As loads factors go up in May, so do hopes at SpiceJet. Q1 Loss imminent.


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Spicejet VT_SGF 737

LFSpiceJet’s load factor in the May of 2014 has touched 81.4%, its highest in two years since the May of 2012, and is the first month in this calendar year to beat the load factors witnessed by the airline last year. It beats the previous year’s load factors for the same month, by 0.5%.

While this is reassuring news, it must be noted that since 2010, May has been the month when SpiceJet witnesses its highest load factors. May and June are peak months for air travel, but it is only the second best period for IndiGo, which usually sees its best load factors in the month of December.

Statistically, SpiceJet’s load factors slip after May. Loads factors for the month of July are expected to be lower, but it is not known if they are lower than the previous year’s.

Effects of SpiceJet’s most significant market stimulation drive, the Re 1 fare sale which was held for the first three days of April, for travel between 01-July-2014 to 28-March- 2015, will be seen this month. Due to the sale, load factors are expected to go up, and according to the airline’s Chief Commercial Officer Kaneswaran Avili, the stimulation has yielded positive results in terms of higher non-promo fare bookings as well.

With these multiple promotional sales, any higher bookings are a mix of promo fares and regular fares. If the market has been sufficiently stimulated, which will reflect in higher load factors, then the airline will generate additional revenue. But if even after the stimulation, if the load factors rise only slightly, or not at all, it may not generate the airline any additional revenue. If load factors drop, which is highly unlikely, it is the death bell for the airline.

For example, SpiceJet’s Super Holi sale in March for travel between 14th April and 30th June 2014, and the Super Summer Sale in February for travel between April 1 and June 30, 2014, did not seem to have had an overall positive impact on the load factors for the months of April and May. Since the load factors were lower than the corresponding period in the previous year, it only meant that lesser people filled up the aircraft on average, and among that lesser set of passengers, even lesser actually paid a regular fare.

As shown in The Flying Engineer’s analysis of SpiceJet, there is a strong correlation between load factors and operational profits. Considering that (look at the graph) the load factors in April and May have resulted in an average load factor that is 0.6% lower than last year’s load factors for the same months, and that some of that passenger set bought sale/promotional fares and not regular fares, and that the factors in June are expected to dip (based on statistical trends), it may be likely that for the Q1 for Financial Year 2014, SpiceJet may report a loss.

But with the 0.5% in load factors in May, over last year’s, mild hopes are pinned on the second quarter of FY2104, which started yesterday. We do wish the airline all the very best, and hope to see it turnaround fast and strong, before the might of aggressively expanding TATA-SIA and AirAsia India, and the increasing capacity deployed by IndiGo and GoAir possibly choke the airline.

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SpiceJet’s 1,003 Crore Loss: How, why, and…avoidable?


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The Flying Engineer looks into some of the areas where SpiceJet’s losses were linked to its planning and performance, mostly to do with operations. The long analysis identifies trends, and looks at areas where the airline could have either saved money, or made money.

Although the airline mentioned that 70% of the airline’s costs are affected by the dollar, this analysis shows how that the dollar can take only part blame for the loss. The real story goes beyond the dependance on the dollar, to a larger dependance on the airline, and how practices, brand, image, network, services, operations, planning, and people are responsible for the mess that SpiceJet found itself in.

The piece also captures most of what SpiceJet has been doing: transforming on the inside and the outside. With string and diligent efforts by the team led by Sanjiv Kapoor, FY2014-15 may witness SpiceJet performing better. However, the new entrants: AirAsia India and TATA-SIA, between which two SpiceJet has positioned itself, will place a lot of stress on the airline, especially at the same time as its turnaround process. Will it survive? Could it have been profitable? How does it measure against its competition? This and more, when you CLICK HERE.

The airline and its captain: AirAsia India and Mrithyunjaya Chandilya


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Interlysis02The Flying Engineer does an interview and an analysis – or an Interlysis with Mrithyunjaya Chandilya, CEO of the newest airline in India: AirAsia India. Better known as Mittu, he’s stands out from the other heads of an airline: in his appearance, his fondness of the limelight, and his admirable warrior spirit. He talks to The Flying Engineer on AirAsia India and a variety of topics in the airline: its expansion plans, staff, culture, targets, and more, including how he came to figure in the continuing story that everyone is watching closely.

The Flying Engineer also analyses certain things about the airline, trying to make sense out of certain targets and decisions. We do hope you enjoy this piece. Click here to read a lot about the new airline and the new kid on the block.

Air Asia India: Getting Real


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AirAsia India (AAI) took to the skies yesterday, on its first revenue flight, and marks a new chapter in Indian air transport history. The inaugural flight, i5 1320, flew from Bangalore to Goa, with almost all seats filled with excited passengers, guests, and staff.

To the paying customer, who after all is the target of every airline, four things are important, one of which is the in-flight experience, which includes aircraft cleanliness, comfort, in-flight service, and food & beverage options. AirAsia India has got it right from day one; being part of the AirAsia Group really does make all the difference.

Today, AirAsia India is a small player, but with a huge backing. It enjoys the economies of scale, and is set to take on the Indian market by storm.

In this piece, we look into what could make AAI appeal to the passenger, and why it may emerge as the preferred airline.

CLICK HERE to read all about an ingredient to the airline’s success.

Autoflight now available: PAT


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LOGO_1280Project Airbus Tech (PAT) is pleased to announce that chapter ATA 22 / autoflight is now available! Covering this chapter – close to 150 questions, was a huge task, but A320 rated and soon to be released line pilot Sushank Gupta has done a great job answering each and every question. “This one was a monster chapter, very extensive and really in-depth. Phew !!”.

CLICK HERE for Autoflight.

Embodying the truest spirit of aerospace engineering: Hindustan University.


