“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock”
African Pilot’s August edition
The August edition of African Pilot that features all the aviation businesses at Lanseria International Airport that took part in this feature is complete. The August edition has completed its circulation phase and, but you can always download the August edition or any previous edition from 2020 by clicking on the buttons below. Apart from the Lanseria feature, this bumper edition of 174 pages has more than 34 fully illustrated articles published. It has also become abundantly clear that African Pilot is the only South African aviation publication that has being interacting with its clients and readers on a regular basis throughout the COVID-19 lockdown period.
African Pilot has made significant changes to the August edition
Someone once said the only thing that is sure is that things will change. Over the past 19 years that African Pilot has been publishing its monthly aviation magazine, we have been fixated on the printed version. Now that the magazine is being published in the digital format, the font size has increased by 50%, whilst the number of pages has increased to 174 to accommodate the reader’s experience on digital platforms. The fact that readers will be positioned to access the August edition on any device means that the African Pilot will become far more user friendly. This will be the first of a series of enhancements that will culminate in an interactive publication with provision for picture galleries and short videos within the next month. The August 2020 edition will be the first magazine to adopt some of these changes, with others to follow from September onwards.
African Pilot’s September edition
The September edition of African Pilot will feature Avionics and Instrumentation, which is normal since I usually bring the newest developments of the exciting developments announced at AirVenture in Oshkosh each year. However, this year I will have attended several online webinars during the AirVenture week to find out as much as possible about what is to be launched to the aviation world.
The material deadline for the September edition in on Wednesday 19 August 2020.
For advertising opportunities please contact Adrian Munro at e-mail: email@example.com or Cell: 079 880 4359. All editorial material should be sent to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About African Pilot
There is no doubt that African Pilot provides the finest overall media reach of all aviation publications in Africa where we are in a position to provide professional video and stills photography, website development, social media platforms, company newsletters as well as several other important media services to our customers. Naturally the monthly printed magazine has an incredibly long shelf life due to its excellent design and layout. Then of course the monthly magazine is also available as a digital edition where ALL advertisers have enjoy the direct routing to their websites at a touch on a smart phone or tablet as well as a click of the mouse on a computer screen.
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The following are links to all the magazines that African Pilot produced this year so that you can download all the 2020 editions in magazine view format:
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Video of the week: The largest seaplane in the world takes first flight
SOUTH AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
SACAA DCA reply to CAASA
I have read the above letter sent to the Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa from the Director of Civil Aviation with interest. Notwithstanding the delays and excuses for the resumption of calibration flights, which will happen at the earliest only towards the end of August there are several other issues with the manner in which this contract was awarded:
• I understand that the contract was awarded to a South African company that does not have the required aircraft, trained pilots or calibration equipment to undertake the work.
• This means that the foreign company will have to bring in its aircraft, pilots and suitable equipment to South Africa.
• The result of this situation is that the money paid for this work will be going out of South Africa.
• I have been told that five companies tendered for the work, but I only know about three South African companies.
• I understand that the South African companies that tendered all have suitable aircraft, trained pilots and access to the required calibration equipment.
• The fact is that this calibration work should have been undertaken by a South African company months ago during the COVID-19 shutdown period as a matter of being an ‘essential service’.
• Is the new normal in South Africa that smacks of we see happening in most government departments within our country?
Due to the aforesaid, one questions why it has been necessary to engage a Ukrainian calibration company that will certainly not be familiar with South African airports and will have undergo a two-week quarantine period before the work can commence.
What is scheduled for the next few months?
African Pilot’s 2020 calendar
We will publish the aviation calendar within APAnews three months ahead, but you can always visit African Pilot’s website: www.africanpilot.co.za if you would like to obtain the full calendar for the entire year.
