Midweek Updates 6 JUNE 2024

Compiled by Willie Bodenstein

This week in Midweek Updates

No SAAF Ex Winter Solstice this year.
Electra's Hybrid-Electric test aircraft achieves first ultra-short eSTOL take-off and landing in piloted test flights.
Unmanned escort for manned fighter jets: Airbus presents new Wingman concept at ILA Berlin.
PC-21 fleet achieves 500,000 flight hours in safety.
Aurora's latest X-Plane design speeds ahead.
Archer achieves significant regulatory milestone; FAA issues final airworthiness criteria for its Midnight aircraft.
Lilium and eVolare confirm the signing of sale and purchase agreements for 4 Lilium Jets, with potential deliveries of up to 12 additional aircraft.
New ACS for nearly every pilot category in effect 31 May.
This week in history - Orville Wright takes his 82-year-old father for his first airplane ride.
Worldwide Incidents and Accidents.
Bonus video - Test Flight and Development Centre Airshow

Kim Helfrich www.defenceweb.co.za

The airborne service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) will not stage its annual force preparation exercise - Winter Solstice - this year with the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2024 exhibition taking preference.

Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo's SA Air Force (SAAF), along with the remaining three services - SA Army, SA Military Health and the SA Navy (SAN) - as well as divisions such as finance, human resources and joint operations, have to live with continually decreasing National Treasury (NT) budget allocations.

The financial belt tightening goes back to 2013 when then SAAF Chief Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano used the annual February Air Force Day parade to announce implementation of austerity measures. Since his departure the SAAF has had now retired three-star general Fabian "Zakes" Msimang in charge, followed by another three-star Mzayifani Buthelezi as acting chief before Mbambo moved into the hot seat in June three years ago.

That funds are not readily available is illustrated by there being no Winter Solstice last year, and the previous year it was largely a command post exercise (CPX) based at the SAAF Ditholo training area north of Pretoria. The 2022 exercise had preparation for external deployments as its main thrust. Prior to that Winter Solstice exercises centred largely around the Northern Cape with sorties flown by fixed and rotary winged aircraft to support peacekeeping deployments.

The official response from the SANDF Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) on Winter Solstice 2024 is it will not be conducted due to AAD scheduled for September at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof in Centurion.

DCC, responding to a defenceWeb inquiry, said the SAAF Museum Air Show at the Air Force Mobile Deployment Wing (AF MDW), formerly AFB Swartkop, on 4 May attracted 20 273 people. "Despite the absence of the much-anticipated fighter presence, the show was a great success, with no incidents flying-related or otherwise," the response reads.


Electra today announced that it has successfully achieved the first high-performance ultra-short flight operations of its piloted blown-lift hybrid-electric short take-off and landing(eSTOL) demonstrator aircraft (EL-2 Goldfinch).

"Today's milestone is an incredible achievement as we've proven that our eSTOL aircraft has the capability to do what we said it could do - operate from spaces shorter than300 feet," said JP Stewart, Electra Vice President and General Manager. "The aircraft handling at low-speeds has been exceptional and is matching our analysis well, building confidence in the predicted capability of the 9-passengerproduct design. We'll continue to develop our technologies, including the "thrust-by-wire" flight control system to allow us to fly even slower on approach and further improve the STOL take-off and landing performance in the ongoing test campaign."

The test flights, piloted by Cody Allee, took place through April and May 2024 at the Manassas Regional Airport and Warrenton-Fauquier Airport in Virginia. The longest flight lasted 1hour 43 minutes. During the campaign, the aircraft took off in less than170 ft and landed in under 114 ft ground roll, the aircraft reached an altitude of6,500 feet, and it flew as slowly as 25 kts on take-off and landing. Data and insights gained from the flight test program will inform the design of Electra's 9-passengercommercial eSTOL aircraft, with entry into commercial service under FAA Part 23regulations targeted for 2028.

Electra's blown-lift design uses eight electric motors to significantly increase wing lift, allowing the eSTOL aircraft to take off and land in just 1/10th of the space needed by conventional aircraft. This enables access to locations that today only helicopters can reach. Quiet electric motors dramatically reduce noise and emissions for community-friendly operations. Hybrid-electric power provides long-range capability without the need for ground-based charging stations.


