Author Archives: Jon Robinson

Textron Aviation delivers 3,000th Cessna Caravan

Textron Aviation on January 13 announced it has delivered a Cessna Grand Caravan EX to Brazilian aviation company Azul Conecta, a subsidiary of Azul Airlines based at the airport of Jundiai in São Paulo.

This aircraft represents the 3,000th Cessna Caravan family turboprop delivered worldwide. Azul Conecta transports travelers from smaller cities and remote locations throughout Brazil. Textron Aviation employees and representatives from Azul Conecta celebrated this significant milestone with a special delivery ceremony at Textron Aviation’s location in Independence, Kansas.

“The Cessna Caravan’s versatility and reliability have made it the most popular aircraft in the utility turboprop category, with now 3,000 delivered globally,” said Lannie O’Bannion, senior vice president of Sales and Flight Operations at Textron Aviation.

Conceived as a rugged utility aircraft with low operating costs, the Caravan was designed for use in remote areas with extreme weather changes, mountainous terrain and rough landing conditions. The aircraft’s versatility became renowned in all corners of the world, and the Caravan continues to see wide use in global markets by a variety of customers, including government agencies, law enforcement and militaries, air ambulance operators, freight haulers, corporations and humanitarian organizations.

“This Grand Caravan EX will proudly fly the Brazilian skies and connect our 158 destinations, many of which are made possible by the aircraft’s utility and flexibility,” said Flavio Costa, chief technical officer of Azul and president of Azul Conecta. “As a longtime Textron Aviation customer with a fleet of over 25 Cessna aircraft, we are happy to be a part of this important milestone.”

Customers can choose between four models of the Cessna Caravan aircraft, including: the Caravan 208, the Grand Caravan EX 208B, the Caravan Amphibian and the Grand Caravan EX Amphibian.

Cessna Caravan program milestones
1981 – Cessna launched the Caravan program
1982 – First flight of Caravan 208 prototype
1984 – Caravan 208 received FAA type certification
1985 – Cessna began deliveries of the Caravan 208
1985 – Caravan 208 approved for amphibious floats
1986 – Caravan 208B Super Cargomaster, stretched by four feet in a freight specific configuration, received FAA type certification
1990 – First production Grand Caravan 208B delivered
1998 – Delivery of 1,000th production Caravan 208
1998 – Cessna began deliveries of the new standard Caravan 208, a Caravan 208 that features a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-114A engine rated at 675 shaft horsepower
2002 – Delivery of 1,000th Grand Caravan 208B
2005 – Delivery of 1,500th production Cessna 208
2008 – Garmin G1000 becomes standard avionics equipment
2008 – TKS ice protection offered
2013 – Cessna began deliveries of Grand Caravan EX 208B, featuring a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-140 engine rated at 867 shaft horsepower
2017 – G1000 NXi becomes standard on Caravan and Grand Caravan EX
2022 – 3,000th Caravan, a Grand Caravan EX, delivered to Azul Conecta

(Photo: Textron Aviation)

NASA crash tests eVTOL concept

The RVLT Lift+Cruise Model rests on the ground after suffering a devastating crash. Tests like these enable researchers to understand how a vehicle’s structure reacts to a crash.
(Photo: NASA, Dave Bowman)

NASA researchers recently completed a full-scale crash test of an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) concept vehicle at the Landing and Impact Research (LandIR) facility at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

The eVTOL was a ‘Lift+Cruise’ test article developed by the Revolutionary Vertical Left Technology (RVLT) project in another effort for NASA to advance research for the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) mission.

NASA explains its vision for AAM is to help emerging aviation markets safely develop an air transportation system that moves people and cargo between places previously not served or underserved by aviation. Understanding how these future aircraft may act in a crash scenario is another key point of research.

Hoisted into the air, then released with pyrotechnic cutters, the model swung forward and down back to the Earth with a loud crash.

“The test was a great success for the crash-worthiness team at Langley,” said Justin Littell, research assistant for Langley’s Structural Dynamics Branch. “We successfully tested the eVTOL vehicle concept representing a six-passenger, high wing, overhead mass, multiple rotor vehicle, obtaining more than 200 channels of data, and collecting over 20 onboard and off-board camera views.”

