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On a well-chartered career path

Steady progress landed Sarah Wightwick her marketing manager, Europe role at Luxaviation Group, where she is responsible for helping to promote the region’s largest business aviation services provider.

How did you get into the aviation industry?

I have always had a keen interest in aviation – especially private aviation because I’ve always been passionate about luxury travel. As a child, I remember being totally enamoured by airports and aeroplanes and I can remember the sense of awe that seeing them stirred in me. I still love it, and never tire of the thrill of seeing a jet build up speed and take to the skies.

How has your career progressed so far?

I set out on my career after graduating from the University of Hertfordshire, starting out as a marketing executive at the construction firm Fix8. I spent three years there before learning of a marketing position at London Executive Aviation (LEA) – now Luxaviation UK – in 2010. My application was successful and it was my entry into the private aviation industry.

I progressed to the role of marketing manager and oversaw the marketing side of LEA’s acquisition by the Luxaviation Group in 2015, and the subsequent rebranding to Luxaviation UK, which involved everything from the website and marketing collateral to our crew uniforms and aircraft livery. Following my recent maternity leave, I have returned to Luxaviation UK and my role has evolved so I am now the marketing manager for Europe for the Luxaviation Group.

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How would you describe your current job?

While I am still based at Luxaviation UK’s head office in Stapleford, located 30km (19 miles) northeast of London, I take on many group responsibilities as marketing manager for Europe. These include overseeing the region’s marketing collateral, running social media campaigns and ensuring the website performs well in Google rankings.

I’m able to be flexible with my time in and out of the office, with the option to work from home a few times a week – something that has been particularly helpful since returning from maternity leave. With resources like Skype and instant messaging services it’s easier than ever to stay connected with my colleagues, meaning we can get the job done just as well from any location. I work very closely with Luxaviation’s senior leadership team, notably the group’s chief marketing officer, to showcase Luxaviation’s activities and promote our initiatives. Another major part of my job is co-ordinating events to ensure the group is well represented.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I can safely say that I love my job and that I work with some amazing people across a number of fascinating projects, but there are areas that I am especially proud of. At Luxaviation UK, we carry out a lot of charity work for the likes of Breast Cancer Now and Movember, and it is so rewarding to work on these campaigns. We recently ran a #wearitpink campaign for Breast Cancer Now – all staff and crew wore pink to raise awareness for the charity. It’s great fun and important to give something back.

I also enjoy putting on aviation industry events, such as the Aviation Polo Challenge in support of The Prince’s Trust. These events bring the industry together and it’s always good to meet up with colleagues and like-minded individuals in engaging, social situations.

What are the challenges?

Of course, any job has its challenges and my main one is what makes me love my job so much – diversity. Two days are rarely the same, which can be stressful but also exciting. Another challenge I am faced with is that working as part of a global marketing team means there are different regions, time zones and cultures to consider. Ensuring that everything works for everyone can be a challenge. We also cover different services that require different strategies. For example, the charter market requires luxury brochures, whereas an MRO needs precise lists and tables. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another.

What are the strongest countries in Europe for charter and why?

Typically, Europe’s leading business aviation markets are still the UK, Germany and France. When it comes to charter activity, Italy and Switzerland have been consistently strong markets, while Poland and Ukraine have grown in popularity in recent years. The simple reason for this is that business travel is more apparent in these markets compared with other European countries, as private jets are more commonly used for business versus leisure.

  • If you would like to feature in Working Week, or you know someone who does, email your pitch to Kate Sarsfield

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Hydraulic failure preceded Iran Air Fokker gear-up landing

Iranian investigators probing a gear-up landing involving an Iran Air Fokker 100 believe a failure in one of the aircraft’s two main hydraulic systems led to the accident.

The aircraft had been operating flight iR215 from Qeshm on 19 March, and had been conducting an approach to Tehran Mehrabad at around 19:07 when the crew discovered that the landing-gear would not deploy.

Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation states that the System 1 hydraulic circuit on the aircraft had failed. This system is connected to various flight-control surfaces but is also linked to the landing-gear and nose-wheel steering.

The aircraft (EP-IDG) entered a holding pattern to burn fuel while the crew attempted to free the undercarriage, but only managed to deploy the nose-gear.

As a result the aircraft was forced to carry out a landing on Mehrabad’s runway 29L with its main landing-gear retracted.

