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News Letter 29 August 2019

Good day all

We in for a very quiet weekend with only one planed event that we are aware of. The Weskus Spring Airshow will be taking place at Langebaan

The Sukhoi Su-47 Makes a Surprise Appearance

One of the world's most unusual-looking fighter jets made a surprise appearance earlier this week at a Russian air show. The Su-47 “Berkut” (“Golden Eagle”) was towed out of storage and placed on display at the MAKS-2019 show at Zhukovsky International Airport, just outside of Moscow. The Su-47 is one of two known aircraft built with forward-swept wings.

The Su-47 was unexpectedly towed out from storage and placed on a static display, its first public appearance since 2007. The black Su-47 jet features forward swept wings, greatly increasing its manoeuvrability at low speeds. Unfortunately for the aircraft, the fall of the Soviet Union left Russia in a poor financial state and was unable to finance development without a foreign customer.

Forward swept wings were investigated by both the U.S. and Soviet Union/Russia. The highly unusual wing arrangement gives a fighter jet a high angle of attack at low speeds, enabling it to change direction quickly. This could give the Su-47 a great advantage in a dogfight.

Unfortunately, as the U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency notes, forward swept wings make aircraft “aerodynamically unstable.” The American X-29 forward-swept jet required extensive fly-by-wire computer controls and lightweight carbon fibre materials to make the plane flyable. This seems to have been a similar problem with the Su-47, as the new Su-57 fighter jet, developed after the Su-47, retains a traditional wing layout. Other Russian aircraft, particularly the Sukhoi Su-35 “Flanker-E,” achieve similar high angle of attack capabilities at low speeds with a combination of nose-mounted canards and thrust vectoring nozzles.

ROBOpilot, Makes its first flight in a Cessna

Thanks to ROBOpilot, thousands if not tens of thousands of civilian aircraft worldwide can be turned into temporary drones.

The U.S. Air Force recently converted a civilian airplane into an ad hoc unmanned aerial vehicle, then sent the new drone on a two hour flight in the skies over Utah. ROBOpilot takes the place of a human pilot in the cockpit of civilian airplanes, replacing the pilot’s seat with a kit that takes just a short time to install.

The Robotic Pilot Unmanned Conversion Program, also known as ROBOpilot, is a joint development between the Air Force Research Laboratory and DZYNE Technologies. The system is designed to test the concept of rapidly adapting civilian aircraft for use with drones without making permanent modifications to the aircraft.

In a test at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, engineers installed ROBOpilot in a Cessna 206. The 206 is fairly representative of civilian passenger aircraft, with room for one pilot and five passengers, a range of about 840 miles, and a payload with fuel of 932 pounds. That, combined with the ubiquity of small passenger planes worldwide, is a lot of potential to harness.

“Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration,” said Dr. Alok Das, Senior Scientist with AFRL’s Center for Rapid Innovation, stated in an article on the Air Force web site. “All of this is achieved without making permanent modifications to the aircraft.

ROBOpilot was designed to fit most small civilian aircraft. The Cessna used in the demonstration was manufactured in 1968, making it about as Analogue as anything else flying. According to the Air Force, installing ROBOPilot goes like this: “Users remove the pilot’s seat and install a frame in its place, which contains all the equipment necessary to control the aircraft including actuators, electronics, cameras, power systems and a robotic arm.”

The system, the Air Force explains, “‘grabs’ the yoke, pushes on the rudders and brakes, controls the throttle, flips the appropriate switches and reads the dashboard gauges the same way a pilot does.” Meanwhile, GPS can detect and automatically provide position and navigation data.

The system is described as “non-invasive,” meaning installing it doesn’t require anything more than temporary, reversible modifications to the aircraft. Once the airplane’s brief drone gig is done, the airplane can be reverted back to a human crewed aircraft by removing the equipment frame and reinstalling the pilot seat.

SA Express Flights Still Grounded

The airline grounded flights on Wednesday, citing operational reasons. SA Express said that flights had not resumed as promised because it has not reached an agreement with Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).

While SA Express has not said what exactly the issue was between itself and Acsa, it's understood that the grounding of flights was related to a default on payments. A statement that has been denied by SA Express, although the airline was grounded last month for a few hours due to non-payment. Acsa agreed to let them commence operations after political intervention.

In a statement, the airline cited what it said was "unfortunate confusion" yesterday when it promised that its fleet would be back in the skies. Instead, it's blamed Acsa for reneging on the agreement between the parties.

SA Express has asked its customers to check with the airline if they require further information.

The question must be asked, Do we still need SA Express?


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