The 5/20 rule – allowing airlines to fly international only after completing 5 years of operation and flying a fleet of a minimum of 20 airplanes, was introduced in the year 2005. The year 2005 was the second boom in Indian civil aviation.
Today, in the year 2015, we sit upon the next boom in Indian aviation. Since later 2013, many airlines have started: Air Costa, AirAsia India, Vistara, Air Pegasus and Trujet. The government, exactly 10 years after introducing the 5/20 rule, is going to either retain it, abolish it, or replace the rule. A rule that, on the outside, was intended to both develop domestic capacity and make sure airline operations stabilize before flying international. The true story revolves around the insecurity full service Kingfisher airlines created for one particular airline. Hence, the rule was introduced just before Kingfisher started operations in May 2005.
Since then, the industry has consolidated: Jet-Sahara, Air India-Indian, Kingfisher-Deccan, and the demise of the merged Kingfisher. What has the 5/20 achieved? It has created only 4 international airlines for the world’s largest democracy. Just 4 airlines.
We invite you to read what the 5/20 has done, what its proposed replacement, the 300/600 can do, and whether we must go in for the third option: No rule at all. Please click here.
Alliance Air, which is branded as Air India Regional, received its 5th brand new ATR 72-600 from Toulouse. The aircraft, registered VT-AIW, joins the fleet of four other ATR 72-600s, registered VT-AII, VT-AIT, VT-AIU and VT-AIV. Al five aircraft are leased from Singapore based leasing company Avation.
The ATR 72-600s, which employ an all new cockpit avionics based on technology used on the Airbus A380, is to replace the aging fleet of four ATR 42-320s. The ATR 42-320s in Alliance air are fitted with 48 seats, while the ATR 72-600s are fitted with 70 seats. The older ATRs sport a four bladed propeller, which made the aircraft noisier than the present six-bladed propellers. Passive noise reduction techniques make the present -600’s cabin a lot more pleasant than the older ATRs’.
With the arrival of VT-AIW, which was ferried Toulouse (TLS) – Heraklion (HER) – Ankara (ESB) – Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Delhi (DEL), the total count of active ATR 72s in India (-500 & -600) has gone upto 27, split as 15 ATR 72-500 (Jet AIrways) + 3 ATR 72-600 (Jet AIrways) + 5 ATR 72-600 (Air India Regional / Alliance Air) + 2 ATR 72-500 (Air Pegasus) + 2 ATR 72-500 (TruJet). One ATR 72-500 is undergoing painting at Hosur, destined for Air Pegaus.
India totally has 51 70-80 seat turboprops in service, including 14 Bombardier Q400s of SpiceJet. The smaller ATR 42s, aged on average 21+ years, will soon be phased out.
Air India Regional / Alliance Air flies the longest turboprop route in the country, between Delhi and Rajkot, over 505 nautical miles, a flight that takes 2:30 hours block time, almost the same block time an Airbus or Boeing mainline narrowbody jet (A320 & 737 family) takes to fly double the distance. Due to insufficient crew, and to align with the schedules of the network of its parent Air India, the ATRs at Alliance Air are not utilised as much as the aircraft can be. Average present utilisation of the aircraft at the airline is close to 6 hours per aircraft per day. The aircraft operate only four flights a day, while Jet Airways operates upto 13 hours per aircraft per day and 9 flights per aircraft per day. (maximum figures).
Of the presently four operational ATR 72-600s with Alliance Air, three are based at Delhi, and operate flights to Kullu, Dharamshala, Allahabad, Dehradun, Rajkot and Pantnagar. One is based at Hyderabad, and operates flights to Vijayawada and Tirupati, offering competition to TruJet and Air Costa.
An ATR 72 is best suited for short (distance) and thin (low demand) routes of upto 350 nautical miles. Beyond this, a regional jet generally becomes a more viable and economical option. The shortest ATR 72 sector in India is operated by Jet Airways between Porbandar and Diu, a flight that lasts just 45 minutes block time over a distance of 90 nautical miles (166km). The average ATR 72 city pair distance in India is 223 nautical miles (413 km), while the average domestic flight distance across all domestic flights of all carriers on all aircraft in India is 455NM (843 km).
70-80 seat turboprops serve as good feeder aircraft to mainline aircraft, enabling deeper and true regional penetration in India, especially since many airfields and city pairs in India, today, are operationally and commercially unviable for regional and mainline jets. Many runways are too short for regional and mainline jets, and many cities are too underdeveloped to viably support larger aircraft.
