AERLA making headlines

African pilot 1

African pilot 2 African pilot 1 BeeldAERLA is starting to make headlines in South African and African media. Here is a special feature on AERLA in the December edition of African Pilot Magazine, as well as some coverage in the South African newspaper the Beeld.

AERLA presents at International Aerospace Symposium of South Africa

Firsing IASSA

Firsing IASSA IASSAAERLA represented by Director Dr Scott Firsing was privileged to present at this years International Symposium of South Africa (IASSA) held on 24-25 November 2014 in Irene, South Africa.

IASSA 2014 was proudly convened by the Aeronautical Society of South Africa (AeSSA) and the Flight Test Society of South Africa (FTSSA) and incorporated the Technical Aerospace and Unmanned Systems Conference (TAUSC).

Every year, IASSA brings together the full spectrum of aerospace engineers, academics, researchers, students and industry leaders in South Africa and their international counterparts and provides a forum free of marketing presentations dedicated to the exchange of ideas and discussions of recent advances in aerospace engineering and related technologies from a scientific as well as an industrial applications point of view.

IASSA is the leading forum for the sharing of developments in aerospace technology and fostering networking and partnering.


AERLA signs agreement with world’s #1 aerospace university

Screen shot 2014-11-06 at 3.50.49 PM

Screen shot 2014-11-06 at 3.50.49 PMNovember 5, 2014

The Dual Enrollment Program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Worldwide is now offering online college courses to students attending the Aerospace Leadership Academy (AERLA) in South Africa. The two schools recently signed a formal agreement that allows academically qualified cadets from the South African high school to pursue entry-level courses through Embry-Riddle Worldwide’s dual enrollment program.

“Embry-Riddle Worldwide is committed to providing quality education,” said Dr. Mike Williams, Executive Director of Enrollment Services and Partnerships for Embry-Riddle Worldwide. “The dual enrollment program is just one example of our global commitment to the next generation of STEM scholars, practitioners and leaders. Working with AERLA opens the door to a wealth of educational opportunities in Africa.”

Located just outside Pretoria and Johannesburg, AERLA is focused on becoming the top aerospace-focused, American-curriculum university preparatory school that develops strong, knowledgeable leaders who will succeed in a global world.

“We are very excited about this relationship – which will enable our young cadets from Africa, the United States and beyond to experience world-class online education in fields that are vital to most countries’ development,” said AERLA Director Dr. Scott Firsing, who visited Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus in June.

Through its dual enrollment program, Embry-Riddle Worldwide is preparing tomorrow’s aviation/aerospace, science, technology, engineering and mathematics scholars, practitioners and leaders. With online and live, virtual classroom technologies, the university can deliver courses wherever an aviation/aerospace or STEM enthusiast may be.

AERLA students will have the opportunity to enroll in Embry-Riddle Worldwide dual enrollment classes such as Introduction to Engineering, Introduction to Computing for Engineers, Graphical Communications, Introduction to Space Flight and Explorations in Aviation/Aerospace Studies.

“Africa has a promising, emerging market with a large youth population,” Firsing said. “With AERLA and Embry-Riddle Worldwide working together, we can help develop top talent and leaders for industry’s future.”

AERLA Director Dr. Ken Baucom added, “I believe this is a fantastic opportunity for our cadets and the aerospace/aviation community in South Africa and Africa. We’re the first [school] in Africa having this … and we’re really fortunate and pleased to say that. We believe our cadets and the industry will benefit greatly from Embry-Riddle’s expansion.”

About Aerospace Leadership Academy
The Aerospace Leadership Academy (AERLA) is a private, American university-preparatory and co-ed military boarding high school based near Johannesburg/Pretoria, South Africa, that develops leadership and strong character through an air force model. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter (@AerospaceLeader) and

– See more at:

Visit AERLA on Saturday 25 October 2014

AERLA Open Day jpeg

AERLA Open Day jpegYou are invited to a special Open Day at the new Aerospace Leadership Academy (AERLA) in Hekpoort in the Magailesburg mountain range on Saturday 25 October 2014 from 0900-1500hrs. Come see and experience why AERLA is the right school for your high school child, and have some fun too!

Activities include:

¨Campus tours

¨Career and information sessions

¨Mountain hiking

¨Flying via our flight simulators

¨Witnessing 3D printing and drones in action

¨Table tennis/billiards

Light refreshments will be served on the day and we recommend bringing lunch and a picnic blanket.

