Very rarely do few lucky aircrew get to experience something off-beat. For India Aviation 2014, Air India’s second newest Boeing 787-837, MSN 36279, registered VT-ANB, had to be positioned at Hyderabad Begumpet (ICAO: VOHY) from Hyderabad Shamshabad (ICAO: VOHS) on 11th March 2014. Below is the short hop, described.
VT-ANB operated as Air India AI 555, a revenue flight from Delhi (VIDP) to Hyderabad (VOHS), with the Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh and the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of the airline, Rohit Nandan on board. In total, 115 passengers and 11 crew flew on ANB to Hyderabad.
After landing, ANB was towed from bay 54 to 58, for “deep cleaning”. The aircraft was delivered to the airline on 31st January 2014, and the one month of use needed to be cleaned out.
After spending 01:35 (1hr 35 min) on ground, VT-ANB was ready to fly to VOHY with the same flight deck crew, but with just one cabin crew, raising the total persons on board to 3.
The aircraft had fuel from the previous sector in its tanks: a massive 12.2 tonnes. The aircraft had a take off weight of just 127 tonnes, against 227.9 tonnes maximum take off weight.
Taxi Out VOHS
The crew pushed back from bay 58 at 14:10UTC (19:40 local), and taxied to the runway in use: 09R. The CG (Centre of Gravity) of the aircraft was at 19.1% MAC (mean Aerodynamic Chord), and the trim was set to 4.75 units. Flaps were extended to 5 degrees, and for the purposes of setting thrust, an assumed temperature of 42 degrees C and a derate of 83% was applied. The FMS was left as a flight plan discontinuity, as radar vectors were expected to VOHY.
The crew lined up on 09R, and applied take off power. The FMA (Flight Mode Annunciators) read TOGA-TOGA, and no VNAV and LNAV. At 133 knots, which was the Vr (rotate speed), the pilot flying gently pulled back on the control column, and at 14:29 UTC (19:59 local), VT-ANB was airborne.
Flight Path, VOHS/VOHY
Autopilot was engaged at 300ft RA (Radio Altimeter), and the aircraft maintained runway heading for about 2NM (nautical miles), before receiving radar vectors. VOHS is at an elevation of 2,000ft, and VT-ANB was climbed to 4,600ft. The aircraft was further vectored left by ATC, and asked if the crew could accept an ILS runway 27 approach for VOHY. The original plan was for a VORDME 09 approach into VOHY, but the crew confirmed their ability to fly into runway 27.
VT-ANB was made to descend to 3,600ft, and at 10NM from touchdown, intercepted the localiser for runway 27 VOHY. Autopilot was disconnected at 1,100ft RA. Flaps were taken in steps to 30 degrees, the approach speed maintained at 133kts, and autobrakes set to level 3.
The Boeing 787 touched down at 14:40 UTC (20:10 local), and felt extremely light when flaring. Reversers were deployed, and the aircraft slowed down, making a 180 degree turn at the end of runway 27 to backtrack towards taxiway “A”, as directed by Begumpet tower.
VT-ANB took a graceful right turn at 3-4kts taxi speed onto taxiway A, where it was welcomed with a water canon salute. Continuing its taxi, the Dreamliner turned right onto the Apron, where she was marshaled to her parking stand,. Parking brakes were applied at 14:50 UTC (20:20 local), and the short hop had consumed 1.3 tonnes of aviation turbine fuel (ATF).
Airplanes on display; Modest display by the small number of international exhibitors; Civil Aviation Minister talks of robustness and reforms; Same ministry’s DGCA is responsible for the delay in Air Asia’s ferry flight.
The photo above shows you how many airplanes were present at the show. There are only two wide bodies, essentially representatives of Boeing and Airbus, and the business-jet-segment representatives of Bombardier and Embraer. Beechcraft, which abandoned the “Hawker” in its earlier name “Hawker-Beechcraft”, after deciding to abandon the jet segment and focus on turboprops, and which was recently bought over by Textron, the parent company of Cessna, had three turboprop representatives at the show, from the Kingair line: B250, B350, and C90. Cessna had its Citation 560XL, Gulfstream brought in its G150 and G650, Bombardier its Challenger 605, Piaggio Aero its Avanti, Embraer its Phenom 100, Legacy 650, and Lineage 1000, Dassault its Falcon 7X, Airbus and Emirates their A380, and Boeing its 787. GMR-APFT, the new Hyderabad based flight school, positioned their Diamond DA-40D fitted with a diesel engine, and the UK based Mark Jefferies Air Shows and Display Aerobatics’ two Extra 330SC and 300L aircraft.
