September 25

AAD: S-Plane offers kit to convert manned aircraft to OPV

South African company S-Plane launched a kit at the show that allows operators to convert manned aircraft into optionally piloted vehicles (OPV). The technology, exhibited in an Italian-built FAMA 209 ultralight helicopter, comprises a “plug in” airborne terminal, which is fitted in the baggage hold of the aircraft and connected to the control systems.

The company believes the product makes the ability to operate pilot-less aircraft much cheaper and simpler than acquiring purpose-built unmanned systems. “You can give me a 10-year-old helicopter and I will make a drone of it, at very little cost,” says business development director Charl van der Merwe.

He says interest in OPVs is increasing as government agencies look to conduct higher-risk or long-endurance missions without pilots, while retaining the ability of flying through manned airspace.

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Category: Uncategorized
September 25

​HNA business jet unit claims innocence of wrongdoing

HNA Group business jet unit Hongkong Jet has declared itself innocent of any wrongdoing, following a Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) announcement that it will be banned from Mainland China for three years.

“Hongkong Jet was surprised to learn that the CAAC yesterday published a statement on their website announcing that Hongkong Jet would be restricted from applying for certain Chinese permits for a period of three years,” says the company in a statement.

It adds that it wants to gain clarification on the matter and return to normal operations. It has received no direct word from the CAAC itself about the ban.

“The CAAC has apparently based this preliminary statement on an independent investigation into an alleged irregular letter of invitation which was forwarded to Hongkong Jet by one of its managed aircraft clients.”

The original CAAC statement said Hongkong Jet was being punished for issuing “false documents” when applying for a flight plan during and unspecified “state-level event.”

“We fully support the CAAC or any other lawful entity investigating this event and wish to give the assurance that Hongkong Jet has not knowingly participated in this event and is not responsible for any offence,” adds Hongkong Jet.

“Hongkong Jet is nevertheless negatively affected by this statement and a victim of circumstance rather than a contributing party to this unfortunate event.”

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows the Hong Kong charter operator with five in service aircraft. It has one Airbus ACJ318, two ACJ319s, one A330-200, and a Gulfstream 550.

The four Airbus aircraft are registered in Bermuda. The Gulfstream is registered in China.

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Category: Uncategorized
September 23

Vantage gets trailing link landing gear but funding remains elusive

VisionAire Jets has tweaked the design of its Vantage entry-level business aircraft to accommodate a wing-mounted trailing-link landing gear, and is now awaiting funding to launch production of the single-engined type.

“The trailing-link landing gear will give Vantage pilots and passengers a much softer landing than the original aircraft’s fuselage-mounted design,” says VisionAire founder and chief executive Jim Rice.

To accommodate the modification, the Newton, North Carolina-headquartered company has lowered the wing’s position on the fuselage by 80cm (2.75ft) and made a few other “minor engineering adjustments”, Rice says. “All we need now is the funding to enable us to build the first conforming prototype. We are ready and eager to go into production,” he adds.

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VisionAire Jets

Talks are under way with “credible international investors” with a view to securing $115 million in three instalments to fund the programme through certification and into service. “The first $35 million will be enough to set up a manufacturing facility and build parts for the conforming prototype. We have already identified a production site at Hickory [Regional] airport [in North Carolina],” Rice says.

“The remaining $80 million – split into two chunks – should be enough to bring the aircraft to market.”

The Vantage programme is currently being supported by 80 local investors, including VisionAire employees, all of whom Rice says “are determined to see the aircraft succeed”.

“It’s not just aerodynamics that get an aircraft off the ground,” he says. “It takes lots of money, and we have already spent around $170 million on the programme over its lifetime.”

Bringing new investors on board is “a challenge”, he adds. The company has $5 million of funding remaining, “so we are being very thrifty”.

Rice, along with many of the current Vantage investors, has been a devotee of the design since its inception in the late 1980s. The six-seat aircraft made its first flight in 1996, and the proof-of-concept prototype had flown more than 500h before the company was forced into Chapter 7 liquidation in 2003.

The Vantage technical drawings, trademarks and tooling were acquired later that year by US venture Eviation Jets. However, the financial crisis in 2008 led to a funding shortfall and the intellectual property was subsequently sold to VisionAire.

“The Vantage is still ahead of its time,” Rice says. Powered by a Williams International FJ44-3AP turbofan and priced at about $2 million, the Garmin G3000-equipped aircraft is projected to have a range of 1,500nm (2,780km) and a cruise speed of about 375kt (694km/h).

“It is uniquely placed to fill the gap between high-end piston and turboprop types and light-cabin business jets. We will get this project to market, whatever it takes,” says Rice.