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Hindustan University offers what no-one else in India can, today: a course in aeronautical and aerospace engineering with a level of exposure that is unmatched. Unlike other universities in India, and like universities of repute overseas, the Hindustan Group has an active and reputed flight school (Orient Flight School), an aviation college offering a Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering (HIET), and a degree in aeronautical and aerospace engineering at Hindustan University. This allows the university to cross-feed knowledge and resources across its group, to the benefit of its students.

What sets the university apart? Many things: studying at the university is like living in an airplane hangar: complete aircraft, aircraft parts, and systems are seen everywhere. The university also gives its students time on a flight simulator, and real time on a real airplane at their flight school. The university also encourages deserving students by sending them overseas for events of high exposure value: airshows. It also has a TIFAC core, and more, detailed in an article about the university.

In short, those who study at Hindustan University are well rounded. The proof of the pudding is in the eating: The Flying Engineer got to randomly interview two students on their awareness about an aircraft and its systems. The honest result? They were more aware about aircraft parts and systems than aero students from IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Chennai whom The Flying Engineer had interacted with.

The flip side of the college: its research focus is very low, and which the university acknowledges, but is apparently working towards resolving. But research at the undergraduate level isn’t as important as laying strong foundations. Strong foundations give a student a bright future with multiple options; weak foundations from even a higly reputed university can at most get a student a job.

Learn more, and why, about HITS – Hindustan University – a place with the right ingredients for a degree in aerospace and aeronautical engineering, by CLICKING HERE.


A new battle dawns: SpiceJet launches pre-emptive strike on the market


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SZE taxiing out

Goa is the latest addition to AirAsia's destinations.

Goa is the latest addition to AirAsia’s destinations.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony’s tweet, last afternoon, “Very very proud to announce AirAsia India open for sale tomorrow. Wow. First flight June 12th. Ser you all In India on the 12th“, was the group’s Indian startup’s battle cry. The first sectors are expected to be Bangalore-Goa, and Bangalore-Chennai.

All that AirAsia India’s voice, Mittu Chandilya, has been claiming till date, will be put to test: the airfares, claimed to be 30% lower than regular airfares of other airlines; the turnaround time: an optimistic 20 minutes, and more.

Almost five hours later, the battle cry was responded to, by SpiceJet. It announced a ‘Special Promotional fare’ coinciding with AirAsia’s first commercial flight – June 12th- on two popular routes in South India by offering tickets as low as Rs 1,499, excluding statutory taxes. Including taxes, this amounts to INR 2,058. This all inclusive fare is 60% lower than that offered by other carriers for Bangalore-Goa flights on 12th June.

Coinciding with the formal announcement, Sanjiv Kapoor, COO of SpiceJet tweeted, “How does Rs 1499/- ow for MAA-BLR vv or BLR-GOA vv starting June 12 sound? That’s the lowest allowed by DGCA. Should we? ;)

This is SpiceJet’s pre-emptive strike on the market, hours before AirAsia India opens up its portals for booking on these sectors.

Kaneswaran Avili, SpiceJet’s Chief Commercial Officer, and former director-business development at AirAsia, is making SpiceJet go the way of AirAsia in stimulating the market and shoring up revenues through carefully planned and limited promotional airfares. With Kaneswaran on board, AirAsia will be competing with an airline that has one of its original own, but till lacks the economies of scale, and operational streamlining that AirAsia India will enjoy by being a part of the AirAsia group.

Edit: But AirAsia India shocked the population with INR 990 fares from Bangalore – Goa. This has miffed SpiceJet, which was at the receiving end of DGCA’s flak for selling INR 1/- fares (with tax amounting to around INR 450 for Bangalore – Goa), and was told to not sell below INR 1,499. Many see this as unfairness meted out to an Indian airline.

AirAsia India is officially launching on May 30th: exactly two years after the now defunct AirAsia Japan launched (opened for sale of tickets) in 2012.

The sale of tickets is expected to commence later today at around 23:00hrs (11pm).

Summer Student Pilot License Program


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OFS08Orient Flight School, one of India’s oldest private flying schools offers a beginners course in flying, this summer. Students joining this course will be eligible to obtain a Student Pilot License (SPL), on the completion of this five week long course. This summer SPL program is open to students, who are 16 years of age and have completed their 10th standard exams.

On joining this program students will be offered training in basic flying subjects concerning flying, such as, the theory of flight, air regulations, aviation weather, air navigation, aero-engines, air frames and avionics. In addition, students get five hours of virtual flying on a flight simulator.

This program covers the first capsule of the full fledged pilot training course and prepares the candidate for an SPL. The key take away is that a SPL has a validity of 5 years and is obtained during the summer holidays, without affecting the academic focus of a student. This SPL may then be upgraded to a private pilot license (PPL) (which covers 50 hours of actual flying), during the class 11th and 12th vacations. By the time a candidate appears for his 12th (Senior Secondary School) Board exams, almost one third of the commercial pilot license (CPL) course would be completed.

The advantage of this program is that students get focused to a flying career, while in school itself. The advantages, as explained by the Deputy Director, OFS, Air Cmde (retd) Govindraj, are two fold. Firstly, most students go flying after their 12th, which typically takes two years. However, with this program, a CPL will be obtained within one year of passing class 12, thereby allowing the student to enroll in a full time, focused degree course immediately thereafter, allowing them to have a flying license and a useful degree at a young age. Secondly, it allows students to taste the world of professional flying early, and if not to his or her liking, aids in an early decision on pursuing career options either in or outside this field, without having to introduce a gap between senior secondary high school and a degree course.

To the flight school, such an innovative program helps keep the school active, drawing students to flying through greater awareness. Since financial entry barriers into this summer SPL program are very low, it allows a wider audience to taste the world of aviation, while allowing the serious to plan their financial requirements to meet the expenditure of a CPL Course.

Batch 01 (May) has already commenced, and admission to batches in June and July are open. You may read more about OFS by clicking here.


AirAsia India receives its Air Operator Permit; Salaries to increase


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AirAsia India CEO Mittu posing with the AOP

AirAsia India CEO Mittu holding the AOP

Air Asia India receives its AOP at 6:15pm IST. Landmark in Indian Aviation. Article also counters certain incorrect and misleading statements in Business Standard.

