Today, India, for the size that it is, has only four airlines that fly international: Full service carriers (FSCs) Air India and its subsidiaries, and Jet Airways, and Low cost carriers (LCCs) SpiceJet and IndiGo. This is in contrast to the 10 airlines that operate domestic scheduled services in India, today. While Indian carriers flew 81 million domestic passengers in calendar year 2015 (CY2015), Indian carriers flew only 18 million passengers in the same period.
Only two airlines/airline groups operate short, medium and long haul international services: Air India and Jet Airways. Both airlines have diverse fleets: from short haul domestic ATR 72 turboprops to long haul international Boeing 777s. The LCCs in contrast have narrowbody jets that can cater only to short haul international services.
Due to the limitations of fleet and perhaps the lack of commercially attractive international destinations, LCCs IndiGo and SpiceJet deployed only 4.8% and 9.5% of their total flights on international, in CY2015. In contrast, Jet Airways (Including operations from the Jetlite AOP) deployed 22.1%, while Air India (Including Air India Express and Air India Regional (Alliance)) deployed 32.7% of its total flights on international. Air India and Jet Airways together contribute to 84.5% of all international departures by Indian carriers, while IndiGo and SpiceJet contribute to just 8.8% and 6.8% respectively.
This statistic shows IndiGo and SpiceJet are very small players in the international front, serving destinations at neighbouring countries. IndiGo operates only to five international destinations: Kathmandu (Nepal), Muscat (Oman), Singapore (Singapore), Bangkok (Thailand), and Dubai (U.A.E.), while SpiceJet operates only to six international destinations: Bangkok (Thailand), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Dubai (U.A.E), Kabul (Afghanistan), Male (Maldives), and Muscat (Oman).
Air India and Jet Airways started operations before the 5/20 rule was instated in the year 2005. IndiGo and SpiceJet started operations after the 5/20 rule was introduced. The 5/20 rule requires airlines to operate domestic services for a minimum period of five years, after which it can fly international only if the airline has a fleet size of 20 or greater.
Air India Express was the only airline to start immediate international operations (although on an AOP different from Air India) after the 5/20 rule was introduced. The first flight of the airline was an international flight.
Neither IndiGo nor SpiceJet fought the 5/20 rule at that time as the focus of both airlines then, as it is today, is to tap the potential of the domestic market. SpiceJet started international operations in October 2010, while IndiGo commenced international operations in September 2011. Despite both LCCs having started international operations nearly five years ago, when the scale of domestic operations were smaller, both airlines chose not to focus on international operations. (See IndiGo’s fleet induction, here) Both airlines always had the option of inducting larger aircraft to serve destinations beyond the surrounding Asian and Middle East countries. But such is not their business model.
As a result, the only Indian carriers to majorly serve international are Air India and Jet Airways, both of which were not ‘victims’ of the 5/20 rule, whereas IndiGo and SpiceJet, which chose to focus on domestic even though they started international operations five years ago, are ‘victims’ of the 5/20 rule, strongly opposing the removal of the a rule that means nothing, and does not impact either airline..
Go Air started operations in the year 2005, but chose not to increase its fleet beyond 19 aircraft. It deferred its 20th aircraft, which was readied by Airbus. As a result, the airline does not fly international, and seems to have no issues remaining a domestic player. Yet, the airline opposes the removal of the 5/20 rule, though it chose not to operate international.
In the quarter ending 31st December 2015, a total of 12.6 million international passengers were carried by both Indian and international airlines. Of that number, Indian carriers flew just 4.5 million passengers, or just 36% of the total traffic.
India is underutilising its bilaterals, due to restrictions placed by rules such as the 5/20. For the purpose of this case, and for want of time, we consider only three international destinations: Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.
As of late February 2016, there are three airlines from Singapore that operate to 13 destinations in India. Singapore Airlines, Tiger Airways and Silk Air together operate 134 flights per week to India, from Singapore, and an equal number of return flights. Together, the airlines deploy 30,517 seats per week between Singapore and India, in each direction, using a variety of aircraft: Airbus A319s, A320s, Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A330s, Boeing 777-200s, 777-300s, and Airbus A380.
In contrast, three Indian airlines (four if you count Air India Express separately) connect Singapore to only four destinations in India. Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways and IndiGo together operate 63 flights per week between the two countries. Together, the airlines deploy just 13,244 seats per week between Singapore and India, in each direction, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A330-300s, and Boeing 787-8s.
Thai Airways, Thai AirAsia, and Bangkok Airways operate from Bangkok to eight destinations in India, flying 73 flights and deploying 19,497 seats per week, Using Airbus A320s, Boeing 747s, 777-200s, 777-300s, Airbus A330-300s, and Boeing 787-8s.
In contrast, SpiceJet, IndiGo, Jet Airways and Air India together operate 62 flights, deploying 12,474 seats per week, from four Indian destinations to Bangkok, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, 737-900s, and Boeing 787-8s.
From Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia Berhad, AirAsia X, Malindo, and Malaysian Airlines operate 180 flights to 12 Indian destinations, deploying 32,903 seats per week between Malaysia and India, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, 737-900s, and Airbus A330-300s.
In contrast, only Air India Express operates to Kuala Lumpur, connecting only Chennai to the Malaysian capital with 4 weekly flights and deploying 744 seats per week.
While not all destinations are commercially viable, there is a huge mismatch between the capacity deployed by foreign carriers, and the capacity deployed by Indian carriers, on the same set of routes. Infact, the superior connectivity offered by foreign carriers is not matched by Indian carriers, leaving a large scope for more Indian carriers to boost the Indian economy while also providing international passengers seamless domestic connectivity.
The 5/20 rule must go if India should see it’s own airlines connect India with the rest of the world.
What the FIA won’t tell you
The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), have something against the airlines of the Father of Indian Aviation (FIA), Late JRD Tata. The Tata’s have already done enough to promote connectivity within India: TATA airlines was renamed Air India.
The FIA (Federation) is shaken by the prospects of airlines such as Vistara and AirAsia India. The goal of the FIA is to restrict the operations of such airlines to within India, so that players like the market leader can use its low cost base to lower fares on every route such airlines fly, and bleed the airlines dry. Starting with the smallest and the least capitalised airlines, airlines will knock off the Indian scene, one by one, leaving only a few to operate in India, with the market player enjoying a huge monopoly in setting fares. At that point in time, India will suffer, with neither good international connectivity, nor with strong domestic competition nor worthy alternatives.
