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Denel Aerostructures www.denelaerostructures.com


Denel Aerostructures At the African Aerospace and Defence Exhibition in September, Denel Aerostructures unveiled their newest project: the South African Regional Aircraft. We spoke to CEO Ismail Dockrat to find out more about this exciting endeavour.

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ituated at the heart of the Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis in the Gauteng Province, Denel Aerostructures is a recognised leader in the African aerospace industry. The company was established in 1964, and was the first on the continent to be NADCAPaccredited across multiple technology disciplines. After two years of debating what to do with its extensive design and development capabilities, Denel decided to deviate from its military theme and instead identified a national need for an efficient aircraft carrier for low-

density routes. As the economy of the continent improves, the demand for air travel has continued to grow. While some of this air travel is serviced by larger, longhaul aircraft, there is still a gap for an aircraft capable of linking the less-populated regional centres. “For smaller towns and cities with lower population density there has been a great demand for regional air travel, and for much smaller aircraft in areas where the volumes wouldn't justify a larger aircraft,” says CEO Ismail Dockrat. 2


The solution Denel proposes is the South African Regional Aircraft (SARA). The project is to be led by Denel, and has received significant support from the South African aerospace community, including industry associations, government departments and academics. While the project is still in its pre-development stage, a prototype is expected within the next ten years. “The evidence suggests that there are lots of these kinds of locations on the continent that would have a need for such an aircraft. For example, in the South African context, it's places like Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane and Nelspruit, specifically those kind of municipalities, that we'd be looking at for this kind of aircraft,” explains Dockrat. “We believe that we have a contribution to make towards connecting communities and 3

For smaller towns and cities with lower population density there has been a great demand for regional air travel, and for much smaller aircraft in areas where the volumes wouldn't justify a larger aircraft”

making it easier for people in urban centres to be able to travel point-to-point.” Using twenty-year-old technology, the current aircraft on the market are no longer economical or fuel-efficient. Very few of them are pressurised, meaning they are unable to fly above weather. The proposed SARA is to be pressurised, seat fifteen to twenty-four passengers in a four-abreast seating solution, and serve low-density routes.


As of yet, no considerations have been made for possible military uses. While it may seem problematic to design such a small passenger aircraft that is able to take off and land on the short airfields that currently exist in smaller regional centres, Denel seem confident that they are up for the challenge. “We've done quite phenomenal things in the past,” says Dockrat, speaking of Denel Aerostructures' involvement in the military side of the aerospace industry and the success of the Rooivalk helicopter, “but we haven't done something new in the last few years. It's important for us to have an exciting visionary programme to mobilise the engineering design and artisanal skills in our industry, one that will develop excitement for young engineers in the

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aerospace industry.” Stimulating the country's young aerospace engineers and technicians is a big focus for Denel, and arguably plays a significant role in their prominence in the African aerospace field industry. While many companies operating in South Africa have struggled with the skills shortage, Denel has its own solution. “We do a lot of things,” explains Dockrat. “We have a very strong engineering academy. We have the dedicated Denel Technical Academy, which brings aircraft technicians. I think we've shown we can make a contribution towards having the right skills.” Denel Technical Academy — an Aviation and Engineering apprenticeship training institute — is located in Gauteng, and was established over four decades ago


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to close the skills shortage within the aviation industry. “Sometimes it's a bit of a predicament. If you don't have exciting things going on, and you're lamenting the lack of skills, sometimes it's because you're not doing exciting things that you can create a passion for,” says Dockrat. “When you talk to young people about aviation, it's something that they can become passionate about, and it's something that can inspire them to want to be better at maths, better at science, and it gives young people the kind of insight that they need to pursue careers like engineering and technical engineering.”

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Using twenty-year-old technology, the current aircraft on the market are no longer economical or fuel-efficient. Very few of them are pressurised, meaning they are unable to fly above weather.

cargo holds of the giant aircraft that will be delivered to international clients over the next six years. Considering Denel's dedication to encouraging and educating young technicians and engineers, this high-activity period is unlikely to be anything but positive for the leading company in the African aerospace industry.

While SARA is expected to keep Denel Aerostructures busy for the next few years, the company will also be manufacturing ISO locks — a combination of cross-tracks and aluminium rails to be fitted into the

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Contact Details Denel Aerostructures Physical Address Astro Park Atlas Road Bonaero Park Kempton Park 1619 Gauteng, South Africa Postal Address: PO Box 11 Kempton Park 1620 South Africa Email: marketing@denelaero.co.za

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