Category Archives: General News and Airshow Reviews

Leonardo: US EMS Operator contracts for first IFR-certified AW119 in the civil market allowing safer operations in challenging weather conditions

  • Life Link III signed a contract for one helicopter with delivery in 3Q2021, adding to an existing fleet of ten AW119Kx
  • The world’s first fully FAA IFR-certified single engine in decades, the type allows safe operations in low visibility and challenging weather conditions combined with high performance and cabin space while keeping single engine economics
  • Over 350 AW119s sold to more than 130 customers in 40 countries to date to perform a wide range of roles including EMS, utility, fire-fighting, law enforcement, passenger transport, training and government/military duties

Leonardo announced today that the EMS operator Life Link III, based in the upper-midwest United States, has placed an order for one IFR-certified AW119 single engine helicopter with a future option for a second aircraft. The aircraft will be added to an existing fleet of ten AW119Kx helicopters delivering in-flight critical care and transporting patients in Minnesota and Wisconsin with over 21,000 total flight hours amassed. Delivery from the AW119 final assembly line in Philadelphia is expected in the third quarter of 2021.

The contract marks the first sale for the FAA certified IFR capable AW119 in the civil market and for emergency medical service roles. The type is the first single engine helicopter in decades to fully meet current IFR requirements without compromise, allowing pilots to operate the aircraft safely in low visibility and challenging weather conditions, thanks to advanced avionics by Genesys Aerosystems and redundant flight systems. The IFR-capable AW119 adds one more option and an ideal IFR entry point for commercial and public service operators who seek for the highest level of safety and performance in demanding conditions while keeping single engine economics. This combines with the AW119’s unique light-twin like multiple redundancies of critical systems and cabin space delivering outstanding reliability and safety.

Steve Sterner, Chief Executive Officer of Life Link III, shared: “Our decision to become the first civilian user of the IFR-certified AW119 fully supports our mission of providing safe and effective air medical transport. The advanced avionics and technology on this aircraft elevate our ability to provide life-saving critical care resources to those in need. With high degrees of performance, safety, speed and efficiency, this aircraft is well-suited to meet the needs of our crew members and patients.”

William Hunt, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters in Philadelphia, said: “We are proud to introduce the IFR-certified variant of the AW119 to the civilian market and to do so with an incredible partner like Life Link III. This aircraft’s advanced technology and dual flight systems will ensure that our first responders are able to fly safely in challenging weather conditions while providing the same accessible, efficient cabin configuration for patient treatment and transport that the AW119 is known for.”

The AW119 has met high standards of operational requirements and mission effectiveness – including NVG capability – since the first aircraft was delivered to Life Link III in early 2014. Life Link III’s IFR AW119 will feature a special cabin interior with an articulated patient loading system, ensuring full patient body access for two medical professionals on board. This latest sale represents the growing share of Leonardo’s helicopters in the North American EMS market, which now totals more than 113 across a fleet of AW119s, AW109s, AW169s and AW139s.

About the A119

Built at Leonardo’s FAA Part 21 production facility in Philadelphia, the AW119 is a best in class single engine helicopter featuring a state-of-the-art avionics system for enhanced situational awareness, mission effectiveness and safety by flight and mission avionics, power margin, multiple system redundancies and crashworthiness. The AW119 is perfectly suited to perform many roles including EMS, utility, fire-fighting, law enforcement, passenger transport, training and government/military duties. Over 350 AW119 helicopters have been sold to over 130 customers in 40 countries. A variant of the AW119 was selected by the United States Navy in January to train the country’s next-generation of naval aviators.

More aircraft to leave SAA!

Sawubona! For many years South African Airways have been our national carrier connecting South Africans to the world and the world to South Africa. South African Airways is as much a part of our lives as is rugby, soccer or just being social. South African Airways has represented South Africa and her people on many occasions from flypasts at big sporting events and presidential inaugurations to flying our Olympic Teams all over the world. SAA helped unite South Africa in many ways… who will forget the 1995 Rugby World Cup, the kick, Mr Mandela and the SAA B747 flypast? 

