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Monthly Archives: February 2022

A Flying Start for Norwich Students

This summer students at the Norwich International Aviation Academy (IAA) will be among the first in the country to learn about electric flight. At Norwich Airport, they will get the chance to build the first ever British electric light aircraft.
The plane will be based on a prototype which has been built by NUNCATS, at their base at Old Buckenham Airfield, where it is being prepared now for test flights.

The project is a new partnership: NUNCATS provide the design and specialist support; the IAA at Norwich City College will provide the students; and NORSE and Saxon Air Flight Support will provide workshop and airside space for building and testing at the airport.
The project is the idea of Tim Bridge, a founder, and Engineering Director of NUNCATS, who said:

“This is a great step forward for sustainable, economical electric flight, as well as for the careers of the students. In the longer term we hope programs like this will allow many more affordable light aircraft to be built in the UK and around the world.”

Norse Group Aviation Academy Manager, Alan Rampling, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for students to get hands on experience, assembling, functionally testing, and witnessing their aircraft being flight tested. This zero-emissions aircraft project has already been a catalyst in bringing local aviation expertise to the academy. The aim will be to development a ‘centre of excellence’ in electric aircraft training, ensuring the region is at the forefront of green technology in aviation’.”

Alex Durand, SaxonAir CEO comments:

“We’re delighted to support an initiative which electrifies aviation as well as aircraft engineering careers”.

Saxon Air are also planning to instal a solar powered charging station at Norwich Airport, based on the system already operating at Old Buckenham. This will allow the aircraft to charge independently of the electricity grid, using only solar energy. NUNCATS are developing similar charging stations around the country to allow longer flights.

There is worldwide interest in low carbon flight, and a range of firms are experimenting with electric aircraft. But most focus on expensive, high-end designs. The NUNCATS plane is different: designed to be cheap and simple, for use by aid agencies in the developing world and by hobby flyers.

The company’s name explains its principles – No Unnecessary Novelty Community Air Transport System (NUNCATS). Rather than design something entirely new and untried, they are putting together a set of components – a kit form airframe, electric motor, batteries, and charging equipment – all of them already in use for other purposes. This speeds development time and reduces costs. As a Community Interest Company, they will plough back all profits into development and keeping the price down for aid agencies, and medical and rescue agencies in the developing world.

The International Aviation Academy trains young engineers to work on conventional big commercial aircraft. But electric power is likely to play a major part in aviation in the future. This project, a British first, gives young people in Norfolk a chance to start their careers, not only building a real plane, but to get in on the ground of the technology of the future.

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SaxonAir Adds to Business Jet and Helicopter Charter Fleet

Focuses on green initiatives

SaxonAir, the Norwich and London-based air charter operator, has ushered in 2022 welcoming four light business jets – two new on the UK G-register and a permanent London Biggin Hill Airport presence, supported by Sovereign Business Jets. In December it ordered a new Leonardo AW109SP Grand New helicopter, via UK distributor Sloane Helicopters, complementing three new AW119s, the first of its type to be registered in the UK when it joined SaxonAir’s rotary fleet last April.

“We are very pleased with these achievements,” reflects Alex Durand, CEO, who 12 months ago questioned whether independent, smaller UK charter companies would be negatively impacted as they grappled with restrictions and burdensome administration thanks to Brexit. “A year on we have got through it and emerged with renewed vigour,” he said.

By way of celebration the company brought its latest charter fleet – including a Learjet 45 (G-OSRL), Learjet 40 (G-UXLA); Learjet 75 (G-USHA) and Cessna Citation CJ1 (G-COBN), plus one of two Embraer Phenom 300s (G-KRBN) to Biggin Hill Airport on 1st February to showcase to charter brokers and industry guests.

“Brexit may have been challenging, but the pandemic also saw business aviation emerge as hero – getting people home when the airlines stopped, enabling commerce to continue. We can confidently write our own narrative now,” Alex added.

The resilience of the sector was especially evident in the light jet sector, where SaxonAir is active. This category has seen the biggest growth in charter, up 30% from the pre-pandemic winter period and bolstered by newcomers to business aviation.

Greening up

These past 12 months SaxonAir has explored ways to reduce its carbon footprint, with the environment front and centre on everyone’s agenda. “It makes me proud, as deputy chair of the British Business General Aviation Association, that GA is leading the way in the electrification of aircraft,” Alex added.

In 2021 SaxonAir embarked on a rigorous programme to upgrade (and make greener) its Klyne Business Aviation Centre HQ at Norwich Airport, including introducing electric car charging points and a lift-sharing scheme for its 50-plus employees. It teamed with emissions partner Gone West to plant trees in the UK for every business jet and helicopter flight operated.

This initiative helped at-risk youths engaged to work as tree planters through Gone West’s Acorns to Oaks programme, in partnership with The Prince’s Trust. “With the help of Gone West we know how many trees to need to plan to offset our carbon emissions,” said Alex.

SaxonAir also endorses NEBO Air. Based in Beccles, Suffolk, it has ambitions to be the world’s first sustainable, cost-effective micro ‘airline’ with zero CO2 emissions using the newly UK certificated all-electric Pipistrel Velis aircraft. Sergei Gratchev, NEBO Air’s Founder highlights that airfields across the UK and Europe are “sending letters of intent wishing to join the project and enhance our network.” This builds momentum to create a web of electric aircraft charging facilities throughout the UK and beyond.

Improving security through AvioNexus

SaxonAir has also focused on how advances in digital technology could enhance its business and maximise security. This led to an investment in Make Tech Fly’s signature product AvioNexus (a Software as a Service Saas) web application. Now used regularly by SaxonAir’s flight department – fixed wing and helicopters – AvioNexus enables all parties in the flight management process (working off mobile devices or desktops) to communicate via the platform. SaxonAir benefits from real time updates and data exchange. Employing bank level cybersecurity, it manages every aspect of the trip – including selected catering, the uploading of passenger information and parking requests at FBOs. AvioNexus handles all the security pre FBO visits, including photo ID.

AvioNexus was developed by Managing Director Andrew Douglas, responding to a lack of software with such services. Andrew has worked at the sharp end of business aviation for 15 years with Air Advantage and Pretium Jet Charter. The system focuses on three core values – Security, Simplicity and Visibility. Developed in 2020 by a team of coders and designers in Scotland, subscriptions to the software are offered on a monthly basis for users and/or an annual subscription.

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