It stopped safely on the runway at 21:35, with emergency services preventing the sparks from friction developing into a fire, and passengers were evacuated. There were no injuries among the 24 passengers and nine crew members.

Although the runway was closed, the airport maintained operations by using the parallel runway 29R, says the Civil Aviation Organisation. Using military equipment, recovery personnel moved the aircraft to the southern apron of the airport where it was jacked and inspected.

Investigators state that the aircraft – which was originally delivered to Iran Air new in April 1991 – had logged 49,489h and 51,036 cycles by February this year.

The inquiry has noted that, on 16 March, hydraulic problems were encountered which led to engine tests. It adds that the aircraft was also involved in a subsequent incident in which the aircraft departed Mehrabad but returned to the airport and conducted an overweight landing, before subsequently being returned to service for the Tehran-Qeshm-Tehran flight.

“Technical failure of the hydraulic system occurred again and led to the accident,” says the inquiry.

It states that preliminary examination indicates that mechanical linkages in the system for deploying the landing-gear may have resulted in problems for the pilots when they attempted to use the landing-gear lever in the cockpit.

But the situation requires a full inspection of the landing-gear, it says, adding that the doors of the undercarriage have been badly damaged.

Flight recorders have been retrieved from the aircraft and the inquiry is to be assisted by investigators from the Dutch Safety Board and the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, as representatives of the states of design and manufacture of the aircraft and landing-gear.

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Second Iranian Fokker in three days suffers gear failure

Iranian investigators are probing the second serious landing-gear incident involving a Fokker 100 in the space of three days after an Iran Aseman aircraft diverted to Tehran when its undercarriage only partially deployed.

The aircraft (EP-ATG) had been operating the EP840 service from Tehran to Ilam on 22 March, states the Civil Aviation Organisation.

It says that, as the aircraft conducted its approach to Ilam, the right-hand main landing-gear failed to extend.

Attempts to recycle the landing-gear were unsuccessful and the crew, believing that only the left-hand gear had deployed, aborted the landing at Ilam.

But the left-hand gear then failed to retract. The crew initially considered flying to Kermanshah but subsequently proceeded back to Tehran.

At a holding point in the vicinity of Kahrizak, south of Mehrabad, the crew tried again the release the right-hand landing-gear. The Civil Aviation Organisation says the pilots “finally” managed to deploy it, and the aircraft landed on Mehrabad’s runway 29L normally at around 09:00.

None of the 81 passengers and eight crew members was injured, the organisation adds. The aircraft was jacked but the main landing-gear failed to extend when commanded.

Inspection of the hydraulic system revealed that contamination in the vicinity of filter screens and the restrictor check valve in the right-hand main gear had prevented the release of hydraulic pressure, and stopped its deployment.

“This issue has previously occurred in Fokker aircraft,” says the Civil Aviation Organisation, which is advising relevant checks on the system.

European Union Aviation Safety Agency regulators issued a directive in May 2015 after two instances in which one of the main landing-gear on Fokker 100s failed to extend during approach.

Investigation showed that the filter screen of the corresponding restrictor check valve was broken and debris inside the restrictor check valve was blocking the return flow from the affected landing-gear actuator.

“Additional inspection of the fleet of the operator involved revealed more damaged or failed filter screens,” EASA stated at the time, an instructed operators to follow Fokker Services bulletins to remove affected hydraulic hoses for inspection.

Three days before the Iran Aseman incident an Iran Air Fokker 100 had sustained damage during a gear-up landing at Tehran Mehrabad, after both of its main landing-gear assemblies failed to deploy.

Cirium Fleets Analyzer lists the Aseman aircraft as a 1991 airframe, like the Iran Air jet, adding that it was originally delivered to Braathens in 1994, and operated by various carriers including Gill Airways, Eujet and Brit Air.

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Rolls-Royce to develop turbine options for Bell’s V-280 and V-247

Rolls-Royce has agreed to develop turboshaft engine options for Bell’s V-280 Valor and V-247 Vigilant tiltrotors.

The V-280 Valor is powered by GE Aviation’s T64-GE-419 engine, though future variants of the aircraft will feature the option to install a Rolls-Royce power plant, says Bell.

