Airbus MSN 5463, an A320-214 with Sharklets, that first took to the skies on the 15th of January, 2013, was delivered to Go Air (India) on 30th January, 2013, making the airline the second Indian airline to operate a “Sharklet"-equipped Airbus A320. The induction of VT-GOL makes it the 14th aircraft in the fleet, in addition to two A320s that were leased for the winter, from Orbest Orizonia Airlines.
Go Air, like Indigo, leases back airplanes that it sells. VT-GOL, the sharklet equipped A320, is financed by ACG (Aviation Capital Group) under a sale and leaseback arrangement, and is the 14th of 20 airplanes ordered by Go Air in 2006. In addition, Go Air placed an order for 72 A320NEO airplanes in 2011.
According to Airbus, “Due to the very strong customer demand for Sharklets, all Airbus’ single-aisle final assembly lines (FALs) will be engaged in building A320 Family aircraft with Sharklets. These FALs are located in Toulouse (France), Hamburg (Germany) and Tianjin (China) and will soon be followed by an additional A320 FAL in Mobile (Alabama, USA)."
VT-WAE is the oldest airplane in the fleet, delivered in the October of 2007. If Go Air ‘s lease agreement is for 6 years, VT-WAE is slated to leave the fleet this year.
Indigo just became India’s first airline to operate a sharklet-equipped A320, with its VT-IFH registered Airbus A320 that it took delivery of, on 28th January, 2013. VT-IFH bears manufacturer serial number (MSN) 5437, and first took to the skies on the 15th of January, 2013, and herald a new chapter for Indigo with an operationally more economical airplane, that has the potential of saving the airline in excess of US$400,000 per year, per aircraft.
All future A320 aircraft to be delivered to IndiGo shall be fitted with the Sharklet wing tip devices.
This aircraft will be the 75th A320 that the airline has taken delivery of. Of the 75, 14 no longer fly for Indigo. Indigo sells every aircraft that it takes deliver of, leasing the airplane back from the lessor. The lease period is typically for six years: sufficient time for Indigo to make the most of a new airplane’s reliability and performance, while avoiding an expensive “D” check. Those that flew for Indigo, for the first six years of their life, now fly for Ethiad, SAS, BH Air, Myanmar Airways International, Kibris Turk Hava Yollari Charters, and Turkish Airlines.
MSN 5460 is the next sharklet equipped A320 slated to join the Indigo fleet as VT-IFI, while VT-INK will be the next A320 to leave the Indigo fleet.
Go Air will be the next Indian airline to receive Airbus A320 aircraft fitted with sharklets.
September 2012 was when Radka told me of her wish to return to India for another performance. January 2013, The Indian Government suddenly invited the Flying Bulls to take part in Aero India 2013 at Yelahanka Air Force Base, Bangalore. A swift response followed, with the Flying Bulls aerobatic team disassembling their aircraft and shipping them to India. Radka, the formation lead of the Flying Bulls, in the meanwhile, talks more about herself, and her flying.
Click Here to Discover more about Radka and her flying in this exclusive interview, which will also be published in the Air Show’s special issue of SP’s Airbuz.
(I so badly wanted to title this: “India’s second ERJ 170 series operator: Air Costa”. But we’ve learnt our lessons of a volatile industry, the hard way.)
Air Costa, the Vijayawada based operator that had initially planned to launch operations using five Bombardier Q400s, is finally taking delivery of two Embrarer ERJ 170s. These E-Jets are leased from ECC Leasing. ECC Leasing was established in 2002 to manage and remarket Embraer´s pre-owned aircraft.
Both the ERJ 170s were formerly flying for Gulf Air, and were stored in Germany. One of the airplanes was spotted when it recently received its Air Costa paint scheme from Airbourne Colours at Bournemouth, UK. Airbourne Colours specialises in painting commercial, corporate and military aircraft. The second ERJ 170 is expected to roll out of the paint shop on the 29th of January, 2013.
