Airlines urge one-pilot flights to cut costs, despite safety concerns

Sakshi Jain

22 Nov 2022

Airlines around the world are pushing the UN body which controls International Aviation Safety, to switch to a one-pilot model, in an effort to cut costs.

Airlines and regulators are pushing to have just one pilot in the cockpit of commercial airlines instead of two, despite safety concerns

This is where aviation has been heading for many years. In the 1950s, there was normally a Captain, a First Officer or Co-Pilot, a Flight Engineer, a Navigator, and a Radio Operator in each commercial aircraft cockpit. The latter three jobs eventually become obsolete due to technological advancements.

“We are potentially removing the last piece of human redundancy from the flight deck.”

–Janet Northcote, EASA’s Head of Communications, wrote in an email

The United Nations body that establishes aviation standards has been contacted by more than 40 nations, including Germany, the UK, and New Zealand, asking for assistance in making single-pilot flights a reality.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency predicts that this might occur as early as 2027, although it raises safety concerns and puts more strain on pilots.

Pilots don't like the plan very much and also, passengers find it difficult to buy in.

An Airbus SE A330 Captain for Qantas Airways is worried that before anyone else can arrive at the cockpit to offer assistance, a lone pilot will become overwhelmed by a catastrophe

Tony Lucas, an Airbus SE A330 Captain for Qantas Airways, is worried that a solo pilot would become overwhelmed by a crisis before anybody else can get to the cockpit to offer assistance. As a check and training captain as well, Lucas is concerned about the lost potential for mentoring young pilots if flight crew members work more and more independently.

“The people going down this route aren’t the people who fly jets every day. When things go awry, they go awry fairly quickly.”

–Tony Lucas, the President of the Australian & International Pilots Association and an Airbus SE A330 Captain for Qantas Airways Ltd.

The projected alterations provide numerous difficulties.

What would occur if a solo pilot passed out or began flying erratically is not yet known. A second pilot's knowledge, safety, and immediate support would have to be replaced in some way by automation, technology, and remote aid from the ground.

If solo piloting is to become a reality, automation, technology, and remote assistance from the ground would have to in some way replace the expertise, safety, and immediate assistance of a second pilot

“The psychological barriers are probably harder than the technological barriers. The technology is there for single pilots, it’s really about where the regulators and the general public feel comfortable.”

–Alexander Feldman, Boeing Co. Southeast Asia President said at a Bloomberg business summit in Bangkok last week

The International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations, which advocates on behalf of the world's aircraft manufacturers, is pleading with the ICAO to develop a road map for operations involving just one pilot during non-critical times.

In an email, Airbus stated that it is considering how its aircraft might be operated with a reduced crew. For the time being, the aircraft manufacturer is working with airlines and authorities to determine if two pilots may safely take the place of three people on long-haul flights.

The aircraft manufacturer is currently coordinating with airlines and regulatory agencies to evaluate if two pilots may safely replace three on long-haul flights

In the long run, flights might be entirely automated with only limited pilot input in the cockpit.

According to EASA, the system might recognise if the pilot were incapable for any reason and then land the plane on its own at a chosen airport. According to them, such flights won't be feasible until long after 2030.

EASA stated that it is aware of the worries people have when solo flying and that addressing them is a process.

(With inputs from Yahoo News)

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India ceases Air Suvidha forms for international travellers

Sakshi Jain

22 Nov 2022

The mandatory completion of Air Suvidha forms for international travellers was discontinued on Monday, November 21, by the MoCA (Ministry of Civil Aviation).

All foreign travellers entering India are required to fill out the Air Suvidha, which is essentially a self-declaration in which they must state their present health status, recent travel history, and other information. The Air Suvidha portal, which was established in August 2020 and strengthened to incorporate travel directives released on November 30, 2021, was introduced.

Air Suvidha is an online system for International passengers to submit a mandatory Self Declaration form to declare their current health status

To ensure the seamless entry of foreign visitors to India, the Ministries of Civil Aviation and Health & Family Welfare implemented contactless self-declaration at the Air Suvidha Portal last year.

