“It would be nice to spend billions on schools and roads, but right now that money is desperately needed for political advertising.” Andy Borowitz
(Information from Wikipedia)
The B-2 was developed by Blackburn during the early 1930s as a successor for its earlier Bluebird IV trainer. It retained the same basic configuration, such as the side-by-side seating arrangement, present on the earlier aircraft, but principally differed in that it was redesigned with a semi-monocoque all-metal fuselage in place of the metal and fabric-covered counterpart. According the aviation author Audrey Jackson, the new fuselage was designed using the same principles as those used for the Blackburn Segrave touring aircraft and possessed remarkable strength for the era, allowing it to better endure rough landings and poor handling, which was commonplace while flown by inexperienced pilots. The structure comprised a series of hollow frames reinforced by light stringers and diagonal steel tubes. The exterior surface was composed of Alclad, which was stiffened three longitudinal swaging; there was no use of welding or wire bracing at any point of the fuselage.
The single-bay biplane wings were of similar to those of the Bluebird IV, including its steel and duralumin structure and could be folded for easy storage. Leading edge slots were fitted to the upper wing to improve low-speed handling, while ailerons were only present on the lower wings. The outer wing panels folded around the hinges of the rear spar. The fuel system was gravity fed from a 22-gallon aerofoil tank positioned above the fuselage on six struts. The tail unit was of a similar construction to the mainplanes, its span was increased in comparison to that of the Blackbird IV and also featured a horn balanced rudder; furthermore, the elevator could be trimmed using an adjustable via spring-loading, controlled via a lever in the cockpit.
It featured a conventional undercarriage that was fixed in place. The mainwheels were set wide apart and divided, being supported on telescopic legs that incorporated steel springs with oil dampers. On the underside of the rear fuselage, almost directly below the tail unit, was a sprung tailskid. The engine, of which various models could be fitted, was fixed upon a tubular steel mounting attached directly to a fireproof bulkhead; a 2.5-gallon oil tank was mounted beneath these bearers. Cooling air entered via the front of the fuselage, passed across the engine and exited via fluting built into the fuselage after of the engine bay.
On 10 December 1931, the prototype B-2 (registered G-ABUW) performed its maiden flight at Brough. On 27 June 1932, it made its first public appearance at the Society of British Aerospace Companies’ airshow at Hendon Aerodrome; ten days later, it participated in the King’s Cup air race around England, alongside the first production aircraft (registered G-ABWI), finishing in 18th and 19th place respectively. There was relatively little difference between the two aircraft, save for the latter having been outfitted with a metal propeller sourced from Fairey-Reed. In March 1933, having completed testing and participated in numerous demonstration flights, the prototype was put to use at the Brough Reserve School as a routine trainer aircraft alongside several other production aircraft.
The prototype was powered by a single de Havilland Gipsy III engine. The subsequent production aircraft were equipped with either the 130 hp (97 kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major and 120 hp Cirrus Hermes IV engines were also fitted to production aircraft. The prototype proved to be relatively trouble-free during flight testing, it was also found to be very manoeuvrable. It was also relatively forgiving on its pilots, even while taxiing with strong winds present, while the controls remained effective even just above stalling speeds; it was also easy to sideslip for positioning prior to landing. During early 1932, the first production aircraft made its first flight.
Blackburn chose to market the B-2 primarily towards the military trainer market. For this purpose, the prototype B-2 was shipped to Lisbon for evaluation by Portugal during September 1932. Although the aircraft reportedly performed well in this evaluation and drew some favourable comments from the reviewing officials, the Portuguese preferred a tandem cockpit layout and ultimately opted to procure the rival de Havilland Tiger Moth trainer instead.
To raise the B-2’s profile amongst the general public and potential buyers, numerous aircraft participated in various air races and aerobatic displays to demonstrate its capabilities. In the Grimsby News Race of June 1933, one B-2 piloted by T. Neville Stack was able to secure second place, having attained an average speed of 93 mph; during the Kings Cup air race of July 1934, another, piloted by H. M. David, came in second place with an average speed of 112.75 mph.
