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A340 limit at Bogota averted worse windshear incident

Air France restrictions on Airbus A340 take-off runs from Bogota prevented a serious windshear departure incident from potentially becoming even more hazardous, investigators have disclosed.

French investigation authority BEA says an A340-300 (F-GLZO), departing Bogota’s runway 13R on 18 August 2017, encountered windshear on rotation after a headwind of 11kt rapidly switched to a tailwind of 12kt.

This tailwind increased to 25kt as the aircraft lifted off, causing the airspeed to decline from 138kt to 128kt – some 13kt below the lowest selectable speed, potentially exposing the aircraft to a stall. The A340 also experienced a downdraught of about 5kt.

Despite maintaining nose-up pitch of 13°, the aircraft remained at a height of just 5ft, and an automated windshear warning sounded.

The crew kept the thrust at the maximum take-off setting and the configuration unchanged – as required by the windshear checklist – and the aircraft’s angle-of-attack increased until the automatic stall-prevention system activated, remaining engaged for 4s.

BEA

BEA says the tailwind then started to decrease and the aircraft’s airspeed and climb rate increased. The A340 overflew the threshold at 58ft – above the 35ft necessitated by regulations – and it also maintained sufficient margin above obstacles. The windshear warning stopped 21s after lift-off, at 193ft, and the aircraft proceeded to Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Air France had previously introduced an artificial shortening of the runway at Bogota in the aftermath of a prolonged take-off roll of a sister A340-300 (F-GLZU) which, in March 2017, lifted off just 140m from the opposite-direction threshold.

BEA says this shortening, which limited the take-off weight of the type, potentially prevented a worse outcome from the windshear incident.

“Without this precautionary measure, the weight of the aircraft could have been greater,” it states, pointing out that the aircraft would then have been late reaching rotation speed if the windshear had occurred after the V1 decision speed.

While BEA’s analysis could not determine the additional distance that would have been required to reach rotation speed in such circumstances, the inquiry says: “Not being able to reach [rotation speed] before the end of the runway could have represented one of the undesired events for this serious incident if the precautionary measure had not been in force.

“This measure taken by [Air France] to reduce the risk of a long take-off therefore also reduced the risks associated with windshear at take-off.”

BEA says the weight restriction had forced the crew to wait for a fall in outside air temperature to 15C in order to carry out the flight will all the planned payload, and the A340 also experienced a substantial wait of 24min at the holding point for runway 13R after the pilots informed tower controllers that they could not take off during a storm.

During the wait the controllers communicated with two departing Avianca flights. Both reported rain at the end of the runway but the Air France crew was unable to follow these transmissions because they were conducted in Spanish.

With no detection of windshear, says BEA, the crew was relying on air traffic controller information to assess the risk during take-off. Controllers had wind data at the four runway thresholds but this information – the only hint of possible windshear – was not given to the crew during the take-off clearance.

“Once the aircraft had entered the windshear…the crew had little means available to them to restore safety margins and could only act on the aircraft’s pitch to prevent both stalling and collision with the ground or obstacles,” states the inquiry.

This means measures to reduce the risk associated with windshear primarily take place before any such encounter.

Air France published an internal directive, six days after the incident, requiring Bogota crews to ask the controller for threshold wind conditions and to take into account the most unfavourable wind before take-off. The carrier’s pilots also have the wind measurements at the four thresholds available via electronic flightbag.


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Aer Lingus revealed as customer for two more A330s

Aer Lingus has emerged as a customer for two more Airbus A330-300s, analysis of the airframer’s latest backlog figures has revealed.

Two A330-300s were ordered in December last year but allocated to an undisclosed customer.

Aer Lingus’s confirmed A330-300s orders totalled nine aircraft – all of which had been delivered – at the end of October this year.

But the IAG-owned Irish carrier’s total A330-300 agreement has since risen to 11 of the type, according to Airbus’s latest backlog figures.

Airbus no longer lists the two undisclosed A330-300s which had previously featured in its order totals.

Aer Lingus took delivery of another of the type on 29 November, bringing the number in its fleet to 10. Its A330s are fitted with General Electric CF6 powerplants.

