Rolls-Royce stakes claim to world’s fastest all-electric vehicle

Electroflight Test Pilot Steve Jones flying the Rolls-Royce’s ACCEL project, Spirit of Innovation plane, at Boscombe Down testing site during world record runs in November 2021. (Photo: Rolls-Royce, John Dibbs)

Rolls-Royce on Nov. 19 claimed its all-electric Spirit of Innovation aircraft to be the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, after setting three new world records, which have been submitted to Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) – the World Air Sports Federation, which controls and certifies world aeronautical and astronautical records.

Rolls-Royce explains on November 16, 2021, at 15:45 (GMT) the Spirit of Innovation aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over three kilometres, surpassing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph).

In further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site, the aircraft achieved 532.1km/h (330 mph) over 15 kilometres – 292.8km/h (182mph) faster than the previous record – and broke the fastest time to climb to 3,000 metres by 60 seconds with a time of 202 seconds, according to Rolls-Royce data.

During its record-breaking runs, Rolls-Royce states the aircraft clocked up a maximum speed of 623 km/h (387.4 mph), which the company believe to make the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

“Staking the claim for the all-electric world-speed record is a fantastic achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce,” said Warren East, CEO, Rolls-Royce. “I would like to thank our partners and especially Electroflight for their collaboration in achieving this pioneering breakthrough.

“The advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this program has exciting applications for the Advanced Air Mobility market,” East continued. “Following the world’s focus on the need for action at COP26, this is another milestone that will help make jet-zero a reality and supports our ambitions to deliver the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonise transport across air, land and sea.”

The Spirit of Innovation is part of the ACCEL or Accelerating the Electrification of Flight project. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

The aircraft was propelled on its record breaking runs by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and what Rolls-Royce describe as the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace. To achieve this technical breakthrough, the company worked in partnership with aviation energy storage specialist Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA.

Rolls-Royce explains the Spirit of Innovation project, working through ACCEL, provides important data for its future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft. The characteristics that air-taxis require from batteries, explains the company, are very similar to what was developed for the Spirit of Innovation.

“Developing the propulsion and battery system, in collaboration with experienced program partners, has resulted in a world class engineering capability that will lead the way towards the decarbonisation of air travel,” said Stjohn Youngman, Managing Director, Electroflight. “Our next step is to adapt this pioneering technology so it can be applied across the wider aerospace industry to deliver a more sustainable way to fly.”

August Lehmann left lasting impression on Dawson Creek aviation community

Rod Folster, Bonnie Lehmann, and Mark Sutton at the Mile Zero Flying Club’s Hangar 66. (Photo: Tom Summer)

By Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News

The Mile Zero Flying Club and the community at large are feeling the loss of local aviation fixture in August Lehmann. Teacher, pilot, air maintenance engineer, aircraft builder, and owner of the Flying ‘L’ Ranch airport.

Known to wear many hats and was always happy to share his knowledge with others, his wife Bonnie notes he was always a teacher at heart.

“He was a teacher, bottom line. He loved to teach and that tied in nicely with anyone innocent enough to ask.”

While he taught at the school district for many years, he always came back to the skies.

Lehmann enjoyed a varied aviation career over the years, flying for fire patrol the forestry sector, Search and Rescue, and more.

“He really didn’t wish to travel with commercial airlines, he much preferred to do his own thing. It’s a nice climate, the pilot world.”

Lehmann also flew planes in the Muskwa Kechika range and by Williston Lake. His interest in flying started as a teenager, working for the airport in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. He earned his licence by 18, but took a break for many years due to the prohibitive cost of additional flight lessons.

The pair moved to Dawson Creek in 1976 where Bonnie gained her licence, becoming a pilot alongside her husband, with Lehmann taking a refresher and reviving his interest in aviation.

“This the ideal place to learn. It’s a small airport, not that busy. I took some of my training outside of Calgary, and there would be five in the circuit. You’ve got lots of practice looking out for other planes, whereas here, it’s more quiet.”

Soon the pair were establishing their own private air strip, more famously known as the Flying ‘L’ Ranch.

Mile Zero Flying Club members Mark Sutton and Rod Folster came to know Lehmann as their flight instructor when he taught lessons in the early 1990s. The three became very close, says Bonnie, with Folster and Sutton considered Lehmann’s adopted sons, all sharing a passion for flying.

Folster says Lehmann is greatly missed, with dedicated aviation experts tough to find. Their ranch was purchased by Folster, who says the name will never change.

“We really need another retired school teacher to take on the flight instructing, then they’re willing to stick around and see it through. It can’t really be a business thing.”

