AirAsia 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.
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 Airliners.net, Jetphotos.net, and his website, by clicking on the links in this sentence.
The ferry flight started at Airbus’ delivery centre, Toulouse, on the southern part of the airfield which is reserved only for Airbus’ operations. VT-ATF, taxied out, and took off from runway 14R at Toulouse–Blagnac Airport (LFBO, TLS), at 1626hrsUTC (2156hrs IST) on 21st march, 2014, 9 days after the expected date of ferry. Faced with issues with the DGCA, the ferry flight kept getting delayed: something that went against the spirit of aviation growth in the country, and demonstrated unarguably that even an established player like Air Asia, with the clout of the TATAs, is unable to sail smooth with the India’s DGCA, which was downgraded to category 2 by the FAA recently.
With this delay, commercial scheduled flights at Air Asia India are expected to commence only late May or early June, 2014, as foreseen, today. The airline is yet to obtain its Air Operator Permit (AOP), only after which a schedule will be approved and the sale of tickets may begin.
But the ferry flight was smooth, and without any glitches. The initial leg of the journey was for 03:32hrs, over some 1,500NM (Nautical Miles) from TLS to Ankara’s (Turkey) Esenboğa International Airport (LTAC, ESB), via southern France, northern Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and finally Bulgaria, arriving at the Turkish city at 1958hrs UTC (0128hrs IST). The one-hour stop at Ankara was only a refueling stop, for the next leg: the 3000-odd NM flight from ESB to Chennai (VOMM, MAA).
At 2117hrs UTC (0247hrs IST), the brand new A320 departed ESB, flying over the north-eastern tip of Syria, through Iraq, avoiding Baghdad, brushing past Kuwait, over the Persian Gulf, overhead Dubai, over the Gulf of Oman, and entering Indian mainland over Maharashtra’s coast, 200km south of Mumbai, and through Bellary in Karnataka, before starting descent from 39,000ft (FL390) to approach and land at Chennai, at 0400hrs UTC (0930hrs IST), with a 0 minute delay. In reality, the actual delay is 9days, 0 minutes. This leg lasted almost 06:30hrs.
In total, the aircraft was in the air for 10 hours from Toulouse to Chennai, and the entire exercise lasted around 11 hours.
The Ferry crew, at Toulouse, before embarking on the 11 hour mission.
The flight had 10 persons on board, in total, all Air Asia employees: 5 pilots, and 5 engineers. Of the 5 pilots, 3 were captains, one from Air Asia Malaysia.
The aircraft was welcomed with a water cannon salute, parked, cleared by customs, and one of the crew members stepped out waving the Indian flag.
A milestone in Indian aviation has been reached. The first airline started with an FDI component has brought its first airplane to the country.
For the complete tracking of the flight, and details, please visit the previous post, by clicking here.
Air Asia India’s first aircraft, Airbus A320-216SL, registered VT-ATF (MSN 6015), has finally departed Toulouse (ICAO: LFBO, IATA: TLS) for its final destination Chennai (ICAO: VOMM, IATA: MAA). The ferry flight will however make one stop at Ankara’s (Turkey) Esenboğa International Airport (LTAC).
The aircraft is expected at Chennai at 09:30hrs IST (UTC+05:30) on 22nd March 2014. The callsign is the aircraft’s registration, VT-ATF.
The ferry flight is finally taking place after 9 days, due to issues the airline had with the DGCA that prevented it from ferrying it on the 12th of March 2014, as covered earlier here.
The 9 day delay will have an effect on the start of operations. With this aircraft, the airline can undertake the last hurdle in the grant of the AOP: Route proving flights. With the AOP expected in April, operations may start either late May or early June. The airline can start selling tickets only after the AOP is granted and flight schedules approved. No information is yet available on the second aircraft, which is reportedly planned to be registered as VT-ATB.