Towards the end of last year the Irish airline had signalled that its long-haul fleet plan would focus on bringing in additional A330s, and particularly the -300 variant.


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SAS to switch Tokyo services to Haneda

Scandinavia’s SAS is to axe its service to Tokyo Narita from Copenhagen, in favour of shifting the flight to the Japanese capital’s Haneda airport.

SAS says the new Haneda route will commence in time for the summer 2020 season.

It will use Airbus A350-900s – the first of which has been newly-delivered to the carrier – for the service.

The airline insists the change will give passengers “better access” to downtown Tokyo, and provide greater connectivity to Japan through its Star Alliance partner All Nippon Airways.

SAS says it will drop the Copenhagen-Narita route, served by A340-300s, in order to make the switch.

The change will take place before the Olympic Games in Tokyo scheduled to begin in July next year.

Chief executive Rickard Gustafson says the new service will offer an “attractive timetable” and provide a “positive boost” for SAS customers.

Oneworld carrier Finnair, which operates to Narita, is similarly opening services to Haneda next year but will maintain the Narita connection.


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Philippine Airlines to add Perth service next year

Philippine Airlines will launch a four times weekly service between Manila and Perth in Western Australia in March.

This will be served by an Airbus A321neo with 168 seats, including 12 fully flat business class seats.

Cirium schedules data shows that Cebu Air and Qantas also fly between the Philippines and Australia. Passengers can connect from Manilla to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, all on Australia’s east coast.

The new route is one of Perth’s fastest growing sector, says Perth Airport chief executive Kevin Brown, and will add 70,000 seats annually to the market.

“We experienced a growth of 15% in the market this year, meaning 90,000 passengers travelled between Perth and the Philippines in 2019. Around 40% of that was visitors coming to Perth and Western Australia,” he says.

The number of Filipino students studying in Perth has also increased by more than 90% this year, the airport says.

In the background, Perth airport is undertaking a A$2.5 billion ($1.7 billion) investment programme over the next decade that includes plans for a new parallel runway.

Additional reporting by Simin Ngai


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Procuring services for the business aviation industry

Miles Bailey is director of sales and customer service for UK-based SmartFly, a global procurement agency for business aviation that seeks out the best deals for clients and helps them boost efficiency

How did you get into the aviation industry?

Aviation has been my life since I graduated in 2006. I studied Aviation Technology with Pilot Training at Leeds University, which set me up for the variety of roles I’ve held over the last 13 years. Although you’re now more likely to find me behind a desk than in a cockpit, flying is in my bones – at the weekends, you’ll find me at Bicester Gliding Centre, where I’m a volunteer tug pilot and instructor.

How has your career progressed?

I started out as a cadet pilot with West Atlantic Cargo, but decided I preferred working directly with customers to piloting. So I joined Bookajet, a busy brokerage based at Farnborough airport, tasked with managing flight requirements using a network of partners. From there, I held various roles in sales, business development and supply chain management at Gama Aviation, MoonJet Flight Support and Aviaa. I joined SmartFly at its inception earlier this year.

What are the highlights?

I’ve been fortunate to work with fantastic people and teams throughout my career. All the opportunities I have engaged with have been on the recommendation of others – which serves only to reinforce the vital importance of networking and maintaining personal relationships.

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SmartFly

What is SmartFly and how does it work?

SmartFly was originally formed as the outsourced procurement partner for the Luxaviation Group. Luxaviation was running procurement across 14 air operator certificates and realised it needed an independent agency to manage costs, and strategise what to spend and how to spend it. Now, SmartFly is committed to helping everyone, from individual aircraft owners to large operators, achieve the best value for their operation.

Procurement is about more than just pricing – it’s about service, value, time and strategy. Our customers still work directly with their suppliers – we just build those relationships for you. There’s nothing we don’t negotiate. For instance, one of our customers was having difficulty getting aircraft parts turned around quickly, which impacted their profit. We reduced that time from 28 to 21 days.

What are your responsibilities at the company?

