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The Latest Commercial Aviation News   updated 16.07.12


Cathay Order A350  -  cathay pacific have placed the opening order for 26 Airbus A350 aircarft, designed to compete with the Boeing 777X. With a range of 8400 nm, Cathay believe it will enable them to connect more major cities of the worls direct with Hong Kong.


Air France AF447 crash still a mystery  -  In the final report from the French investigators, the actions of the flying pilot on the A330 which stalled into the Atlantic are still a mystery. Turbulence initially caused a failure of the autopilot followed by nose up commands from the pilot to regain the 300 feet of lost altitude. Subsequently he maintained a high nose up pitch attitude until the aircraft stalled from 35,000 feet into the sea. Why he did this could be a mix of factors from bad seat position to inexperince to this type of situation. Air France have denied any lack of training to be a causal effect.


Airbus to open factory in the USA  -  Airbus have announced their intention to buld a final assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama in 2015. Airbus currently account for 20% of the short haul narrow body fleet in the USA and by making their presence felt in Boeing home terriory, they aim to increase that market share. They aim to get orders for more than 4600 new aircraft in the USA over the next 20 years. The plant will cost over $600 million.


Airmiss with weather balloon  -  A KLM 777 nearly collided with a weather balloon climbing through 15,000' on departure from Amsterdam in February. the pilot estimated he missed the balloon by less than 30 feet.


Rolls Royce Powerhouse  -  the new RR Trent XWB engine, designed for the A350, has been flight tested successfully on an A380 aircraft. In one test then engine kept the A380 flying with all other Trent 900 engines at idle. Some pulling power there then.


Fatigue Distress Call  -  An Air berlin A330 crew, inbound to Munich, put out a distress call to ATC, stating that they were very fatigued and needed landing priority. This was granted and the aircraft landed some 12 minutes later. This is at a time when already stretched pilots are being asked under new European legislation to work even longer hours. From a personal point of view, I know how tiring day after day of early starts or late finishes can be. More and more pilots need power naps to cope and this cannot be a good thing. Glad I;'m out of it.


New Engine Oil  -  Nyco, the French manufacturer of engine lubricants has announced a new engine oil which will reduce the chance of toxic fumes affecting passengers and crew in the evnt of a failure. Incidents of air contamination occur quite frequently and anything that will reduce their potential harm is welcome.


Greek Court Imprisons 4 men -  4 men have been jailed following their convictions for manslaughter following the Helios crash in 2005. The court found the Mangaing diretor, Operations director, Chief Pilot and the engineering manager guilty of negligence following the aircraft's loss over Athens caused by lack of cabin presuure. The aircraft took off with its pressurisation controller in the manual position and failed to pressurise during the climb which led to the crew becoming incapicitated.


Lufthansa takes delivery of 747 800.  -  Luthansa have finally taken delivery of its 747 800 which is due to fly from Seattle to Frankfurt on the 1st of May. Aeroflot are also taking delivery of VIP versions of the aircraft.


Dreamiliner costs fall 50%  -  Boeing has managed to dramatically reduce production costs per aircraft as the line swings into gear. Modifications based on information learned from early flights of the model have cost millions to incorporate. Although developent still goes on, Boeing do not anticipate any major engineering changes in the near future.


Boeing Profits up  -  Boeing deliveries in the first quarter of 2012 have lifted profits by 50% to $1.57 billion despite extra costs on production of the 787 line.


Pilot mistakes a planet for oncoming aircraft  -  An AirCanada 767 plunged into a descent when the first officer mistook the light from palnet Venus for an oncoming aircraft and took what he thought to be evasive action. Sleep inertia has been blamed after the F/O had taken 40 minutes of rest. 14 passengers and 2 crew were injured even though the seat belt signs had been on for the last 40 minutes.


787 does first bio fuel flight  -  ANA have just completed the first bio-fuel flight on the delivery of the aircraft from Washington to Tokyo. This was also the first trans Pacific bio-fuel flight which was made largely from cooking oil.


