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News Letter 14 February 2019

Good day All

I greet you today from a very very wet Gauteng, we have had rain nonstop since early yesterday and it seems like it will be continuing well in to the weekend, as things stand we are not aware of any events planned so the disappointment isn’t too great.

South African National Defence Force ready for Armed Forces Day 2019

16 – 21 February in Cape Town

On Armed forces Day, the SA National Defence Force celebrates its unit and creates an environment where the public can interact with the military and view its latest military hardware and technology. Consequently exposing and expanding the public’s perception of the various military roles and its purpose in society in peacetime in a democratic state.

To find out what can be expected please click HERE

Aeroclub Airweek and Middelburg Airshow

The Aeroclub of South Africa will be hosting their Aeroclub Airweek at Middelburg Airfield from the 7-10 March, a fun filled aviation week is planned and for the first time the airweek will incorporate an airshow……definitely not to be missed.

Various Braai packs can be purchased at the Airfield between R65.00 and R75.00 per pack.

A 3-course dinner is planned for Saturday Evening (Price per Person to be confirmed)

Breakfast and Lunch can be purchased from the Food Vendors on site.


If you have not registered your attendance yet, please register HERE

Please book your exclusive tent suite HERE

Proposed Daily Programme

Thursday 7 March 2019

Morning Arrivals

Evening Braai

Friday 8 March 2019

Breakfast and Arrivals

SAPFA - Speed Rally Test Flights

Safety First Aviator presentation

Evening Braai

Saturday 11 March 2019

Breakfast and Arrivals

SAPFA – Speed Rally

Middelburg Airshow and Fireworks Display

Prize giving and Dinner

Sunday 10 March 2019

Breakfast and Departures

The SACAA set to move to OR Tambo International

The South African Civil Aviation Authority is set to move their entire operation to the new R4.5 billion development of which the first phase was unveiled on 12 February 2019; six phases are planned for this “mixed-use” development to revamp the airport in the future.

The first phase will see the construction of three six-storey office buildings with a floor area of 33,000 square metres.

Construction will begin before the end of February, with an anticipated completion date for the first phase at the end of 2020. The SACAA are earmarked to take residence in one of these new buildings.

Speaking at a sod-turning ceremony on GM of the airport, Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana, said that the airport plans to target a further 180,000 square metres for a mixed-use development to be located on the northern precinct of the airport.

She added that the mixed-use development will consist of a variety of buildings which are framed in such a way as to form a boulevard at the international departures level, where a variety of retail commercial and support buildings each open onto a vibrant energetic “street” environment serviced by lively restaurants, corner cafes and bars. It will also improve the airport’s connectivity from the Gautrain station and to existing hotels and facilities via pedestrian-friendly connections to the international terminal building.

In addition to this development, O.R Tambo International’s long-term infrastructure plan features midfield cargo and midfield passenger terminals, each requiring several billion Rand in further investment, said Pityi-Vokwana.

These developments will accommodate growing passenger demand and expand the midfield cargo facilities at the airport to accommodate up to two million tonnes of air cargo annually, she said. “At the same time, airport users will start to see upgrades to the existing terminal buildings,”

“So, we are entering a very exciting period in the life of our airport which supports about 38,000 jobs in and around the precinct,” said Pityi-Vokwana. “We are excited about the upliftment that the Western Precinct development which will act as a catalyst to create a new multi-functional node where big businesses will ultimately migrate in terms of office and hotel accommodation,” she said.

“This node will be made more attractive by the intermodal connectivity offered by Gautrain and Bus Rapid Transport stations within a precinct, the ultimate development of which, will allow for easy access to hotels, restaurants, fast food facilities, outdoor seating, retail, offices and a world-class conference centre.”

Airbus to cease production of the A380 in 2021

European plane manufacturer Airbus said Thursday it will end the manufacturing of its A380, dubbed the “Super-Jumbo”, in 2021 due to lack of customers, abandoning the world’s biggest passenger jet and one of the aviation industry’s most ambitious and most troubled projects.

Barely a decade after the 500-plus-seat plane started carrying passengers, Airbus said in a statement that key client Emirates is cutting back its order book from 162 to 123 aircraft. “We have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production.”

Airbus announced Thursday a 29-percent jump in overall profits last year, and analysts said global demand is high enough for Airbus to weather the loss of its super-jumbo.

“While we are disappointed to have to give up our order, and sad that the program could not be sustained, we accept that this is the reality of the situation,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and CEO of Emirates, said in a statement. “For us, the A380 is a wonderful aircraft loved by our customers and our crew. It is a differentiator for Emirates. We have shown how people can truly fly better on the A380.”

Airbus had hoped the A380 would squeeze out Boeing’s 747 and revolutionize air travel as more people take to the skies. Instead, airlines have been cautious about committing to the costly plane, so huge that airports had to build new runways and modify terminals to accommodate it. The double-decker planes started flying in 2008 and seated more than 500 passengers.

The A380 was plagued with challenges from the start, including tensions between Airbus’ French and German management and protracted production delays and cost overruns. Those prompted a company restructuring that cost thousands of jobs.

Industry experts initially expected A380s to long outlast the 747, which is celebrated its 50th birthday just this week.

Why is A380 production ending?

The spacious jet, which had its first commercial flight in 2007, was popular with passengers but it was complicated and expensive to build. Production was devolved to different European locations, with final assembly and finishing split between Toulouse and Hamburg.

Demand for the A380 from airlines ultimately dried up as the industry shifted away from larger aircraft and rather operate long-haul aircraft with two engines such as Boeing's 787 and 777, and Airbus's A330 and A350.

