Midweek Updates 15 May 2024

Compiled by Willie Bodenstein

This week in Midweek Updates

End of an era as SAAF Dakota retirement looms.
AAD 2024 to feature energy, general aviation, and drone hubs.
Cessna Skycourier receives type certification in Australia, revolutionizing regional connectivity.
Beechcraft Denali advances certification plans with successful avionics testing.
ICON aviation bankruptcy moves forward.
Airbus finalises acquisition of Aerovel and its UAS Flexrotor.
This week in history - Born on 3 May 1695 Henri Pitot was a French hydraulic engineer and the inventor of the pitot tube.
Worldwide Incidents and Accidents.
Bonus video - Boeing B17 Flight - Unforgettable

Dean Wingrin www.defenceweb.co.za

After 81 years of military service in South Africa, the C-47 Dakota is finally being withdrawn from the South African Air Force (SAAF). Air Force Base Ysterplaat-based 35 Squadron, which operates the type, was this week told that the aircraft will be phased out.

This is hardly surprising as they have not flown for about two years. In September last year Armscor told Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) that all eight C-47TPs in the SAAF's inventory were grounded, with the prospect of them never flying again due to challenges finding a maintenance provider.

A request for maintenance last year elicited no valid bids, and Armscor was forced to cancel the process for the second time. “The Dakota C-47TP is a very old aircraft, thus the support for this aircraft is very limited in South Africa and the world,” Armscor stated. “Due to the age of the aircraft, it is no longer supported by the OEM [original equipment manufacturer]. There are no AMOs [aircraft maintenance organisations] with a Dakota C-47TP stipulated on the Operational Specification.”

Armscor added that there have been numerous attempts to get a support contract for the C-47TP Dakota fleet since 2018, which resulted in no valid bids and several user requirement specification amendments. “Discussion are being held with SAAF regarding the future usage of the aircraft due to reasons indicated above,” Armscor stated in its presentation to the PCDMV last year.

The C-47 Dakota entered SAAF service in 1943. At one stage in the 1980s, the SAAF had the distinction of operating the largest fleet of Dakotas in the world. The Dakota carried out yeoman service during the Border War from the 1960s through to the end of hostilities in 1988, performing such roles as troop transport, resupply, medical evacuation, paratrooping and other ancillary activities.

Following the end of the Border War, the number of squadrons operating the Dakota was reduced, along with the disposal of airframes.

The early 1990s saw a large number of Dakotas upgraded to 'TurboDak' configuration under Project Felstone. This conversion involved replacing the piston engines of the classic Dakota with two Pratt and Whitney PT6A 65R turboprop engines, lengthening of the fuselage and installing modern avionics. Thereafter, the aircraft were re-designated as the C-47-TP TurboDak. Between 1989 and 1994, twelve aircraft were converted to C-47-TP standard.

35 Squadron has been associated with the Dakota since 1985, when several C-47s were acquired to replace the recently retired Avro Shackleton MR3 in the maritime surveillance role.

When 25 and 27 Squadrons were amalgamated with 35 Squadron on 31 December 1990, additional Dakotas were utilised for air transport, leaving the Squadron responsible for both the Maritime and Transport roles. The classic piston-engine workhorses were finally withdrawn in September 1994 and replaced with the modified turbine engine C-47-TP Dakota.

Apart from the Squadron's maritime role and transport role (consisting of paratrooping, target towing, scheduled passenger services, aero medical evacuation and logistical support), the Squadron also performs other support functions. These include electronic intelligent gathering, tactical image (photo) reconnaissance and numerous training functions, such as navigator and telecommunication operator training.

As a result of rationalisation that has taken place over the last few years, only five C-47TPs remain in SAAF service, where they serve with 35 Squadron in Cape Town in a variety of roles. The variants operated are three in maritime surveillance configuration and two in transport configuration. The sole Electronic Warfare platform was previously taken out of service. Not all are currently airworthy and none have flown for some time.

The actual date of withdrawal is not currently known, nor details of any final flight or disposal plans. One or two aircraft still undertake regular ground engine runs.

It would appear that 35 Squadron will not be closed, but may operate another current SAAF platform to keep pilots current.

An official announcement from the SAAF is still awaited.


The twelfth edition of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in September this year will host several hubs to showcase the latest innovations in energy, general aviation, and drone/counter-drone technologies.

Giving an update on the 18-22 September exhibition, the organisers said that more than half of the available exhibition space at Air Force Base Waterkloof has already been booked out and confirmed.

“As organisers, we want to position the country as the global pinnacle of innovation, excellence, and a preferred investment destination,” said Nakedi Phasha, Exhibition Director at AAD. “We anticipate that more than 30 000 trade visitors will engage with over 300 exhibitors. Visitors can also attend our maiden conference edition to hear thought leaders in the industry, academia, and the defence sector provide insights into topical issues that directly impact the industry. Furthermore, we project at least 60 000 visitors will attend the public air show days to witness the exhilarating aerobatics spectacle.”