Airbus getting ready for the A350  -  Airbus are putting plans togeher for the final assembly of the first flying prototype of the A350-900 this summer. Parts of the fuselage are coming from Hamburg and will shortly be delivered to Toulouse.


Damaged Airbus returns to Quantas - The Quantas A380 which suffered the uncontained engine failure in November 2010 has now been repaired and flown back to Australia, ready to go back into service. Extensive repairs were needed to the airframe and the report into the incident is expected later thisyear.


Boeing testing 737 Max wingtips  -  Boeing are still working on various designs of wingtips for the new 737 Max. Options include current blended wingtips, raked back tips as on the US Navy 777 aircarft. Winglets persuade the air that the wing is significantly longer than it really is and reduces drag considerably.


Airline Jobs Go. -  The integration of BMI into BA will result in the loss of up to 1200 jobs on the BMI side. BA is acquiring the loss making airline from Lufthansa. About 5% of the staff will be kept on including pilots, cabin crew, engineers and customer relations staff will be safe from redundancy.


Heathrow at its busiest ever  -  The last 12 months have seen over 70 million people pass thrugh Heathrow, making it the busiest in the airports history. The government has ruled out a third runway but has said it would look at plans to build a 3rd london airport in the Thames estuary.


Boeing 787 very reliable  -  Figures on dispatch reliability of the 787 Dreamilner are showing it to be better than the 777 whe it first went into service 17 years ago. All Nippon Airways have announced a 96.3% dispatch reliability.


Boeing 737 Simulator Arriving in Coventry  -  Ask the Captain are delighted to announce that they have purchased a full flight simulator which will be arriving in Coventry Airport in May. After testing it will be available for corporate or individual hire with instruction included. Please contact us for details.


CDA Descents becoming the norm  -  Brussels are the latest airport to introduce Continuous Descent Approaches (CDA's) as part of their regular patter after trials showed significant fuel savings. The UK has been operating this system at most of its airports for several years. The technique uses the onboard descent computations to fly the aircraft in a continuous descent to reach the outer marker at the correct height and speed instead of descending to an assigned level and then flying level whic uses more power and fuel plus of course noise generation.


B737 reverse accident - A Boeing 737/200 was badly damaged after the 66 year old captain decided to use his reverse thrust to reverse out of a culdesac taxiway at a military base in South Africa last month. The 200 series have clam shell door reversers which will allow the aircraft to perform this operation but ground guidance is needed. In this case there was no guidance and it was dark. The aircraft reversed on to an embankment and slipped 4 meters down a bank. The captain attempted to taxi back up the bank without success. Significant damage was sustained to the flaps and engines.


B777 Tailstrike - A Boeing 777 suffered a tailstrike after a low level go-around at Tokyo Haneda Airport. The aircraft operated by JAL initially touched down heavily and then presumably bounced back into the air from which the captain elected to go-around. The tail strike probably occurred during this manoeuvre. No injuries were reported.


Russians and Chinese on the moon?  - Both Rusiia and China have said theat they intend manned missions to the moon over the next 15 to 20 years. Both would need to build much bigger rockets than they curently have. In a replay of the 1960's competition between the USA and Russia, the same arguments are being put forward in that a robot could do the same job cheaper and more safely. A robot could also stay there for as long as it had power whereas man has to return.


Now JAL have the 787 - Japanes Airlines took delivery of their first 2 787- 8's Dreamliners on the 25th of March. The company who came out of bankruptcy just a year ago has 45 of the type on order.


Fear of Flying Courses  -  Ask the Captain has offered their fear of flying courses at a special rate of £49 for a half day and £99 for a full day through the GROUPON web site. Course are being scheduled between now and September and anyne interested in taking up this price deal should contact us direct as the GROUPON offer is now finished. Locations are in the midlands although if a group of 8 or more came together, we can offer this course at other locations.


Ryan Air Seat Charges scrutinised - The Irish Aviation Authority is to examine the effect of charging for emergency exit row seats which have more leg room. The seats should be occupied for take off and landing by able bodied people so that the exits can be operated quickly. Charging often leads to these seats being unoccupied. The carriers has said it compies with all regulations. easyJet are looking to introduce similar charging but they claim they will not have the same issue.