The B-2 would not ever become a successful export product amongst the various international military airwings. However, Blackburn opted to continue production of the type to equip various civilian flying schools across the United Kingdom that were increasingly being engaged in the training of pilots for the Royal Air Force under the RAF expansion scheme. Several of these B-2 equipped flying schools were actually owned by Blackburn, such as those at Brough Aerodrome and London Air Park, Hanworth. A total of 42 B-2s, including the prototype, were produced, with production continuing until 1937. The final three B-2s were sold to the Air Ministry and promptly issued to the Brough flying school, where they were operated in RAF markings.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, all of the B-2s based at Hanworth were moved to Brough, where the two training schools merged, becoming No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School. The school at Brough continued to be operated by Blackburn while its aircraft continuing to operate under civilian registrations (although they were repainted with wartime training markings with yellow fuselages, camouflaged wings and RAF roundels). During February 1942, the remaining aircraft were transferred to the RAF, where they were assigned to the Air Training Corps (ATC). However, the ATC did not typically fly the type, instead opting to use their B-2s as instructional airframes. Several of these airframes would still be used for instruction purposes over 20 years later.
Only two B-2s survived to fly in the postwar era; one of these was lost in a crash on 16 June 1951. The sole survivor (G-AEBJ) has been preserved and was originally maintained in airworthy condition by Blackburn (which was absorbed into British Aerospace during the 1970s). By 2007, G-AEBJ was located with the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden. For many years another fuselage was seen up a tree in an Essex scrapyard before being rescued in the 1980s. This aircraft displays two identities, G-ACBH and G-ADFO and is preserved, still wearing its original paint, at the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum.
Those persons who correctly identified this week’s mystery aircraft:
Charlie Hugo, Ari Levien, Andre Visser, Selwyn Kimber, Willie Oosthuizen, Piet Steyn, Erwin Stam, Steve Dewsbery, Barry Eartwell, Jan Sime, Christiaan Haak, Sam Basch, P. Rossouw, Hilton Carroll, Andre Breytenbach, Colin Austen, Andrew Peace, Peter Doig, Clint Futter, Jeremy Rorich, Rex Tweedie, Danie Viljoen, Pierre Brittz, Wouter van der Waal, Rahul Vala, Mike Transki, Adrian Maree, John Moen, Johan Venter, Gregory Yatt, Bruce Prescott, Dave Lloyd, Kevin Farr, (33). I expected more correct entries this week.
African Pilot will be closing down for the festive season
This edition of APAnews, No.99 is the second last for this year. What a busy year 2023 has been, with promises that next year will be filled with plenty of aviation activity if we look at the African Pilot calendar of aviation events published on our website: https://www.africanpilot.co.za/events/ and updated on a regular basis. Within APAnews 100.2023 to be published on Monday 18 December, I will provide the final mystery aircraft for this year and only reveal the aircraft type in the New Year when I return to my office after the holidays. If you have any ideas for the mystery aircraft of the week to send to me, please remember that I will be consulting my e-mails throughout the holiday period and I look forwards to hearing from you. Until next week, please enjoy this Friday public holiday promulgated as a result of the Springboks Rugby World Cup win a few months ago.
The new style 247-page December 2023 edition with 13 videos and three picture galleries was sent to the world on the morning of 1 December. This edition features the lesser-known regional airports in and around Gauteng. These include Baragwaneth, Brakpan, Brits, Eagles Creek, Kitty Hawk, Krugersdorp, Panaroma, Petit, Rhino Park (now Legend Sky), Springs and Tedderfield. This edition also includes 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 Fact File as well as a Historical feature. 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 January edition will feature Aviation Insurance, Aircraft Finance and Aircraft Sales. In addition this edition will feature the annual Aero Club awards as well as a wrap up for the 2023 year. 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, Fact File and our monthly Historical feature. 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 January 2024 edition will be delayed to Thursday 14 December 2023. This is far earlier than usual so that the magazine can be published before the festive season.