Few aircraft, including helicopters, did not turn up after the exhibitors decided not to participate in the airshow.
In total? Just 17 civil aircraft present for a country with the world’s second largest population and in a region with phenomenal aviation growth, at the 4th International Exhibition & Conference on Civil Aviation- India Aviation 2014.
Just one order marked the highlight of the day: SpiceJet and Boeing, which had for long dragged the decision to announce the airline’s purchase of 42 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, finally went public with the US$4.4 Billion worth order, pegging the price of each 737 MAX 8 at US$ 104.7M. The 737 MAX’s first flight is scheduled in 2016 with deliveries to customers beginning in 2017. SpiceJet is to receive 17 Boeing 737-800s directly from Boeing, in addition to the order for 737 MAX 8s.
Jet Airways’ order for the Boeing 737 MAX has yet to be announced.
Ajit Singh, Minister for Civil Aviation, stated in his speech at the show, “….is happening at the time when Indian Aviation is witnessing several policy changes and reforms to provide a robust aviation sector.” It is unclear whether the robustness was in reference to protecting existing players (airlines) from competition, or referring to a system that simply does not exist, evidenced by the FAA’s downgrade of the Indian DGCA.
Air Asia India, which was to have ferried its first Airbus A320 to India, today, has postponed the flight by a few days due to certain issues with the DGCA, invalidating the claims of the aviation minister.
The minster also went on to say, ” Civil aviation in India has been scripting a major success story due to progressive policies of the Government”, and that, “commercial fleet size is expected to grow from 400 today to 1000 aircraft by 2020”. There was no reference made to general aviation.
The same progressive Civil Aviation department did not permit few composite airplanes from flying into the show.
Only 26 International Exhibitors are present at the show, most with extremely modest presences.
Edit: Boeing 737 Max unit price corrected; A380 operator corrected.
A paying passenger’s experience of a mix of the good and bad of Air India, and thoughts on what gives passengers enough to talk so much about the airline, and how the airline makes things difficult for itself.
4th November saw me flying Bangalore to Bhopal via Delhi, with confirmed tickets for my return on the 8th of November.
On the 3rd, I had web-checked in, and changed my assigned 20J to 17J. The nine abreast cabin promised me the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and although I have been on board, I hadn’t got airborne on one. I was excited with the thought of experiencing the cabin’s low noise levels and comfort.
The next day, at the check in counter, the check-in staff cleared my e-ticket with seat 17J. Upon a friend’s insistence, I asked the staff if we had a Boeing 787 operating as Air India 505 to Delhi. “Yes sir, it’s a Boeing 320". “Excuse me?”. “Wait sir….it’s a…sorry…Airbus”. “How did you issue me seat 17J, then?” “Sorry sir (taking my boarding pass and scratching out my seat)…it’s 12F for you!”.
VT-EDD, a 3 year 8 month young Airbus A320 flew us from Bangalore to Delhi. The in flight meal was not palatable, and that left the tray untouched and me hungry. The cabin was tidy, but some of the in-flight entertainment screens weren’t working. Most of the seats were empty: the loads were very low, and that allowed me a “54" inch wide seat in economy: 3 X 18" seats all for myself. Upon landing at Delhi, I quickly grabbed a sandwich at Costa Coffee, and proceeded to board AI634 to Bhopal.
AI634 was operated by VT-SCI, a 6 year old Airbus A319 that was kept in a very bad state. The cabin was dirty, the wings had paint chipped off at places, and fluid stains running across the wing. The male cabin crew wasn’t very pleasant, and the “snacks" served on board wasn’t great, either.
Both flights operated on time, but the food, aircraft cleanliness (or the lack of it), and the attitude of the cabin crew left a bad taste.