The two ERJ 170-100LRs are presently registered G-CHJI (MSN 17000278) and G-CHJU (MSN 17000293), and will hopefully bear their Indian registrations soon. The last time Embraer 170s (-200LR, marketed as ERJ 175) were registered in India was when Paramount Airways was operating the type, until the airline ceased operations in 2010.
Air Costa’s Operations are expected to commence in the April of 2013. Reportedly, plans are to operate from Vijayawada to Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, and Vishakhapatnam. Air Costa’s promoter, LEPL (Lingamaneni Estates Private Limited), is a Vijayawada based company involved in infrastructure, power, hospitality, education and entertainment.
Surprisingly, the website has published a requirement only for captains, and not first officers or Aircraft Maintenance Engineers. [EDIT*: Experienced pilots with Jet and Turboprop experience have already been recruited and type rated . Most other staff including Engineers have been recruited and trained as well . Recruitment for Cabin Crew is still going on. Experienced crew have been taken to meet insurance requirements.] Further, as per existing civil aviation rules, the yet to take-off “airline" requires a fleet of a minimum of five airplanes, within one year of grant of operator’s permit, to continue its “scheduled passenger air transport services". However, for a “scheduled regional air transport service", operations can commence with just one airplane, with the condition that the fleet size grows to a minimum of three aircraft within two years, and a minimum of five aircraft by the end of five years from the date of securing the operator’s permit.
Since none of Air Costa’s planned routes are Category I (certain Metro-Metro pairs), Air Costa may very well start with a Regional Scheduled Operator’s permit.
As per existing Civil Aviation Rules, “Scheduled Regional Air Transport Service means a Scheduled Air Transport service which operates primarily in a designated region and which on grounds of operational and commercial exigencies may be allowed to operate from its designated region to airports in other regions, except the metro airports of other regions.”
Based on available information, the fleet will comprise of Embraer 170-100s, of a yet unknown fleet strength [EDIT*: 3 additional ERJ 170s are expected, in the period of 6-8 months following the commencement of operations] . This Embraer 170 variant can seat upto 80 passengers, with typically 78 being opted for. The maximum takeoff weight of the heaviest version is 38,600kg. Being lighter than 40,000kg MTOW qualifies Air Costa to pay only 4% service tax on fuel, as opposed to as much as 30% service tax for heavier aircraft. Further, the Airport Authority of India (AAI) does not charge domestic scheduled operators any landing fees for aircraft with a maximum certified capacity of less than 80 seats. These factors bode well for Air Costa.
Why the Embraer 170?
The ATR 72-500/600 burns roughly 760kg/hr, and claims a range of around 825 nautical miles (NM) with 70 passengers at 95kg each. The Embraer 170 burns roughly 1,400kg per hour, but claims a range of close to 2,000 NM with 70 passengers, or a little less than 1,500NM with 80 passengers, at 100kg each. While it may initially appear that Air Costa has gone in for an aircraft that consumes nearly twice the quantity of fuel of the most economical-to-operate western world turboprop, operating economics seem to have possibly been traded for operational flexibility, with the speed of a jet.
For example, the longest sector that the ATR 72 is operated on, in India, is 500NM. The air distance, under no winds, between Vijaywada and Ahmedabad is around 700NM.
Although the ERJ 170 is listed at around US$28M, US$5M costlier than the US$23M listed ATR72-600, slowing sales of the 70 seat jet leads to lowered market value, which translates to attractive purchase or lease rates for operators. In 2012, Embarer produced just 22 ERJ 170 series airplanes (170 and 175), of which only 2 were Embarer 170s; the rest being ERJ 175s. In contrast, ATR produced 64 airplanes in 2012, of which 60 were the ATR 72-500 and 600: airplanes with the same seating capacity as the ERJ 170. With a backlog of 221 airplanes: ATR has the largest backlog for regional aircraft up to 90 seats. In summary, significantly lower demand for the EMB 170 may make it available for cheaper than an equally aged ATR 72. [EDIT*: They were planing on leasing 3 Q400 from Botswana but Embraer offered them a better deal that they couldn’t resist.]