The maps below show the pan-India coverage that turboprops can achieve by being based out of five metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and by flying a maximum distance of 400NM. Range circles are 300NM and 400NM radius, as mentioned.
Over the next 20 years, a demand for 2,500 turboprops is anticipated, of which close to 50% may be based at Asia.
Header image does not represent VT-AIW, but VT-AII.
Air India Regional, better known as Alliance Air, received its first ATR 72-600 at Toulouse. The ATR 72,600 with MSN 1197 is registered VT-AII, and becomes the first ATR 72 for Air India and the fourth ATR 72-600 after VT-JCX/Y/Z that fly for Jet Airways. The aircraft, leased from Singapore-based leasing firm Avation, is the first out of five that the airline will receive until July 2015.
Air India Regional presently has about four ATR 42-320s (see photo on the left), which are all about 20 years old. The brand new and longer fuselage ATR 72-600 brings to Air India’s passengers a leap in cabin noise and comfort. The -320s have a four bladed propeller, while the -500s and -600s have a six bladed propeller.
The new ATR 72-600 is configured with 70 seats, compared to 48 that are fitted in the shorter ATR 42. This will allow Air India to either stimulate the markets which it caters to with this aircraft, or cater to those that have grown beyond 50 seats.
Mr. Rohit Nandan, Chairman, Alliance Air stated that “We are pleased to introduce into our fleet an aircraft which has clearly become the new reference among all regional planes. The ATRs have proven for years their reliability and their ability to bring our passengers to every destination of our regional network".
Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR Chief Executive Officer, said that “We have partnered with Alliance Air for more than 10 years, and we are honored by this new proof of confidence in the ATR aircraft family. The new ATR 72-600 perfectly fit with the aim of the airline to progressively renew their fleet with more fuel-efficient aircraft, while adding seat-capacity into their main routes."
According to ATR, the 72-600 has a maximum take-off weight of 23,000kg, and can carry a max payload of 7,500kg over 900NM.
Air India regional joins Jet Airways and Air Pegasus as operators of the ATR 72. Turbo Megha is soon expected to become the 4th operator.
The black book of aviation safety suddenly experienced a spike in entries on January 5th, 2014. There were three accidents and one incident on Jan 5th, 2014. There was only one fatality.
At around 01:00UTC, A Saudi Boeing 767-300, registered HS-BKE, landed at Madinah (Saudi Arabia) with the right main gear still retracted. The crew were first made aware of the situation when they were on approach, and extended the gear only to observe an unsafe indication for the right main. The crew put the aircraft into a hold, followed applicable checklists, including what appears to be a gravity extension, but after being unable to resolve the issue, landed on the third attempt, on the left main, and the right engine. There were no injuries as a direct result of the accident, but because of chaos during the evacuation. The aircraft seems to have sustained substantial damage.
At around 13:00UTC, a Bombardier CRJ200 registered N8758D, landed at New York’s (USA) John F Kennedy’s runway 22L, and slid off the taxiway exit J, and came to stop on soft ground, temporarily shutting the airport for 2 hours. No injuries were reported.
At around 14:00UTC, an Airbus A320-231 with the double bogey landing gear, registered VT-ESH, landed at Jaipur International Airport (India), burst its tyres, and damaged its left wing significantly. The aircraft was operating a scheduled domestic into Delhi, but was forced to divert to Jaipur due to visibility at Delhi, where it declared a fuel emergency and reportedly landed below minima (landing in visibility below the allowable runway visual range (RVR)), due to a fuel emergency. Uncertainty remains on the cause of wing damage: whether the wing scraped the ground, or the wing hit obstacles after reportedly (but unlikely) veering off the runway after landing. The closure of Jaipur Airport due to this accident forced a Spicejet 737, registered VT-SGU, which was supposed to have landed at Delhi, but was forced to divert to Jaipur due to visibility, to return to Delhi, where it declared a fuel emergency, and reportedly landed below minima.
At around 19:20UTC, a Bombardier Challenger 600 registered N115WF, reportedly land, turn into a fireball, flipped a few times, and skid to a stop, upside down, on runway 15 at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, CO (ASE, USA). The accident left the airplane charred, took the life of one on board, while seriously injuring another, and mildly injured the third person on board. The right wing had snapped off. The aircraft had executed a go around, citing a tailwind, and came to rest in this condition on the second landing attempt. Other traffic had reported mild windshear and gusting winds.