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Bell V-280 Valor


“Bell and Rolls-Royce are developing an end-to-end engine integrated solution for V-280 as an option for future procurements,” says Bell. “However, we fully recognize that the government has not defined its engine sourcing strategy.”

Bell says it plans to continue to work with GE Aviation on the V-280.

Ahead of the US Army’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) programme, the V-280 has been flying for over a year as a Capability 3 technology demonstrator, a medium-size utility aircraft intended to replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. In January, the tiltrotor hit its goal top speed for which it is named: 280kt (518km/h).

The Bell V-247 is an unmanned tiltrotor that has not yet flown, however, only making public appearances in the form of 3-D renderings or trade show mockups. The unmanned air vehicle is a concept for the US Marine Corp’s Marine Unmanned Expeditionary (MUX) aircraft.

Bell declined to say which Rolls-Royce turbines might be installed on its aircraft, but noted that it is working on ways to optimise engines for its aircraft.

“The Bell [and] Rolls-Royce team are working on integrated inlet particle protection and exhaust infrared suppression system solutions to reduce environmental impacts to propulsion system durability, while maximizing installed propulsion system performance and survivability,” the company says.

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​Bangkok Airways enters U-Tapao development fray

Bangkok Airways and two other firms have submitted a joint proposal for the development of an aviation hub at Thailand’s U-Tapao airport.

The company is teaming up with BTS Group and Sino-Thai Engineering for the bid, says the airline in a Stock Exchange of Thailand statement.

The name of the entity is BBS Joint Venture, which is bidding for the U-Tapao International Airport and Eastern Aviation City Development Project.

According to the Bangkok Post, other companies that have placed bids with the Thai Navy, which runs the airport, are local conglomerate Charoen Pokphand as well as Asia Aviation, which owns Thai AirAsia.

The report adds that 24 local companies and 18 foreign firms have expressed interest in the project.

Thailand is in the process of developing U-Tapao both as an airport and an MRO centre.

In 2018, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand said that the airport’s handling capacity will grow from 3.7 million passengers annually to 15 million within five years, to 30 million within 10 years, and 60 million within 15 years.

Plans call for the airport, a two-hour drive from Bangkok, to be linked with the city via high speed rail links. There will also be rail links to the capital’s other two airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang.

As for MRO, Airbus and Thai Airways International are setting up a new MRO facility at the airport.

The facility will offer heavy maintenance and line services for all widebody aircraft types, including Boeing aircraft. The complex will also have repair shops for composite structures, as well as a training centre.

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Adelaide keen to reduce traffic leakage to other airports

Adelaide airport is keen to attract new direct services, as it seeks to divert Adelaide-bound traffic from flowing through other Australian airports.

The airport’s head of aviation business development Jonathan Cheong tells FlightGlobal that overall traffic from Asia to Adelaide is growing at a rate of 6% on a year-on-year basis, with Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam identified as markets with the strongest growth potential.

Due to a small number of overseas connections, however, he notes that around 30% of Adelaide-bound traffic funnels through other Australian airports. This also affects its cargo potential as perishable goods from the South Australia state are being sent to other cities for export.

He adds that the state’s growing economy, a strong inbound flow of investment, its large overseas student population, and the size of its Asian diaspora meant that there is a need for new and additional international air services.

“Even though we have Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and Cathay Pacific [flying into Adelaide], there are still people travelling through Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. That means, we need more capacity to Asia to drive the leakage [back to Adelaide],” says Cheong.

Cirium schedules data shows that Adelaide is connected to nine international destinations, and 20 domestic points. Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar are the top three operators out of the airport.

Asked if Adelaide airport is seeing any benefits from the introduction of newer generation aircraft, Cheong pointed out that the different carriers have chosen to either raise capacity or deploy the right aircraft based on demand to Adelaide.

One such example is Singapore Airlines deploying higher capacity Airbus A350-900s used for regional services in place of A330-300s in December 2018. Fiji Airways also previously deployed the Boeing 737 Max 8 to replace the 737-800, before the aircraft type was grounded following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 on 10 March.

In terms of network development, discussions are now underway with an Asian full service carrier to raise its Adelaide frequency, while Malaysia’s Malindo Air will begin a Kuala Lumpur-Denpasar-Adelaide service in mid-April. It is also keen to attract low-cost carriers to fly into Adelaide.

Cheong also stressed that any new or additional services would not lead to a network cannibalisation by the existing carriers.

