Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew into Cochin from Delhi on Indian Air Force One, operated by an Indian Air Force Boeing 737-700 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) with tail number K5014. The way in which the airplane was flown was interesting, and different from the way in which a similar aircraft operating for a scheduled airline is flown. We compare the way in which the military 737 was flown, with the way in which a commercial 737-800 was flown on the same route.
The 737-700BBJ’s lateral flight path is compared with the lateral flight path of a Boeing 737-800 VT-SZA operated by SpiceJet today on Delhi-Cochin as SG 561. What stands out is that the flight path of the military 737 is curvy, and not straight unlike the SpiceJet 737, strongly indicating that the flight was manually controlled, either by being hand flown throughout or by manual heading inputs to the autopilot. It does point to neither the autopilot’s VOR/LOC function, nor the FMS-controlled lateral navigation being used.
The vertical flight path shows that the Prime Minister’s flight (image on the left shows Him beside the 737 at Cochin) was not optimized for fuel burn. The aircraft climbed to 31,000ft (odd level altitude) when headed in the easterly direction, and as it changed direction over Hyderabad to a westerly direction, the aircraft descended to 30,000ft (even altitude). A BBJ, usually being light, can fly much higher than 31,000ft. The optimum altitude for an airplane gets higher as it gets lighter, and it could have step climbed rather than step-descended over Hyderabad.
The SpiceJet 737, in contrast, flew at 37,000ft till over Hyderabad. By then, the airplane was lighter, having burnt most of the flight’s trip fuel. Over Hyderabad, when turning towards Cochin, it step climbed to 38,000ft – just as one would expect for optimal fuel burn.
A valid argument would be the winds at altitudes that could have impacted the military 737’s decision to fly at a lower altitude. The SpiceJet flight and the military 737 flight were 5 hours apart. However, IndiGo’s VT-IEM operating 6E 289 DEL-COK took off just 28 minutes after the Air Force 737, climbed to 35,000ft and then to 36,000ft over Hyderabad. IndiGo’s aircraft in fact picked up 13 minutes enroute, to land just about 15 minutes after the Air Force 737, clearly showing that winds at higher altitude were not unfavourable.
The intent of this piece isn’t to highlight who flies better, but rather to appreciate some of the differences between air transport flights in the military and in the commercial world. Vastly different priorities may explain the differences in flying. In the airline world though, it is all about minimising costs at every little opportunity.
IndiGo will launch a direct daily flight between Delhi and Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) on 7th January 2016, making it the longest domestic direct daily flight to be presently offered in India, with a block time of 3:15 hours.
6E 533 will fly DEL-TRV effective 7th January 2016, and 6E352 will fly TRV-DEL effective 8th January 2016.
No other operator offers direct flights between the two cities.
The flight will cover a great circle distance of 1201 nautical miles (NM) or 2,224 km.
Presently, the longest direct daily domestic flight in India is between Mumbai and Guwahati, operated only by IndiGo, with a great circle distance of 1,119 NM and a block time of 3:00 hrs from BOM-GAU, and 3:30hrs from GAU-BOM. The 30 minute difference is due to headwinds when flying from Guwahati to Mumbai, which serve as tailwinds when flying from Mumbai to Guwahati.
Thanks to Ameya: The longest domestic flight is Port Blair – Delhi (1,339 NM) operated by Air India regional on their CRJ 700s on Fridays and Sundays.
Air Costa today flew only one aircraft, its Embraer E190 registered VT-LVR. VT-LNR, the lone Embraer E170 in Air Costa’s fleet operated its last commercial flight yesterday. Sistership VT-LSR was flown to Lisbon and returned to the lessor on 22nd November.
The E170 will be tomorrow (28th November) be flown to Jordan’s capital, Ammam, as its lease comes to an end.
Today, Air Costa operated only 8 flights: MAA-AMD-BLR-JAI-BLR-HYD-BLR-AMD-MAA, resulting in the cancellation of 28 flights.
