Author Archives: Flippie Van Emmenis

2021 Middelburg Speed Rally

The Aircraft Unlimited Middelburg Speed Navigation Rally – 27 April 2021 by Rob Jonkers

The South African Power Flying Association held a very successful Speed Rally at the Aero Club Centenary Airweek at Middelburg, and is our 2nd event in the third season. It was decided to hold this Speed Rally on Freedom day as the date of choice in keeping with the Centenary celebrations of the Aero Club that featured most of the Recreational Aviation Sections over the four days. Monday turned out to be a relatively quiet day, where we could have rather rescheduled the rally, but was too late to make any changes.

There were 20 racers that entered, some stalwarts could not join due to other long weekend commitments, giving us as organisers a cue that we need to be very choosy to pick dates that are not in conflict with other activities. The weather outlook look to be virtually pristine, with little wind, thus could not have wished for better.

With some arrivals on Monday, we had Mauritz carry out a number of test flights to establish a handicap speed, as there were a number of new entrants, who in fact had joined to be able to practice for the up and coming PTAR. The afternoon initial briefing started at 18h30, with Rob Jonkers who took to the stage and provided a briefing on what to expect for the next day in terms of the planned route, how many turnpoints, distance, departure and arrivals protocol, and a weather outlook. After this Jonty did his signature event promotion of handing out race numbers, where after the club caterer provided a nice dinner spread, before retiring for the evening.

Tuesday morning dawned with beautiful weather, the hot air balloons were up and about traversing the field taking advantage of the wind currents. The briefing was held at 08h00 am and was concluded at around 08h30, where everybody dispersed first for a group photo and then to park their aircraft and prepare for the scrutineers. The route for the day was intended to be a scenic one in a similar area as the previous Witbank event north of Loskop dam, although part of the route went closer to the eastern hills before returning to cross the 20/20 gravel runway.

With all the competitors off towards the northwest, the route had a mix of easy and challenging turnpoints, especially TP10 which was the last turn point before the home run – which by the way was the same last turn point used in the 2019 event. The finish was relatively close, only one competitor having got lost somewhat, one having great difficulty in keeping track, and three aircraft following each other having all mad the same mistake…. Will teach them not to follow the aircraft in front.

After all teams having returned and safe on the ground, the scoring team got to work to analyse the results. This time there were no major scoring issues, and the results were available for the prize giving at 2PM. The prizes are organised into 3 categories, Overall, Handicap, Accuracy, where teams that have featured in the top three in one category, don’t feature in the other categories, ensuring that all have a fair chance at winning a trophy. These scores are also added to the leader board in this manner. The following table shows the top placings.

The following are the individual handicap and accuracy results.

Many thanks to the Middelburg Aero Club for hosting this fantastic event, supporting with logistics and great meals available throughout the day, Nigel Musgrave as the Safety Officer, Dirk and Louna de Vos doing the scoring, Chester Chandler on handicapping, Marc Robinson with his team from Century Avionics for Avionic Scrutineering, Chareen Shillaw for Aircraft Scrutineering, Liz, Clarissa, Leonie, Louna for handing out competition papers to the crews, Mauritz for Test Flights and starting, Bernhard & Adrian as ground marshalls and starting, we for sure had a stronger crew as compared to Witbank earlier this year. Thanks also extended to Santjie White of the ARCC who always watches over us.

Also thanks to our sponsors, Aircraft Unlimited being our signature Speed Rally Brand Sponsor, Flightline Weekly for sponsoring the race numbers, and our team sponsors, Prompt Roofing, Fast Flame Laser cutting, Century Avionics, Beegle Micro trackers, JB Switchgear.

Our next Speed Rally event will be in Secunda on the 28th of August 2021

Click on a photo below to enlarge

Preparations for SAPFA Nationals Rally

As the final to be held on the 15th, 16th and 17th of April 2021 at Stellenbosch Flying Club are being put in place, it is time to reflect back on the Stellenbosch (practice) Rally that was held on Saturday 27 March 2012.

After some rain through the night, the skies in the Cape were perfect for flying. The day started nice and cool with little to no wind but this being the Cape… wind will always arrive when you need to make that perfect spot landing. Everyone was ready for the SAPFA Rally being held at the Stellenbosch Flying Club. Easily the flying club with the best views (and breakfast as well).

Pilots and navigators met up from early to top up the bodies with some coffee and a warm breakfast have a chat with fellow aviators and friends before the briefing that was to start at 9 am. Once the briefing started, the competitive side of pilots and navigators alike kicked in. Game on…

There was ample opportunity for those who had questions to ask them follow by the prepping for kicking off. Many had made notes during the briefing, clipboards came out, energy snacks and bag prepared, and even press tick to secure the smaller piece of paper that may be needed during the flight. Then the big moment… the locators were allocated and papers handed out. People couldn’t wait to get into the air and experience the beauty of the Cape. The route was to be a challenging one but also promised some good scenery.

With papers in hand, tanks topped up (humans and aircraft) and the day getting better and better the rally was about to start.

As the first batch of pilots took to the skies and getting to their targets, the normal Stellenbosch traffic and visitors were moving around. Some breakfast runs from Morningstar were made as well. As the day progressed and aircraft heading back, the wind started making an appearance. Getting stronger and stronger and I am pretty sure many pilots were hard at focus to stay as close as possible on target with the spot landing being the last major challenge.