Wingham airport sale made official by council

— By Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times (Photo: Steve Bond)

Council approved the agreement between the Township of North Huron and Papple Aviation in a third and final reading of the purchase and sale agreement bylaw at the Nov. 15 council meeting.

One minor change was made to the official document.

On page seven, in Schedule A, the document read that the purchaser agrees to purchase or lease hangars to current lessors. This wording needed to be changed since the hangars are privately owned and not part of the purchase.

The agreed-upon purchase price for the airport is $200,000. The fuel tanks located on the property, the terminal building, and all contents are included in the purchase.

Not included are the hangars and the RC Jets building.

Reeve Bernie Bailey told the Wingham Advance Times that running the airport costs approximately $100,000 a year. Within two years, the township will see the benefits. The sale of the remaining land surrounding the airport will see more funds in the township coffers.

The agreement must be completed by Dec. 21, 2021. The final agreement said, “upon completion, vacant possession of the property shall be given to the purchaser unless otherwise provided in this agreement.”

First flight for Beechcraft Denali

Textron Aviation on Nov. 23 announced its new single-engine turboprop, the Beechcraft Denali took to the skies for the first time, with the milestone flight for the clean-sheet design aircraft noting that start of its flight test program.

“With its more environmentally friendly engine and largest cabin in its class, this is an aircraft that will change the landscape for high-performance single-engine turboprop aircraft,” said Ron Draper, president and CEO, Textron Aviation. “Today’s flight is just the beginning for what we anticipate will be a long list of important accomplishments as we prepare the aircraft for certification and customer deliveries.”

The Beechcraft Denali prototype aircraft, under the control of senior test pilot Peter Gracey and chief test pilot Dustin Smisor, took off from Textron’s west campus at Eisenhower International Airport for what amounted to a two hour and 50 minute flight. Powered by GE Aviation’s new Catalyst engine, the Textron team tested the aircraft’s performance, stability and control, as well as its propulsion, environmental, flight controls and avionics systems. The aircraft reached an altitude of 15,600 feet and attained speeds of 180 knots.

“From the beginning of the flight to the end, the Denali was simply flawless,” Gracey said. “It’s just a great aircraft to fly. The Catalyst engine was outstanding, and the aircraft performed to the levels we were anticipating. First flights really can’t go more smoothly than this.”

Textron explains the Denali prototype aircraft, along with two additional flight test articles and three full airframe ground test articles, will continue to expand on operational goals, focusing on testing aircraft systems, engine, avionics and overall performance. The company is targeting certification for the Denali in 2023.

The Denali is engineered to achieve cruise speeds of 285 knots and full fuel payload of 1,100 pounds, targeting a range of 1,600 nautical miles at high-speed cruise with one pilot and four passengers. This would allow the airplane to fly non-stop from Los Angeles to Chicago, New York to Miami or London to Moscow.

The Denali is the first aircraft powered with GE’s Catalyst engine, described by GE as a more sustainable engine that burns up to 20 per cent less fuel than older turboprop technologies. The FADEC-equipped, 1,300 shaft horsepower (SHP)-rated turboprop engine eases pilot workload with its single-lever power and propeller control.

The airplane is also equipped with McCauley’s new 105-inch diameter composite, 5-blade, constant speed propeller, which is full feathering with reversible pitch and ice protection.

The cockpit will feature the Garmin G3000 avionics suite with integrated autothrottle as a standard feature, which interfaces with the Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS) and Flight Management System (FMS) for speed control throughout all flight regimes.

The Beechcraft Denali also features a flat-floor cabin, helping operators to convert between passenger and cargo configurations. The cabin features a standard seating configuration of six individual reclining seats and offers a nine-place high density seating option.

(Photo: Textron Aviation)

Percepto launches new drones, analytics for inspection platform

Percepto of Israel, which focuses on autonomous inspection with industrial robotics, on November 17 launched its upgraded 2022 Autonomous Inspection & Monitoring (AIM) platform and its new Air Mobile drone.

Percepto explains the AIM 2022’s newly launched Insight Manager delivers AI-powered packaged solutions for sector-specific use cases, such as solar, mining, energy, oil & gas and other industries. Percepto states its AI change detection framework, developed from tens of thousands of hours of autonomous robot missions at industrial facilities, offers unified visual data and critical business insights for each of the sector-specific solutions.

AIM 2022 can be integrated with autonomous drones and robots as well as other visual data collectors, now including DJI drones, and fixed cameras. Reports and insights are automatically generated based on the combined visual data. Disseminated to relevant stakeholders on any mobile device, Percepto explains issues and faults are geotagged and displayed on a map, enabling action before escalating into more serious problems.