Airbus will be presenting its new Wingman concept at the International Aerospace Exhibition ILA in Berlin. In military aviation, a "Wingman" is a pilot in another aircraft that protects and supports the flight lead, delivers more tactical options and thus contributes to mission success. In the Airbus concept, the Wingman is going to operate very much in the same way - only that it is neither a pilot nor a fighter jet flown by one. It is a fighter-type drone that will be commanded by a pilot in a current combat aircraft such as the Eurofighter and can take on high-risk mission tasks that would pose a bigger threat to manned-only aircraft.

The 1:1 model, which Airbus will be exhibiting from June 5 to 9 on its static display at ILA, is similar to a "show car" used as a design exercise by the automotive industry. The Wingman model showcases all of the foreseen capabilities required, such as low observability, the integration of various armaments, advanced sensors, connectivity and teaming solutions. As with "show cars", not all of what is on display may find its way into series production. In this aspect, the model on display at ILA Berlin will serve as a foundation and catalyst to drive the design requirements for each generation of the Wingman.

Based on the current concept, the Wingman is intended to augment the capabilities of current manned combat aircraft with uncrewed platforms that can carry weapons and other effectors.

"The German Air Force has expressed a clear need for an unmanned aircraft flying with and supporting missions of its manned fighter jets before the Future Combat Air System will be operational in 2040," said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. "Our Wingman concept is the answer. We will further drive and fine-tune this innovation made in Germany so that ultimately, we can offer the German Air Force an affordable solution with the performance it needs to maximise the effects and multiply the power of its fighter fleet for the 2030s."

The Wingman's tasks can range from reconnaissance to jamming targets and engaging targets on the ground or in the air with precision guided munitions or missiles. Pilots in manned aircraft acting as "command fighters" will always have control of the mission. They are always the final decision-making authority, while benefiting from the protection and smaller risk exposure that the delegation of tactical taskings to unmanned systems offers. An additional focus is on increasing the overall combat mass in an affordable manner so that air forces can match the number of opposing forces in peers or near-peers in conflicts.


The global fleet of just under 250 PC-21 training aircraft recently set a historic milestone with a total of over 500,000 successful hours in the air. Experience with current PC-21 customers shows that the state-of-the-art Pilatus training system can help reduce the cost of training future pilots by over 50 percent.

Pilatus is proud that the worldwide fleet of exceptionally efficient and advanced PC-21 training aircraft has logged 500,000 hours in the air.

Ioannis Papachristofilou, recently appointed VP Government Aviation at Pilatus, emphasizes: "The PC-21 provides air forces with a highly efficient platform for military pilot training. Featuring state-of-the-art equipment and smart avionics, the training aircraft delivers a high level of performance. With the PC-21, training hours can be flown with substantially less fuel, making it an exceptionally cost-effective, sustainable and intelligent training platform."

In addition to the actual aircraft, the integrated PC-21 training system includes mission planning and debriefing systems, training materials, virtual reality tools and a flight simulator - an essential element in ground-based training.

Worldwide, the current fleet comprises almost 250 PC-21s. Customers include some of the world's leading air forces from Europe, Australasia and the Middle East. The Spanish Air Force also trains with the PC-21. With the purchase of 16 additional PC-21s and associated simulators in March 2023, the Spanish Air force is now the largest PC-21 operator in Europe. The Swiss Air Force has successfully used the PC-21 to train its future military pilots since 2008.


Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, recently completed conceptual design review for a game-changing, high-speed, vertical lift X-plane and has been selected to continue development of a preliminary design review. The aircraft is being developed for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT), which "aims to design, build, and fly an X-plane to demonstrate the key technologies and integrated concepts that enable a transformational combination of aircraft speed and runway independence."

Aurora's concept is a low-drag, fan-in-wing demonstrator that integrates a blended wing body platform, combining the agility of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) with unprecedented speed. The team's approach seeks to set the program on the path to successful flight and demonstrate game-changing capability for air mobility and Special Operations Forces (SOF) missions.

New renderings of the fan-in-wing (FIW) demonstrator reveal three lift fans, a more refined, composite exterior; and an uncrewed cockpit. The choice of three lift fans reflects the team's strategy to simplify the demonstrator and streamline its path to flight test. The FIW technology could be scaled to four or more lift fans to meet future aircraft requirements, and it could unlock opportunities for a future family of systems. Similarly, while an uncrewed demonstrator offers benefits in testing and risk reduction, the FIW technology would be fully transferrable to traditional aircraft with crews.