The Cape wind just added another level of complexity to the already challenging route, next up… the landings. There was the odd bounce here and there but all in all good and some very great landings were made as pilots kept their cool and tackled the crosswind.

The second batch of pilots took to the air and by now they were fully aware of the wind. As the pilots went to hand in their locators and awaiting their results, the normal club visitors enjoyed the scenery with a cold beer and some lunch, children having fun, dads (even some moms) excited to show their young ones the aircraft… a very relaxed atmosphere while upstairs nervous pilot and navigators awaited their results. With the last pilots and navigators back at Stellenbosch Flying Club and their papers handed in, it was time to relax and enjoy a cold one.

Time for the announcing of the winners and where each team was ranked. Everyone was in agreement that the route was challenging (the route did have a name but there are children here, so we will just go with the route that shall not be named) but everyone was in the same boat. With the competition over, the social started and friends were friends again.

We all now look forward to the SAPFA National Rally Flying Championships held here in the Cape at Stellenbosch Flying Club.

I can only speak for myself but this was a most enjoyable day out. Even though the sanitizing and masks were in place with temperature checks, it was good to be out again. To experience the beauty of our country and back to the thing we love most… flying!

TR Eagle Air (Pty) Ltd and COVID-19

TR Eagle Air (PTY) Ltd has been in operation as an approved Training Organization (ATO) for a period of more than 19 years. Before incorporation as a company with limited liability, Eagle Aviation was conducted as a sole proprietorship for the preceding years until 2015 when Eagle Aviation was incorporated as a company under the name T R Eagle Air (PTY) Ltd with company registration 2015/040049/07. As such Eagle Aviation, now known as T R Eagle Air (PTY) LTD has been registered as an Aircraft Training Organization (ATO) with the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). Eagle Air is authorised to conduct flight training on Fixed Wing as well as Helicopter, PPL to ATPL.

Eagle Air has since become operational and moreover after incorporation as a private company with limited liability, complied with all its Statutory Taxation obligations and has a valid Tax Clearance Certificate of Good Standing.

Eagle Air is situated at Wonderboom National Airport, Pretoria South Africa. Wonderboom have a fully functional Air Traffic Control Tower, with a ground and tower frequency so students are exposed to radio work from the start and this creates confident and polished pilots. Their pledge to all their clients is to provide safe, efficient and cost-effective flight training. Situated at Wonderboom students have 2 General Flying Areas, both minutes after take-off which leads to a cost saving for students.

Eagle Air has obtained their pledge even during a world-wide pandemic. They did not allow the pandemic to stop them from growing into one of the best flying schooPs in South Africa. Eagle Air was the first ATO to draft and submit a Covid-19 Protocol to the SACAA.

Eagle Air did not come to a halt when the rest of the world did. In the months of lockdown, they developed an online system where students could authorise their briefings and flights, update personal information and keep track of all related training. The Flight Training might have been placed on hold, but their instructors found a way to still assist students as far as possible. Briefings were conducted online through multiple online platforms, small videos were sent to students with little motivation and training notes. Eagle Air kept an open communication channel with all students to keep them in the loop on all new developments. Eagle Air was also one of the first ATO’s to implement Computer Based Training (CBT) doing away with the traditional hard-copy aviation study material.

Even it’s Maintenance department did not just sit back when flight training was not possible. Their Fleet was still regularly maintained to ensure that all aircraft was airworthy for operation once training could commence. Such maintenance was authorised by the SACAA as essential maintenance.

And most importantly, the pandemic did not deter any prospective student to make enquiries on joining Eagle Air Family. Around 20 new students was enrolled during level 5 lock down and have started their new adventure. Since being allowed to operate under level 3, a further 80 students have enrolled and have commenced training.

The number of their students have increased astronomically this year, and have even double in figures in comparison with last yeaös rate. Eagle Air took this opportunity to not only employ qualified Senior Instructors from the Airline Industry to accommodate the influx of students, but also admin staff members to assist where necessary.

Due to this booming growth in the Eagle Air Family, Eagle expanded their facilities by the addition of a new Hangar with more comfortable office space and ample study areas for students. A crew room has also been provided for the instructors.

The expansion also included additional aircraft which increase the Eagle Fleet from 18 Training aircraft to 24 Training Aircraft. The overall expansion would mean that all current and prospective students will be accommodated fully with their training needs.

Eagle Air has, and still, adheres toa Il Covid-19 Rules and Regulations. Sanitising stations were erected, and every main building has a section where hands can be sanitised. Eagle has appointed its own Covid-19 compliant officer who ensures that all regulations are strictly complied with. Sanitisation certificates is also available for all offices, hangars, Simulator and for each individual aircraft.

Everybody at Eagle predicts even bigger things to come, and as one big family standing together, nothing can withhold the Eagle from spreading his wings even wider and flying even higher.

To support the above contention, Eagle is in the final stages of acquiring an AOC for Charters and intends to expand their helicopter training before the end of the year.

Click on photo to enlarge

Bell, Rotorcraft, Transforming the Logistics Operations of the African Mining Industry

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Transforming the Logistics Operations of the African Mining Industry

For centuries, the African continent has been the leading source of natural resources and is home to 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves, shaping the various economies of the region. A number of international companies now work in the mining industry, constantly looking for new ways to streamline the process of transporting mined minerals to their desired locations. Historically the process of transportation has always faced issues and delays with many mines in inaccessible locations.

