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News Letter 25 April 2019

Good day all

The weather seems to be playing nice for the annual EAA convention which is set to be happening this coming weekend at the very friendly Vryheid Airfield in Northern KZN. Friday “arrival day” is forecast to be a beautiful day on Sunday, when most pilots will be leaving looks a bit cloudy to the East but for the guys heading back to Gauteng good weather is predicted all the way home. This convention promises to be a big one seeing it’s the 50th anniversary of Chapter 322 based in Johannesburg. SAPFA will be hosting an exciting Adventure Rally at the convention, in the past these have proven to be a lot of fun.

Weather for Friday

Weather for Sunday

For all the RC Fans, Henley Model Airfield will be hosting the Aerial Concepts SAAMA Combined Power National Championships. Everything will be flying from choppers to jets RC events always make for a fun day out for the whole family.

For anyone interested in military history the Voorterkker Monument is definitely the place to be on 1 May. The Voortrekker Monument Military Festival has become an annual event and draws large crowds of mirabilia collectors and enthusiasts, vintage military helicopters usually make an appearance as well.

Uganda Airlines to return to the skies after 18 years

Ugandans were treated to the sight of two Bombardier CRJ900’s that touched down at the Entebbe International Airport on Tuesday morning, in the latest step taken towards the revival of the national airline.

President Yoweri Museveni’s government believes that restarting the national carrier will help Uganda take a slice of the region’s growing aviation business and also invigorate the service sector of the economy. Kenya Airways, South Africa Airways and Ethiopian Airlines currently dominate the country’s air travel business. Last year, Uganda ordered for four CRJ900 planes from Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier, as part of the plan to revive Uganda Airlines.

The two planes were flown out of Montreal on Friday and passed through northern Canada, to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, before making their way to Maastricht in the South-eastern Netherlands. They then headed to Cairo, Egypt from where they flew straight to Entebbe. At Entebbe, the planes circled around the airport, and were saluted by water cannon before being officially received by president Museveni.

Initial plans are to eventually acquire six planes. Uganda Airlines is expected to commence commercial flights in July, Works and Transport Minister Monica Azuba Ntege said at the function. It will start with flights to regional capitals but eventually plans to launch direct long-haul routes to China and other Asian countries, whose tourists Uganda is keen to attract.

Uganda Airlines will become the first carrier to operate the new CRJ-series atmosphere cabin in Africa. Atmosphere cabin design allows passengers to carry and store an “oversized” roller bag within the aircraft cabin bins, which minimizes the need to check bags at the counter or the gate.

According to the manufacturer, the new model atmosphere cabin sets new standards of passenger experience in the regional jet market segment. Key features of the new interior comprise of larger passenger living space, wheel-first roller bag capability, more spacious lavatory, increased cabin connectivity options, all integrated into a contemporary design and material choices.

Uganda paid $74,885,202 for the first two planes, and will operate the CRJ900 in dual-class configuration with 76 economy seats and 12 first class seats. Founded by Uganda’s former dictator Idi Amin in 1976, Uganda Airlines was liquidated in the 1990s by Museveni’s government under a broader program to privatize troubled state firms and open up the economy to private enterprise.

The country is keen to expand its aviation industry, especially as it prepares to start pumping crude oil from fields in its west, a development expected drive up business traveller arrivals. A new international airport, financed partly with UK credit, is being built near the fields, primarily to service the oil industry. Once completed it will be the country’s second international airport after Entebbe, south of the capital Kampala, which is also being expanded with a loan from China to handle more passengers and cargo.

Museveni said the domestic airline would also soak up a chunk of the estimated $400 million he said Ugandans spend on international travel annually, keeping it in the economy.“By starting an airline we are going to reduce on the foreign exchange expenditure. Ugandans will be spending money but spending it on our airline,” he said. Ugandan travellers have long complained about high ticket costs they say stem from limited competition.

Ramathan Ggoobi, an economics lecturer at a university in Kampala said the revival of the airline will boost competition and likely lower costs for Ugandan travellers. “Even if they are returning zero profit the economic benefits will be quite high,” he said, referring to the re-launched carrier.