The aircraft taxied out at 16:15 hrs UTC, line up on runway 14R at Toulouse at 16:19hrs UTC, started take off roll and was airborne at 16:26 hrs UTC. (21:56hrs IST)
The aircraft’s MODE-S transponder’s ICAO 24 bit unique aircraft address’ Hexadecimal code is 800B09. The ferry flight was assigned a squawk (transponder) code of 4041 by Toulouse, which is subject to change as it passes through different flight information regions.
Update18: Aircraft landed at 0400hrs UTC (09:30hrs IST), with a 0 minute delay, on runway 25, Chennai. Exited via taxiway F. Water cannon salute to be followed by flag waiving. Flight time LTAC-VOMM 06:43hrs.
Update17: Aircraft begins descent from FL390 at 140NM from MMV, at 0316hrs UTC
Update16: Aircraft leaves Mumbai flight information region and enters Chennai FIR at 0243hrs UTC.
Update15: Aircraft enters Indian mainland over the western Indian coast, over the coastal town of Guhagar, 215km south of Mumbai, Ratnagiri district of Maharastra, at 0231hrs UTC.
Update14: Aircraft is in Mumbai FIR, waypoint PARAR, at ~0115hrs UTC. Another 1.5hrs to the Indian coast. Squawk is 1101.
Update13: Aircraft refuels, and departs Ankara’s Esenboğa International Airport, airborne at 2117hrs UTC. Spends total 01:19hrs on ground including taxi in/out. Squawk 2514.
Update12: Established ILS for 03R at 1955hrs UTC. Aircraft landed on runway 03R at Ankara’s Esenboğa International Airport (IATA: ESB, ICAO: LTAC) at 1958hrs UTC. Expected time on ground 30 minutes. 03:32hr flight concludes stage one of the ferry. Route is shown in image above.
Update11: Aircraft begins descent from FL390 at 1935hrs UTC, ~100NM from Ankara.
Update10: Aircraft enters Turkish Airspace at waypoint RIXEN at 1918hrs UTC!
Update09: Aircraft enters Bugarian airspace at 1839hrs UTC.
Update08: Aircraft brushes past the northern tip of Montenegro, and enters Serbian Airspace at 1817hrs UTC.
Update07: Aircraft enters Bosnia and Herzegovina at 1803hrs UTC
Update06: Aircraft crosses over into Croatian Airspace at 1747hrs UTC.
Update05: Aircraft leaves Italian Coast at 1742hrs UTC. Winds slow acft down to 438kts G/S.
Update04: Crew witness twilight over San Marino, Italy, at 1736hrs UTC.
Update03: Aircraft crossed into Italian Airspace at 1702UTC, 466kts, FL390. Squawk changed to 1212.
Update02: Aircraft step climbed and reached FL390 at 1649hrs UTC.
Update01: Aircraft is cruising at FL340 and maintaining a ground speed of 466kts.
Making up in part for the poor representation of the Q400 in Asia is LEPL, the business conglomerate with a footprint in Infrastructure, Power, Entertainment, Education, Hospitality and Health Care, that announced on the 22nd of February a new regional airline catering to Tier II & Tier III cities using a fleet of 5 Q400 next gen Turbo prop aircraft.
Headquartered at Vijayawada and with hubs planned at Hyderabad and Chennai, the all turbo prop airline, Air Costa, plans to start operations in either May or June in preparation for which a newspaper advertisement was brought out calling applications from Captains, transition captains, first officers, cabin crew, aircraft maintenance engineers, and other ground staff.
The Q400 Next Gen’s direct and only competitor, the ATR 72-600 may have given the Vijaywada base airline’s decision makers a tough time in choosing the right aircraft for their operations. The ATR 72-600 is more economical, with the direct operating costs lower than that of the Q400. The ATR 72-600 consumes significantly lesser fuel than the Q400 per passenger, breaks-even at a lower load factor, costs 7-8 million USD cheaper to procure, and yet Air Costa chose the Q400.