While the FIA blames consultancy firm KPMG of auditing Singapore Airlines and consulting for the government, it remains silent on consultancy firm CAPA.
CAPA India, in its Aviation Outlook 2016, stated, “Despite repeated statements by the Minister that there is no logic to the 5/20 rule and that it should be abolished, the discriminatory regulation still remains in place”.
Guess which consultancy firm’s services was sought for IndiGo’s Red Herring Prospectus? CAPA India.
Brussels in Belgium presently serves as a ‘scissor hub’ for Jet Airways, for which it dedicates all four of its Airbus A330-330s configured with 34 Première and 259 Economy seats, totalling 293 seats per aircraft. These four A330s, registered VT-JWR/S/T/U, fly to only 4 cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Newark, and Toronto, through the scissor hub at Brussels. No aircraft are parked, no crew are stationed, but the role of Brussels is to allow passengers from Delhi and Mumbai to fly onward to either Newark or Toronto, and vice-versa, while also catering to passengers originating at, or destined for Brussels.
The beauty of this hub is how all four A330-300s from Newark (9W227), Mumbai (9W228), Toronto (9W229), and Delhi (9W230) arrive at Brussels in just a 5 minute window, between 7:45 – 7:50 in the morning, everyday, only to leave 2:30 hours later, together. The four aircraft arrive and depart together.
Passengers from Mumbai transit through Brussels onward to Newark, and vice-versa. Passengers from Delhi transit through Brussels onward to Toronto, and vice-versa. But passengers from Mumbai will need to be transferred at Brussels to the other aircraft to continue to Toronto, and vice-versa. Passengers from Delhi will need to be transferred at Brussels to the other aircraft to continue to Newark, and vice-versa.
Everyday, Jet Airways contributes 8 flights to Brussels, flying in a daily capacity of 2,344 seats, or 855,560 seats annually, of which nearly 75% of seats are filled up to contribute to nearly 650,000 passengers originating, departing, transiting, or transferring at Brussels. 33 Brussels based staff are employed, 75% of which are Belgians.
In the calendar year 2014, Brussels had 22 million passengers use its airport, of which nearly 3% was contributed to by Jet Airways, despite the airline contributing to just over 1% of aircraft movements. Further, of the top ten overseas (outside Europe) destinations from Brussels, New York (JFK & Newark/EWR), Mumbai, Toronto, and Delhi feature in the list. While New York is at the first position, Mumbai is at the 6th place, Toronto in the 8th, and Delhi at 10th.
Jet Airways is the only airline to directly connect Brussels to Toronto, Mumbai, and Delhi, and is one of just four airlines to directly connect Brussels to New York / Newark. Jet Airways enjoys nearly 32% market share on the Brussels – New York/Newark direct route, and 100% on the other three routes.
Nearly 30% of the passengers flying to/from the top ten overseas destinations from Brussels are carried by Jet Airways.
Jet Airways’ operations have thus meant much to Brussels.
Jet Airways has cited commercial reasons for shifting the airline’s European gateway to Amsterdam, which is just 160 kilometres to the north of Brussels, effective March 27, 2016. The airline states that a new strategic code share partnership with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Delta Air Lines will significantly enhance connectivity between India – Europe and North America.
However, the airline will be dropping its flights to Newark from its new European gateway, and while all three flights (To Delhi, Mumbai and Toronto) depart Amsterdam at nearly the same time, they will arrive at Amsterdam in a window of 1 hour 15 minutes. Jet Airways will continue to commit the A330-300 to the European gateway, but will free up one aircraft, allowing it to deploy it on a pattern that is not yet publicly known.
In contrast to Brussel’s 22 million passengers in CY2014, Amsterdam’s Schipol airport handled 55 million passengers in the same period, perhaps promising Jet Airways better commercial prospects.
(Picture on top shows an A330-200, the shorter variant of the A330-300 discussed in this piece).
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.
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.
DGCA published data pertaining to an airline’s performance, commonly quoted by the media, such as Load Factors and OTP, is unreliable and misleading.
The data errors can only be recognized in single fleet airlines and/or airlines that have only recently started operations. In both cases, simplicity allows for cross verification of data.
Investigation into the data errors was suggested by a senior officer of a full service Indian airline.
The most interesting of all airline performance indicators is load factors. Load factors are often looked upon as indicators of successful commercial operations at an airline.
DGCA publishes certain airline related data based on an ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN body) ATR (Air Transport) ‘FORM A’. This form is filled and submitted by airlines to the DGCA, which the DGCA then uses to report load factors airline wise.
The manner in which the DGCA computes load factors is by dividing Passenger-Kilometers (PK) by Available seat Kilometers (ASK). PK is a product of total passengers flown and the total kilometres flown by the airline in a particular month. ASK is the number of seats on all flights multiplied by the total kilometres flown by the airline in that particular month. Dividing PK by ASK simplifies to the ratio of Passengers Flown by Available Seats, which is the definition of load factor.
Another way of computing load factors is to determine the available seats using data not reported in ICAO ATR FORM A. This is the number of seats on every flight. FORM A mentions the number of departures in a month. In single fleet airlines such as IndiGo, Go Air, AirAsia and Vistara, the number of seats on every aircraft is uniform fleet-wide. This means that every flight on each of the above mentioned airlines flies 180, 180, 180 and 148 seats, respectively.
Multiplying the number of flights by the number of seats per aircraft will result in the number of seats flown in that month. Dividing the number of passengers flown by the number of seats gives us load factors for the month.
The first and second method should result in the same numbers. However, this is not the case. Below is the reported load factors versus the computed load factors for IndiGo since it started operations. The two methods agree with each other till December 2008. From January 2009, when the DGCA changed its format of reporting data, the errors have been present, and have been unacceptably large and inconsistent.
The data shows that, according to computations, domestic load factors at IndiGo never crossed 90%, and that load factors crossed 80% only on 7 occasions in 9 years. Average domestic load factors at the airline, across 9 years, is recomputed as just 71.5%, with the highest at 83.3% in the month of May 2015. Of course, this arguably assumes that the number of departures and the number of passengers reported by the DGCA are correct.
