Author Archives: Harry Johnson

Russia successfully tests first post-Soviet Russian-made large passenger jet Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Russia successfully tests first post-Soviet Russian-made large passenger jet 1

Aircraft tests were done in freezing conditionAircraft made 14 flights over the coast of the White Sea, part of the Barents Sea and the Subpolar Urals areaIrkut has been successfully flying the MC-21 for more than three years

Russian civil aviation authorities have conducted a test Russia’s first post-Soviet large domestic passenger aircraft, the MC-21-300.
The tests were done in freezing conditions to observe how the aircraft performs when covered with ice. The aircraft successfully completed certification tests under natural icing conditions in northern Russia and can safely fly in harsh conditions, its manufacturer Irkut Corporation, part of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), revealed earlier this week. 

The aircraft made some 14 flights lasting from three to five hours over the coast of the White Sea, part of the Barents Sea and the Subpolar Urals area. The routes were specifically picked because of the high humidity and low temperatures found there, which lead to ice formation on aircraft surfaces.
The certification flights were conducted in several steps. First, the crew looked for clouds that would create the required conditions. Special equipment installed on the plane, including 12 cameras, then allowed them to control how much of the aircraft’s surface was covered with ice and record how it was functioning. After the ice layer was thick enough, the airliner gained altitude to check its performance under those conditions. 
Ice thickness was increased with each test flight, finally reaching eight centimeters – more than enough to say that the plane successfully passed the test. According to Russian and European standards, an aircraft shouldn’t lose its designed characteristics while covered a layer of ice 7.6 cm (3 inches) thick.

After completing the certification flights, the MC-21-300 returned from Arkhangelsk to the Zhukovsky airport near Moscow.
Irkut has been successfully flying the MC-21 for more than three years, but inability to acquire US-made parts for the aircraft forced the corporation to think of ways to try to develop the aircraft using more domestic components. A variant of the MC-21, known as MC-21-310 aircraft, equipped with two Russian PD-14 engines made its maiden flight at the end of last year.

Time to clean up the airline: Wizz Air anti-worker practices exposed Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Time to clean up the airline: Wizz Air anti-worker practices exposed 3

Senior Wizz Air manager told base captains that 250 pilots need to be dismissed shortlyWizz Air management used highly problematic practices to get rid of troublemakers during COVID-19 crisisWizz Air acted after receiving several complaints, and have made major changes to the management team

A transcript of a secret Wizz Air management meeting from 4 April 2020 which was leaked to staff has been passed to the ETF, revealing that management saw the COVID-19 crisis as the opportunity to “clean up the airline” by using discriminatory and anti-worker criteria in deciding which pilots to dismiss.
In the meeting, a senior Wizz Air manager tells base captains that 250 pilots need to be dismissed shortly and that after stopping the training of 150 pilots, they need to come up with a list of another 100.

He gives them two criteria to base their decision on, starting with “bad apples, so anyone that has caused you grief on a routine basis, whether it’s excessive sickness, not doing their ground school, poor performance in their PPCs.” The other group put forward by the manager is “weak captains.” With this category, he first stays more general and says, “That person, you know. We, we know we have them, and now is the time to clean up the airline. Anyone that is not Wizz culture, alright. Anyone that kinda, is always kinda you know what, that person is a pain.”
His speech continues along these lines and gets progressively more direct in explaining the motivations behind these criteria. At one point, he says: “We’re in an opportunity here, to make the next 10 years of your life managing, easy. So we will come out of it, as a much stronger workforce, one that has the Wizz culture and that’s easy to manage in the next future, for the future going ahead.”
The manager also refers to pilots that work for Wizz Air and are employed through an external agency, CONFAIR. He suggests not looking at them for now and only suggest dismissing them as a last resort, as they are” easy to manage because we can let them go at any time,” as well as “incredibly cheap, for the company.”