On the 8th, I was at Bhopal airport, and a scheduled 18:00 local departure on AI633 to Delhi was revised to 18:35. The Bhopal-Delhi flight has a planned block time of 01:15hr. All passengers had boarded VT-PPX, a 3year 6 month old Airbus A321 part of the “Praful Patel" series of Airbus airplanes. At 18:52, cargo was still being loaded. My connecting flight to Bangalore from Delhi was scheduled to depart at 20:10: earlier than we could reach Delhi, and I was braced for some chaos at the airport.
The in-flight “snacks" consisted of two butter cookies (very good, I must say), and tea/coffee. The staff was very, very courteous. The Cabin Crew in charge managed the show very well, coordinating between the pilot and anxious passengers who had connecting flights that were scheduled to depart before we could land at Delhi. Extreme patience was shown, and nobody: neither the passengers nor the cabin crew had an opportunity to lose their cool.
Upon landing at Delhi, ground staff very clearly called out for those who were headed to Bangalore. Three ground personnel coordinated very well, taking care of 10 of us who had to make it to the Bangalore flight that was waiting just for us to board. Over the radios, the baggage’s were discussed, and although tension prevailed in their voice, they got us through service stairs out of the terminal, onto the apron and into an apron shuttle, and back up via service stairs to the airbridge that led us to VT-EDC, aged the same as VT-EDD, operating as AI504 to Bangalore.
We got in, the doors closed, the cargo was loaded, erasing all apprehensions of leaving my bags behind, and at around 20:40, we pushed out of the gate, picking up 30 minutes of delay.
On board, the staff was very patient and courteous. My IFE was working, but my earphones were missing, so I called them once. I had a terrible ear block, so I troubled the crew many a time thereafter for water that allowed me to gulp fluids and help equalize the pressure in my eustachian tube.
And oh, the meal. I was hungry like crazy, and the paneer-rice-dal combination seemed fresh and was at the right temperature. This was accompanied with vegetable salad, and an Indian sweet dish: kheer. The bun was soft, and the butter softer, making the spread easy. It was a classic AI spread, but the spread was good.
The IFE worked well. There were about 4 channels: News, A retro-Hindi film playing, the 2013 “Kai Po Che", and the 2010 “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps".
I was woken by a cabin announcement. My seat, 15A, gave me a good view. Visibility at Bangalore was excellent, and I could see the airfield (identified by the white / green beacon) flashing in the distance. A Boeing 737 could be seen on short finals, as we were somewhat on the downwind leg. There was something magical about the combination of engine noise, great visibility, and clear skies.
We landed at 23:04, with a 20 minute delay. The flight crew had enroute made up for about 10 minutes of the delay.
This time, I walked out of the airline feeling real good about the aircraft cleanliness, service, and on-board meal.
Giving food for talk.
This got me wondering: The reason my client put me on an Air India flight was because of its fares: it was the lowest, and the airline still offers some of the lowest fares. While that should be a reason to smile and not bother about anything else, the very fact that one is “entitled" to a complimentary meal / snack on board results in expectations, and if it turns out to be bad, it leaves a bad impression. When a passenger sees an in-flight entertainment screen in front of his seat, his expectation is that it must work and entertain him. The same passenger wouldn’t mind staring at a blank seat on a low-cost carrier, but when his IFE isn’t working while his co-passenger enjoys a nice movie, it leaves a bad impression. When the aircraft is dirty, the windows greasy and the seats in a bad shape, it leaves a bad impression.
Making it difficult for itself.
Air India offers some of the lowest airfares, provides in-flight meals to all at no extra cost, usually has a very courteous cabin crew (many others find them to be the best in the country, in terms of approachability and service attitude), and has a good safety record. Yet, when the freebies fail to met expectations, anti-airline sentiments set in. These freebies cost the airline money, and the passenger nothing; yet expectations are very, very human. India is a cost-conscious market: Almost all domestic passengers do not buy an airline ticket for the in-flight entertainment, cabin service, the on-board meal, or the aircraft cleanliness. What matters most, to most, is something simple: on time performance.
Probably another way in which the airline can turnaround, make money and improve passenger satisfaction? Give them lesser to expect. Knock off the IFE, and the in-flight free meals. Passengers will soon get accustomed to paying for a meal and having nothing but sleep to engage themselves with. And they will continue to fly for the low fares. If the airline competes with low cost carriers and offers low fares, it may as well change its operations to low cost.
