​KL sets up team to regain FAA Category 1 status

Kuala Lumpur has established a task force of both local and international personnel to help it obtain Federal Aviation Administration Category 1 status.

The team was organized by the Ministry of Transport and comprises four pilots, three engineers, and a technical coordinator, according to a Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) statement.

It will be led by Kok Soo Chon, an industry veteran who led Malaysia’s investigation into MH370, the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER that disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 2014.

Kok will coordinate the task force, lead its work plan, and ensure that its findings are implemented.

“This task force of experts is set to finalize all rectifying works under the 33 FAA IASA [International Aviation Safety Assessment] assessment findings which were categorized as “open status” and other issues related,” says CAAM.

“Thereafter, the FAA will be invited to conduct a re-assessment of the IASA program with the objective of re-categorizing CAAM from Category 2 to Category 1.”

Earlier this month, the FAA downgraded CAAM to Category 2, following an audit in April. The country had held a Category 1 rating since 2003.

The lowered rating means that CAAM does not meet International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety standards, the FAA said.

“[The CAAM] is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, and/or inspection procedures”, added the FAA. Consequently, Malaysia’s carriers will not be able to start new services into the United States.

On 19 November, American Airlines unilaterally cancelled its codeshare on services operated by Malaysia Airlines, shortly after the FAA downgrade.

The Malaysian carrier confirmed the cancellation, while stressing that it is still placing its code on American-operated services. Both airlines are members of the Oneworld alliance.

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UK sets out plans to overhaul airline insolvency process

New UK legislation is to be put forward to reform the airline insolvency process in order to protect and repatriate passengers more effectively, as well as enhance regulatory oversight of airlines in distress.

Details of the proposed bill have been disclosed by the UK government following the formal state opening of the country’s parliament on 14 October.

Reforms had been recommended by a government review conducted in the aftermath of Monarch Airlines’ collapse in October 2017, but have been lent greater urgency by the failure of Thomas Cook Group in September this year.

While the UK’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, referred to an aviation bill during her formal opening speech, in which she read the government’s list of proposed legislation, she mentioned only that the bill would provide for the “effective and efficient management” of UK airspace.

But the government has detailed accompanying airline insolvency legislation which aims to “strike a better balance” between strong consumer protection and the interests of taxpayers.

The inability to use the Thomas Cook Airlines fleet for repatriation emerged as a particular issue in the days after the collapse, forcing the Civil Aviation Authority to enlist multiple carriers to source sufficient capacity.

Under the proposed legislation the authority would be able to “mitigate the impacts” of a future failure, says the government.

The changes will provide the CAA with the ability to grant a temporary airline operating licence allowing the carrier to continue repatriating passengers after insolvency.

Introduction of a special administration regime, for airlines and tour companies, will keep aircraft flying long enough for passengers to be fully repatriated and supported.

The CAA’s remit will be extended to apply to repatriation of passengers whether they are protected or not under the ATOL air travel scheme, which was set up in 1973 to refund and return passengers in the event of an airline failure.

But the government cautions that there is no “silver bullet solution” and that a transition period might be necessary to enable the industry to adapt.

The broader aviation bill – aside from the insolvency amendments – will additionally provide powers to direct an airport to prepare and submit proposals to the CAA to change airspace design, to make flights more efficient.

Air traffic control licensing frameworks will be modernised and police will be given additional powers to tackle unlawful use of unmanned aircraft.

Despite the legislative declaration, the UK government does not command a majority in the lower house of parliament, which means the likelihood of progress for the proposed aviation bill is uncertain.

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Sheremetyevo sets date for third runway opening

Moscow Sheremetyevo airport’s operator is formally to open the Russian hub’s third runway on 1 September.

The operator has detailed a high-level event which will include transport minister Yevgeny Ditrikh and federal regulator Rosaviatsia’s chief Alexander Neradko.

It states that the ceremony will include the departure of the first Aeroflot service, operating to St Petersburg, from the new runway.

Sheremetyevo is celebrating this month 60 years of operations since the first arrival at the airfield, on 11 August 1959, of a Tupolev Tu-104 from St Petersburg – then known as Leningrad.

Its third runway is designated 06L/24R, with a length of 3,200m (10,500ft), and is located some 2,100m from the current closely-spaced parallels.