Similarly, AirAsia India’s and Vistara’s load factors are not always representative of the actual load factors. In the case of these two airlines, the error is small. However, every 1% error in load factor corresponds to a monthly revenue of INR 56 lakhs for an airline the size of AirAsia India, and INR 16 crore for an airline the size of IndiGo.
Vistara’s load factors have never crossed 70%.
Below is that of Go air, for 9 months only:
Considering that the data is derived from what airlines have published, it may be that part of the onus for the error rests on airlines. It is difficult to compute the error in load factors of airlines such as SpiceJet, Jet Airways, Air India, and Air Costa.
Faith in our method of computation is based on cross checking certain computed load factors with the information revealed by a senior airline official.
On Time Performance
Airline on time performance is another parameter met with much enthusiasm. For example, for the month of April of 2015, DGCA reported that AirAsia India had an on time performance (OTP) of 100.0%. DGCA mentions the OTP as observed at only four airports: Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi. Back then, AirAsia India was based only out of Bengaluru.
However, Bengaluru International airport, in its On Time Performance (OPT) report for April, clearly mentions AirAsia India’s arrival OTP as 89% and departure OTP as 98%. This averages to 93.5% OTP, which made headlines as 100%. (Click here for an NDTV piece on this)
Similarly, Go Air’s OTP for Bengaluru was reported by the DGCA as 88.9%, while the airport stated that the airline had an arrival OTP of 73% and a departure OTP of 86%. The DGCA’s OTP for Go Air at Bengaluru was impossibly higher than the higher of the two OTP for the airline for that month.
IndiGo’s OTP at Bengaluru was reported as 77.2%, while the airport stated that the airline had an arrival OTP of 73% and a departure OTP of 81%. In this case, the average of the departure and arrival worked out to 77%, which is acceptable.
In the case of SpiceJet, OTP at Bengaluru was reported as 68.2%, while the airport stated that the airline had an arrival OTP of 78% and a departure OTP of 78%. In this case, the reported OTP is lower than the actual OTP of 78%.
Data reported by the DGCA is very informative. The data is used by analysts and major industry bodies for studies, reports, and analysis. However, no matter how good the analysis, junk data in results in junk data out, with misleading facts and figures about the industry and the performance of airlines.
Poor data standards may give airlines a way to falsely drive up their performance figures, which may be for many reasons, such as driving up investor sentiment.
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.
Hyderabad based TruJet, brand name of Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited, is India’s 9th operational private airline, the country’s third operational regional scheduled domestic airline, and the country’s second all-turboprop, operational airline.
Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited was incorporated in March 2013, by three persons: Vankayalapati Umesh, Ram Charan Tej Konidala, and Ram’s sister, Sushmita Laggishetty.
46 year old Umesh, who serves as the Managing Director (MD) of the airline, rose from a ground-handling technician to running Turbo Aviation, which includes a jet charter company ‘Turbo Charter’ that owns a Cessna CitationCJ2. Turbo Aviation also offers ground handling services, CAMO services, and MRO Services.
30 year old Ram Charan is a Telugu Actor, and a director of MAA TV and reportedly owns Hyderabad Polo Horse Riding club. He and his older sister Sushmita are two of three children to 59 year old actor, producer, and Indian National Congress politician Konidela Siva Sankara Vara Prasad alias ‘Chiranjeevi’.
The company had an authorized share capital of INR 15 crores (INR 150 million), which was 3 Crores more than the minimum paid up capital requirement for an airline operating turboprop aircraft of the likes of ATR 72 and Q400, or regional jets like the Embraer E170, 175 and CRJ 700 and 900. Seating capacity was hence limited to the 70 – 90 seat category.
In May 2013, the airline pumped in INR 7 crores as capital, followed by another 5 crores which took the total paid up capital to 12 crores in July 2013 – sufficient to satisfy the DGCA requirement for the application of a regional permit.
In July 2014 – a year later, the airline received its no objection certificate (NOC) that allowed the airline to start the process towards obtaining an air operator permit (AOP). The formal application meeting for a southern regional AOP was held on 23rd January 2015.
In April 2015, the authorized share capital of the airline was increased to INR 50 crores, which can allow for a paid up capital of the same amount – the amount advised by the DGCA. This also allows the airline to apply for a pan-India license with larger airplanes.
In May 2015, Prem Kumar Pandey, Assistant Vice President at Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL), was appointed as a director, with investment from MEIL. 29 year old Prem is the son-in-law of one of the promoters of MEIL. ‘Megha’ in the registered name Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited indicates that investment from MEIL was certain way back in 2013.
Shareholding pattern in the airline is believed to have been restructured to stand as 22%-26%-52% between Umesh – Charan & family – MEIL, with access to around an additional INR 100 crore.
The airline received its first of two ATR 72-500 aircraft on 21st May 2015. The aircraft had earlier flown for the Malaysian airline and charter operator Berjaya Air. The 6 year old aircraft MSN 858 is registered VT-TMK, and the cabin is laid out with 72 seats. A month later, the airline received its second ATR 72-500 (MSN 875). After Berjaya shut turboprop operations, both aircraft were purchased by Singapore based Phoenix Aircraft Leasing, and were sold to Ireland based Elix Aviation Capital Services in December 2014. Elix has dry-leased the airplanes to TruJet. The same lessor has leased airplanes to Bangalore based Air Pegasus, which is a smart move as it helps transfer assets between operators should either shut operations.
The airline received its AOP on 7th July 2015, less than a year since obtaining its NOC, and around one-and-a-half months since receiving its first aircraft, making it the fastest regional Indian airline to obtain its AOP. Turbo Aviation’s experience with running a charter service which resulted in good preparedness, and the airline’s connections in the ministry are believed to have speeded up the process.
Trujet is an interesting name considering the airline operates turboprop aircraft for now. However, it must be borne in mind that a turboprop engine’s core is a jet engine.
According to the airline, ‘Trujet logo is inspired by the national bird of India peacock and represents all that the TruJet service aspires to be— graceful, joyful and luxurious. The logo also conveys attributes of service, professionalism, sophistication and, importantly, the airline’s Indian roots.’