The two airplanes that Air Costa is leasing were delivered to Gulf Air in the March of 2010, but were stored in the July of 2012, logging 2 years 4 months of service with the Middle East carrier. Only in the January of 2013, did the aircraft take off in the colours of their new operator.
Air Costa: A behavioural review
Air Costa’s initial announcement of the launch of its airlines with five Q-400 Turboprops, followed by its sudden change of the airplane type within less than a year reflects poor homework, preparation and research, on the part of the airline. Hopefully, the airline has well researched its routes. Further, it is hoped that the demonstrated fickle-mindedness does not reflected in its business plan, making it yet another airline that blossoms only to quickly wither away.
* With Inputs from Cyril Roy
[Images of the Air Costa airplane may be viewed here: LINK]
Aero India 2009 didn’t have much. Infact, the organisers felt the whole place to to look so empty that they brought in “fillers” from the IAF (Indian Air Force). MiG 21, 27, 29, Mirage 2000, the BAe designed and HAL produced Hawk, The advanced light helicopter, “Dhruv” ALH, the Russian made Mi-35, SEPECAT Jaguar, and airplanes of yester years: Pushpak, Havilland Mk IV…. had no real role to play in the serious game of an Airshow such as Aero India, where only “Business Visitors” can view airplanes meant for “General Interest”. Few Business airplanes that could have meant more to business visitors were parked far off, beyond visual range.
Aero India 2011 was the best, by far, and it may be quite a while before an airshow of that scale returns to Bangalore.
Be it a -72 or a -42, the journey of the aircraft and its parts, in its “gestation period” is very interesting. With demand for the ATR 72 rising sharply, due to its apparent great market value, availability of rated crew, and its operating economics, it is interesting how the assembly line is well coordinated, despite the inherent complexities involved with an assembly process spread over many countries. This is now being optimised by ATR to target 72 airplanes a year, to meet the rising demand for the world’s most popular turboprop. Click on the image below to enjoy the full size image, with readable text.
This image was published by ATR, when celebrating the delivery of its 1000th aircraft, in the May of 2012.
Air Asia recently received the world’s first “Sharklet”-equipped A320 for commercial operations. Indigo and Go air will very soon have VT-IFH and VT-GOL flying in the Indian skies; both equipped with “sharklets”. Ever wanted to know more about these “Sharklets” that are grabbing headlines today?
Here is a comprehensive article on Winglets, or what Airbus prefers to call them: “Sharklets”, which are “Hunting down fuel burn“.
A quick look at Aero India 2011 (in photos) will let you know how big it was….and how small we may expect this year’s to be.
The crowd puller: The Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team has been disbanded, and will not perform. The Flying bulls, however, will be present. As for aircraft at the show: most defence deals have been closed, making no sense for the then contenders to participate. Budgetary cuts are in effect, and the civil market in’t good enough to lure manufacturers to sell airplanes.
Only those that have won bids are expected to perform, out of compulsion.
Here are the pictures taken at the last Aero India (2011). CLICK HERE.
VT-JCX (click for photo) and VT-JCY are now visible on the DGCA’s aircraft register; These are the two, and presently only ATR 72-600s in India, flying for Jet Airways, and deployed on the Mumbai-Diu-Porbandar and Mumbai-Udaipur sectors.
Interestingly, both airplanes reflect on the register as “ATR 72-212A", which is no different from the type designation of the ATR 72-500. While it is confusing for someone looking up the registry to know if it refers to the ATR 72-500 or the ATR 72-600, a simple look at the All Up Weight, year of manufacture and evidently the manufacturer serial number will sort out your confusion; The ATR 72-600s have an AUW of 23,000kgs, while the ATR 72-500s had a maximum of 22,800 (in the Jet Airways Fleet). But why the same name?
According to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA):
ATR 72-212A “600 version” is the designation to identify ATR 72-212A aircraft models having received the New Avionic Suite (NAS) modification, also named as “Glass Cockpit”, which represents the incorporation of ATR Significant Major Change no 5948 and a batch of associated ATR (major & minor) modifications. ATR 72-212A “600 version” aircraft are not considered as new aircraft model or variant. “ATR 72-600” is the commercial designation of the ATR 72-212A aircraft model fitted with NAS modification. This designation must not be used on ATR certified / approved documentation, and only mention of ‘Mod 5948’, ‘ATR 72- 212A with Mod 5948’, “ATR 72-212A fitted with NAS‟ or “ATR 72-212A -600 version" must be indicated.