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Category: Uncategorized
September 23

Piaggio preparing milestone Avanti Evo for delivery

Piaggio Aerospace is preparing to deliver in early October the very first Avanti Evo to roll off the new production line at its Villanova D’Albenga headquarters.

The twin-pusher (I-PDVS) made its maiden flight at the end of August from the facility, 50 miles (80km) southwest of Genoa,and is now undergoing completion ahead of its handover to an unnamed customer.

The airframer, which is wholly owned by Abu Dhabi investment house Mubadala Development Company, opened the Villanova D’Albenga plant a year ago, but teething problems with the final assembly line have hampered production output.

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Piaggio Aerospace

Assembly of the six-seat aircraft continued at Piaggio’s former home in Genoa until January, when the final unit rolled off the line. The plant has produced around 220 Avantis, spanning all three generations of the iconic turboprop.

“This facility is being released to the local Port Authority,” says Piaggio, although the company still maintains a presence at Genoa airport. “Activities at the site include pilot training, an experimental flight line and a customer service, painting and delivery centre,” it says.

Piaggio says three Evos are currently in production at Villanova D’Albenga, which is also home to the Avanti-based P.1HH Hammerhead unmanned air vehicle.

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Category: Uncategorized
September 21

Bookajet unveils new corporate identity as international expansion beckons

UK charter and management company Bookajet has unveiled a new corporate identity, designed to raise its international profile and shed its image as a UK-centric firm.

“While we have a recognised brand in this industry, we felt it was time to renew our image with a new corporate design that reflects our international standing,” says Bookajet co-founder and director Chris Rooney.

“We have been in operation for 13 years now, and while many of our customers are UK-based, a growing portion of the business is in mainland Europe and the Middle East.”

To support its growth, the Farnborough-headquartered company is seeking to set up new bases. “Some aircraft owners like to have their assets managed by a company which has a presence in their home country,” says Rooney. “We will probably start with a base in Europe and then add a second in the Middle East at a later date.”

With a fleet of 12 aircraft ranging from the entry-level Beechcraft Premier I to the long-range Bombardier Global XRS, Bookajet is one of the UK’s largest independent charter and management providers.

It would also make an attractive target for one of Europe’s acquisition-hungry business aviation services companies. For example, Luxembourg-based Luxaviation has snapped-up six charter and management companies in the past five years and has made no secret of its desire to further broaden its portfolio.

“We have been approached, but we are not interested in selling,” Rooney insists. “Despite the tough environment, our business is growing. We plan to build the fleet to around 20 aircraft, and continue to service our clients for a long time to come.”

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Category: Uncategorized
September 21

AAD: Superjet-based Sukhoi Business Jet goes on show

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCAC) has displayed the executive version of its Superjet 100 at an air show for only the second time as the Russian-Italian partnership works to certificate an extended-range version of the business aircraft by the start of next year.

The Sukhoi Business Jet (SBJ) made its southern hemisphere debut at the Africa Aerospace Defence show in Waterkloof, South Africa, from 14-18 September. Displayed with a three-section interior with capacity for 19 passengers, it has a range of 4,700km. The extended-range variant, with additional fuel tanks, will take that range to 6,000km, says SCAC. The variant had previously been exhibited at the Jet Expo business aviation show in Moscow in 2014.

The Leonardo/Sukhoi joint venture, based in Komsomolsk in Russia’s far east, is keen to sell both the VIP and 100-seat passenger version of the PowerJet SaM146-powered Superjet in sub-Saharan Africa, a market where it has yet to win any orders.

SCAC says it has delivered seven SBJs since 2015, with most sales within Russia. Swiss VIP operator Comlux has taken delivery of one SBJ, which is still at its completions house in Indianapolis and due to enter service by the end of the year. It plans to base the aircraft in central Asia.

Earlier this year, the Royal Thai Air Force took delivery of two VIP-configured Superjets, intended to transport government officials and high-ranking military officers. The aircraft are configured with a VIP area, a six-seat business-class cabin, and a 50-seat standard passenger section.

At July’s Farnborough air show, Sukhoi introduced a variant of the Superjet aimed at the charter market for sports teams. Earmarked for certification in 2018, the model includes zones for players as well as support staff, and space for equipment such as treatment tables and a treadmill.

The market for regional airliner-derived business jets has been limited. Embraer offers the Legacy 650, based on the ERJ-135, and the Lineage, developed from the larger E190. Bombardier, however, has stopped producing the CRJ200-based Challenger 850.