Percepto on Nov. 17 also introduced its new Percepto Air portfolio to support the enhanced platform. The next generation of Percepto Sparrow, the Percepto Air Max is designed for large mining, oil & gas, and energy companies. It has a top-grade, versatile payload for specific use-cases. Designed to inspect and map complex industrial environments where the highest accuracy and durability are critical, Air Max is described by the company as the only DIB Drone-in-a-Box solution with an Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) camera.

Percepto describes its new Air Mobile as a more compact and lighter-weight drone for smaller sites or organizations taking first steps with a drone-in-box program, or larger sites that need greater deployment flexibility. The company explains Air Mobile is ideal for linear inspections, such as pipelines and power lines, and can monitor short-term projects across multiple sites.

Percepto Air Max and Air Mobile drones are stored permanently onsite within their respective Percepto Bases. “Percepto AIM 2022 and the new Percepto Air line of drones, together with the most advanced change detection solution, alert and prevent failures and downtime within diverse use cases across many industries,” said Percepto CEO Dor Abuhasira. “Percepto AIM provides the most advanced and comprehensive enterprise inspection software that offers a complete data workflow – from capture to insight.”

(Image: Percepto)

GAMA Q3 aircraft shipments and billings report

General Aviation Manufacturers Association on November 18 released its report of general aviation aircraft shipments and billings through the third quarter of 2021. Turboprop, business jet and helicopter deliveries increased during the first nine months of 2021 as compared to the same period of 2020, according to the report, while piston airplane unit shipments were down slightly.

“The general aviation manufacturing industry has shown perseverance with continued growth, all while still navigating pandemic-related setbacks, including ongoing supply chain and workforce challenges,” said Pete Bunce, President and CEO, General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). “Despite the constraints imposed by shortages of parts and people, our manufacturers and maintenance providers are working hard to meet the growing demand for both new and used aircraft, which we obviously welcome and embrace. Our members are also leading the way in new innovations and technologies, which will shape the future of aviation. The first nine months of 2021 have shown great progress and we look forward to seeing how the year closes out.”

Aircraft shipments through the third quarter of 2021, when compared to the same period in 2020, saw piston airplane deliveries decrease by six units, with 895 airplanes; turboprop airplane deliveries increased 40.6 per cent, with 357 units; and business jet deliveries increased 15.9 per cent, with 438 units. The value of airplane deliveries through the third quarter of 2021 was $13.4 billion, an increase of approximately 13.0 per cent.

Turbine helicopter deliveries through the third quarter of 2021, when compared to the same period in 2020, saw an increase of 23.5 per cent, with 410 units; and piston helicopter deliveries saw an increase of 24.8 per cent, with 131 units.

(Image: General Aviation Manufacturers Association)

Floatplane collisions in Tofino harbour ignite safety concerns

Traffic from boats and aircraft in the Tofino harbour has become a heightened concern after two float plane crashes occurred in three months this year. (Photo: Melissa Renwick)

— By Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa

When a Tofino Air floatplane struck an Ahousaht First Nation water taxi in the Tofino Harbour on Oct. 18, vessel operators started raising questions over the lack of regulation in the open water.

The incident triggered Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) President Judith Sayers, who was inside an Atleo Air floatplane that flipped after hitting a sandbar upon takeoff in the harbour less than three months prior.

“I still have a couple of physical injuries that I’m working through,” she said. “It was a very traumatic experience to have to go through.”

Sayers has since committed herself to advocating for changes in regulation and safety standards in the harbour.

“I don’t want anybody else having to go through something like this because of inefficient laws,” she said.

Ken Brown witnessed the October collision near the First Street Dock. He’s now “nervous” to operate his own Ahousaht water taxi business, which transports Ahousaht members between their home on Flores Island and Tofino.

“I would like to see something put in place for safety,” he said. “Floatplanes land right in the traffic that’s coming in and out of Ahousaht and Opitsaht.”

One solution, he said, would be to have a designated landing strip for planes so “they’re not in the line of fire with boats.”

“We have to meet halfway,” he said.

Josh Ramsay, Tofino Air owner and operator, said the airline has been “analyzing the traffic congestion” and boat speeds in the harbour to ensure they’re safely operating alongside the other operators using the harbour.

Since the incident, Ramsay said the company’s flight crew, office staff, as well as maintenance and management employees received emergency training that goes beyond the company’s annual Transport Canada approved training program.

“Tofino Air has been operating in this harbour for over 40 years with this being our first incident,” said Ramsay. “We are working in conjunction with harbour users and the appropriate regulatory authorities to create a safer harbour.”