The Air Suvidha portal's exemption forms have been eliminated, and filling out the information has been made mandatory for all international travellers arriving in India in order to achieve the necessary protection against the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus.

The MoCA and MoHFW adopted contactless self-declaration at the Air Suvidha Portal last year to guarantee the smooth entry of foreign travellers to India

According to the ministry, the revisions were made in light of the continuous downward trajectory of Covid-19 and the significant improvements in Covid-19 vaccine coverage both internationally and in India. Beginning on November 22, the revised order will be in effect.

“In the light of sustained declining COVID-19 trajectory and significant advances being made in COVID-19 vaccination coverage both globally as well as in India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has issued revised ‘Guidelines for International Arrivals.”

–Civil Aviation Ministry announced

The following are the most recent ministry guidelines for overseas travel:

All travellers should ideally be completely vaccinated in accordance with their country's primary vaccination schedule that has been approved against Covid-19.

Any person exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms while travelling must be quarantined according to established protocol.

The aforementioned person should be wearing a mask, separated from other passengers during the flight or transit, and then transferred to an isolated centre for further treatment.

The de-boarding should be done following social distancing.

The health officials on duty at the point of entry should conduct thermal screening on each passenger.

Passengers who exhibit symptoms during screening must be brought to a recognised medical facility right away and segregated in accordance with health procedures.

After arriving, all travellers should check their own health, go to the closest medical facility, and phone either the national helpline number (1075) or the state helpline number in case of an emergency.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation announced last week that the use of masks would no longer be required on flights and would instead just be advised in keeping with the Government of India's policy of a graduated approach to the COVID-19 management response.

Also read: Masks will no longer be needed for air travel: MoCA

Following the pandemic, scheduled domestic flight operations were suspended beginning on March 25, 2020, for a period of two months. The same day saw the suspension of scheduled international flight services, which were eventually reinstated on March 27 of this year.

According to official data released on Monday, November 21, India recorded 406 additional coronavirus infections, bringing the country's total COVID-19 cases to 4,46,69,421, while the number of active cases fell to 6,402.

According to the MoHFW (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) website, the national COVID-19 recovery rate increased to 98.80%, and the active cases make up only 0.01 per cent of all infections.

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Four Air India Boeing 747s to be sold by UK-Based Skytech

Sakshi Jain

21 Nov 2022

UK-Based Skytech has been selected by Air India to market the sale of its 4 Boeing 747-400s that are put in storage before being retired.

Air India has operated 31 Boeing 747 aircraft in total since beginning to operate the type back in 1971. There are three different variations of this. These are the 747-200, 747-300, and 747-400.

In their first Boeing 747, a 200 variant, 16 first-class seats, 40 business-class seats, and 338 economy-class seats were arranged  When the plane was handed over to Air India in March 1971, it had the registration VT-EBD. Air India once operated a total of 14 B747s.

Air India has flown 31 Boeing 747s in total since it started using the type back in 1971

After more than a year of anticipation, Air India has finally started selling its four Boeing 747-400s. The aircraft, which have only been flying for the flag carrier and are still relatively young (between 26 and 30 years old), have a chance of being picked for conversion to a freighter by interested parties.

“We are honoured to have been selected by India’s flag carrier, Air India, for this important assignment and are delighted to welcome them as a remarketing client alongside similarly leading airlines such as Singapore Airlines Group, Kuwait Airways, Air Greenland and Europe’s TUI Group.”

–Julian Balaam, Skytech’s Managing Director

Also read: DGCA deregisters Air India’s 4 Boeing 747 jumbo jets

Selling these jets, which have been idle for more than 2.5 years, won't be a simple feat.

Although there was a chance they would return following a few domestic rotations in 2021, the Tata takeover caused them to go back into storage. We now know that they are once again up for grabs.

Air India's Boeing 747s were extensively destroyed and shipped to junkyards. The majority of the plane is left to disintegrate in the dry environment, with the exception of expensive elements like the engines and avionics, which are typically recovered. 