An ATR72-600 in Lao Airlines paint scheme, similar to the one that crashed. Photo: ATR
A Lao Airlines ATR 72-600 crashed on the 16th of October, 2013, at around 4:10pm local (0910Z) near Pakse, Laos.
The aircraft, registered under RDPL-34233, was MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 1071, delivered from the production line in March 2013. The brand new airplane was operating as domestic flight QV301 between Vientiane(IATA: VTE, ICAO: VLVT) and Pakse (IATA: PKZ, ICAO: VLPS) with 44 passengers and 5 crew members on board. All 49 on board are feared no-more.
The great circle distance between between Vientiane and Pakse is 250NM. Part of the flight occurs over neighboring Thailand. The crash seems to have happened when approaching runway 15 of VLPS. The aircraft crashed about 5NM from touchdown. Weather is a suspect, considering cyclone Nari’s effect on the region.
The runway at Pakse is 5332 feet long. The airport has a VOR, and NDB, but no ILS. The airport is co-operated by military and civilian authorities.
Lao Airlines was founded in 1976. In 1995, the airline received its first ATR 72. According to the airline, the ATR 72s (4 ATR 72-500 + 2 ATR 72-600 including one that crashed) form the backbone of the carrier’s fleet for international and major domestic services. Its fleet also comprises 4 Airbus A320 and 4 Xian MA60. The Chinese aircraft fleet is due to the country’s closer links with its Eastern neighbor. Laos was a French colony between 1893 and 1949.
Key points of ATR’s official statement include:
“At this time, the circumstances of the accident are still to be determined. Official sources of Lao Airlines declared that “the aircraft ran into extreme bad weather conditions and was reportedly crashed into the Mekong river. There were no news of survivors at this time".
The Laos’ Authorities will lead the investigation and will remain the official source of information. In line with the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Annex 13 convention, ATR will provide full assistance the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et Analyses (BEA), safety investigation authority representing the country of the aircraft manufacturer.”
ATR has proved in recent years to be successful in South East Asia, a market which experiences strong development of its regional networks. Since 2005, ATR has sold over 170 new firm aircraft to South East Asian carriers, accounting for 98% of all regional aircraft with up to 90 seats sold in the region during this period.
Garuda Indonesia, the flag carrier of Indonesia, is expanding its fleet with a firm commitment to lease 25 ATR 72-600s, with options for 10 more, from Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC), based in Billund, Denmark. NAC, in June 2013, placed an order for 90 ATR aircraft, including ATR 42-600s. With this, the leasing company’s ATR fleet grows to 150 aircraft. Garuda Indonesia joins Indonesian Lion Air’s subsidiary, Wings Air, as an ATR operator. Wings Air is ATR’s largest customer for the ATR 72s. Together with Garuda/s ATR 72s, Indonesia alone will may have more than 100 ATR 72 aircraft in the next two years. Some of these ATRs make their way to Lion Group’s Malindo.
Malaysia Airlines and ATR inked a deal in late 2012 for the purchase of a total of 36 ATR 72-600s (20 firm orders plus 16 options) to be operated by the airline’s regional subsidiaries, MASwings and Firefly. The two subsidiaries have started receiving their ATR 72-600 aircraft.
Myannmar’s Air KBZ, which already operated ATR 72-500s, received two ATR 72-600s this year.
ATR opened its Flight Training Centre at Singapore on the 14th of December 2013. With more than 250 ATR aircraft flying in the Asia-Pacific region, with 50 operators, it was only prudent to bring a training centre closer to a region of high significance.
Just months after the training centre was opened, the simulator is running at full capacity. With the encouraging response, ATR has chosen to open another training center, this time in partnership with an ATR operator, Avianca, in Bogota.
ATR penetrated Japan with Link, an operator that plans to start operations by the end of 2013. Link will acquire three ATR 72-600s, becoming the first carrier in Japan to operate ATR aircraft.
The 50th edition of the Paris Air Show was the best in the history of the Franco-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR. Over the course of the week, the turboprop aircraft manufacturer announced orders for 173 planes, including 83 firm orders at the air show. The order book also ensures ATR’s production until the end of 2016.
Maintenance Expansion: India.