AirAsia India received its Air Operator Permit (AOP) today, at 18:15hrs IST. The Chief Executive of the airline, Mittu Chandilya, was at Delhi to receive the AOP.

Tweeted Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO, at 18:37 IST, “History has been made today in Aviation. Everything has been hard for Airasia but we never give up. Today Airasia India has got APPROVAL.”(sic) That was followed by, “What a battle that was. proud day for me and all airasia all stars”(sic)

This development follows a tweet from AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, on May 5th: “I think huge week for Airasia. I feel that Airasia India will be approved very soon.” (sic).

AirAsia India concluded its proving flights-the last stage in the award of an AOP-on May 02, 2014. The two day-long proving flights saw the airline fly non-revenue passengers, which included airline staff and inspecting DGCA officers, to Kochi, Bangalore, and Kolkatta, from Chennai, to satisfy a March 2014 revision by the DGCA that requires an AOP applicant to fly a minimum of 5 sectors and 10 hours.

Revised Crew Remuneration

Along with this imminent AOP award today, the airline plans to upward-revise the salaries of its staff. Captains at AirAsia India reportedly are paid INR 1,60,000 (Indian Rupee One lakh Sixty Thousand) less than what IndiGo offers, per month, which results in an annual difference of INR 19,20,000. (Indian Rupee Nineteen Lakh Twenty thousand). This difference in pay was justified with the phase of the airline: non-operational.

The exact increment is unknown, but is believed to be competitive with prevailing market rates. Effective December 2013, IndiGo hiked the salaries of its pilots. Captains received a pay hike of around 15%, while that of cabin crew close to doubled. This salary increment checked the outflow of pilots from the airline.

Few pilots, who had joined AirAsia India early, left the airline to join IndiGo in light of the delays and uncertainties that surrounded the AOP, and the lower remuneration. This long drawn wait had partly demotivated some pilots, but has ensured that only the loyalists and believers are with the company when it starts operations.

However, few pilots left AirAsia India with hesitation, purely due to financial commitments.

Business Non-Standard

Business Standard came out with a piece “Meet AirAsia’s multitasking pilots; they do the cargo, too”, which unfortunately is misleading and partly incorrect.

All pilots can carry out checks known as transit checks, between flights. There is no necessity for an engineer to be involved with this check unless an issue requires rectification. Pilots are usually not authorized to rectify the issue. Pilots in every airline perform a “walk-around” to check the aircraft before departure, to look for signs of visible damage, such as worn tires, or from bird hits. If everything looks fine, no action is required. However, if something is out of place, an engineer’s opinion, involvement and clearance is required.

Such transit checks add an extra level of safety, and are practiced world over.

As far as Cabin crew are concerned, no cabin crew will be expected to perform the load and trim sheet. Errors in the load and trim are unforgivable, with fatal consequences. The cabin crew will perform only those duties which are required of them: cabin safety. Sources in the airline deny the cabin crew being involved with ticketing, and load & trim sheets. However, AirAsia Bhd cabin crew check the boarding passes at the apron entrance, while here, that check might be performed by cabin crew at the entrance to the aircraft, possibly at the foot of the air-stairs.

No pilot or cabin crew will handle the cargo, as suggested by the title of the BS story.

Not all flights have a turnaround time of 30-35 minutes. SpiceJet targets 20 minutes on some of its Q400 flights. Air Costa targets 20minutes on its Embraer E170s and 25 minutes on its E190s. The 25 minutes that AirAsia India targets will, however, be the best for a Boeing 737 or an A320 in India. 20 minutes, however, seems too optimistic.

Indian budget carriers achieve more than 12 block hours, contrasting what was reported. GoAir presently has the best aircraft utilisation in the country, with some of its airplanes flying patterns that start at 05:20AM and land at 12:50AM: a good 19hrs30min every day, picking up a total block time of 14hr15min daily. AirAsia India will not be the only airline to efficiently utilise its aircraft, though with a 20-25 minute turnaround, 16hrs block time is achievable, and may set a record in India.

Second Airbus A320 for AirAsia India; Tony hints at AOP


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AA_A320_MSN6096Tony hints at AirAsia India obtaining its AOP this week.

Note: Partly Speculative article about second aircraft and timelines, based on factual evidence.

AirAsia India presently has only one Airbus A320 airplane- An A320-216SL, registered VT-ATF, with line number 6015. A second Airbus A320, MSN 6096, is painted in the AirAsia scheme, bears the Indian flag, but may be registered 9M-AJM. (Malaysian registration).

This is very likely the second Airbus A320 to join the AirAsia India fleet, but the AirAsia group may have opted to temporarily induct it into the Berhad arm in light of the uncertainties and delays associated with obtaining the Air Operator Permit, or AOP, and later transfer it to AirAsia India once the AOP is received.

AirAsia India, however, successfully completed its proving flights on May 02, 2014, and is expected to receive its AOP very soon.

Tweeted Tony, today, “I think huge week for Airasia. I feel that Airasia India will be approved very soon.” (sic).

This contrasts Tony’s low mood almost a month ago, at Hong Kong, where he stated, “I have never experienced this in my life, where the entire aviation industry has tried to block us. We have been sued and taken to court by every person I know”

After the AOP is received, which is expected this week(and latest by May 15th, 2014), the airline will have to get its schedule approved by the DGCA, after which the airline can be officially “launched”, with the sale of tickets. This may happen towards end-May or the first week of June, and operations may commence either late June or early July, or as late as August, based on the airline’s sales campaign strategy.

The airline is expected to start operations with three airplanes. The new A320, if made to join the AirAsia India fleet, may do so in mid-May 2014.

Read in detail about the two day long proving flights: Day01, Day02.