Like IndiGo, which has nothing to offer on board, yet has absolutely clean aircraft and flies with one eye on the watch. And nobody complains.
After all, when there is nothing to expect, there is nothing to disappoint.
Airbus has announced that its Airbus A330 production rate has touched 10 aircraft a month, which is significant for a wide body airliner, and the highest production rate of any Airbus widebody aircraft.
Airbus claims that the Airbus A330 is “the most popular in its category". A330 Programme head Patrick Piedrafita said more than 800 sales have been logged since Airbus’ competitor launched its 787, validating the A330’s sustained competitiveness. That statement is vague.
The 767-300ER, and the 767-400ER, together have 621 orders, of which only 9 are unfulfilled. These two models compete with the A330-200 in capacity, but fall short in range by more than 1,500NM. There are totally 575 orders for the Airbus A330-200. Yes, the Airbus wins considering it is a younger airplane and offers more range and capacity. Then, the 787 was introduced to replace the 767 and compete against the popular A330-200.
But the Boeing 787-8 has orders for 535 airplanes, of which 50 have been delivered. If the 787’s issues are resolved, and it re-enters service and production, it quickly eclipses the popularity of the Airbus A330-200: It offers a lot more, for the same price as the shorter Airbus A330, while offering the same range and passenger capacity. Which explains the orders for the 787-8. The 787, was introduced in service in 2011, while the A330 entered service in 1992. Considering this gap, the 787’s sales performance is way better, underlining its competitiveness. If A330 Programme head Patrick Piedrafita says the A330 is still competitive, he must realize that if the 787 program ran smooth, the A330-200 line would have closed. It isn’t the 787, but the 787 program that still makes the A330-200 a safe bet.
And yes, he must be reminded that the A330-300 is a different aircraft.
The Airbus A330-300 competes against the Boeing 777-200 and 777-200ER aircraft. It has the same passenger capacity (440 max pax), but has a range that falls in between the -200 and the -200ER variant. The 777-200 and the -200ER together have orders for 510 airplanes, while the A330-300 has a order book total of 622 airplanes. The A330 family does not compete with the other 777 models (-200LR, -300, -300ER). The Boeing 777-200LR, 777-300 and 777-300ER compete with the Airbus A340-500 and -600, which are now out of production.
Although the A330-300 boasts a range similar to the 777-300, it falls short in maximum passenger capacity by 110 passengers. The A330-300 costs lesser than the 777-200 and 200ER aircraft, and is cheaper to operate. Yes, the Airbus 330 is a lot more competitive than competing 777 models, and stands as the best aircraft in its category, but that doesn’t mean it is more competitive than the 787.
Infact, the A330-300 is a lot more popular than the A330-200. But Airbus can’t compare the A330-300 with the 787. Apples and Oranges don’t look, smell, and taste alike, even if they have 2 wings and two engines.
Randy’s Journal, hosted under Boeing Blogs (the plural definitively misleading as his is the only blog), has been running since the January of 2005 with one key point that I was hoping, since 2011, would get noticed: the header image. (shown above with spoilers highlighted in boxes)
The header image shows a Boeing 787, which appears to be on a climbout, with the spoilers deployed. It may be an unnecessary fuss, but in the line that he walks on, which is Marketing: details matter, and nothing could be as discomforting as the image of a Boeing 787’s spoilers deployed on a climbout.
The Blog (CLICK HERE) is described as, “Randy’s Journal is a place to find the inside stuff about the commercial aviation world.” Surely, and coincidently, the header image is a reflection of the present state of the Boeing 787 program: Adding unnecessary, and dangerous drag on a program that is struggling to climb out into the green.
There are many who have an eye for detail, and when they spot the Vice President for Marketing lacking that, it doesn’t speak much (or does it?). Especially an oversight from a man who once was a flight test engineer.
Boeing is a good company run by some of the best professionals, producing some of the most innovative and trend-setting products, but I sincerely hope Boeing starts paying more attention to detail in whatever it does, big or small.