F-WWEY, manufacturer serial number (MSN) 098, is a 24 year old ATR 72, made in the same year as the first flight of the ATR 72. That very ATR was, in the May of 2009, converted to a ATR 72-600, highlighting the minimal visible differences and changes that the 72 has undergone since its first flight.
The biggest change in the ATR 72 is the new avionic suite, which transforms the Honeywell and Collins cluttered deck to a clean, well laid out modern glass cockpit with avionics from Thales. Borrowing philosophy and deriving certain functionality from the Airbus A380, the cockpit is new. Very new.
The Dividing Line: The clean and well presented -600 cockpit (left) and the cluttered -500 cockpit (right). Undoubtedly late, but worth the wait.
So new that a very senior commander with the airline, says that “An ATR 72-500 can directly hand fly the -600 easily, for nothing changes with respect to the handling. But he will not be using the avionics to the best of its automation capabilities and functions that significantly ease crew workload, and boost situation awareness".
Honestly, when I sat with the cockpit layout diagram of the ATR, I was lost, despite being very familiar with the -500. Where you once knew knobs, switches and controls to be: may not be there at all!
With CRTs and electro-mechanical gauges replaced by 5 LCD screens of 6" x 8", the number of parts has been cut down by 30%, offering a 30kg weight saving and maintenance cost savings of around 15%. For an aircraft that has jumped 200 kgs in its AUW in comparison to the -500 fleet at Jet Airways, 30 kgs is a significant amount.
Primary Flight Display
Let’s try to understand the gains. The older ATR cockpit has, for primary flight instruments, an electro mechanical airspeed indicator with bugs that need to be manually set, a CRT based EADI (Electronic Attitude and Direction Indicator), that would only show you, in addition, if you were flying faster or slower than the manually set speed on the airspeed indicator. The altimeter is electromechanical, with a knob to set the pressure. Newer vertical speed indicators are small, LCD screen based, that also doubles up as a traffic alert collision and avoidance system (TCAS) display, with a small map showing proximate traffic, and the range of these proximate traffic set by a range button. All this, and significantly more functions, are now packed into the primary flight display, which is just one 10" display. There are no moving parts. There is no bulky equipment associated with a Cathode Ray Tube. There is reduced electromagnetic interference, and reduced cooling requirements. If you need a simple comparison, think of the difference between a 34" LCD screen and an old TV. The LCD screen is clearer, crisper, bigger, with richer colours, thinner, significantly much lighter, and when you place your hand near the back, you hardly feel any heat. And if you are to bring your portable radio near the LCD screen, you’ll hardly hear any interference, if not nothing at all.
The ATR 72’s NAS cockpit is way beyond this. Besides eliminating old technology, and boosting reliability, the NAS introduces much greater functionality that serves one significant purpose: reduced crew workload and increased situation awareness. The ATR crew today is better equipped to answer the questions of “When", “Where", “Why", “What" and “Who" much quicker, with possibly greater accuracy than ever before, without moving the head and hands too much in the cockpit.
Organized, simplified, reliable and enhanced: this is the new ATR that will make your flight in the skies safer. Join me as we discover how, as we embark on a journey that describes, in significant and sufficient detail what this new airplane offers, in contrast to the other 42 ATR aircraft registered in India.
Aero India 2013 will air-show the Dassault Rafale, with Cedric Ruet at the controls. Contrary to my previous post, the Rafale is being displayed, thanks to a confirmation from Cedric himself! Enjoy, and I hope you all get to meet him at the airshow! Here are photos of him and his beauty (beast?) in action at Aero India 2011 (2 years have passed!)
Cedric: Buckling In
Cedric: In his Armée de l’Air Rafale: 140 HG!