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
Intentions to declare Tankwa Karoo and Garden Route National Parks
Wouter Botes ‘Flights to Nowhere’ re-broadcast
There are no more aviation events scheduled for the rest of the year.
Events will commence again early in January 2024.
USAF F-16 crashes in Korea for second time this year, pilot OK
According to local media reports and a statement from the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, on 11 December a US Air Force F-16 fighter crashed off the coast of South Korea. The pilot ejected from the aircraft and is in stable condition. This marks the second USAF aircraft crash in the region recently.
This is also the second crash of an F-16 assigned to Kunsan this year. On 6 May a jet was flying a routine daytime training sortie when something went wrong and the pilot ejected near Osan Air Base, about 80 miles north of Kunsan. The fighter made a fiery impact in a local field, captured by local cameras. The Air Force has yet to release an accident investigation report into what caused the May crash. This latest incident took place over the Yellow Sea, which borders the west side of the Korean Peninsula and separates it from China. According to the 8th Fighter Wing, the jet suffered an in-flight emergency at about 08h43 local time. Yonhap News Agency reported that the jet had taken off from Kunsan. The pilot ejected and was recovered by Republic of Korea Maritime Forces ‘awake and in stable condition,’ the statement said. The pilot was then returned to Kunsan for further evaluation.
Avolon continues to drive growth with orders for additional 140 aircraft
On 12 December Avolon, a leading global aviation finance company, agreed to order 100 A321neo aircraft from Airbus and 40 737 MAX aircraft from Boeing. These aircraft are scheduled for delivery out to 2032. Avolon has added 200 new technology aircraft to its orderbook this year direct from OEMs, building on previous orders for 20 Airbus A330neos in September and 40 737 MAXs from Boeing in June. The orderbook expansion increases Avolon’s owned, managed and committed fleet from 897 at 30 September 2023 to 1037 aircraft. The A320neo and 737 MAX family of aircraft reduce fuel use and carbon emissions by up to 20% compared to the older generation aircraft that they will replace.
Andy Cronin, CEO of Avolon, commented, “Today’s orders strengthen our delivery pipeline and reflect our confidence in the long-term outlook for aviation. We have committed to direct orders for 200 new, fuel-efficient aircraft this year, supporting the transformation of our fleet to lower emissions aircraft. The scale of our orderbook reflects the strength of Avolon’s balance sheet, our proven ability to execute swiftly, and the longstanding relationships we have with both Airbus and Boeing.”
Arrest made in international fraudulent aircraft engine parts investigation
An individual has been arrested in connection with the discovery of counterfeit aircraft parts worldwide and a new criminal investigation into fraud has been launched. The Serious Fraud Office raided the home of AOG Technics founder and director on 6 December, arresting him and announcing a large-scale investigation into the company’s fraudulent activities.
SFO investigators, with officers from the National Crime Agency, seized material from a site in the area and one individual was being questioned. The SFO is working closely with the UK Civil Aviation Authority and other regulators to examine whatever information is found to advance the criminal investigation into suspected fraud at AOG and determine the grounds, if any, for prosecution. Business Insider reported that the person in custody is AOG founder and director, Jose Alejandro Zamora Yrala.
“This investigation deals with very serious allegations of fraud involving the supply of aircraft parts, the consequences of which are potentially far-reaching,” SFO Director Nick Ephgrave QPM said. “The SFO is best placed to take this investigation forward vigorously and we are determined to establish the facts as swiftly as possible.”
Counterfeit parts were found in about 100 planes worldwide, including aircraft belonging to Southwest, United and American Airlines. Thousands of parts sold by London-based distributor AOG Technics had falsified paperwork. About 100 engines globally were identified as containing these counterfeit parts. The SFO reports that planes are grounded in the US and UK as a result. These problems were found in CFM56 engines, which power some Airbus and Boeing models and is the world’s best-selling engine. Jet engine maker CFM International, a joint venture between GE Aerospace and Safran Aircraft Engines, discovered the parts in engines it repaired and issued a suit against the company in the London High Court for access to documents for parts in engines made since 2015.
