Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cracks in oil feed pipe blamed for 2010 Qantas engine blast

Cracks in an oil feed pipe caused an engine to explode on a Qantas A380 over the Indonesian island of Batam in November 2010, Australia's transport safety watchdog said on Thursday in its final report on the incident.

The airline grounded its entire Airbus A380 fleet after one of the Sydney-bound double-decker super-jumbos was forced to make a dramatic return to Singapore with smoke trailing from its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine and damage to its wing.

The mid-air blast sent debris raining down over Batam island in Indonesia, before pilots guided the plane carrying 469 passengers back to Changi Airport.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released its third and final report into the accident Thursday, which found that oil feed pipes in the A380's No. 2 engine did not conform to design specifications.

"The ATSB found that the engine failure was the result of a fatigue crack in an oil feed pipe," it said, calling the investigation one of the most complex it had ever undertaken.

"The crack allowed the release of oil that resulted in an internal oil fire. The oil fire led to one of the engine's turbine discs separating from the drive shaft.

"The disc then over-accelerated and broke apart, bursting through the engine casing and releasing other high energy debris."

The ATSB also found that the oil pipe, together with a number of similar pipes in other engines, had been made with a thin wall section and did not comply with design specifications.

"The thin wall substantially increased the likelihood of fatigue cracking," it said.

Since the incident, Rolls-Royce, aviation regulators, and operators of Trent 900-powered A380s have taken a range of steps to ensure that engines with incorrectly manufactured oil feed stub pipes were removed from service or fixed so aircraft could operate safely.

Rolls-Royce also introduced software that would automatically shut down a Trent 900 engine before its turbine disc over-speeds to prevent a similar occurrence, while improving their quality management systems.

The ATSB report absolved the plane's crew of any error, saying they completed the required actions for the multitude of system failures and safely landed.


The root of the problem finally fished out after almost three years. It is heartening to know that a similar incident will not occur again now that a new software has been installed to arrest the problem. Salute to the pilots onboard that plane to bring it back to ground safely when they were so near to total disaster.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thomas Cook A330 engine explosion caught by plane spotter at Manchester Airport

IT started as a normal runway taxi filmed by a plane spotter from the sidelines. Then boom. The engine explodes.

The entire scene was captured by plane spotter Simon Lowe who posted his video onto YouTube.

Thomas Cook flight TCX314 was carrying 325 passengers to the Dominican Republic at the time of the incident at Manchester Airport.

On the Aviation Herald - a website that lists all the aviation incidents around the world - the accident is listed as a "rejected takeoff". But it's much more scary than that.

There is some debate on his YouTube page over whether the Thomas Cook A330 engine exploded or whether it was just a compressor stall. Still, the fact remains that a huge ball of fire engulfs one of the plane's engines as it taxis down the runway. Either way, that's not good.

Mr Lowe continued to film, capturing the response from emergency vehicles. He says it took them two minutes and 46 seconds to arrive on the scene.

A Thomas Cook spokesman said: "We can confirm that an incident took place at Manchester Airport regarding flight TCX314, during takeoff to the Dominican Republic.

"The aircraft developed an engine fault and returned to stand; as a precaution, the airport emergency services attended the aircraft - but at no time were passengers or crew at risk.

"We'd like to thank our customers for their patience during the delay to their flight; a replacement aircraft was used to take them on their holiday the same afternoon."

An investigation is underway.


Pretty scary stuff if you're a passenger in the plane hearing the loud boom coming from the engine. But it is good job that the pilot handled it well especially when he brought the plane back into the straight line through the rudder controls.

The mishap happened early in the take-off run which is a blessing as V1 speed has not been met and thus a Reject Take-off procedure can be carried out. Had the plane rotated, it will be scarier for the passengers onboard.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Philippine pilots slammed over runway accident

Philippine aviation authorities on Tuesday suspended two pilots from budget carrier Cebu Pacific after their plane overshot a runway, saying they should have aborted the landing and failed to evacuate the aircraft which could have exploded.

The plane skidded off the runway in bad weather on June 2, coming to a halt on muddy ground beside the tarmac at the airport in the southern city of Davao.

All 165 people on board escaped unharmed, but angry passengers have criticised the pilots and crew, saying they were given no assistance despite the turmoil inside the plane after the terrifying landing.

Releasing the results of an initial investigation, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) criticised the two pilots for a series of lapses.

The authority's deputy director John Andrews said they should have aborted the landing when they realised the plane was not coming down at the correct angle.

And once the plane was on the ground, the pilots failed to immediately evacuate the passengers, leaving them on board for 15 minutes during which time the aircraft could have erupted in flames.

"In cases like this, you immediately initiate emergency evacuation. You don't know if the plane will explode or if the fuel lines were cut and there will be a fire," Andrews told reporters.

The chief pilot was suspended for six months and barred from serving as captain on a plane for a year, while his co-pilot was suspended for three months.

Cebu Pacific will also be asked to comply with an "action plan" which stresses safety over cost-cutting, Andrews said, adding that shaving down turnaround time between flights could cause mistakes to happen.

"When you speed things up, you sometimes forget something," he said. "We can say Cebu Pacific is safe. We just want to make it more safe."

CAAP officials said the airline could still face additional fines for the damage and losses caused to the airport.

Cebu Pacific said in a statement that it would comply with all the aviation authority's recommendations and would improve its training procedures, putting a new emphasis on safety.

The airline began commercial operations in 1996, attracting customers by offering cut-rate fares to local destinations.

It has expanded operations in recent years, now flying to many major Asian cities. Cebu Pacific boasts that it carries more passengers than any other airline in the Philippines.


This is very poor safety practice from the crew in the airplane, putting all lives at risk with their incompetence. It is no wonder both pilots are suspended with the captain receiving a heavier punishment for his lack of situational awareness. Was training provided by the airline sufficient to handle such situations? If yes, why did the pilots do nothing? If no, then safety concerns are a very big suspect in the airline.

Japan's ANA and AirAsia to dissolve budget carrier

Japan's All Nippon Airways and AirAsia said on Tuesday they have agreed to terminate their budget carrier joint venture as business slumped amid management clashes, dealing a blow to the country's fledgling low-cost sector.

Malaysia-based AirAsia said AirAsia Japan would cut service by the end of October, just over a year after it started flying out of Tokyo's Narita airport in August.

"The joint venture... faced many challenges since its launch," AirAsia said in a statement.

It cited a "fundamental difference of opinion between its shareholders on how the business should be managed from cost management to where the domestic business operations should be based".

AirAsia chief executive and founder Tony Fernandes added that "it is time for us to part ways and focus our attention on what we do best, which is running a true LCC (low-cost carrier)".

Fernandes hinted AirAsia may return to Japan, saying its brand had "resonated with Japanese customers".

"I remain positive on the Japanese market and believe there is tremendous opportunity for an LCC to succeed," he added.

However, Shinzo Shimizu, senior vice president of ANA Holdings, told a press briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday that the venture dissolved because "its name didn't spread in Japan and it couldn't make profits".

The airline booked an operating loss of about 3.5 billion yen ($36 million), he said.

Another problem was that the carrier focused on online sales -- a key strategy for AirAsia -- but many Japanese travellers still book flights through travel agents, Shimizu said.

"We think that there is a limit to the strategy of simply bringing AirAsia's operation into the Japanese market," he added ANA would launch a new budget brand in November, he said, although the airplanes leased by AirAsia Japan would be returned to the Malaysian firm.

"We will announce details of which brand and aircraft to use, as well as routes, in July," Shimizu said.

News reports said a new airline could fly under ANA's other budget carrier joint venture, Peach Aviation, which flies out of Osaka.

AirAsia Japan was one of three budget airlines to come online in Japan over the past couple of years, promising to shake up a sector long controlled by ANA and rival Japan Airlines.