Super Wealthy replace Jet Ownership for a Portfolio of Aviation Options

Owning your own plane has long been a badge of success a time-saving security enhancer that offers privacy, efficiency, and access to the world on your terms. But lately, not all jet-setters are choosing to be jet-getters.

Travelers with extreme means increasingly take a portfolio approach to aviation. They’re mixing and matching fractional ownership, jet cards, charters, jet clubs, and other options, as well as trips on their own planes, to get where they want to go. “No one of these is usually the perfect fit,” says Brendan MacMillan, chief investment officer at New York’s QP Family Offices, which sets up and manages offices for high-net-worth families around the world. A great solution, he says, “is having multiple arrows in the quiver.”

One reason the portfolio approach has become appealing is that ownership itself has become less so. “We’re seeing a tsunami of different issues that collectively make managing your own aircraft more difficult and costly,” says Ford von Weise, global head of aircraft finance for Citi Private Bank. Insurance costs have increased as much as 20 percent over the past year, says Stephen Johns, president of Michigan-based LL Johns Aviation Insurance. Meanwhile, the popularity of private planes (sales last year were up 5 percent) has pushed up the price of hangar space. Plus, the Federal Aviation Administration is requiring that all private aircraft begin carrying the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) tracking system by the end of 2019. The mandate “is pivotal for the next-generation traffic-control system,” von Weise says. It’s also expensive, he adds.

Then there’s the overall pilot shortage that’s emerged. As commercial airlines bombard pilots with incentives, it’s harder to retain qualified crew, says Janine Iannarelli, founder of business aircraft broker Par Avion Ltd. “It’s one of the biggest problems faced by the aviation industry today.” Kimberly Herrell, president of Schubach Aviation, a charter and aircraft management company in Carlsbad, Calif., says she’s had to increase salaries by an average of 30 percent over the past two years. “We’re seeing pilots with not that much experience get hired out from under us to fly bigger jets,” she says. Iannarelli sources captains for Falcon 900s at around $200,000 a year.

The good news is that there are other options for flying private. “We’ve seen, essentially, a democratization of private aviation over the past 20 years,” von Weise says. When NetJets pioneered fractional ownership in 1987, allowing multiple owners to share the costs and benefits of a plane, some thought it would hurt the industry. Instead, it helped broaden the market for private aviation and inspire new business models.

Today, in addition to whole ownership, charter, and fractional jet ownership, travellers can join a variety of membership clubs. Buying a jet card, like a debit card for private flight, will get you a block of flying hours for a set rate. New York-based Wheels Up lets members book flights on its app; Surf Air has an all-you-can-fly option for its West Coast network. The Sky Access program run by Delta Private Jets offers unlimited empty leg flights for $8,500 the first year. “The private aviation sector has gone to great lengths to provide choice,” says QP’s MacMillan. “On the one hand, it’s fantastic. On the other, it’s confusing.”

Think of it this way: A family of means in New York might start by chartering flights to Palm Beach for winter weekends. It’s a step up from first class, but it doesn’t require that they tie up any capital or fret about logistics. When friends come along, they can book a bigger jet. When you charter, says H. Lee Rohde III, chief executive officer of Portsmouth, N.H., consulting firm Essex Aviation Group Inc., “it’s like renting a car.”

Say one spouse regularly travels to Montana to see family, staying for a week at a time. The cost per hour of flying on a jet card is generally double that of a charter flight, but with the ­latter you often have to pay for ­re-positioning—returning the empty plane to its home base. In that case, a jet card may be cheaper. For summer weekends in the Hamptons, the family can take scheduled flights with a company like Blade Urban Air Mobility Inc. For their summer trips to Europe, they’d still fly commercial first class.

At some point, they may consider buying a fractional share of an airplane. But they need to be ready to make a commitment, since there are penalties for selling shares back before the three- to five-year minimum is up.