I’m involved with attracting new business, developing strategy and products and looking after existing customers – although, as we’re a start-up, no two days are the same. I work closely with our procurement teams to keep them appraised of our customer requirements, ensuring they’re prepared when entering negotiations.

What are the challenges?

There’s a lot of global uncertainty around business aviation today. External pressure from regulators and increased market competition is causing margins to contract and prices to escalate, which is why having a partner like SmartFly is so important.

Aviation can be resistant to change. The prevailing mentality is “we can’t, because…” – which is the opposite of my “we can, if…” outlook!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It’s satisfying to see first-hand the results of our efforts. For example, for a recent customer of ours, we more than halved the number of contracted providers they were using, from 70 to 30. This reduction boosted efficiency and consistency and mitigated costs. Ultimately they could forecast much better and had improved visibility for the next 12 months, which is crucial in an uncertain market.

Each customer must be approached differently. Understanding how they operate and where they can benefit from outsourced procurement is great fun. As no two owners or operators are identical, there’s no “one size fits all” solution.

Lastly, I’m fortunate to travel regularly. Whilst this invariably is using scheduled transport, I’m occasionally able to fly myself to customer meetings – which certainly provides an ice-breaker!

How do you see the SmartFly service evolving?

As we gain more customers, our aggregated buying power will go from strength to strength. We’ll have better negotiating leverage and volume, ensuring our customers continue to access the best value propositions throughout the whole supply chain.

Several exciting product developments are in the pipeline within our services portfolio and in the way SmartFly will be embracing technology. The evolution of IT in private aviation over the past 10 years has been fascinating to watch, and I’m excited to be playing a part in it.

If you would like to feature in Working Week, or you know someone who would, email your pitch to kate.sarsfield@flightglobal.com

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United’s Airbus order spawns visions of a different NMA


United Airlines has served notice to its US competitors, and to Boeing, that it will not put its middle-of-the-market ambitions on hold.

Its order of 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft will go a long way toward meeting its previously stated need to replace its aging fleet of Boeing 757-200 aircraft with efficient, modern aircraft that can help it expand its intercontinental network.

United, along with other US carriers, had been waiting for Boeing to reveal details about its proposed New Mid-market Airplane (NMA), a widebody aircraft with up to 270 seats and a 4,000-5,000nm (7,400-9,300km) range.

The Chicago-based airline tells Cirium that despite the order of the fuel-efficient, single-aisle A321XLR, it does not rule out considering Boeing’s NMA, should it ever launch.

“We have been looking for Boeing 757-200 replacements for quite some time,” United says. “Boeing currently does not have an aircraft equivalent to the A321XLR to meet our specific operational needs. We will take a look at the NMA.”

While United might still be interested in Boeing’s NMA, as of 3 December the A321XLR order reduces by 50 the number of aging, gas-guzzling aircraft Boeing could potentially replace.

Boeing remains mired in its efforts to recertify its grounded 737 Max and it could miss other opportunities to replace 757s flown by other US carriers, some of which may find the appeal of middle-market aircraft too hard to resist.

“Airlines are intrigued by the possibilities of this middle market,” Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia tells Cirium. “It opens up so many new route options. And right now the only thing available with any certainty is the 321XLR.”

The potential of efficient middle-market aircraft to expand existing transcontinental routes and create new intercontinental routes, and the desire for US carriers to have an alternative to the A321XLR, may end up breathing new life into Boeing’s NMA – it just may not be the NMA as originally conceived.

Aboulafia, who has his doubts about the NMA at this point, says the operational and manufacturing efficiencies of a single-aisle aircraft are much greater than that of a twin-aisle like the proposed NMA. “I’m increasingly thinking Boeing needs to do a single-aisle,” he says. “But no matter what they do, all airlines will look closely at it. And there’s nothing about United’s decision to buy 50 321XLRs that rules out a secondary buy of a Boeing jet.”

United disclosed its A321XLR order – its first order of narrowbody Airbus aircraft since 2006, according to Cirium fleets data – two days before the 5 December announcement that United president Scott Kirby will succeed Oscar Munoz as chief executive. Taken together, the two significant developments could send a message to Boeing that, for new leadership at United, the Airbus order may be just the beginning of large-scale investment in middle-market aircraft.