A key constraint for budget carriers is that they were shut out of Haneda airport, just a short train ride from downtown Tokyo and the staging point for the most profitable domestic routes.

Flying out of Narita requires a one-hour train ride from the city centre, a long-standing headache for travellers including passengers with AirAsia Japan and Jetstar Japan, a joint venture between JAL and Australia's Qantas.

The Japanese aviation industry has long been notorious for sky-high landing fees and fuel taxes.

Another no-frills carrier, Skymark Airlines, has struggled to offer the kind of heavily discounted fares seen in Europe and North America due to high operating costs.


It seems that the collaboration came too quick and a market research wasn't done properly before Tony jumped at the opportunity of operating a low cost carrier in Japan. The aspect about Japanese consumer's "offline" practice shows that it is a market that you have to adapt to rather than the other way round.

It is sad that it didn't work out as well as another collaboration in Jetstar Japan. It still remains to be seen if the Japanese can accept this business model as such airlines are still struggling pretty significantly to make noticeable good progression.

Malaysian flights affected by haze

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has advised its passengers on last-minute flight cancellation and retiming due to the current haze situation.

Its operations director, Izham Ismail, said specific stations were under close watch for possible closure or interruption of certain airports including KL International Airport (KLIA).

“MAS is working closely with the airport authorities in monitoring the situation and will adjust our flight operations into and out of the affected airports when necessary.”

MAS has formed a haze secretariat to monitor the situation on an hourly basis and provide updates three times daily.

The airline also encouraged passengers to check the status of their flights at or call prior to leaving for the airport and for updates.


That is pretty bad visuals judging by the picture above. The haze has now turned to create havoc in Malaysia after doing it to Singapore the previous week.

Monday, June 24, 2013

No significant delays in flight departures & arrivals: CAAS

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) on Monday said there have been no significant delays in aircraft departures and arrivals despite the haze situation in the country.

As a precaution, airfield lights are turned on in the daytime to enhance the visibility of runways.

Changi Airport can allow aircraft to land safely when the runway visual range is more than 550 metres.

But with more stringent measures, aircraft can still land if the visual range is between 300 and 550 metres.

The measures include putting on standby secondary power supply for essential equipment, such as runway lights, and allowing more time between aircraft landings and take-offs.

Authorities said with reduced visibility, some delays and disruptions to aircraft operations, including flight cancellations, could be expected.

If the visual range falls below 300 metres, CAAS said Changi Airport will not be able to accept aircraft landings for safety reasons.

But planes can continue to take off safely, in accordance with each airline's policy.


Judging by this article, it seems that Changi Airport is only capable of ILS Cat 2 landing of RVR 300-550 metres. Well done to the airport controllers and such for a cool handling of the haze situation.

Haze update: SilkAir flight turned back from Pekanbaru due to poor visibility

A SilkAir flight had to return to Singapore on Monday morning, due to the worsening haze condition in Pekanbaru.

The SilkAir flight, MI 252, had arrived at Syarif Kasim II airport in the provincial capital of Riau province at about 8am.

Airport duty manager, Mr Baiquni, told The Straits Times that the flight was unable to land due to low visibility at the airport.

"The haze was thick and the pilot had to circle around the airport to find a way to land the plane.

"His first attempt to land from the west failed. He tried again to land from the north, but again, he couldn't do so. The pilot then decided to return to Singapore," he said.

Mr Baiquni added: "Visibility was only 300 metres this morning. Planes need a visibility level of at least 2,000 metres to touch down or take off."

A total of 11 flights were affected between 8am and 11am today. An AirAsia flight flying in from Bandung had to be diverted to Kuala Lumpur, while a Lion Air flight from Jakarta was diverted to Medan. The rest of the eight flights were delayed either at Syarif Kasim II airport or from their place of origin.

Normal operations resumed at the airport after 11am, when the sky cleared up.


Haze wrecking havoc in the region, with visuals severely affected and flights are embroiled into the matter. The forests in Sumatra are still burning and the haze situation is not showing any signs of let up. With the wind direction now blowing towards Malaysia, it will affect bigger airports like KLIA. Changi Airport handled the situation pretty well, let's hope the haze will clear up soon. Pray for rain in Sumatra.

Dreamliner makes emergency landing in US

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet was forced to make an emergency landing during an internal US flight on Sunday, due to a problem with its brake system, United Airlines said in a statement.

"United flight 94 from Houston to Denver returned to Houston Sunday due to a brake indicator issue," the US carrier said.

"Following standard operating procedures, as a precautionary measure, the flight landed in emergency status. The aircraft landed safely at 11:58 a.m. C.T. and our maintenance team is conducting a review of the aircraft," the statement continued.

The flight had departed nearly three hours earlier, at 9:12 am local time (0214 GMT).

A spokeswoman for Boeing, which makes the Dreamliner, said the problem with the braking system forced the plane "back to base," without giving details of the malfunction or how long it might take to repair it.

Leach said a Boeing field service representative was on the scene in Houston to help the airline with the issue, including getting the airplane back into service and dealing with stranded passengers.

It marks the latest problem to plague Boeing's flagship plane and at least a third one in a month.

An All Nippon Airways flight on the Dreamliner was cancelled on June 12 when an engine would not start. A day earlier, a Singapore-bound flight operated by Japan Airlines had to turn back mid-flight because of a problem with the anti-icing system.

The worldwide fleet of Dreamliners was grounded for four months earlier this year when problems were discovered with its battery systems.

A global grounding order was issued in January after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two different planes, with one of them catching fire while the aircraft was parked.

Boeing admitted in April that despite months of testing it did not know the root cause of the problems, but rolled out modifications it said would ensure the issue did not recur.

Nevertheless, in a bid to show it was back on track after the technical issues with the jetliner, the aerospace company announced at the Paris Air Show on June 18 that it was launching a new version of the Dreamliner, with over 100 orders worth about US$30 billion.

The new-generation 787-10 is bigger than its two brothers in the fuel-efficient Dreamliner family, and Singapore Airlines and ALC were its two biggest customers on Tuesday, with 30 orders each.

United committed to buying 20 planes while British Airways will get 12 and leasing company GECAS 10.


Another issue for the Dreamliner. Seems to be no end to it. But what matters most is that all passengers are safe.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chinese firm HKAC orders 60 Airbus jets

The Chinese aircraft leasing company Hong Kong Aviation Capital said on Thursday it had agreed to buy 60 Airbus jetliners in a deal worth up to US$6.3 billion (4.7 billion euros).

HKAC chief executive Donal Boylan has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Airbus that covers "the purchase of 40 A320neo and 20 A321neo aircraft," a statement said.

They are the latest, fuel-efficient versions of Airbus' best-selling medium-range aircraft, and the total number of planes carries a list price of $6.3 billion, though substantial discounts are the norm for large orders.

"This is our first direct order with any aircraft manufacturer and our first commitment for the A320neo" Boylan was quoted as saying.

HKAC is one of a number of growing aircraft leasing companies which account for a growing percentage of all aircraft purchases, and the size of the deals allows them to negotiate better rates than small airlines.

"We are delighted to have HKAC as our new customer for the Neo, the world's bestselling single-aisle aircraft," Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy said.

Alain Guillot, an expert in aerospace and defence at consultants AlixPartners has estimated that between 2007 and 2012, the share of planes belonging to leasing companies has grown by 20 per cent.

"Planes being rented out represented 35 per cent of the worldwide fleet in service in 2012," excluding private aircraft, he said.

Guillot has also calculated that nearly half of Airbus and Boeing order books are filled with deals done with leasing companies.

Airbus has indicated that sales via leasing will make it easier for many airlines to operate its A380 superjumbo airliner.


These leasing companies are high on confidence that all their orders will be leased out without trouble, having seen a number of them making huge aircraft orders. This should mean the market will get better in the near future, but probably mostly in Asia Pacific region.