I thought I’d be this cool dude by writing an extensive article on the 787 right away. Its too big, and too grand for that. In the time I will take to write up on the Dream, enjoy the photos from The Flying Engineer, who got one of the most detailed tours of the new bird from Boeing. And I adopted a reverse airflow direction over 238 economy seats and 18 business to cover this bird. Paid off!
The 787's aft Galley. In this airplane, the feeling of space is overwhelming!
A very kind Boeing employee showing me how much the seat can recline in the economy class. Notice that the bottom cushion for the thigh support slides forward as the seat reclines backward.
Another great feature on board this Boeing is the foot rest. Small additions like these make a long 8000NM flight more comfortable.
The Economy entertainment system. Providers of IFE are Panasonic and Thales. The nice handy remote can allow you to not only play your personal collection of movies through the provided USB socket, but can swipe your card for payments as well!
Another small yet useful feature: the 115V AC sockets for your appliances: available for every passenger under his/her seat!
Cabin clean shot: the economy 9 abreast seating (3-3-3) with a 32" seat pitch. Notice the feeling of space, the elevated ceiling, and the very curved overhead bins. It fools you into believing that there isn't sufficient overhead space. See the next photo to know more!
Mr. good guy from Boeing poses with a huge trolly bag and a charming smile, just to show what can fit in the overhead and how! See the next picture.
A comparison of the overhead bin, when opened, and retracted (closed). notice the space. And notice the illusion of a poor capacity when retracted. Its unbelievable.
All due to the overhead bin innovative design, you no longer have to crouch to reach your window seat. You can stand closer, and longer, for seats close to the window. There is comfort, there is space, and there is well-thought-of engineering.
Business Class: Notice the seats that allow you to lie flat and get a good flight's sleep!
Mr. goodguy from Boeing poses again just to show you how much space there is everywhere. A wide cabin, a tall ceiling, curved and non-intrusive overhead bins: all make for a very good feeling of space.
Another take of the Business class seats! They're wide, and they have a 78" seat pitch. The IFE seems good, but the comfort is unparalleled.
Photo comparison of the most talked about thing in the cabin: the polarised windows. There are no shades. Instead, electrically controlled windows (through polarisation) cut the amount of light that passes through. The left photo and the right are taken with the same camera settings of exposure & ISO. Yet, note that despite it being broad daylight, on selecting a complete cut, its pretty dark inside (look close at the left photo and you will see a faint blue image)
The small round control below each window is responsible for the dimming.
A view from the crew rest area, looking down at the cockpit entrance.
Cozy enough, comfortable. Enough for the crew? See the next photo to find out!
Boeing's 787 Captain Pat Bearce, a 6ft 3" tall ex-marines pilot, showing me that he too is comfortable in the crew rest!
The holy deck. The most sought after tourist destination on board the airplane. the Head up Displays, the avionics, and the simple feeling of luxurious space is very luring.
Another view of the deck, from the Captain's seat. The Honeywell FMS running on a Smith's (now GE) Hardware.
The Head Up Display. Notice how the display doesn't need constant refocusing of the eye. Infact, the lady captain said she who needed glasses to see instruments up close now no longer needs any spectacles while flying. HUD's allow you to have lower approach minima in poor weather.
I regret not having caught her name (Edit: Capt. Ross). There she is showing me the 787's "soft" FMS, which is NOT a touch screen, as one would be fooled into believing. A mouse-like cursor is navigated to the desired software buttons and clicked. pretty much like a laptop touch pad.
Up close and even closer. The Capt's hand on the Cursor Control unit., and shes navigating her way through the FMS. Hard to use the cursor and the keypad left of the screen, both of which demand constant shifting of the hand? Not really, says her. Its faster than on the 777's hard-FMS, is what the lady cpatin tells me!
The only touch screens in the cockpit are the Electronic Flight Bags, or the EFB. Comfort. Ease. Style. Technology.
So similair to the 777's cockpit is the 787 that FAA allows crews to undergo only 5 days of transistion training. It hasbn't worked this way across the world, with complaints from ANA, but from a higher level: the controls, the layout, the functions are all very similar to the 777. Says Capt's Pat, "To me, I just forget what a 777 and a 787 are when flying. they're transparent to each other. Almost"