In the past, the industry has been behind in adopting new and innovative logistics techniques to help facilitate its growth. Only recently has technology played a critical role, leading to improved efficiency of processes, and reduction of costs, as stated by the Journal of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration in their recent paper on the topic.

However, an increased use of rotorcraft and even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) offer the industry solutions to some longstanding logistical challenges. These aircraft can be used to carry heavy loads and assist in the transportation of vital equipment to and from remote and difficult-to-access locations. These important developments are being supported by local authorities with, for instance, the South African Civil Aviation Authority recently approving the use of a remotely piloted aerial system for the mining sector to help revolutionize the industry.

Meanwhile, the capabilities of rotorcraft in assisting with complex and heavy logistical challenges have been exemplified in the work of Rocky Mountain Rotors, an American helicopter chartering company founded by Mark Taylor. It has been using a Bell 505 helicopter to assist in transportation operations and rescue missions in the Rocky Mountains. With a payload of up to 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) at and an altitude range of 22,500 feet density altitude (6,096 meters) thanks to its Arrius 2R engine, the Bell 505 has proven a worthy companion against heavier and more expensive competition.

Mark and his team have tested the durability of the 505 on numerous occasions. His first job was to transport almost eight tons of equipment across six miles (nine kilometers) of dense forest at 7,700 feet (2,347 meters). On another occasion, Mark used a 505 to transport over 750 pounds (340 kilograms) of load up the mountains. The Bell 505 flew in at 9,200 feet (2,904 meters) and performed a delicate set down of the cargo on the frozen Delta Lake at 9016 feet (2,748 meters).

The Bell 505’s extreme towing capabilities, as well as its power to weight numbers mean that it can operate at a lower cost the other, larger aircrafts. This in turn provides a new alternative to the mining industry in Africa, which historically is heavily reliant on trucks to access the harshest of terrains.

Bell is actively collecting information for the future of mobility and aircrafts like the Bell 505 are perfectly suited to accommodate everything from VIP transportation to external cargo lift missions. This is because it is reliable, cost-effective, and safe to perform a wide variety of missions in efficient travel times.

Another transformative technology that could reshape the mining industry in Africa is the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in operations. UAVs have been used traditionally in geological mapping missions, but never to carry significant pay loads.

In an effort to save time and costs, UAVs such as Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) might just be the answer. The vehicle is capable of autonomous flight and taking off and landing vertically. It has demonstrated the ability to carry a payload of 110 Ibs (50 kilograms), offering a solution for mining companies who are looking to transport goods away from mining sites.

Bell understands the need to modernize the mining industry and is developing tools to solve this. With the 505, it can offer customers an opportunity to hoist larger cargo to and from different locations, while with the APT, swifter and less costly aircraft for smaller payload. Both aircrafts open a new world of possibilities for logistical transportation. By efficiently moving goods from one location to another, they provide safe, cost and time efficient solutions for mining companies looking at alternative means of transportation.

Sameer Rehman, Managing Director of Africa and the Middle East, Bell, commented: “With the Bell 505, we have an aircraft that has shown time and again that it can be trusted to operate in high-risk locations and with heavy payloads, providing a capable machine for logistics operators. With APT, Bell is set to re-define on-demand logistics support across a number of industries, Thanks to its autonomous flight capability and intuitive interface, the simplicity of the UAV’s operation means that it can go further, faster and carry payloads at increased ranges all while saving time, cost and energy.”

To find out more about the 505’s cargo hook capabilities, the APT’s capacity and the rest of Bell’s existing product line up, please visit https://www.bellflight.com/

The Aircraft Unlimted Witbank Speed Navigation Rally

The Aircraft Unlimted Witbank Speed Navigation Rally – 13 February 2021 by Rob Jonkers

This first of the 3rd Season Aircraft Unlimited Speed Rallies for 2021 has been held at Witbank, organised by SAPFA and hosted by the Witbank Aeronautical Association. This event was held virtually a year ago at the same venue, and the world of course has changed substantially since then, although it seems yesterday that we were last here.

It has for sure been an event fraught with challenges, from the start of having to postpone it from the original planned date of 6 February as the last throes of cyclone Eloise was still drenching the Highveld, to having to line up a new ground support team (as many of the stalwarts were not available this weekend), to having to ride through a number of mistakes on the day. Nevertheless, the end result was at least a safe and successful rally.

There were 30 entries, quite a full field given the current situation, with a number of local aircraft taking part. Three flight schools entered, Legend Sky from Rhino Park, Mach 1 from Springs and a large contingent with 5 entries from Bird Aviation based at Vereeniging. The weather outlook was predicted to be poor, and on Friday the wind was pumping at between 15 – 20kts from the north-east with 6/8 cloud, with the forecast for Saturday giving low cloud with afternoon rain – seemed the next tropical depression was on its way from the east coast.

The Friday afternoon initial briefing started at 18h00, with Rob Jonkers who took to the stage and provided a briefing on what to expect for the next day in terms of the planned route, how many turnpoints, distance, departure and arrivals protocol, and a weather outlook. After this Jonty did his signature event promotion of handing out race numbers, where after the club provided a nice dinner spread, before retiring for the evening.

Saturday morning dawned with more promising weather, the predicted low cloud did not materialise, and by 9 am the cloud base had risen to above 6500 ft, with a still strong easterly wind. The briefing was held at 08h00 am and was concluded at around 08h30, where everybody dispersed first for a group photo and then to park their aircraft and prepare for the scrutineers. The route for the day was intended to be a scenic one, mostly north of the Loskop dam in the Groblersdal area which has many rivers and hills.