Please RSVP to Dr Scott Firsing ( by 21 October 2014. Directions will be provided when you RSVP. For those coming by helicopter, the GPS coordinates are:

S 25°50’41.6” E 027°34’37.8”


AERLA at 8th AAD, 17-21 September 2014

scott having fun with kids

scott having fun with kidsScreen shot 2014-09-20 at 8.08.25 AMAERLA was present at the 8th Africa Aerospace and Defence Trade and Air Show, which took place at Waterkloof AFB in Centurion on 17-21 September 2014. AERLA displayed a small UAV and 3d printer and interacted with 1000s of learners from around South Africa and the world. 

Special AERLA Pre-AAD Youth Event, 15 September 2014

group kids photo pre

group kids photo premandla speaking pre

SA’s industry alive, opportunities exist but passion and change needed

A vibrant pre-Africa Aerospace and Defense (AAD) youth event took place on Monday 15 September 2014 with grade 7-12 learners and teachers engaging with a number of South Africa’s most brilliant and inspirational leaders.

The talk, hosted by the new military boarding high school the Aerospace Leadership Academy (AERLA) at the North American International School in Waterkloof Ridge, Pretoria was an important and necessary discussion leading up to the 8th AAD, where Africa once again has the opportunity to display to the world what they have to offer.

The event was opened by assessing some of the difficulties South Africa faces as a country and as a nation. AERLA Director Dr Scott Firsing proclaimed, “Africa is rising, but this rise is dependent upon key factors like the growing youth demographic and their education and skill set.”

“We all see the headlines about South Africa’s poor rankings in math and science education. We see the awful university dropout rates. This has to change and it has to change now,” Firsing said.

Afronaut Mandla Maseko, set to become the first black South African in space in 2015, shared Firsing’s sentiments and further expressed his frustrations about the mentality of some. “I was told that you get a job and get married and that is it…We need to change this mentality to you study, you work hard and you create jobs.”

Despite some of the acknowledged difficulties and challenges, the key message of the day was undoubtedly that this much-needed positive change is upon us.

“We have witnessed the most exciting year in South African history when it comes to aerospace and defence,” said Ichikowitz before telling the inspirational story of Paramount’s AHRLAC brought to life by a group of young engineers in their early 20s.

“I never studied maths and science, and I am sorry that I didn’t, but even I understood after walking around industry workshop floors that we had a serious problem. Everyone was over the age of 50,” Ichikowitz said talking about the early days of Paramount. Fast-forward to August 2014 and we see the same group of young, innovative South African engineers standing, watching the maiden flight of the AHRLAC, a plane most believed couldn’t be built.

Paramount is providing a number of avenues for young Africans to get involved in their expansion, as Ichikowitz is a firm believer that a country’s greatest asset is its people.

South African Women in Aviation and Aerospace (SAWIA)’s Fundi Sithebe, a black female aviator, spoke of her and SAWIA’s commitment to getting more women involved in aviation and aerospace. One of SAWIA’s flagship programmes is their annual Girl Fly Programme in Africa camp, which brings together young women to inform, motivate, connect and inspire.

Sithebe spoke of the high price tag if one personally pays for flight training, “but there are other avenues” through organisations like airlines and the South African military.

‘Opportunities’ was a common theme of the day. They do exist, but one needs to know where to look, and more importantly, one needs to seize them when they present themselves.

“I went two years with no job, not studying, and then the Axe Apollo competition came along…If something comes along your way you have to grab it,” said Afronaut Maseko set to become the first black South African in space in 2015.

Opportunities are out there and you need to seize them, but all agreed that one other key ingredient is needed…passion.

“Aerospace engineering is one of the smallest fields within the engineering realm. You don’t enter the field just because, you study aerospace engineering and become an aerospace engineer because you are passionate about aviation and the industry,” said Ichikowitz.

AERLA is looking for those young passionate individuals to enroll in the academy in order to be groomed as the leaders of tomorrow.

Firsing closed the event by thanking the companies, organisations and individuals like Paramount Group, SAWIA and Afronaut Maseko for supporting AERLA’s vision and working hand in hand with the Academy to provide the best possible education and opportunties for their students.

“Because of their support and that of others, we will be the top aviation and aerospace high school in the world. We will not accept anything less. We will be a conduit for change.”


All organisations mentioned above will be present at the 8th AAD taking place on 17-21 September at Waterkloof AFB. Please book your tickets at and bring along your passionate child[ren] to speak to the industry’s pioneers and leaders.



South African Air Force Siyandiza team visits AERLA


SAAF Siyandiza
SAAF TeamAERLA was proud to host the Siyandiza (we are flying) team of the South African Air Force (SAAF) on Wednesday 27 August 2014. They were given the full tour and discussions were had on how best our two organizations can work together to promote aviation and aerospace awareness and make a real difference in the country.