S Korean airlines ban shark fin as cargo

South Korea's two largest airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, said on Thursday they had both decided to ban shark fin from their cargo flights as part of a growing global campaign against the Asian delicacy.

Korean Air, which flies to 45 countries, said in a statement that it had stopped shipping shark fin from June 10.

"Korean Air has joined a campaign to protect an ecological system by imposing a complete ban on the shipment of shark fin," the statement said.

Asiana, the country's second largest airline, said it was following suit.

"Our airline has decided to stop shipping shark fin," an Asiana spokeswoman told AFP, without saying when the ban would be enforced.

Shark fin soup is served by many hotels and Chinese restaurants in South Korea and is a staple at wedding banquets and corporate parties.

Global shark populations have been decimated by the trade. Humans kill about 100 million sharks each year, mostly for their fins, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, which says 90 per cent have disappeared over the past 100 years.

The move brings Korean Air and Asiana into line with a number of other Asian carriers, including Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific which stopped shipping shark fin as cargo last September.


A piece of news that will affect our stomachs. With  Cathay Pacific Cargo also banning such imports, it is left with only a selected few cargo airlines flying the fins around for people's consumption, no pun intended. If the figures are to be believed, 90% disappearance of sharks in the past decade is an alarming figure. Perhaps it will be good that the rest of the cargo airlines will follow suit and ban flying the fins within their fuselage.

AirAsia in US$8.6b engine deal to power Airbuses

Fast-growing budget carrier AirAsia said Thursday it had ordered 100 engines worth US$8.6 billion from manufacturer CFM International to power Airbus A320 airliners ordered last year.

The deal inked on Wednesday in France includes 64 new LEAP-1A engines for fuel-efficient A320neo jets, the Malaysia-based carrier said in a statement.

Asia's largest budget carrier by fleet size said the order also includes a 20-year service agreement.

CFM - a joint venture between GE Aviation of the United States, and France's Safran - said the LEAP engines provide up to 15 per cent better fuel efficiency.

AirAsia ordered 100 A320s for US$9.3 billion in December.

Airbus said at the time that the deal made AirAsia the biggest customer for single-aisle A320 airliners in the world, with a total of 475.

The airline serves about 70 destinations in 20 countries across Asia.


A huge deal for the engine maker, one which will propel the company forward. With massive plane orders being made in recent months, the choice of engine used is a massive market for these engine makers. Clinching a deal of such size will be very beneficial for the company. Not only will they provide the initial power-up, they will also provide the maintenance service, which is another huge chunk of money involved.

CAAS allows more time between flight takeoffs and landings due to haze

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said its air traffic controllers are allowing more time between flight takeoffs and landings because of visibility concerns.

Responding to queries from MediaCorp News, CAAS said this is to ensure the safety of flight operations at Changi Airport.

CAAS explained that the Runway Visual Range (RVR) reading has dropped to levels lower than 1500 metres due to the haze shrouding the country.

RVR is a measurement of the horizontal visibility along the runway or the range over which the pilot of an aircraft can see along the runway.

CAAS said a high PSI may cause the RVR value to fall and therefore may impact flight operations.

CAAS added that Changi Airport has facilities and procedures to allow safe landing of aircraft in low visibility conditions in accordance with international standards.

CAAS noted that there have not been any significant delays in flight departures and arrivals even with the added precautionary step taken.

It said during the prolonged period of haze in 1997, the lowest RVR reading at Changi Airport was about 800 metres.

Changi Airport remained open for flight operations at that time.


Visibility dropping below 1500m is quite a significant change considering Singapore usually experience pretty fair weather. The haze situation here is pretty bad with the forests still burning in Sumatra, and it is expect to continue for the rest of this week. But passengers need not worry, the instruments will be the pilots' eyes, reducing the chance of human error causing any mishap.

New Airbus plane takes off with big orders at Paris Air Show

The Airbus next-generation A350 plane took centre stage at the Paris Air Show on Wednesday, winning multi-billion-dollar deals ahead of a much-anticipated possible fly-over.

The news comes just days after the new plane took to the skies in its first ever test flight on Friday, stealing the limelight before the start of the air show - a key event where Airbus and Boeing compete fiercely for plane orders.

The European plane maker is currently ahead of its arch-rival at the show - US$53.2 billion in new plane orders or agreements for Airbus versus US$45.2 billion for Boeing.

Air France-KLM on Wednesday confirmed an order for 25 A350 planes - which make extensive use of lighter composite materials to reduce fuel costs - in a deal worth US$7.2 billion at catalogue prices.

"Despite the difficulties that Air France-KLM is facing, we are in significant good shape to be able to plan for the renewal of our long-haul fleet for the long term," said Alexandre de Juniac, head of the airline group.

The agreement comes with an option for a further 25 planes, and the aircraft will come into service in 2017, he told reporters. The airline group had first announced its intention to buy the planes in September 2011.

SriLankan Airlines, meanwhile, took an option to buy four of the new planes - an option expected to be exercised within two weeks - and placed six firm orders for Airbus's popular A330 aircraft in a deal worth US$2.6 billion at list prices.

The A350 took off on Wednesday on its second test flight in the southwestern French city of Toulouse, where Airbus is headquartered, and if all goes well could fly over the Paris Air Show on Friday.

The plane pushed Boeing out of the limelight on Wednesday, but the US firm had stolen the thunder on Tuesday with the launch of a long version of its next-generation Dreamliner - the 787-10.

Intended as a message that it is firmly back on track after a slew of technical problems forced the grounding of its entire Dreamliner fleet worldwide earlier this year, Boeing announced more than 100 orders for its newest plane.

On Wednesday, it said plane leasing firm CIT Aerospace had ordered 30 of its new, medium-haul 737 MAX planes in a deal worth US$3 billion at catalogue prices.

Ryanair also confirmed a huge order for 175 medium-haul 737 planes worth US$15.6 billion, and Czech private airline Travel Service announced a commitment to buy three of its 737 MAX aircraft valued at US$301.5 million.

The 737 MAX is a modernised version of Boeing's older 737 and has yet to come into service. It is part of a new generation of planes emerging onto the market which consume less fuel and enable airlines to reduce costs.

Other smaller competitors have also made a mark at the air show - the world's biggest - with ATR, a joint venture between European aerospace giant EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica, announcing big orders.

On Tuesday, Nordic Aviation Capital ordered 35 ATR-600 aircraft, with an option on 55 more in a deal worth US$2.1 billion, and the firm announced another US$482-million contract Wednesday.

Brazil's Embraer has also come up trumps with the launch of a new family of regional jets and 100 orders, with 215 other intentions to purchase the aircraft.

But the Paris air show, in its 50th edition this year, is not just about commercial battles, with the long-awaited A400M military transport plane taking to the skies as well as Russia's Su-35 fighter jet.


Airbus to have the last laugh? Not just yet when Boeing introduced the 787-10 during the show. Ryanir's order just threw the battle right to the wire. We won't know the victor until the very last day.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Samoan airline introduces "XL" class

A tiny Samoan airline says it will introduce an "XL" class for super-sized passengers, featuring extra-wide rows and special ramps to help them reach their seats.

Samoa Air has already pioneered a world first when late last year it began charging passengers fares based on how much they weigh, rather than a set price for each seat.

Chief executive Chris Langton said the measure had proved a success and the airline now planned to provide a special service so passengers weighing more than 130 kilograms (287 pounds) could travel in greater comfort.

"Quite often the access is difficult and... after you've squeezed into the seats there's no room for your legs," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"We don't have a large fleet of aeroplanes, but we wanted to do something that recognises that we are thinking about this."

He said rows in the new class had been extended to make them 12-14 inches (30-35 centimetres) wider, with customised ramps introduced to make access to them easier.

"It's sort of like a three-seat couch," he said.

Langton predicted other carriers would follow Samoa Air's lead, saying it made sense to charge by weight and cabins needed to be refitted to cope with expanding waistlines.