For some time now, South African Airways have been struggling to get the books to balance and various attempts to better the situation have been attempted but for now another chapter has started. It is with a heavy heart that we have to report that SAA are to send back 20 leased aircraft to their lessors. The aircraft, their departing dates and destinations are:

Airbus A320 – 200’s

ZS-SZB : 14 July 2020 – Slovenia
ZS-SZC : 14 July 2020 – Slovenia
ZS-SZD : 14 July 2020 – Slovenia
ZS-SZF : 14 July 2020 – France
ZS-SZG : 14 July 2020 – Estonia
ZS-SZH : 14 July 2020 – France

Airbus A330-300’s

ZS-SXI : 15 July 2020 – France
ZS-SXK : 15 July 2020 – France
ZS-SXJ : 15 July 2020 – France
ZS-SXL : 15 July 2020 – Netherlands
ZS-SXM : 15 July 2020 – TBA

Airbus A330-200’s

ZS-SXU : 10 July 2020 – Spain

Airbus A350-900’s

ZS-SDC : 10 July 2020 – Spain
ZS-SDD : 10 July 2020 – Spain

Airbus A350

No matter what the future hold for South African Airways, the flying Springbok, the people who work there and the beauties that grace our skies will forever be etched in our hearts and be a symbol of pride, our national colours and the warm hospitality of a nation.

Africa Aerospace and Defence postponed till 2022

Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD), Africa’s premier aerospace and defence exhibition and airshow, scheduled to take place 16-20 September 2020, has been deferred to 21 -25 September 2022 as a result of the current global COVID-19 pandemic. This decision follows a series of events which included the close monitoring of the pandemic’s global roll-out as well
as its prevalence in South Africa.

The organisers announced the deferment to September
2022 following consultations with the Department of Defence (DOD) and other key stakeholders associated with the biennial flagship event.
The Show organisers advised that several factors were taken into consideration in arriving at
the decision, which include – amongst others:


● The absolute need to ensure the battle against the Covid-19 virus is won and to further
safeguard human lives,
● The severity that the pandemic has imposed on the global aviation and defence
exhibition sector
● A decision by the DOD to put a hold on all foreign activities and events (inbound and
outbound missions)
● South African borders remaining closed with no travelling anticipated to take place by
September 2020.

The announcement also comes at the time when South Africa is currently under level 3 lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which restrictions include the prohibition of any public gatherings, a trend also seen around the world during lockdown phases.
“We are aware that the deferment of AAD 2020 comes as an additional setback to the international defence and aerospace industries, and in particular the South African industry, given that AAD Expo is identified and diarised as a platform to showcase the latest advances and technological innovations that the world’s best in aviation and defence has to offering. .

However, everyone’s health, safety and security come first; we can and will only proceed with giving you the best of AAD when it is absolutely safe to do so. We can assure you though that we are already working and planning on delivering an enhanced AAD 2022”, said Exhibition
Director, Leona Redelinghuys.

The organisers will engage directly with all exhibitors whose participation had been confirmed
for AAD2020 on various options available to them, as a result of the deferment.

Another Rescue for 15 Squadron and the Mountain Club of SA


The Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) section rescue team was called out on this past Saturday morning to a woman who had sustained a broken leg in the southern Drakensberg. She was stretchered out to a private ambulance by the Underberg MCSA rescue team.

Pictures courtesy of MCSA

Then near mid night on Sunday the South African National Defence Force requested help with a soldier who had sustained serious injuries in a fall in Leslie’s Pass in the Injasuthi area. At first light on Monday an Oryx helicopter from 15 Squadron , AFB Durban was dispatched, which then picked up 3 Mountain Club members at Pietermaritzburg. A rescue then took place high in Leslie’s Pass, before bringing the patient to a hospital in Pietermaritzburg.

Pictures courtesy of MCSA

Thanks to Gavin Raubenheimer for the story!
KZN Search & Rescue Convener

Pictures courtesy of MCSA

15 Squadron is one of the helicopter squadrons based at the still Air force Base Durban. It is currently a transport/utility helicopter Squadron flying the Oryx medium transport helicopter as well as the Agusta A109LUH . 15 Squadron “Charlie” flight is based at Air force Station Port Elizabeth flying the BK117 helicopter.

Embraer Services & Support completes first Praetor 500 conversion

Embraer Services & Support announced the completion of the first conversion of a Legacy 450 to a Praetor 500 for an undisclosed customer.