AERLA will be assisting in the week-long Young Falcons’ camp in October 2014, being held adjacent at SAAF’s AFB Swartkop. 100 pupils from around the country will swop school uniforms and home life for military overalls and the discipline of life in the air force barracks. These passionate young men and women will visit AERLA to learn about the future of air forces around the world including the growth in importance of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other technology like IT security. It won’t be all fun, as the Young Falcons will be performing drills and hiking up “Taba Africa,” AERLA’s mountain path.

Congrats to AERLA advisory board members


AHRLACA huge congratulations to two AERLA advisory board members Paul Potgieter Jnr and Ivor Ichikowitz on the successful maiden flight of Paramount Group’s Advanced High-Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft  (AHRLAC)!

Africa’s first wholly designed and built military aircraft, the AHRLAC reached a significant milestone with its maiden flight on 7 August 2014.

The initial prototype, or Experimental Demonstrator (XDM), will prove flight characteristics and test the aircraft’s performance. A second prototype under construction, the Advanced Demonstrator (ADM), will be used to test the AHRLAC’s mission and weapon systems, as well as its Martin-Baker Mk 17 ejection seat.

Conceived as an affordable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and light-strike platform to address the lower end of that growing market niche, the tandem twin-seat AHRLAC is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6a-66 950 hp pusher turboprop. It is designed to offer a payload with full fuel in excess of 800 kg and provide an endurance of more than 7.5 hours.

Since the launch of the AHRLAC project in September 2011 the Paramount team has spent 315,000 hours on the design and construction of the first prototype. Of the aircraft’s 6,000 parts, 98% were designed using sophisticated CATIA software and produced locally by the engineering team.

AHRLAC Holdings CEO Paul Potgieter, the project’s programme leader, told IHS Jane’s that pre-designing each part of the aircraft on computer enabled jig-less construction, saving both time and cost.

“We have made all the tools for production for all sheet metal pressings and composite parts so it enables us to hit production much quicker than other aircraft manufacturers,” he added.

The flight test aircraft, now based at Wonderboom Airport, north of Pretoria, was moved from the Centurion facility of Paramount subsidiary Aerosud, which has acted as the project’s technical subcontractor.

The AHRLAC’s initial 20-hour flight test programme will compare actual flight data with computer-generated data/models to ensure the aircraft is performing to expectations. A mobile flight test monitoring vehicle is positioned in the flight test area and the team has a Pilatus PC-12 ‘chase plane’ fitted with diagnostic equipment available at every test flight. Advanced flight testing will continue for the full lifecycle of the aircraft and will factor in specific customer requirements.

In addition to ISR and light-attack missions, the multirole AHRLAC’s innovative pod-based design opens up potential roles in disaster management, internal security, border control, maritime patrol, and environmental protection, said Paramount.

Paramount Group Executive Chairman Ivor Ichikowitz told IHS Jane’s: “Aerospace is vital for South Africa’s economy. This project is an excellent reflection of the capabilities of the country’s engineering fraternity. The incredible progress made by local engineers has put them at the forefront of global aerospace innovation and their joint expertise has turned them into pathfinders, who are proudly setting new milestones through continuous innovation.”

AERLA’s Dr Scott provides insight, US-Africa Leaders Summit

Firsing ENCA August 2014


Firsing ENCA August 2014AERLA Director Dr Scott Firsing was called upon by global media to provide insight into the recent US-Africa Summit held in Washington DC. Dr Firsing, an US-Africa specialist, completed his doctorate in international politics focusing on US-South Africa relations in the post apartheid era.

Below is some of the commentary provided, with most focusing on the political and security side of the relationship:

– Radio interview for RIA Novosti- African Leaders Showing ‘Bit of Backbone’ in Washington-

– Piece on US-Africa Leaders Summit for SAIIA (reprinted on, International Policy Digest and other websites)-

– Quoted by Al-jazeera-

– Commentary for Russia News- US Expanding Military Presence in Africa – Political Analyst-–Political-Analyst.html

AERLA to participate at AAD 2014, assists YDP

AAD logo

AAD logoAERLA is scheduled to participate in the 2014 African Aerospace and Defence (AAD) trade and air show. The 8th AAD will again take place at AFB Waterkloof, Centurion in the City of Tshwane, South Africa between 17 to 21 September 2014, and will bring together various industries from throughout the world.

AERLA will be on site for the full five days. The first three days of the exhibition are traditionally trade days, followed by two airshow days that are open to the public. AERLA will displaying the latest technology such as 3d printers and drones and staff will be available to answer any questions you may have.

Dr Scott Firsing, AERLA’s Director of Public Engagement, also serves of the Youth Development Programme (YDP) Committee of AAD. The AAD YDP is an integral part of the show in order to create awareness for career opportunities in the aerospace and defence industry. They also support socio-economic development objectives through promoting and improving results in STEM subjects at school. For any questions or to support the AAD YDP, please email