Air France introduces new safety procedures - Following th eloss of AF447, the A330 which crashed into the Atlantic, Air France is to set up new procedures to give quicker feedback of events to crews in case they experience the same conditions. The final report into the crash is due in May and is expected to list the cause of a failed stall recovery manoeuvre and possible the effect of icing on the aircrafts's instruments.


Pilotless Freighters within 15 years? - Delegates at the ATC global conference in Amsterdam were told by a director of the US aviation policy board, that they expected either pilotless or single pilot operated feight aiurcarft within 15 years. Steve Pennington predicted that these will be introduced by FEDEX and UPS within that time frame.


A380 Oil Leaks - oil leaks on 2 Quantas A380's have been blamed on feed pipes on the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines. The Australian Transport Safety Beaureau have outlined measures that RR are taking to rectify the problem after 2 of Quantas's aircraft sustained oil loss resulting in 1 diversion to Dubai.


Air India 787 Dreamliners - Air India hope the first of their GE powered 787's will be delivered in May, nearly 4 years late. The company have ordered 27 of the type and by next year hope to have been delivered seven of them.


China opposition to Emissions trading Scheme - Orders for Airbus aircarft from China may be put in jeopardy in a tit for tat battle agains the European scheme. China does not want the emissions programme in the long haul market. 35 A330 and 10 A380 orders may be affected.


BA tests hangar for the A380 - BA have taxied an A380 into a modified hangar at Heathrow using 138 tons of extra maerial. A slot had to be built into the roof to take the 79' tall tall tail of the aircraft. BA have ordered 12 A380's.


Boeing 777X  -  Boeing is planning their largest wingspan ever for the 777X planned to be launched at the end of 2012. At 71 meters it is 2.5 meters wider than the 747-800 aircarft. The wing will be made from new Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP). Rolls Royce are hoping to be able an engine varient for the new model, previoulsy exclusively supplied by General Electric. Their offering is the RB3025 which it is claimed will be 10% more fuel efficient than the encumbent GE power plant.


FAA Demand more Experience for Co-Pilots -  In the USA, the Federal Administration Authority are planning to introduce higher minimum flight times for co-pilots on commercial aircraft. The current 250 hours (similar to the UK) is to be raised to 1500 hours. It's not clear where these junior pilots will their experience from before handling a big jet.


Boeing 747-800 near to hand over - Lufthansa will receive the first of 20 747-800's in the near future according to Boeing. Final testing of the model is nearly complete. This is the first new model of the 747 in 23 years and demonstrates what an amazing workhorse it has been with approaching 1500 being delivered since 1968


Lanzarote Over-run blamed on Captain - An assertive Captain that made all decisions in the flight deck, largely led to an Air Europa B737 landing long on runway 21 at Lanzarote. The first officer was flying the aircraft and had planned to appraoch runway 03. The captain without discussion changed the runway to 21 which left the aircraft high on the approach. The first officer did not handle the extra pressure well and as a result landed long on a wet runway. The captain did not intervene at any stage which he should have done once he realised there approach was not under control.


Heavyweight A380 Planned - Airbus have announced they are planning a 6 ton increase in the maximum weights for the A380 which would allow it to operate Dubai to Los Angeles / San Francisco with a good payload. The version is due to be avaiable in 2013.


Pilot Skill Levels Reducing - IATA, the International Air Transport Association has warned that due to increasing use of automation in aircraft, pilots are increasingly unwilling to fly the aircraf manually which is an esential skill in times of unusual emergency. This has been a long running discussion amongst many pilots and I personally have encouraged co-pilots to fly the aircraft manually as much as possible. Ironically the 'normal' go around is one of the areas badly handled by pilots as most modern aircraft change from an automated (autopilot controlled) appraoch to a manual go-around. Things happen very quickly and unexpectedly, which often confuses low experience pilots. Changing of training regimes is a recommended fix but will take a long time to implement.