On 4 August 2023, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency published a Suspected Unapproved Parts notification, stating that several CFm56 engine parts distributed by AOG were supplied with falsified Authorised Release Certificates. In one confirmed example, the approved organisation on the ARC said the form did not originate within the organisation and the certificate was falsified. The SUP reported that AGO did not provide information as to the source of the parts and the falsified ARCs. The FAA published a notification on 21 September to warn aircraft owners, operators, manufacturers, maintenance organisations, parts suppliers and distributors. The agency warned that GE bushing part number 1856M94P01 and associated FAA forms 8130-3 (EASA Form 1) were falsified.
While only about one percent of the 23,000 existing CFM56 engines have been found to be affected, court filings indicate there is evidence to prove that thousands of jet engine parts sold by AOG to airlines are fitted with the affected engines. The majority of the counterfeit parts were discovered in CFM56 engines and some in CF6 engines, used to power cargo planes and manufactured by GE. The CFM56 engines are used to power the older generation of Boeing 737s and about half of the previous generation of Airbus A320s. Some aircraft were found to have suspect parts during routine maintenance. Other parts were passed off as new but had obvious signs of wear and tear. Without proper paperwork, there is no way to know the airworthiness of a component or the aircraft, making the affected parts unusable.
The goal of the lawsuit was to force AOG to release valid information about the true scale of deception and to help remove falsified parts from aircraft. About 100 aircraft were suspected of being impacted by the falsified parts, meaning these aircraft must be taken out of service while airlines arrange to have the parts removed and replaced. AOG has operated in the UK since 2015, supplying parts for passenger aircraft engines globally. Many of these parts were sold to overseas companies that install airline parts, as well as some UK airliners, maintenance providers and parts suppliers. Fraudulent parts can put safety at risk. The SFO will move forward with its investigation to determine more about the scale of the deception and the possibility of an eventual prosecution.
Leonardo logs helicopter orders at European Rotors
Brazilian operator Omni Helicopters International (OHI) is growing its fleet with an order for a pair of Leonardo AW189 helicopters and one AW189K. The deal announced was one of several announced by the Italian aircraft manufacturer at European Rotors staged in Madrid, with OHI adding to the eight AW139s and two AW189s it received since 2021. The AW189K is powered by a pair of Safran’s latest Aneto-1K turboshaft engines and will be the first of its type to operate in Latin America. The standard AW189 super medium aircraft uses General Electric’s CT7-2E1 engines. Both models feature a Safran auxiliary power unit and the main transmission can operate without oil for 50 minutes.
According to OHI, having both types in its fleet will give it flexibility to meet different mission requirements. The operator is mainly active in the offshore oil and gas sector and is preparing to support customers exploiting new reserves further from the coastlines of Brazil and Guyana. It is also looking to expand in onshore utility services, uncrewed air vehicle operations and urban air mobility.
In other new business, helicopter lessor Milestone Aviation signed lease agreements for three Leonardo AW169 medium twins with Danish and UK helicopter operator Uni-Fly. The deal covers lease extensions for two of the helicopters and the placement of an additional AW169 later this year. The aircraft will be based at Uni-Fly’s facility at the Humberside, UK airport and will support offshore energy missions in the North Sea. Uni-Fly specialises in offshore wind farm helicopter hoist operations.
Separately, Léman Aviation has signed a preliminary contract for 10 Leonardo AW09 turbine single-engine helicopters, an addition that will bring total orders for the aircraft to 80. Headquartered in Switzerland and France, Léman offers aircraft management, brokerage services, maintenance and training. Léman also announced that it has become a certified installer of GPMS’ Foresight MX health usage and monitoring system for European operators.
China’s COMAC C919 may challenge established players
Following the news that China’s domestically manufactured COMAC C919 will make its first flight outside mainland China, Kandlikar Venkatesh, an analyst at GlobalData, a data and analytics company, offered his view: “The development of the COMAC C919 represents a significant achievement for China in the narrowbody aircraft segment. Comparable to industry giants such as the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX, the C919 signifies China’s prowess in the aircraft manufacturing sector. While its immediate impact on Boeing and Airbus remains uncertain, the C919’s substantial orders within China have the potential to challenge the market share of established passenger aircraft manufacturers and reshape the industry dynamics.