"That's where the XL has come in," he said. "We do it with shirts and clothing and other things where we have different standard sizes.

"The airline industry is going to have to do that."

The World Health Organisation says Samoa has one of the world's highest rates of obesity, leading to soaring levels of weight-related coronary disease, diabetes and strokes in the Pacific island nation.


Something interesting here. You may feel that the airline is picking bones in a basket of eggs but it is essential they resort to such measures when every single passenger is grossly overweight. It will create a loading problem and even result in insufficient re-fueling which is very dangerous for a flight.

Taiwan's EVA Air joins world's biggest air alliance

Taiwan's EVA Airways on Tuesday joined Star Alliance, the world's biggest airline grouping, in a move that could give it an edge over regional rivals like China Airlines.

"EVA Air has successfully completed all joining requirements and I can confirm that our chief executive board has now unanimously accepted EVA Air into our alliance," Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab announced at a ceremony in the north of the island.

The move could see an increase in the carrier's occupancy rate by up to three percentage points, according to chairman Chang Kuo-wei, as passengers benefit from greater integration with leading airlines.

It took EVA Air a year and half to meet the alliance requirements, foremost the adjustment of its computer systems that will enable passengers to use air miles earned through other alliance members.

In March last year, an EVA executive said joining the grouping would give the carrier an advantage over China Airlines which belongs to the smaller Sky Team.

EVA, Taiwan's second largest airline, becomes the 28th member of the Star Alliance, which also includes carriers such as Lufthansa, Thai Airways International, United Airlines and Air Canada.


Important strategy to widen its coverage and fight against the stronger China Airlines.

Boeing launches new Dreamliner with over 100 orders

Boeing launched the biggest version of its Dreamliner plane at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday with over 100 orders worth about $30 billion and a clear message - after a run of technical blows, the US firm is back on track.

The announcement failed to steal a march on arch-rival Airbus on the second day of the show with the European plane maker soaring ahead on new plane orders or agreements worth $36 billion compared to $26.2 billion for the US firm.

Smaller regional plane makers such as European manufacturer ATR also made their presence felt with multi-billion-dollar contracts propelled by demand and opportunities in Asia and South America.

"Boeing today officially launches the 787-10," Boeing head Jim McNerney told reporters, with commitments to buy the new aircraft from United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, and leasing firms ALC and GECAS.

Boeing did not say how much the deals for the 787-10 -- the biggest of the three fuel-efficient Dreamliner planes -- were worth, but each aircraft costs $290 million at catalogue prices.

That would mean the contracts were worth $29.6 billion, although hard negotiation in the airline industry usually results in big discounts from list prices.

ALC also said it would buy three 787-9 planes and Korean Air ordered 11 long-haul aircraft.

The announcements put Boeing firmly back in the running after a slew of recent technical problems forced the grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet worldwide for three months in a huge blow to the US firm -- and its bosses.

"If I took off my shirt you'd see a lot of scars from the 787," Patrick Shanahan, general manager of airplane programmes, said recently in Seattle where Boeing factories are based.

Ray Conner, head of Boeing's commercial airplanes division, told reporters earlier this week that executives at the firm were "battle-tested" after the experience.

In just over four years, Boeing should have all three versions of the Dreamliner on the market and possibly two newer versions of the 777, against just three types of A350, Airbus's direct competitor.

Undeterred, the European plane maker got off to a roaring start at the air show -- though most of its orders so far arise from the medium-haul market, which it already dominates.

Low-cost airline easyJet on Tuesday announced a deal to buy 135 of the Airbus A320 passenger planes -- one of the firm's most popular and profitable models -- including 100 of new generation and more fuel-efficient neo aircraft.

And Syphax Airlines, a new carrier based in Tunisia, signed an agreement to buy three of Airbus's new A320neo planes and three of its classic A320 aircraft.

But the European firm is seeking to unseat Boeing in the more lucrative long-haul segment with its own next-generation A350 plane, which flew for the first time on Friday ahead of the show, where it could make a brief fly-by.

The aircraft -- which like the Dreamliner makes extensive use of lighter, carbon-based composite materials that reduce fuel consumption -- will seek to compete with the 787 as well as Boeing's older 777 model.

So far, though, there have been no new orders for the A350 at the air show.

Overall, if catalogue prices are used as a barometer and only firm new orders and agreements counted, Airbus has taken the lead with orders worth $36 billion so far, compared to $26.2 billion for Boeing.

Other smaller competitors in regional transport markets have also made a mark, with ATR -- a joint venture between European aerospace giant EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica -- announcing one of its biggest orders.

Leasing firm Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC) signed up for 35 ATR-600 aircraft built by the firm, with an option on 55 in a deal worth $2.1 billion, ATR said.

Brazil's Embraer has also come up trumps with the launch of a new family of regional jets and 100 orders, with 215 other intentions to purchase the aircraft.

ATR said there were numerous opportunities in emerging markets in Asia and South America, adding that 30 percent of passengers worldwide travel on distances inferior to 550 kilometres (342 miles), which regional planes cover.


The Paris Air Show is piling on the orders flick and fast on all plane manufacturers, from small boys like Embraer to bigger ones like Airbus and Boeing. There is still a long way to go before the show ends, and it is still unsure which one of the two biggest plane makers will be the ultimate winner. The key shall lay in the hands of the A350 and B787.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

easyJet to buy 135 Airbus A320s for US$12b

British no-frills airline easyJet on Tuesday announced a deal to purchase 135 Airbus single-aisle A320 passenger planes, including 100 new-generation neo aircraft for $11.9 billion (8.9 billion euros), after agreeing sizeable discounts.

easyJet, issuing a statement amid the Paris Air Show where European aircraft maker Airbus is battling for orders with US rival Boeing, said that it has secured an option to buy an additional 100 A320neo planes.

"I am delighted that easyJet is able to announce its fleet plans today," said the airline's chief executive Carolyn McCall.

"All manufacturers competed hard for the easyJet business. Both Airbus and Boeing offered us new generation aircraft that met our requirements and offered greatly improved fuel efficiency.

"Ultimately, Airbus offered us the best deal, and at a price with a greater discount to the list price than their landmark fleet purchase with easyJet in 2002," she added.

easyJet is to acquire 35 current-generation A320 aircraft for delivery between 2015 and 2017 under an existing option agreement, and 100 new generation A320neo planes for delivery between 2017 and 2022 under a new deal.

It added that 85 of the 135 ordered aircraft will be used to replace ageing passenger planes, with the remaining 50 used to build on easyJet's strategy of increasing its seat capacity of between three and five percent annually.

The huge transaction is subject to approval by easyJet shareholders, including its largest -- the airline's founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou -- who has bitterly opposed the company's desire to purchase new planes.

Haji-Ioannou, or simply Stelios as he is widely known, was meanwhile last year defeated in his attempt to throw out a multi-million-pound pay deal for executives. Stelios and his family currently own almost 37 percent of easyJet.

The founder argues that easyJet should be returning money to shareholders via the payment of dividends, rather than increasing its seating capacity.


Big order for Airbus in another leap over its Boeing rival. However this order is mainly for fleet renewal in the airline with only 50 birds used for expansion plans.

Monday, June 17, 2013

SIA passenger load factor falls in May

Singapore Airlines' (SIA) passenger load factor fell 1.2 percentage points on-year to 74.6 per cent in May.

In a statement issued Monday, the airline said load factors eased across all regions, with Europe and the South West Pacific regions registering the highest declines.

In the face of a challenging operating environment, SIA said its efforts to boost loads are expected to exert pressure yields.

Meanwhile, SilkAir carried 5.9 per cent more passengers per kilometre despite a 17.2 per cent growth in capacity.

This led to a fall in its passenger load factor by 7.0 percentage points on-year, from 73.2 per cent to 66.2 per cent.

