Skies’ Top 10 stories of 2020

AvatarBy Skies Magazine | December 30, 2020

Estimated reading time 12 minutes, 36 seconds.

As 2020 comes to a close, we thought we’d round up the 10 most popular articles on this year. Here’s a brief recap of each story, with links to the original articles (click on the titles). In the meantime, the Skies team would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year and blue skies for 2021 (we’ve certainly earned it)!

10. Pressurized piston cruiser

The M350 is the latest iteration in Piper’s successful PA-46 model line. Jim Barret/Piper Aircraft Photo
The M350 is the latest iteration in Piper’s successful PA-46 model line. Jim Barret/Piper Aircraft Photo

Piper’s M350 fares well against the competition, occupying its unique niche as the only new pressurized piston-engine aircraft on the market. Robert Erdos is a contributing editor for Skies magazine, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and a professional test pilot. Departing Ottawa under a clear blue sky he took the opportunity to sample the M350’s handling qualities.

9. The Next Generation: Diamond DA40 NG’s versatility leaves a strong impression

Diamond Aircraft’s DA40 NG combines the familiar DA40 airframe with the innovative Austro AE 300 diesel engine. Diamond Photo
Diamond Aircraft’s DA40 NG combines the familiar DA40 airframe with the innovative Austro AE 300 diesel engine. Diamond Photo

The Diamond DA40 has been a favourite of owners and pilots since it was introduced in 1997. Conrad Hatcher is a current corporate pilot, Class 1 flight instructor and pilot examiner. “I first saw it in the early 2000s and remember being impressed by its striking design, highlighted by its seemingly impossible curves. In a sea of Cessna 172s, Piper PA28s and Beechcraft Musketeers, it looked like a spaceship in comparison,” he said.

8. Canada bans 737 MAX operations

WestJet’s Boeing 737 MAX8 takes to the skies in the airline’s new livery. Scott McGeachy Photo

Transport Minister Marc Garneau banned Boeing 737 MAX operations in Canada following the release of new satellite tracking data on March 13. At the time, Diogenis Papiomytis, Frost & Sullivan’s global program director for commercial aviation, wrote that the impact of a worldwide grounding would be huge. He estimated the total impact on Boeing and its suppliers could amount to more than US$4 billion in 2019.

7. Operation recovery: Airlifting a CC-138 off the Arctic ice

A Sikorsky S-61N Mk II prepares to land beside the damaged RCAF CC-138 Twin Otter off the coast of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., on March 24, 2019. AB Justin Spinello Photo

How a small team of technicians and other specialists salvaged and airlifted a CC-138 off the Arctic ice in frigid conditions and, with expertise from industry, returned it to service. Though the military strives to be self-sufficient and will build capacity to overcome most obstacles, Operation Recovery was a textbook example of the collaborative role civilian partners can play.

6. Air Canada CEO says it’s time to travel safely

Air Canada president and CEO, Calin Rovinescu, said on June 11 that restoring consumer confidence in air travel is the primary driver impacting the sector’s recovery. Eric Dumigan Photo

As the world continued to battle COVID-19, Calin Rovinescu said the aviation industry must “work alongside the virus” to prevent economic devastation. Back in June 2019, Air Canada expected the third quarter (July 1 – Sept. 30) to yield 25 per cent of last year’s activity. “Restarting the aviation industry is not like reopening a pizzeria,” he asserted.

5. Saab proposes to build Gripen in Canada and strengthen aerospace innovation

The Gripen E is one of three options currently being considered by the Canadian government to replace the RCAF’s fleet of legacy CF-188 Hornets. Jamie Hunter Photo

Saab will build its Gripen E in Canada if the aircraft is selected as the Royal Canadian Air Force’s next-generation fighter jet. Micael Johansson, president of Saab said the fighter program could mean “generational economic benefits” for the aerospace sector.

4. Battle continues over cockpit voice recorder data of Flight AC 624

TSBC Photo
Luckily all passengers and crew members on board the aircraft survived the crash, but the A320 was a complete write-off. TSB Photo

Nearly five years after an Airbus A320-211 crashed at Halifax, the legal battle continues over whether cockpit voice recorder data should be released to both sides in a class-action lawsuit. Five crew members and 133 passengers were aboard AC 624 from Toronto on a non-precision approach at 12:30 a.m. on March 29, 2015. According to the TSB report, the aircraft “severed power lines, then struck the snow-covered ground about 740 feet before the runway threshold.”

3. Saab Gripen E: Dark horse

Saab Photo
Two of Saab’s three flying Gripen E test aircraft, 39-9 and 39-10. The test program of four aircraft has accumulated over 150 hours. Saab Photo

If you have been following the convoluted process of replacing Canada’s aging fleet of CF-188 fighter jets, the continued presence of the Saab Gripen E might seem puzzling in a competition that has seen both Dassault Aviation and Airbus Defence and Space withdraw their entrants. In a fighter procurement program that will be evaluated on capability, cost and economic return to Canada, Saab firmly believes it has a compelling offer to make.

2. Canada’s new TOPGUN reaches the pinnacle of fighter aviation

Capt Chris Swartz in the cockpit of an F/A-18E during his operational cruise aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Swartz Photo

Both the big Grumman F-14 Tomcat and TOPGUN itself achieved world notoriety thanks to the famous movie. TOPGUN represents the pinnacle of fighter aviation within the U.S. Navy, and a high achieving Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) aviator has just made history by graduating from this esteemed and challenging course. Capt Chris “LIME” Swartz graduated from the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) program, more popularly known as TOPGUN, on Nov. 24, 2020 — at the culmination of a gruelling syllabus that involves many hours of ground school and some of the most challenging live flying to be found anywhere on the planet.

1.Meet Jessica Traynor: Air Canada’s youngest female captain

Jessica Traynor is the youngest female captain in Air Canada’s 83-year history. Jessica Traynor Photo

Jessica Traynor earned the honour of becoming the youngest female captain in Air Canada’s 83-year history, working her way into the lead seat aboard the Airbus A320. It was a dream of hers to become a pilot after being exposed to the industry at a young age through her father, Randy Traynor, a captain on the De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 at Air Canada Jazz.

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