As estimated by GlobalData, ‘Marking a foundational step in the advancement of China’s aviation capabilities, the C919 has amassed a remarkable 1,191 total orders in the commercial fixed-wing market. With plans to ramp up production capacity in the coming years, COMAC is positioned to strengthen its foothold in the Chinese narrowbody market. According to GlobalData, Chinese airlines and private entities are projected to spend approximately $280 billion on commercial fixed-wing aircraft over the next ten years to meet the country’s commercial fixed-wing fleet demand.’
Presently, C919 heavily relies on key components such as engines and avionics systems sourced from companies based in the Western world. Joint ventures and partnerships with Chinese firms in COMAC’s supply chain showcase a nuanced interdependence. However, the strategic requirement for foreign suppliers to manufacture specific C919 parts within China reflects a deliberate approach to technology transfer and local production, aligning with China’s objective to transition most production domestically over time.
The popularity of the C919 outside China remains uncertain and mostly depends on overcoming challenges such as a singular model approach, limited certification and uncertain global regulatory approval. Overcoming these factors could reshape the global aviation landscape, marking a significant step in China’s rise as a major player in the aerospace industry.
Airbus Flight Academy Europe enhances training fleet with eco-friendly Elixir aircraft
Airbus Flight Academy Europe, a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus specialising in civil and military pilot training, has welcomed its initial set of four advanced Elixir training aircraft as a pivotal step in its commitment to sustainable development. The delivery marks the beginning of an eight-aircraft fleet, with each of the first four equipped with a bespoke cockpit tailored for the Airbus Flight Academy. This includes two electronic flight instrument systems (EFIS), designed to familiarise cadet pilots with the cutting-edge technologies found in today’s most sophisticated commercial aircraft.
Established in 2006, Airbus Flight Academy Europe has been a cornerstone in providing comprehensive training facilities and services for civil and military pilot training. The academy, situated in Angoulême, southwest France, boasts state-of-the-art training assets to ensure optimal conditions for cadet pilots. Since 2019, Airbus Flight Academy Europe has been successfully delivering the Airbus Pilot Cadet Training Programme, which is open to high school graduates worldwide aged 18 and above. The programme involves rigorous online and on-site screening tests, followed by extensive training comprising over 800 hours of ground school and 200 hours of practical (flight and simulator) training. Approximately 80 cadets undergo training annually at the academy.
The training fleet at Airbus Flight Academy Europe now includes Diamond DA42s, Cirrus SR20s, Grob 120 A-Fs and the newly introduced Elixir aircraft, all dedicated to cadet training. In addition, the academy operates two FNPT II qualified simulators on-site and at customer locations, ensuring the provision of optimal training solutions for student pilots. The acquisition of more fuel-efficient and quieter Elixir aircraft aligns with Airbus Flight Academy Europe’s commitment to sustainable practices in aviation training.
All Boeing 737NGs require nacelle retrofit
The FAA has proposed an AD that will require all 6,000 Boeing 737NG aircraft in service in the US to be retrofitted with beefed up engine nacelles. The AD was issued after a couple of fan blade failure incidents on Southwest aircraft in which pieces of the nacelle pierced the fuselage of the aircraft. In a 2018 mishap, a woman was killed in the resulting explosive decompression, becoming the only airline fatality for that year. The AD applies to all aircraft in the 600 to 900 series. There are also thousands of 737NGs in service in the rest of the world and aviation authorities in other countries will likely also require the modifications. The required changes will apparently vary depending on the aircraft model but include new stronger inlet spacers, a fan cowl support beam and a redesigned exhaust nozzle. The retrofits are expected to cost US$7,650 per engine and the work will take about 90 hours. The comment period on the AD ends on 26 January 2026 and all aircraft have to comply by 31 July 2028.