The conversion was performed at the Embraer Executive Jets Service Center at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. The full process to convert a Legacy 450 (2,900 nautical miles range) into a Praetor 500 (3,340 nautical miles range) can be performed at the Bradley Service Center, as well as at Embraer-owned Service Centers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sorocaba, Brazil, and Le Bourget in Paris, France.

“Embraer-owned Service Centers are well prepared with parts kits and skilled labor and are ready to bring the most disruptive and technologically advanced midsize business jet ever made, the Praetor 500, to our existing Legacy 450 customers, with the company’s primary vision of delivering the ultimate customer experience,” said Johann Bordais, President & CEO, Embraer Service & Support.

“This conversion makes a great airplane even more industry leading.” In order to generate the impressive range improvements synonymous with the Praetor 500, the level-sensing wiring in the fuel tanks were replaced, the over-wing gravity fueling ports were moved, the fuel-measurement system was relocated, and the wing ribs were reinforced to hold additional weight.

These adjustments entailed updates to the flight control systems, including a new avionics load for the acclaimed Collins Aerospace Pro Line Fusion flight deck. Most noticeably, the iconic swept winglets of the Praetor were installed, and the placards and logos were replaced to officially convert the Legacy 450 into a Praetor 500. The conversion was made possible by the expertise of structures and avionics specialists, A&P mechanics, logistics teams, and engineers from Embraer operations around the globe.

With the Praetor 500 comes an unparalleled blend of technology, comfort, and performance. In terms of technology, the Praetor 500 features the industry-first E2VS ― a head-up display that combines synthetic and enhanced vision. Plus, it’s the only midsize business jet with full fly-by-wire flight controls and turbulence reduction capability.

Comfort abounds in the Praetor 500 cabin as it’s the only midsize business jet to feature a true six-foot-tall, flat-floor cabin, stone flooring, a wet galley, and a vacuum lavatory ― all with best-in-class baggage space. As for performance, the conversion to a Praetor 500 entails an intercontinental range of 3,340 nautical miles (6,186 km) with four passengers and NBAA IFR Reserves

SAAF Silver Falcons will be Back Soon!

It is not the end of the Silver Falcons. The Silver Falcons based at Air Force Base Langebaanweg is currently not participating at any Airshows due to COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, which include Airshows.

The main purpose of the Silver Falcons aerobatic team is to enhance the image of the South African Air Force (SAAF), encourage recruitment and instill National Pride.
In accordance with the amended Regulations on Disaster Management the SAAF have cancelled all events until further notice.

At present the SAAF members are under continuous staff and instructors training.
The Silver Falcons will resume training as per the training schedule of Central Flying School at Air Force Base Langebaanweg.

We at Aviation Central are looking forward to seeing the pride of the nation back in the skies and thrilling the crowds at a Airshow soon!

MD Helicopters Launches Flight Support For COVID-19 Humanitarian Missions

MD Helicopter launches flight support for COVID-19 humanitarian missions

Mesa, Ariz., May 14, 2020 – MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI) begins flying humanitarian aid missions in a company-owned MD 520N supporting the fight against COVID-19.

An MDHI pilot flew the first mission in one of the Company’s helicopters to the Navajo Nation, whose border is approximately 150 miles north of MDHI’s Mesa, AZ base of operations.  The Navajo Nation covers 27,000 square miles that can be logistically challenging for transport of goods due to terrain and obstacles throughout its vast expanse.  During the COVID-19 crisis, large quantities of relief aid accumulated in the Phoenix area awaiting distribution.  The urgent situation called for a helicopter solution to deliver the desparately needed aid to multiple locations much faster than ground transport could provide.  MDHI accepted the opportunity to assist our neighbors to the north.

Relief goods were accumulated at MDHI’s Mesa base, loaded into an MD 520N helicopter, and flown to Chinle Municiple Airport deep in the Navajo Nation, where the aid was delivered to relief workers. The entire mission covered approximately 500 nautical miles, included 2 fuel stops, and lasted roughly 5 hours.  “MD Helicopters has been a proud part of the Arizona community since its birth over 20 years ago” said Chris Jaran, the Chief Operating Officer of MD.  “We have always stood ready to help our neighbors and contribute to the welfare of our community.”  Jaran continued, “Our helicopters are flown by first responders and military units all over the world, and we are pleased to join the efforts of Arizonans to address humanitarian needs here at home in these challenging times.”