Except for pricey components like the engines and avionics, which are frequently recovered, the remainder of the B747 is permitted to decompose in the dry climate

The remaining 747s can take other routes, though. The model is still very common among cargo carriers, who might modify the aircraft to increase cargo capacity and fly them for many more years. Some airlines may conclude that converting an old passenger jet into a freighter is preferable to standing in line for scarce new aircraft given the huge demand for freighters at the moment.

With these outdated double-decker planes, Air India will be expecting to generate some cash.

There is little need to continue using the outdated model when the Indian government is no longer a customer as a result of the arrival of two new 777s that function as Air India One.

With the introduction of two new 777s that serve as Air India One, there is no need to continue utilising the outdated aircraft since the Indian government is no longer a customer

Even though those decisions were taken at the height of the pandemic's impact on the business, British Airways was unable to find purchasers for its 31 decommissioned 747-400s. 

Even after the sell-off of the Queen of the Skies B747, Air India’s fleet reduction won’t happen anytime soon.

The recently privatised flag carrier has previously signed contracts for 25 A320 family aircraft and 5 new 777-200LR aircraft to increase short-term capacity. In addition, the airline is in discussions with Airbus and Boeing for a "historic order" that is anticipated to be its largest and first significant one in more than 10 years!

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Jet Airways considering selling 11 aircraft while the resolution process remains slow

Radhika Bansal

22 Nov 2022

Frustrated lenders are effectively forcing Jet Airways into liquidation as they consider selling 11 aircraft while the resolution process remains slow, sources told The Economic Times.

A year-and-a-half after the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved Jet Airways’ resolution plan, the Jalan-Kalrock consortium has failed to pay up forcing lenders to re-evaluate their options, bankers told the paper.

The source said that nobody thought the resolution would “take so long to execute”, adding that banks cannot transfer the company, till the money is received. “The way things are, it seems the execution will not happen soon. Meanwhile, the 11 planes we have in possession are also losing value. Maybe it is time to relook at selling those,” they stated.

Jet Airways is considering selling 11 aircraft while the resolution process remains slow

ALSO READ - Jet Airways relaunch to delay further due to unpaid payments

A process in August got six expressions of interest (EoIs) from banks for the purchase of these planes. The interest has made some bankers believe they can make a recovery, albeit small.

"The Jalan-Kalrock consortium has filed an intervention application in the NCLT, which comes up for hearing on November 29. Banks will watch what they say to the court and act accordingly," a second source noted.

Jet Airways was grounded in April 2019, after which its lenders took it to the NCLT. Per the Jalan-Kalrock consortium’s resolution plan, the consortium proposed a total infusion of INR 1,375 crore. This included INR 900 crore towards capital expenditure and working capital and INR 475 crore to settle the claims of all creditors. The sum of INR 475 crore includes INR 380 crore to be paid to lenders, INR 52 crore to employees and workmen, and the remaining towards other operational creditors. Banks approved Jet Airways’ resolution plan in October 2020. It was then approved by the NCLT in June 2021.

Jet Airways was grounded in April 2019, after which its lenders took it to the NCLT.

According to the consortium's submissions to the court, banks are to blame for the delay. A plan B is being prepared to close the case even if it means liquidation if the consortium continues the argument at the next hearing, the report added.

The State Bank of India-led lenders’ consortium had earlier said it would give a NOC only after the new owners commit to a timeline for implementing the debt resolution plan, which involves a staggering payout. Until this is provided, Jet Airways’ ownership cannot be transferred to the consortium.

The tribunal is likely to take up the plea on November 29, which the banks will watch and act accordingly, the ET report said. The court had asked erstwhile resolution professional Ashish Chhawchharia to compute these payments within a month and communicate the same to the consortium.

Earlier, Jet Airways temporarily docked the salaries of some of its staff by up to 50% and sent some on leave without pay.

Since the takeover of the airline was facilitated by waiving two preconditions, the trust deficit has increased, according to bankers. "Though these were preconditions for the plan implementation, banks had agreed to not oppose it in court if the consortium sought relief. But instead, Jalan-Kalrock has started blaming banks for the delay, which has raised doubts on their intentions," the first source added.