EAA Chapter 322 monthly meeting to be a zoom meeting
Contact Neil Bowden E-mail: email@example.com
SAPFA ANR at Brakpan Airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 082 855 9435
27 and 28 August
Africa Drone Conference virtual conference by means of a webinar
Contact Tel: 011 886 0433 Website: www.vukanicomms.co.za
SAPFA Secunda Speed Rally at Secunda airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 855 9435
23 – 24 September
KZN Spring Carnival – Inanda Dam
Contact John Neilon 082 485 5514 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Great Train Race and Fly-in to Heidelberg airfield – Heritage Day
Contact Van Zyl Schultz E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082 560 2275
Garden Route airshow at George Airport
Contact Brett Scheuble E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 084 418 3836
29 September – 4 October
SAC National Championships Tempe Airport, Bloemfontein
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
3 and 4 October
Newcastle airshow at Newcastle airfield
Contact Johan Pieters E-mail: Johan@champ.co.za Cell: 082 923 0078
18 and 19 October
Aviation Mena 2020 Hilton Cairo Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt
Contact Alison Weller E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.aviationmena.aero
24 and 25 October
SAC North West Regionals at Klerksdorp airfield
Contact Annie Boon E-mail: email@example.com
26 to 28 October
Airport Show, Airport Security and ATC Forum DWTC, Dubai
Registration is now open for Airport Show, Airport Security and ATC
Forum. FREE registration: https://bit.ly/2SnJ33S
CAASA Awards at CAASA House Lanseria International Airport
Contact Sam Keddle E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 011 659 2345
27 and 28 November
SAPFA Speed Rally at Springs airfield
Contact Jonty Esser E-mail: email@example.com Cell: 082855 9435
Aero Club of South Africa annual awards at Rand Airport
Contact Sandra Strydom e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 011 082 1100
5 and 6 December
SAC Ace of Base at Baragwanath airfield
Contact Annie Boon e-mail: email@example.com
African Pilot’s 2020 calendar
As further dates are sent to me, I will continue to update the aviation calendar.
AFRICAN AVIATION NEWS
RAM looks to lose staff and fleet
Around 850 Royal Air Maroc (RAM) staff, including pilots, are facing redundancy as the airlines has continued to struggle during COVID-19 and look to a recovery plan. As part of its recovery plan, RAM has reportedly decided to sell some of its fleet, in addition to eliminating several air routes and stopovers. Most of RAM’s fleet have been on hold for more than two months after the Morocco government closed the country’s borders to contain the spread of COVID-19, which has resulted in a loss of £5million a day for the airline. RAM CEO Abdelhamid Addou said the loss is the ‘worst’ the airline has ever faced.
Kenya Airways resumes international passenger flights
On 30 July Kenya Airways (KQ) announced the resumption of international passenger services following the easing of movement restrictions as directed by H.E President Uhuru Kenyatta. The first international flights departed on 1 August to the following international destinations; London, Dubai, Addis Ababa, Kigali and Lusaka. During the month there will be a gradual increase in the network with flights to Paris, Mumbai and Amsterdam. In Africa, the airline will operate flights to Accra, Dzaoudzi, Freetown, Harare, Kilimanjaro, Lagos, Monrovia, Moroni, Nampula and Zanzibar. Based on demand and other factors, resumption of services to other destinations around the globe will occur. The Airline plans to start operations to USA, China and Thailand from October 2020. These destinations require the bulk of the network to open up so as to sustain adequate traffic on the routes. “Since resuming domestic flights on 15 July 2020, we have been monitoring the adherence to the protocols that we have in place to ensure the health and safety of our customers and staff, and I am pleased that they are being enforced and followed strictly,” said Allan Kilavuka, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Airways.
“The resumption of our international flights is an important milestone for us. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to provide connections for our farmer’s produce to reach international markets, medical supplies to reach our people through our Cargo flights, as well as reuniting families through the repatriation flights we mounted with support from the Government of Kenya. We look forward to welcoming our guests on board from today onwards as we play our role in kick starting economies, not only for Kenya but also for those countries that we operate to,” he added.
Some of the safety measures the airline has put in place to ensure the safety of passengers include: the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) by the flight crew and airport workers where necessary and limited interaction between crew and passengers. The airline is also providing sanitizer stations onboard and washing of hands will be encouraged by crew on board the flights.
All the aircrafts are fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. The filters ensure that the quality of air on board is kept clean by constant filtration and replacement with air from outside the aircraft. They also trap particulates such as viruses and bacteria and as the air flows primarily from the ceiling to the floor, it helps minimise particulates spreading throughout the cabin. While it is not expected that these sectors will immediately return to business-as-usual as travel restrictions are still a reality, the resumption of international flights is an important step for Kenya towards bringing these sectors back to life. Details on Kenya Airways’ flight schedule is available on www.kenya-airways.com.
Moroccan Apache engines to be serviced by GE
Last week General Electric said that Morocco will acquire 48 T700—701D engines and two spares as part of the contract. The T700/CT7 family of turboshaft and turboprop engines power 15 types of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft with more than 130 customers in more than 50 countries. The T700/CT7 family has surpassed 20 000 units delivered and more than 100 million total flight hours. According to Boeing, Morocco is the 17th country to acquire the AH-64 Apache. “The T700 engine’s 40-plus year track record as a highly reliable, workhorse powerplant is indisputable,” said Ron Hutter, vice president of turboshaft engine sales at GE Aviation.