The airline was supposed to have resumed operations of its other E190, VT-LBR, today (27th November). However, the aircraft is on its return from Jordan at the time of writing this. VT-LBR is flying into Bengaluru, from where it will operate a non-commercial ferry to Chennai early next morning, from where it will operate scheduled flights.
From tomorrow (28th November) onwards, Air Costa is expected to operate 16 flights a day, with 2 Embraer E190s. The MAA-HYD-VTZ-BLR-VTZ-HYD-MAA-JAI-MAA pattern, which was suspended since 16th November, will be resumed.
With the return of the E170, flights to Coimbatore, Tirupati and Vijayawada remain suspended till 4th December.
The airline’s website reflects flights on the VGA-BLR-CJB-HYD-VGA-HYD-TIR-HYD-CJB-BLR-VGA pattern available from 5th December. This pattern will be operated by the Embraer E190, suggesting that the E190s are expected by the 5th of December.
However, the 4th pattern for the E190s could not be determined.
The airline may perhaps not be able to secure its pan-India AOP until the 5th Embraer E190 is inducted into its fleet.
Air Costa’s flight cancellations in the month of November has been very high, and may have the highest cancellation rate among all airlines for the month.
Japan’s first commercial jetliner, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) 90 took to the skies at 8:30 in the morning from Japan’s Nagoya airfield, for a flight that lasted nearly 85 minutes long. The flight was conducted by a MRJ 90 STD, registered JA21MJ, with construction (serial) number 10001. The aircraft flew with a constant flap setting, landing gear down and locked, and thrust reversers de-activated.
The first flight marks a major milestone for a program that is significantly delayed. The first flight was planned for 2012.
The 92 seat MRJ 90 has a seating capacity that directly competes with the 88 seat Embraer E175, and the 90 seat Bombardier CRJ 900. However, the aircraft is fitted with Pratt & Whitney’s high bypass Geared Turbofan Engines (GTF), which allow the aircraft superior fuel economics than any sub-100 seat regional jet, today. This is the MRJ 90’s USP.
Below is a comparison of key performance, weights and dimensions between the Bombardier CRJ900, Embraer E175, and the Mitsubishi MRJ 90:
Below is the comparison of ranges between all three aircraft and their sub variants:
The last Japanese commercial airliner program was the YS-11 turboprop airliner, in 1960. The MRJ program, which marks a comeback of the Japanese airliner market after a gap of nearly 60 years, adds an additional player in the regional jet market.
The regional jetliner market today is dominated largely by Embraer and Bombardier, with Embraer grabbing a larger share of the pie. Sukhoi’s Superjet International SSJ 100, a 100 seat regional jetliner, is so far an insignificant player. China’s regional jet, the ARJ 21, hasn’t yet entered service. Mitsubishi becomes the fifth player.
However, Mitsubishi will be the third aircraft program to penetrate the United States Market. 76% of the MRJ 90’s firm orders are from airlines in the United States. 170 aircraft are ordered by three US regional airlines: Trans States Holdings (a holding company for three regional airlines), Sky West, and Eastern Airlines.
A new aircraft brings with it two key questions that affect sales : How reliable will the aircraft be, and how good with the customer support be?
A new aircraft will almost always have issues with reliability before the aircraft ‘matures’ and corrections are made to the production aircraft. This has been seen with the Boeing 787, the Embraer E190 (when it entered service with JetBlue), the Airbus A380 – all new airplanes have their fair share of troubles till the product matures. The MRJ 90 will be no exception.
Customer support, which can sway market shares, has been carefully dealt with, by MRJ. Boeing Commercial Aviation Services, which today is one of the best, will provide Mitsubishi Aircraft with 24/7 customer support including spare parts provisioning, service operations and field services, until Mitsubishi takes service in-house.
Another important aspect for an airplane is the residual value of the aircraft – data that is yet unavailable. Lessors prefer to bet on airplanes that they know for certain will have a good enough market residual value to capitalise on.
Is the MRJ 90 in a good segment?