Overall cargo traffic was 5.1 per cent lower on-year, while capacity decreased by 3.8 per cent.

The carrier cited weak traffic against capacity changes as the main cause for the decline.

The only exceptions were Europe, where the change in load factor was positive, and South West Pacific, where traffic and capacity changes were on par year-on-year. 


Languishing around with load factor dropping, it seems that every A380 flight to and from Europe isn't making enough money as it seems.

Doric orders 20 Airbus superjumbos

European aircraft maker Airbus made a big breakthrough for its flagship A380 superjumbo airliner on Monday, taking the first order for the plane this year after a setback over cracks in the wings.

The provisional order, worth about $8.0 billion (6.0 billion euros) at list prices, came from Doric Asset Finance, a leasing group which will make the A380 giant accessible to many airlines via rental agreements.

The deal, important for Airbus in its efforts to boost sales of the aircraft, the giant of the skies, comes just three days after another milestone, the maiden flight of its new long-range A350 aircraft.

Airbus head Fabrice Bregier told the Wall Street Journal newspaper on the opening of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget on Monday that the firm hoped to more than double its operating profit in the next two years.

It intended to raise the operating margin from 4.0 per cent to 10.0 per cent, he said, adding that this target excluded the launch costs of the A350.

Last year was a difficult one for the A380 superjumbo because micro cracks were detected where the wings join the fuselage.

Airbus is correcting the problem, but the manufacturer had taken no orders for the A380 since the beginning of 2013.

Boosting sales of the A380 is of particular importance to Airbus, which said in a statement that with this investment Doric would be able to offer the aircraft on tailor-made terms for airlines.

This would facilitate use of the plane by airlines around the world, Airbus said.

Doric Asset Finance has provided finance for orders by airlines such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

Under leasing arrangements, an airline enters into a rental agreement with the leasing company, thereby avoiding having to find the purchase capital from its own resources.

Airbus said that Doric was the third-biggest such company in the world, in terms of value, providing leasing arrangements for jumbo aircraft and was the biggest in terms of managing such deals for the A380 superjumbo.

Doric currently manages aircraft worth $6.0 billion, including 18 A380 airliners purchased under sale and leaseback agreements, so the latest deal represents a substantial increase for the leasing group.

The latest agreement in principle, or outline deal, is expected to be confirmed in a few months.


More A380s available for lease from Doric after this purchase, and it is a real huge one, after Airbus receiving naught order for a good half a year of 2013. Perhaps this should kick start the ball and keep it rolling through the rest of the airshow.

Japan's Skymark orders four Boeing planes

Japan's Skymark Airlines on Monday announced it would buy four of Boeing's 737 MAX planes, the first Japanese airline to choose the US firm's new mid-range plane.

"It's a commitment to a minimum of four firm orders and we're still in discussions on how the transition of the whole fleet will go," John Wojick, vice president of global sales for Boeing, told reporters at the Paris Air Show.

Skymark currently has 30 of the US firm's mid-range 737 planes, and will have five more of those by next year. It then intends to gradually renew its entire fleet with the newer 737 MAX aircraft, which has yet to come into service.

At catalogue prices, Skymark's order for four planes announced on Monday is worth $402 million (301 million euros).

The air show just north of Paris kicked off on Monday, with Boeing and Airbus announcing a slew of orders as they battle for supremacy at the major event.


A relatively small order for Boeing with a minor airline based in Japan.

India's Jet Airways shares fall as Etihad approval delayed

Shares of India's private carrier Jet Airways slumped nearly 12.3 per cent Monday morning, after authorities last week delayed approval for Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad to acquire a stake.

Jet shares fell as much as 12.27 per cent to a low of 411.6 rupees at the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The Jet-Etihad deal, announced in April, is the first overseas investment in an existing Indian carrier since New Delhi eased restrictions to allow foreign firms to take up to a 49 per cent stake in the country's airlines.

Etihad plans to pick up a 24 per cent stake in Jet Airways under the agreement.

India's Economic Affairs Secretary Arvind Mayaram said the proposal was deferred as they required more details of the effective control and ownership of the new firm.

The Etihad investment will allow Jet to reduce its hefty debt and expand its global reach by using the UAE airline's network.

In March, India's foreign investment panel cleared a proposal by low cost Malaysia-based AirAsia to set up an airline in India through a joint venture with the Tata conglomerate and another partner.

Indian airlines have been under pressure to grow due to fierce competition among carriers, with India's rapidly expanding middle class starting to favour air travel over the country's main mode of transport by train.


The delay is not going to do any good now that the share prices of the company is dropping. Such issues should have been ironed out long ago. More communication between the various parties are needed, quickly.

Boeing-Airbus dogfight dominates top airshow

The world's biggest air show takes to the skies on Monday, with a battle between Boeing and Airbus for orders in the lucrative market for wide-body planes set to dominate the Paris event.

European manufacturer Airbus managed to steal a march on its American rival before the show -- at Le Bourget just north of Paris -- with a successful maiden flight of its new A350 long-haul plane.

Airbus is pinning its hopes on the fuel-efficient A350 to compete in the long-haul sector after gradually winning more than half of the market for medium-haul, single-aisle planes that carry an average of 150 passengers.

The A350 is expected to conduct a fly-by of the air show towards the end of the week, hoping to woo potential customers.

During the show, famous for high-profile announcements of big-money deals, Airbus hopes to add a slew of orders for the plane -- set for delivery at the end of 2014 -- to confirmed contracts with Qatar Airways, British Airways and Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific.

Nevertheless, Boeing is also entering the show in bullish mood as it seeks to move on from its difficulties with the trouble-prone 787 Dreamliner.

Technical problems with overheating batteries forced the worldwide grounding of the Dreamliner fleet in a major setback for the Seattle-based manufacturer.

Boeing will showcase the Dreamliner at the event and the firm is expected to announce the launch of its 787-10X, a longer version of the original Dreamliner, which can accommodate up to 330 passengers.

The US firm is also set to announce in the coming months an up-to-date version of its existing 777, with wings made of fuel-saving composite material like the Dreamliner.

Boeing boss Ray Conner said it was going to be a "great competition" and said that airlines would "benefit from the fact that both companies are going to have a good wide-body product line."

"I think we have the better products and at the end of the day, hopefully the better product wins," Conner told reporters on Sunday.

Airbus has positioned the A350 for the market between the popular 777 and the 787, hoping to steal share away from both planes.

The European firm argues that its craft will consume six percent less fuel than the 787 and a quarter less than the 777.

Boeing's strategy, on the other hand, is to offer its clients a wider choice of long-haul airliners but Tom Enders, boss of Airbus parent company EADS, said "the jury was still out" in terms of the firms' respective market situation.

"It's premature to draw any conclusion and it's not necessarily the one who has more products who is also better positioned on the market," said Enders.

And analysts warned that Boeing's recent technical troubles may yet haunt the US firm.

"Airbus can, and will, argue that Boeing's ability to execute is questionable and that the A350 is a better bet in terms of timing and availability," said Richard Aboulafia, a US-based aviation expert.

Another expert, Christophe Menard, from Kepler Capital Markets in Paris, also noted that Airbus had developed the A350 faster than the Dreamliner which suffered three years of delays before finally taking off.

At last year's Farnborough show in Britain, Boeing came out on top, securing orders worth around $35.5 billion, more than double the Airbus haul of $16.9 billion.

However, while the big two still dominate the shows, other players are entering the market, with Canada's Bombardier hoping to win orders in the medium-haul segment with its CSeries, a plane with 110 to 130 seats.

"The duopoly is definitely over," acknowledged Randy Tinseth, marketing vice-president at Boeing.

The Paris air show, in its 50th edition this year, is not just about commercial battles and the long-awaited A400M military transport plane will also likely provide a highlight as it takes to the skies.

The market in unmanned surveillance drones will also be in focus after three top European defence companies urged the creation of a European programme to manufacture the craft, currently available only from Israel or the United States.