ALSO READ - Jet Airways send employees on leave without pay; cuts salaries up to 50%

Earlier, Jet Airways temporarily docked the salaries of some of its staff by up to 50% and sent some on leave without pay. Sources in the know added that the changes are effective December 1.

One individual aware of the ongoing discussions said that almost half the staff is not impacted by these changes. "Even Sanjiv Kapoor (Jet Airways CEO) has agreed to take a substantial pay cut," the individual said. On November 18, Jet Airways sent 60% of its employees, including senior managers, on leave without pay.

(with inputs from The EconomicTimes)

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Nepal Airlines to sell five faulty Chinese aircraft

Sakshi Jain

21 Nov 2022

The national airline of Nepal has made the decision to sell the Chinese aircraft that it has been trying to maintain due to frequent failures.

These aircraft were assigned to the state-owned Nepal Airlines and are now confined to a remote area of the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.

Nepal bought five aircraft from China amid a fanfare, which is grounded at a remote-area of Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu

China delivered the first batch of aircraft to Nepal in 2014. Nepal Airlines bought three 17-seater Y12e and two 56-seater MA60 aircraft amid much fanfare during that time. 

The Nepali government has already agreed to several infrastructure and energy projects worth $2.4 billion with China. China is also working on enlarging the airports in Lumbini and Pokhara, Nepal.

The primary objective was to use the aircraft on underutilised mountain routes. However, technical and mechanical issues began to appear in aeroplanes on a regular basis. The airline company claims that this resulted in significant losses because the aircraft spent more time on the ground than in the air. Five of these planes, according to The Kathmandu Post, which cited officials, "were the most expensive white elephants in the carrier's history."

Also read: China made aircraft, a headache for Nepal airlines

Nepal Airlines has chosen to sell five of its Chinese aircraft that have been grounded for more than two years due to concerns about the effectiveness and quality of Chinese-made aircraft.

The three 17-seaters and two 56-seaters were leased by Nepal Airlines in September with a deadline of October 31. Even after the deadline was extended, no bidders submitted a bid.

It has now made the decision to sell these grounded aircraft.

According to Nepal Airlines spokesperson Archana Khadka, an international assessor will be appointed, to evaluate the fair market worth of the aircraft. This will happen after Nepal’s election that took place on Sunday, November 20. 

Two 56-seater MA60 aircraft were purchased from China by Nepal Airlines, now in regret

Earlier this year, a source had told WION that the airline lacked the necessary pilots with the necessary abilities to operate the Chinese aircraft.

“We have been facing technical problems in the functioning of these aircraft. The spare parts are not easily available and repairing aircraft is expensive and time taking. To fly these planes, pilots with specific skills are required which we are short of. There are pilots in China but due to the language barrier training pilots in Nepal is not possible.”


China had also declined to support the Nepalese side in this matter.

“We did approach China for help but nothing has been initiated from their side yet. The board of directors of Nepal Airlines hold a meeting on a daily basis to discuss training Nepalese pilots but we are yet to take a decision on that.”


Corrosion has already started to appear on a few of the planes. Instead of going to the trouble of getting the planes airworthy again, the subsequent owner will probably use them as spare components.

“No doubt, the planes can fly. It was a management problem that the shiny new planes never flew for the purpose they were brought.”

“Now, years after they were acquired, it is wise to sell them rather than keep them in storage.”

“If the planes begin to rust, they will become scrap.”

–Ashok Pokhrel, a former board member of Nepal Airlines

Nepal Airlines was at a loss as Chinese planes began to rust

Due to the limited aftermarket support for these aircraft, which has been revealed by the airline's experience with them, many operators have chosen to purchase aircraft made by well-known western manufacturers.

(With inputs from WION and The Kathmandu Post)

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Air India starts discussing aircraft orders; to introduce a premium economy class in long-haul flights

Radhika Bansal

21 Nov 2022

Tata Group-owned Air India is in talks with Boeing and Airbus about ordering new aircraft and is meeting its immediate needs by leasing planes and repairing grounded aircraft, the airline's chief executive said on Saturday.

