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News Letter 21 February 2019


Good day all

I greet you today from a very hot and windy Cape Town, where the Annual SANDF Armed forces Parade and Capability Demonstration is being held. President Cyril Ramaphosa Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force delivered an address before the parade and capability demonstration commenced. Please be sure to read or reports on all the aspects of the Armed Forces Day in our Tuesday edition.

The EAA Chapter 322 will be visiting Arjan Schaap, for a project visit at Brits Airfield on Saturday 23 February, Arjan is busy restoring a PZL-104 Wilga Aircraft anyone is welcome to join.

Africa on the Brink of an Aviation Boom.

Continent Africa comprises some 54 countries. Africans total more than 12% of the global population, but surprisingly they make up only 3% of the world’s air travellers.

Africa has 731 major airports and 419 airlines with an aviation industry that supports around 6.9 million jobs and $80 billion in economic activity.

And according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Africa is set to become one of the fastest growing aviation regions in the next 20 years with an annual expansion of nearly 5%.

While it is evident that aviation has the potential to fuel economic growth in Africa, several barriers do exist.

Weak infrastructure, high ticket prices, poor connectivity and lack of proper liberalisation are some of the headwinds on African aviation’s path, albeit the continent currently sees an economic boom with tourism benefiting from greater prosperity.

But African aviation industry may get the much-needed thrust with the continent getting on to the ‘Open Skies’ trajectory, which is at the heart of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), a flagship project of the African Union (AU).

Industry experts say implementing the SAATM, which is similar to the European Union’s (EU) single aviation market, would go a long way towards making African air travel more competitive by reducing what many describe as “protectionist policies”.

IATA’s data show some 28 countries have already signed up for SAATM. They are Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Capo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Cameroon. These countries represent more than 80% of the existing aviation market in Africa. An IATA survey suggested that if just 12 key Africa countries opened their markets and increased connectivity, an extra 155,000 jobs and $1.3bn in annual GDP would be created in those countries.

High ticket prices are cited as a major disincentive for Africa’s air transport sector. It is expensive travelling to and from Africa, and worse still, tickets are exorbitantly priced for travel within Africa, which is an obvious off-shoot of inadequate competition in the continent’s air transport sector.

Some argue it is almost 50% more expensive to fly across Africa than it is in other regions, which reportedly discourages Africans from flying. According to the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), fuel cost remains a major component of the operating expense of every airline, accounting for between 40-50% of total direct operating costs.

African countries are yet to fully “open up” their skies to one other, yet some of them have opened to carriers from other continents. Non-African airlines currently fly about 80% of intercontinental traffic to and from Africa. As a result, it is often cheaper to fly from an African city to a neighbouring city via London, Amsterdam, or Doha than to travel direct!

The lack of domestic flights causes significant issues, with stopovers causing double or triple the journey times on many routes. For example, when travelling from Abidjan to Kampala, one has to fly mostly via Istanbul and reconnect, because there are no direct flights. Several African countries established national airlines after their independence, mainly focusing on flights to destinations outside the continent.

Many of these carriers have been propped up financially by the state exchequer and protected by regulation, stifling competition and leaving domestic and regional routes undeveloped for a long time. Poor safety record is often cited as another handicap for African aviation. Even some African airlines with good safety records are reportedly blocked from flying to the EU airports because of a lack of confidence in African safety regulators.

Certainly, the existing infrastructure is causing problems for airlines in Africa. With passenger growth in excess of 7.5% in 2017, the continent’s airports are facing grave challenges, and in some cases, the existing facilities are not designed to cater to the rapidly growing passenger numbers.

But in recent years, African governments and increasingly foreign investors, including the Chinese, have invested heavily in African infrastructure, airports in particular.

Certainly, African aviation is on the brink of a major lift-off. Recognising aviation’s potential in catapulting the continent’s economic growth, African Union has launched the “Single African Sky” project as part of “Agenda 2063”. The creation of a single unified air transport market in Africa will advance the liberalisation of civil aviation in Africa; IATA said and noted it will provide an impetus to the continent’s economic integration agenda.

SAATM will ensure aviation plays a major role in connecting Africa, promoting its social, economic and political integration and boosting intra-Africa trade and tourism as a result, IATA noted as it fully supports the initiative. Analysts believe the implementation of a project to develop the African Union Passport, which should be available to all Africans from 2020, will facilitate travel within Africa.

