“Legislators and revolutionaries who promise equality and liberty at the same time are either psychopaths or mountebanks.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Since last week’s mystery aircraft was rather easy to identify, I was disappointed in the number of correct answers that reached my desktop. 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.
Aero Club of South Africa awards
Christine and I attended the Aero Club awards event that were staged in Menno Parsons’ magnificent hangar surrounded by many of his beautiful vintage aircraft including his famous Mustang Sally. This was a gathering to recognise the various members of the sections of the AeCSA who had excelled during the past year and although I do not always understand some of the disciplines, those that I have covered over the past year were well-rewarded for their achievements. This was a formal event and with the present heat wave in Gauteng the day was a scorcher, it was great to see many of the pilots and organisers with whom I have worked closely over the past year in their formal dress. Compliments to Rob Jonkers and his small team at the AeCSA that planned this event that went off very well even though Eskom tried to interfere with another bout of loadshedding. The full feature with pictures and a video will be published in African Pilot’s January 2024 edition.
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 Baragwaneth, Brakpan, Brits, Eagles Creek, Kitty Hawk, Krugersdorp, Panaroma, Petit, Rhino Park (now Legend Sky), Springs and Tedderfield. If your airfield is not included in this list, then please contact me and I will endeavour to include your airfield.
This edition will also include the spectacular SACAA Aviation Industry Awards and the Dubai Airshow. Every month, 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 material deadline for the December 2023 edition of African Pilot was on Friday 17 November, but I will hold this edition open until Tuesday 28 November 2023.
All editorial content should be sent to me Athol Franz
For advertising opportunities please call Cell: 079 880 4359
The fifteenth 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 10 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
Embraer C-390 arrival at AFB Waterkloof
Air Show South Africa hosts a training session for airshow photographers
Congratulations to Rikus Erasmus (Chairman of ASSA) for planning the Saturday morning training event that was very well presented by Walter Double, Cliff Lotter and Rikus himself at the Henley Air (air conditioned) training facility at Rand airport. Although Rikus bounced this idea off me some months previously, I was most impressed at the turnout of airshow photographers as well as the content of the session. This was also an opportunity for the various participants to air their views and ask questions about overall safety matter at airshows. The entire session was filmed by Earl of Focus to Frame so that the various airshow photographers that could not make this session will have the opportunity to view the final video presentation. In addition, Rikus will host a Cape Town session similar to this event for the Cape-based photographers. The overall importance of this training session cannot be emphasised enough because the display pilots, many of whom depend on sponsorship need to see their displays in the media. As Rikus stressed “we are all one big family, from display pilots, safety officials, event organisers and the media and we need to work seamlessly together for the overall benefit of airshows in South Africa.” At the conclusion of the training session Rikus handed out ASSA accredited airside media ‘licenced’ books that all the photographers can use when they attend airshows in South Africa and also get one of the officials to sign the book in the allocated place. More about this training session in the December edition of African Pilot to be published this coming week.
SAA was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for ‘connected people’
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has released a damning interim report on corruption within the state-owned enterprise, suggesting its investigation might be the ‘tip of the iceberg’. The investigation seems to have focused on now-delinquent director Dudu Myeni’s reign as chairperson. In 2009, she was appointed as a nonexecutive director, becoming acting group chair from 2012 to 2015, when she was officially appointed. She remained chair until 2017.
With ANC cadre Myeni and her accomplices at the helm, SAA lost R16.844 billion and was repeatedly bailed out by taxpayers. That suggests about 22.7% of SAA’s losses at the time were pocketed illicitly. Amazingly, I met Myeni several times when Nico Bezuidenhout was appointed the interim acting CEO of SAA. I later found out that Nico resigned because he was starting to uncover some of the irregularities of Myeni’s tenure at the airline as its chairperson.
Myeni was also chair of the Jacob Zuma Foundation at roughly the same time. She was declared a delinquent director in 2017 after the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) took legal action against her. The SIU investigation started in 2020 after it found sufficient evidence to justify a large-scale probe into alleged irregularities at the airline. Its mandate was far reaching and included several corrupt broad-based black economic empowerment procurement practices and initiatives through to staff rebate travel. Dubious dealings included invoices totalling R17 million for aircraft parts which previously had a price tag of less than half of what was paid.