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ACJ319neo sets new distance record

Two days after conducting its maiden sortie, the first ACJ319neo set a new record for the longest flight made by an Airbus-crewed A320-series aircraft.

The re-engined VIP narrowbody (MSN8612) flew from Airbus headquarters in Toulouse to northern Greenland and back on 26 April, with the mission lasting 16h 10min.

Airbus describes the sortie as an “endurance flight that included a simulated diversion under 180min [extended twin-engine operations]”, for which the A320 family is already certificated.

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The previous record was set in 1999, when an Airbus-crewed ACJ319 made a 15h 15min flight from Santiago to Paris.

On the latest trip, the crew were accompanied by Erik Scheidt, chief executive and chief pilot of charter and management firm K5 Aviation, which will take delivery of the CFM Leap-1A-powered aircraft in the coming weeks on behalf of its unnamed owner.

K5 has appointed Dutch maintenance firm Fokker Techniek to outfit the aircraft, which has five extra fuel tanks installed to deliver a range of more than 6,750nm (12,500km); redelivery to K5 is planned for 2020.

“We want to fly customers to their destination using the quickest routes, as well as delivering unsurpassed comfort and service, and it’s impressive to see such long-range capability at first hand,” says Scheidt.

Airbus says it has orders and commitments for 14 ACJ320neo-family aircraft, which are available with a choice of Leap-1A or Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines.

The first ACJ320neo, powered by the Leap-1A, was handed over in January to Swiss completion house AMAC Aerospace. Service entry with its UK owner, Acropolis Aviation, is due by the end of the year.

Around 200 Airbus corporate jets are in service worldwide.

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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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Global 7500 sets business jet range record

Bombardier’s Global 7500 has completed an 8,152nm (15,100km) non-stop flight, which the manufacturer bills as the world’s “longest mission ever flown by a purpose-built business jet”.

The aircraft (C-FXAI) – the initial production example – departed Singapore at 07:12 local on 4 March carrying three pilots, three passengers and luggage with a combined weight of 360kg (800lb). Taking a transpacific route, it arrived in Tucson, Arizona just over 16h later at 08:19 local, which also set a new speed record for this city-pair, says Bombardier.

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The GE Aviation Passport 20-powered aircraft landed with 1,950kg of fuel remaining – representing 90min of additional flight time and “well above” industry requirements, the airframer adds.

The previous record for the longest, official non-stop flight by a business jets was achieved by the Gulfstream G650ER in 2015. That aircraft flew 8,010nm from Singapore to Las Vegas with four passengers and crew.

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C-FXAI was handed over to its unnamed customer on 14 December and has been operated as a demonstrator by Bombardier under a lease-back arrangement. To date, the aircraft has logged over 170h.

The Global 7500 has an advertised range of 7,700nm and a maximum speed of Mach 0.925. Bombardier has a backlog of over 110 aircraft and production is sold out to 2022.

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Concorde still sets the pace, 50 years from first flight

“From the beginning of time until about 1840, the distance a man could travel between getting up and going to bed was about 75 miles… then technology produced the aeroplane, and today a man can travel 7,000 miles in his waking hours. When the supersonic era is inaugurated this 12h distance will have become 12,000 miles, which is pretty well anywhere on earth.”

This summary of transport evolution ­appeared in Flight as Concorde took to the air for the first time in March 1969. However, the conclusion that followed would ­unfortunately turn out to be wide of the mark: “One of the basic laws of transport… is that traffic volume increases as journey time decreases.”

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Concorde did everything that was asked of it from a technical point of view, but sadly that “basic law” did not manifest itself and make supersonic air travel a sustainable business proposition for airlines.

The development and introduction of Concorde by the British Aircraft Corporation and Sud Aviation took more than a decade, from the signing of the Anglo-French Supersonic Transport Aircraft Agreement at Lancaster House in November 1962 to service entry in January 1976.

There have been many words written about why Concorde failed, or why it was even built in the first place. But suffice to say that the single objective of all involved in its creation was to make “operation of the aircraft a safe and economically viable proposition”.

Jet-airliner economic viability was a ­rapidly moving bar in the 1960s and 1970s (as was the environmental one). Aircraft such as the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 – long-haul benchmarks when Concorde was conceived – were facing obsolescence when it arrived in service.