The leaked document uncovers the highly problematic practices Wizz Air management has used to get rid of what they perceive as troublemakers during the COVID-19 crisis. This toxic environment is not a secret – the ETF has exposed it many times before, with workers claiming that they’ve been dismissed because of their trade union membership or even just trying to protect their fundamental rights at work.

China’s tourism to rake in $195 billion in first half of 2021 Aviation Feature, Aviation News

China’s tourism to rake in $195 billion in first half of 2021 4

More than 1.7 billion domestic trips in China are expected to be made in H1 2021In first quarter of 2021, Chinese people made 697 million domestic tripsDuring Labor Day holiday domestic tourist trips will recover to or even surpass the pre-COVID-19 level

China Tourism Academy (CTA) forecasts that country’s tourism revenue will increase 102 percent year on year and reach 1.28 trillion yuan (about $195 billion US) in the first half of 2021.
More than 1.7 billion domestic trips in China are expected to be made in H1 2021, up 85 percent year on year, the academy announced at an online press conference today.

During the upcoming Labor Day holiday from May 1 to 5, domestic tourist trips will recover to or even surpass the pre-COVID-19 level, said Dai Bin, director of the CTA.
Meanwhile, according to a survey by the academy, over 83 percent of the respondents said they are willing to travel in the second quarter of 2021, up 1.02 percentage points and 4.93 percentage points compared with Q1 of 2021 and Q2 of 2020, respectively.
In first quarter of 2021, Chinese people made 697 million domestic trips and the country’s tourism revenue reached 560 billion yuan, increasing by 136 percent and 150 percent year on year, respectively, said the CTA.

“China’s tourism consumption is enjoying a speedy recovery. It will see a consumption boom in the third quarter of this year, especially during the weeklong National Day holiday,” said Dai.

Airlines ground 737 MAX jets after Boeing warns of new potential issue Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Airlines ground 737 MAX jets after Boeing warns of new potential issue 5

Boeing recommends to 16 customers to address a potential electrical issue with 737 MAX aircraftBoeing is working closely with FAA on resolving the problemAccording to Boeing, the new issue was unrelated to the flight-control system

Boeing issued the following statement today regarding a ‘potential issue’ with some 737 MAX jets:
“Boeing has recommended to 16 customers that they address a potential electrical issue in a specific group of 737 MAX airplanes prior to further operations. The recommendation is being made to allow for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system.

We are working closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on this production issue. We are also informing our customers of specific tail numbers affected and we will provide direction on appropriate corrective actions. “
Boeing said the electrical problem was discovered on an aircraft on the production line. The plane-maker said it is working closely with the FAA on resolving the matter.
According to Boeing, the new issue, in which a component in the electrical power system might not be correctly grounded, was unrelated to the flight-control system.

Following the Boeing’s release about 737 MAX’s new ‘issue’, United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines pulled dozens of their 737 MAX jets out of service for ‘inspections’ of aircraft’s electrical systems.
Alaska Airlines said it also removed all four of its Max jets from service “to allow for inspections and for work to be done.”
737 MAX jets resumed flying in December 2020 after regulators in the US, European, Canadian and Brazilian regulators approved changes Boeing made to an automated flight-control system that played a role in the crashes.

Air Astana launches Meet & Greet service Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Air Astana launches Meet & Greet service 6

New service is intended to smooth the passenger journey through the airportDeparture and arrival escorts will meet passengers at designated entrance and exit points within the terminalAssistance will be provided with baggage handling, check-in and boarding

Air Astana will introduce a Meet & Greet service for passengers on arrival and departure at Almaty and Nur-Sultan airports, as well as a transit service at Frankfurt airport, starting from 9th April 2021.
The new service is intended to smooth Air Astana passenger journey through the airport, with effortless completion of mandatory procedures currently required for international travel.