MDHI will continue flying relief aid missions in support of the Navajo Nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airline Debt to Balloon by 28% Heavy New Debt Levels Will Weigh Down Airline Recovery

Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released analysis showing that the airline industry’s global debt could rise to $550 billion by year-end. That’s a $120 billion increase over debt levels at the start of 2020. 
 

  • $67 billion of the new debt is composed of government loans ($50 billion), deferred taxes ($5 billion) and loan guarantees ($12 billion).
  • $52 billion is from commercial sources including commercial loans ($23 billion), capital market debt ($18 billion), debt from new operating leases ($5 billion), and accessing existing credit facilities ($6 billion). 


Financial aid is a lifeline to get through the worst of the crisis without folding operations. But during the re-start period later this, the industry’s debt load will be near $550 billion—a massive 28% increase. 

“Government aid is helping to keep the industry afloat. The next challenge will be preventing airlines from sinking under the burden of debt that the aid is creating,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

In total governments have committed to $123 billion in financial aid to airlines. Of this, $67 billion will need to be repaid. The balance largely consists of wage subsidies ($34.8 billion), equity financing ($11.5 billion), and tax relief / subsidies ($9.7 billion). This is vital for airlines which will burn through an estimated $60 billion of cash in the second quarter of 2020 alone.

“Over half the relief provided by governments creates new liabilities. Less than 10% will add to airline equity. It changes the financial picture of the industry completely. Paying off the debt owed governments and private lenders will mean that the crisis will last a lot longer than the time it takes for passenger demand to recover,” said de Juniac.

Regional variations

The $123 billion in government financial aid is equal to 14% of 2019’s total airline revenues ($838 billion). The regional variations of the aid dispersion indicate that there are gaps that will need to be filled.

There are still large gaps in the financial aid needed to help airlines survive the COVID-19 crisis. The US government has led the way with its CARES Act being the main component of financial aid to North American carriers which in total represented a quarter of 2019 annual revenues for the region’s airlines. This is followed by Europe with assistance at 15% of 2019 annual revenues and Asia-Pacific at 10%. But in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America average aid is around 1% of 2019 revenues.

“Many governments have stepped up with financial aid packages that provide a bridge over this most difficult situation, including cash to avoid bankruptcies. Where governments have not responded fast enough or with limited funds, we have seen bankruptcies. Examples include Australia, Italy, Thailand, Turkey, and the UK. Connectivity will be important to the recovery. Meaningful financial aid to airlines now makes economic sense. It will ensure that they are ready to provide job-supporting connectivity as economies re-open,” said de Juniac.

The Impact of Debt

The kind of aid provided will influence the speed and strength of the recovery. IATA urged governments still contemplating financial relief to focus on measures that help airlines raise equity financing. “Many airlines are still in desperate need of a financial lifeline. For those governments that have not yet acted, the message is that helping airlines raise equity levels with a focus on grants and subsidies will place them in a stronger position for the recovery,” said de Juniac.

“A tough future is ahead of us. Containing COVID-19 and surviving the financial shock is just the first hurdle. Post-pandemic control measures will make operations more costly. Fixed costs will have to be spread over fewer travelers. And investments will be needed to meet our environmental targets.  On top of all that, airlines will need to repay massively increased debts arising from the financial relief. After surviving the crisis, recovering to financial health will be the next challenge for many airlines,” said de Juniac.

Last week, the IATA Board of Governors committed to five key principles for the industry re-start.  Among these are commitments to the safety and security of staff and travelers, to meeting the industry’s environmental targets and to being a meaningful driver of the economic recovery with affordable connectivity. 

Leonardo AW159 Wildcat helicopter conducts first successful firings of Thales ‘Martlet’ Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM)

Leonardo and Thales are proud to announce the first successful firings of the Thales ‘Martlet’ Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) from Leonardo’s AW159 Wildcat helicopter. The firings were conducted as part of the UK MoD’s Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) programme and demonstrated the integration of the Martlet onto the AW159 platform. This represents a major milestone for the programme and will enable this high-end capability to enter service with the Royal Navy later this year.

The firing trials were conducted from 27th April to 21st May 2020 and despite the current COVID-19 situation, Leonardo and Thales were able to support the UK Ministry of Defence by completing this critical activity. All of the teams involved had to adopt strict distancing procedures, in some cases having to find new ways of working, in order to make sure that the trials could go ahead. It is a testimony to the professionalism of those involved that these trials were successfully completed under such challenging and novel circumstances.