Van’s hikes prices 32 percent, protects customer deposits
Van’s Aircraft has confirmed it will raise prices for parts, kits and accessories an average of 32 percent to stem the bleeding from its struggling enterprise. It’s also changing ordering processes and making a fundamental accounting change in the way it handles customer deposits. In a post on its Web site on Saturday, first reported by Kitplanes, the company said price increases will vary depending on the item and are key to Van’s overall recovery.” While these price changes are significant, they are also necessary,” the announcement said.” Over the past few years, the cost of producing airplane kits has soared substantially. Candidly, due to a number of factors we found ourselves operating the business at a loss.”
Leonardo tests all-SAF heli flight shows Jet AI compatibility
Leonardo has successfully completed the first flight of an AW139 using 100 per cent SAF in both P&WC PT6C-67C engines. The 75-minute flight and ground tests, which took place at Leonardo’s facility in Cascina Costa di Samarate, Italy evaluated engine performance at multiple power variations and demonstrated no significant differences in the response to the new fuel compared with the use of Jet A1 fuel.
This marks a historic first for both Leonardo’s helicopters and the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engine family. Earlier this year in-service AW139 helicopters carried out flights with SAF, blended with traditional jet fuel under the current certification standards, in Japan, Malaysia and most recently the UAE. All main civil-certified types within the Leonardo’s helicopter product range are certified for operations using SAF with a blended ratio of up to 50 per cent.
The demonstration flight is a further testament to the outstanding design and performance of the AW139 and its systems and this result shows another tangible benefit of the aircraft’s possibilities to the many operators carrying out missions in all weather and environmental conditions as they aim for more ambitious sustainability goals.
Sky Academy signs for ALSIM AL250
ALSIM announced that Sky Academy, based in Colmar, France, has recently made a significant investment in an ALSIM AL250 simulator. The AL250 simulator addresses initial phase training needs (PPL, CPL, IR / ME) and is SEP / MEP re-configurable simulator certified as an EASA FNPT II. In addition, it offers both classic and glass cockpit for each flight model at the simple flick of a switch. This device has been extremely well received since its creation and more than 100 of these have already been installed and are in successful operation worldwide.
Thibault Kochersperger, Deputy Director and Compliance Manager at Sky Academy, shared insights into his decision: “The AL250 is the ideal generic simulator for our diverse training programmes. ALSIM is a renowned leader in this field and we approached this investment with the highest confidence. The support we received throughout the process was exceptional, whilst the installation was fast and faultless. Certification proceeded seamlessly, with ALSIM’s expertise being highly recognised by the authorities.”
Sky Academy, founded 12 years ago by aviation enthusiasts Marije Vermeulen and Dirk Evers, has established itself as a boutique aviation school. As an EASA-approved independent flight school, Sky Academy offers a wide array of training programs tailored for individuals, professional pilots, and business partners, including schools and commercial entities.
Cracks ground US Coast Guard Spartan fleet
The Coast Guard has grounded all 14 of its C-27J Spartan maritime patrol aircraft after finding serious structural cracks on every aircraft. The Coast Guard inspected the planes after the manufacturer Leonardo of Italy issued a service bulletin. The cracks were found where horizontal and vertical stabilisers attach to the fuselage. Leonardo says there are easy fixes for the cracks and the planes should not be out of service for long. But the Coast Guard says it will be the judge of that and the planes ‘will remain grounded until a thorough evaluation is completed and any issues have been addressed.’ The Coast Guard makes high use of the Spartans, usually at low altitude over saltwater. The planes are needed for drug and fisheries flights, disaster response and search and rescue. ‘We are currently assessing our aviation force laydown to address the stand-down of these airframes,’ the Coast Guard said in a statement. It has almost 150 helicopters and about 56 fixed wing aircraft, including 27 C-130 Hercules.
Polish Navy inducts first Leonardo AW101 multirole helicopters
The Polish Navy officially took delivery of three Leonardo AW101 multi-role helicopters to join the Naval Aviation Brigade. The ceremony took place at the 44th Naval Aviation Base in Darlowo, northwestern Poland and marked the beginning of the final phase in integrating the helicopters. The helicopters are undergoing crew training as they move towards official enlistment in the military aircraft registry. In April 2019, Poland signed a contract for four AW101 helicopters for $430 million. The fourth aircraft is expected to arrive at the base around the beginning of 2024. The aircraft will be maintained by Leonardo’s local subsidiary, PZL-Świdnik.