The helicopters and engines will be built and delivered under a contract with the US Army through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales process. In 2019, the US Army awarded GE an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for the continued production of T700 engines in support of US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and other government agency programme requirements through 2024. The production contract is valued at over $1 billion for as many as 1 700 T700 engines if completely exercised, GE Aviation said. Current models of the T700/CT7 deliver 2 000-3 000 shaft-horsepower.
WORLDWIDE ACCIDENTS AND INCIDENTS
MEA Airbus A330 and Turkish Boeing 777 collided in Nigeria
An incident was recorded on 29 July 2020, when a Middle East Airlines (MEA) Airbus A330-200 (registered OD-MEA) collided with a parked Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-300ER (registered TC-LJC) during taxiing at Lagos Airport (LOS), Nigeria. Both MEA’s right winglet and Turkish Airlines Boeing 777 aft fuselage suffered damage while the A330-200 was being moved backwards by the airport’s ground staff. No injuries were reported.
Two aircraft collide while fighting Bishop fire in Nevada
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Claire Morville reported that the two single-engine Air Tractor AT8T airplanes collided in mid-air while battling the 14,000-acre Bishop Fire, as was reported by the Reno Gazette Journal. The Bishop fire started in Rainbow Canyon, about 17 miles southwest of Caliente, Nevada. The fire, which caused by humans was first reported on Wednesday.
Current ground resources are one Type 1 hand crew, three Type 2 Initial Attack hand crews, seven engines, two bulldozers and three water tenders. One Type 1 helicopter, two Type 3 helicopters, five Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) and three heavy air tankers are providing aerial support. A Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) is en route. The Bureau of Land Management is receiving assistance from the Lincoln County Fire Protection District, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and private contractors.
Crosswind landing bends four airplanes
The flight instructor reported that, following simulated instrument flight instruction to a private pilot-rated student, he took the controls of the Cirrus SR20 while on approach to the airport in Sanford, Florida. He added that it had started to rain, but that the runway was still visible. Before touchdown, the CFI kept the airplane in ground effect to reduce the airspeed and the airplane touched down about halfway down the 3,578-foot-long runway, bounced twice and touched down again. He then applied brakes and the student ‘got the flaps up.’ After exiting the runway onto a taxiway, the instructor applied brakes, but the ‘airplane was still traveling too fast when it entered the ramp’ and it veered slightly left of the taxiway centerline and hit three unoccupied airplanes on the ramp. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the left wing and left-wing spar box. The airport’s automated weather observation station reported that, about the time of the accident, the wind was from 200° at 16 knots, gusting to 23 knots; visibility was one statute mile; broken clouds at 3,900 feet; temperature 81°F; dew point 73°F; and heavy rain.
Pilot’s dependence on fuel gauges leads to fuel exhaustion
The commercial pilot stated that, during the pre-flight inspection of the helicopter before the agricultural flight, there were about 23 gallons of fuel onboard, which he determined was sufficient to complete the 45- to 60-minute flight to his destination. He added that, before departure, the helicopter fuel gauge indicated ‘close’ to 3/4 full. Based on the helicopter’s total fuel capacity (41 gallons), a 3/4-fuel quantity indication would have equated to about 30 gallons. About 50 minutes into the flight and seven miles from the destination airport, the engine lost power.
The pilot performed an autorotation to a field near Le Sueur, Minnesota. The helicopter hit terrain and sustained substantial damage. The pilot sustained injuries in the crash. During a post-accident examination of the helicopter, no usable fuel was found. However, the fuel gauge indicated a little over a 1/4 tank of fuel remaining. The examination revealed that the fuel transmitter’s resistive element was corroded. The fuel transmitter was tested and the resistive values were uncorrelated to the transmitter’s float position. A new fuel transmitter was tested and the resistive values corresponded to the float position. Although the fuel gauge was indicating that a sufficient amount of fuel was onboard for the flight, the pilot should have visually checked the fuel quantity in the tanks before take-off to ensure that a sufficient amount of fuel was onboard for the flight, which he did not do.