Each team were supposed to get their envelops with their loggers 20 minutes prior take-off, somehow the papers hand-out team received an incorrect time list which showed an hour ahead of when the papers were supposed to be given. Although the first 5 aircraft were given their papers early, once the mistake was realised, a reset had to be brought into effect. 1st take-off was at 09h53 for the slowest aircraft and last take-off at 10h40, with planned arrival at 11h30.

With all the competitors off towards the northwest, the route had a mix of easy and challenging turnpoints, especially TP6 which required good navigating skills to find the canal and road crossing, from the results this turn point seems to have been difficult to home onto. With the windy conditions the aircraft coming over the line were more spread out than before, most competitors were over the line within 10 minutes, with one straggler that decided a visit to Nylstroom was in order….

After all teams having returned and safe on the ground, the scoring team got to work to analyse the results, with the tracks for a number being quite accurate, although some had wobbles, three had got significantly lost.

Getting the results out on time proved to be a challenge, with changes in the scoring system there were some gremlins that had to be fixed, and that required extra time, also with impending bad weather moving in, many competitors started to depart. Aiming for a 2 pm prize-giving was just not working out, and with too few left at the field, it was decided to postpone the prize-giving to later the day, however a small prize giving was held for the most creative route – which turned out to be the Cessna 310 that found its way to Nylstroom, the trophy for the host club, and the most enthusiastic crew which went to ZS-PJK.

Given the additional time for scoring, and having to check of anomalies of the results, particularly the track error accuracy, it was decided to review go-pro footage to assess any auto-pilot usage, which given the size of the files, could only be checked the next day. Once the review was done and no anomalies found, could the results be published, although some mistakes crept in when the prize giving information was compiled. Nevertheless the scores on the leader board results are correct (given on the website), and the trophies granted remain with the recipients as given.

For the Navigation Accuracy category, third place went to Jonty & Jonathan Esser in their C150 ZU-BLL, in 2nd place Phil Wakeley and Mary de Klerk in their C210 ZS-CNY and in 1st place Hendrik & Jandre Loots in the Sling ZU-IHK. For the Handicap/Speed category, third place went to Roger Bozzoli & Nadine Brooker in their Piper Arrow ZS-KFM, in 2nd place John Sayers and Jack Coetzer in their Mighty Mouse Harvard ZS-WSE and in 1st place Mad Dogs Von Hamman and Ron Stirk in their C150 ZS-NBT. Overall Winners in third place went to Leon Bouttell and Martin Meyer in their Harmony ZUFWS, in 2nd place Mike Blackburn and Steve Briggs in their Sling ZU-IBM, and in 1st place Ryan and Chris Shillaw in their Cirrus ZS-ACA.

Many thanks to the Witbank Aeronautical Association for hosting this fantastic event, supporting with logistics and great meals available throughout the day, Nigel Musgrave as the Safety Officer, Dirk and Louna de Vos doing the scoring, Chester Chandler on handicapping, Marc Robinson with his team from Century Avionics for Scrutineering, Chareen Shillaw for taking on the role of starter, Clarissa for handing out competition papers to the crews. Although there were some hiccups, eventually the participants got airborne. Thanks also extended to Santjie White of the ARCC who always watches over us..

Also thanks to our sponsors, Aircraft Unlimited being our signature Speed Rally Brand Sponsor, Flightline Weekly for sponsoring the race numbers, and our team sponsors, Prompt Roofing, Fast Flame Laser cutting, Century Avionics, Beegle Micro trackers, JB Switchgear.

Our next Speed Rally event will be in Middelburg on the 27th of April 2021

Nice perfect Track

Oops – Went to Nylstroom

Bell Acquires Response Technologies in Pursuit of Advancing Fuel Cell Technology

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Bell Acquires Response Technologies in Pursuit of Advancing Fuel Cell Technology

Dubai, UAE (February 15, 2020) – Bell announced its acquisition of Response Technologies LLC, an innovative composite solutions company. This acquisition adds to Bell’s extensive technology portfolio in the aerospace and manufacturing industry.

“This acquisition aligns with our strategy to pursue innovative technology and will enable us to accelerate needed developments in our industry,” said Mitch Snyder, President and CEO of Bell. “We believe Response Technologies has the right solution for modernizing fuel cell systems and textile composites. We are proud to have them join the Bell family.”

Response Technologies is a startup founded in 2015 that is focused on flexible, 3D, textile-reinforced composite solutions. The company has two business areas of development: fuel cells and components and textile composites. With a focus on advanced manufacturing, Response Technologies’ mission aligns closely with Bell’s Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing Innovation team.

Having many benefits over traditional combustion-based technologies usually used in most power plants and cars, fuel cells produce significantly less quantities of greenhouse gases and none of the air pollutants that create smog and cause health problems.

“We are excited to join the Bell team, and the larger Textron enterprise, for the benefits it will bring to our customers,” said David Pettey, co-founder, Response Technologies. “Bringing disruptive ideas to the world’s largest industries has always been our vision and our team looks forward to continuing our propelled and vertical progress.”