Ground Crew: Watching as Engine Starts!
Hands Off Controls and Throttle!
Good to Go!
Taxiing Out, looking left for clearances!
Ouch! That hurts the ears!
Leaving the apron for the taxiway
Taxiing towards the threshold of Runway 27!
Before you know, Cedric and his 104 beauty are airborne!
Aero India 2011 was the biggest ever; Aero India 2013 may be lacklustre.
Updates: Expect the Rafale, the P-8I, and the C-17 Globemaster at the show.
Defence Airplane Manufacturers and Airplanes on show.
Let’s turn the clock 2 years back. January 2011. The year was the most anticipated for many aircraft manufacturers in the defence segment. India’s single largest defence deal tender, the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Competition, for 126 multi-role combat aircraft was out, and six airplane manufacturers were high on PR and advertisements, attracting crowds to the stall and the airshow itself with offers that included a flight on their real airplane, a flight for a celebrity, flight simulator rides for almost everyone entering their booth. Spirits were high, competition was stiff, and Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Dassault, MiG, Saab, and the EADS led consortium responsible for the Eurofighter were all out to thrill and please.
The Indian Air Force’s ailing transport fleet needed new, better performing airplanes. The IAF’s first Lockheed Martin C130J had just arrived, and had made it to the Airshow for both publicity, and to identify new vendors who could help with avionics and databases. The Boeing C 17 Globemaster had been selected by the Indian Air Force in 2009, to meet its Very Heavy Lift Transport Aircraft requirement, but the order was yet to be finalised.
Grob, Embraer, Korean Aerospace Industries, Hawker Beechcraft , Finmeccanica and Pilatus were in the race to win a contract for 181 trainer airplanes required by the Indian Air Force.
The KC-135 and the Omega Tanker represented the American hope of winning the US$1.6 Billion multi-role tanker transport Contract, with competition from Airbus’s A330 MRTT and the Illushin IL-78.
2011-2012 was indeed a good time for those who were successful in the bidding process. The MMRCA deal for US$20 billion was awarded to Dassault for their Rafale. Pilatus’ trainer, the PC-7 MkII, won the US$ 523 Million contract. An order for 10 C-17s was finalised. Early 2013, Airbus won the contract for 6 MRTTs. In short, the perceived gaps in the fleet have been plugged, and tenders closed.
As for the Indian Navy, the first Boeing P-8I was delivered in the December of 2012; India approved the USD 1.5 billion Boeing 737NG modified aircraft deal for Navy in the February of 2012.
Come 2013, there is no reason for anyone to put up a grand show. No reason for companies to spend money on air displays, chalets and booths that won’t win them an order. No reason for companies that have won contracts to undertake customer demonstration flights. Unless they just want their presence to be felt. [Edit: Dassault Rafale will be flown at the show; Aircraft will be from the French Air Force, the Armée de l’Air]
There will be formation flights, and air shows, but all, except for the Flying Bulls, will be from the Indian Air Force. Unless the French are roped in to air display the Rafale, which somehow seems unlikely. [Edit: The French are flying their Rafale. Also, the C-17 Globemaster may fly at the show. The P-8I may mark its presence as well; So may the A330 MRTT]
Civil Airplane Manufacturers and Airplanes on show.
Last year, the Embraer Lineage 1000, Embraer ERJ 135BJ, Embraer Phenom 300, Embraer Phenom 100, Pilatus PC-12, The Gulfstream G 550, Gulfstream G450, Piaggio Avanti, Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, Cessna Citation X, Dassault Falcon 2000DX and LX, Falcon 7X, Beechcraft King Air 250, Hawker 4000, Hawker 900XP, Sukhoi Superjet 100, Saab 2000, and Saab 340 were the airplanes on show, representing Business and General Aviation. Some of the very same airplanes were at India Aviation 2012, which is exclusively for Civil Aviation. Given the poor health of the Indian civil aviation industry, and fulfilled regional airplane orders (Spicejet’s Q400s and Jet Airways’ continued loyalty to ATR), Saab has no reason to participate, though it is listed as a sponsor at Aero India 2013.