AirAsia India Proving Flights: Day 2


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Route_Proving Day 2AirAsia India’s second proving flight took off from Chennai at 10:13hrs local (0443hrs UTC). The aircraft, an Airbus A320-216SL, registered VT-ATF, is enroute from Chennai to Kolkatta (IATA: CCU, ICAO: VECC).

The route, Chennai-Kolkatta may not be offered by the airline, but is being flown as Kolkatta already has the necessary ground support from AirAsia Bhd (Malaysia).

Yesterday, the airline had flown Chennai-Cochin, Cochin-Bangalore, and Bangalore-Chennai – a total of 3 sectors. Today’s flights will fly 2 sectors: Chennai-Kolkatta (and the return), and Chennai-Bangalore (and the return), bringing the total to 7 flights.

Based on the performance of yesterday’s proving flights, which were to the DGCA’s satisfaction, no further proving flights may be necessary.

The proving flights are the last stage in the process of obtaining an Air Operator Permit. It will now be upto the DGCA to award the AOP. Whether the Delhi HC hearing based on seperate petitions filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) will come in the way of the award of the AOP is to be seen.

For more insight into proving flights, and expected timelines for AirAsia India, please click here.

Edit: Chennai-Bangalore added. This flight was overlooked. We apologize.

AirAsia India’s Proving Flights Take Off


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A320_AAI_VT-ATFAirAsia India’s first and only Airbus A320 (-216SL), registered VT-ATF, took to the skies on its maiden proving flight at 0708hrs GMT (1238hrs IST) [32 minute pushback delay]. The routes flown today will be Chennai-Cochin, Cochin-Bangalore, and Bangalore-Chennai: all planned with a 25 minute turn around time. Another proving flight is scheduled tomorrow (May 2nd, 2014), but in the interest of the airline, the route will not be revealed by The Flying Engineer at this point in time.

A proving flight includes a representative selection of the destinations intended to be serviced. Proving flights can be flown on any sector, even if those sectors do not make it to the airline’s schedules. Further, actual flight schedules and routes are subject to DGCA’s approval.

The proving flights of AirAsia India make use of the ground support available at those destinations where AirAsia Berhad (Malaysia) flies. AirAsia Bhd presently flies into and out of Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi (Cochin), Kolkatta, and Tiruchirappalli (Tirchi).

The proving flight follows the successful conclusion of the Main Base Inspection (MBI) on the 19th of April, 2014, and the “Table-Top” exercise (Proving flight readiness check) on the 29th of April, 2014. The MBI was conducted at Chennai, and the “table-top” at Delhi.

The proving flight will have non-revenue passengers and cargo on board, including DGCA personnel and airline staff. Of the airline staff on board, one set of flight crew (2 pilots and 4 cabin crew (two male two female)) will conduct the flight, while the rest will act as passengers. During the course of the flight, DGCA officials will check for the airline’s demonstration of handling of normal and non-normal events (such as dealing with disabled passengers, passenger incapacitation, cabin fire, encountering unexpected turbulence), in accordance with airline’s approved Operations Manual. The airline’s manual was approved, earlier, by the DGCA.

At the end of the proving flights, if the DGCA team finds deficiencies in the airline’s compliance with the approved Operations Manual processes, and procedures or regulatory requirements, then another set of proving flights will have to be taken up to prove that the deficiencies have been addressed.

Airline’s timelines

If the proving flights are successful in the first attempt, then the AOP is expected by the second week of May, 2014. Once the AOP is awarded, the airline must get its flight schedules approved by the DGCA. That is expected in the second half of May. Following the approved schedules, fares are decided upon, and the airline is formally launched, with the start of the sale of tickets. This is expected in the first week of June. The airline will need to sell sufficient tickets and undertake various marketing and promotional campaigns, which is expected to last for a month or two.

With these timelines, AirAsia India is expected to commence scheduled air transport flight operations only in July or August 2014.

Interestingly, AirAsia India has applied for a scheduled passenger air transport operator’s permit, and not a scheduled regional air transport permit, but may keep off the Tier I routes, and fly only those routes that are recognized by the DGCA as regional.

This May Day will be viewed as a  “mayday” for some airlines in India, which have openly shown their discomfort with the arrival of AirAsia India.

Edit: Changed “Route Proving Flights” to “Proving Flights” based on a clarification to The Flying Engineer by Mittu Chandilya, CEO AirAsia India.

“Fuel Emergency” & Fuel Quantity: Getting it right


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9W_PushbackThis piece clears the air over a possibly misleading media report in Business Today (BT), “DGCA plans to shut doors on low fuel landings”. The DGCA is right.

Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) is known to witness severe fog in winter, which is responsible for a significant number of flight diversions. In the winter of 2011, there were 57 diversions, which steadily grew to 89 in 2012, and 143 in 2013: a 60% yearly growth over the last three years.

To address these now unacceptable number of diversions in winter, the DGCA setup a committee in January 2014 to study the ways in which Delhi may be made a “zero diversionary airport”. The committee concluded the study with a report that included 27 recommendations, one of which was not well understood. Recommendation number 13 states, “AIP shall be amended to indicate that the term fuel emergency would not be recognised at Indian aerodromes.” That recommendation is valid, but was misunderstood by a section of the media.

Further, the BT report stated “DGCA justifies move by saying that airlines are expected to carry at least 1.5 times more fuel than what it actually requires during a flight but they generally carry less fuel.” This too shall be clarified.

“Fuel Emergency”

An airplane is always expected to land with an amount of fuel in the tanks that is above a minimum quantity commonly referred to as “final reserve fuel”. When in flight, if the fuel quantity in the tanks dips below the reserve fuel quantity, the airplane is deemed to be in an emergency. This reserve fuel is the fuel required to fly at 1,500ft above the destination airport, for 30 minutes. For the Boeing 737-800, at typical loads, this is around 1,200kg. Larger airplanes, which consume more fuel in 30 minutes, consequently have a larger weight of fuel as reserve.