With an 85-year history of leading innovation in aviation, from the first American jet fighter to the first tiltrotor, Bell is committed to building revolutionary and coveted vertical lift products. Today, Bell carries that legacy forward by solving complex mobility issues and supporting consumers, warfighters and industries with exceptional technology and experiences.

To learn more, follow our progress on Bell’s social channels or visit the Bell website: https://www.bellflight.com/

Hercules C130 aka “Flossie”

Hercules C130 Flossie aka “Flossie

C130 Flossie

A while back, whilst we were running a series on SAAF aircraft, the question arose as to how the Hercules C130 got the nickname ‘Flossie’. Well, here we have it courtesy of Jan Marais from Who’s Who in the SAAF.

Here is the story of where the name “FLOSSIE” came from.

Not many years after the arrival of the C130B’s onto the SAAF register, South Africa became embroiled in a Border War along the South West African/Angolan border. There has been much good and bad written about that conflict and I am not going to add further to that issue, other than to point out that the C130’s were used on a daily basis to convey troops and material to and from the border, and in later years SAFAIR, operating L100’s, were contracted to assist in the air transport effort. To the casual observer the C130 and L100 look so much alike that one could be forgiven for thinking they were the same. Having said the above I can now get on with story.

At 28 Squadron, the operators of the SAAF C130’s, was a Flight Engineer named Phil or “Flippie”. He was a most dedicated man who ate, slept and dreamed C130. In his private life he was a most disciplined man (real old school, soldier), who never did a half job of anything. You all know the type, “if its worth doing, do it properly or don’t do it at all”

Phil was married to a lady with the real old English name of Florence. In her family she was called Flo, and among her siblings she was called Flossie. (by now you can see where this is going)

Presidential Inauguration 2019

Photo: Johan Stephens

Being the consummate professional Phil would ALWAYS walk out, long before the rest of the crew, to the aircraft he was scheduled to fly in and do a proper pre-flight inspection. A few of his fellow flight engineers would pull his leg and tell him the aircraft was only due for a major technical inspection at a future date. His standard reply was “Chaps, if you treat and look after your aircraft like you look after your wife, she will never let you down” This comment always gave all of his Squadron mates a smile. Over the months, whenever his crew were due to walk out to the aircraft they would ask “where is Flippie, is he at Flossie? or Come guys we shouldn’t keep Flossie waiting” or comments along those lines.

In time the reference to Flossie was made more often at the movement control section at Air Force Base Waterkloof and more and more people became attuned to this reference and this then morphed into all troop transport, becoming known as “FLOSSIE”

You may ask how I know this bit of history. The simple answer is that Phil was my Father and “FLOSSIE: was my Mother.

Flying the BDF C130

RAND AIRPORT CHALLENGE 30 JAN 2021

The 17th Rand Airport Challenge was scheduled to take place at Rand Airport on Saturday 30th Jan 2021. However, the weather gods were not playing ball this time, and with “Eloise” blanketing almost the entire country in clouds and rain, we had to revert to PLAN B.

With the 22nd World Rally Flying Championships postponed to November 2021, the pressure is on to train and select the best Air Rally Team to represent South Africa at this prestigious event. With most of the “old guard” still in place and planning to take part, the opportunity, however, exists to bring some new fresh blood into the South African Rally Flying Team. 

The sport of Rally Flying is not an easy sport. It requires an exceptionally strong “2-man” team of both Pilot and Navigator. Unlike most of the other Air Sporting disciplines which are flyable at competition level, as long as one member of the team is well trained, in Rally Flying a strong pilot without a strong navigator and vice versa is as good as having no team at all.

For this reason, Jonty Esser, who himself is a well-seasoned Protea Rally Flying Pilot (as well as a local aerobatic pilot) has been selected to coach the 2021 South African Flying Team to victory, as soon as they have been selected which should be post the National Championships in April 2021. Now for the official team to be selected, this team has to be sufficiently trained in order to fly to the required standard criteria as laid down by the world organisation.

The past decade (plus) of Fun Rally Programs, introduced by Frank Eckard and Mary de Klerk, and the more recent program of Speed Rallies introduced by Jonty Esser and Rob Jonkers, has produced a remarkably high standard of potential Protea Pilots and Navigators that now need to be put through the Rally Flying Grinder Training modules.

There was no better opportunity to start the 2021 training program than the cancelled Rand Airport Challenge on Saturday 30th Jan 2021. No less than 25 exceptionally keen potential Team members arrived for the “On the Ground” training Modules. The Pilots were herded off into a separate venue and were taught some intricacies of rally flying in terms of fine tuning their approaches and timing overturn points etc by Jonty.  The navigators were put through their paces by 30-year rally veteran, Mary, who spent the best part of a 4 hour period unpacking the plotting procedures, tools required and methodologies with the teams. She was adequately assisted by the other Protea Rally veterans, Frank & Cally Eckard, Hans Schwebel, Ron Stirk, Rob Jonkers, Martin Meyer, and Sandi Goddard. It is interesting to note that even though the “old guard” have between them, thousands of  hours of local, national and international experience, they still managed to find time to drive through to Rand in the rain in order to sharpen their own skills and assist with all the newbies. Hats off to you guys!

Also, in attendance was the Aviation Legend Chester Chandler who, in his eighties now, still dedicated his day to visit and monitor the training session with great interest. He also stayed for the SAPFA AGM which was held at 14h00 and chaired by none other than Rob Jonkers with his dedicated SAPFA Committee members. We all welcomed Ian and Taryn Myburgh as new members onto the committee.