A local committee of pilots, commercial fishermen, charter operators and harbour users was formed after the incident, according to the Tofino Harbour Authority (THA). Meeting over Zoom, stakeholders are invited to discuss safety concerns.

“Tofino Air is advocating for the installation of an aircraft activated strobe light in the harbour to indicate pending aircraft movement, and a speed limit for when aircraft 1/8s 3/8 are taking-off and landing,” said Ramsay.

THA has jurisdiction over the federal facility at the Fourth Street Dock, but doesn’t have jurisdiction over the marine traffic traveling through the Tofino Harbour or Clayoquot Sound, said THA Manager Kevin Eckert.

“All we can really do here is educate people that use the facility,” he said. “But once they’re off the dock, we have no right to tell them how to operate their vessel.”

Eckert said the RCMP and Canadian Coast Guard do not regularly monitor the harbour for safety.

“It’s a very busy part of the coast,” he said. “We would be better off with someone, at least one person, who has the authority to do something — either hand out fines, or stop people on the water who are operating their vessels unsafely.”

The Canadian Coast Guard station in Tofino is a search and rescue station and does not regulate traffic within the Tofino area, according to a spokesperson for the federal agency.

“Similar to most harbours on the Pacific Coast, Tofino does not have a regime in place to actively manage vessel or aircraft movements,” said Transport Canada. “Vessel operators or aircraft pilots are required to follow safety regulations made under the Canada Shipping Act or Aeronautics Act.”

Because the harbour is considered “open water,” Tofino RCMP Const. Daniel Mcintosh said “there’s no actual monitoring of what’s going on out there.”

While he said it would be “nice to be able to get out more often,” he doesn’t think it’s needed.

“It’s like the highways,” Mcintosh said. “There’s not always somebody out there 24 hours a day. We do what we can when we can and respond to complaints and concerns whenever they come in.”

Floatplane operators and Transport Canada don’t take accidents lightly, said Eckert.

“For there to be two accidents in the last three months is pretty much unheard of,” he said. “There are actions taking place. There’s momentum.”

Transport Canada said their efforts to “improve transportation safety are ongoing.”

These include amendments to the Canadian Aviation Regulations in 2019 that “strengthen the safety of seaplane passengers and crew.”

“As safety is a shared responsibility, Transport Canada encourages seaplane pilots to consider the limitations of other craft on water before they take off, land or taxi,” Transport Canada said. “It is the pilot’s responsibility to fly safely in any weather condition.”

After the October collision, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) deployed a team of investigators to Tofino.

TSB spokesperson Chris Krepeski said the investigation is still in the early stages and could take around 450 days to complete.

“If there’s a significant systemic safety deficiency that requires attention, we don’t hesitate to communicate those before the investigation is completed,” said Krepeski.

Similar to Victoria, Sayers said she would like to see Tofino’s harbour be re-designated to an airport.

“Victoria has been a destination for commercial seaplane traffic since 1920, when the first mail flight arrived from Seattle,” said Transport Canada.

As the harbour became increasingly busy over the following decades, Transport Canada said they conducted several risk assessments that determined the need to “more closely regulate seaplane traffic in the Victoria Harbour.”

“This led to the certification of the Victoria Harbour Airport under the Civil Aviation Regulations in 2000,” said Transport Canada. “Victoria Harbour is the first certified water aerodrome in Canada and is the only water airport in the country that is certified in this manner.”

Tofino is currently designated as a water aerodrome.

In 2019, Transport Canada developed a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) to address water airports. They are now in the “advanced stages of finalizing water airport regulations.”

According to the NPA, one option would be to require that all water aerodromes become certified as a water airports if they are located in “the built-up area of a city or town, or have a scheduled passenger service.”

Both plane collisions in the Tofino Harbour involved Nuu-chah-nulth members. Sayers said she wants to ensure plane safety “is at its highest” and needs to see more than a list of recommendations from the TSB.

“There has been a lack of follow through by Transport Canada,” said Sayers. “It’s very concerning… the safety of our people is the most important thing. We use water taxis and floatplanes to travel to get to our communities. They’re just necessary.”

DJI introduces Mavic 3

DJI on November 5 introduced its new Mavic 3 folding drone, described as the most comprehensive improvement to the drone series in three years. Redesigned from tip to tail, Mavic 3 includes a 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad camera and 28x hybrid zoom camera, as well as omnidirectional obstacle sensors with a maximum 200-metre range and redesigned batteries that provide up to 46 minutes of flight time.