Ethiopia, one of the fastest growing African countries, recently launched a visa-on-arrival facility for all African travellers. The service, that took effect on November 1 last year, will probably make it easier for Africans to visit Ethiopia, home to the African Union (AU) headquarters. With Ethiopia showing the way for some other African countries to follow, it is expected that air travel within the continent will get a lot easier as it emerges as a major global economic power house. With open skies, public-private partnerships for airport infrastructure and operations upgrade and visa liberalisation, African aviation looks set to soar high

The U.S. Air Force will get New F-15s After All

The U.S. Air Force will go ahead and buy brand-new F-15s even as it purchases large numbers of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Updated with the latest technology, the F-15X can carry nearly two dozen air-to-air missiles and will likely work together with stealth jets to take on fleets of enemy fighters.

USAF will request eight F-15X fighters in its budget. The service plans to buy 80 fighters over five years. That's enough to fit out a wing of 72 aircraft, divided into three squadrons of 24 planes each, with eight spares. That's just the five-year projection, though, and the service may buy additional fighters beyond 2025.

The F-15X will come in two versions, a single-seat F-15CX and a twin-seat F-15EX. According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, other than crew size the two jets will be identical. Here's a Boeing promotional video for the F-15X, also known as Advanced Eagle.

F-15X is a thoroughly modern update of the F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter first introduced in the 1970s. Most of the updates it has are already flying in F-15s produced for other countries, with research and development already paid for by nations such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. These include strengthened airframes for increased maneuverability and airframe life span, giving the advanced fighter an even greater dogfighting capability over the original F-15 and an impressive airframe life span of 20,000 hours.

The F-15X will also include large flat-panel displays for displaying aircraft information, conformal fuel tanks to give it a longer range, a digital fly-by-wire control system, a new APG-82 radar, and the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) for protection from air-to-air missiles.

One thing the F-15X doesn’t have is stealth capability, at least to the extent of new or new-ish aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor and F-35. The F-15 airframe was designed before stealth became a thing, and there’s not much, other than using radar-absorbing coatings, that can be done to retrofit a reduced radar signature. So, instead of being hard to spot, the F-15X will be armed to the teeth. The plane will use new AMBER missile racks to nearly triple the aircraft’s air-to-air missile capability, from 8 to 22.

How Much Of A Threat Do Drones Pose To Air Travel?

Gatwick, Heathrow, Newark, Dubai and today, Dublin: Each of these airports has been in the news recently when flights were halted or delayed by sightings of what were believed to be drones in the area.

With 1.3 million drones now registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), up from about 470,000 in 2016 when drone registration was first required, anyone can see that there are more drones in the air than ever before. While a small percentage of these drones are operated for commercial purposes by certified remote pilots, the vast majority are operated by hobbyists for fun and recreation. Hobbyist pilots are required to fly under the safety guidance of a model aircraft organization and they must keep their drones in sight, below 50 meters, and out of airspace meant for passenger-carrying airplanes. Commercial drone pilots must know and abide by similar rules, but unlike hobbyists, they must take an CAA test to prove it.

Because there is currently no test for recreational drone pilots and a regular alphabet soup of companies and organizations have tried to make sure that drone operators know the rules before they fly. DJI, the market leader in consumer drones, has included a knowledge quiz that pilots must take before they can unlock their new drones and fly. Predictably, the answers are on YouTube, but operators still must read and answer the questions. But as anyone who has slowed down when seeing a police car knows, knowing the rules doesn’t mean always obeying them. Drone manufacturers are aware of this and try to use software solutions to keep drones away from the areas they don’t belong. DJI and other companies uses ‘geofences’, which alert pilots if their drones are in areas that are off-limits. In some cases, the geofences prevent drones from flying at all. AirMap is testing a new geofence system that will provide pilots with real-time audio and visual alerts if they are closing in on airspace that is geofenced. But geofences don’t always correspond to the controlled airspace and users can often override or disable them.

Despite education and technological solutions, drones are sometimes found in places they do not belong. A recent study by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University looked at drone flights over a two-week period around Daytona Beach International Airport. The results showed that 7% of drone flights tracked exceeded 400 feet, and 21% exceeded the recommended maximum altitude for the area in which they were operating. In one case, a drone was detected at an altitude of 90 feet within a quarter mile of the approach path to an active runway. In total, 8 drones were detected within one mile of the centre of the airport.

For perspective, in that same time period, there were about 11,500 aircraft take-offs or landings at that airport. By comparison, 8 drones isn’t much. On the other hand, that’s a lot of airplanes in the sky and a lot of potential conflicts.


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