Eventually, a whole plane might be an option. “The problem with ownership is you’re buying one aircraft size,” Rohde says. You can’t put 10 passengers on a plane that holds six. And you probably don’t want to fly cross-country in an aircraft that needs to refuel along the way. But it also doesn’t make sense to buy a plane for your longest trips if they’re infrequent, Iannarelli says. A new long-­range Gulfstream G550 costs $61.5 million. A shorter-range Cessna CJ4 costs $9.4 million. Plus, those longer-­range planes come with their own constraints. “You try flying your G600 into St. Barts,” MacMillan says. “You need 6,000 feet of runway for one of those things.” (The St. Barts runway is a third that length.)

To help its families, MacMillan’s company has developed a custom algorithm to optimize aviation portfolios. The QP team conducts an historical travel audit that tracks where a family has been flying, when, and with how many people. Then it adds in preferences and priorities, business or pleasure? Cost sensitivities? How much flexibility?

The algorithm merges that information with intelligence about ownership, charter, and membership options, landing strip lengths, aircraft capacities, and more. Advisers work with families to test, adjust, and implement the plan. “This is not quantum physics,” MacMillan says. “But there’s a level of opacity and complexity that necessitates a robust process.” The result is a cheat sheet that tells them which options to use in a variety of circumstances and if it’s the right call to buy their own jet, after all.

New Phoenix aircraft rises 'like a balloon'

Researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have helped create a revolutionary new type of aircraft. Phoenix is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to stay in the air indefinitely using a new type of propulsion. Despite being 15m long with a mass of 120kg she rises gracefully into the air. She looks a little like an airship, except airships don't have wings.

"It's a proper aeroplane," says the UHI's Professor Andrew Rae. As the project's chief engineer, he has overseen the integration of Phoenix's systems. "It flies under its own propulsion although it has no engines," he says. "The central fuselage is filled with helium, which makes it buoyant so it can ascend like a balloon. "And inside that there's another bag with compressors on it that brings air from outside, compresses the air, which makes the aeroplane heavier and then it descends like a glider."

This ability to "breathe" - to switch quickly between being heavier or lighter than air - doesn't just make the plane go up and down. It is the key to driving it forward. Phoenix is the first large-scale aircraft to be powered by variable-buoyancy propulsion. It moves through the air like a dolphin through water, that means it can travel long distances and stay aloft for long periods.

The quasi-airship shape is based on an aerofoil, meaning it also provides lift like its wings do when the plane moves forward. Prof Rae, using two wind tunnels at UHI's Perth College campus, led the design of its aerodynamics, the technique of variable-buoyancy propulsion is already used underwater.

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (also part of UHI) has a small fleet of remotely operated vehicles - they call them gliders - that gather data in the North Atlantic. They dive deep to collect data, then rise to the surface to transmit it via satellite.

But air is much less dense than water and this has made the principle a trickier proposition for flight, Phoenix is the first aircraft of its size to use it.

Production versions would need to be scaled up to reach the altitudes of 20km required to fulfill its intended role. An autonomous vehicle which is self-sufficient in energy could stay in the air for days, weeks, even months. The technical term is "ultra-long endurance autonomous aircraft".

The team believe it could revolutionise the telecommunications industry. The often quoted rule of thumb in the space business is that putting a satellite into orbit costs its weight in gold. A Phoenix "pseudosatellite" could do the same job from high in the atmosphere at a fraction of the cost.

Prof Rae says some aircraft can already do this but are complex and expensive ,Phoenix, by contrast, is so cheap as to be "almost expendable". In addition to UHI, the Phoenix project involves Bristol, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton universities. It also involved four commercial companies and three of the UK's Technology Catapults, and has been part funded by the UK government's innovation agency Innovate UK.

The prototype Phoenix has been successfully tested inside the Drystack in Portsmouth, a huge indoor area which normally stores pleasure boats. It was used to shelter the aircraft from the winter winds although production versions would operate in all weathers. The project has involved its partners integrating the solar cells, flight control system, micropumps, carbon fibre wings and tail, reversible hydrogen fuel cell and rechargeable battery. The last of these is what enables a solar-powered vehicle to keep working all night.

Now that the prototype has flown successfully, the consortium wants to collaborate with major manufacturers to take Phoenix to the next level.


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