NTSB preliminary report: Piper PA46
On 3 July 2020, a Piper PA-46-600, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Titusville, Florida. The pilot and two passengers were not injured. The pilot reported that he performed a traffic pattern approach to runway 27 at Space Coast Regional Airport (TIX), Titusville, Florida. The airplane crossed the runway threshold at 80 knots and landed about three feet left of the runway centreline. When the nosewheel touched down, the airplane veered sharply right. The pilot applied left rudder and brake inputs to correct the deviation. However, the airplane did not respond. The airplane subsequently departed the right side of the runway and came to rest upright in the grass about 100 feet from the runway edge. Inspection of the accident site by a Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed three skid marks on runway 27. The darkest of the skid marks was consistent with being made by the nose landing gear tyre. The skid marks arced to the right about 30° and exited into the grass. Once in the grass, the mark attributed to the nose landing gear appeared as a dirt trench scraped free of grass, ending where the airplane came to rest. Examination of the airplane revealed substantial damage to the left wing, wrinkling on the left side of the fuselage and damage to the left main and nose landing gear.
Stall while landing fatal for three
The private pilot of the multiengine Piper PA-60 was in cruise flight at 23,000 feet mean sea level (msl) in day visual meteorological conditions when he reported to air traffic control that the plane was losing altitude due to a loss of engine power. The controller provided vectors to a nearby airport. About seven minutes later, the pilot reported the airport in sight and said he would enter a downwind leg for Runway 14 at the airport in Greenville, Maine. By this time, the airplane had descended to about 3,200 feet above ground level. Radar data indicated that the airplane proceeded toward the runway but that it was about 400 feet above ground level on short final. The plane flew directly over the airport at a low altitude before entering a left turn to a close downwind for Runway 21.
Witnesses stated that the airplane’s propellers were turning, but they could not estimate engine power. When the airplane reached the approach end of Runway 21, it entered a steep left turn and was flying slowly before the left wing suddenly ‘stalled’ and the airplane pitched nose-down toward the ground. All three on board the aircraft died in the crash. Examination of both propeller systems indicated power symmetry at the time of impact, with damage to both assemblies consistent with low or idle engine power.
The onboard engine monitor recorded battery voltage, engine exhaust gas temperature and cylinder head temperature for both engines. A review of the recorded data revealed that about 14 minutes before the accident, there was a jump followed by a decrease in exhaust gas temperature (EGT) and cylinder head temperature (CHT) for both engines. The temperatures decreased for about nine minutes, during which time the right engine EGT data spiked twice. Both engines’ EGT and CHT values then returned to normal, consistent with both engines producing power, for the remaining five minutes of data. It is possible that a fuel interruption may have caused the momentary increase in both engines’ EGT and CHT values and prompted the pilot to report the engine power loss. However, the engine monitor did not record fuel pressure or fuel flow and examination of the airplane’s fuel system and engines did not reveal any mechanical anomalies. The reason for the reported loss of engine power could not be determined. It is likely that the pilot’s initial approach for landing was too high and he attempted to circle over the airport to lose altitude. While doing so, he exceeded the airplane’s critical angle of attack while in a left turn and the airplane entered an aerodynamic stall at an altitude too low for recovery.
NTSB preliminary report: Mooney M20TN
On 7 July 2020 a Mooney M20TN airplane, Canadian registered C-GTVS, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at the Central Colorado Regional Airport, Buena Vista, Colorado. The pilot was seriously injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. A witness, who was located at the airport, reported that he observed the airplane take-off from runway 15 with no problems noted. The airplane then suddenly impacted the runway surface. A post-crash fire ensued. The witness responded to the accident location to assist the pilot. Post-accident examination of the airplane revealed the fuselage cockpit and cabin area and forward right wing were consumed by fire. Flight control continuity was established to all flight control surfaces.
WORLD AVIATION NEWS
Boeing reports $2.4 billion net loss, postpones 777X to 2022
Revenues for the Commercial Aircraft division were impacted the most, as they slumped by 65% to $1.63 billion. Deliveries fell from 90 aircraft in the second quarter of 2019 to 20 this quarter. The Defence, Space and Security division barely grew in revenue, generating $6.59 billion, up from $6.58 a year before. To alleviate its losses, the manufacturer, which already announced plans to cut 16,000 jobs, warned that it would have to ‘further assess the size of its workforce,’ without giving further details. The production rate of the 777 has been revised downwards, from 3 to 2 per month and that of 787 to six per month against seven previously. Rumours regarding the postponement of the 777X were confirmed, with the first delivery set to happen a year later than expected, in 2022.
The ramp-up of the Boeing 737 MAX production, which resumed in May 2020, will be ‘slower than expected’, with the goal output of 31 aircraft to be reached in early-2022 instead of 2021. Production rates for the 767 and 747 programmes will remain unchanged.