Some of the published findings of the SIU
- A Turnaround Strategy project was put out to tender with a required response time of just three days. There was only one bidder, who was awarded the R170 million contract in complete disregard of PFMA & SCA Policies & Procedures and Treasury Regulations. The SIU was able to shut this down after R40 million was paid out, rescuing the remaining R130 million.
- Myeni swapped an Airbus A330 wide body order for the smaller A320; Airbus refunded R824 million in preorder payments and securities, but the money is missing.
- It is also investigating anomalies in the proposed Takatso Consortium takeover of SAA.
- One SAA board member apparently took an R800 000 loan from an SAA Technical supplier and subsequently awarded that supplier contracts worth more than R6 million.
- A further R71 million passed through an attorney’s bank account and was paid to SAA staff and board members for the provision of what seem to be fictitious legal services.
- An aircraft tyre tender worth between R218 million and R375 million did not comply with PFMA & SCA Policies & Procedures and Treasury Regulations.
- A component support services contract of value between R1.2 to R1.8 billion was found to be corrupted ‘between entities, third parties, SAA & SAAT employees as well as SAA Board members.’
- SAA Technical sold off ground power units at more than R5 million less than the market price and then hired them back at exorbitant daily rates.
- A paint tender worth R 19.2 million did not comply with PFMA & SCA Policies & Procedures and Treasury Regulations.
- The dry lease of a cargo aircraft with a contract value of R185,504,342.51 was found to be irregular, with no approval obtained for deviations.
- Irregular expenditure amounting to R 953 million, in the provision of outsourced Security Company services between February 2008 and January 2020 has been identified by the SIU. The corrupt contract was extended eight times over a 56-month period.
- Irregular procurement, overpricing, conflict of interest and overpayments in the amount of R5,071,666.50 in a contract for the supply of avionic components was identified by the SIU. They discovered in their investigation, that the SAA employee who signed off on the Request for Quotations (RFQ’s) was also the owner of the company awarded the supply tender.
- Cabin crew transport contracts were a cash-cow to the plunderers. An amount of R6,453,797.10 was identified as fraudulently paid for services between 1 February 2019 and 27 August 2020, with a further R 15,311,696.00 fraudulently paid between 1 March 2016 and 31 October 2016. Yes, that is right, in nine months only R3,691,279.00 was due for cabin crew transport but SAA paid out R21,311,690.00.
- A three-year contract for the supply of aircraft batteries was budgeted at R11,057,259.00. The second year of the contract (the first year’s figures are vague) they blew through R22,320,456.12 and in the third year of the contract they spent R32,896,456.50.
- In their investigation of a SAAT Working Capital Optimisation Contract worth R22 million, the SIU identified that a single bid was submitted late and should not have been considered. The bidder was identified to be privy to confidential information. High value stock items were reported to be obsolete and sold at minimal value and then SAAT bought and / or leased these components back at ‘exorbitant’ prices. The SIU managed to scrape back R14 million of the R22 million which was paid out.
- There is an additional amount of R71,000,000 which the SIU identified was facilitated through attorney’s bank accounts and paid out to SAA staff and Board member’s for the ‘provision of legal services.’
- The SIU identified current and former employees and board members, law firms and businesses who are liable for prosecution.
“Buck by buck is how SAA was looted” said a former executive who did not want to be named but worked closely with Myeni. “They stripped the airline of everything, absolutely everything.”
Outa chief executive Wayne Duvenhage said: “It reads like a horror story of gross and excessive plundering of one of South Africa’s leading and proud state-owned entities. This is why SAA has sucked up R38.1 billion in taxpayer-funded bailouts since April 2018. This is why the airline collapsed, resulting in the retrenchment of thousands of staff and leaving legitimate contractors unpaid. This is the result of inadequate ministers who appointed inadequate, disastrous directors, who, in turn, appear to have protected and nurtured certain staff members who siphoned billions of rands out of the airline.”
“This is the result of successive parliaments which failed to watch over SAA for years.” The DA’s Alf Lees said: “The incredible thing is that apparently none of those guilty of fraud and corruption have yet been convicted and whilst some of the corrupt cadres have ridden off into the sunset with their ill-gotten gains, there are still some employed at SAA.”
