to find and map vital mineral deposits in the Western United States using high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The Geological Earth Mapping Experiment (GEMx) project is a joint effort between NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It involves a specialised Gulfstream V business aircraft and two Lockheed ER-2 Earth Resources aircraft, fitted with NASA instrumentation. The ER-2 aircraft is a high-altitude aircraft primarily used for scientific research missions. It is based on Lockheed Martin U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, also known as the ‘Dragon Lady’, developed during the Cold War era primarily for the US Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency to observe Soviet territories. NASA acquired two of these aircraft, one in 1981 and another in 1989.
In line with its original purpose, the NASA ER-2 is capable of flying at extremely high altitudes, reaching up to 70,000 feet (approximately 21,300 meters) above the Earth’s surface. It is equipped with a range of measurement instruments and scientific sensors to gather data on the atmosphere, meteorology, oceanography, geophysics and other research fields. Due to its ability to operate at such altitudes, the ER-2 is often used for atmospheric studies and Earth observations.
During a GEMx mission, aircraft fly at around 65,000 feet to collect geophysical data covering vast areas. The instruments capture detailed images using colour to reveal hidden geological features on Earth’s surface, including critical minerals. The minerals surveyed are crucial for everyday products such as laptops and cell phones. The mission aims to reduce dependence on foreign sources for these critical minerals. The GEMx project will provide modern geophysical data over a three-year period, running from 2023 to 2026.
Boom Supersonic announces latest milestones for aircraft, investment funding
On Thursday Boom Supersonic announced the milestones the Overture airliner, Symphony engine and XB-1 supersonic demonstrator programmes have achieved. The company has also confirmed the closing of an investment round that includes a strategic investment from the NEOM Investment Fund, with Boom’s total funding now exceeding $700 million.
The NEOM Investment Fund was announced on 24 October, acting as the investment portion of NEOM, the sustainable regional development in northwest Saudi Arabia. Boom and NIF agreed to collaborate on opportunities to make the Gulf region more accessible through supersonic flight. The investment has brought Boom’s total funding from investment and capital sources to over $700 million.
The XB-1 jet remains on track for its historic first flight later this year at the Mojave Air and Space Port, the same airspace where legendary aviator Charles ‘Chuck’ Yeager first broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 and where the Mach 3+, strategic reconnaissance SR-71 Blackbird flew for the first time in 1964. After receiving its airworthiness certificate from the FAA the XB-1 successfully completed a number of integrated tests including ground vibration mode testing, fuel system integrated testing engine operability testing and medium-speed taxi testing up to 90 knots. After its Flight Readiness Review last week the XB-1 will begin conducting high-speed taxi testing in the final phase of preparation for its first flight.
Boom’s Symphony propulsion system, which has been purpose-built for sustainable and economical supersonic flight, has successfully conducted important engineering milestones for 2023, otherwise known as the Conceptual Design Review. This achievement opens the Symphony’s first hardware rig tests in 2024. The propulsion system is being developed with GE Additive for additive technology design consulting, Florida Turbine Technologies for engine design and StandardAero for maintenance.
On 20 September Boom celebrated the completion of the building frame on its Overture Superfactory at the Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO) in Greensboro, North Carolina. Boom completed the decking on the top of the structure, poured concrete flooring and installed metal side wall panels. The construction of the building is ahead of schedule and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2024.
SpaceX nails 80th mission this year
The launch was the 11th for the particular rocket used, or at least the 1st stage. The equipment had previously launched a bevy of client packages, including ‘SES-22, ispace’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1, Hispasat Amazonas Nexus mission, and CRS-27’. Now, with the most recent mission completed, the rocket has also successfully delivered seven Starlink payloads. Overall, the launch makes for the 80th for SpaceX in 2023, with more than 1,000 metric tons delivered into orbit. The newest generation of Starlink satellites may be credited with the network’s growth this year, only months after their initial debut. The V2 Mini boasts 4 times the capacity for client service against the V1 satellite despite its smaller, lighter footprint. The size difference allowed for a higher launch tempo using the more modest Falcon rocket, allowing the constellation to boom to somewhere north of 5,000 satellites according to amateur skywatchers. A larger, ‘standard’ V2 requires the stout Starship launch vehicle to be placed into service and Starship’s dance card is pretty full already. The network has continued to grow with impressive consistency, with a 93% success rate in getting platforms into orbit and in service. Starlink has been forthright about its end-of-life plans for each unit, too, with built-in post-mission disposal for satellites leaving service.
The ‘little rover that could’ caps 4,000 days on Mars
NASA’s handiwork continues to impress on Mars, with its Curiosity rover doggedly continuing on its mission past the 4,000th day on the planet since touching down on 5 August 2012. The Rover was originally sent to evaluate the possibility of microbial activity near the three-mile-tall Mount Sharp. The plan was for Curiosity to slowly inch its way up the mountain, using the layers of the rock to evaluate the Martial epochs as it went. The latest sample retrieved will hopefully show how the Martian climate evolved over time, particularly what happened to the once salty oceans of the basin.
Curiosity will just ‘keep on keeping on’ in the traditional NASA sense, despite a couple niggles with the aged hardware as it continues to weather the harsh Martial seasons. Right now, one of its main 34mm mast cameras remains stuck between filter positions, affecting its image quality and limiting the mission to relying on its other 100mm focal length camera. The team continues to make minute nudging adjustments in the hopes the camera can push the filter back into position. According to the laboratory Curiosity’s power source should continue to work for ‘many more years’, a prospect made even more likely with judicious piloting and additional software updates.