The MRJ 90 is an airplane with better market prospects than the MRJ 70. Since the beginning of 2009, Embraer has recorded 0 net orders for the 78 seat EMB170 regional jet, and Bombardier has recorded just 28 net orders for the 78 seat CRJ 700. On the other hand, since beginning 2009, Embraer has recorded a net 443 orders for the 88 seat E175 and E175E2 together, and Bombardier has recorded 139 net orders for the 90 seat CRJ 900. The 90 aircraft market has had better prospects over 27 quarters than any other size of regional jets. Below are the order graphs:
The MRJ 90 is in a very hot segment, which can get hotter if scope clauses in the United States are upward revised. The clause today limits US regional airlines to an aircraft weighing no more than 39 tonnes and limited to 76 seats. Unfortunately, the MRJ 90’s minimum maximum takeoff weight is 39.6 tonnes, while the lighter variants of the CRJ 900 and EMB 175 are within this specification.
The MRJ 90 is in a very unique position. Bombardier is not neither developing nor re-engining aircraft that are below 100 seats. The CRJ 700, 900 and 1000 aircraft will soon fade away as Embraer re-engines its aircraft and revises the wings to offer the market better versions (second generation) of the present E175, E190, and E195 regional jet models. Bombardier’s customer support history also works against the manufacturer. This effectively reduces notable competition to just Embraer and Mitsubishi in the sub-100 seat regional aircraft space.
The second generation of the Embraer E175, renamed the E175 E2, will be fitted with engines similar to the MRJ90, matching the MRJ 90’s fuel economics. However, the E175 E2 is expected to enter service only in 2020.
The MRJ 90 on the other hand is expected to enter service in 2017. However, uncertainty looms about the manufacturer sticking to its timeline, as it has not had any proven track record of dealing with jetliner programs in the recent past. Bombardier, an experienced manuafcturer, has slipped the CSeries’ timelines. It will not be surprising if Mitsubishi does the same. But even if the timelines slip by a year, to 2018, Mitsubishi will have atleast a 2 years head start over Embraer in the sub-100 seat regional jet space.
Air Vistara, the newest Indian airline working towards an AOP, conducted its first two proving flights on 4th and 5th December, 2014, as officially confirmed by the airline. The first flight took off from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at around 22:10IST (16:40UTC) on December 4th and landed at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at 5 minutes past midnight (00:05IST/18:35UTC) on 5th December. The return flight took off at 01:10IST (19:40UTC) and landed at Delhi at around 02:50IST (21:21UTC).
Proving flights are the last stage of a lengthy process involved in securing an Air Operator Permit (AOP). Considering that the proving flights may wrap up by 7th December, the AOP may be awarded on 15th December, after the completion of the FAA Audit of DGCA, which is hoped to be completed on the 12th December 2014. The airline may start operations early January.
When operations start, it will be the first full service carrier to be launched in a decade. Kingfisher airlines commenced operations in 2005 and no full service, pan-India carrier has since been launched.
The airline was awarded its NOC from the aviation ministry on the 3rd of April, 2014, and applied for an AOP on the 22nd of April, 2014. The eight month period between AOP application and approval is similar to the period taken to award AirAsia India’s AOP.
Vistara has two Airbus A320-232SL aircraft (A320/IAE V2527-A5 engines/Sharklet equipped) in its fleet, of which one is completed in the airline’s livery. The liveried aircraft performed the proving flight.
The airline plans to have six flights between Delhi and Mumbai in the first year of operations. Other destinations planned in the first year of services are Goa, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Srinagar, Jammu, Patna and Chandigarh. The DGCA’s Civil Aviation Policy CAP 3100 stipulates that the airline ‘will be required to conduct a minimum of 5 flight sectors on intended routes, with total duration of not less than 10 flight hours’. The Delhi – Mumbai route contributes to around 1hr 40 minutes one way, adding to 3:20hrs for both ways. The airline will have to fly another 6:40hrs. Should the airline fly Delhi-Bangalore and back, it will add around 4:40hrs. The balance 2:00hrs may be picked up by flying either to Ahmedabad or Patna and back.