The AW101 helicopters are set to cover various missions for the Polish Navy including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), replacing the current fleet of Soviet-era Mil Mi-14PL helicopters. In August 2023, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak revealed that the authorities were negotiating the acquisition of an additional 22 AW101 multirole helicopters for the Polish Land Forces.
Massive PL-17 air-to-air missile seen on Chinese J-16 fighters
China has released a photo of its J-16 Flanker derivatives tooled up with air-to-air missiles. The most impressive loadout shown out of a quartet (division) of J-16s in an overhead break pattern includes the huge PL-17 (also referred to as the PL-XX or PL-20) long-range air-to-air missile. The image shows the formation of four jets with varying configurations of air-to-air missiles, two of which are particularly impressive. The fighters in question carry four PL-10s, one PL-12, four PL-15s and one big PL-17. This loadout spans short to very long-range engagement envelopes, with the PL-17 providing unprecedented reach.
We first saw what is now dubbed, at least unofficially, the PL-17 seven years ago. Our analysis of the missile has not changed since then. In our latest guide to China’s air-to-air missiles, we state the following about the PL-17: While the PL-15 is widely seen as the successor to the PL-12, there is also another AAM programme currently under development, although details about it remain limited. Normally known in the West as the PL-XX, this is thought to be a very long-range AAM, perhaps intended primarily to target high-value assets, like tankers and airborne early warning aircraft. Alternative designations could be PL-17 or PL-20, but they remain unconfirmed.
It seems likely that the project superseded plans for a ramjet-powered version of the PL-12, or a rival PL-21 also with a ramjet motor. The chosen new weapon instead opted for a dual-pulse rocket motor, which should have made it easier to master in technological terms. The missile that resulted is significantly longer and broader than the PL-15, with a length of almost 20 feet. It uses a combination of four small tail fins and thrust-vectoring controls for manoeuvring and is reported to have a range in excess of 186 miles, with a top speed of at least Mach 4. Guidance is thought to be achieved through a combination of a two-way datalink and an AESA seeker, which is said to be highly resistant to electronic countermeasures. With such long ranges involved, most engagements would be expected to involve targeting data provided by standoff assets, such as friendly airborne early warning aircraft, other aircraft closer to the target, ground-based radar or even satellites.
The PL-XX very long-range AAM was first sighted under the wings of a J-16 multirole fighter. A possible optical window on the side of the nose of the missile could indicate an additional infrared seeker, which would make it far harder to defeat as it would be immune to heavy jamming in the terminal phase of the engagement. This is an established configuration, so it would not be surprising if it was adopted for such a large AAM concept. The size of the PL-XX means that for now at least, it is restricted to external carriage. The weapon was first identified on the J-16 and in November 2016 was successfully fired from this type. The AAM may well be compatible with other Flanker-series fighters and could potentially be carried externally on the J-20. However, the current status of the weapon is somewhat unclear, with testing apparently ongoing as of 2020 but no confirmation, so far, of official service entry.
The missile, along with other Chinese far-firing air-to-air missile developments, is a massive concern to the US military. These worries have largely prompted the service to work at rapidly fielding the still highly classified AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, among other long-range air-to-air missile initiatives. The photo showing two of its J-16s carrying the big missiles points to them being operational or close to operational. At the same time, this image was posted by the Chinese military and was meant to be seen by a Western audience. As such, the information warfare aspect of doing so cannot be dismissed.
China offered $15M bribe to Taiwanese pilot to land Chinook on aircraft carrier
China allegedly offered a Taiwanese army lieutenant colonel $15 million to land a United States-made CH-47 Chinook helicopter on a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy aircraft carrier. According to South Morning China Post, the audacious plan would have seen the lieutenant colonel fly the Chinook aircraft carrier during a military drill near the island. Details surrounding the plot were revealed in a Taiwan court on 11 December 2023. Taiwan High Court Prosecutors Office said in an indictment that the pilot, identified by his surname Hsieh, was approached by Chinese spies in June 2023.