Volocopter dazzles with first flight in New York City
Volocopter, the pioneer of urban air mobility (UAM), completed its first flight test at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (DMH) in New York City (NYC) with its crewed Volocopter 2X. Hosted by the Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), the Volocopter 2X participated in the world’s largest and first public event showcasing multiple electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft in a city. Volocopter has now successfully and safely conducted flights in the heart of two of the busiest metropolitan hubs of the world, NYC and Singapore. The success of this flight is an affirmation of the company’s skilfulness to bring safe, quiet and sustainable UAM to megacities worldwide.
With the iconic Lower Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, the Volocopter 2X electric air taxi flew in a stable, quiet and smooth manner, weathering East River conditions. Volocopter’s multicopter design is particularly suited for short- to mid-range urban missions, producing zero emissions in flight and very little noise pollution that is hardly audible in a busy metropolis like NYC. As part of the public showcase, the City of New York outlined a new vision for the future of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, seeking to reduce emissions, noise pollution and improve the quality of life for residents. It aims to reshape heliports such as DMH to accommodate eVTOL aircraft so that the city can diversify its mobility options to reduce congestion, while still meeting the transport needs of one of the busiest cities in the world. DMH is a well-known transport hub for travellers in need of an efficient ride to neighbouring airports or for touristic flights to view the NYC skyline.
In 2018, Volocopter conducted its maiden US flight in Las Vegas. Since then, it has flown in Oshkosh, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Tampa and now in NYC. Volocopter expects to receive a final certification of its commercial eVTOL aircraft, the VoloCity, from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2024. The company is also in the concurrent validation process with the FAA, which was submitted in 2020 and has been working with both authorities to bring urban air mobility to life.
InterGlobe and Archer to bring all-electric air taxi service to India
InterGlobe Enterprises (InterGlobe), India’s leading travel and hospitality conglomerate and Archer Aviation (Archer), a pioneer in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, have jointly announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate on launching and operating an innovative all-electric air taxi service in India, pending regulatory approvals.
Rahul Bhatia, Group Managing Director of InterGlobe, and Nikhil Goel, Chief Commercial Officer of Archer, signed the MOU, outlining their shared vision of introducing a cutting-edge transportation solution. The proposed partnership aims to enhance urban mobility in India through a safe, sustainable, and low-noise electric air taxi service, offering cost-competitive alternatives to ground transportation. The collaboration plans to engage local business partners for aircraft operations, vertiport infrastructure development and personnel training. In addition, the partnership envisions securing up to 200 of Archer’s Midnight aircraft for operations in India.
Archer’s Midnight aircraft, a four-passenger eVTOL, is designed for rapid back-to-back flights with minimal charge time between them. The goal is to reduce travel time significantly, with a Delhi-to-Gurugram trip, typically taking 60 to 90 minutes by car, accomplished in approximately seven minutes. Beyond urban air taxi services, the collaboration intends to explore various use cases for electric aircraft in India, including cargo, logistics, medical and emergency services, as well as private company and charter services.
The collaboration addresses the growing issue of urban congestion, offering a sustainable and efficient solution. Archer’s electric air taxis aim to provide safe, low-noise urban mobility as India strives to become a US$5 trillion (£4 trillion) economy while tackling the challenges of a doubling urban population by 2050, with commutes in major cities projected to take up to two hours.
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Origin unveils ‘BEAK’: a precision bomb-drop drone with class-leading ISR capability
Origin, a pioneer in military unmanned aerial systems with precision bomb-drop capability, is ready to transform the industry with the introduction of their latest breakthrough, the ‘BEAK’. This multipurpose Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is set to redefine ISR capabilities, offering extended range, reduced acoustic signature and the unique ability to precisely attack soft and hard targets. Drawing from the lessons learned in the Ukraine war, Origin has developed a NATO-ready solution that empowers a new level of capability. The BEAK provides the means to employ unconventional tactics effectively exploiting an adversary’s vulnerabilities.
Designed to address the shortcomings of current systems used in bomb-drop missions in Ukraine, the BEAK is from the ground-up designed for operations in GNSS-denied environments and has state-of-the-art anti-jamming capabilities. Despite its remarkable four-kilogram munition payload capacity, the BEAK remains highly portable, ensuring flexibility in deployment. Beak can deliver four kilograms of munitions to a distance of over 12 kilometres. The beak can be configured with six, four or two munition slots making it suitable for various missions. Moreover, in ISR configuration, it leads the industry with an impressive flight time of 60 minutes.
The team behind the BEAK has gone the extra mile to significantly enhance bomb-drop accuracy, incorporating advanced algorithms for precision hit capability. The Origin Ground Control software leverages an open-source architecture, featuring an intuitive user interface that slashes operator training time to just a few hours. In its ISR configuration, the BEAK’s extended flight time and capable sensor payload make it an exceptional reconnaissance solution. Despite being size, weight and power-optimised, it delivers leading Detection, Recognition and Identification (DRI) ranges. Equipped with a thermal imager, it enables human detection at night from distances of over 1000 meters. Agris Kipurs, co-founder at Origin, emphasised, “At Origin, we believe that addressing the escalating security threats in Europe stands as our society’s foremost priority. Drawing on decades of expertise, we are committed to propelling Europe and our NATO allies forward in capability.”
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