The Paris Air Show runs from June 17 to 23. It is expected to welcome some 350,000 visitors through its cavernous show halls.

The event, which has become the global aviation industry's largest in terms of surface and number of exhibitors, will throw open its doors to the public on June 21 after first welcoming professionals.


 The battle is sure to heat up now that Airbus has successfully tested the A350 on its maiden flight without any issues at hand. It was the Dreamliner's show in 2012 but I reckon it will be the A350's turn this year. Its numbers and fuel efficiency sure looks very attractive.

Stray plane delays 10 flights

For almost 40 minutes on Thursday, a runway at Changi Airport had to be shut down and 10 flights delayed because an aircraft being towed somehow strayed onto a taxiway.

The New Paper understands that the aircraft, a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300, was being moved from a boarding gate at Terminal 3 when it was towed too quickly and accidentally entered the taxiway near the runway.

The incident, which happened around 12.30pm, was considered a case of runway incursion and, as a result, the runway was closed, delaying six arrivals and four departures.

One of the worst air disasters in history was the result of a runway incursion.

That happened in 1977, when a KLM flight attempted to take off while a Pan Am aircraft was still on the runway at an airport in Tenerife, Spain. The two planes collided, killing 583 people.

All runway incursions are seen as serious incidents.

Mr Paul Yap, a 42-year-old lecturer and course manager of Temasek Polytechnic's Diploma in Aviation Management and Services, said such incidents are very rare at Changi Airport.

He said: "There are many measures put in place to prevent such an incident from happening but, of course, human error can occur.

Controlled areas

"Runways and taxiways are all controlled areas and permission is needed from air traffic control to enter these areas."

He added that while such incidents may not lead to loss of life, possible consequences include damage to aircraft should they come into contact with other aircraft or vehicles.

Passengers would also be inconvenienced because of delays.

When asked about a possible reason the runway was closed for so long, Mr Yap said: "It could have taken some time to remove the aircraft from the narrow taxiway."

Mr Yap had held various posts at Changi Airport over seven years before joining Temasek Polytechnic.

When contacted, a Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore spokesman said the matter was being reviewed.

"We can confirm that no danger was posed to surrounding aircraft or personnel at Changi Airport."

An SIA Engineering Company spokesman said: "We are assisting the relevant authorities in reviewing the matter."


Very careless move by the airport worker responsible for the towing of the aircraft. Such incidents should not be occurring in a high standard airport like Changi Airport. More measures will have to be implemented in order to prevent this from happening again.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

India delays clearance of Jet-Etihad tie-up

Indian authorities on Friday delayed approval of a plan by Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad to acquire a stake in Jet Airways, as they sought more details on ownership of the merged carrier.

The Jet-Etihad deal, announced in April, is the first overseas investment in an existing Indian carrier since New Delhi eased restrictions to allow foreign firms up to a 49 per cent stake in the country's airlines.

Etihad will pick up a 24 per cent stake in Jet Airways under the agreement.

The government's Foreign Investment Promotion Board deferred the decision on the 20.6-billion rupee (US$389 million) deal - the largest foreign investment in the Indian aviation sector - saying it needed more information.

"It (Jet Airways-Etihad proposal) has been deferred. We need more details of the effective control and ownership," Economic Affairs Secretary Arvind Mayaram told reporters in New Delhi after the panel meeting.

India's market regulator and competition watchdog has also sought more information from the domestic carrier about the transaction.

They want to make sure that Etihad's ownership powers in Jet remain in line with its plan to take a 24 per cent stake in the company's expanded share capital.

The delay comes as the Congress-led government, which is desperately seeking foreign investment to upgrade dilapidated infrastructure such as highways and ports, has been promising to make it easier to conduct business in India.

Under the agreement, which capped months of discussions between the two airlines, Jet owner-founder Naresh Goyal will retain 51 per cent of the airline.

The Etihad investment will allow Jet to reduce its hefty debt and expand its global reach by using the UAE airline's network.

In March, the foreign investment panel cleared a proposal by AirAsia to set up a joint venture airline company with the giant tea-to-steel Tata conglomerate and another partner.

Airlines had been wary of investing in India because of its infamous red tape and the two foreign carriers' investment had been seen as a sign that India's passenger market was too big to ignore.

Still, even with a rapidly expanding middle class that has switched to air travel from the country's main mode of transport by train, the airline market has been under pressure due to fierce competition among carriers.


A little hiccup, but it will probably go through. With Etihad and AirAsia coming into the Indian market, it will be interesting to see how they will help the aviation field over there improve.

New Airbus A350 comes through first test flight

Airbus's new A350 plane glided smoothly through its maiden flight on Friday, leaving company executives relieved and brimming with confidence for the battle with Boeing that lies ahead.

Designed to help the European manufacturer catch up with its American rival in the market for long-haul, fuel-efficient planes, the new Airbus completed a faultless test flight from an airport close to the company's headquarters in southern France.

After just over four hours in the air, the new plane touched down to jubilant cheers from thousands of Airbus employees and aviation enthusiasts who had assembled to watch the landmark flight.

"We were on time and everything went perfectly," relieved Airbus boss Fabrice Bregier said after watching his "new baby" cruise past the crowds on the ground at a height of just 100 metres (yards) before looping round against clear blue skies and coming in to land.

Although the flight was only the first in an intensive year-long testing programme, Airbus needed Friday's showcase to pass off without any hiccups in order to maximise the potential for further orders at next week's Paris Air Show.

"I'm confident it will be a roaring success in the market," declared Tom Enders, the chairman of Airbus's parent company EADS.

Peter Chandler, Airbus's chief test pilot who was at the controls when the plane took off for the first time, sounded like he had just climbed down from a thoroughbred.

"We received the airplane from the final assembly line almost exactly two weeks ago and for the last week or so it has been quite obvious the plane is ready to fly and wanting to fly," the British pilot said.

"That was obvious this morning as it was clearly much happier in the air than it has been running down the runway and stopping all the time."

Boeing expressed its congratulations to its rival. "A new airplane is a very complex endeavour and this is a milestone the industry can celebrate together," it said.

Much like its competitor - Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner, in service since September 2011 - theA350 makes extensive use of light composite materials that significantly reduce fuel consumption and costs.

Arnaud Verneau, one of the flight engineers on board on Friday, revealed that the flight had been smoother and quieter than anyone had hoped for.

"We were even able to put it on auto pilot on after two hours, which we had not anticipated doing," he said, adding that the plane's lighter materials had not resulted in more noise inside the cabin.

"We will see as the tests progress but for the moment, it is the same (as a traditionally constructed plane)," he said.

More than 10,000 hours of ground tests had been done on the airliner before the flight, and over the next year five test planes will criss-cross the globe in the warmest and coldest regions, at low and high speed.

If all goes well, first delivery is expected at the end of 2014.

Confirmed customers so far include Qatar Airways, British Airways and Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific, and Airbus is hoping for a slew of new orders next week.

Boeing still dominates the long-haul market, and Airbus has positioned its A350 between the US firm's popular 777 and its new 787, hoping to eat away at both planes' markets.

The test flight may cast a shadow over Boeing at the Paris Air Show, where the US firm is hoping to prove its Dreamliner is back on track after recent technical problems with overheating batteries - one of which caught fire - forced the worldwide grounding of the fleet.

Christophe Menard, aerospace and defence analyst at Kepler Capital Markets in Paris, said that despite its own delays on the A350, Airbus was getting the plane out faster than Boeing managed with the Dreamliner.

Still, the 787 is ahead of the A350 in terms of orders - 890 versus 613.

Airbus says the A350 will consume six per cent less fuel than the 787 and 25 per cent less than the 777, and the year-long test flying phase will help verify that claim, as well as diagnose any problems.

"The risk is they find other things that they hadn't expected," said Nick Cunningham, an aviation analyst at the London-based Agency Partners.