Until recently, there was no recommended standard phraseology to be used when the flight crew determined that the aircraft will infringe upon its final fuel reserves before landing. There were two widely used phrases: “Minimum Fuel”, and “Emergency Fuel”. Minimum fuel is an advisory to Air Traffic Control that should there be further delay for landing, the airplane will start eating into the reserve fuel. “Emergency Fuel” was a declaration of emergency, that the airplane has started eating into the reserve fuel. However, the interpretation of this term has been varied, with the FAA recognizing it as “The point at which, in the judgment of the pilot-in-command, it is necessary to proceed directly to the airport of intended landing due to low fuel.” Low fuel does not necessarily mean the final reserve fuel, and is a very subjective quantity.

Unfortunately, a declaration of “Emergency Fuel” would require Air Traffic Control to award the airplane priority. Priority is defined as no further delay into getting the airplane to land. This was reportedly abused by some airlines, including India’s only consistently profitable airline, to ensure that the airplane lands without burning further fuel. That is money saved.

India is a member of the United Nations (UN). The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is a UN Agency. ICAO works with member states, and industries and aviation organizations to develop international Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) which are then used by states when they develop their legally-binding national civil aviation regulations (CARs). The SARPs ensure uniform best practices, and safe, efficient , and secure flights through commonly understood standards.

Effective 15th November 2012, ICAO has amended ICAO Annex 6 Part I, to include:

“The pilot-in-command shall advise ATC of a minimum fuel state by declaring MINIMUM FUEL when, having committed to land at a specific aerodrome, the pilot calculates that any change to the existing clearance to that aerodrome may result in landing with less than planned final reserve fuel.”


“The pilot-in-command shall declare a situation of fuel emergency by broadcasting MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY,FUEL, when the calculated usable fuel predicted to be available upon landing at the nearest aerodrome where a safe landing can be made is less than the planned final reserve fuel.”

As a result, henceforth, ’Fuel Emergency’ or ‘fuel priority’ are not recognised terms. India not recognizing these two terms only aligns the country with ICAO standards, helping the country get out of safety audit downgrades.

Further, “Minimum Fuel” is only an advice to ATC, requiring no action by ATC, but “ MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY,FUEL” is a declaration of an emergency, in which the ATC must assist the airplane in landing as soon as possible.

Fuel Requirements

DGCA, in its Civil Aviation Regulation (CAR) that covers “Operation of Commercial Air Transport Aeroplanes”, states:

“A flight shall not be commenced unless, taking into account both the meteorological conditions and any delays that are expected in flight, the aeroplane carries sufficient fuel and oil to ensure that it can safely complete the flight. In addition, a reserve shall be carried to provide for contingencies.”

In accordance with the CAR, the airplane must at minimum carry the following fuel, for a flight from Bangalore to Delhi (1000NM), with 180 passengers on a Boeing 737-800W, with an assumption of no cargo. Quantities are derived from the airplane flight manuals and typical airline practices.



Quantity 1000kg


1 Taxi Fuel 0.2 The fuel required to taxi from the gate to the runway.
2 Trip Fuel 6.0 The required fuel quantity from initiating take-off to the landing at the destination airport.
3 Contingency Fuel 0.3 Typically 5% of the Trip fuel, but can be as high as 10%. caters to unforeseen circumstances or prediction errors.
4 Alternate Fuel 1.3 The fuel required to execute a missed approach at Delhi and fly to an alternate airport (Jaipur in this case), in case landing at Delhi is not possible, due to issues like visibility.
5 Final Reserve Fuel 1.2 The final reserve fuel is the minimum fuel required to fly for 30 minutes at 1,500 feet above the alternate airport.
6 Extra Fuel 0.0 Based on statistically derived data at the airline, and also at the discretion of the Captain (based on his judgement and reports of a congested airport, or bad weather, or the like.) Assumed Zero for this example.
7 Total Fuel 9.0 The sum of the fuels 1 – 6, which must be uplifted at the departure airport.

If the flight goes as planned, the aircraft should consume only the trip fuel, which amounts to 6,000kg. But the aircraft is filled with 9,000 kg of fuel, which is 1.5 times that of the trip fuel.

One of longest domestic flights into Delhi is from Bangalore, the others being from Chennai and Cochin. As flights get longer, the total fuel will fall below 1.5 times the trip fuel. As flights get shorter, the total fuel will amount to greater than 1.5 times the trip fuel. Since the Bangalore – Delhi flight is one of the longest domestic flights into Delhi, BT’s “DGCA officials” were not off the mark with a ballpark 1.5 figure, but that is a number that is written nowhere, must never be used for planning, and should not have been quoted in the first place. The Mumbai-Delhi sector (which is shorter) will consume only 4,000kg of fuel, but will need to legally carry a minimum  of 6,900kg of fuel, which is 1.7 times the trip fuel.


1. The DGCA’s recommendation is not “highly controversial”, as reported by BT. The ambiguous term “fuel emergency” is not recognized and is replaced by standard phraseologies as described above. Flight safety is not compromised but rather improved.

2. DGCA cannot “shut doors” on low fuel landings, as reported. That means you can’t land if you’re low on fuel. What DGCA is doing is to ensure certain standard terminologies are used, doing away with old ones.

2. The laws are not ” draconian”, but progressive to keep up with ICAO standards.

3. A “1.5″ figure is not justified, as it depends on many factors. However, if the DGCA official used it to throw a ball park ratio, he’s not off the mark. But later in the BT article is probably a typo which is misleading, “expected to carry at least 1.5 times more fuel“. It must read 1.5 times the trip fuel.

Edit: Added Cochin & Chennai to Delhi as other long flights into Delhi. Thanks to Cyril.

Vivek Anand Choudhary takes over as the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Costa


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Vivek_C_Air_Costa_CFO_CCOIn a move that is seen by many industry insiders as beneficial to Air Costa, Vivek Choudhary, a young and dynamic 33 year old has today taken over the reins at the airline, as its Chief Financial officer (CFO) and Chief Commercial Officer (CCO).