The Use of drones to count African wildlife

To get a sense of how many animals live in a given area, game counts are typically done in real time by sharp-eyed people in vehicles. The Savmap project, started at Swiss federal technology institute and involving scientists in Switzerland, Namibia and the Netherlands, uses drones and artificial intelligence (AI) to count wild animals more efficiently.

“Human eyes are very good at detecting animals, but not at screening countless images. Computers can process a lot more data,” explains Swiss geo-information specialist Devis Tuia, who received a personal grant from Swiss National Science Foundation to form a lab to develop data science-based solutions for the use of remote sensing data in the environmental domain. This can be used to improve wildlife monitoring methods in places like Namibia, for example.

During the four-year project, which wrapped up last month, Tuia and his team built an AI system to study urban and natural environments, including extensive study on detecting animals photographed by cameras mounted on drones. Savannah grasslands are too dry to sustain many trees, which makes them well-suited for drone exploration. Despite the annual wet season, overgrazing and unsustainable water usage can exacerbate droughts, causing wildlife to suffer.

The Kuzikus Wildlife Reserve in Namibia served as the test site for the Swiss project, and student researchers flew drones overhead to photograph the entire reserve in 2014 and 2015. The drones collected about 150 photos per square kilometre; the next step was sorting the images featuring animals like Oryx, Kudu and Zebra.

“Crowdsourcing really allowed us to get started with the AI work,” says Tuia, explaining how the MicroMappers team at the Qatar Computing Research Institute provided a platform that allowed volunteers to look into the images and gather the data necessary to help the computers identify everything that looked like a large animal. “For the AI system to do this effectively, it can’t miss a single animal. So there has to be a fairly large tolerance, even if that means generating more false positives, such as bushes wrongly identified as animals, which then have to be manually eliminated,” he says.

“In the beginning we were rather sceptical,” says reserve director Friedrich Reinhard. “The drones produce so many images that I thought it would be difficult to use.” But in fact the system made it possible for a single person to do a full count of the reserve – which measures 100 square kilometres – within a week. Normally a team of people would have to do the job by helicopter, which is more expensive and less accurate. “It’s simple for a ranger to go through the pre-selected images and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s easing their workload rather than eliminating their job,” says Tuia.

Initially, rangers were worried about sharing images of critically endangered black rhinos out of fear that poachers would try to find them. However, the researchers were able to persuade them that the animals would have moved on by the time the images were released.

“Knowing where the animals are and how they move helps you protect them,” Tuia says, pointing out that this knowledge of wildlife behaviour was helpful for conservation. “For example, the rangers were interested to see whether they had enough food for grazing so that they could provide supplementary food if not.” Being able to find the animals for safaris is another way of generating tourism income that can boost the local economy as well as conservation efforts. Using drones to do a wildlife census, or to detect poachers, also reduces the risk of a ranger being killed by illegal game hunters, who tend to be heavily armed.

“The system is still at a prototype level. It would also need a user interface to get onto a ranger’s desktop. We’re eager to see how this could be adapted to other places, like Kenya,” says Tuia, noting that there’s interest in South Africa as well.

Russia’s Autonomous Strike Drone

Images of what appears to be a new unmanned strike drone have emerged from Russia. The aircraft is believed to be the Sukhoi “Okhotnik” (Hunter) heavy strike drone, under development since 2011. Okhotnik is designed to strike targets on the ground in support of manned aircraft, destroying air defences and headquarters units.

The drone is officially known as Udarno-Razvedyvatelnyi Bespilotnyi Kompleks, or “Strike-Reconnaissance Unmanned Complex.” Okhotnik was designed as a 20-ton combat aircraft, an impressive size considering the American F/A-18E/F Super Hornet weighs 16 tons empty and includes a cockpit and life-support systems for a pilot.

The Russian government signed a development deal with the Sukhoi Design Bureau in 2011, at which time the drone was described as a “Sixth-generation aircraft” powered by two non-afterburning Klimov RD-33MK engines or a single Sukhoi Su-57 engine. The presence of a single engine nozzle indicates Okhotnik went the latter route. Okhotnik reportedly has a top speed of 621 miles an hour.

In July 2018, the Russian government’s TASS news bureau quoted a military aviation expert as saying, “Probably, the Okhotnik has been designed to accomplish missions similar to the assignments set for U.S. UAVs, destroying enemy air-defence systems, communications, command and control posts in situations when the use of aircraft is associated with considerable risks for crews.”

Okhotnik will be a fully autonomous drone. That is, it will be able to take off, accomplish its mission, and land without human interference. Weapons use will require human approval, maintaining a “man in the loop” who can critically analyse a combat situation and if necessary abort an attack. Okhotnik will pioneer the development of a combat artificial intelligence system that will eventually go into Russia’s sixth-generation fighter.

Okhotnik development was carried out at the Novosibirsk-based Chkalov Aviation Plant, and according to Russian state media has been carrying out ground runway tests since Thanksgiving 2018. The photos made public are likely from such tests and do not in any way suggest the aircraft has actually flown yet. In November TASS reported that the next step after runway testing was “will include so-called jumps—the aircraft will briefly take off and land almost immediately. Once those trials are over, the drone will make its maiden flight.” TASS has further reported flights would begin later 2019.

Russia’s military has not integrated unmanned combat aircraft into its inventory to the same extent that the U.S. has, and Russia’s drone industry is thought to be less sophisticated than those in the West. Armed U.S. drones, on the other hand, are mostly relegated to the MQ-9 Reaper and smaller aircraft using pusher turboprop engines. The first American turbofan-equipped drone designed for mainstream military use, the MQ-25 Stingray, will primarily function as an aerial refuelling tanker with some intelligence collecting capabilities. In that sense, Okhotnik has no equal in the United States.


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