Network, Operations & Competition
Usually, airlines take about a week to open for bookings once the AOP is received. Once bookings open, an airline starts operations usually 2-4 weeks thereafter. This allows sufficient bookings to build up before operations can commence.
In the case of Trujet, the airline wanted to cash in on the Pushkaram festival, an Indian festival dedicated to worshiping of rivers, once every 12 years. The airline started operations with one aircraft on 12th July, flying between Hyderabad, Chennai, Tirupati, and Rajamundry.
On 26th July, the airline commenced its regular, non-seasonal operations with one aircraft, connecting Aurangabad, Tirupati and Rajamundry to Hyderabad. All three destinations are significantly driven by religious tourism. Aurangabad is an airport very close to a religious destination – Shirdi. The airline stopped services to Chennai from 26th July.
Presently, the airline operates a double Hyderabad-Tirupati service, and single Hyderabad- Rajamundry and Hyderabad-Aurangabad services. With this, the airline operates 8 flights a day, clocking 10:20 hours of utilisation with turn-around times of 25 minutes. Average block time is 1:20 hours, and average sector distances are 220NM. With such sectors, the aircraft can be pushed (subject to commercial and operational viability) to fly a maximum of 10 flights a day with a utilisation totaling a little over 13 hours a day. However, the present utilisation is good for a startup airline.
The second aircraft is expected to be operationally ready in a week’s time, and will fly sectors out of Chennai.
At the time of research, Trujet’s frequency between Hyderabad and Tirupati, both ways, is twice daily, against 6 flights onward and 8 flights on the return. Aircraft deployed on the sector are in the 70-80 seat category including Air Costa’s Embraer E170s and SpiceJet’s Q400s. However, Air India deploys 172 seat A321s and 48 seat ATR 42s on that route.
On the Hyderabad-Aurangabad sector, Trujet enjoys a monopoly.
On the Hyderabad – Rajamundry sector, Trujet’s single frequency competes with SpiceJet’s 1 onward and 2 return frequencies, and Jet Airways’ three frequencies either way. While SpiceJet deploys its 78 seat Bombardier Q400s on the route, Jet Airways deploys ATR 72-500s. Difference in speeds between the two types result in only 5-10 minutes of block time difference.
The airline offers a transit (no change of flight) service between Tirupati and Aurangabad via Hyderabad.
A flat 4% sales tax on fuel (in comparison to upto 28%) for aircraft operating scheduled serviced with less than 80 seats, and a waiver of airport charges for aircraft of such weight category will keep direct operating costs at Trujet lean. The operating economics of the ATR 72, which is best suited for such mission lengths, will further contribute to a lean operating structure.
Maintenance of the aircraft is carried out in house at Turbo Aviation’s maintenance facility, which has an approval for the aircraft type.
The airline has a very simple fare model that has 13 active fare buckets. Fares for all sectors in corresponding buckets are the same fare, whether a direct or a hopping flight. There seems to be no discounted one-way fares for return flights. Adaptation to sectors that are higher in demand or longer is achieved by erasing lower fare buckets. The first 9 buckets are in flat INR 500 increments, and the last 4 buckets are in increasing increments. The airline will reportedly offer 10% discount for senior citizens, students below 18 years, members of the South India Artistes’ Association and those from the film fraternity.
Trujet may become the only airline in India to offer a comprehensive travel solution. To cater to passengers whose wish to be connected to cities or towns that do not have an airport, the airline plans of introducing Volvo bus services that pick up passengers to drop them at the airport, and pick up passengers from airports to drop them at their actual destinations such as Shirdi. The airline reportedly plans to assume full responsibility of baggage handling at the bus pick up point, the airport, and the bus drop point.
The airline reportedly offers a complimentary in-flight meal.
The airline has reportedly identified 18 tier-II towns and cities in the south for operations. Most major airport cities in the southern region show promise.
Some of the other destinations, as made public earlier, are Mangalore, Vijayawada, Bangalore, Hubli, Vishakhapatnam, Tuticorin, Coimbatore, Salem, and Kadapa. The airline’s new destinations are expected to be announced when the second aircraft is ready to fly online, as the first aircraft’s rotation has no room to accommodate new flights.
The airline reportedly has plans to increase the fleet to around 5 aircraft by March 2016. The fleet is reportedly expected to touch a size of 4 in January 2016.
The airline is targeting a break even period of 12 – 24 months. This translates to a break even between Q1’17 and Q1’18.
A regional model with turboprops makes for a good feeder model, and may be sustainable in low capacity high demand routes, but may saturate fast without room for growth in connectivity. The ATR 72 is ideal for sectors of upto 1:45 hrs block time. For real growth, an airline must look beyond mere regional connectivity, and will need to offer pan India, inter-regional connectivity, which is commercially and operationally viable with regional jets. The airline is reportedly taking steps towards expanding its operational territory beyond the southern region into neighboring regions, for now with its turboprop aircraft.
The airline may adopt a dual-fleet strategy for a good combination of range, connectivity, and penetration.
It is to be seen if the airline becomes the first regional operator to convert to a pan-India license.
The Flying Engineer offered comments on Trujet to Business Standard, based on this research . Click Here to read.
This piece covers Boeing’s slipping grip on the low-cost airline market, with a focus on Asia: how, why, and where.
Air Asia, and EasyJet, operators of Airbus A320 airplanes, were once Boeing 737 operators. Airbus has been on a “rampage", trying to trespass Boeing’s narrowbody territory, and plant what is today the world’s best selling airplane family.
Air Asia, which until as recently as 2010 operated Boeing 737-300 aircraft, is now an all Airbus A320 operator: operating 73 of them. Air Asia Indonesia, which also operated Boeing 737-300s, now flies 30 Airbus A320 airplanes. Lion Air of Indonesia, which operates 99 Boeing 737 aircraft, most of which are 737NG airplanes, placed a firm order for 234 Airbus A320 aircraft, including 60 Airbus A320 classic engine option airplanes. Garuda Citilink, established in 2001 as a low-cost subsidiary of Garuda Indonesia, which operated an all Boeing 737-300 and 400 fleet, now flies 24, more efficient Airbus A320s with the callsign “Supergreen".
Jet Airways has evaluated Airbus A320NEOs, and Neil Mills, the then CEO of SpiceJet, publicly announced the evaluation of a fleet switch to the A320NEO.