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Category: Uncategorized
September 19

AAD: Vliegmasjien moves closer to Wolf first flight

Four years after unveiling its single-engine amphibious Wolf “bush plane” concept at AAD, South African company Vliegmasjien has returned with a prototype it hopes to fly next year, and looking for investors to help bring the design to production.

The five-year-old start-up – its name means “flying machine” in Afrikaans – is pitching the six-seater firmly at the African leisure market, and also, in a surveillance guise, at government agencies and NGOs. “We cannot compete with a Textron or [South African defence contractor] Paramount, so we are looking at a niche market,” says designer Andre Labuschagne.

Customers might include private flyers who want to access hunting lodges in neighbouring countries; the aircraft’s 16h endurance means it can travel much further than a Cessna 172, for instance, says Labuschagne. Its spacious cabin also makes it suitable for long surveillance missions, as one crew member can lie down and rest. Fitting a small lavatory to this variant is a possibility, he says.

Vliegmasjien makes great stock of the fact that the all-composite Wolf is almost entirely South African, including its mogas-powered Adept 320T engine, built by a Durban-based company, and fitted with a catalytic convertor.

While Labuschagne acknowledges that the Wolf’s design, with its rear-facing piston engine, is sometimes likened to a 1940s-era Republic RC-3 Seebee, he says there are many differences, including its canard configuration, T-tail and a lower-mounted engine.

As an additional safety measure, the Wolf is fitted with a triple parachute system.

The aircraft will sell for around $500,000, with a higher-specification surveillance version coming in at around $1 million. Labuschagne says this price puts even a small fleet of aircraft within reach of budget-constrained African governments.

The company says it is gearing up for a production of between one and 10 aircraft a year, but this could be increased if an investor comes on board which wants to license the design. It plans to give the aircraft its US debut at the Oshkosh show next year.

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Category: Uncategorized
September 19

AAD: South Africa puts its future aerospace hopes in SARA

Denel showed at AAD a fuselage mock-up of its 24-seat Small African Regional Aircraft (SARA) it hopes can be a catalyst for the revival of the country’s neglected aerospace engineering and design capabilities.

While the full-size model is basic, Denel believes it can secure funding to develop a preliminary design, and deliver a more sophisticated mock-up by the next show in 2018.

“In order for us to de-risk, we need to develop gradually, with each stage we complete building confidence in the project for a launch customer to come forward,” says Victor Xaba, deputy chief executive of Denel Aerostructures.

Xaba describes SARA as “not a Denel programme, but a South African national programme” because it has the backing of a series of government departments and agencies who believe it can create high-value jobs and develop the country’s industrial base.

He cites a study which predicted that the aircraft could secure a 9% market share in the small-regional aircraft segment, worth up to 1,500 units globally. Funding for the programme, he says, has been proposed as coming 45% from the government, 15% from Denel and 35% from private investors.

Xaba says Denel is “engaging with engine and systems suppliers”.

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Category: Uncategorized
September 17

ANALYSIS: HAV makes plans to return Airlander 10 to flight

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Category: Uncategorized
September 17

Aero Vodochody stresses military market focus

Aero Vodochody has reaffirmed that its primary strategic focus is on the military jet trainer market, one month after UK start-up Aircraft Integrated Solutions announced it was to resurrect development of the Czech manufacturer’s Ae 270 civil light transport.

The Czech airframer shelved development of the single-engined turboprop in 2007 when its new investors decided to concentrate on military programmes, but the August announcement raised the possibility of a return to the civil segment.

Only eight of the eight-seat aircraft were built by Aero Vodochody and its partner, Taiwan Aerospace Industrial Development – a few prototypes of which are still flying – and the type received European Aviation Safety Agency and US Federal Aviation Administration certification.

A supplier of military aircraft from the 1960s until the 1990s – particularly to the Soviet Union and its satellite states – Aero Vodochody switched to an aerostructures supplier after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

But with introduction of the revamped L-39NG jet trainer it is back in the defence sector, and is carefully analysing its growth path.

“If we need to direct the resources we will direct it into the military market,” says strategy chief Damiano Cotula.

This is currently focused on trainers and light attack aircraft, but Aero Vodochody thinks there may be a requirement for a light transport; Cotula identifies a gap in the market for an aircraft with similar characteristics to the Ae 270.

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Aero Vodochody

Around 1% of the estimated €65 billion ($72 billion) market for military transports in the period to 2025 is expected to be accounted for by “very light” models with eight-20 seats.

“I personally think that the very light transport market has a future,” Cotula says, although “we’re not sure that we have a project yet”.

The company is assessing its strategy, and is “deeply analysing” the light transport sector, although Cotula rules out returning to the civil segment.

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Category: Uncategorized