THE MARKET FOR THE NMA

Once the 737 Max returns to service, Boeing may very well focus on competing directly with the A321XLR, but it won’t be easy, given the Airbus aircraft’s versatility.

“We all focus on the longer range of the A321XLR,” says Rob Morris, global head of consultancy at Ascend by Cirium. “But what this variant really offers is the ability to guarantee the highest payload of up to 240 seats at ranges that previously would have seen significant payload restrictions for other variants of the A321neo. In the fullness of time I expect the A321XLR to become a very significant seller and member of the A320neo family.”

Morris says the longer Boeing is unable to make a launch decision for the NMA, the more the risk to its business plan as more customers commit to A321XLR, although in the context of the 757 only Delta Air Lines operates a sizable fleet that could be replaced with the A321XLR or the NMA.

Delta Air Lines has 127 757s in its fleet, with an average age of 22.3 years, according to Cirium fleets data.

“The story is quite different for Boeing’s 767, where there are presently still almost 50 operators and more than 400 passenger aircraft still in service which could be NMA replacement targets,” says Morris. “Add on A330-200 and some growth opportunities, and there is still some market potential for the NMA.”

Echoing Aboulafia, Morris suspects “we will never see an NMA launch in the format that we presently perceive the aircraft”.

In October, FlightGlobal reported that a passenger 767-X development is part of a project to re-engine the 767 Freighter, which Boeing is examining as a cheaper, lower-risk alternative to developing the NMA, which would be a clean-sheet design powered by next-generation engines.

Airlines seeking a middle-market competitor to the A321XLR may be wondering if Boeing has the wherewithal to fight back but, right now, as Aboulafia says: “It’s good to be the A321.”


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IrAero crew let unauthorised person handle An-24 in flight

Russian federal investigators are to decide whether to pursue a criminal case against an Antonov An-24 crew after an unauthorised person was permitted to sit at the controls and handle the aircraft during a domestic flight.

The IrAero An-24RV had been operating a service from Batagay-Alyta’s Sakkyryr airport to Yakutsk on 31 August.

Russian air transport regulator Rosaviatsia says it investigated video footage of a woman seated in the first officer’s position with her hands on the control wheel.

It describes the event as a “serious incident” and, having completed its probe, states that the crew of the aircraft (RA-08824) committed a “gross violation” of civil aviation rules.

Rosaviatsia says the crew admitted to the cockpit an individual who was not connected with the operation of the aircraft, and provided this “unauthorised” person with “the ability to control the aircraft during flight”.

“The flight crew’s irresponsible attitude to their official duties jeopardised passengers on board,” adds the regulator.

It states that IrAero exercised “inadequate control” over its crews’ activities and argues that it illustrates weakness in the airline’s safety-management system.

The inquiry also found that an occupant of the aircraft did not have a ticket before the An-24 departed Sakkyryr.

Rosaviatsia says it has submitted the results of its probe to the federal Investigative Committee, in order for it to consider whether to initiate criminal proceedings against the crew.

Russia was the scene of one of air transport’s most notorious fatal accidents, involving an Aeroflot Airbus A310-300 in 1994. The crew lost control of the aircraft after allowing the daughter and son of the relief pilot to handle the control column, resulting in undetected disengagement of the autopilot.


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Hong Kong Airlines vows change after spared shutdown

Hong Kong Airlines (HKA) has vowed to get its finances back in shape and “drive consolidation” within the company, after it escaped further sanction from the territory’s authorities.

On 7 December, Hong Kong’s Air Transport Licensing Authority (ATLA) said it was satisfied the beleaguered carrier had met the new licensing requirements for its continued operations.

ATLA had earlier instructed the carrier to ensure a satisfactory cash injection and to raise and maintain its cash levels to a level stipulated by the regulator. If it failed to do, it could face being shut down.

After its latest round of meetings with the carrier, ATLA says it considers the airline to have met the requirement for cash levels and acknowledges its pledge that this will be maintained.