In Almaty and Nur-Sultan, departure and arrival escorts will meet passengers at designated entrance and exit points within the terminal, with assistance provided for baggage handling, check-in and boarding. In Frankfurt, passengers using the transit service will be met by the escort at the aircraft door or entrance to the terminal, with expedited transfer procedures to the connecting flight for both passengers and their baggage.
Air Astana, the flag carrier of Kazakhstan, commenced its operations in May 2002 as a joint venture between Kazakhstan’s national wealth fund, Samruk Kazyna, and BAE Systems, with respective shares of 51% and 49%.
Air Astana is a full-service international and domestic carrier and its low-cost division, FlyArystan is rapidly growing in the domestic market. The airline operates a fleet of 34 aircraft including Boeing 767, Airbus A320/A320neo, Airbus A321/A321neo/ A321LR and Embraer E190-E2.

Airbus and TNO to develop aircraft laser communication terminal Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Airbus and TNO to develop aircraft laser communication terminal 7

Laser communication technologies are the next revolution in satellite communications The project covers the design, construction and testing of the technology demonstratorThe UltraAir terminal will be capable of laser connections between an aircraft and a satellite in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the Earth

Airbus and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) have launched a program to develop a laser communication terminal demonstrator for aircraft, known as UltraAir.
The project, which is co-financed by Airbus, TNO and the Netherlands Space Office (NSO), is part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ScyLight (Secure and Laser communication technology) program. It covers the design, construction and testing of the technology demonstrator. Laser communication technologies are the next revolution in satellite communications (satcom), bringing unprecedented transmission rates, data security and resilience to meet commercial needs in the next decade.

The UltraAir terminal will be capable of laser connections between an aircraft and a satellite in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the Earth, with unparalleled technology including a highly stable and precise optical mechatronic system. The technology demonstrator will pave the way for a future UltraAir product with which data transmission rates could reach several gigabits-per-second while providing anti-jamming and low probability of interception. In this way UltraAir will not only enable military aircraft and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to connect within a combat cloud, but also in the longer term allow airline passengers to establish high-speed data connections thanks to the Airbus’ SpaceDataHighway constellation. From their position in geostationary orbit, the SpaceDataHighway (EDRS) satellites relay data collected by observation satellites to Earth in near-real-time, a process that would normally take several hours.
Airbus is leading the project and brings its unique expertise in laser satellite communications, developed with the SpaceDataHighway program. It will coordinate the development of the terminal and testing on the ground and in the air. As key partner of the project, TNO provides its experience in high-precision opto-mechatronics, supported by the Dutch high-tech and space industry. Airbus Defence and Space in the Netherlands will be responsible for the industrial production of the terminals. Airbus’ subsidiary Tesat brings its technical expertise in laser communication systems and will be involved in all testing activities.
The first tests will take place at the end of 2021 in laboratory conditions at Tesat. In a second phase, ground tests will start early 2022 in Tenerife (Spain), where connectivity will be established between an UltraAir demonstrator and the laser terminal embarked on the Alphasat satellite using the ESA Optical Ground Station. For the final verification, the UltraAir demonstrator will be integrated on an aircraft for flight testing by mid-2022.

As satellite services demand is growing, the traditional satcom radio-frequency bands are experiencing bottlenecks. Laser links also have the benefit of avoiding interference and detection, as in comparison to the already-crowded radio frequencies, laser communication is extremely difficult to intercept due to a much narrower beam. Thus, laser terminals can be lighter, consume less power and offer even better security than radio.
This new program is a key milestone in the roadmap of Airbus’ overall strategy to drive laser communications further, which will bring forward the benefits of this technology as a key differentiator for providing Multi-Domain collaboration for Government and defense customers.