The liveried aircraft, registered VT-TTB, is the first aircraft that the airline received on the 24th of September, 2014, at Toulouse. The second aircraft, registered VT-TTC, was handed over to the airline five days later, on the 29th of September, 2014. The first aircraft got its livery at Singapore, and landed back at Delhi on the 15th of October, 2014, coinciding with the 82nd anniversary of JRD Tata’s first commercial flight from Karachi to Mumbai.
Three other aircraft, registered VT-TTD, TTE, and TTF are at Toulouse, reportedly not delivered in the light of the uncertainty associated with the DGCA’s delay in granting the new airline company its Air Operator’s Permit. The fifth aircraft recently flew to Hamburg, Germany, where the cabin interiors are fitted.
The airline plans to have a fleet of current engine option (CEO) and new engine option (NEO) A320 aircraft. The first 20 Airbus aircraft are to be leased from BOC Aviation – a Bank of China company that has its origins in Singapore Airlines. The duration of the lease agreement is six years for the A320-200 CEO aircraft and twelve years for the A320-200NEO aircraft.
The communication between air traffic controllers and pilots is key to efficiency and safety in the air traffic system (ATS). Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) are looked upon as managers : managing the flow of air traffic, and relaying crisp, and necessary messages to pilots.
Effective management is only possible when there is a deep understanding of the technicalities of the lower levels. A manager is always at a ‘higher level’, and decisions are based on a ‘lower levels’ of understanding. Effective management of air traffic is possible only when an ATCO understands, and not just communicates to, a pilot.
Accidents in the past have been due to gaps in understanding between ATCOs and pilots. Fuel burn and on time performance (OTP) are heavily dependent on the decisions taken by an ATCO. Once ATCOs understand aircraft, and aircraft performance, and fuel burn for every extra nautical mile and minute they make airplanes fly, things fall better in place: airline economics, better airport efficiency, and enhanced flight safety.
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.
AirAsia 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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 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.
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).
First Air Asia India A320 arriving at Chennai tomorrow: landmark event in Indian regional aviation; Air Asia set to clear last hurdle in grant of AOP: Route Proving Flights.
Sources in Toulouse have confirmed that VT-ATF, Air Asia India’s first A320, will depart Toulouse today evening (12th March 2014) to reach Chennai on the morning of the 13th at 09:30hrs local (IST).
Air Asia’s flight crew are already at Toulouse.
This is in agreement with an earlier estimate by the Flying Engineer, on when the aircraft will be delivered (click here).
The great circle direct distance between Toulouse (LFBO) and Chennai (VOMM) is 4,390NM. The ferry flight will however make one stop at Ankara’s (Turkey) Esenboğa International Airport (LTAC).
The aircraft is an A320-216SL (A320 airframe powered by the CFM56-5B6 engine and featuring the Sharklets (Airbus’ term for Winglets). The 56-5B engine delivers 23,500 lbf (100 kN) of thrust, per engine.
In comparison, Go Air flies the A320-214SL, which features the more expensive CFM-56-5B4, which delivers 27,000 lbf (120 kN) of thrust, per engine, and consequently allows for a higher maximum take off weight.
Air Asia India’s A320 will allow the airline to finish off its last formality: route proving flights, which essentially are dummy flights (real flight, but with no paying passengers) to either one or more of its destinations from its base, to prove to the DGCA that it can smoothly handle and meet operational requirements. Once done, and if the DGCA is satisfied, the airline will be granted its AOP, paving the way for operations to start.
The airline is expected to commence commercial operations in May 2014.
A350 MSN 2 (F-WWCF) and MSN 4 (F-WZNW) in flight. Photo: Airbus
MSN 2 & MSN 4 take to the skies for the first time; A350 performance penalties on the first few airplanes; Timelines more important than performance; A350 program gets costlier:why; A320 production ramp up.