Boeing’s comeback: an order of 54 Boeing 737s, comprising 23 737-800s and 31 737 Max 8s from SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, which welcomed its first Boeing 737-800 (9V-MGA) at the Singapore Airshow 2014, marking the start of SilkAir’s transition to an all-Boeing fleet, from the existing fleet of 24 Airbus aircraft, comprising 6 A319s and 18 A320s. (see photo on top)
After SilkAir, Boeing is now trying to sway TigerAir to adopt its airplanes.
How: Airbus’s Successes.
Said Dinesh Keshkar, vice president, Asia-Pacific & India Sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in February 2013, after Spicejet and Jet Airways performed financially better, (after the demise of Kingfisher), “Can they sustain these yields, which I think they can because of the balance of capacity in the market. They will continue to do well and aviation will continue to grow profitably. The Indian commercial aviation market is improving with higher yields and stability in fuel charges".
The same Keshkar in February 2014 admitted that Indian carriers are “not doing well” due to the decline in the rupee, high fuel costs, and high capital costs and taxes in India. “Certainly the Indian market is not for the faint-hearted. It’s hard to make money there. Nevertheless, everybody realizes that it’s a great market and that’s why more and more people are trying to get into that market."
Said Kiran Rao, executive vice president for strategy at Airbus, in January 2013, “It’s quite understandable that with the high fuel prices and the Indian taxes, the neo really works in India,” he says. “Jet Airways and Spicejet are predominately Boeing airlines today, but we will give it a good shot.”
Two things make the Airbus A320NEO attractive: Great operating economics, and its availability atleast 2 years before the Boeing 737MAX. That gives operators the chance to start reaping the benefits of an economical airplane two years before its competition, and that amounts to saving big money.
To put things in perspective, final assembly for the first Airbus A320NEO will start in March 2014, for the planned maiden flight in autumn, kicking off a flight-test campaign with 8 Airbus A320NEO airplanes, all flying with PW1100G Geared Turbofan Engines. In contrast, the engine that will power the 737MAX, the GE-SNECMA CFM LEAP-1B variant may not take to the skies this year, as the engine manufacturer plans to begin flight tests of the A320NEO’s alternate engine, LEAP-1A, on GE’s Boeing 747 flying testbed in September 2014.
The A320NEO is expected to enter service in late 2015, while the Boeing 737MAX is expected to enter service in late 2017.
“In a high fuel cost environment, it only makes sense to consider all of the available options. We must look at the aircraft that will have the lowest operating costs and see how it fits into our fleet,” said Neil Mills in March 2013, talking about the possible switch to the Airbus A30NEO, to meet medium term fleet requirements.”We will switch from one aircraft type to another if needed. I was with Easyjet when we switched from Boeing to Airbus and we can do the same here.”
The Boeing 737-800, which compares & competes directly with the Airbus A320, burns more fuel for the same payload. The Boeing 737-800 with winglets burns as much fuel as the A320 for the same range, payload, and cruise altitude. The A320 with “sharklets”, however, beats the Boeing 737-800W, and the A320NEO, goes unmatched.
But getting efficient airplanes two years earlier isn’t everything.
A continuing fight in the World Trade Organization is between the U.S. and the European Union over government support to Boeing and Airbus. The U.S. charges that European government subsidies have allowed Airbus to undercut Boeing prices, giving Airbus an unfair advantage in the marketplace and harming the U.S. aerospace industry: Boeing has significantly streamlined its 737 production during the past two years, but company officials said their cost improvements still don’t enable them to break even at the prices Airbus is quoting for the A320.
Although Keskar says that he is “not even going to try” reaching out to AirAsia because of the large number of A320s the carrier has on its order books, Boeing apparently hasn’t stopped trying to sway the airline in its favour. However, Boeing isn’t willing to sell at any price, even though Airbus is charging far less than Boeing is willing to accept. Boeing marketing Vice President Randy Baseler said “the only standard Airbus is setting is with price” on the 2004 Air Berlin deal, in which the German carrier ordered 70 Airbus A320 aircraft . “If you cut your prices enough, anybody will take them,” he said.
Few analysts feel Airbus offers a discount of as much as 60% to sway orders in their favour, while Airbus plays down the discount.
The matter only worsens with the projected 737MAX development costs expected at twice that for the A320NEO. The 737MAX is undergoing far more changes than the famous Airbus narrowbody family.
Boeing has lost out the no-frills, low cost airline segment to Airbus. Boeing once had monopolized this segment, especially with Southwest operating 588 Boeing 737 airplanes, and RyanAir operating 298 airplanes. Now, almost all start up low cost airlines fly the Airbus A320.
India’s “model" airline, IndiGo, and other start-ups: Air Deccan, Go Air, and Kingfisher Airlines (which eventually added the low cost arm Kingfisher RED) either fly or flew Airbus A320s. New airlines on the Indian horizon, whether credible or not, plan an A320 fleet: Skyjet Airways, and Volk Air.
TATA-SIA, the most talked about airline, will have an A320 fleet of 20, all leased, and AirAsia India, in line with the other AirAsias, will also fly with Airbus A320 aircraft.
SilkAir, with a brand that is not low cost but rather full service, will feature a cabin layout of 12 Business Class and 150 Economy class seats, representing an eight percent increase on SilkAir’s current seating capacity on the dual class A320s.
The only advantage in switching to a 737NG, for SilkAir, is increasing capacity without compromising on comfort through seat pitch. But it takes a lot to convince an airline to switch; especially when they could have flown more economical with the A320 sharklets, and saved on fleet transition costs. The real reason lies behind closed, motionless lips.
Stating a SilkAir press release, “A full-service carrier that is committed to creating enjoyable and reliable travel experiences, enhancements that customers can look forward to on the new aircraft include features such as the Boeing Sky Interior, which highlights new modern sculpted sidewalls and window reveals, LED lighting that enhances the sense of spaciousness, larger pivoting overhead stowage bins as well as in-seat audio and power supply for added convenience."
Then why was Spicejet, a low cost, missed by Airbus? SpiceJet began services in May 2005, when Air Asia was still flying an all Boeing 737 fleet, and just one year after EasyJet began transitioning to a predominantly Airbus A319 fleet. It was only in the December of 2005 that AirAsia received its first Airbus A320.