Alaska Airlines to open lounge at San Francisco International Airport Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Alaska Airlines to open lounge at San Francisco International Airport 8

Alaska Airlines to open a new lounge just as guests start to return to travelThe announcement comes as Alaska Airlines continues to expand its presence in the Bay AreaWhen it opens, Alaska expects the Lounge to create 30 jobs in the Bay Area

Alaska Airlines guests will have the opportunity to relax in the new Alaska Lounge at San Francisco International Airport by late summer, as the airline announces updated plans for Bay Area travelers. Under this new plan, Alaska will move into the former American Airlines Admirals Club space in Terminal 2, enabling the airline to open a new lounge just as guests start to return to travel.
“We’re always looking for ways to be more responsive to our guests and offer amenities that make travel more relaxing. SFO has been the top-requested Alaska Lounge location by our guests for years,” said Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines‘ senior vice president of marketing and guest experience. “So many people are dreaming of travel this year, so we want to open up our newest Alaska Lounge as quickly and efficiently as possible – and renovating this space in Terminal 2 allows us to do that.”

The announcement comes as Alaska Airlines continues to expand its presence in the Bay Area. Alaska now operates more than 80 daily flights out of the Bay Area (including SFO, San Jose and Oakland) and has more than 1,700 Bay Area-based employees. In June, Alaska will begin service to Anchorage and Bozeman, Montana, from SFO. Other recent service announcements include:
Recently resumed service to Honolulu and Maui from SFO as of April 4Resumed service to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta from SJC in early AprilNew service to Missoula, Mont., from SJC starting in May
When completed, this new lounge will be the second-largest of the Alaska Lounges at just under 10,000 sq. ft., behind Alaska’s flagship lounge in Seattle’s North Satellite Terminal. This space is also centrally located in Terminal 2, with easy access to additional dining and shopping options for guests. The Alaska Lounge at SFO joins seven other lounge locations in the Alaska Airlines portfolio, in Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles; New York – JFK; and Anchorage.
“We’re thrilled to welcome the opening of the Alaska Lounge at SFO,” said SFO Airport Director Ivar C. Satero. “As the recovery of air travel continues, travelers can look forward to more and more amenities at SFO. The Alaska Lounge offers a great way for people to relax, recharge, and enjoy the friendly service that they’re known for.”

When it opens, Alaska expects the Lounge to create 30 jobs in the Bay Area. More details and timing will be announced over the coming months.  

Volaris: 93% of 2020 capacity with 87% load factor in March 2021 Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Volaris: 93% of 2020 capacity with 87% load factor in March 2021 9

In the domestic Mexican market, demand continued to recoverVolaris’ recovery has been driven by its unique ultra-low-cost structureVolaris demonstrated flexibility focusing on capacity management in the face of a volatile demand environment

Volaris, the ultra-low-cost airline serving Mexico, the United States and Central America, reported March 2021 preliminary traffic results.
In the domestic Mexican market, demand continued to recover and we capitalized on opportunities to add capacity, ending the month with 4.6% more ASMs than in the prior year. International capacity decreased 35.4% in the month as a result of continuing US regulations on international flights and quarantine restrictions in Mexico preceding vaccination. As a result, March 2021 total capacity measured by ASMs (Available Seat Miles) was 92.8% compared to the same month of the prior year. Demand measured by RPMs (Revenue Passenger Miles) was 98% compared to the same month of the prior year. Volaris transported 1.5 million passengers in March 2021 and the booked load factor was 86.9%.

Volaris‘ President and Chief Executive Officer, Enrique Beltranena, commenting on the traffic results for March 2021, said: “Volaris’ industry leading recovery has been driven by its unique ultra-low-cost structure that has positioned the Company as the leading airline in Mexico in terms of passengers carried and provides strong fundamentals for future growth. Our steady recovery process has been focused on rebuilding our core network, managing capacity by market where we expand as demand allows and to continue to exploit new opportunities as they appear. Our March 2021 figures and our capacity management are a testament to the domestic market opportunity and to Volaris’ potential to expand its international network as the United States and Central American markets recover.”
During the first quarter of 2021, Volaris demonstrated flexibility focusing on capacity management in the face of a volatile demand environment. Volaris finished the quarter operating 88.3% of the ASMs flown in the first quarter of the prior year. For the second quarter of 2021, the Company expects to operate approximately 110% of the 2019 second quarter capacity.
The following table summarizes Volaris traffic results for the month of March 2021. For the first quarter of 2021 we are comparing versus 2020 figures. It should be noted that the COVID-19 pandemic did not start to impact demand in Mexico until the second half of March 2020. Effective April 2021 we will start comparing versus 2019.