But it adds that it will still be monitoring HKA’s finances closely, and that the airline still needs to submit further details regarding its compliance with the conditions attached to its licence.

The carrier says in a statement responding to the authorities’ decision that it will comply with these requirements “as always”.

HKA was handed a financial lifeline earlier in the week, in the form of an urgently-drawn-up cash injection plan. No details of how much would go into the carrier, or where the money came from, have been disclosed so far.

“Funding for operation will be injected into Hong Kong Airlines by phases,” HKA says in its latest statement.

“Moving forward, we will continue to drive consolidation and strengthen our internal structure to operate more efficiently and improve our revenue,” the carrier adds.

HKA faced an uncertain future on 2 December, after Hong Kong’s authorities, including ATLA and the Civil Aviation Department, issued an ultimatum: to turn around its dire financial situation, or face being wound up by 7 December.

The carrier had been plagued by a slew of financial troubles, which led to massive network cuts and unpaid salaries. HKA has already exited the North American market, and is cutting down on frequencies to other Asian points, stating that it will be focusing on “priority routes”.


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Garuda chief dismissed for alleged smuggling onboard new A330neo

Indonesia has called for the dismissal of national airline Garuda Indonesia’s chief executive for allegedly smuggling items on an Airbus A330-900 fresh off the production line.

Speaking at a press conference on 5 December, the minister for state-owned enterprises Erick Thohir ordered the dismissal of Garuda Indonesia’s chief executive Ari Askhara, over an alleged attempt to smuggle a motorcycle into the country via the delivery of its first Airbus A330-900 in November.

Thohir did not spell out Askhara’s name but specified that the individual was the chief executive of Garuda, initials “AA”.

He explains that he received a letter from its board of commissioners, as well as a report from Garuda’s audit committee, whose report indicated that there was “additional testimony” to support claims that the motorcycle belongs to “AA.”

“The [financial] transfer process was made in Jakarta to the personal [bank] account of Garuda’s finance manager in Amsterdam. Mr “IJ” had assisted in the shipping and its processes, and in other [matters] too.”

Thohir did not specify who “IJ” was or what his role was in the carrier.

He indicates that there will be further investigations, and the smuggling attempt is likely to lead to a civil and criminal case, as it “caused losses to the country.”

Despite his order for Askhara’s dismissal, Thohir stresses that the dismissal will be done “in a procedural manner,” as the carrier is listed on the Indonesia Stock Exchange. This means that the dismissal is likely to be tabled at an extraordinary shareholder’s meeting, and Cirium data shows that Jakarta owns a 60.5% stake in Garuda.

Garuda could not be reached for comments on Askhara’s dismissal.

The order for Askhara’s dismissal comes after the head of public affairs at Indonesia’s customs and excise directorate general, Deni Surjantoro, was quoted in a 2 December CNBC Indonesia report as saying that when Garuda’s first A330-900 arrived in Jakarta on 17 November after a ferry flight from Toulouse, 18 boxes were stored on the aircraft.

Out of the 18 boxes, 15 contained used parts of a Harley Davidson motorbike, while the remaining three contained two brand new Brompton bicycles.

Garuda explained in a 3 December press release that the cargo and personal belongings transported by the A330neo was declared to the Indonesian customs authorities and was cleared by its French counterparts prior to departing France.

No issues were raised during the Indonesian custom’s inspection of the cockpit and passenger cabin, but motorcycle spare parts were later found during a baggage inspection.

The airline goes on to state that the spare parts were reported to customs officers for processing, and were intended for the personal use by one of its employees which it did not identify.


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Emirates signs for 777X simulators from CAE

Emirates has ordered two Boeing 777X full-flight simulators from flight training provider CAE, with the first expected to arrive in 2021.

The Middle Eastern carrier, the biggest customer of the 777X programme, also has options for four additional training suites.

With the sale, Emirates will be CAE’s fourth airline customer for the 777X. In 2017, it sold the first flight simulator to Lufthansa.

Qatar Airways also has three full-flight simulators on order, while an undisclosed Asian carrier has one on order.


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