Rally Flying is a well renowned international sport recognised by the FAI. To represent one’s country at an international event is a supreme achievement. I applaud everyone who is taking the sport seriously in order to up weight their own personal skills and achieve what many others would only dream to achieve. However, nothing comes easy – it all requires many hours of hard work and input in order to succeed. Training training training ……

Watch this space to monitor all the upcoming training sessions and who the final SOUTH AFRICAN RALLY FLYING TEAM to represent our beloved country and the World Championships this year will consist of.

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FlySafair,one of few that survived COVID

FlySafair seems to have been one of the few that survived our initial COVID impact…

By Niel Swart
As South Africa is slowly getting use to the new normal and these “unprecedented times”, we still often still hear “you are on mute” but through it all, some companies are doing well. Safair being one of them. We thought it is good to check in with Kirby Gordon after our initial Q&A session a while ago.

ZS-FGC on her first visit to Cape Town International

FlySafair seems to have been one of the few that survived our initial COVID impact, well done on that. How did you manage to do this under so many restrictions?

“Thanks. We’ve just continued to do what we always do – keep our costs as low as possible and try to offer the best service we could under the circumstances.”

FlySafair has not only survived, you have actually taken most of the market share. This is very good for business but is this good in the long run? What effect does the lack of competition have on an airline such as FlySafair?

“No it’s not great in the long-run as any healthy market needs competition. We look forward to the return of our competition to the market. More choice is good for consumer demand.”

A new airline is set to take flight end November 2020. Their fleet will have much larger aircraft and it is to be expected that they will start with domestic operations first. They are also saying they will be the cheapest in the market. Does this have an impact on your future plans as at first passengers may be drawn by the cheaper prices?

“Ours is a highly commoditised market and the supply and demand dynamics of the market are always going to be a factor to contend with. We’ve competed against airlines bigger than us, and some who enjoy state subsidies. We’re just going to do the best we can.”

Apart from taken most of the market share, you are also expanding. We noted there is a big employment drive for flight deck and cabin crew. Is this to cope with the demand that there is now but also keeping the future in mind?

“We are recruiting crew at the moment, not sure we would call it a big recruitment drive relative to previous efforts, but we do have some new aircraft arriving and need to crew them. Some of the recruitment under way is also to fill one or two positions of folks who have moved on to other things.”

With many domestic airlines having difficulties and staff being made redundant, is there an opportunity for those that want to, to move over to FlySafair?

“We are recruiting at the moment so there are a few positions available yes.”

Credit: Billy Botha FlySafair Technician – The latest addition to the fleet ZS-FGD still carrying her other registration N268WT

Not only are new employees on the cards, so are new additions to the fleet. We already have seen ZS-FGC being in operation and ZS-FGD is about to arrive this week. Are more aircraft expected? If so, how many?

“Yes, ZS-FGD arrived last Thursday (1 October 2020) and is awaiting licensing by the SACAA.”

Speaking of ZS-FGC, she has a special livery. Can you maybe tell us a bit more about it and the award you have won (congratulations!)?

“Thanks – yes, we painted her up to celebrate our award of Aircraft Operator of the Year at the Annual SACAA Excellence Awards evening. It was a great honour to be awarded this top spot and we obviously wanted people to know about it.”

On ZS-FGC and ZS-FGD we noted they have the Scimitar Winglets. Scimitar Winglets seem to be gaining popularity in South Africa. They are very costly but have up a fuel saving of up to 2.2%. Is this to bring down price tickets or perhaps to extend the range, maybe looking at international flights?

“Yes they do both have the winglets. We’re going to be monitoring the saving on them – these savings are always great on paper but the key is to identify what kind of difference they really make when you start to apply them to your specific network on your specific operating conditions. Theoretically the saving should be good on slightly longer hauls, but at this stage we’re going to fly a while and measure the differences to see whether it’s worth deeper investment.”

SAA (Mango branded) have been leasing B738’s from Safair. Have they been returned to Safair and are they now part of the fleet?

“There are a few B738s in our fleet that were once in the Mango fleet – I stand to be corrected but I think the first three 800s we brought in were all ex-Mango.”

How big is the fleet now and how many aircraft are leased vs owned?

“The FlySafair fleet is up to 17 now. We own the 8 400s.”

We noted the FlySafair fleet is only Boeing and the B737. Why the B737 and not the A320NEO?

“Key to the classic low cost operating model is to operate one type. We even stretch that rule a bit between the 400s and the 800s as it is, but the idea is to create efficiencies in terms of training, aircraft “swopability” and of course spares and maintenance. Safair had long been operating and maintaining Boeings before FlySafair was even a consideration, so the choice there was a pretty obvious one for us.”

Credit: Billy Botha FlySafair Technician – The latest addition to the fleet ZS-FGD

Will FlySafair always stick to Boeing or will other manufactures such as Airbus be incorporated later?

“No, the idea for the moment is to stay true that Low cost model in FlySafair and focus on one type.”

On the topic of the total fleet: previously we mentioned the Herc operations. How is that side of the business?

“Great. The Herc contracts operate very essential services on their contracts, so work fortunately continued through lockdown, which was a real help.”

We had a look at the age of the Hercs (to compare those to the ones owned by SAAF and we all looooooooooove a Herc) and noted the Hercs are aging. How many years will these iconic aircraft still be in service with Safair? If less than 5 years, what are the options being considered to replace the Hercs with?