Quantas Delays 787 Entry - Quantas have used delays in delivery of the 787 to postpone its order for 15 of the type in order to cut capital expenditure this year. Quanras grounded its entire fleet last year in an attempt to bring a union dispute to a head. 3 aircraft were due to be delivered this year and it's not yet clear when the orders will be reviewed.


1000th 777 - Boeing have produced their 1000th 777 after 19 years of production. The aircraft destined for Emirates will be handed over in March and will be the airlines 102nd of the type. The new -900 variant will be available in 2014 and could see the plane become the first long range aircraft to reach the 2000 production mark.


A380 Crack Fix - Airbus have said they understand the manufacturing issues that have led to cracks appearing in the wing root area and have engineered a permanent fix. Mistakes in production caused the original issues but these have now all been resolved.


Singapore Airlines Wave Goodbye to the passenger 747. - Singapore have taken their last passenger 747 out of service. The aircraft has been their long range mainstay for nearly 40 years. They still operate the 747 as a freighter but modern day finances have dictated a chnage over to more fuel efficient aircraft.


Boeing examining Ultra Long Range 777 - Boeing are planning a launch of a long range 777, the 777-8LX which will have a range sufficient for London Sydney in one hop. The market may now be ripe for this type of aircraft if traffic demand is now there which is wasn't masny years ago when Boeing offered the long range 747 SP. If it gets the go ahead, it could be in service by 2020. Many things learnt from the 787 will be incorporated in the design particular in the area of composite materials. The wing is basically made of plastic.


Biofuels Dilema - Tests have shown that the biofuels now available perform as well as traditional kerosene based Jet A1 but the problem is price against quantitiy. Not enough airlines are wanting the fuel to underwrite the investment needed to produce it in volume and hence the price is still high. The only way forward is with government support, many people are thinking.


Boeing on the Comeback Trail? - Problems with the A380 wing cracks have set Airbus on the back foot but it is still more popular in orders than the 747-800. However Boeing feel the tide has turned in their favour with the deliveries of the 787 Dreamiler now underway, albeit 2 years late. JAL have ordered a further 10 -9 variants of the 787 as well as converted 9 orders for the -8 into orders for the -9 which is a larger version. At the recent Singapore show, Lion Air confirmed an order for 201 737 Max, the re-engined 900 aircraft. This followed orders for 100 from Norwegian Airlines and 150 from Southwest in the USA, the original 'budget' carrier. So Boeing appear to be on the up although Airbus have a massive backlog of orders for their re-engined A320 totalling over 1300 aircraft so far. It will take them up to 4 years just to produce these under current production facilities.


All A380's to be inspected for cracks - The Euroean Aviation Safety Agency has ordered that all A380's must now be inspected for cracks in structural components. Initially only an earlier batch was ordered to be inspected but now cracks have been found on later models. Quantas grounded one of its A380's on the 5th of February having found 36 cracks in its wings.


More problems for the Dreamliner - Boeing have revealed that inproper manufaturig techniques has led to some delamination of the carbon fibre at the rear of the fuselage on 10 of its 787's. Inspections and repairs will be necessary, further delaying the delivery programme.


Singapore 777 comes off the Runway in Munich - A Boeing 777 veered to the left while on short finals as a result in a deviation on the localiser signal. The aircraft touched down and continued to the left hand side of the runway, exiting onto the grass. It then regained the runway only to exit to the right before coming to a halt on the grass again. A possible reason was the departure of another aircraft which may have interfered with the localsiser signal which is generated at the far end of the runway.


Airbus in dispute over Sharklets  -  Airbus have launched a suit agains a company called API who own the patent rights for certain types of winglet design. This would allow Airbus to produce aircraft with the modern designs without paying royalties to API.


More A380 cracks - Inspections have now shown more A380's as having the wing-rib feet cracks as reported below. The European Aviation Safety Agency has required inspections on all aircraft with more than 1300 cycles (take off and landing). Singapore had inspected 6 aircarft so far and found cracks in all of them. Repairs are being done until a permanent solution is found. The cracks are thought to have been started during different parts of the manufacture and assembly process.