Vivek has a Bachelor of Technology Degree in Computer Science from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) in Finance and marketing, from the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. He started his career as a Business Analyst at GMR Group, where he got his first taste of the aviation sector, in the field of airport infrastructure. He later moved onto PVP Ventures, and quickly climbed the ladder to the post of Vice President, Pioneer Group, and later, Vice President of PVP Ventures. He was also a partner at NITSA VIDAE Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd.: a Business Consulting firm focused on Market research, Project Feasibility Studies, Valuation Studies and the whole cycle of Fund raising. His involvement in these fields makes him ideally suited to understand the very subjects that airlines both revolve around, and are plagued with, especially in a country that is hostile to this sector.

In April 2010, Vivek joined LEPL Projects Limited as Vice President – Corporate Finance. Vivek was instrumental in the setup, and planning of Air Costa, from the days when it was just an idea, and has lived through the red-tapism, bureaucracy and frustration that any startup airline will go through, more so when it is not an offshoot of an already established airline brand. He and his team studied the airline market and made strong attempts to avoid the mistakes of other airlines. Yet, the regional nature of the airline throws open a different battlefield, where the rules of the game may have to be twisted, in part: a challenge when an airline is the first of its kind in recent years, and inexperienced.

The new role allows him to focus entirely on the airline business, rather than sharing focus with other projects and ventures taken up by the LEPL group. Recently, 22 flights, accounting for 55% of daily flights at the airline, were cancelled due to issues with planning.

The Flying Engineer had an opportunity to interact with Mr. Vivek, and was pleasantly surprised to find a financial officer very well versed with the technical terms, jargon, and nuances in the world of aviation. Vivek is beyond financial: he has a keen eye and an unquenchable thirst for the technical aspects of aviation. He is weak on show and strong on performance.

These perceived qualities make Vivek the ideal candidate for the role of the Chief Officer-Financial and Commercial. He will be guided and assisted by a few former Finnair executives.

In the words of the director-regional business development of a leading aircraft manufacturer, “We need more Viveks in this country. He understands the subject. He’s willing to learn. He sees what others miss. And that can make all the difference”.

We wish the soft spoken, humble, and attention-shy young gentleman all the very best in steering India’s youngest airline towards profitable routes and smooth operations.

The 737 from Boeing: Still Going-8000th & other 1000th deliveries


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Boeing yesterday delivered its 8000th 737-a 737-900ER-to United Airlines, marking yet another milestone for the world’s most sold large jetliner, which has cumulative orders for 11,774 Boeing 737 airplanes, since the time the program was conceptualised in 1964, across its airline, business and military offerings.

Boeing, which was initially skeptical about the aircraft’s sales, and reportedly had plans to cancel the program, was convinced by Lufthansa to go ahead with the aircraft type. That decision proved a commercial success for the airframer, encouraging the continuation of the production line, across 12 significant variants spread across 4 sub-families: the Originals (-100,-200), Classics (-300,-400,-500), Next-Generation (-600,-700,800,900), and MAX (MAX 7, MAX 8, MAX 9) families.

Boeing 737 produced
Model Airline Delivery Date Status
0002nd 737-100 Lufthansa 28 Dec 1967 Scrapped
1000th 737-200 Delta Airlines 22 Dec 1983 Scrapped
2000th 737-500 Lufthansa 25 Feb 1991 Stored
3000th 737-400 Alaska Airlines 27 Feb 1998 Active
4000th 737-800 Air Algerie 19 Jun 2006 (Silent) Active
5000th 737-700 Southwest 13 Feb 2006 Active
6000th 737-800 ILFC/ Norwegian Air Shuttle 16 Apr 2009 Active
7000th 737-800 Fly Dubai 16 Dec 2011 Active
8000th 737-900ER United 16 Feb 2014 Active

The first Boeing 737, a 737-100 flew on 9th April, 1967. The first production 737, a 737-100, was delivered to Lufthansa in late 1967.

The 737 family, the smallest among all original Boeing designs, earned itself famous nicknames, including Tin Mouse, Baby Boeing, and Fat Albert.

Boeing’s successful narrowbody airplane started facing stiff competition almost 20 years later, from Airbus, when the European airframer introduced the Airbus A320 family of airplanes. The then significantly more efficient aircraft prompted Boeing to introduce the Next Generation family of the 737, almost a decade later. The biggest change to the 737NG, over the Originals and Classics, is a significantly improved wing, which helped Boeing match the Airbus A320′s operational economics. Other changes included an updated cabin and cockpit. The changes were deemed significant enough to have a new set of manufacturer line numbers for all Boeing 737NGs produced, abruptly interrupting the numbering with the last produced 737-Classic at line number 3132.

The first airline to receive the 4000th 737 – which was the first thousandth 737 delivered after this line number change, and the first such 737NG – was Air Algerie. Unlike other recent thousandth deliveries, this was mysteriously done without any publicity or fanfare.

UnitedScimitarStiff competition between the two manufacturers has led to significant continuous product improvements targeting lower operational costs, which include the winglets for the 737NG, the “Sharklets” for the A320 family, “Scimitar” Winglets for the 737NG, and re-engining for the significantly more fuel efficient A320NEO and 737MAX families.

United Airlines, which received the 8000th 737, is also the first airline to fit the “Scimitar” Winglets from Aviation Partners Boeing, making the 737NG series realise close to 1.5% fuel burn reduction. Such winglets will eventually be factory fitted on Boeing 737NG airplanes, making the 737 the only commercial jetliner in production to feature such unique winglets.


B737 Orders 31MAr2014

737 order Breakup

The highest demand has been for the maximum-189 seat Boeing 737-800, which competes directly with the Airbus A320.