Said Kiran Rao, “We should have won the SpiceJet order the first time around, but it is just that at the time we had so many orders and took our eye off the ball,”.
But TATA-SIA, a full service carrier, should have been the target of Boeing. Dinesh Keshkar said that with the huge backlog for the 737, it was not able to provide narrowbodies to Tata SIA in line with its target to start operations in 2014.
The Indian MAX announcement that never came
Boeing in late 2012 had hoped to take its first order for the 737 MAX from an Indian airline. This hope was rekindled when Boeing had mentioned revealing a “sizable order” for the MAX from an Indian carrier, during the 2014 Singapore Airshow.
Twice, Boeing’s announcements never came, although media reports Jet and SpiceJet have signed for Boeing 737MAX airplanes, in the double digit range.
This is in sharp contrast to Airbus A320NEO orders placed by IndiGo and GoAir. Further widening the Airbus-Boeing gap are reports of the likelihood of IndiGo placing an order for 200-250 “more" aircraft.
Recording the largest aviation growth, Asia is where all airplane manufacturers have trained their guns. But Asia is a cost conscious market, where the likes of low cost airlines sprout often and thrive. That makes, statistically, a great market for Airbus, and a bleak outlook for Boeing, for now atleast. Few orders for Boeing 737 airplanes are overshadowed by Airbus’ wins.
Highlights: The death of the 70 seat regional jet market, shifting market trends, and what airlines seem to trend on: affordable capacity.
50 seat regional jets heralded a new way to travel. Comfort and speed were real reasons, and offering a jet to regional customers, as opposed to a turboprop aircraft, suddenly seemed very attractive. The Embraer ERJ 145, introduced in 1996, and the Bombardier CRJ 100/200, introduced in 1992, both extremely popular 50 seat airplanes, sold 708 airplanes and 935 airplanes, respectively.
Regional aviation only continued to grow, fuelled by more efficient jets that promised good operating economics. According to Bombardier’s study in 1998, there was a growing requirement for larger aircraft in the fleets of the world’s regional airlines. To keep up with the growth in mainline fleets, Bombardier felt that regional fleet must grow in both size and capacity. The company felt that if the regional fleet did not grown beyond 50 seats, the number of 50-seaters required to satisfy demand would quadruple.
Because of this growth, regional airplanes grew in capacity, to match demand. The CRJ 700, a 70 seat regional jet from Bombardier, was introduced in 2001, and the competing Embraer 170 was introduced to airline service in 2004. As airplanes grew in size, the operational costs per seat started to fall, further opening up regional aviation to larger airplanes while gradually declining the smaller regional jet market. The market shifted, and continues to shift towards larger sized regional jets.
The CRJ 100/200 is no longer in production. In 2008, the Embraer 145 had 733 firm orders, which slumped to 708 in 2009, and has remained at that figure, over 4 years till date. By 2011, all orders had been realised through deliveries. The 50 seat jet market effectively and statistically died many, many years ago.
The CRJ 700, when introduced, did exceedingly well. Between 2000 and 2010, the order book grew by 160%, to 344 firm orders. The Embraer 170, which had a late start, touched 194 firm orders in 2009. While these were fairly good figures, the market shift hadn’t stopped.
The Embraer 190, and the CRJ 900 have seen the greatest sales growth. The E-190, when introduced in 2005 with JetBlue, had 185 firm orders. This has seen a fairly steady, and unparalleled growth to 560 in 2013: a growth of 200%. The CRJ1000 was Bombardier’s answer to the E-190, but that entered service very late, almost 5 years later, in December 2010, but firm orders stand at only 70, as of July 2013. The CRJ1000 is not much of a competitor to the E-190; The longest range version of the jet, 1,622NM, falls short of the shortest range version of the E-190: E-190STD at 1800NM. The E-190AR has a range of 2400NM.
While there was such encouraging growth in sales of 100 seat airplanes, The CRJ700 stopped building orders after 2010. In fact, after 2010, 4 firm orders were lost, with the number lazily bouncing back to 347 in 2013. After 2009, The Embraer 170’s firm orders only reduced, and hasn’t recovered since. It’s not the manufacturer. It’s the market, and the 70 seat regional jet isn’t favoured anymore. As of Sep 2013, there is a backlog of only 6 E-170, of which 2 are for Japan Airlines and 4 for ETA Star Aviation, India.
The 78-88 (80) seat E-175 is the next-best received aircraft. Orders for the type are nowhere close to that of its longer, 100 seat E-190, and had stagnated for more than 1 year in the period after 2011, at the level of the dead-market E-170. A sudden surge in orders, of 65% to 315 in 2013, is thanks to Skywest, which placed a large enough order for the type. The 90 seat CRJ900, has 306 firm orders in 2013, and witnessed a 380% surge in orders between 2005 and 2007.
A 2000NM range airplane with the ability to carry 100 passengers has been the hottest selling cake. Add another 16 to 24 seats and the offering, the E-195, isn’t quite as attractive. Bombardier’s response to the E-195 is the 125 CS100, and the unique, hitherto unmatched offering is the 135-160 seat CS300.
Proof that the market is shifting away from 70 seat jets is the fact that Embraer, that has moved forward with its plans to re-engine, significantly re-engineer and update the E-Jets to a “Second generation" of E2 jets, has the E-195-E2, the E-190-E2, and the E-175-E2, but no plans at all for the E-170-E2.
The market needs higher capacity airplanes for greater flexibility, provided that it doesn’t come at the cost of economics and performance. With economically better performing or promising airplanes hitting the market, “affordable capacity" is the market demand.
And since the E-175-E2 is planned for a 2020 Entry into service (EIS): the last amongst all re-engined E-Jets, it’s a sign of the 80 seat regional jetliner’s grave being prepared, next.
*This section is part of a much bigger, comprehensive article on the C-Series by The Flying Engineer.
In this piece, we look into the significance of the E-Jets, particularly the 100 seat E-190, and the need for the Brazilian manufacturer’s launch of the upgraded, “Second generation” E-Jets.
The Embraer E-Jets: Making Regional Sense.