March2021March2020VarianceYTDMarch 2021YTDMarch 2020VarianceRPMs (in millions, scheduled &charter)Domestic1,2111,1237.8%3,2563,660-11.0%International285403-29.3%9461,506-37.2%Total1,4961,527-2.0%4,2025,166-18.7%ASMs (in millions, scheduled &charter)Domestic1,3691,3094.6%4,0384,253-5.0%International353546-35.4%1,3421,843-27.2%Total1,7221,855-7.2%5,3806,095-11.7%Load Factor (in %, scheduled,RPMs/ASMs)Domestic88.5%85.8%2.7 pp80.6%86.1%(5.4) ppInternational80.8%73.9%6.9 pp70.5%81.7%(11.2) ppTotal86.9%82.3%4.6 pp78.1%84.7%(6.6) ppPassengers (in thousands,scheduled & charter)Domestic1,3371,2913.5%3,5974,229-15.0%International212276-23.3%6741,048-35.7%Total1,5491,568-1.2%4,2715,277-19.1%

Boeing’s revenue down by nearly 50 percent since 2018 Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Boeing’s revenue down by nearly 50 percent since 2018 10

Boeing’s revenue almost cut in half since 2018Boeing is falling behind rival aerospace giant Airbus in orders and deliveriesBoeing cut costs in 2020 in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Boeing is one of the biggest companies in the world, but the airline giant has had a very tumultuous last couple of years. Even before 2020’s Coronavirus pandemic, the company was already experiencing sharp declines in various metrics due to a major global controversy around one of its aircraft.
According to the latest industry analysts’ data, Boeing’s revenue of $58.16 billion in 2020 was a 42.5% decrease compared to 2018’s record-high revenue of over $101 billion – a CAGR of -24.16%.

Back in 2018, Boeing was flying high after crossing the $100 billion mark in revenue for the first time in company history. However late in 2018 and early in 2019 one of Boeing’s new aircraft models, the 737 MAX 8, experienced two crashes in the span of 5 months. Both crashes put the blame on Boeing’s new MCAS flight control system and resulted in the grounding of the entire global fleet of the 737 MAX and orders for the new model were either suspended or cancelled.
As a result Boeing’s revenue dropped by 24% YoY in 2019. To further compound the crisis that Boeing was already facing, the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 resulting in a huge downturn for the entire travel and tourism industry. This caused Boeing’s revenue to drop a further 24% YoY in 2020. From 2018-2020 Boeing’s revenue experienced a CAGR of -24.16%
The entire airline industry was significantly impacted by the pandemic of 2020. Many countries closed their borders to protect their citizens from the onslaught of the pandemic putting a halt to global mobility. As a result, both aircraft providers suffered significant drops in revenue in 2020 with airbus experiencing a 37% YoY drop.

However, Boeing’s problems began prior to 2020 and 2019’s safety issues are still causing Boeing to lag behind Airbus in orders and deliveries. In 2020, Airbus registered 383 gross orders compared to Boeing’s 184. After calculating for contractual adjustments and cancellations Boeing’s Net Orders falls considerably to -1194 for 2020, compared to Airbus’ 268.
In 2020 Airbus also delivered almost 400 more aircraft than Boeing, amounting to 566 and 157 respectively.
As a form of damage control, Boeing initiated a few cost-cutting initiatives in 2020. Boeing cut R&D expenditure by 23% YoY in 2020 its lowest allocation since 2005. Boeing is the larger employer of the two aircraft manufacturers with a workforce of 141,000 in 2020, after downsizing by 20,000 from 2019.