As of 31st March 2014, there are 3794 unfulfilled Boeing 737 orders. Boeing presently produces the 737NG at 42 airplanes a month, or 504 airplanes a year. That rate is scheduled to ramp up to scheduled 47 airplanes a month in 2017-the same year the 737 MAX is expected to enter service. About 1,700 737NG airplanes are expected to be produced at this rate, with the balance 160 737NG and 1934 737MAX produced at 564 airplanes a year, completing the orders as they stand today, only in early year 2021.

In contrast, Airbus has 4,247 unfulfilled Airbus A320 family orders, as of 31st March 2014, which is impressive for a program that started 20 years later, today grabbing the largest market share of the narrowbody airliner market. Airbus produces airplanes at the rate of 42 a month, across its three final assembly lines in France, Germany, and China, with another in the United States set to open, shortly.

A Start-Up’s Hiccups: Air Costa cancels 22 flights


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Air Costa has cancelled a significant number of flights listed in its approved Summer Schedule. As a startup airline with a different model, it faces issues on many fronts: one of which is an insufficient number of sufficiently qualified pilots to fly its four airplanes: two Embraer E170s and two Embraer E190s.

The sectors affected are those that are operated by its smaller Embraer E170 aircraft-with a seating capacity of 67 each: Vijayawada <-> Hyderabad, Chennai <-> Madurai, Chennai <-> Vijayawada, Vijayawada <-> Vishakhapatnam, Chennai <-> Coimbatore, Coimbatore <-> Bangalore, Bangalore <-> Vijayawada, Bangalore <-> Hyderabad, and some of the Bangalore <-> Chennai and Hyderabad <-> Chennai flights.

The Embraer E170s fly the shorter, thinner southern routes, while the E190s fly the longer, and thicker routes northbound out of the southern region, to Ahmedabad and Jaipur, connecting these cities to Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai. The E190s also fly between Chennai <->Hyderabad, and Chennai <-> Bangalore, and connect Vishakhapatnam to Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The E170s account for 22 flights a day, or 55% of the airline’s daily flights.

The airline is tackling the situation by phone-calling each and every affected customer, explaining the situation and offering a full refund, contrasting a situation in late 2011 when the DGCA had pulled up IndiGo, SpiceJet, and the then-operational Kingfisher Airlines for having allegedly cancelled flights without informing passengers. Although the airline seems to maintain a low key when it comes to publicity, this act seems to highlight the airline’s customer focus: something no airline can afford to ignore, especially at the start-up phase of an airline.

Customer focus and on time performance are key factors for many passengers when choosing between airlines that offer matching fares.

Air Costa’s commercial flight operations commenced on 14th October 2013, exactly 6 months ago. The start-up phase, and the fact that the airline is the only operator of the Embraer E170/E190 airplanes in India, makes this a very challenging period for the airline.

The Reason: Pilot Shortage

The airline presently has 22 pilots qualified to fly on the E170/E190 airplanes. Typically, an airline requires 10 pilots per aircraft, or 5 sets of crew per airplane. With 22 pilots, there are enough to fly just 2 aircraft, leaving the two other airplanes with no crew.

The airline has chosen to fly the E190 airplanes, as its utilization on its network is much higher: 14.5hrs a day, which is upto nearly 2.5hours more than the E170s. Besides, the E190 with 112 seats in an all-economy cabin has a lower operational cost per seat, when compared to the E170.

The airline had planned for a sufficient number of pilots to fly the routes in the summer schedule, starting 5th April 2014, but that plan didn’t materialize. 8 foreign commanders were supposed to have cleared the Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorization (FATA) examination-an exam conducted by the Indian DGCA to ensure foreign pilots are up to speed with Indian regulations- at least 15 days before Air Costa was to have kicked off its full network under the Summer Schedule. However, the crew did not clear the examination, which is held fortnightly.

Another 21 pilots will be joining the airline in a week, of which are the 8 FATA licence holders. The other 13 type rated pilots are Indians, of which 7 are commanders and 6 first officers. Recently, the airline hired 40 commercial pilots with no previous airline experience. Ground classes for these pilots are in progress at Vijayawada, before they’re sent for their Embraer E170/190 type rating. The type rating program may very likely be conducted at Jordan.

Flights under the approved summer schedule are expected to commence shortly, once the 21 pilots are available.

Air Costa is finding it difficult to have a sufficient number of qualified flight deck crew who may remain on standby, and also faces a shortage of examiners, who are instrumental in the release of Indian commanders and first officers. The airline is the only operator of the Embraer E170/190 family of airplanes, while every Indian other airline flies Boeing 737NGs and Airbus A320 family airplanes, eliminating the possibility of poaching experienced and ready-to-fly-on-type pilots.

On March 30th, one of Air Costa’s E170s was grounded temporarily due to a windshield crack. The void left in the network was filled by one of the Embraer E190s: VT-LBR. The replacement windshield has arrived and been fitted on the aircraft, and is believed to have also been re-cleared for flight operations.

2014 Fleet Expansion Plans

The airline plans to add another 3 Embraer E190 aircraft to the fleet, one each in the months of August, October and December. As the fleet and flight crew members grown in number, the airline is expected to be less affected by such operational issues.

Air Costa to commercially fly the first Embraer E190 flight today


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Air Costa, which on March 27th obtained DGCA approval to fly its two brand new leased Embraer E190s, deployed an E190 on commercial service from today, to cater to an unforeseen operational issue.

One of Air Costa’s two Embraer E170s developed a windshield crack when operating into Bangalore, today, forcing the airplane to stay on ground for a few days till the windshield is replaced. To prevent disruption in operations, one of the E190s will be pulled into commercial service. Air Costa’s E190s seat 112 passengers in a single class, 45 more than their dual-class E170s.

VTLBR departureThe E190, registered VT-LBR, operated the Air Costa LB649 Hyderabad (ICAO: VOHS, IATA: HYD) – Jaipur (ICAO: VIJP, IATA: JAI) flight, marking the first commercial flight in India involving an Embraer E190. The flight, scheduled to depart at 14:05hrs IST, departed at 15:24hrs IST, picking up a 01:19hr delay due to the unforeseen pull-out of the E190 from parking into line operations, and the pull-out of the E170 from line ops.