Boeing aims to deliver 450 stored 737 MAX aircraft within one year
Speaking during the company’s second-quarter earnings call on 29 July, executives stress that Boeing will prioritise delivery of aircraft already produced, clearing that inventory before focusing on ramping 737 production. “We will continue to focus on relieving the inventory; that informs the production rate,” said Boeing chief executive David Calhoun. Chief financial officer Greg Smith added that Boeing expects to deliver ‘the majority” of its inventory of stored 737 Max within a year of when resuming deliveries.’ However, he says some of those deliveries will stretch beyond one year. He confirmed the inventory stands at approximately 450 jets. Boeing accumulated those aircraft because it continued manufacturing the Max through most of 2019 despite being unable to deliver the jets due to the grounding. The company now expects to increase 737 production to 31 jets monthly by the beginning of 2022. Boeing resumed 737 Max production in May after a five-month production halt. It is now producing the jet at an unspecified ‘low’ rate.
Cathay Pacific to fly one-third of its fleet abroad for storage
According to Hong Kong media, some aircraft of Cathay Pacific and its affiliate airlines will leave for Alice Springs in Australia for storage this week. The first batch will involve about 12 Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon aircraft. Cathay Pacific said it had decided to move about one-third of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon fleet to locations outside of Hong Kong in the next few months under prudent operation and asset management considerations.
According to sources, in view of the continued weak global passenger demand in the future, Cathay Pacific decided to fly some of its aircraft to desert areas for storage and avoid the impact of humid weather in Hong Kong and the coming storm season on the planes stored at its airport. More than 50 aircraft will be included and it is estimated that the storage period will last at least three years.
Cathay Pacific and Cathay Pacific dragon airlines currently have 134 and 48 aircraft in their fleet, respectively, according to Cathay Pacific’s annual report. About one-third of the total aircraft of the two airlines, which counts about 60 aircraft, need to be transferred. Cathay Pacific said it will move the first batch to Alice Springs in Australia and is discussing the use of suitable facilities in other areas. Cathay Pacific said the company’s current aircraft are stored at Hong Kong airport, most in remote parking, taxiways and other operational areas available for parking. The non-operational aircraft need to be relocated outside of Hong Kong to get away from the humid weather. Alice Spring, an oasis in the desert located between Darwin and Adelaide, sits on the bank of Todd River, which is often dry and waterless, makes a good option.
Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon have adjusted their overall passenger capacity to about 7% in July this year and intend to operate only up to 10% of regular flight frequency in August. The relevant plans will be adjusted in response to the further relaxation or tightening of the government’s epidemic prevention measures. Cathay Pacific earlier expected to record a huge loss of HK$9.9 billion ($1.3 billion) in the first half of the year. Despite all the measures taken, passenger revenue fell to only about 1% of last year’s level, implying that Cathay Pacific had an initial monthly operating loss of HK$2.5 billion to HK$3 billion in cash. Cathay Pacific’s latest announcement shows that even though it has reduced passenger service as much as possible, it still maintains a loss of about HK$1.5 billion per month.
Curious case of SpiceJet long-haul low-cost flights
The long-haul low-cost market seems like it is about to get a new entrant, as SpiceJet announced that it has gained the designation from the local aviation authorities to fly to both the United Kingdom and the United States. Yet the announcement raises a few questions, as the airline has no wide-body aircraft to fly the routes, nor it has any on order. In addition, SpiceJet plans to operate its first long-haul flight to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) in the Netherlands on 1 August 2020, in order to repatriate stranded Indian citizens from the European country and bring them back to India. According to reports by local media, the airline is planning to use the Airbus A330neo to operate the flights.
The charter flights would be the first long-haul flights operated by the low-cost carrier, which mainly focuses on short-haul domestic and medium-haul international flights to United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. While there are 46 Airbus A330-900neo aircraft delivered, according to the manufacturer’s latest orders and deliveries filing, the Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI) company Hi Fly has one A330neo (registered CS-TKY) that has not had any movement over the past few days, potentially indicating it could be the aircraft that SpiceJet would lease.
