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Good day All

This morning after a visit to the local shopping mall, all decked out in Christmas regalia, I came to the nasty realisation that yet another year is at an end. As always crime unfortunately seems to increase exponentially at this time of the year, please people be vigilant out there.

We are in for a quiet weekend flying wise this weekend. The SAAF Museum will be hosting their monthly flying training day on Saturday, this is always a good day out for the whole family.

The Aero Club of South Africa will be holding their annual awards dinner at AFB Swartkops on Saturday evening for more information please contact Sandra Strydom at

Everyone have a wonderful week and once again above all stay safe.

Leonardo Reports Substantial Progress on AW609 Tiltrotor

According to Italy-based Leonardo Helicopters, the AW609 civil tiltrotor will enter service in 2019. The aircraft recently finished artificial ice testing and will soon begin natural ice trials, as well as fatigue testing.

In a major program update on the AW609, Leonardo Helicopters said the civil tiltrotor program remains on track for entry into service in 2019. “The team is fully committed and well integrated with the regulatory authorities to achieve this timeline. We continue to finalize the plans for all of the certification documentation with the FAA,” the company said as part of a detailed program update statement released on October 18.

This past spring, the third AW609 test aircraft (AC3) successfully completed an artificial icing campaign in Marquette, Michigan, laying the groundwork for future testing in natural icing conditions.

By year-end, Leonardo will begin fuselage fatigue test certification. In Poland, a full-scale fuselage will be loaded to simulate actual conditions during fatigue testing. Additional supplier component certification tests are proceeding as planned, the company reported.

Another major milestone was achieved this month when Transport Canada certified the AW609’s 2,000-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A powerplant. FAA validation of the engine is expected by the end of 2017.

The PT6C-67A has a new compressor with advanced aerodynamics, and the engine's new turbines are made with more modern materials. Together, the new compressor and turbine allow for increased power and reduced fuel consumption. The engine has also been certified to enable continuous operation in vertical flight.

In accordance with development plans, a production engine was recently retrofitted onto AC3 to complete the integration and ready the aircraft for certification testing. Test and regression flights with the production engines on AC3 will begin imminently and continue through year-end. Retrofit of AC1 is nearly complete and that aircraft will start certification “load level” surveys next year.

Assembly of test AC4 is progressing and Leonardo anticipates rolling it out next year. Following ground runs, it will be fully dedicated to avionics development and certification, leveraging the results of the integrated lab results and testing already in progress.

The company continues development and engineering work to integrate the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion touchscreen avionics, and this is proceeding to be available on board AC4 for first flight. Cockpit integration tests are conducted on a regular basis with the support of the integration lab to finalize man-machine interface and the correct display of all flight information.

Leonardo said it is also closing in on its collaboration with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to finalize the first version of the “Tilt-Rotor Guidance Material.” The first production aircraft is expected to be in service beginning in 2019, and in parallel with reaching this milestone the company said it is progressing in the development of training manuals and technical publications.

Chinese Fighter Developments Revealed

New information on China’s jet fighter development has emerged this week, during the twice-in-a-decade Communist Party Congress (CPC). Many of the country’s senior defence industrial leaders also hold positions in the upper ranks of the party. As such, they use the event to try to gain advantage over their rivals in the budgeting process. In particular, significant developments in the stealthy J-20 and FC-31 programs have been revealed.

The Chengdu J-20 first flew in the beginning of 2011 but did not make its first public appearance until the 2016 Zhuhai Air Show—and then only in a brief flypast. The latest reports state that the aircraft has entered low-rate production and that it is close to being deployed with operational combat units. Official but anonymous Chinese sources have stated that putting the J-20 into service is aimed at creating leverage for China in advance of U.S. President Donald Trump’s state visit, scheduled for next month.

The same Chinese sources state that the J-20 now has a reliable domestically produced power plant. Previous models of the J-20 were powered with the Russian-made Saturn/Lyulka AL-31F engine. The Chinese engine can still not match the performance of the Pratt & Whitney F119 that powers the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, but it supposedly enables the J-20 to supercruise. There will be 100 J-20s in service by 2020 and another 100 by 2023, it is reported.

The Shenyang FC-31 has gone through a major redesign to correct a number of shortcomings seen in the original prototypes. Among other changes, the structure has been reworked so that it is now three metric tons heavier and between 20 and 30 inches longer. The aircraft’s Russian-made RD-33 engine has been replaced with a Chinese engine that is supposedly “smokeless,” and the aircraft’s planform has been redesigned in order to reduce its radar cross section.

The new FC-31 variant is also supposed to receive the new WS-19 engine in 2019 and will give this aircraft supercruise capability as well. The radar is also reported to have been upgraded with new modes, including the ability to carry out dependent targeting or battlefield management tasks. The extra airframe structure will help in the eventual design of a carrier-capable version.

Other Chinese sources are also claiming that Indonesia is a serious potential export prospect for the FC-31. Jakarta had previously taken a minor role in the development of the Korean KF-X stealthy fighter. But that cooperation has reportedly ended.

The J-10C is the third and most advanced version of the single-engine fighter produced at Chengdu. It has completed a number of weapons tests and other operational validation flights. Most recently the aircraft successfully demonstrated air-to-air refuelling with one of the PLAAF’s tankers.

A NATO intelligence officer with significant experience in China said that this week’s news was significant for being all about "indigenous" Chinese programs. “You notice that nothing has been said about the Russian aircraft in the PLAAF, or the copies that Chinese industry now builds of the Sukhoi Su-27. That is not an accident, and it shows that in President Xi’s ‘new China,’ the emphasis is definitely on the country’s own home-grown weaponry,” he said.

that in President Xi’s ‘new China,’ the emphasis is definitely on the country’s own home-grown weaponry,” he said.


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