As part of the steadily planned expansion of the ATR MRO Network, ATR, on 11th October, called for tenders to initiate the selection process of an ATR MRO Network member in India to cover the geographical region.
Shifting Markets & Support.
During the show, ATR announced orders from markets which have proved among the most promising in recent years: the aircraft leasing companies and Latin America. This has prompted ATR to shift its office in North America. “Across Latin and South America, we are seeing a big rise in the sheer number of ATRs in service, as we win over new operators and current clients increase the number of turboprops in their fleets. So it makes sense for us to relocate our North America office to Miami to be close to all our customers across the whole of the Americas”, says Filippo Bagnato, Chief Executive Officer, ATR.
Jet Airways presently has a fleet of 18 ATR 72 aircraft, of which VT-JCX is an ATR 72-600, the rest being the -500 version of the popular ATR 72 aircraft. Very minor changes are present between the two airplane types (even the engine remains unchanged), and the largest difference lies in cockpit, which is all glass on the ATR 72-600, as opposed to a mix of mechanical and electronic displays on the -500.
On the 5th of December, 2012, Jet Airways issued a press release announcing the planned induction of five new ATR 72-600 aircraft into their fleet. The aircraft, some leased and some yet to be, from GECAS, are VT-JCX, VT-JCY, VT-JCZ, VT-JDA, and VT-JDB.
VT-JCX (MSN 1056) first flew on the 21st of November, 2012, and delivered on the 3rd of December, 2012, just 2 days before the issue of the press release. JCX flies in JetKonnect colors.
VT-JCY (MSN 1064) first flew on the 8th of December, 2012, and was “delivered” on the 31st of December 2012. The aircraft is painted in JetKonnect colors, but is stored at Toulouse Blagnac.
VT-JCZ (MSN 1075) first flew on the 27th of February, 2013, is painted in JetKonnect colors, but is yet to be delivered.
MSN 1077 was slated to be registered VT-JDA, but instead, is registered as V2-LIA, for LIAT, a Caribbean Airline.
The fate of MSN 1091, planned to be registered VT-JDB, is unknown.
So what went wrong? Kingfisher.
Two new ATR 72-500 joined the Jet Airways fleet: VT-JDC and VT-JDD. VT-JDC was registered on the 12th of February, 2013, and VT-JDD was registered on the 5th of March, 2013. JDC was formerly VT-KAO, and JDD was VT-KAK, both manufactured in 2007, and then delivered to Kingfisher Airlines.
Following Kingfisher’s collapse, the very attractive lease rates of the ATR 72-500, and the “no observable operational benefits" of the ATR 72-600 over the -500 have disrupted the -600’s plans in India.
As of today, the newest ATR 72 produced is MSN 1084, flying for Mount Cook Airlines, New Zealand. But the presence of a good number of Kingfisher ATR 72-500 in the country doesn’t bode too well for the sales of ATR 72-600 airplanes in South Asia; equally well performing ATR 72-500s are available cheap.
With respect to type rating designation for the ATR 42/72 series, DGCA finally recognizes the same type rating (single license endorsement) for the existing ATR 42/72 variants and ATR-600 variants as “ATR42/72". This means that the flight crew on Jet Airways’ ATR 72-500 can now fly either the -600 variant or the -500 variant on a single day, but not both the types on the same day.
This allows Jet Airways to better utilise its turboprop flight crew, which until recently was affected by DGCA’s then non recognition of the common type rating for the two types.
With only 2 ATR 72-600 in its fleet, and more expected to be inducted, this recognition is welcomed as Jet Airways slowly phases out the -500 in favour of the -600. Further, Jet Airways will realise training cost savings from the newly opened ATR Training Centre at Singapore, which houses one ATR 72-600 FFS (Full Flight Simulator).
The common rating is allowed with a differences training. EASA recommends a differences training of 5 days, which includes and covers 28 hours of classroom instruction, web based training, and practice on the Virtual Hardware Platform Trainer (VHPT), and 4 hours per crew on a Full Flight Training device (FFT), such as a FFS.
The differences training between the two aircraft focus on:
Engine malfunctions during take-off;
Use of avionics in normal and abnormal / emergency operations, including FMA annunciations, caution and warning messages on the Engine & Warning Display (EWD), and associated human factors issues;
Use of Flight Management System (FMS);
Use of Electronic Checklist (ECL);
Ice detection and management systems and displays (including APM); and
Crew Resource Management (CRM) with regard to the new functionalities.
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.