While on one hand the conditions to start exploring new horizons might be perfect, as second-hand or leased aircraft are available at favourable rates, on the other hand, operating scheduled services comes with questionable success rates. After all, the only Indian airline to fly long-haul is Air India, which itself is riddled with massive debt. Two other airlines, namely Kingfisher and Jet Airways, capitulated. SpiceJet would be competing with the aforementioned Air India and British Airways on routes to / from the United Kingdom. On the transpacific side of the ocean, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines operated scheduled services prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Air travel industry bailouts totalling $42b backed in US Congress
The United States House signed a letter backing a six-month extension of a $32 billion payroll aid programme for the aviation industry, while Senate Republicans agreed to the Airport association’s plea for additional $10 billion. It is still uncertain if both programmes will eventually be enacted, but the events mark a significant step for the US air travel industry and its prospects to receive further funding.
US Congress already provided $32 billion in payroll assistance to the US aviation industry in March 2020, a sum which is due to expire before October. The airlines were asking for further extension of the program, claiming hundreds of thousands of workers could be fired after the CARES Act expiry date on 1 October 2020.
$10 billion assistance for airports was also approved in March, with American Association of Airport Executives initially asking for another $13 billion extension. The US aviation industry was heavily impacted by new coronavirus pandemic. In July 2020, major airlines reported quarterly losses of billions of dollars and although the industry shows first signs of recovery, it may take years for the air travel to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Cost versus confidence: will cheap tickets drive travel demand?
Like never before the aviation industry is in limbo. The maze that was put in front of various airline executives has still not been solved, as estimates on when the record-breaking 2019 travel numbers would return get pushed back and back. But how the industry can stimulate the demand for travel to move at least an inch remains at the center of the maze. A wrong turn can backfire massively and exacerbate the pain of the current crisis, tangling a carrier’s feet in a hedge that might never let go. The crisis calls for innovative ways to navigate it. For example, Frontier Airlines, a United States-based low-cost carrier, introduced a service that allowed customers to buy out the middle seat starting at $39 on 5 May 2020. Two days later, the company changed its tune after it faced a fair share of backlash, including letters from US lawmakers.
“We recognise the concerns raised that we are profiting from safety and this was never our intent. We simply wanted to provide our customers with an option for more space,” stated Frontier Airlines’ chief executive officer (CEO) Barry Biffle. Yet when the low-cost carrier announced the option, Biffle told CNBC that the sale of the middle seat is “to put people’s minds at ease.”
Free-falling load factors
Blocking out the middle seat, nevertheless, is a painful venture, as airlines were forced to scale down and in turn, reduce the scale of their economies. Parking aircraft on the ground puts a lot of pressure on companies, as these assets still require service and lease payments, yet they do not generate any profit. According to CH Aviation data at the end of July 2020, 40% of all passenger aircraft were stored. While that is an improvement over the 59% seen in April 2020, demand for air travel has remained weak. With more capacity introduced into the market, airlines hoped to also welcome more customers. Yet enthusiasm for boarding an aircraft remains low, as global Revenue Passenger Kilometres (RPK) fell by 86.5% in June 2020 compared to the same month a year prior. The average load factor, meanwhile, was recorded as 57.6%, meaning aircraft were flying with a third of their seats empty, as showcased by International Air Transport Association (IATA) data.
IATA affirms its view that air traffic will only recover in 2024
After a worse than expected June 2020, the International Air Traffic Association (IATA) revised its outlook for the aviation industry, forecasting a return to 2019 levels only in 2024. For airlines, getting back some of that demand is crucial in order to minimise their cash burn. Whether it would be just a fraction of last year’s levels, airlines desperately need for demand to come back. Delta Air Lines’ CEO Ed Bastian told NPR that the airline is “flying today somewhere about 25% of the schedule that we did last summer. We will need another 10 to 20 points of demand over the next six months to get closer to that break-even level on cash flow.”
Customer confidence is a priority
But Bastian noted that even a slight recovery depends on the path the virus will involuntarily choose to go towards and subsequently, how confident will passengers feel about flying. Delta Air Lines CEO also highlighted that it would continue to block the middle seat: if the average load factor reaches 60%, it will add more flights, rather than fill the flights with more people. “It is a decision we are taking about putting people over profits, absolutely,” stated Bastian.
Emirates, the flag carrier of Dubai, went all-in on customer confidence measures. The airline announced that it would cover the medical expenses and quarantine costs, up to $176,000 and $117 daily for up to 14 days, respectively. “Emirates is proud to lead the way in boosting confidence for international travel. We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually re-open, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel,” stated Emirates Group Chairman and CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. The offer applies to all customers, regardless of their destination or if they were traveling with an economy class ticket. Emirates announced that it will resume flights to Nairobi, Baghdad and Basra, growing its passenger network to 67 destinations in August 2020.