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Response to Max crashes will define Boeing’s reputation

Bilateral arrangements in aviation safety rely on the assumption that the rules and practices across different jurisdictions are largely interchangeable.

That is to say, if Transport Canada or the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approves an aircraft, then Europe’s regulator will have few qualms about following suit.

But the aftermath of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash on 10 March threatens to, if not fracture, at least strain that convention.

Safety regulators in Canada and Europe have stressed that until they are independently satisfied with the safety of the re-engined narrowbody, they will not allow airlines to fly the jet again.

Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), went so far as to promise the bloc’s elected representatives that without satisfactory answers, its grounding would remain in place no matter “what the FAA does”.

Perhaps that represents a belated admission from EASA that it could or should have probed more deeply into the operation of Boeing’s anti-stall system – under scrutiny since the Lion Air Max crash of October 2018 – during the original certification process.

Boeing says there was nothing unusual in the validation of the Max, or the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). But the manufacturer’s insistence that the 737 Max is safe is unlikely to ­distract attention from the painful reality of two fatal crashes, and 346 deaths, just five months apart.

As Ky points out, though, one of EASA’s reasons for grounding the narrowbody was that, despite Boeing’s issuance of instructions on how to deal with a malfunctioning MCAS, the actions required are incredibly difficult to replicate or train for.

Human factors mean that while one pilot may respond with icy, robotic precision, another – confronted with a cockpit full of competing alarms – may freeze. This represents a huge challenge for Boeing. Even if it considers the system safe, how does it ensure flightcrews respond correctly to maintain that security?

Recent coverage in the UK media included an article asking: “After two deadly disasters in five months, can Boeing survive?”

Of course it will. But its response, and how it goes about convincing operators, crews and passengers of the Max’s safety, will determine whether its reputation similarly endures.

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Ranking the best animal-faced airliners

After ANA took delivery of its first turtle-themed Airbus A380 on 20 March, we rank the top 10 animal-face liveries on commercial airliners.

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1: Top spots

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Fedor Leukhin/Creative Commons

Russian carrier Rossiya painted an Amur leopard on to one of its Boeing 777-300s in 2017, in support of efforts to save the critically endangered species.

2: Tiger fleet

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IRONHIDE/Creative Commons

In 2016, the Aeroflot subsidiary also painted a Siberian tiger’s face on a Boeing 747-400 as it drew attention to the plight of another endangered species. Defunct Russian carrier Transaero had previously featured a similar design on the same aircraft type.

3: Leopard print

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Air Astana

Air Astana took delivery of its first Embraer 190-E2 in December last year. The carrier says the E2’s snow-leopard livery is designed to highlight the threat of extinction hanging over wild cat.

4: Dog days

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Russian airline NordStar painted a husky livery on to one of its Boeing 737s in 2017 to mark the 2019 Winter Universiade Games, which will be held in one of the carrier’s hub cities, Krasnoyarsk. The husky is the event’s mascot.

5: Shark tail

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Brussels Airlines

Back in 2015, Brussels Airlines disguised one of its Airbus A320s as the famous shark submarine from the Tintin comic Red Rackham’s Treasure as part of a tie-up between the carrier and Moulinsart, the company that protects and promotes Herge’s work.

6: Bear necessities

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Jochen Tack/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

In 2015, Germanwings introduced a “Bearbus” paint scheme inspired by Berlin’s coat of arms. The livery remained in service on an Airbus A319 until 2011.

7: Strong pull

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Glenn Beltz/Creative Commons

When Alaskans celebrated 50 years of statehood in 2009, Alaska Airlines unveiled a special paint theme on a Boeing 737-400, featuring a musher and sled dog. The aircraft was retired in June 2016.

8: Black eyes

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Imagine China/REX/Shutterstock

To mark the launch of since-dropped flights to Chengdu in 2013, British Airways painted a panda’s face on to one of its Boeing 777-200s. The Chinese city is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

9: Beak performer

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Jakkri Prasertwit/Creative Commons

Aircraft in the Nok Air fleet feature the Thai low-cost carrier’s trademark yellow beak.

10: Whale watching

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Southwest Airlines

Under pressure from animal-rights groups, Southwest Airlines ended its relationship with SeaWorld in 2014. As part of the tie-up, the carrier had launched several special liveries, including the killer-whale-themed Shamu One, which was retired in 2013 and replaced with Penguin One.