The SIU is also investigating corruption and fraud in:
- Ground handling tender
- Cleaning services tender
- Aircraft brakes and tyres tender
- Fleet maintenance on SAA & SAAT vehicles tender
- A case where SAA paid a supplier in the UK R17 million for a part which they had previously paid R8 million for. Their suspicions were aroused when they discovered that the supplier is a brother of a (former) SAA employee.
The SIU’s report, as presented to the Parliamentary group today has identified R3.4 billion in illicit, corrupt and fraudulent payments. They have to date managed to recover R14 million and stop payment on a further R130 million which was about to go out the door. To date there have been zero convictions, very few charges laid and zero disciplinary action taken by South African Airways, as all employees or Board members involved have left the employment or service of SAA. No third-party attorney’s involved in illicit transactions or dealings have been disbarred or sanctioned.
This is an incredibly sad situation that happened right under the watch of the thoroughly corrupt ANC governing party. I have also been accused of having a personal vendetta against South African Airways, but when you consider the overwhelming evidence being presented right now do you blame me when we could all see this massive corruption at the national carrier.
Embraer KC-390 Millenium transport aircraft landed at AFB Waterkloof on Friday
On Friday morning a Brazilian Air Force KC-390 (PT ZNG) arrived at AFB Waterkloof for demonstration flights to the South African Air Force (SAAF) and other government departments as the SAAF investigates future replacement or augmentation of its ageing C-130BZ Hercules fleet. After landing at Waterkloof, the KC-390 was met by senior Department of Defence (DoD) leadership, including Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), General Rudzani Maphwanya; Chief of the SAAF, Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo and Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese. Following a media briefing, the aircraft took off for a demonstration flight with SANDF members and various representatives from government departments. The full feature with photographs and a video will be published in the December edition of African Pilot.
Exercise Vuk’uhlome 2023 exercise on visitors day
By Charlie Hugo
Months of hard work, training and tragedy reached a head on Wednesday 22 November when the South African Army hosted its Distinguished Visitors’ Day demonstration for Exercise Vuk’uhlome 2023, as 14 000 troops showcased the defence force’s capabilities at Lohatla and Charlie Hugo was there to record the events of the day. The day saw high-level attendance from African and international militaries, including the Chief of Russia’s Land Forces. Other army heads hailed from Angola, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Ghana, amongst others. Also in attendance were military veterans, attaches, members of the defence industry, the Chief of the SA Navy, the Chief of the SA Air Force and South African Military Health Service Surgeon General. Vuk’uhlome is the SA Army’s flagship exercise and it is largest. The combat finale on Wednesday 22 November saw Army Chief, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha, declaring forces combat ready at the Northern Cape Combat Training Centre.
The event started off by mid-morning with a crowd control demonstration led by the Military Police. This was followed by a hostage rescue demonstration, bomb drops by the Gripen fighter, supported by a couple of Hawk Mk 120 lead-in fighter-trainers. A C212 dropped paratroopers before a BK 117, supported by an A109, rescued a ‘downed pilot’. Special Forces entered the fray with their Hornet vehicles and light weapons as well as ZSU-23-fitted Land Cruisers before the big guns came out: Ratels, Rooikats and Olifants were among the armoured vehicles, supported by infantry, to attack the ‘enemy’ in force. They were supported by 127 mm Bateleur multiple rocket launchers, G6 howitzers, Air Defence Artillery guns and other weapons.
Unfortunately, on return to the airfield the CASA 212 that dropped paratroopers the pilots mismanaged the landing and severely damaged the aircraft, which eventually stopped off the runway in a pile of rocks with a collapsed left undercarriage. African Pilot’s correspondent, Charlie Hugo flew from AFB Waterkloof to Lohatla on board this very aircraft and due to the landing accident, the group of journalists had to spend the night in a B&B in the region. However, the next day they were flown back to AFB Waterkloof in one of the other SAAF serviceable aircraft and huge apologies were expressed by the Chief of the SAAF. The full illustrated report will be featured within the December 2023 edition of African Pilot.