Three reasons can make the Q400 more attractive than the ATR 72-600: its ability to carry an additional 6 revenue paying passengers, its high performance, and most importantly, its range.
Looking up manufacturer published range v/s payload charts, the Q400 and the ATR 72 can be compared on an almost level ground. Bombardier’s published data is unambiguous: They clearly specify the range is considering fuel reserves for a 100NM alternate airfield, 45 minutes of holding time, and 5% flight fuel contingency, and that the aircraft is flown in high speed cruise. ATR on the other hand puts these reserves under “JAR Fuel Reserves”. This conceals the assumptions: the distance to the alternate airfield isn’t known, and in previous brochures, an 87NM alternate was considered. This only means that the range indicated by ATR may be lesser than projected if one is to consider a 100NM alternate.
ATR 72 (left) and the Q400's (right) Range-Payload chart. Note that the Q400 chart is for High Speed Cruise, 100NM alternate, 45 hold and 5% fuel contingency, while the ATR 72's chart keeps the essential details hidden.
Nevertheless, ignoring the differences and pulling out the figures still puts the Q400’s range (High Gross Weight version: the Q400 variant used by Spicejet) a minimum 80NM greater than the ATR 72-600’s (the “OPTION” that ATR offers, which boasts off greater range and weights than the “BASIC” variant), at maximum passenger load (78 X 102 = 7959kg for the Q400 and 72 X 102= 7344kg for the ATR 72-600), this maximum payload considering passengers at 102kgs each (75kg adult + 20kg check in+ 7kg cabin baggage).
*Data from Bombardier. **Data from ATR
This 80NM makes all the difference in planning a flight from Hyderabad to Tiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). Considering the fact that Air Costa plans to serve Tier II cities in India, there is no reason why this sector wouldn’t be considered. Spicejet operates a daily Q400 flight direct from Hyderabad to Trivananthapuram, with a scheduled block time of 2hrs 15 minutes, with Cochin as the alternate, which is around 100NM away. The ATR 72-600 on the other hand will not be able to fly direct between the city pair with full payload. Deviations due to weather, winds, and flying airways that zig-zag in varying degrees add air distance: all this combined with the 100NM alternate (Cochin) will make things tough for a flight planned on the ATR 72.
The Q400’s range presents operational flexibility. A flight from Chennai to Mumbai, with Pune as the alternate may also be planned on the Q400, but not on the ATR 72.
Air Costa may settle for a cabin configuration similar to Spicejet’s: 78 seat, 30″ seat pitch all economy configuration.
With an all turbo prop fleet, Air Costa will enjoy the lowest fuel cost per aircraft per litre of ATF (Aircraft Turbine Fuel) amongst all scheduled operators in India, due to the non-applicability of sales tax on ATF for scheduled operation with regional aircraft of seating capacity less than 80 seats. Considering the sad fact that in India, ATF accounts for nearly 50% of operating costs, the savings cannot be overemphasised. The Q400’s flexibility in range and speed can potentially throw open an all new airline to the Indian traveller: an airline that can keep costs low, flexibility high, giving other airlines a run for their money.
The timing of Air Costa isn’t bad either. With Kingfisher Airlines’ flight and cabin crew applying outside to other airlines, there may be no dearth of experienced manpower. With 5 aircraft and an average estimated requirement of 10 pilots per airplane (commanders + first officers), at least 50 flight crew members and possibly about 50 cabin crew would be needed, all of whom may easily be “sourced” from Kingfisher.
In conclusion, Air Costa will operate an aircraft that will offer it immense route flexibility, while keeping costs very low. With good planning, strong political connections, and the introduction of frequent flights between Tier I cities (such as Bangalore-Mumbai, Bangalore-Chennai, Hyderabad-Mumbai, Hyderabad-Bangalore and Chennai-Mumbai), Air Costa may, if well managed, become the envied airline of tomorrow.