Based on the below figures of Business Jet Airplanes in India, Dassault, Embraer, Gulfstream, and Hawker Beechcraft may be encouraged to make their presence felt with some of their airplanes (including a turboprop from Beechcraft). Cessna is expected to keep out altogether, while Bombardier may show up with its rebranded Global XRS as the Global 6000, if not any other airplane. Considering that this show may attract lesser high profile visitors, due to closed tenders, the business airplane turnout may be even lesser than anticipated.[Edit: Gulfstream may not have an airplane on display]
Piaggio Aero, in which the Tata Group has a 33% stake, may display the P 180 Avanti II. With the crisis faced by Deccan Charters, and his fleet of Pilatus PC-12s and Grand Caravan’s up for sale, the present market value for the two airplane types may be low enough to discourage Pilatus or Cessna from selling new airplanes. The absence of Cessna’s airplanes at India Aviation 2012 strongly indicates its absence at this year’s defence show. Pilatus will, however, be represented at the show.
With no credible or viable airline interested in the 100 seat jet segment, Sukhoi will, if it participates, put up a show for pretty much nothing.
The Boeing’s 787 hype is long gone; Airbus has no visible future for its 380 in India; If the 787 arrives, which is unlikely, it may possibly be due to the pressure placed on the airline as a face-save for this year’s airshow.
Honda, with its new Hondajet, may not represent its airplane at the show, as assumed by Honda’s silence to my mail enquiry.
Welcome to Aero India 2013: The anticlimax of Aero India 2011!
If you’ve flown a Cessna 172 with only 2 people on board, you know how the aircraft performs with its 160hp engine at approximately 1,000kgs takeoff weight. Now imagine a 720kg –all up airplane with a 300hp engine. With more than 2.5 times the power ratio of the Cessna 172R, the capabilities of Zlin Z-50LX, an aerobatic airplane flown by the Flying Bulls Aerobatic Team, can only be imagined.
When Radka Máchová, formation lead of the Flying Bulls Aerobatic Team, sent me a message that she’ll be performing at Aero India 2013, I was all too excited to meet her again. This time though, I want everyone – who will look up to their performance in awe – to go beyond the aerobatic display, and right into the airplane, right beside the three men and one woman who bring mere metal to life.
The Personal Touch
Honestly, the first time I saw the Flying Bulls perform: it was a set of four, propeller driven colourful airplanes that left behind a trail of smoke in the sky as they flew some manoeuvres together. The flying was brilliant, the display fantastic, but I couldn’t see beyond.
I accidently bumped into Radka Máchová, when she passed the Honeywell stall that I was manning. I instantly recognized her, and got a photo clicked with the “Super Flying Lady". She’s well known; very well known, but on ground, she doesn’t fly with the nose high. Full of energy, she left behind an aura that egged me to know more.
No phone numbers, but an internet connection was all I had to read up on Radka. With the little I knew of her, and her well founded passion for flying, I stepped out this time to watch them perform. I must tell you, their performance seemed so much better, with the thought that someone I’ve met, someone I know something about, is up there, flying that airplane. It’s no longer a machine, but a soul that’s come to life. But there’s so much more to know.
Seeing isn’t believing
To most, the first glimpse at an airplane with propellers is, “Oh, that’s old technology". Not really. The airplane they fly, the Zlin 50LX, is no longer in production, but its performance is something that most jets -including some fighter airplanes – cannot match.
The cockpit is absolutely simple: there are hardly any instruments, and nothing fancy that people are used to seeing in modern 4th generation airplane cockpits. This is where you start appreciating the team: It’s amazing precision in tight formations: all possible only by experience, practice, and most importantly: skill. Eyes, ears, and a good feel of the airplane: eliminate the need for the on board instruments.
Then what is it that separates these famous aerobatic pilots from the rest? What drives them to perform? What else do they do apart from flying? What did they do that got them there? What is it that they feel when they fly? All this and more, when I speak to Radka Máchová, as she gears up to fly with her team at Aero India 2013, between the 6th and the 10th of February, 2013.