The autos-to-steel conglomerate, which completed its purchase of Air India in January, faces an uphill struggle to upgrade an ageing fleet, turn around the company's financials and improve service levels, industry analysts say.

"We are in deep discussion with Boeing, Airbus and engine manufacturers for a historical order of the latest generation aircraft that will power Air India's medium- and long-term growth. At the risk of gross understatement, the investment will be substantial."

Campbell Wilson, CEO & MD, Air India

Wilson said Air India planned to expand its fleet and global network, aiming to increase its market share to 30% on domestic and international routes over the next five years.

Currently, Air India has a domestic market share of about 10% and an international market share of around 12%, according to industry estimates.

Air India starts discussing aircraft orders; to introduce a premium economy class in long-haul flights

ALSO READ – Air India to revamp its fleet by leasing 30 aircraft in the upcoming months

Air India said in September it would lease 30 Boeing and Airbus planes, expanding its fleet by more than 25% as part of the drive to boost market share and improve service levels.

Industry sources said in July that Air India was moving closer to a decision on an order worth USD 50 billion at list prices to be split between Airbus and Boeing.

ALSO READ - Air India plans to expand its fleet 3 times; in discussions with aircraft manufacturers

The sources said at the time that both planemakers were making a "final push" with the order set to include up to 70 wide-body jets including Airbus A350s and Boeing B787s and B777s, and up to 300 narrowbodies.

Air India to introduce a premium economy class in some long-haul flights

Air India will be introducing premium economy class in some of its long-haul international flights next month, its chief Campbell Wilson said as the Tata group-owned airline works on ways to expand its market share as well as the global network.

Noting that Air India's transformation journey will be in phases, Wilson said over the next six months it will be taxiing, fixing the basics and readying itself for growth.

In his speech at an event by the JRD Tata Memorial Trust here, Wilson said the airline will increase its market share to at least 30% in domestic and international routes. The airline is implementing a long-term revival plan and over the next five years, it aims to grow its wide-body and narrow-body fleet as well as expand the global network.

According to Wilson, the airline has restored nearly 20 aircraft that had been grounded for years due to a lack of parts and money. Leaving aside cabin interiors, this has required procuring over 30,000 parts that had been cannibalised over the years to keep other aircraft flying, he added.

"The short-term actions have been to replace carpets, curtains, seat cushions and covers. To fix defective seats and inflight entertainment systems as fast as supply chains will allow. And where parts are no longer available in the market, to work with the likes of Tata Technologies to design and manufacture parts ourselves. We've recently completely revamped the domestic inflight menu, and will be doing likewise, as well as launching premium economy on certain long haul international flights next month."

Campbell Wilson, CEO & MD, Air India

ALSO READ - Modernization of Air India to start soon by Tata Technologies

In addition to restoring long-grounded aircraft, he said the airline has finalised leases for 30 additional aircraft being delivered over the next 12 months, starting next week, with more in the final stages of negotiation.

Noting that Air India's transformation journey will be in phases, Wilson said over the next six months it will be taxiing, fixing the basics and readying itself for growth.

Air India has expanded both domestically and internationally, the latter including more flights to Vancouver, Sydney and Melbourne.

"For the subsequent year we'll start the take-off run, building for excellence and attracting those who may not have considered Air India before, and by April 2024 or thereabouts, we will leverage the work done in the earlier phases to climb rapidly so that by 2027 we have scaled the heights of our aspiration," he added.

Air India has expanded both domestically and internationally, the latter including more flights to Vancouver, Sydney and Melbourne.

"We now operate non-stop to London from seven Indian cities," he said and added that from Mumbai, the airline will be adding new non-stop service to San Francisco, New York and Newark starting in a few weeks.

ALSO READ - Air India to start direct flights between Mumbai-San Francisco

Emphasising that the airline no longer has financial or any other constraints, he said "turning around Air India and restoring it to glory is a test match, not a T20. It will require patience, fortitude and partnership. Though there will be the occasional six and four, it'll mostly be the steady accumulation of singles and doubles."

The rapid development of new Indian airports and the government's regional air connectivity scheme UDAN to support developmental domestic routes will only strengthen the network effect that will power further growth, he stated.