“This major milestone demonstrates that the combination of the AW159 Wildcat and Martlet missile will be a flexible and effective tool for the Royal Navy. Next year the Wildcat fleet will embark on Carrier Strike Group missions with HMS Queen Elizabeth on its maiden operational deployment. As the only British company to design and manufacture helicopters on-shore, we’re extremely proud to be equipping the UK Armed Forces with world-beating sovereign capabilities.” said Nick Whitney, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters (UK).

“The successful live firings of the Thales LMM Martlet from the AW159 Wildcat is a key milestone in the programme, delivering a significant step-change in capability for the platform. LMM Martlet will ensure that the Wildcat has the best-in-class offensive capability to protect HMS Queen Elizabeth and her task group during her maiden operational deployment next year. With each platform capable of carrying up to 20 Martlet, the Wildcats deployed with the task group will be a significant deterrent to anyone wishing to interfere with UK interests.” said Philip McBride, General Manager, Integrated Airspace-protection Systems, Thales UK.

In July 2014, Leonardo signed a contract with the UK Ministry of Defence to integrate, test and install the MBDA Sea Venom (heavy) and Thales LMM (light) missile systems onto Royal Navy AW159 Wildcat helicopters, a programme called Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW).

The FASGW (light) part of the programme has now seen the LMM, with its associated launcher and airborne laser guidance unit, successfully integrated into the Leonardo AW159 Wildcat sensor, displays and avionics systems. The LMM provides a step-change in capability for the Royal Navy which, in the maritime environment, faces a major challenge in engaging smaller, fast-moving, asymmetric threats, due to their high mobility, their small thermal and radar signatures and the severe background clutter encountered. The LMM is capable of surmounting these issues where traditional electro-optic and radar guidance systems do not provide the certainty of hit required.

On-board the AW159 Wildcat platform, the LMM Martlet could also allow operators to engage air targets such as UAVs and other maritime helicopters.

The launchers are mounted to the AW159 via the new Leonardo Weapon Wing, developed at the Company’s design and manufacturing facility in Yeovil and first trialled last year. Each weapon wing will be able to carry either ten Martlet or two Sea Venom missiles and generates additional lift for the helicopter in forward flight, reducing demands on the main rotor.

The twin-engine multi-role AW159 is able to conduct missions ranging from constabulary to high end warfighting where it has the capability to autonomously detect, identify and attack targets on land and at sea, including submarine threats. The high-performance platform has state-of-the-art systems, including a Leonardo Seaspray multi-mode electronically-scanning (E-scan) radar, and integrated electronic warfare Defensive Aids Suite (DAS).

Over 50,000 flight hours have been logged by the helicopter. The AW159 has also been chosen by the British Army, the Republic of Korea Navy and the Philippine Navy as a new maritime operator of the helicopter.

South African Airways Looks Forward To Resuming Domestic Service

JOHANNESBURG. 26 May 2020. South African Airways (SAA) is currently retaining its domestic schedule, as published between Johannesburg and Cape Town, with effect from mid-June 2020. Accordingly, SAA is focusing on ensuring operational readiness to resume flights once permissible.

This position will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

At the same time, SAA is cancelling all planned scheduled flights on regional and international services until the end of June 2020 with immediate effect. This decision has been taken as a result of the continuing global impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Many restrictive rules and regulations still apply to civil aviation across the world. On this basis, it is not yet possible to resume operations beyond South Africa’s borders in a sustainable manner.

“Everyone at SAA is looking forward to welcoming and serving our customers once again. Our operational preparedness is underlined by the significant role the airline has played in global repatriations to and from South Africa and by our desire to serve the domestic market,” stated Philip Saunders, SAA’s Chief Commercial Officer.

For those customers holding unused SAA tickets for these flights, there is no need to contact the airline at this time. All customers will be able to use their ticket’s full value as a credit for travel on any SAA service up to an including 24th March 2022. SAA will also permit a free name change if any individual customer no longer wishes to travel. This represents an important part of SAA’s continued commitment to support our customers in these unprecedented times.

SAA is committed to restart further operations on an incremental basis, and will regularly provide updates on progress.

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