Rendering of embedded lift fans with integrated covers transitioning between vertical and forward flight.

Aurora's concept is designed to meet or exceed the challenging program objectives that DARPA set for the program. For example, the blended wing body platform is capable of 450 knot cruise speed, and the embedded lift fans with integrated covers allow a smooth transition from vertical to horizontal flight. The design also leverages existing engine solutions, shortening development risk and timelines. In addition to VTOL, the aircraft is capable of short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL), super short take-off and landing (SSTOL), and conventional take-off and landing.

"Aurora and Boeing bring relevant expertise in blended-wing-body platforms, high-speed VTOL configurations, and military aircraft development," said Larry Wirsing, vice president of aircraft development at Aurora Flight Sciences. "The DARPA SPRINT program is an exciting opportunity to continue our history of advancing technology demonstrator programs that enable new capabilities for the U.S. military."

Aurora and Boeing's Vertical Lift teams are combining over 30 years of experience in novel vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) platforms with a proven technology maturation process. The team estimates completion of their preliminary design review for the SPRINT program in approximately 12 months, with the goal of first flight in 36 months.


Archer Aviation Inc. (NYSE: ACHR) a leader in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, today announced the FAA issued for public inspection the final airworthiness criteria for Archer's Midnight aircraft. This significant regulatory milestone provides the solidified path for Archer to achieve Type Certification for Midnight. Archer is one of two companies in the world to achieve this certification progress with the FAA for an eVTOL aircraft.

The finalization of Archer's airworthiness criteria unlocks the ability for Archer to work with the FAA to obtain the remaining final approvals on its certification and test plans. This is a critical step as Archer continues to ramp up its "for credit" testing with the FAA and prepares to begin its piloted flight testing later this year.

"Midnight is one giant step closer to taking passengers into the sky in the coming years in the U.S. The final airworthiness criteria for Midnight is an important step on our journey to make electric flying taxis an everyday reality," said Billy Nolen, Archer Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer and former Administrator of the FAA. "Thank you to the team at the FAA for their continued hard work in support of making the electrification of aviation a reality."

"Today's milestone adds significant momentum to Midnight's certification program as we further ramp up our "for credit" testing efforts with the FAA," added Eric Wright, Archer Head of Certification.

Archer has been putting Midnight's systems and components through rigorous testing as part of its safety of flight readiness for our upcoming piloted flight tests later this year and in support of its ongoing FAA certification program. Additionally, the company has made significant progress on the construction of its first three piloted conforming Midnight aircraft. The first aircraft in this initial fleet will begin piloted flight testing later this year, and subsequently be used in "for credit" flight testing with the FAA as the company progresses towards commercialization.

Archer's goal is to transform urban travel, replacing 60-90-minute commutes by car with estimated 10-20-minute flights that are safe, sustainable, low noise, and cost-competitive with ground transportation. Archer's Midnight is a piloted, four-passenger aircraft designed to perform rapid back-to-back flights with minimal charge time between flights.


N.V. (NASDAQ:LILM), developer of the first all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) jet and global pioneer in regional air mobility (RAM), and eVolare, a subsidiary of Volare Aviation, one of the United Kingdom's largest helicopter and private jet operators, announced the signing of binding sale and purchase agreements for the acquisition of 4 Lilium Jets.

The purchase agreements include delivery schedules, guarantees, and warranties along with deposits and pre-delivery payments. The parties have also agreed on terms for the reservation of up to an additional 12 Lilium Jet production slots for eVolare and its customers. Based in Oxford, UK, eVolare plans to operate Lilium Jets in the London area, connecting London with outer cities and the coastal areas of England.

The current agreements follow an initial firm agreement between Lilium and eVolare in 2022, as the parties have been working together to reinforce their relationship, develop a network of vertiports in the region, and plan for operations of the aircraft upon entry into service of the Lilium Jet. This work has led to binding agreements with potentially up to 16 aircraft being deployed in the London area.

Kitplanes for Africa


Instructors, learner pilots, and DPEs alike will need to brush up on the new Airman Certification Standards (ACS) and a couple of Practical Test Standards (PTS) that went into effect nearly across the board May 31. The two unaffected categories are those of Aviation Mechanic (ACS-1) and Remote Pilot (ACS-10B).