First of its kind biodiversity research to be conducted in the Western Cape
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is preparing to conduct a first-of-its-kind biodiversity field campaign in the Western Cape by sending two modified jets to Cape Town. In conjunction with the University of Cape Town (UCT), the campaign will incorporate airborne imaging spectroscopy, lidar and field observations across South Africa’s Greater Cape Floristic Region (GCFR), including surrounding coastal and marine environments. The collaborative campaign, dubbed BioSCape, will see scientists from the United States and South Africa working closely together to map marine, freshwater and terrestrial species and ecosystems within the region. Arriving in Cape Town this week will be a NASA Gulfstream III and possibly a Gulfstream V in support of the BioSCape programme.
After two years of planning, the aircraft will fly low level over the west and southern Cape over a period of four to six weeks, collecting ultraviolet, visual and thermal imagery. The height and structure of vegetation will also be measured using light distance and ranging (LiDAR) technology. The GCFR contains two Global Biodiversity Hotspots with the richest temperate flora and the third-highest marine endemism in the world. The field campaign includes a collection of new hyperspectral data ranging from UV to thermal wavelengths acquired by PRISM, AVIRIS-NG and HyTES spectrometers combined with the LVIS laser altimeter aboard the NASA Gulfstream III and Gulfstream V aircraft. Additional data will be gathered by satellites, while teams on the ground will make observations at locations of particular interest, logging plants and any animals they detect.
Using this data, the team will map the region’s biodiversity, providing estimates of the distribution and abundance of species and the boundaries of ecosystems. Ultimately, the campaign will help scientists understand the structure, function and composition of ecosystems in the study area. With only a six-week window period for the flights to take place, the team needed to consider the Cape’s fickle weather conditions, as heavy cloud cover and strong winds could affect image quality. The team earmarked late October throughout November as the ideal time for the flights to take place.
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.
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
FAPE Open Day and fly-in 09h00 to 14h00
Port Elizabeth General Aviation area
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
Air Algeria’s leaked information about the acquisition of 15 new planes
On Monday 20 November the court of Dar El Beida in Algiers delivered its verdict in the case known as the leak of Air Algeria’s specifications relating to the acquisition of 15 new planes. According to the newspaper Echourouk, Walid Benflis, son of the former prime minister as well as the deputy director in charge of development of Air Algeria, member of the transactions commission and a flight attendant within the national airline, were sentenced to heavy prison terms. Walid Benflis was sentenced to 15 years in prison while he was exonerated of the charge of ‘treason’, according to the same source.
The deputy director in charge of development of Air Algeria, responding to the initials of HO, was also sentenced to 15 years in prison while an Air Algeria flight attendant, responding to the initials of BH, was, for his part, sentenced to seven years in prison, according to the same source. The three accused in the case of the leak of the specifications relating to the acquisition of fifteen planes by Air Algeria were each fined one million dinars.
Air Algeria launched a consultation in September 2022 with a view to the acquisition of fifteen aircraft which resulted in the conclusion in May 2023 of two agreements with manufacturers Boeing and Airbus. For long-haul aircraft, Air Algeria has chosen the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus which will deliver two A350-1000s and five examples of the A330-900 NEO. The delivery of Airbus planes to Air Algeria will take place from 2025. The American manufacturer Boeing has been chosen to equip the Air Algeria fleet with eight medium-haul Type B 737-9 max aircraft, delivery of which is scheduled from 2027.
Fatal BatHawk accident at Grasslands airfield
On Sunday morning ARCC (Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre) was alerted to a light aircraft accident in the Tshwane area, Gauteng. The ARCC activated first responders from GEMS (Gauteng Emergency Medical Service) , SAPS Disaster Management and Airwing, ER24, Netcare911, HAMNET Gauteng and Emer-g-med, with air ambulance services from Rocket HEMS, Halo Aviation and Netcare HEMS all on standby to deploy. Sadly, the first EMS personnel arriving on the scene found that both the pilot and passenger suffered fatal injuries. The scene has been handed to the SAPS and AIID (Accident and Incident Investigation Division) for investigation. The ARCC sends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the crew who lost their lives during this tragic accident. The chaplaincy services attended the scene for primary support to witnesses and family. The ARCC would like to take this opportunity to thank all the first responders and emergency services that assisted during this incident.
The pilot and aircraft owner is known to me, but until the next of kin have been informed, I would prefer to keep this confidential. However, with the very high temperatures we are experiencing in Gauteng, please take not that the density altitude is extremely high. According to an eyewitness the plane was flying very slowly over the runway and during a left turn the wing lost lift and the BatHawk spun in.