Mavic 3’s upgraded hardware and software can process 5.1K video at 50 frames per second with heightened low-light sensitivity, and support 4K/120fps for higher-quality results for slow-motion footage. An enhanced Mavic 3 Cine edition offers Apple ProRes 422 HQ encoding for video processing, with an internal 1TB SSD onboard for high-speed data storage.

“Creating the Mavic 3 was an arduous journey for our engineers who tackled complex technical problems to serve the goal that the Mavic series has always met – build professional-quality imaging and flight technology into a compact consumer drone,” said Ferdinand Wolf, Creative Director, DJI Europe. “The result is incredible. Mavic 3 enables users to effortlessly make epic shots without compromising on small size, stunning performance, pervasive flight safety, and dazzling image quality.”

DJI explains it pioneered the folding drone category in 2016 with the launch of the original Mavic Pro, which for the first time put professional-quality imaging in a body that could fit in a backpack. Two years later, Mavic 2 Pro launched DJI’s collaboration with Swedish camera maker Hasselblad, integrating a one-inch sensor.

DJI Mavic 3’s customized L2D-20c aerial camera embeds a professional-grade 4/3 CMOS sensor with a 24mm prime lens in a sleek and compact form. Hasselblad standards for hardware performance and software algorithms allow it to shoot 20MP still images in 12-bit RAW format and videos in 5.1K at 50fps, 4K at 120fps.The higher video definition creates smoother footage and more generous cropping possibilities and allows for slow-motion video at 120fps.

Weighing just 12.5 grams, the 24mm equivalent autofocus prime lens has an 84° FOV to capture more details with sharp clarity. Mavic 3’s second camera features a 162mm tele lens with 28x Hybrid Zoom (digital + optical) and aperture of f/4.4 that can freely bring distant objects visually closer, offering the user more dynamic perspectives and creative possibilities at a distance. The new Vision Detection Auto Focus technology for quick focusing allows the Hasselblad camera to work with multiple vision sensors on board to capture distance data to optimize focusing speed.

The Mavic 3 Standard version retails for US$2,199 and includes Mavic 3 drone × 1, Intelligent Flight Battery × 1, RC-N1 Remote Controller × 1, RC-N1 Cable × 3, Battery Charger × 1, Storage Cover × 1, Propellers (pair) × 3, and other essential items. The DJI Mavic 3 Fly More Combo retails for US$2,999 and includes Mavic 3 drone × 1, Intelligent Flight Battery × 3, RC-N1 Remote Controller × 1, RC -N1 Cable × 3, Battery Charger × 1, Battery Charging Hub × 1, Storage Cover × 1, Propellers (pair) × 6, ND Filters Set (ND4\8\16\32), Convertible Carrying Bag × 1, and other essential items. The DJI Mavic 3 Cine Premium Combo retails for US$4,999.

(Photo: DJI)

AOPA survey finds older pilots experience negative treatment from insurance companies

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association recently conducted a survey of pilots and aircraft owners across the United States, confirming what the association has been hearing from many members for several years: Pilots above 70 years of age, who are just as safe, current, and proficient as any others, continue to find their insurance policies unceremoniously dropped or canceled, or much more expensive.

COPA Members can view COPA Flight’s August 2021 issue for an article by Steve Godfrey, who outlines this issue in Canada with solutions for those over 70 years of age.

The AOPA survey was sent to more than 30,000 pilots and aircraft owners. Findings from the survey include:

• Pilots older than 70 have flown an average of nearly 70 hours in the past year (compared to a recent survey of AOPA members that found more than half of pilots were flying less than 50 hours);
• Respondents who are 70 or older were no more likely to have been involved in an accident in the past five years than younger pilots;
• More than 75 per cent of the surveyed pilots over 70 have an instrument rating, compared to 66 per cent under 70; and
• More than 50 per cent of the surveyed pilots over 70 have an airline transport pilot or commercial certificate, compared to 40 percent under 70.

AOPA notes, that while insurance premiums have continued to rise and older pilots are finding it more challenging to stay covered or get a policy, the general aviation industry in the United States just experienced its safest year ever, marking a 29-per cent year-over-year improvement in the accident rate.

Medical incapacitation continues to be among the rarest of accident causes, explains AOPA, with older pilots being engaged and actively working to stay proficient – those age 55 and older comprise more than 40 per cent of the total viewership of AOPA Air Safety Institute YouTube safety videos.

“We have looked at this issue from many sides, including a review of accident and incident data, and for some reason, carriers are not renewing policies or are quoting exorbitant premiums, even for pilots with impeccable safety and health records,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “These decisions are being made solely based on some arbitrary age, which doesn’t make sense.”

(Photo: Adobestock)