“I am convinced to get Europe air travel moving again is with lower fares and price diminution,” stated the CEO of Ryanair Michael O’Leary. The Irish low-cost carrier announced it finished Q1 FY2021 with a net loss of $216 million (€185 million). Instead of an expected 149 million passengers, Ryanair now expects to carry 60 million travellers, an ambitious target according to O’Leary. “That traffic will only be delivered on the back of lower airfares,” added the Irish executive.
The airline’s load factors, on average, were at 61%. The low-cost carrier has not blocked its middle seats in order to improve passenger confidence. In May 2020, O’Leary called the idea ‘idiotic’ and if the Irish government were to mandate such a rule, they would have to pay for the empty seat or Ryanair would not fly. “We cannot make money on 66% load factors,” added O’Leary.
Wizz Air, another European low-cost carrier, has expanded massively, relative to the current crisis. Despite the period marking ‘one of the most challenging times in the history of aviation,’ according to the carrier’s CEO József Váradi, Wizz Air opened seven new bases and added aircraft to three bases across Europe. In total, the airline re-based 22 aircraft, launching more than 200 new routes. Much like its competitor Ryanair, the Hungary-based airline tries to stimulate traffic with sales and cheap tickets. But its bet to expand during the unprecedented pandemic is still one-of-a-kind. Whether it will come to fruition, only time will tell. Its most recently announced financial results of Q1 FY2021 indicated a negligible loss of $66.5 million (€56.7 million), a pleasantly surprising result amidst the multi-million and billion losses that other airlines have suffered throughout the same quarter.
However, pretty much all airlines around the world have enacted measures in order to improve passenger confidence measures. Mandatory masks on board, limited interaction with the crew, changing boarding procedures, the list goes on and on. The main difference is in which direction a company takes its next step towards. Whether that would be the very extra step of Emirates’ covering a passenger’s expenses or the path of stimulating demand via low prices, only time will tell who was right or who was wrong.
Embraer boosts Phenom maintenance intervals to 800 flight hours
Embraer has revised the Scheduled Maintenance Requirements (SMR) for the Phenom family of jets. The revision extends the intervals between stops from 600 flight hours and/or 12 months and multiples to 800 flight hours or 12 months and multiples. Most of the tasks with double intervals were also optimised to the longest period. This is a 33% maintenance interval improvement, which is almost double the industry average. To Phenom series customers, this significant improvement equates to less downtime, lower maintenance costs, a long economic life and more time in the air. The improvement was only made possible by the performance of the Phenom fleet over the last decade.
“Conceived as clean-sheet designs to be the best in their respective classes, the Phenom 100 and 300 series aircraft were built for high utilisation. Now, eleven years after the first delivery, with a fleet of over 900 jets in operation, our customer support and engineering team can reaffirm, once again, that our products are even better than the initial specification,” said Johann C. Bordais, President & CEO, Embraer Services & Support. The Phenom fleet has accumulated more than 1.7 million flight hours and 1.4 million cycles since the first delivery of the Phenom 100 in December 2008. Embraer’s business jet operators are supported by a global services and support organisation and its network of more than 70 owned and authorised service centres, complemented by a 24/7 Contact Center at its headquarters in Brazil.
The Scheduled Maintenance Requirements for the Phenom jets were developed to meet the specific needs of business aviation and are based on the Maintenance Steering Group (MSG-3) methodology. The methodology aims to preserve and restore the inherent safety and reliability levels of the aircraft and to build a knowledge base for design and maintenance improvement. The main benefits of this methodology include higher aircraft availability and overall cost reduction to keep the aircraft in ideal operating conditions.
Bell Boeing delivers first V-22 for US Navy’s Aircraft Carriers
Boeing and Bell Textron have delivered the first CMV-22B Osprey, which is the V-22 variant the US Navy will use for transporting personnel and cargo to aircraft carriers at sea. “The CMV-22B brings expanded capabilities not only to the carrier onboard delivery mission, but to the high-end fight,” said U.S. Navy Captain Dewon Chaney, Commodore, Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Wing. “We are anxious to get it to the fleet and show off its immense capabilities and agile flexibility.” The Navy selected the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey to replace the C-2A Greyhound fleet. Bell Boeing will deliver 48 of the tiltrotor aircraft.