“Your observation is accurate and very sad. Those aircraft have a remarkable legacy and it’s tragic to see them being slowly retired. We’re looking at a number of alternatives and engaging our clients in options that they might be interested in, but we’ve not committed to anything yet.”

Credit: FlySafair

Is the employment drive for flight and cabin crew to staff these new additions to the fleet?

“Yes and to a smaller degree to replace one or two staffers who have moved onto other careers.”

Are any aircraft due to leave the fleet, like the B734’s? If so, which ones and where are they heading to?

“Not in the immediate future.”

While on the topic of aircraft, as the fleet grows, so does the technical needs. As you are servicing aircraft yourself, do you foresee that even in this area more people will be needed?

“Possibly. We’ve certainly needed some more space and we’ve moved from occupying one hangar to three.”

Could it be that Cape Town also gets a technical facility or possibly even Safair hangars where full A, B or C checks and other heavy maintenance?

“Not at this stage.”

As FlySafair grows, how will you ensure that passengers and employees do not become just numbers and more business focussed compared to the more fun and personal airline we all love? Or differently put, how will you keep the small personal touch while being a large airline?

“That’s a big focus that we have and something that we work very hard on. It’s a particular challenge in the aviation space just by the sheer structure of airlines, specifically having your crew and your outstations geographically separated from the rest of your organisations. We make a big effort to ensure that everyone keeps close through a number of initiatives.”

We all hope we are over the worst when it comes to COVID-19 but what if a second wave is to hit us? What preparations are being made by FlySafair to withstand another possible lockdown?

“Yes, hopefully the worst is over, but we do need to be realistic about a possible resurgence. We’ll have to access the specific situational factors but we’re most likely to pursue a similar strategy to what we used the first time – seems to have worked for us so far.”

COVID19 has taught all industries various lessons. Which were the biggest lessons that Safair have had? Did any of these lesson have long lasting impact on how you will operate in future? As an example the check-in process at the check-in desks.

“One thing that our customers are really loving is the controlled disembarkation procedures where we work row-by-row, so we’ll definitely stick to that. The other thing that’s been key is refining our self-service offerings – so for example our existing Whatsapp boarding passes were a real asset but we’ve now had more opportunity to highlight those facilities and get more people to try them out.”

Will we maybe see a masked FlySafair special livery at some stage?

“Hahah, maybe, although it’s been done now – we like to be the first to do new things.”

Speaking of FlySafair maybe doing a masked livery, what community initiatives are Safair doing in these times of need?

“To be very honest, our focus has very much been internal now. We have a few external projects that we run, which have continued – things like our cadet program and work creation initiatives, but we’ve turned a lot of our focus on to looking after our own people who’s had to make sacrifices during this tough time. As they say, charity begins at home.”

On brand awareness: could we maybe see FlySafair/Safair participation at air shows next year? Past air shows have been dominated by Mango.

“It’s always something to consider but to be honest, the cost of involvement versus the marketing return is doesn’t add up. If we participated we’d do it more on the basis of engaging with staff, but they are expensive exercises.”

Could FlySafair in future sponsor an acrobatic flying team?

“Not likely – at the moment we are pretty dedicated to our springbok sponsorship and aren’t in the market for any new properties.”

Will the Birthday Sale return in 2021?

“Hopefully, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Since our Q&A session with Elmar, he has been elected Airlines Association of Southern Africa’s (AASA) as their new deputy chairperson with Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Comair, as the new chairperson at its 50th annual general meeting. Congratulations to both, who will serve for the next 12 months, and we wish them all the best!

Book your FlySafair flight here

Aviation Insurance

By DJA – Graham Speller

DJA Aviation (Pty) Ltd
https://www.dja-aviation.co.za/

Aviation insurance has become a very different commodity to the one we have been used to over the past 15 years or more.

When effecting insurance, you are buying a promise – that’s all. A promise of some future conduct, based on a pre-agreed set of terms and conditions.

You hope (because you cannot guarantee it) that the insurer(s) you have contracted with will fulfil their obligations under the contract. They, in turn, assume that you will do likewise.

And provide both parties follow the rules, keep to their promises and respect each other’s rights under the contract, all is well.

The disastrous losses sustained by Property & Casualty (P&C) losses in 2017 and, to a lesser extent, in 2018, led to a global shift in the manner in which short-term insurance coverage is assessed, priced and offered. Multiple natural disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, etc. – resulted in massive insured losses, easily exceeding 200% of the global premium income.

Coupled with a collapse of international insurance rates, the direct underwriting losses (the extent by which claims exceeded premium income) placed many/most Insurers and Lloyd’s Syndicates in a life-threatening position, from which they needed to extricate themselves in a very short period of time.

In essence, the 2017-18 P&C losses severely depleted the reserve account of many Insurers and their respective Reinsurers. Without reflating the market, future catastrophic losses may have led to widespread failures, leading to financial ruin for many policyholders.

The aviation market, meanwhile, had been losing money for several years – at least since 2015.

Following a spike in airline insurance rates in 2002, as a consequence of the 9/11 losses, the airline industry entered a golden age of safety, with a continually-falling loss rate and big profits for those Insurers who had not exited the aviation market in the aftermath of the attacks.

Of course, there is nothing quite like seeing your competitors raking it in to encourage you to enter the game, whether for the first time or as a returning player!