Today marks four things: The Airbus Group press conference, the first flight of MSN2, the first flight of MSN4, and the Airbus announcement of the Airbus A320 production ramp-up.
On 2nd January, 2014, EADS, which comprised Airbus, Eurocopter, Cassidian, and Astrium, was been rebranded as “Airbus Group". The Airbus Group press conference must not be confused with the Airbus press conference, which was held on 13th January, 2014. But, very obviously, Airbus was discussed today.
Aviation Week today reported that “Airbus Group is taking a €434 million extraordinary charge in its 2013 results for the A350 program" due to “higher than expected recurring costs for the new widebody aircraft". Airbus, unlike Bombardier: the only other airliner airframer to be engaged in a flight test campaign of an all-new aircraft, has ensured that the program has stuck to schedule, at any cost. And that cost, for now, is an added Euro 434M.
A very interesting insight provided in an article in Aviation Week, in August 2012, which was highlighted today by Rupa Haria, quoted Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at the Teal Group, “If you are missing important milestones, you get beaten up by the financial markets or your customers. . . . You want to meet time guarantees more than performance guarantees."
In other words, the first few airplanes won’t be as good as those that will roll out of the line later.
Which also means that the Airbus A350 airplanes that took to the skies today, F-WWCF(MSN2) and F-WZNW(MSN4), could have benefitted from the later roll out at a cost: the cost to Airbus and its suppliers, who have to manufacture different variants of the same part, for the sake of keeping up with the program schedule. Different variants are due to part/product maturity which comes eventually with time. The most important reason for maturing the part is to result in weight savings, which impact the performance guarantees that Richard Aboulafia was talking about. The financial implications arising out of these performance penalties incurred by the first few operators of the A350, will be passed on to Airbus. This also affects the resale value of the first few aircraft, even with modifications that will be effected on the aircraft in service.
Such relatively immature aircraft, very obviously, come cheap to the airlines, but attract higher subsequent costs of ownership.
According to Aviation Week, there will be three batches of Airbus A350s, based on the design changes, and consequently, performance.
F-WWCF is the first of two A350 flight test aircraft to be equipped with a full passenger cabin interior, and features a distinctive “Carbon" signature livery to reflect its primary construction from advanced materials. 53% of the A350 XWB’s airframe is made-up of carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) including Airbus’ first carbon-fibre fuselage. Hence the registration, F-WW"CF", for Carbon Fibre.
MSN 2 will be the first A350 to transport passengers when it undertakes the Early Long Flights (ELF) later in the year. The “passengers" will be Airbus employees. The eye-candy A350 will do well for promotions, especially when it lands at airports outside Toulouse, and even Europe.
The other aircraft to be fitted with a cabin will be MSN 5, which is in the final assembly line and is expected to fly in a few months. MSN 4 joins MSN 1 and 3, the first two airplanes to have taken to the skies, in being those three airplanes dedicated to avionics, noise testing, and various other systems work through the flight test program. These three aircraft will not be fitted with a cabin, but rather, equipped with heavy flight test installation. The aircraft has on its fuselage the logo of Qatar Airways, and “A350 XWB Launch Customer".
It will, however, only be MSN 6 which will be delivered to Qatar Airways. MSN 6 is already in the A350 Final Assembly Line (FAL). This aircraft is expected to take to the skies in the October of 2014, and delivered less than a month later.
Composite image generated from Flight Radar 24
Singapore Airlines will receive MSN 8, the third aircraft intended for commercial operations. Vietnam Airlines will receive MSN 14, and Finnair MSN 18. The 21st A350 airframe is expected to be the A350-800, and the 41st A350 airframe is expected to be the A350-1000.
MSN 2 and MSN 4 flew together in formation close to the southern border of France, over the Pyrenees mountains, for a photo shoot.
A320s in production. Photo: Airbus
While one program bleeds the finances, the proven narrowbody family: a proven market that allows airliner manufacturers Boeing and Airbus to not only earn their bread but offset costs from other programs.