A variety of experiments were included on the test article. These experiments included several seat configurations including a NASA energy absorbing concept, various sizes of crash test dummies to study the effects of the crash loads on all sizes of occupants, and a modular NASA-developed energy-absorbing composite subfloor.

“While we are still going through the data and video, and these results are preliminary, we see that there are two main events that occurred during this test,” said Littell.

The first event was the floor crushing and seat stroking. The subfloor and energy absorbing seats functioned as intended and limited the effect of the impact on the crash test dummies.

The second was the collapse of the overhead structure. The effect of the overhead structure collapse on the crash test dummies is still being determined.

For this test, an overhead-mass was designed to represent the wing structure, rotor and battery. The decision was made to assume that all the weight of the overhead structure was over the cabin. There are many other overhead-mass configurations which may behave differently in a crash.

“When looking at crash conditions for these types of vehicles, it’s important to note the structural weight and distribution that must be made when examining a specific design,” said Littell.


Canada finalizes deal to purchase 88 F-35 fighter jets

Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence on January 9 announced that Canada has finalized an agreement with the United States government and Lockheed Martin with Pratt & Whitney for the acquisition of F-35 fighter jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

As outlined in its generational Strong, Secure, Engaged defence policy, the Government of Canada was committed to purchase 88 new fighter jets to replace its ageing CF-18 Hornet fleet.

“In today’s complex global environment, Canada requires a military that is flexible, agile and capable of responding to a variety of unforeseen situations,” said Anand. “We are committed to ensuring that our current and future aviators have the most advanced equipment possible to do just that.”

The estimated investment for the purchase of 88 F-35s is $19 billion, which includes associated equipment, sustainment set-up and services, as well as the construction of Fighter Squadron Facilities in Bagotville and Cold Lake. Each plane will cost approximately US$85 million each.

The first deliveries of Canada’s F-35s aircraft are anticipated to begin in 2026. The government anticipates it will reach Full Operational Capability for the entire fleet between 2032 and 2034.

The federal government states the acquisition and initial sustainment of the F-35 project has the potential to contribute over $425 million annually to Canada’s gross domestic product and close to 3,300 jobs annually for Canadian industry and value chain partners over a 25-year period (direct and indirect).

(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

TSB releases report on 2021 helicopter accident near Les Escoumins

Map showing the occurrence helicopter’s track based on data from the GPS (Image: Google Earth, with TSB annotations)

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada on January 10 released its investigation report (A21Q0024) into a 2021 accident involving an Airbus AS350 B2 helicopter registered to Héli-Express Inc. near Les Escoumins, Quebec.

On May 11, 2021, two Héli-Express helicopters were scheduled to carry workers and equipment to a work area at a Hydro-Québec transmission line near Les Escoumins. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) explains the occurrence pilot was notified that a work platform was ready to be transported from the staging area to the team waiting for it.

(Photo: TSB, Sûreté du Québec)

Shortly after taking off with the platform hanging directly from the cargo hook mounted on the belly of the helicopter, TSB explains the pilot was notified that it was swinging, as had happened on previous flights. The pilot heard a loud noise and released the platform, according to the TSB report, with the pilot subsequently experiencing great difficulty controlling the helicopter’s descent as it landed hard in an upright position on rugged terrain. The pilot was taken to a hospital with serious injuries.

The TSB investigation found that the pilot expected the platform to stabilize as the helicopter accelerated, but it continued to oscillate and struck the tail boom. Analyses by TSB showed that one of the tail rotor blades came into contact with the platform immediately after it was released, tearing out the tail rotor and gearbox in flight without the pilot’s knowledge, and resulting in a yaw (turn) to the left.

The pilot attempted to reduce speed and descend as low as possible, explains TSB, before shutting off the engine to stop the turn. TSB explains when the power was cut, however, the helicopter was likely at a height that could not sufficiently dampen the unpowered descent, resulting in substantial damage to the helicopter and injuries to the pilot during the hard landing.