The E190s were expected to be inducted into commercial service on 5th April, 2014. This bittersweet incident marks another milestone in Indian regional aviation, while also serving to emphasize how at the start-up phase of an airline, when the fleet is small, the non-availability of one aircraft can have significant operational ramifications.

Air Costa plans to stand out from the competition with its fares, connectivity, and unmatched cabin seating convenience and comfort.

Air Costa gets approval to fly the Embraer E190s


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E190 Air Costa

Air Costa yesterday received the approval from the DCGA to fly the Embraer E190s. Air Costa is the first airline in the history of Indian aviation to operate Embraer E190s. The airline started operations in October 2013 with two Embraer E170s.

The two Embraer ERJ E190s, with manufacturer serial numbers 593 and 608, registered VT-LBR, VT-LVR respectively, were delivered to Air Costa towards the second half of December 2013, and are leased from GECAS. However, the approval to fly the E190s arrived only 3 months later, due to exhaustive DGCA paperwork, some of which related to getting the aircraft type approved in India. The airplanes have been parked at Hyderabad-Shamshabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International (ICAO: VOHS IATA: HYD).

The two Embraer E190s are expected to be deployed into commercial service in the first week of April, and will fly the longer routes in the approved summer schedule. Since the ERJ 190′s license endorsement, as recognized by the DGCA, is “EMB170″, and common with the ERJ 170, pilots in the airline can fly both aircraft variants.

The E190s will be based at Chennai, and will be deployed on the following sectors: Chennai-Ahmadabad, Ahmadabad-Bangalore, Bangalore-Jaipur, Jaipur-Hyderabad, Hyderabad-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore, Bangalore-Vishakhapatnam, Vishakhapatnam – Hyderabad.

Each aircraft will start operations at 0600hrs IST, and fly till 2340hrs IST, accumulating a total of 29 block hours per day over 18 flights, representing 56% of the entire fleet’s utilization. The E190s will be utilized approximately 30% more than the E170.

The Embraer E190s are an all-economy four abreast-single aisle cabin, with 112 seats laid out over 28 rows, with a 29/30-inch seat pitch (some seats will have a comfortable pitch of 30 inches, while the others will have 29 inches). Each of the seats are as wide as 18.25 inches, armrest-armrest, which is a good 1.25inches wider (and more comfortable) than the seats on SpiceJet’s Boeing 737s, and IndiGo, GoAir and Air Asia India’s Airbus A320s, which are all 17 inches wide. In addition, there are no middle seats: only either window or aisle, making the overall experience very comfortable. This comfort will make the airline’s product a preferred one, among regional airlines, today.

The 112 seat E-190 has 62% the capacity of an Airbus A320, which the airline feels is the right capacity for the markets they serve today. Another 4 E190s are expected to join the fleet this year.

Air Costa has been flying the E-170s with load factors greater than 70%.

A Slew of single aisle firsts in March


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Three jetliner manufacturers, Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, in alphabetical order, rolled out single aisle firsts in March this year.

It started on March 12th, when Embraer rolled out the first production E175 with fuel burn improvements. New winglets, and fuselage wide aerodynamic “cleanups”, and system optimizations have bettered fuel consumption by 6.4%: a good 1.4% better than the technical team had expected to see in fuel savings, on a “typical flight”, which, according to The Flying Engineer estimates, are in the 500-1000NM region. This 6.4% fuel burn reduction is close to double the figure Airbus achieved with its A320 when it strapped on the winglets it calls Sharklets: between 3-4%, and more than 3 times what Boeing achieved with its 737NG when it rolled out the 737 Performance Improvement Package (PIP) in 2012: 2%.

On March 17th, Airbus announced the final assembly of its A320NEO: the next landmark in mainline single aisle airplanes. The A320NEO will be the first single aisle airplane in its class to enter service, with a new type of engine in this thrust class: the Geared Turbofan Engine. The GTF is expected to set the A320NEO apart from the 737MAX; the latter is expected to fly with the CFM LEAP-1B engine that runs hotter, leaving little room for any engine growth in the future.

On March 20, Boeing rolled out the first Boeing 737NG at increased production rate: 42 airplanes a month, matching what Airbus had achieved almost a year ago: which then was the highest commercial aircraft monthly production rate ever. The interesting feat here is that Boeing achieves this at a single facility, while Airbus gets its 42 airplanes a month at its three final assembly lines: Toulouse, Hamburg, and Tianjin.

As for Bombardier, which is going through a very difficult period, the First CS300: the only aircraft variant in the CSeries program that is relevant today and has garnered much attention from customers, almost twice the firm orders as the shorter variant, the CS100, is in final assembly and the systems are being installed. First flight of the CS300 is expected soon, and the entry into service of the CS300 is expected 6 months after the CS100, the latter slated for the second half of 2015, with the hope that no further program delays are announced.

First Good Photo of Air Asia India’s A320 VT-ATF in Indian Skies


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TheFlyingEnginner is proud to present the first good photograph of Air Asia India’s new A320, in Indian skies, that landed today at Chennai. Registered VT-ATF, and the 6015th A320 family aircraft to be produced, the A320-216SL is a slightly underpowered A320, but one that may fit in the scheme of operations envisaged by Air Asia India.

The photographer, Praveen “PhotoYogi” Sundaram, traveled all the way by road from Bangalore to Chennai just to catch the picture of her. He was directly invited by Air Asia India to come click the aircraft on short finals, as DGCA had not given the airline permission for any media coverage in the airport.

Praveen has permitted The Flying Engineer to be the first to upload his image. We thank you, Praveen.

Praveen is an established photographer, and has mentored some other well known aircraft/aviation photographers in the country. You may view his photos on,, and his website, by clicking on the links in this sentence.

Earlier, The Flying Engineer published the first good photograph of an Air Costa’s Embraer E170 sporting an Indian registration.