The A320 program is ramping up production, as announced today by Airbus, to 46 a month in Q2 2016, up from the current rate 42. The new higher production rate will be achieved gradually, with an intermediate step at 44 aircraft per month in Q1 2016.
“Based on the healthy market outlook for our best-selling A320 Family and following a comprehensive assessment of our supply chain’s readiness to ramp-up, we are ready to go to rate 46 by Q2 2016," said Tom Williams, Executive Vice President Programmes. “With a record backlog of over 4,200 A320 Family aircraft and the growing success of the NEO, we have a solid case to increase our monthly output to satisfy our customers’ requirement for more of our fuel efficient aircraft."
Over the past five years, Airbus has steadily increased A320 Family production, going from rate 36 at the end of 2010 to rate 38 in August 2011, then up to rate 40 in Q1 2012 to reach 42 per month in Q4 of the same year.
Air Asia’s first aircraft may not arrive before March 2nd 2014. How many pilots the airline has, and what crew who switch airlines look for. Operations in Summer. This, and more, below.
Air Asia India had intended, in the October of 2013, to start operations with MSN 5200, an Airbus A320 now flying for Indonesia Air Asia as PK-AZI, and was formerly flying with Air Asia Japan. The timing of the closure of Air Asia Japan (October 2013), and the starting of Air Asia India, intended in the December of 2013, was coincidental.
But on 20th January, 2014, the DGCA issued a public notice, stating, “In order to comply with the requirements of Schedule Xl of Aircraft Rules 1937, a notice is hereby given to the public and all the persons likely to be affected by the grant of this permit to M/s Air Asia (lndia) Pvt. Ltd. for the purpose of providing scheduled air transport services in lndia, submit their objections or suggestions, if any, within twenty days of issue of this public notice"
That only meant one thing: delay.
A committee was setup under A.K. Sharan, Joint Director General, DGCA to review the objections and suggestions received in respect of application for grant of permit to Air Asia (India) Pvt. Ltd.
A month later, on 21st February 2014, the DGCA issued a second public notice to do with Air Asia India, in which the following statement was made, “The Committee in its report have not found any reason to keep on hold the processing of application of M/s. Air Asia (India) Pvt. Ltd., for issuance of Air Operator Permit (AOP) ."
This paves the way for the issuance of Air Operator’s Permit “subject to compliance of various requirements in terms of CAR, CAP 3100 and other applicable rules and Air Information Circulars."
Aircraft on short finals
A photo showing MSN6015, an Airbus A320-216SL, was caught flying at Toulouse on 19th February, 2014 (image on top). The aircraft, flying under the test registration F-WWBV, will be registered VT-ATF. VT-ATB, MSN6034 will be the next aircraft to join the fleet, according to ch-aviation. Route proving flights, the last stage in the process to obtain an Air Operator Permit, will be done on these aircraft. MSN5200 will, for now atleast, remain with Indonesia Air Asia.
“The A320 delivers fantastic reliability, and we work these aircraft very hard: flying them almost 14 hours a day – conducting eight landings and takeoffs, performing turnarounds in 25 minutes," said Tony Fernandes, in 2012 when receiving the airline’s 100th Airbus A320 at Toulouse.
When IndiGo and GoAir started operations, their first set of Airbus A320 aircraft took almost one month between the first flight and the delivery to the airline. The time period has now reduced to between 11-15 days, though it occasionally takes a month. If the trend continues, AirAsia’s first airplane may not arrive before 2nd March 2014, and not later than 19th March, 2014.
The award of the AOP is expected 1 – 2 weeks after the route proving flights, if all goes well. This pegs, as of today, the AOP award toward the later part of March 2014, and the start of operations in April 2014, coinciding with the Indian Summer.
Apparently, the airline plans to start operations with 5 aircraft, which is expected to grow to 10 in one year of operation. The airline declined comment on its fleet expansion plans.
The airline presently has 35 pilots. With such a number, the airline can comfortably operate 3-4 aircraft.