Boeing Delivery Ambitions - Boeing have announced they expect to deliver between 35 and 42 787's (Dreamliners) in 2012 in addition to a similar number of B747-800's. The 747-800 carries only a few less passengers than the Airbus A380 super jumbo, when in a multi class configuration. The A380 can take 850 passengers in a single class layout.


Norwegian Airlines Record Order - Norwegian have just placed an order for 222 aircraft split between Boeing and Airbus. It covers 100 B737 Max (new engines) and 22 737/800's plus options on more. In addition they have signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to purchase 100 A320NE (new engine) models. Tis is the largest European aircraft order in history.


Boeing 787 Serviceability  -  All Nippon Airways has taken delivery of its fith 787. So far the auircraft has achieved 96.3% on time departures which is nearly as good as the ANA fleet average of 96.5%.


Hong Kong Disaster Averted - In November a Finnair A340 lined up and commence a take off from a taxiway. The flight crew had been distracted by items i the flight deck and had not noticed that the captain had lined up on the taxiway. The tower controllers spotted the error and instructed the aircraft to abandon it's take off.


Aircraft Orders 2011 - Signs that the industry are slowly picking up come from the orer book for 2011. Clear winner was the Airbus A320 with 1,327 new orders giving a total order book of 2,725 aircraft. Next was the Boeing 737 with 625 new orders giving a backog of 2,365. In the long haul market the Boeing 777 found 202 new orders but the crown goes to the 787 albeit with only 45 new orders, but with a backlog of 857 aircraft. The Airbus A380 has 186 aircraft on order which is double the Boeing 747/800 with 97 total orders.


A380 Wing Cracks  - have been put down to unexpected stressing during manufacturing at the Broughton plant in the UK. After manufacture, the wings are shipped to Toulouse for assembly.


Air India Pricing Gaff - Air India has published on its website all the details of its Boeing 787 (Dreamliner) deal with Boeing. Included are prices paid and compensation offered by Boeing for the delivery delays (over 2 years late). This will make it even more difficult for Boeing to make profit on the 787 as all other carriers will know the ground rules for their own compensation package. It won't be until 2015 that Boeing ca expect to come into the black with the 787.


Lufthansa Completes Bio Fuels Tests - Lufthansa has completed over 6 months of testing bio-fuels on Airbus A321's and lastly on a Boeing 747. The tests showed a 1% saving using the 50/50 mix with standard kerosene fuel but the downside is that the bio-fuel currently costs 2.5 times that of kerosene. The future of bio-fuels now depends on the availability of certified bio-fuel at a competitive price.


NASA Funding Cut - NASA has had funding for it's blended wing aircraft study cut. The aircraft which looks like a Vulcan Bomber was due to have a 737 size flying model made but this is now on hold. The aircraft is intended to use advanced laminiar flow aerodynamics over the wing and high bypass raion engines. The initial sudies have indicated a 43% reduction in fuel burn on similar sized aircraft.


Boeing 787 delivery delay  -  Boeing deliveries of the new Dreamliner, the B787 have slipped. Already 2 years behind the original target, delivery of the third aircraft for All Nippon Airways (ANA) was due in November but departed from Seattle on the 4th of January. The ANA aircraft have Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines. Certification of the US built General Electric engine is still pending and will cause delays to delivery of aircraft to Air India. Boeing are hoping to deliver 45 787's in 2012 which is down from their target of 61. They anticipate delivering 10 aircraft per month by the end of 2013.


Boeing 747-800 - Boeing have already delivered several cargo versions of this new larger variant to BA, Cathay Pacific and Cargolux. The first passenger variant which will carry only about 30 less passengers than the Airbus A380 is due to be delivered to Lufthansa in March. Lufthansa already operate the A380


Hong Kong Airport - is set to have an extra third runway to increase capacity. Airspace availability will now be the limiting factor.


A330 Jet Upset  - An inident involving  Quantas A330 aircraft which suffered severe nose down commands from the autopilot, 3 years ago, has been blamed on a hardware malfunction. The aircraft which was cruising at 37,000 feet suffered a severe nose down command which injured 119 occupants out of the 315 passengers on board.