Fatal jet collision in Port Phillip Bay, Australia
The wreckage of a Viper S-211 Marchetti jet has been found off the shore of the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne, Australia, where a deadly collision and crash took place a few days prior. A report from The Daily Mail said that Victoria Police confirmed that the remains inside the aircraft are believed to be pilot Stephen Gale and cameraman James Rose, who were reported missing on 19 November 2023.
Gale and Rose were on board the Viper S-211 Marchetti, a former Singapore Air Force training jet on 19 November 2023. At around 13h45 local time, the aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision with another S-211 jet. The aircraft carrying Gale and Rose crashed into the water at Port Phillip Bay, roughly seven kilometres from the shore. The other aircraft, also carrying two people, miraculously managed to land safely at Essendon Fields Airport (MEB). It is understood that the four people were attempting to arrange into a formation for a show called, ‘Any Fool Can Fly’. The TV show’s name was eventually changed to ‘Jet School’. According to Down Under Aviation News, Gale was a former member of the Royal Australian Armed Force (RAAF), where he served as an electronics and avionics engineer working on the flight control systems airworthiness of F111C, B707 and C130 Hercules aircraft.
United suspends pilot for Hamas comments
United Airlines has suspended a pilot after a Facebook post he put up calling the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians ‘a resistance by a brave people who have endured decades of occupation, oppression, humiliation, apartheid and straight-up murder.’ In the post, Capt. Ibrahim R. Mossallam also accused US media of bias toward Israel and urged his unknown number of followers to ‘work on expanding your media literacy.’ The post went up on 7 October the day Hamas members killed an estimated 1,200 people in Israeli settlements close to the border with Gaza.
Eventually Mossallam, who is also reportedly on the board of directors of the Council on American Islamic Relations, was identified as a United pilot and comments poured in from people who said they would never fly United again as long as there was a chance, he was up front. “This pilot has been removed from service, with pay, while we look into this matter,” a spokesperson told The New York Post on Monday. An Air Canada FO Mostafa Ezzo was suspended in early October when he posted photos of himself in uniform draped in Palestinian colours and carrying signs with profane statements about Israel on Instagram.
US FAA clears Boeing flight tests for 737 MAX 10 certification
On Wednesday 22 November Boeing said that the US aviation regulator has cleared it to begin certification flight testing of its 737 MAX 10, the largest version of its bestselling jet aimed at seizing the top of the narrowbody market. Boeing shares rose 1.1% in midday trade. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that has it granted type inspection authorisation for the 737 MAX 10.
Type inspection authorisation is typically associated with the start of the certification process, made after the FAA has examined technical data. The milestone allows FAA pilots to participate in flight testing needed to certify the airliner for normal operations.
The 737 MAX 10 is Boeing’s answer to the A321neo manufactured by European rival Airbus, which has dominated the lucrative top of the single-aisle market in battles against Boeing’s MAX 9. In October
Boeing executives said that its schedule for the MAX 10, which calls for the jet to be certified and the first aircraft delivered in 2024, is still on track. The MAX 10 has so far logged more than 400 flights and almost 1,000 flight hours during Boeing’s test programme.
GAMA: Q3 GA aircraft deliveries increase across all sectors
According to the third-quarter delivery statistics released yesterday by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the continually receding effects of the recent supply-chain disruptions, General Aviation aircraft deliveries were up across all sectors year-over-year. For the first nine months, business jet deliveries increased by two percent, with 455 aircraft handed over. Turboprop deliveries rose by nearly 15 percent in the first three quarters, while piston deliveries saw a 12 percent gain. Total airplane billings climbed by 2.5 percent in the first nine months, reaching $14.5 billion. Meanwhile, turbine helicopter deliveries climbed by 6.3 percent YOY, with 469 rotorcraft shipped in the first nine months.
In his quarterly address, GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce noted that the General Aviation segment serves as the aerospace technology incubator that drives safety and sustainability and that it is highly focused on these initiatives to further its growth. “To achieve this, it is imperative that there is stability within our industry’s regulatory bodies and having a new, permanent leader at the FAA is a great start,” Bunce stated. “It is also essential that Congress act now to pass an FAA reauthorisation bill that provides the new administrator and agency with the necessary direction and tools to strengthen and enhance the aviation system.”