Bombardier stepped into the 70 seat jet space with the introduction of its CRJ700 into commercial operations in 2001, with Brit Air. 3 years later, Embraer introduced its 70 seat jet to commercial operations, with LOT Polish airlines. Till date, 192 Embraer E-170s have been sold, while the 70 seat CRJ700 has sold 347 airplanes.
One Embraer regional jet, that has been very well received, is the 100 seat Embraer 190, which, till date, has raked up 560 orders. No other Bombardier 70+ seat aircraft, including the C-Series has managed to touch those numbers, yet.
The Embraer 190 makes absolute sense. The typical single class cabin of the airplane accommodates 100 passengers comfortably. JetBlue, the largest operator of the E-190 with 59 aircraft, complements its Airbus A320 fleet of 129 aircraft. Jet Blue’s A320s are fitted with 150 seats.
Way back in 2003, when JetBlue had an all-Airbus A320 fleet and the cabins had 156 seats, the break-even load factor (BELF), as published by the airline, was around 72%, corresponding to 112 seats. To open up more routes which would have a demand less than this BELF, the 100 seat Embraer 190 was introduced in 2005. In the light of its reduced A320 seating, and spiralling fuel prices, the airline’s A320’s BELF has only gone up, further stressing the need for the Embraer 190.
Embraer acknowledges that a big advantage for E-Jet operators today is their ability to use the aircraft to “right-size” in lower-density markets.
But also acknowledged in 2010 was the realisation that if Airbus or Boeing re-engine their narrowbodies, and achieve better costs per trip, the advantage enjoyed by the E-Jets would disappear.
The upgrade saga
This left only two options for Embraer: Introduce a clean-sheet airplane that competes with Airbus and Boeing’s popular narrowbody families-A320 and 737-an idea that has played with Embraer since 2009; or do something to the existing offering to retain the regional jet family’s attractiveness to operators.
Late 2011, Embraer formally confirmed its decision to abandon the development of a competing airplane (which otherwise would have put 4 players in the coveted segment, including Bombardier with its C-Series), and instead focus on enhancing the value of the Embraer 170 and 190 families through a possible stretch and a definite re-engine, at an estimated program cost of US$1.7 billion. This was the outcome of Boeing announcing the delivery of the 737Max in 2017: a period too short for Embraer to both hold its grip on the market with its existing offering while developing a competing airliner. This also reflects the industry’s lower appetite for risk.
Embraer started working with E-Jet customers to define the performance goals and technical characteristics of the new aircraft family. One of the considerations was a composite airframe. Early 2012, Air Lease Corp advised Embraer to stretch the Embraer E-190 by 1 row (4 seats) and the E-195 by 2-3 rows (8-12 seats). The aim was to add capacity to compete with the CS100, while allowing for pricing flexibility in the light of much lower development costs associated with an airplane upgrade rather than a clean sheet design. Adding to this advantage is the huge customer base of Embarer’s E-Jets. A customer would prefer an upgrade “within the aircraft family" for near-seamless operational integration, rather than an all-new aircraft.
Embraer claims to be not just re-engining, but investing heavily to achieve the efficiency of a clean-sheet design. In January 2013, Embraer selected the Pratt and Whitney Geared Turbofan PW1000G series to power the second generation E170 and E190/E195 aircraft, which it calls the “E-Jet E2 family". The wings will feature a higher aspect ratio, longer wingspan, and raked wing tips instead of winglets. The landing gear will be lengthened to accommodate the larger engines, and the flight deck will feature the Honeywell’s Primus Epic™ 2 advanced integrated avionics system with large landscape displays, advanced graphics capabilities, and Honeywell’s Next Generation Flight Management System (NGFMS). The new airplanes will be 100% fly-by-wire, unlike the in-production E-Jets.
Unlike the C-Series, the wings for the E-Jet E2 are all metal, as, according to Embraer, composites aren’t cost-effective for such-sized airplanes. Embarer’s late announcement of the selection of the geared turbofan actually stands in its favour: the airframer benefits from Pratt and Whitney’s work on the smaller PW1200G for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), and the larger, mature PW1500G for the C-Series, both of which engine families are almost identical to those being offered for the E-Jets.: The PW1700G for the E175-E2 and the larger PW1900G for the E190/195-E2.
The reason to select the Geared Turbofan is not just the gear in the fan, which optimises fan speeds for greater efficiencies. The significant thermal margins available can allow for future engine thrust upgrades, allowing for further aircraft upgrades with the same engine family.
Plane Facts & 4-cast
The E-175 E2 can seat 88 passengers in a single class, in a comfortable 31" seat pitch. The in-production E-175 can seat only 78 passengers, comfortably, and 88 with an undesirable 29" seat pitch.
The E-190-E2, which is poised to continue the legacy of the well-performing in production E-190, comfortably seats an additional 6 passengers in a uniform 31" seat pitch. The existing E-190 can seat 114 passengers, but with a compromised seating comfort. The fuel efficiencies of the E-190-E2 lend it more range than the E-190.
The E-195-E2 seats 132 passengers in a uniform 31" seat pitch. The In-production E-195 can seat no more than 124 passengers in high capacity, and 116 in single class (with 31% of the seats featuring a 32" pitch, and 69% featuring a 31" pitch). Sometime in 2009, Embraer had studied an aircraft of such capacity, dubbed the E-195X, which would have used the same engines as the E-195. The concept was eventually dropped in 2010 the light of degraded aircraft performance in the absence of a re-engine.
Owing to its poor sales and the drop in demand for 70 seat jets, the E-170 won’t be re-engined.
Embraer’s best bet is on the 106 seat E-190-E2, and hence is focusing all its energy in targeting an entry-into-service (EIS) of mid-2018. The E-195-E2 will follow in 2019, and the E175-E2 in 2020.
Embraer foresees a demand for 6,400 commercial jets with capacity of up to 130 seats, over the next 20 years. With more than 1,200 E-Jets orders, Embraer has achieved a 42% market share in its segment. While Embraer will aggressively compete with Bombardier’s CS100, its present and future E-Jet offering has, and will eclipse Bombardier’s present line up of the CRJ family: CRJ700, CRJ900 and the CRJ1000, all three now marketed with the NextGen suffixes. Embraer is poised to grab a large share of that forecasted market.
*This section builds on research for a comprehensive article on the C-Series by The Flying Engineer.
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.