As per Indian Civil Aviation Requirements, “Before the Scheduled Operator’s Permit is issued, an applicant shall have a fleet of minimum five aeroplanes." The same CAR offers a relaxation, “To facilitate the start of the operations, operators will be permitted to operate with one aeroplane/ helicopter and will be given one year’s time from the date of securing operator’s permit, to have the fleet size of five aircraft."
Airline in the sights of flightcrew.
Air Asia India presently has 35 pilots: 15 Captains and 20 First Officers. And the hiring is still on.
A Spicejet first officer, who flies the Boeing 737NG, has an Airline transport license, and goes by the alias “spiceflyboy" expresses his thoughts on joining Air Asia. He feels that getting an Airbus Fly-By-Wire rating and experience is good, as he can later move on to an Airbus A330, A340, A350 or A380 operator. With his Boeing experience, he feels he can possibly fly for Boeing 777 and 787 operators. “Globally, Airbus pilots are in greater demand". With 2000+ hours on the Boeing 737NG, another 2000+ hours on the Airbus A320 will, in his opinion, make him “future proof". “Air Asia, being a LCC, will give me a lot of flying, which I need at this stage of my flying career. But I’d go only if they hire me as a transition captain".
Would there be any reasons for not joining Air Asia? “If they don’t take off, I wouldn’t join them. If they pay less, or keep me as a first officer, I wouldn’t want to be with them".
For many senior first officers, who may have to wait long for their command, Air Asia is their target. At this stage of an airline, pushing for command is easier: there is a lot of flying, and the need for captains will make the airline push qualified first officers to the left seat. An expedited command, even with a slightly lower remuneration, means a lot for a senior first officer: the “P1” stamp on the license throws open the job market. It was a similar case at IndiGo when the airline was in a dire need of pilots. That scenario no longer exists at the blue airline.
For others, work culture is more important than the money. There are pilots who are willing to accept INR 20,000-30,000 lower gross pay per month, if they are promised a better work culture, in line with what Air Asia offers today.
In any case, Air Asia India is attracting, on average, 10-15 sufficiently qualified aircrew, for each interview session, even if most are uncertain of switching airlines.
Okay, for once I guess we’re allowed to talk about ourselves. After all, its the Indian Republic Day, and when everyone who has done something for the nation gets a pat on their back, we, part of the silent army, revolutionizing aviation (though not yet to the extent of those who have done something for the nation), would like to feel proud of ourselves.
And we are.
We have a flight simulator built, and when its not being used for research & development, we get requests for kids to use them. Of the 60+ kids that have been part of a program that we’ve conducted, called the “Aeroflyer”, 22 were hand picked by the Department of Science and Technology, and sent across to The Flying Engineer’s commercial entity (to do with flight simulators and allied services, Flightrix), to give them an exposure to aviation.
We are proud to have done or bit for the society.
This video below captures what we’ve done, and what we like to do: promote aviation. We’re not necessarily pushing kids into becoming pilots: our activities stimulate the engineer in them, as well. We need bright aerospace engineers, to go beyond the only two type certificates issued by the DGCA: Hansa 3, and ALH Dhruv, both of which are snubbed by the citizens of the very country that’s produced it, for some obvious and not-so-obvious reasons.
Deccan Charters’ VT-DCE, which has a G1000 flight deck. The G1000 supports data logging, sufficient for FDM and FOQA needs.
The Flying Engineer explores regulations covering flight recorders, and how even in the absence of the mandate for such devices in single engine and piston aircraft, a commonly found avionics suite allows the operator to tackle flight safety: proactively.
The Indian Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), in its civil aviation regulations (CAR) Section 2 Series “I” Part V Issue II, dated 23rd January 2013, covers flight data recorders (FDR), and describes a FDR as “Any type of recorder installed in the aircraft for the purpose of complementing accident/incident investigation.”