In its report, TSB states the fixed deadlines at the work site and the potential contractual consequences of not meeting them put time pressure on the site workers and indirectly on the pilots. To save time, TSB notes the pilots opted to transport some external loads without a sling. TSB concludes that given that the risks associated with transporting a light load without a sling were not fully understood by the pilots and the operations manager, and given that no concerns were raised, the pilot concluded that the platform could be safely carried horizontally without a sling.

CubCrafters acquires Summit Aircraft Skis

A Summit Ski equipped Carbon Cub FX-3 explores the wintertime backcountry in Washington State (Photo: CubCrafters)

CubCrafters, the manufacturer of light-sport and experimental aircraft, acquired Summit Aircraft Skis, including the company’s design and manufacturing assets, patents and related intellectual property, from the Summit Aircraft Corporation of Sandpoint, Idaho.

CubCrafters states Summit Aircraft Skis are favoured by Carbon Cub aircraft owners and owners of non-CubCrafters manufactured backcountry capable aircraft.

“We are very excited and pleased to welcome Summit’s customers and products into our family here in Yakima,” said Patrick Horgan, CubCrafters President and CEO. “It has been a joy for our team to work together with Mike Custard, Summit’s founder, to coordinate a smooth ski manufacturing transition.”

Manufacturing of skis has already begun in Yakima and going forward Summit Skis will continue to be available on both CubCrafters aircraft and competing aircraft from other manufacturers.

“Summit Skis, when combined with the outstanding wintertime defrost and cabin heater technology used on our FX-3 model, makes that aircraft the ultimate ski airplane,” said Brad Damm, CubCrafters’ vice president. “The acquisition is part of an ambitious growth and business development strategy that has been supported by the outstanding early success of our recently announced public stock offering.”

Horizon completes hover test of Cavorite X5 prototype

Horizon Aircraft on January 4 announced it has completed initial hover testing of its Cavorite X5 scale prototype, a hybrid electric Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

“This aircraft has exceeded expectations during initial hover testing,” said Brandon Robinson, CEO of Horizon Aircraft. “It is extremely stable, is capable of full hover at only 65 per cent power, and has hovered with 20 per cent of its fans purposely disabled in order to test system redundancy.”

Robinson continues to explain the Cavorite X5 prototype is a large-scale eVTOL aircraft, with a 22-foot wingspan, measuring more than 15 feet in length, and capable of speeds over 175 mph. “It continues to yield valuable data that is constantly improving our full-scale design,” he said.

Horizon explains its patented eVTOL concept allows the aircraft to fly 98 per cent of its mission in a very low-drag configuration like a traditional aircraft and is one of the only eVTOL aircraft currently able to do so. The company continues to explain that flying most of the mission as a normal aircraft is safer, more efficient, and will be easier to certify than radical new eVTOL designs.

Horizon’s full-scale aircraft will be powered by a hybrid electric system that can recharge the battery array in-flight while providing additional system redundancy.

Co-founded by CEO Brandon Robinson and Chief Engineer Brian Robinson, with its primary production facility located in Lindsay, Ontario, Horizon Aircraft plans to move to transition flight testing in the first quarter of 2023 at the ACE Climatic Wind Tunnel located near Toronto.

(Photos: Horizon Aircraft)

Alberta Air Tours 2022 year in review

— Provided by the Alberta Air Tours Committee

The year 2022 brought tremendous change and learning for the Alberta Air Tours. With the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic fading, we saw more pilots and members of the public than ever coming to the tour stops.

We kicked off our 2022 event schedule with our North Tour, starting in Lloydminster, where we were treated to a pancake breakfast thanks to the 186 RCAC Squadron. We estimated that more than 300 locals attended, with our registration filled with 40 aircraft (including a handful of light twins and homebuilt aircraft). From Lloydminster, Alberta Air Tours (AAT) visited St. Paul, with a huge community celebration including food kiosks, a jumpy tent and a Farmer’s Market. After basking in the afternoon sun (many of us leaving with sunburns), we left for Cold Lake. It was undoubtedly a unique opportunity to fly over CFB Cold Lake as we descended for Cold Lake Regional.