Textron signs a deal for 48 Skyhawks with Lithuania-based BAA Training
The seemingly insatiable appetite for pilot training continues to grow unabated, as Textron Aviation announced on 22 November the company had recently signed an agreement with Lithuania-based Baltic Air Academy (dba BAA Training) for 48 Cessna 172 Skyhawks. The piston trainers are to be delivered in 2026. BAA Training is a member of the Avia Solutions Group, which has close to 100 locations and production facilities worldwide.
Marijus Ravoitis, BAA Training CEO, said his company “has set an ambitious milestone to achieve a capacity of 500 to 1,000 students per year,” which would require a significant expansion of the training fleet, he said. “We are glad to finalise this order as the addition of 48 Cessna Skyhawks will bolster our resources, enabling us to accommodate the growing demand for training and further solidify our position in the industry.” Chris Crow, Textron Aviation VP of piston sales, said, “We are delighted to continue the relationship with BAA Training to provide their students access to the most produced single-engine aircraft globally.”
Gulfstream completes first transatlantic flight powered by 100% SAF
Last week Gulfstream continued its pioneering use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), accomplishing the first transatlantic flight powered by 100 percent SAF. The milestone was accomplished with a G600 burning unblended SAF in both Pratt & Whitney PW615GA engines on a flight from the airframer’s Savannah, Georgia headquarters to London-area Farnborough Airport. Total flight time was six hours 56 minutes.
The fuel was produced by World Energy and delivered by World Fuel Services. It consisted of 100 percent hydro processed esters and fatty acids and the SAF provided at least a 70 percent lifecycle CO2 emissions reduction compared to the same use of conventional, petroleum-derived jet fuel. Presently SAF is approved at blends of up to 50 percent due to most legacy engines’ need for the aromatic compounds in jet-A that expand their seals, forming tight seals. One of the major considerations regarding the use of 100 percent SAF is the lack of aromatic compounds. Gulfstream, along with its partners and suppliers, will use the data collected during this flight to gauge aircraft compatibility with future low-aromatic renewable fuels, particularly under cold conditions in long-duration flights.
France’s Robin Aircraft liquidated
Robin Aircraft, perhaps the final manufacturer of wood and fabric certified airplanes, was ordered liquidated by a French court last week. Apparently, the company had been in receivership since September after bonding issues with the spars in its DR400, its most popular model, resulted in an AD from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Recognisable by its upturned wingtips, the four-place DR400 was in production for almost 50 years. Over the years Robin made a variety of models, including the all-metal HR200 and the CAP 10.
After the faulty spars were discovered, Robin sales dropped and it was placed in bankruptcy protection last February. That was followed by receivership in September. Three companies presented proposals to the court to take over Robin but all were rejected. Centre Est Avions Pierre Robin (CEAPR), the company that held the type certificates when the court stepped in, said it will continue to supply parts and support for the fleet and is not ruling out resuming production.”
Dufour Aerospace – ‘Tilt-wing aircraft are uncertifiable’
Convertible VTOL aircraft are revolutionising aviation and tilt-wings are by far the most safe and efficient convertible VTOL aircraft. However, sometimes we come across the misperception that ‘tilt-wing aircraft are uncertifiable.’ So we would like to take a moment to show that not only are tilt-wing aircraft fully certifiable, but indeed you may be surprised to learn that you probably have already flown on a certified tilt-wing aircraft.
Aircraft designers have long had to deal with the fact that the ideal angle of incidence for the horizontal stabiliser depends on the aircraft’s speed. The ability to change this angle in flight, known as variable incidence or trim, offers significant control and efficiency advantages. The concept has existed for almost a century and was an important part of the design of the Bell X-1, the first crewed supersonic aircraft.
In the 1970s, trimmable stabilisers arrived in commercial aviation with the Airbus A300 and have been used in almost every commercial aircraft since. These stabilisers are effectively tilting wings with a limited range of motion, typically around 20 degrees. Next time you are waiting to board a flight, have a look at the tail, you will see the calibration markings. Commercial aviation has the best safety record of any mode of transport. As an industry, we have achieved this through careful quality control and certification of all aircraft systems and trimmable stabilisers are no exception.