The same regulation does not talk about FDR for single engine airplanes. The closest it comes to is a recommendation, for commercial transport, and general aviation, “that all turbine-engined aeroplanes of a maximum certificated take-off mass of 5700kg or less for which the individual certificate of airworthiness is first issued on or after 1 January 2016 should be equipped with: a) a Type II FDR; or b) a class C AIR capable of recording flight path and speed parameters displayed to the pilot(s);or c) an ADRS capable of recording the essential parameters”
A recommendation is not enforceable, and single engine pistons are not covered.
Interestingly, CAR Section 3 (Air Transport) Series C Part III Issue II, dated 1st June 2010, talks of the minimum requirement for the grant of a Non-Scheduled Operator Permit (NSOP). The CAR covers single engine turbine, and single engine piston aircraft as well. The regulation also describes the need to demonstrate a “Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) and CVR/FDR monitoring system.”
Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) is defined as “the pro-active use of recorded flight data from routine operations to improve aviation safety.” FDM is important, as a review of recorded flight can identify deviations and exceedances, which can be used for corrective training. It is an effective method where an incident is analyzed, and brought to the notice of flight & maintenance crew before it amplifies to an accident.
The surprise here is the DGCA’s realization of the importance of FDM & FOQA in aviation, irrespective of the airplane type, but it’s very regulations do not cover FDRs in single engine airplanes.
Infact, piston engine, whether multi or single engine, are not covered: “All multi-engined turbine powered aeroplanes of a maximum certificated takeoff mass of 5700kg or less for which the individual certificate of airworthiness is first issued on or after 1 January 1989, shall be equipped with a Type II FDR by 31.12.2013.”
Either DGCA assumes that pistons have no future, or that operators, both commercial and general aviation, fly only turbines.
The benefits of FDM
FDM is beneficial for everybody, right from the student pilot to the airline pilot. In training, FDM is necessary to immediately identify exceedances and deviations, bringing it to the notice of the concerned. For example, a student pilot who pulled a high G maneuver may have stressed an airframe, and if before scheduled inspections, the airframe is stressed multiple times, a failure could result. Similarly, a private pilot with 50-60 hrs may make mistakes, which may go unnoticed unless an expert, or a sufficiently experienced person goes through the flight data recordings to understand and point out what went wrong, and how it may be avoided. These are small steps toward enhanced safety for all.
Flight Data Recording without a FDR
G1000 for a Cessna 172
Garmin’s G1000 has been adopted by many airframe manufacturers, making it a standard fit on their aircraft. Cessna for one, offers the G1000 from the 172R to its turbine single engines, including the Grand Caravan.
The Garmin G1000 features flight data logging (FDL), which is not a FDR, but may be used for the same purpose: FDM & FOQA.
On the 172, the G1000 for Cessna: NAV III, logs 64 parameters, at a 1 second interval. These parameters cover (and exceed) the requirements laid down in the regulations for an Aircraft Data Recording System (ADRS), but fall short on only 2 aspects: the recording interval (some data needs to be recorded at 250ms intervals, but is logged in the G1000 in 1 second intervals), and the control surface position (primary and secondary flight control positions are not recorded).
States the Garmin Manual, “The Flight Data Logging feature will automatically store critical flight and engine data on an SD data card inserted into the top card slot of the MFD. Approximately 4,000 flight hours can be recorded on the card.”
In addition, Garmin provides a free, simple to use software that in a few clicks converts the recorded flle to a Google Earth path, which can be viewed in 3D to visually analyze the flight path.
A side-by-side shot of the regions of the MFD where the SD card for flight logging is inserted. One aircraft has it inserted, while the other has it missing, losing the benefits of FDM.
The Flying Engineer has flight data logs from a Cessna 172R for two flights spanning over 2 hours, and the parameters have been so exhaustive that it has supported academic use of the data.
VT-FGE, the ill-fated Diamond DA40CS that crashed in the December of 2013 when on a training flight, has the logging functionality. With the log, it will be immediately clear as to what went wrong, playback of which will prevent other students from repeating the same mistakes.
Unfortunately, schools and some private operators record the data, but do not have a program to pro-actively monitor and analyze every flight, every day, missing an opportunity to self learn and proactively enhance flight safety.