Due to weather concerns, the format of the South Tour had to change. While we did not have the coordinated cross-country that our tours usually do, we had two exceptional stops in Medicine Hat and Claresholm. COPA Flight 171 in Medicine Hat organized a pancake breakfast making for a fantastic morning of aviation. Claresholm hosted a barbecue-style lunch with displays from the local burnout club, Claresholm Fire, M.D. of Willow Creek Bylaw Enforcement, and the Claresholm RCMP. Due to incoming weather, the stop at Claresholm was cut short. Even with the adversities of Southern Alberta weather, the locals came out to see what the AAT is all about.

This year, the AAT Committee has experienced much growth, with the introduction of three new committee members, being granted approval as COPA Flight 220, and seeking societal status through the Government of Alberta.

Looking forward to 2023, we have three tours in the works, including an overnight trip to Grande Prairie to kick off Canada Day with plans to fly by several towns culminating in Slave Lake where many events are being planned.

We cannot thank you enough for your continued support as we learn and develop as an organization, and we hope to see you in 2023.

Traffic up at Thunder Bay Airport amid renovations

Work on Thunder Bay International Airport’s main runway continued into the evenings as crews tried to make the most of each day. (Photo: The Chronicle-Journal, Thunder Bay International Airport)

— Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

Thunder Bay International Airport has emerged after enduring the COVID pandemic, major infrastructure undertakings and this year’s summer passenger crisis at Pearson International Airport.

Work on the $20.4 million rehabilitation project for the main runway 725 was completed on budget two weeks ahead of schedule. Construction began May 16 for the remediation of all surfaces, storm sewers and lighting. The work was done by four local and two out-of-city contractors throughout the summer.

Airport president and chief executive officer Ed Schmidtke says the runway project was the largest scaled construction project the Airport Authority has ever undertaken and is a feat in itself, and by far their most significant achievement of 2022.

“There were many, many aspects to that job that were beyond the runway itself,” said Schmidtke. “It included replacement approach lighting, replacement of subsurface drainage and safety areas to provide a fortified ground for an aircraft should it run off the end of the runway.”

To date, Schmidtke says the airport has not “ramped up” to pre-pandemic passenger volumes and suggested they will finish 2022 at somewhere between 70 to 75 per cent volume.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We expect about the same for quarter one of 2023. But in talking with our air carrier clients, we’re very optimistic about what the summer of 2023 is going to look like for service and options for Thunder Bay.

Schmidtke added that they entered 2022 with a wave of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 that reduced travel for much of the first quarter of the year.

“We didn’t lose any services, but all the carriers are still determining the best way for their own businesses to recover from COVID,” he said.

“The services don’t look exactly the same as they did prior (to the pandemic) and we’ll see some volatility in the amount of service and timing of services through most of 2023 as they get their plans right going forward. . . . We’re looking forward to 2023 because we’re not entering the new year with Omicron or any other variants dominating our public health concerns.”

Schmidtke acknowledged that travellers at the Thunder Bay International Airport weren’t immune to the delays and cancellations caused by labour shortages and a huge influx of post-pandemic travellers at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport this year.

Looking to 2023, Thunder Bay International Airport benefits from the regularly scheduled service of seven different carriers. With the return of the Sunwing seasonal airline in the new year, there will be a collective of eight airlines flying into Thunder Bay. Due to the pandemic, there was no local Sunwing carrier service throughout the year.

Schmidtke says they are also excited about the return of Flair Airlines.

“They’ve already published a schedule that will see daily trips to Toronto over the summer months and they will introduce service to Ottawa. So that’s already a really good start given that we’re not even in 2023 yet,” he said.

In the new year, Schmidtke says they will be spending a fair amount of time and effort on improving the energy efficiency inside their buildings.

“We’re still going to have a small amount of construction work that’s going to be completed in 2023,” he said. “On the runway work, we got about 97 per cent complete.”

Regular discussions with carriers will continue to maximize the options available to Thunder Bay by the summer of 2023.