The indictment said that Hsieh, was told to fly the ‘helicopter at low altitude along the coastline to the Chinese Communist carrier which would be staging drills close to the waters 24 nautical miles’. While Hsieh initially rejected the plan as too risky, the indictment said that the offer of $15 million and a deposit of $1 million if he accepted helped persuade him to say yes. As part of the agreement Hsieh was told his family could get Thai visas if the plan was carried out. Hsieh would also receive a salary of $6,355 a month and the $15 million would come from the sale of the helicopter.
According to prosecutors the plot was foiled after a tip off and Hsieh and a retired Taiwanese army officer, who helped facilitate communication, were arrested. The tip off ‘prevented the US-made aircraft from falling into the hands of the communist force,’ the indictment said. On 11 December 2023, Taiwan’s Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-Cheng was questioned over the security breech. “I feel pained too, to have discovered a case like this and those allegedly involved must be dealt with according to the law,” Chiu Kuo-Cheng said.
Lilium Jet sets off along assembly line
In what Lilium is calling a watershed moment for sustainable aviation, the Lilium Jet is now in production. The first fuselage is on the final assembly line and will soon join up with the canard and wings. Lilium Jet assembly takes place at the facilities in Wessling, Germany, with the first seven aircraft to be used for the flight test campaign to achieve Type Certification with EASA.
Lilium has started production of its Lilium Jet following the arrival of the first fuselage at the final assembly line. In parallel, Lilium’s tier one suppliers, most of whom have decades of experience in supporting the certification requirements of commercial aviation, are ramping up production of parts and systems.
The start of production is a watershed moment, shifting from the design phase of the aircraft to industrialisation. It is an important turning point for Lilium’s industrial partners and supply chains working to make sustainable regional aviation a reality. In the next step, the fuselage will be matched-up with the aircraft’s canards and main wings. Production of the Lilium Jet takes place in Wessling, Germany. The testing and manufacturing centre, propulsion and aerostructures facility, final assembly building and the newly constructed battery assembly building and logistics hub, where aircraft parts are readied for integration on the final assembly line, are all located alongside one another. In total, Lilium’s facilities cover an area of 175,000sq feet. The start of assembly follows Lilium’s Design Organisation Approval by EASA, confirming that Lilium has the organisation, procedures, competencies, resources and demonstrated rigour required to certify aircraft according to the highest safety standards.
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EASA launches the first version of a digital information platform on drones and air taxis
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has launched a digital space for the exchange of information on air taxis and drones. This will create transparency and thus reassure citizens that their concerns about the introduction of these services in Europe’s cities are being fully addressed. “Today’s launch is the first step in connecting the many new aviation partners who have a stake in Innovative Air Mobility,” said EASA Acting Executive Director Luc Tytgat. “We want to demonstrate to citizens that Europe and EASA are putting everything in place to ensure a safe and sustainable introduction of these new aircraft. They will be able to find out how these services will work and gain reassurance on matters such as noise level and safety.”
The first version of the Innovative Air Mobility (IAM) Hub enables cities, regions, national authorities, operators and manufacturers who have a role in the introduction of these air taxi and drone services to connect. They can then share and obtain reliable information and data. This will be published on the EASA website in a new domain area ‘Drones and Air Mobility’. This domain also contains comprehensive information on how these services will work. The project is funded by the European Commission and the European Parliament. It is Flagship Action Number seven of the European Commission Drone Strategy 2.0. to enable a smart and sustainable EU drones market.
A survey of 4,000 citizens organised by EASA in November 2020 showed that 83% of European citizens are positive about Innovative Air Mobility (IAM) and services with drones and electric aircraft. However, citizens also raised concerns on safety, privacy, noise and sustainability and made clear that they expect these to be addressed. These findings are an important input for EASA’s work in this area.
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