A new plane, another step forward in aviation. With its touted fuel saving capability, it will be a great saviour to our environment if it is proven to be true. Orders may still be lagging behind the Dreamliner but the Paris Air Show will prove to be a test bed of the saleability for both of them.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

China's airspace getting too crowded

The number of civilian flights in China increased nine per cent in 2012 adding to the already saturated air routes and experts said more has to be done to improve air traffic control, to keep up with growing demand.

Beijing Airport is the world's second busiest airport in terms of passenger numbers after Atlanta but the country's long-restricted airspace and air traffic control system are finding it difficult to play catch up.

The challenge is growing daily as travel demand increases, leading to frustration and delays for airlines passengers.

According to official statistics, 77.2 per cent of flights were punctual in 2011, hovering below the goal of a punctuality rate of at least 80 per cent.

Brian Davis, vice president of Air Transport & Regional Aerospace Asia Pacific at Honeywell Aerospace, said traffic management is key.

"We are also talking about a very wide geographical area across the country. The airports from the very large complex type of airport all the way to airports that are geographically challenged on the western side of China to the mountainous terrain or other type of consideration that must be looked at when we are evolving ATM (air traffic management) solutions across the country," explained Mr Davis.

According to Chinese government plans, 70 new airports are to be built between 2011 and 2015. Another hundred or so will be expanded or renovated.

That will bring the number of civil aviation airports in China to 230 in 2015. By then, the number of civil aviation aircraft will also increase from the current 2,800 to 4,800.

In China, the military controls 80 per cent of airspace. While the government has plans to expand the limited civilian air space, the civil aviation industry is in the mean time looking to technology and products that help in the flexible use of airspace.

By using technology and more precise calculations of flight paths, more aircraft can safely use the same amount of space.

Industry players said China can leverage international experience to accelerate its progress in air traffic management.

Mr Davis said: "I think what I see different about China is they are at a stage of the evolution that we can bring these technologies in, not repeat the historical instillations that the US and Europe have done for the last 20 years, and actually leapfrog the rest of the world by bringing in a modern technology into the country right now.


There numbers we see here are pretty scary. The airports, the aircraft and the capacity. China seems to be crowded be it on land, sea or air. With their government controlling a huge 80% of airspace, it will only get worse if this rule isn't relaxed to cater for the balloon in traffic.

ANA Dreamliner domestic flight cancelled

Engine trouble grounded a Dreamliner in Japan on Wednesday, its operator said, marking the third straight day of problems for Boeing's next generation plane after months of difficulties.

While none of the recent issues was thought to be serious, they spell more misery for Boeing, whose flagship plane has been beset with delays and failures, most gravely a battery problem that kept the global fleet out of the sky.

In the latest incident, one engine on a 787 would not start after 141 passengers had boarded the All Nippon Airways (ANA) plane in Yamaguchi prefecture in western Japan, bound for Tokyo.

A company spokeswoman said the pilot had called off the flight after being warned of the problem by cockpit instruments, adding the cause of the malfunction was being investigated.

The glitch came a day after a Singapore-bound Dreamliner, operated by ANA's rival Japan Airlines (JAL), had to turn back mid-flight because of a problem with the anti-icing system.

On Monday, ANA had to cancel a Tokyo-bound flight while the plane was at an airport in Fukuoka, western Japan, after instruments showed the left engine was not functioning properly.

The incidents come only weeks after JAL and ANA, the single biggest operator of 787s, put their full fleets of Dreamliners back into service following a four-month suspension over battery problems.

A global grounding order was issued in January after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two different planes, with one of them catching fire while the aircraft was parked.

Boeing admitted in April that despite months of testing it did not know the root cause of the problems, but rolled out modifications it said would ensure the issue did not recur.

Since then, Dreamliners have experienced a series of minor glitches, including a fault with an air pressure sensor.


The problems are coming in at high frequency. First the anti-icing problem, now engine failure. It's becoming a persistent headache for the airlines and Boeing.

Airbus A350 to take maiden flight

French aircraft maker Airbus on Tuesday said its new long-haul carrier, the A350, is scheduled to make its maiden flight on Friday after having successfully passed a series of tests.

The company said in a statement the flight would take place at 0800 GMT at the Toulouse-Blagnac airport in southwestern France, "weather conditions permitting".

Flight test teams were however carrying out a final round of controls before giving "their final green light".

Airbus hopes the 314-seater will compete with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner by being both lighter and more fuel-efficient than previous models.

The first deliveries of A350s to airlines are scheduled for the second half of 2014. So far, Airbus has received 613 firm orders for the aircraft.


Finally the zorro plane takes flight!! Let's all hope everything goes well and no further delays will occur.

China's MA60 planes in spotlight after safety scares

China's high-flying aviation ambitions suffered a setback on Tuesday as Myanmar grounded several planes made by the Asian powerhouse and Indonesia ordered special checks on its fleet following a series of safety scares.

An MA60 turboprop airliner with 52 people on board crash-landed at an airport in eastern Indonesia on Monday, leaving two passengers with minor injuries and forcing state-owned carrier Merpati to write off the plane.

On the same day an MA60 operated by Myanma Airways and carrying about 60 people skidded off a runway at a domestic airport in southern Myanmar, although nobody was hurt.

It was the second such incident in less than a month involving one of three MA60s owned by Myanma Airways.

"I think the accidents happened because of system failure. We will check all the systems. That's why we stopped the operation of the planes," Tin Naing Tun, director general of Myanmar's Civil Aviation Department, told AFP.

"The systems also showed warnings before," he added.

The Chinese maker of the plane, AVIC Xi'an Aircraft Industry Company, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

China is fighting for a bigger share of the multi-billion dollar global aviation market.

The communist nation is developing the ARJ-21 regional jetliner and the 168-seat C919 plane in the hope of competing with Boeing and Airbus.

Its turboprop-powered airliners have a chequered record. In May 2011 an MA60 operated by Merpati crashed in West Papua province, killing 25 people.

Following that accident, Indonesian authorities banned the plane from landing at three airports with difficult approaches.

After the latest incident on Monday, Indonesia's transport ministry said it would carry out a "special audit" - the term given to checks carried out following serious accidents - on the MA60s.

The process would take up to three months, ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan told AFP.

"We will investigate how maintenance work was carried out, the availability of spare parts, crew training, and all matters related to operations," Ervan said.

Merpati is the only Indonesian carrier which currently uses the Chinese-made planes, with eight in operation and five more undergoing routine maintenance work, according to airline spokesman Herry Saptanto.

"We have no plans to ground our planes because of yesterday's incident," he added.

"Our MA60 aircraft have been certified by Chinese and Indonesian aviation authorities. We will continue to fly them."

Dudi Sudibyo, senior editor at Indonesian aviation magazine Angkasa, noted however that MA60 planes were not certified safe by US or EU aviation authorities.

"Merpati was too hasty in purchasing the aircraft," he told AFP.

Sudibyo said the airline's pilot training, maintenance procedures and stock of spare parts should be investigated. "They should have grounded the MA60 for a week or two while the investigations are ongoing."

Other operators of the plane include Lao Airlines, Philippines' Zest Airways and several Chinese carriers.

Following the 2011 accident, there were calls by Indonesian lawmakers to ban the planes altogether.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered a review into the controversial US$220 million deal to buy the MA60s amid allegations of kickbacks and concerns about the planes' airworthiness.

A special audit carried out after the 2011 accident found the pilot was not familiar with operating the plane, and did not find any problems with the aircraft, according to Ervan.


Confidence in the airworthiness of the MA-60 is being badly hit when accidents involving it comes so often. Authorities in respective countries should ground all flights while investigations are ongoing. However, such a move will probably bankrupt the airline, thus the continuation to fly while investigations are incomplete are tolerated by the lax in regulations in these countries.