The projected figures are up significantly from 2022, when 203 exhibitors from 24 countries attended the show, down from 486 exhibitors from 40 countries in 2018 and 532 exhibitors from 34 countries in 2016. Trade visitors in 2022 amounted to 23 000 people from 76 countries, versus 32 538 in 2018 (112 countries) and 33 862 in 2016 (105 countries). The drop in numbers in 2022 was due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that the 2020 edition did not take place because of it.

“Looking to the future, our focus will be on further increasing international participation, fostering collaborations, and exploring new sponsorship and partnership opportunities to grow the event's footprint into Africa. We want to provide our partners with a premier event that contributes to the global aerospace and defence market,” said Phasha.

This year, international exhibitors have been confirmed from countries such as the United States, Belgium, and China, with headline exhibitors including Denel, Embraer, Saab, Airbus, Turkish Aerospace Industries, and L3Harris Technologies, amongst others.

“We are positioning the South African Defence Industry to use AAD 2024 as a platform for both buyers and sellers to come together and conclude those crucial and mutually beneficial deals,” said Armscor Chief Executive Solomzi Mbada earlier this year.

“Our South African defence budget might be dwindling but the global market presents an opportunity for local industries to take advantage of,” he said, adding the exhibition “provides local industries with an international platform to showcase and market their value to a carefully curated and accredited global player network.”

Armscor is the AAD 2024 host, taking over from the SA Aerospace Maritime and Defence Industries Association (AMD), which hosted AAD 2022. AAD is presented in partnership with AMD, Arsmcor, and the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa (CAASA), in collaboration with the South African Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DOD).

Organisers pointed out that the economic impact that the AAD has on South Africa's economy is significant. International visitors to AAD 2022 contributed over R135 million to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while public and trade visitors generated R150 million in revenue. R65 million of taxation revenue was raised and more than 1 350 jobs created.


Textron Aviation recently announced the Cessna SkyCourier twin utility turboprop has been awarded type certification by the Australia Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), paving the way for the aircraft to serve remote communities, improve regional connectivity in Australia and cater to the region's diverse aviation needs. This certification comes three months after the first SkyCourier order in Australia was announced at the Singapore Airshow.

“The SkyCourier's incredible performance makes it a reliable business tool for customers all over the world,” said Lannie O'Bannion, senior vice president, Global Sales and Flight Operations. “This certification marks yet another milestone in the SkyCourier program. With the ability to load, fly, unload and repeat - along with low operating costs and maximum cabin flexibility - the SkyCourier is a game-changer in reaching remote destinations.”   

The Cessna SkyCourier is meticulously designed to deliver unparalleled performance, unwavering reliability and cost-effective maintenance. With the ability to be operated by a single pilot and a generous payload capacity, the SkyCourier is the ultimate solution for air freight, passenger and special mission needs. The aircraft is highly adaptable and can easily adjust configurations to effectively complete virtually any mission, supporting a significant return on investment.     

The Cessna SkyCourier twin-engine, high-wing turboprop offers a combination of performance and lower operating costs for air freight, commuter and special mission operators. It's available in both freighter and passenger versions, as well as equipped with a gravel kit option. The 19-passenger variant includes crew and passenger doors for smooth boarding, as well as large cabin windows for natural light and views. Both configurations offer single-point pressure refuelling to enable faster turnarounds. 


Textron Aviation's Beechcraft Denali single-engine turboprop continues to surpass significant milestones as it begins the certification flight test phase of the program following FAA Type Inspection Authorization achieved earlier this year. Each major development milestone has allowed the members of the flight test program a better understanding of the aircraft's strength, capability and durability, and the clean-sheet aircraft recently completed the first on-aircraft certification ground and flight testing of the avionics systems.

The fleet of three flight test aircraft has now completed nearly 2,000 flight test hours with more than 830 flights, and the program continues toward anticipated FAA certification expected in 2025.

“The Denali's advanced avionics take full advantage of state-of-the-art technology to ease pilot workload,” said Lannie O'Bannion, senior vice president, Global Sales and Flight Operations. “Commencing certification flight testing on the aircraft marks a significant milestone for the program and we are excited to get this aircraft into the hands of our eager customers.”

The Denali cockpit features the Garmin G3000 intuitive avionics suite featuring high-resolution screens and touchscreen controllers. An integrated Garmin autothrottle is a standard feature, which interfaces with the Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS) and Flight Management System (FMS) to provide easy speed control throughout all regimes of flight from take-off to touchdown.

Other standard G3000 features include a 10-inch weather radar, Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS-B), and dual transponders with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) capabilities, which are compliant with the latest air traffic control requirements.

Engineered to achieve cruise speeds of 285 knots and full fuel payload of 1,100 pounds, the Denali is designed to have a range of 1,600 nautical miles at high-speed cruise with one pilot and four passengers and will be able to fly from Los Angeles to Chicago, New York to Miami or London to Athens.


ICON Aircraft, manufacturer of the revolutionary ICON A5 amphibious sport plane, announced in April of this year that it has commenced a strategic restructuring process by filing for Chapter 11 protection. The Company further disclosed that it intends to pursue a sale of its business under Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code, while continuing to support its customers and operations during the Chapter 11 process.