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LHT sets up dedicated aviation data exchange

MRO provider Lufthansa Technik has established a standalone company to create an industry-wide platform for the collection and storage of technical and operational aircraft data, and plans to share the entity’s ownership with other aerospace players later this year.

The new company, named Aviation DataHub, was incorporated earlier this month to serve as an “independent” platform for airlines, maintenance companies, manufacturers, IT specialists and other service providers to aggregate and exchange data without competitive restrictions, LHT says.

As part of the move, it is separating the handling and storing of data from the provision of digital services – such as predictive maintenance – via the proprietary Aviatar software platform.

Speaking during a financial results briefing in Hamburg on 21 March, LHT chief executive Johannes Bussmann described the data hub’s ownership as a co-operative model; a noncommercial platform is required for airlines to store data and share it with the service providers of their choice, he argues.

“Our aim is to ensure the independence of airlines and to maintain competition,” Bussmann says, adding that the guiding principle is to ensure “[data] control, choice and competition”.

While LHT is the data hub’s current sole owner, the MRO group says talks are under way with aftermarket players – including its own competitors, as well as equipment manufacturers – to add further shareholders over “the next few months”.

LHT intends to “ultimately reduce its stake significantly”, it says.

Meanwhile, the number of aircraft enrolled in LHT’s Aviatar platform has grown to more than 1,000, the majority of which are not operated by Lufthansa Group carriers, says head of digital fleet solutions Christian Langer.

Wizz Air has previously been named as an Aviatar customer.

Langer says the client base includes members of all three main airline alliances, low-cost and cargo operators in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Demand for Aviatar has exceeded LHT’s expectations, he says.

Lufthansa, budget arm Eurowings and Swiss are among the carriers within the parent group that use the system.

Sister carrier Austrian Airlines wants to implement it too, but Langer says that the priority has been to integrate external customers.

He argues that – while certain predictive maintenance functions can be accomplished purely by analysis of aircraft onboard data – repair shop insight into component failure modes is central to refining the algorithms that automatically monitor performance of in-service equipment.

Especially in regard to reducing the number of “no fault found” cases – where equipment has been replaced because of failure alerts but no malfunction is later determined in the shop – it is crucial to “train” algorithms with insights into why and how parts might fail, Langer says.

While Aviatar’s development has thus far been concentrated on technical aircraft support, LHT now intends to add functions for the improvement of flight and ground operations.

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UK signs E-7 airborne early warning contract

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed plans to acquire five Boeing 737-based E-7 airborne early warning and control system aircraft, with the platforms to be modified by Marshall Aerospace & Defence Group.

Announced on 22 March and worth £1.5 billion ($1.98 billion), the contract will lead to the adapted narrowbody airliners being introduced to service from the early 2020s. They will replace the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) current Boeing 707-based E-3D Sentry fleet.

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Commonwealth of Australia

The E-7 system – already operated by the Royal Australian Air Force, plus South Korea and Turkey – is based on the 737NG airframe, and powered by CFM International CFM56 engines. Its mission equipment includes a Mesa active electronically scanned array produced by Northrop Grumman, plus onboard operator stations.

According to the MoD, the project will sustain more than 200 highly skilled jobs at Marshall’s Cambridge airport site, while “there will also be opportunities for British suppliers to be involved in future training and support arrangements”.

“The E-7 provides a technological edge in an increasingly complex battlespace, allowing our ships and aircraft to track and target adversaries more effectively than ever,” says defence secretary Gavin Williamson.

Chief of the air staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, says that the new type’s introduction “will significantly enhance our ability to deliver decisive airborne command and control”.

The UK’s plan to proceed with a non-competitive selection of the E-7 emerged last year, with the MoD having been keen to acquire an operationally-proven system to replace its current assets. Canberra’s six-strong fleet of the type achieved final operational capability status in May 2015, and has been used in support of coalition activities in the Middle East.

Each E-7 will be flown with a crew of two pilots and 10 mission operators, according to the MoD. It describes the type as having an operating ceiling of 41,000ft, and a range of up to 3,500nm (6,470km). The type also will feature commonality with the RAF’s future fleet of nine 737NG-based P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, the first of which is scheduled for delivery later this year.

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