Category Archives: General News and Airshow Reviews

Largest aircraft to date lands at St Helena Airport

St Helena Island is known for the abundance of life and beauty on this remote South Atlantic Ocean island. It is loved for the opportunities to swim with its whale sharks, explore historic wrecks and walk or mountain bike its unique landscapes.

St Helena Airport

South African Airlink who fly on a regular basis with their Embraer E190 aircraft as the first commercial air service to utilize the airport.A number of other aircraft have landed at the Saint Helena Airport international airport on Saint Helena, a remote island in the south Atlantic Ocean, in the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. The construction of the runway was finished in 2015 and the airport opened in 2016.

SA Airlink Embraer E190

A South African Air force C130BZ has also landed at St Helena on route to Cuba on a task last year and on other occasions.Also other military aircraft including a Royal Air force C130J.

SAAF 28 Squadron C130BZ
Royal Air force C130J

Titan Airways flew the Boeing 757 as part of a repatriation mission. The was bringing citizens back to the UK from Saint Helena. On the way back, the aircraft made a stop in Accra, Ghana, before heading back to London Stansted (STN).

The aircraft’s arrival was a big deal for the airport. This was the largest commercial jet to land in Saint Helena. The plane came in and landed on runway 20 from the north.

The arrival was successful. Pilots were able to get the aircraft and its passengers on the ground safely. After arrival, the plane spent a night on the ground before heading out to London via Accra the next day.

The genesis of St Helena Airport has been almost as turbulent as the notorious wind shear that plagues it,resulting to many aircraft go around!

Swedish Medevac PC-24 Completes Successful Maiden Flight

The first of six PC-24s for the Swedish Air Ambulance Organisation took off from Buochs Airport for its maiden flight on 22 July 2020. Sporting the national colours of Sweden – blue and yellow – the Super Versatile Jet will cut a dash across Swedish skies.

Less than a year after the agreement between the Kommunalförbundet Svenskt Ambulansflyg (KSA) and Pilatus was signed, the maiden flight of the first Swedish medevac PC-24 marks an important milestone in the programme. Despite the disruption caused by the covid-19 pandemic, Pilatus still managed to meet the tight production schedule.

Six medevac PC-24s for KSA

As an air ambulance service organisation, KSA will provide advanced medical assistance and access to fast, professional aeromedical care, to everyone living in Sweden. The full KSA fleet will comprise six PC-24s, with all aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2021.

The maiden flight heralds the start of numerous flight tests to be performed by Pilatus. On completion of these tests, the PC-24s for KSA will be transferred to Aerolite AG, the specialist Swiss company appointed to oversee the installation of the medevac interior.

About the PC-24 air ambulance

The outstanding flexibility of the PC-24 opens up a wealth of possibilities for use as a medevac aircraft. The cabin offers sufficient space for three patients plus medical personnel. The PC-24’s large cargo door also facilities speedy loading and unloading of patients. All these advantages, combined with the PC-24’s STOL credentials, make it the ideal aircraft for all air ambulance missions. After the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia and the US North Slope Borough Search and Rescue Department, KSA is the third organisation to deploy the PC-24 as a medevac aircraft.

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. 

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