Updated categories include:

Airline Transport Pilot and Type Rating for Airplane: ACS-11A
Aircraft Dispatcher PTS: 8081-10E
Commercial Pilot, Airplane: ACS-7B
FAA Commercial Pilot, Rotorcraft Helicopter: ACS-16
Flight Instructor, Airplane: ACS-25
Flight Instructor, Instrument Airplane and Helicopter PTS: 8081-9E
Flight Instructor, Rotorcraft Helicopter: ACS-29
Instrument Rating, Airplane: ACS-8C
Instrument Rating, Helicopter: ACS-14
Private Pilot, Airplane: ACS-6C
Private Pilot, Rotorcraft Category Helicopter: ACS-15

The individual documents are linked above to the FAA site for ease of reference. There are updates for the ATP type rating for powered lift, and the powered lift instrument, private, commercial, and instructor ratings. There is also an updated ACS Companion Guide for Pilots.

25 MAY 1910

Orville Wright takes his 82-year-old father for his first airplane ride. Also on this day, Wilbur and Orville fly together for the only time in a six-and-one-half minute flight at Simms Station, near Dayton, Ohio.

None of the Wright children had middle names. Instead, their father tried hard to give them distinctive first names. Wilbur was named for Willbur Fisk and Orville for Orville Dewey, both clergymen that Milton Wright admired. They were "Will" and "Orv" to their friends and in Dayton, their neighbours knew them simply as "the Bishop's kids", or "the Bishop's boys".

In 1878, when the family lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, their father brought home a toy helicopter for his two younger sons.

The device was based on an invention of French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Pénaud. Made of paper, bamboo and cork with a rubber band to twirl its rotor, it was about 1 ft (30 cm) long. Wilbur and Orville played with it until it broke, and then built their own.[26] In later years, they pointed to their experience with the toy as the spark of their interest in flying.

USA, Lake County, Lowell, IN: A Lindstrand LBL-90A sustained substantial damage during the accident sequence involving powerlines, terrain, and fire in Lake County at Lowell, Indiana. The three occupants onboard the hot air balloon was seriously injured.

Portugal, LPBJ: Two Yakovlev Yak-52 aircraft of the Spanish-Portuguese Yakstars formation team collided during the Beja Air Show, Portugal. One aircraft crashed (EC-IAS, Yakstar 4), killing the Spanish pilot. The other aircraft involved in the collision (EC-NGZ, Yakstar 3) managed to land, ending upside down with the Portuguese pilot injured. Videos of the accident suggest that one aircraft (Yakstar 4, EC-IAS) descended from the six-ship formation and made a steep climb in front of the Vic-formation of the remaining five aircraft. During this manoeuvre the aircraft struck the propeller of the aircraft in the left-wing position (Yakstar 3, EC-NGZ). Yakstar 4 suffered severe damage to the tail, lost control and crashed, and Yakstar 3 crash landed right away inside Beja Air Base, near a taxiway.

Spain, near San Juan reservoir, N of San Martín de Valdeiglesias, Madrid: A Tecnam P-Mentor crashed under unknown circumstances near the San Juan Reservoir, north of Martín de Valdeiglesias, Madrid. Both occupants perished and the aircraft was destroyed by fire.

Japan, Kobe Airport (UKB/RJBE), Kobe-shi, Chuo-ku, Hyogo: A Beechcraft G58 Baron of Hirata Gakuen Aviation Operation Division made a belly landing at Kobe Airport (UKB/RJBE), Kobe-shi, Chuo-ku, Hyogo, after the pilot forgot to extent the landing gear at the sixth attempt of touch-and-go's during a training flight. The three occupants were not injured and the aircraft received minor damage and the runway was closed for five hours from 14:28 LT. 34 commercial flights were cancelled. JTSB launched an investigation as a serious incident.

Brazil, airstrip of the Creporizão mine in the district of Itaituba: On Friday 31 May 2024, a Beech 58 Baron with fake registration PR-PFC landed near municipality of Itaituba, in the southwest of Pará, Brazil. The crew of two were arrested as expected to be part of a criminal organization. The pilot his license was expired since 2020 and was arrested before for drug trafficking in the past. The aircraft they were flying, has been seized, but was destroyed after setting on fire. The operation began on Tuesday 30 May when the military police expected that a drug plane would land on the airstrip of the Creporizão mine in the district of Itaituba. The local police were informed. No drugs were found, only jerrycans with diesel and patrol.

Crete to Cape competitors at Blue Mountain Valley Private Airfield

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