Air cargo demand up 9% in February compared to pre-COVID levels Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Air cargo demand up 9% in February compared to pre-COVID levels 11

Air cargo demand continues to outperform pre-COVID levelsVolumes have now returned to 2018 levels seen prior to the US-China trade warGlobal demand, measured in cargo ton-kilometers (CTKs*), was up 9% compared to February 2019

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released February 2021 data for global air cargo markets showing that air cargo demand continued to outperform pre-COVID levels with demand up 9% over February 2019. February demand also showed strong month-on-month growth over January 2021 levels. Volumes have now returned to 2018 levels seen prior to the US-China trade war.
Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons to follow are to February 2019 which followed a normal demand pattern.

Global demand, measured in cargo ton-kilometers (CTKs*), was up 9% compared to February 2019 and +1.5% compared to January 2021. All regions except for Latin America saw an improvement in air cargo demand compared to pre-COVID levels and North America and Africa were the strongest performers.
The recovery in global capacity, measured in available cargo ton-kilometers (ACTKs), stalled owing to new capacity cuts on the passenger side as governments tightened travel restrictions due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Capacity shrank 14.9% compared to February 2019.
The operating conditions remain supportive for air cargo:

Conditions in the manufacturing sector are robust despite the recent spike in COVID-19 outbreaks. The global manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was at 53.9 in February. Results above 50 indicate manufacturing growth versus the prior month.
The new export orders component of the manufacturing PMI – a leading indicator of air cargo demand– picked up compared to January.

Lufthansa Airbus A350-900 “Erfurt” will become climate research aircraft Aviation Feature, Aviation News

Lufthansa Airbus A350-900 “Erfurt” will become climate research aircraft 12

Converting an aircraft into a climate research plane poses major challengesIn three stages, the “Erfurt” will now become a flying research laboratoryThe “Erfurt” is expected to take off from Munich at the end of 2021 for its first flight in the service of climate research

Predicting the weather even more accurately, analyzing climate changes even more precisely, researching even better how the world is developing. This is the goal of a globally unique cooperation between Lufthansa and several research institutes.
Converting an aircraft into a climate research plane poses major challenges. Lufthansa has chosen the most modern and economical long-haul jet in its fleet – an Airbus A350-900 named “Erfurt” (registration D-AIXJ). In three stages, the “Erfurt” will now become a flying research laboratory.

In Lufthansa Technik’s hangar in Malta, the first and most extensive conversion work was carried out. Preparations were made for a complex air intake system below the belly. This was followed by a series of test insertions, at the end of which came the certification of a climate research laboratory weighing around 1.6 tons, the so-called CARIBIC measurement laboratory. The acronym CARIBIC stands for “Civil Aircraft for the Regular Investigation of the atmosphere Based on an Instrument Container”. The project is part of a comprehensive European research consortium.
The “Erfurt” is expected to take off from Munich at the end of 2021 for its first flight in the service of climate research, measuring around 100 different trace gases, aerosol and cloud parameters in the tropopause region (at an altitude of nine to twelve kilometers). Lufthansa is thus making a valuable contribution to climate research, which can use these unique data to assess the performance of current atmospheric and climate models and thus their predictive power for the Earth’s future climate. The special feature: Climate-relevant parameters can be recorded at this altitude with much greater accuracy and temporal resolution on board the aircraft than with satellite-based or ground-based systems.
“The conversion of our A350-900 ‘D-AIXJ’ into a climate research aircraft is something very special for us. We were immediately enthusiastic about the plan to continue CARIBIC on our most fuel-efficient aircraft type. In this way, we can continue to support climate and atmospheric research in its important task on long-haul routes. We are helping to ensure that particularly important climate-relevant parameters are collected just on that altitude where the atmospheric greenhouse effects is largely generated”, says Annette Mann, Head of Corporate Responsibility at the Lufthansa Group. “I am pleased that we can implement this ambitious project together with our partners in record time and thus contribute to improving today’s climate models.”