What's worrying is the MA-60 not being certified safe by US or EU aviation authorities. When their standards are not reached, the safety of flight looms a very big question mark over the heads of the airlines operating the aircraft.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Airliner market worth US$4.8 trillion in 20 years: Boeing

Global demand for aircraft in the next 20 years will be even stronger than estimated so far, pulled by demand in the Asia-Pacific region and from low-cost carriers, US manufacturer Boeing said on Tuesday.

Air traffic is rising at an explosive rate, with the number of passengers carried per year to double over the two decades, Boeing estimated.

Boeing raised its estimate of global demand by 3.8 percent to 35,280 aircraft, and in value by 7.0 percent to $4,800 billion (3,600 billion euros).

These increases were from estimates made last July, said the vice president for marketing of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Randy Tinseth.

Boeing and European aircraft manufacturer Airbus compete strongly for most of the existing market for airliners, but they face increasingly strong competition in years ahead from growing manufacturers in emerging economies.

Airbus estimated in its last forecast in September that from 2012-2031, demand for new airliners would total 28,200 and that this market would be worth $4,000 billion.

Boeing, publishing its market estimates before the Paris Air Show opens on Monday, said that from 2013-2032, demand in the segment for medium-range airliners with a single aisle, typically supplied by the Boeing 737 model or Airbus A320, would total 24,670 aircraft worth $2.29 billion.

Demand in this sector would continue to be led by orders from low-cost airlines and by demand from emerging economies.

More than one third of total demand would come from the Asia-Pacific region where airlines would need 12,820 new aircraft.

The markets in North America, where fleets were ageing, and in Europe would each generate demand for more than 7,000 aircraft.

Airlines in Latin America would order 2,900 planes, in the Middle East 2,610, and in Russia and the neighbouring confederation of independent states 1,170.

Demand in Africa would total 1,070 aircraft.

Boeing also raised what it expects to be its sales of long-haul and medium-haul aircraft, but reduced by 4.0 percent its forecast for sales in the segment for jumbo aircraft with 400 seats or more.

Boeing accounts for 10.0 percent of this market with its 747-8 aircraft which is the latest version of the Jumbo Jet 747. The main rival product is the Airbus A380, but Airbus has taken orders for only 262 of these.

The two giant manufacturers hold different views of the market for jumbo airliners.

Airbus is confident that the future lies with the superjumbo A380, the only aircraft in its class, because of the continuous growth of world air-passenger traffic.

Boeing holds that airlines will prefer smaller long-haul aircraft such as its 787 Dreamliner. The first version of this aircraft can carry up to 250 passengers.

Tinseth said: "This forecast gives us confidence as we increase our production rates and invest in new products like the 777X and 787-10X."

Boeing has not yet launched officially its new long-haul models with wings built from composite materials to complete its range of airliners which use less fuel than previous planes.

Tinseth said that in 20 years' time, the number of passengers carried each year will rise from 3.0 billion to 6.0 billion.

Huge investment in aircraft, airports and air-traffic management systems will be needed to meet this explosion of demand, he said.


Asia Pacific will experience the biggest boom in aviation due to many emerging markets gaining momentum in air travel. There is big money to be earned in this area but one must tread carefully and not expand too hastily. One very good example is the failure of Kingfisher. The future is Asia, the giant that has been asleep for far too long.

Flight chaos as French controllers strike over EU airspace plan

Hundreds of flights in France were cancelled Tuesday as air traffic controllers kicked off a three-day strike against EU plans to create a single European airspace.

Controllers across the continent are due to stage various protests such as working to rule on Wednesday against what the European Transport Workers' Federation calls "a never-ending process of liberalisation, deregulation and cost cutting."

The day of action, which will involve staff in 11 countries, centres around a decade-long attempt to create a single EU airspace that controllers fear will cut jobs and affect work conditions.

France has been hit by two separate actions. Tuesday's strike was called by one of the controllers' main unions and will last three days, while other unions will join Wednesday's Europe-wide movement only.

Some 1,800 flights were cancelled Tuesday -- just under a quarter of the daily average -- after authorities asked airlines to cut some flights in advance to avoid mayhem on the day.

The situation is "on the whole quite calm in airports", said a spokesman for the Directorate General for Civil Aviation, France's aviation authority.

But Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair blasted the work stoppage, saying passengers were being "taken hostage" and calling on the European Commission to put an end to controllers' strikes after it cancelled more than 100 flights.

Air France, meanwhile, said it expected all long-haul flights from Paris would go ahead, but did not exclude "last-minute delays and cancellations."

The work stoppage is just one of the planned strikes in France this week, with railway workers due to stop work from Wednesday evening until Friday morning, and postal service employees expected to strike Thursday.

The air traffic controllers' main union, the SNCTA, called the three-day strike to denounce "the direct consequences on national policies of European constraints" on the sector.

Other unions that also represent controllers are planning to join Wednesday's protest movement to protest mainly against the "Single European Sky", which aims to bring management of European airspace under EU control.

Fragmented country-by-country air control is estimated to bring extra costs of close to five billion euros (US$6.6 billion) a year to airlines and passengers in Europe.

It adds 42 kilometres to the distance of an average flight as controllers are not able to manage more than a certain amount of flights at the same time, thus also harming the environment and causing delays.

By way of comparison, the United States controls the same amount of airspace with more traffic at almost half the cost.

The European Commission wants to redesign the EU's 27 national airspaces into just nine bigger sectors, saying a "single" European sky would improve safety ten-fold, slash pollution by 10 percent and reduce costs by 50 percent.

It will put forward proposals later Tuesday to speed up the reform, amid strong resistance from unions.

"The problem doesn't lie in the 'single sky' regulations that aim to harmonise air traffic management at a European level, we're for that," said Olivier Joffrin of the USAC-CGT, one of the unions involved in Wednesday's strike.

"What we don't accept is that the Commission use this to privatise and liberalise some activities."


A strike which hits France rather than the usual Germany. This is the culture of the Europeans which you will hardly see in Asia. The ones suffering the most will be passengers themselves. Perhaps the Europeans should start changing the way they handle issues so as to come to solutions in a more amicable way.

Singapore-bound JAL Dreamliner flight aborted

A Singapore-bound Dreamliner flight had to be aborted mid-air after developing a glitch with its anti-icing system, its Japanese operator said Tuesday, the latest setback for Boeing's flagship plane.

The 787, operated by Japan Airlines was turned around shortly after leaving Tokyo's Haneda airport at 1:30 am (1630 GMT), a spokesman said.

"Several minutes into the flight, a message came on in the cockpit indicating a glitch with the anti-icing system for the left engine," he said.

"The glitch could not be sorted out quickly. The pilot expected some cloud and other elements en route to Singapore that could cause ice to form. So the decision was made to return to Haneda."

The plane landed safely less than an hour after takeoff.

All but two of the 155 passengers on board opted to take the replacement Dreamliner offered, which left Haneda five hours later, the spokesman said.

The incident comes only weeks after JAL and All Nippon Airways (ANA), the single biggest operator of 787s, put their full fleets of Dreamliners back into service following a four-month suspension over battery problems.

A global grounding order was issued in January after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two different planes, with one of them catching fire while the aircraft was parked.

Boeing admitted in April that despite months of testing it did not know the root cause of the problems, but rolled out modifications it said would ensure the issue did not recur.

Since then, Dreamliners have experienced a series of minor glitches, including a fault with an air pressure sensor.

The JAL spokesman stressed that the latest incident did not affect the battery system.

"We are investigating the cause of the trouble," he added.


Icing problems are very crucial factors to consider in flight. If you've watched the first installment of Iron Man, icing almost killed Tony Stark. It is of no difference to airliners cruising at flight level of 35,000ft. Ice disrupts smooth airflow, adds weight and increases the stall speed. Therefore the pilot made the right decision to turn back and not risk the 155 lives on board.