As for the looming possibility of a recession, Schmidtke says recessions affect discretionary spending.

“And to that extent that people consider air travel discretionary, we are concerned about that.”

Diamond DA50 RG wins German Design Award

Diamond Aircraft’s all carbon fibre DA50 RG aircraft has been recognized in one of the world’s leading industrial design competitions in the category Excellent Product Design in Aviation, Maritime and Railway. Organized by the German Design Council, the German Design Awards were founded in 2012 to recognize trends in product design, communication design and architecture.

The German Design Award jury stated: “The single-engine DA50 RG light aircraft sets standards in this segment in terms of performance, functionality, efficiency and luxury comfort. At the same time, it impresses with a striking design language that makes it unmistakable.”

The five-seat DA50 RG, powered by the FADEC controlled 300hp Continental CD-300 jet-fuel engine, features Garmin G1000 NXi avionics, retractable gear and boasts one of the largest luxury cabins in its class.

“We are thrilled to have been granted the German Design Award Winner 2023 for our unparalleled DA50 RG and are overwhelmed by the number of accolades the DA50 RG has received. This is one great early Christmas present for the entire Diamond Aircraft Family,” said Liqun Zhang, CEO, Diamond Aircraft Industries. “Since introduction this aircraft has sparked so much interest all over the world and everyone who flies it is excited about the comfortable roomy cabin, the superb workmanship and the fantastic flight characteristics.”

The DA50 RG is currently produced in Austria, but the aircraft maker has tentative plans to gear up its Diamond North America facility in London, Ontario, for the final assembly of DA50 RG kits for customers in North America. There is currently a DA50 in London operating on an experimental type certificate for market research.

The DA50 RG in September 2020 earned its basic Type Certification from EASA and Diamond projects FAA validation will be received this spring, which is expected to be closely followed by Transport Canada approval.

(Photo: Diamond Aircraft)

Chesterfield Inlet in ‘urgent need’ of new airport terminal building

— By Stewart Burnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kivalliq News (Photo: Alexander Sammurtok)

Chesterfield Inlet is in urgent need of a new airport terminal building, reported Rankin Inlet North–Chesterfield Inlet MLA Alexander Sammurtok in the legislative assembly this past fall sitting on Nov. 2.

He tabled photographs showing the poor condition of the building.

“Although the legislative assembly has previously approved millions of dollars in funding towards this project, the government has cancelled a number of tenders because of high bids,” he said. “Can the minister confirm when a new tender for the Chesterfield Inlet airport terminal building project will be issued?”

Minister of Economic Development and Transportation David Akeeagok responded that his department would continue working on this project, but he wasn’t sure when there would be a third tender for it.

This past spring, Sammurtok tabled a letter from the mayor of Chesterfield Inlet, who was requesting that the government issue a standalone tender for the airport terminal building rather than bundling it with tenders for other projects. Sammurtok asked Akeeagok if he would agree to that request.

“When we get to that stage where we are tendering, that’s when the decision is going to be made,” replied Akeeagok. “If we’re in the Kivalliq, if we have those three projects doing the exact thing, it makes sense to try to tender them together. That is something that we tried; we tried it with all five, and then we tried with the three, and now we are left of what do we do. That portion and the discussions that we are having with Transport Canada are still there. So once we get to that stage then I’ll be able to know which way the tenders are going to go for these five air terminal projects.”

Aivilik MLA Solomon Malliki was on a similar track when he asked Akeeagok whether there would be a new tender for the Naujaat airport terminal project.

“The three communities – Naujaat, Chesterfield Inlet and Whale Cove – are bundled together and the tender is not currently open,” replied Akeeagok through interpretation. “We will reopen it.”

The tendering process has been dragging on for close to two years. In 2020, the GN earmarked $30 million for the five airports — Kugluktuk and Kimmirut being the other two — with the funding coming from the Government of Canada’s National Trade Corridors Fund. However, no successful bids emerged.

As of Dec. 14, the government issued a new tender for the airport terminal work, bundling Chesterfield Inlet, Whale Cove and Naujaat together.