This sudden expansion of capacity (more Insurers offering coverage), coupled with benign loss experience, started the “soft market” cycle which, with only momentary pauses, saw airline insurance rates dropping steadily over the next 15 years.

At the same time, many airline Insurers who saw their income being eroded due to the falling rates, turned elsewhere for income – General Aviation became an obvious choice, leading to accelerated softening of GA insurance rates as a result.

If we were to go back 20 years or so, to the late 90s, we would see that aviation rates were probably running at about the same as they are today, in 2020.

In the interim, however, they hit an all-time low.

As part of the efforts to reflate the market in 2018, Insurers were forced to carry out a complete review of all parts of their portfolios (i.e. all classes of insurance), including niche areas like Aviation which, at best, accounts for around 2% of the world’s total short term insurance premium income.

What those Insurers found was that Aviation (and other niche classes) had been “sheltered” by the P&C account for years. Bear in mind that, by comparison, the P&C market accounts for about 60% of the total global premium income.

The consequences were as dramatic as they were rapid.

Many Insurers completely withdrew from underwriting Aviation. Understandably, perhaps, these tended to be those that had been the ones offering the cheapest rates.

Others, who decided to stay in the game, needed to take action on three fronts: increasing rates, restricting coverage and reducing exposure (the shares they write), in order to get their portfolios back into a profitable position.

For an Insurer, a “profitable position” probably means a return of no more than 5% across the portfolio.

In other words, provided they paid out no more than $95 for every $100 of nett income, they are profitable.

Nett income would be calculated, very simply, as gross premium, less expenses, plus investment income.

Given that global interest rates have dropped to virtually 0% in most developed countries, there is no investment income to be made and Insurers are faced with a very simple equation.

Expenses include the overall cost of running the place plus the cost of acquiring business and runs at around 40% of gross premium for most Insurers.

So if an Insurer pays more than $55 in claims, for every $100 of gross premium, they are running at a loss.

Against this background, Insurers have to take great care in how they price their exposure, in order to give themselves a reasonable chance of turning a profit. Losing money is no longer an option and will result in job losses and the potential withdrawal of the Insurer from Aviation, with all that infers.

What Insurers are doing is to take a completely fresh look at the exposure and repricing the risk from the perspective of their own position alone. They call it “modeling the exposure”, which is usually carried out by actuaries.

In “hard” markets like the current one – where rates are being driven up by Insurers, the cost of insurance becomes a key factor for most policyholders.

A true broker will spend his/her working life trying to secure the best possible terms for their client. To some, this means the cheapest rates, but that is a dangerous fallacy.

The terms of insurance are a combination of a number of things. At DJA we refer to The Right Approach. This encapsulates our entire business philosophy, and enables us to fulfil our responsibilities to our clients and provide our clients with the financial peace of mind they need in order to operate.

There are four principle aspects which we say MUST be kept in balance with each other – like the blades of an aircraft propeller.
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Coverage

Naturally, the coverage must be appropriate for the risk and the policyholder’s requirements – no point in cutting out required coverage and hoping things will be OK

Service

The service provided by the Insurer and the Broker, on a day-to-day basis, and especially when claims arise, is important – the insurance will be worthless if you cannot get anything done, or get advice when you need it

Security

This is a big one. Why bother to insure if the Insurer you choose is not going to be able to provide the service or, far more importantly, is not going to respond to claims – either because they don’t want to or because they cannot?

Cost

The premium must be competitive, having regard to all the other factors. Again, there is no point in cutting down on required coverage, giving up service or selecting a sub-standard Insurer all for the sake of a cheaper premium. That is the height of idiocy and DJA does not see that as a means of fulfilling its duties towards its clients.

A fifth aspect, that is particularly relevant in a hard market, is Relationships. That is, the relationship between the Insured and his Insurers. When things are tough, as they are right now, and claims arise which could go either way (as many can), it can be the strength of the relationship with the Insurer that makes the difference. So we try to promote the maintenance and growth of Insurer-Client relationships wherever we can.

It makes sense to follow an Insurer’s financial strength rating, as applied by ratings agencies who specialize in analyzing insurance companies. Standard & Poor’s and AM Best are the principal ratings agencies for the insurance industry and apply financial strength ratings (FSRs) to hundreds of Insurers all over the world, using a consistent rating methodology that enables and Insurer in one country to be reasonably compared with one in a different part of the world.

Both S&P and AM Best use an alphabet scale, ranging from A as the highest.

The insurer may need to be around to defend you, and settle claims, for many years following a loss – particularly in relation to Passenger Liability claims. The last thing an Insured needs is to find that, at the crucial moment, the Insurer has disappeared. There is no such thing as joint liability under an insurance policy – each Insurer is only responsible for its own share.

Anyone considering whether to accept an insurer it is being offered to underwrite the insurance of substantial assets and potentially-huge legal liability exposures should wish to get a high level of comfort based on the financial strength rating of the Insurer(s) concerned.

Particularly an Insurer located in a foreign country that does not have a subsidiary in the policyholder’s country of domicile and no assets which can be applied to cover its liabilities.

Based on the above scale, an Insurer rated below A- by S&P, or B+ by AM Best – or not rated at all by either – should be carefully considered and further investigations carried out in conjunction with a knowledgeable insurance broker.

The more care and attention that is applied to the selection of the Insurer(s) to be relied upon to fulfil their promises under the insurance contract, the less likely it is that claims will result in tears.

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