First flown in December 2019, the CMV-22B carries up to 6,000 pounds for more than 1,150 nautical miles. It is the only aircraft that can transport major components of the F-35C engine directly to a carrier flight deck, a critical capability for Navy logistics and support. “The Osprey will transform carrier fleet operations,” said Kristin Houston, vice president, Boeing Tiltrotor Programmes and director, Bell Boeing V-22 Programme. “We have brought together the best teams for aircraft design, training and sustainment to ensure the Navy is ready for any mission from day one.” Navy aircrews and maintainers trained with the US Marine Corps, which has employed the V-22 since 2007, to accelerate the transition. The CMV-22B will be based at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego and Naval Air Station Norfolk.
Four H160s for the French Navy’s search and rescue missions
The French Armament General Directorate (DGA) is to supply four H160s to the French Navy for search and rescue missions through a partnership between Airbus Helicopters, Babcock and Safran Helicopter Engines. The French Navy will start operating these helicopters in 2022 for a period of ten years. This interim fleet of H160s will enable the French Navy to ensure the continuity of these critical missions as the Alouette III retires from service and pending Guépard deliveries. Airbus Helicopters, and its partners, will also be responsible for supporting the fleet with a high level of availability and performance commitments. In addition, French Navy operational feedback will be monitored to benefit the design of the military version of the H160 and its support system.
“We are proud that the French Navy will be operating the H160 for their search and rescue missions. We are sure that the improved situational awareness, increased pilot assistance and visibility that the H160 provides will prove to be a valuable asset for their critical and demanding missions”, said Bruno Even, Airbus Helicopters CEO. “Our industrial partnership with Babcock and Safran Helicopter Engines will allow us to ensure the highest level of availability for the French Navy and we are honoured to have been entrusted with this mission.”
The H160, as a next generation medium twin-engine aircraft, powered by Arrano engines, was designed to be a modular helicopter in order to address missions ranging from offshore transportation, private and business aviation, emergency medical services and public services. Its entry into service is planned for later in 2020. First deliveries of the equally modular military version, the H160M, or Guépard as it known in the French armed forces are planned in 2026. 169 H160Ms are foreseen in the frame of the Joint Light Helicopter programme (Hélicoptère Interarmées Léger: HIL) to replace five types of helicopters in service in the French armed forces.
First flight from sea for Chinese AG600, world's largest seaplane
Developed indigenously by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the AG600 seaplane, made its maiden flight over the sea in the coastal city of Qingdao. The aircraft could become an asset for the strategy of the Chinese military in the disputed maritime sectors of the South China Sea. For the test flight that took place on 26 July 2020, the aircraft stayed airborne for about 31 minutes. It is the third important milestone for the programme after its first take-off on 24 December 2017 and another take-off from a water reservoir in 2018.
The AVIC AG600 is powered by four turboprop engines and is reportedly capable to stay twelve hours in the air carrying fifty people. It is significantly larger than any other operating aircraft designed to land on and take off from water, with a size similar to a narrow-body airliner such as the Boeing 737 or the Airbus A320. Along with the ARJ21, the C919 and the Y-20, the AG600 testifies of China’s attempt to free itself of western production. While it is advertised primarily as a waterbomber and a maritime rescue aircraft, its capacities could prove useful for China’s implantation in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. So far, seventeen aircraft have been ordered.
WORLD DRONE NEWS
Federal Communications Commission fines HobbyKing more than $2.8 million for drones
The FCC has fined HobbyKing $2,861,128 for marketing drone transmitters which did not comply with FCC licensing rules. HobbyKing markets devices that provide a video link between transmitters mounted on unmanned aircraft systems and users flying drones. An FCC investigation found that dozens of devices marketed by the company transmitted in unauthorised radio frequency bands and, in some cases, operated at excessive transmission power levels. Radio frequency-emitting devices that can operate outside of radio frequency bands designated for amateur use must obtain FCC certification. The FCC’s investigation found that 65 models of devices could operate outside those bands, in addition to using designated amateur radio bands, yet the devices were not certified by the Commission.
In response to these complaints, the FCC issued a formal citation to warn the company that it must comply with these requirements. Following further complaints, the Commission ordered the company to provide information on its marketing of AV transmitters, yet HobbyKing provided no further response, as required by law. The Commission thus proposed this fine in 2018 and adopted it last week. Such unlawful transmissions could interfere with key government and public safety services like aviation systems and weather radar systems. If HobbyKing does not pay this fine within 30 days, this matter will be referred to the Department of Justice for collection.
Twice Weekly News from African Pilot
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Until Thursday, please be ‘Serious about flying’.
Athol Franz (Editor)