The company last week announced that it has selected a stalking horse bidder in connection with its recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy court supervised marketing and sale process. A stalking horse bid is defined as an initial offer on the assets of a bankrupt company. It establishes the baseline price for assets of the company.

SG Investment America Inc. has been designated to set the floor price for the sale of ICON's assets. According to the company, this step is aimed at maximizing the value for its stakeholders and facilitating a smooth transition through the bankruptcy process.

“The decision to designate a stalking horse bidder underscores our commitment to ensuring the long-term viability of our business,” said Jerry Meyer, CEO of ICON Aircraft. “We believe that this proactive approach will help employees, partners, and customers have confidence in our ongoing operations, enabling the company to achieve the best possible outcome.”

It was noted that during this process that ICON continues to build, sell, and service its amphibious aircraft, as well as work with the FAA to achieve type certification of the ICON A5.


Airbus has finalised the acquisition of U.S.-based Aerovel and its unmanned aerial system (UAS), Flexrotor, in a move to strengthen its portfolio of tactical unmanned solutions. Flexrotor is a small tactical unmanned aerial system designed for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions at sea and over land.

"We see more and more armed forces and para-public agencies around the world looking to investigate how unmanned aerial systems can strengthen their intelligence and surveillance capabilities. The Flexrotor, as a vertical take-off and landing UAS, fits into our strategy to expand our UAS offerings. Together with the VSR700, we will continue to develop manned-unmanned teaming to offer our customers the enhanced and expanded mission capabilities that they require to monitor and safeguard their communities and critical infrastructure, while preserving essential assets such as helicopters,” said Mathilde Royer, Head of Strategy and Sustainability at Airbus Helicopters.

The Flexrotor, a modern Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Aircraft with a maximum launch weight of 25 kg (55 lbs), has been designed for ISTAR missions for more than 12-14 hours in a typical operational configuration. It can integrate different types of payloads including an electro-optical system and advanced sensors to suit customers' unique mission needs. With the ability to autonomously launch and recover from either land or sea requiring only a 3.7 by 3.7 m (12 by 12 ft.) area, the Flexrotor is ideal for expeditionary missions requiring minimal footprint. Through the support of the US Department of Defence (DoD), and contracted deployment in a variety of maritime security exercises, the Flexrotor is a mission-proven, force multiplier for operations in harsh, high-threat, GPS-denied environments. The Flexrotor is also being operated for para-public missions such as forest fire surveillance (providing firefighters with critical images day or night) and can address other demanding mission needs, including ice navigation (helping guide naval vessels through ice in the Arctic Ocean), law enforcement, and border patrol.

Aerovel currently employs more than 30 people and presents a significant growth trajectory. It will continue to design and manufacture the Flexrotor in Bingen, Washington in an existing and mature UAS ecosystem.

Born on 3 May 1695 Henri Pitot was a French hydraulic engineer and the inventor of the pitot tube.

In a pitot tube, the height of the fluid column is proportional to the square of the velocity of the fluid at the depth of the inlet to the pitot tube. This relationship was discovered by Henri Pitot in 1732, when he was assigned the task of measuring the flow in the river Seine.[1]

He rose to fame with the design of the Aqueduc de Saint-Clément near Montpellier (the construction lasted thirteen years), and the extension of Pont du Gard in Nîmes. In 1724, he became a member of the French Academy of Sciences, and in 1740 a fellow of the Royal Society.

Namibia, Eros Airport (ERS/FYWE), Windhoek, Khomas: An ELA Aviación ELA-07 was performing touch and goes when it crashed after the tail was caught by a gust of wind during the second landing at Eros Airport (ERS/FYWE), Windhoek, Khomas. The pilot was not injured and the gyrocopter flipped on its right side and received substantial damage.

South Africa, near Kroonstad, Free State: A de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth made a forced landing on highway N1 near Kroonstad, Free State. The pilot was not injured and the aircraft was not damaged.

Uruguay, near Marindia, Canelones: A Pipistrel Virus SW 121 experienced an engine failure and came to rest nose down in a wooded area after the activation of the BRS emergency parachute near Parque de los Pájaros, Marindia, Canelones. The instructor and student pilot were not injured and the aircraft received relative minor damage.

Japan, Miyama-sou, Kurokawa, Aso, Kumamoto: A Robinson R44 Raven II, operated by Takumi Enterprise for sightseeing flights admitted by Aso Caddly Dominion, lost engine power while enroute. The pilot decided to made a forced landing on a grass field in Miyama-sou, an old-people's home a few hundred meters away from the departure site Aso Cuddly Dominion. The pilot suffered a lumbar fracture, a foreign female passenger broke her leg and a foreign male passenger received an injury on his face and the helicopter received substantial damage as the tail boom was broken.

Russia, Salavat, Republic of Bashkortostan: A modified aircraft, modified ersatz to be remotely operated as a light bomber was used to attack a Gazprom refinery in Salavat, Republic of Bashkortostan. A small fire started at the plant, but did not cause significant damage. As a result, the plant did not have to be evacuated. The aircraft was then either shot down or crashed shortly after.

Boeing B17 Flight - Unforgettable

Aviation Economy
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