Jet Airways (I) Pvt Ltd has reportedly leased two Kingfisher ATR 72-500s, bearing DGCA registrations VT-KAK (MSN 758) and VT-KAO (MSN 772), both manufactured in the year 2007. These two aircraft are leased from INV Jet Leasing Ltd.
Jet Airways has managed to lease these planes at a very attractive rate, thanks to the inability of the lessors repossess and fly out Kingfisher aircraft.
The aircraft are being painted in the Jet Airways’ livery; re-registration of the aircraft is uncertain. (Update: Aircraft re-registered as VT-JDD and VT-JDC, respectively)
Of the 15 Kingfisher ATR 72-500s registered with the DGCA, only three seem to be leased from traceable and established lessors.
A Jet Blast Shield, installed at Queenstown Airport, NZ. Image taken from Blastwall.
A common practice at India is the misunderstanding of technical specifications. This leads to field failures. Further effort is spent into a turtle-paced probe of the failure, and till the probe is completed, inconveniences are caused; the inconveniences leading to losses, and the losses finally blamed upon the manufacturer whose specifications were misunderstood.
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai (ICAO: VABB, IATA: BOM) has two physical runways, one running east-west (09-27), and the other one running north-west-south-east (32-14). The east end of 09-27 is very close to a road, and the Jhari Mari slum. The proximity to the road and slum poses a safety issue, when airplanes open power for takeoff.
The jet blast, from aircraft jet engines, have been demonstrated to cause significant damage to proximate objects, such as cars, and houses. (view the video towards the end of this article) The problem is amplified in larger, and heavier airplanes, that require a significantly greater amount of takeoff thrust.
For example, on an Airbus A320 (180 passengers, maximum takeoff weight up to 78 tonnes), with the CFM 56 Engines, exhaust velocities of upto 144km/h may be recorded at 500ft behind the aircraft. On an Airbus A330 (typically 335 passengers, maximum takeoff weight up to 235 tonnes), with the GE CF6-80E1 engines, exhaust velocities of upto 169km/h may be recorded at 500ft behind the aircraft. On an Airbus A380 (typically 525 passengers, maximum takeoff weight up to 560 tonnes), with the GP 7200 Engines, exhaust velocities of upto 169km/h may be recorded upto 720ft behind the aircraft. The A380, unlike the previous examples, has four engines, pushing a larger mass of air, and causing more potential damage.
Engine Exhaust Velocities at takeoff, Airbus A380 with Trent 900 Engines
According to the Beaufort Scale of wind speeds, wind speeds in excess of 119 km/h cause “Severe structural damage to buildings".
At Mumbai airport, when aircraft line up on runway 27 (easterly end) for a departure (takeoff), the closest approximate distance between the aircraft and a sufficiently busy road named “Magan Nathuram" is 500ft. With all sorts of vehicles: cars and tall, loaded trucks plying on the road, the risk of a jet blast’s direct and indirect damage to vehicles, and the adjacent slums, is very high, every time an aircraft takes off.
The Jet Blast shield located near the threshold of Runway 27. The visible gap in the centre is the portion that was jet-blasted away in 2012.
This necessitates a Jet Blast shield: a well designed barrier between the aircraft and the road. In 2011, a new Jet blast barrier from Blastwall, a Canadian firm, was installed. A year later, in the July of 2012, the shield gave way when a cargo plane tookoff. Along with the shield, the ILS Localizer array, located right behind the shield and responsible for Runway 09 operations, was damaged.
The Times of India brought out an article on this damaged shield, which may be read HERE.
Since the July of 2012, the jet blast shield has been left damaged. Satellite images show the central section of the Jet Blast shield missing. The risk of a jet blast affecting civilians outside the airport perimeter has forced Mumbai airport to shut a part of taxiway “N1", with the NOTAM A0900/12 stating: “PORTION OF TWY ‘N1’ EAST OF TWY ‘N3’ NOT AVBL FOR OPS". While the ILS has been repaired, the Jet blast shield hasn’t and as such, aircraft can line up on Runway 27 only via taxiway N3, displacing the take off point almost 1000ft ahead: a requirement to prevent Jet Blasting the locals away.
Interestingly, Blastwall has installed their shields at Toronto Pearson International Airport, and at Queenstown Airport. At Both airports, the installed jet blast shield is located greater than 530ft behind the estimated closest aircraft line up position. At Mumbai, the shield is located only about 400ft behind, subjecting it to greater stresses.
A statement from Peter Roston, President of Blastwall Ltd:
“We have provided frangible fibreglass blast walls to airports all over the world since 1998 and have never had a failure including here in Mumbai. Our specifications are clearly outlined on our web site and in fact were quoted in the purchase order we received for this wall originally. Unfortunately someone misunderstood the limitations as expressed on our site. As a result, once placed in operation, the wall was overstressed almost 100% from the specifications. Being frangible, it did as required and collapsed. In fact the wall performed exactly as designed. Both the president of our engineering company and myself flew to Mumbai to discuss the collapse , review the misunderstanding, and determine a path to correct this problem for the future. We suggested a drastically reinforced model. Eventually, after review of our specifications by the purchaser’s own engineers, this was approved and purchased. It was shipped some time ago and is at the site awaiting installation."
The very fact that a new, reinforced jet blast shield was purchased is proof that the company was not held liable for a defective product. Peter agreed with the Flying Engineer’s view, stating, “There are only really two solutions: 1- build a stronger wall to contain a higher velocity and/or 2- move the aircraft further from the wall."
The most frequently used runway for operations, 09-27, is 11,312ft long. A fully laden Boeing 747-400ER Freighter, at 412 Tonnes, requires around 11,000ft of runway to take off at sea level, at 32°C. With almost 1,000ft knocked off, the smaller available take off distance when departing from runway 27 (westerly direction), lowers the permissible takeoff weight of the 747-400ER by 10 tonnes.
NOTAM A0900/12 is still in effect, and this introduces a payload penalty for long haul operations of large aircraft.
To better appreciate what a Jetblast can do to a vehicle, watch this 50 second video, involving anAirbus A319 (Upto 75.5 Tonnes Maximum Take Off Weight, 156 Pasengers maximum seating capacity, 2 CFM 56-5 Engines producing a max thrust of around 12,000 kg force each):
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.