The aircraft that would revolutionise air transport had taken to the air exactly three weeks before Concorde. At the time of that maiden flight, the Boeing 747 faced as much uncertainty as its supersonic rival, with many convinced that speed would win over size.

But the jumbo jet’s combination of high capacity and high-bypass powerplants – allied to rapidly rising oil prices – moved the economics dial to a point beyond the industry’s wildest dreams a decade earlier. Thus, Concorde’s prospects were shattered and just 14 aircraft were delivered – but not before the needle-nosed dart had earned a special place in the hearts of even the most hardened unbelievers.

Many happy returns, Concorde!

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FAA sets Thailand set 26 tasks to reach Category I standard

The United States Federal Aviation Administration has set Thailand 26 items that need rectification before its safety rating can be upgraded to Category I.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) states that a four-person team from the FAA conducted an audit of its oversight systems between 11-15 February that identified the deficiencies, but gave no specific details.

After the items have been rectified, the CAAT says it can then ask for a new audit, and that if passed, it will be upgraded to Category I status.

Under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment programme, the Administration audits a foreign country’s regulatory system against ICAO criteria. Countries that have deficiencies are given Category II status, which prevents new carriers from flying to the US, or existing operators from adding new capacity on existing US routes.

Thailand’s aviation regulatory systems have been under scrutiny since an ICAO audit in early 2015 identified a number of “red flags” over the then-Department of Civil Aviation’s oversight and air operator certificate awarding process.

That led to some Thai carriers being barred from starting services to China, South Korea and Japan, while all airlines were forced to undergo a recertification process for their air operator’s certificates.

It also led to the DCA being replaced by the CAAT, and as a result of all those issues the red flags were removed by ICAO in October 2017.

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Vietnam’s Bamboo Airways sets 16 January launch date

Vietnamese start-up Bamboo Airways has set 16 January as its launch date, one week after gaining its air operator’s certificate (AOC) from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), and sticking to its previous announcement of a mid-January launch.

In a statement, the carrier states it will operate on a hybrid business model, offering economy and business class cabins on its aircraft. Flights will operate out of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to various domestic points in Vietnam. Subsequently, it is looking to operate international services.

Prior to obtaining its AOC from the CAAV, the airline was also approved as an aircraft maintenance organisation, it adds.

Bamboo’s own booking engine indicates that the initial flights will be operated out of Hanoi to seven domestic points. For flights out of Ho Chi Minh City, it will be linked to Hanoi and Quy Nhon.

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Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that five Airbus A320 family jets – one A319 and four A320s – will see leases start with the carrier on 15 January 2019. The lease of another A320 will commence on 25 January.

Two A320s and the A319 are managed by Standard Chartered. Dragon Aviation Leasing manages one of the remaining A320s, and Aviation Capital Group another A320. The last A320 is managed by Lithuania’s Small Planet Airlines.

None of the six jets has received a Vietnamese registration. The A319 is equipped with 128 seats in a two-class configuration, with eight in business class and 120 in economy. Three of the A320s have 180 seats in an all-economy configuration. The remaining two A320s have 159 seats in an all-economy configuration.

In addition, three on-order A320neos managed by CDB Aviation are scheduled to start their leases in October 2019.

The airline also has letters of intent for 24 A321neos and 20 Boeing 787-9s.

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​Airbus sets date for first A330neo delivery to TAP

Airbus plans to deliver the first A330-900 to launch operator TAP Air Portugal on 26 November.

The hand-over of the first A330neo will be marked by a ceremony at the Airbus delivery centre in Toulouse.

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Max Kingsley-Jones/FlightGlobal

Delivery to TAP comes much later than the early 2018 date originally scheduled, after the flight-testing programme was delayed primarily by hold-ups with the re-engined twinjet’s Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines.

European type certification for the A330-900 was secured in late September while Airbus expects approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration by year-end.

Airbus revealed at the first flight of the smaller A330-800 earlier this month that it has 23 A330neos “in the system for the final assembly line”. These include eight customer “heads of version” comprising TAP, Air Mauritius, Wow Air, Azul, Rwandair, Delta Air Lines, Thai AirAsiaX, and Air Senegal.

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