They are built with multi-load-path, damage-tolerant hinges that can demonstrate continued performance post any single failure and also that any secondary failure would not become critical within the inspection interval of the aircraft. The stabiliser is driven by a screw jack mechanism with mechanical and power redundancy. These design techniques have a decades-long safety record and we draw directly from them for the tilting wings in Aero2 and Aero3.
We all agree that a hinge is critical for safety and therefore redundancy of the hinge is key. Even if you have many of them, you do not want to lose a propulsion system, or for structure to detach from the aircraft. So every hinge has to be designed multi load path and damage tolerant. Redundancy is a key advantage of distributed propulsion systems. If one propeller unit fails, the others can take over the load and you can continue safe flight. But what if one hinge fails, releasing structure that could then impact other parts of the aircraft and lead to a cascading failure? This obviously would negate the advantages of redundancy, resulting in complexity rather than safety. In most convertible eVTOL aircraft, you have at least six tilting mechanisms. You have to maintain six tilting mechanisms and you have the chance that one is failing six times higher than if you only have one.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein
Fewer parts mean fewer inspections, less maintenance and less cost. Every additional hinge adds complexity and ultimately costs. Having to maintain one hinge is by far less costly than having to maintain six hinges. Every one of these hinges needs careful maintenance, spare parts and refurbishment. It needs to be built such that it cannot fail and create a cascading failure. This is the key to building an aircraft that is safe and cost-efficient, which is what operators are looking for. The technology behind tilt-wing aircraft is safe, efficient and already certified in airliners in the form of trimmable horizontal stabilisers. But with this technology, we are building extremely versatile and efficient VTOL aircraft like Aero2 and Aero3, which will revolutionise critical transport operations and accelerate sustainable aviation.
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Africa requires improved data to anticipate the risk of drones being used as weapons
In October this year, Africa’s air force chiefs of staff and air force industry representatives met in Senegal where they agreed the continent urgently needed to develop sophisticated air defences in response to a growing threat as the proliferation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones. Although drones offer significant potential for Africa in terms of economic development and human security, such as monitoring weather patterns or delivering medicines to remote areas, this technology can also be weaponised by unconventional forces. It shifts the balance of power away from states with the largest armies and arsenals, to insurgent groups or terrorist organisations. Drones have also become a favoured tool of criminal networks as well as lone perpetrators.
Most media focus has been on the use of larger military drones by conventional armies and their impact on international humanitarian law. However, commercial or hobbyist drones are becoming part of the toolkit of violent threats not only in the Middle East and Russia-Ukraine, but also across Africa. Just like improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which ‘democratised’ war by lowering the costs of using lethal force for non-state entities, the psychological impact of a weaponised drone in the hands of an insurgent is perhaps as important as its physical impact.
The possible deployment of drone swarms has created a sense of urgency in policy circles. The global focus has been on the adaptation of hobbyist drones in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and now Gaza, with reports of Hamas using drones to attack Israel Defence Force observation towers and deploying swarms of drones to target naval vessels. But militant groups in Africa including Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and al-Shabaab, appear to be watching and learning. It has been reported that these groups are using their global and ‘dark networks’ to acquire and modify drones.
A systematic mapping of drone use by designated terrorist organisations in Africa still needs to be undertaken. However, a preliminary assessment by Reuben Dass of the Royal United Services Institute showed that the increased ‘affordability and accessibility’ of drone technology meant it posed ‘an increasing threat’ across Africa. This was true whether it was used for propaganda, intelligence, surveillance or reconnaissance purposes. He reminds us that in 2022, ISWAP used quadcopter drones to shoot parts of a propaganda video showcasing its training camp in Nigeria. In July that year, ‘the surveillance drones used by ISWAP were spotted over the position of Nigerian government forces just before the group carried out an ambush on them.’ A similar use of drones for precision targeting suicide bombers has been widely documented in Mosul, northern Iraq.
Aviation authorities and private drone associations are resources for information exchange. The memorandum also proposes enhanced information sharing at regional and national level and urges states to ‘develop crisis planning and mitigation measures’ and ‘vulnerability assessments’ for critical infrastructure, e.g. energy sources and communications infrastructure.
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