Celebi Aviation interested in bidding for Air India's ground handling unit

Radhika Bansal

26 Apr 2022

Ground handling company Celebi Aviation is keen to bid for Air India's ground handling unit when it's put on the block by the government, its India CEO Murali Ramachandran has said.

The unit, Air India Air Transport Services Ltd (AIATS) provides ground handling services at 63 airports across the country. Celebi was one of the first parties to show interest when the government first proposed to put AIATS up for privatisation in 2019.

"Of course, we'd be interested; there's no question about that. The Air India ground handling subsidiary, which is currently sitting within the holding company that the government has set up, will be up for sale and we are eagerly looking forward to the PIM (preliminary information memorandum) coming up for that.If we get that (AIATS) we will be supporting Tatas through the handling of Air India's ground handling. Celebi already handles ground handling for AirAsia India."Murali Ramachandran, CEO (India), Celebi Aviation

People tracking the development said the government may put it on the block in May. Automobile-to-aviation conglomerate Tata Sons won the bid for erstwhile national carrier Air India in October last year. AIATS wasn't part of that deal.

Four Air India subsidiaries - AIATS, Airline Allied Services Ltd (AAS), Air India Engineering Services Ltd (AIES) and Hotel Corporation of India Ltd (HCI) - and Air India's non-core assets, painting and artefacts, along with a large chunk of its debt were transferred to a special purpose vehicle called Air India Asset Holdings Ltd (AIAH).

Celebi Aviation is interested in bidding for Air India's ground handling unit

The SPV was set up in 2019. Ramachandran said that while overall demand is coming back, Celebi's business depends on the demand for international flights.

Çelebi Ground Handling is a Turkish ground handling firm based at Ankara Esenbo?a Airport. Çelebi Ground Handling has a presence across 24 major airports in Turkey and is present in international markets with subsidiaries in India, Hungary, Belgium and Austria.

Çelebi was founded in 1958 as the first privately-owned ground handling services company in Turkish aviation. Çelebi is listed on the ?stanbul Stock Exchange.

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Flight operations of Akasa Air pushed to July

Radhika Bansal

26 Apr 2022

The commercial flight operations of Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed Akasa Air will be launched in July instead of June.

On March 26, Dube had at an aviation event said that the airline is planning to launch its commercial operations in June.

"As we get closer to the airline launch date, we can now confirm refined estimates on our timelines. We expect our first aircraft delivery by early June 2022, with the intention to start commercial operations in July 2022.Importantly, there will be no impact on "later aircraft induction" and Akasa Air remains on plan to fly 18 aircraft by the end of March 2023.We have received our NOC and our next key milestone in the Air Operators Permit. We are working closely with the regulatory authorities and following all the required processes to comply with the requirements to obtain this certification. We hope to satisfy all regulatory requirements for this certification at the earliest."Vinay Dube, Co-Founder & CEO, Akasa Air

ALOS READ - Jhunjhunwala’s Akasa has received NOC, find out what will happen next

Akasa Air -- which along with Dube is backed by ace investor Jhunjhunwala and aviation veteran Aditya Ghosh -- got the no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Ministry of Civil Aviation in the first half of August 2021 to launch commercial flight operations.

With the aviation regulator DGCA giving its green light to Boeing Max aircraft in late August, Akasa Air signed a deal with Boeing on November 26 last year to purchase 72 Boeing 737 Max planes.

ALSO READ - Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s Akasa Air signs deal for 72 Boeing 737 Max planes

Dube said, "Concerning starting the airline, we are extremely thankful to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the DGCA for their guidance and support on all required regulatory clearances."

Akasa Air signed a deal with Boeing on November 26 last year to purchase 72 Boeing 737 Max planes

Aviation consultancy firm CAPA said in November 2021 that the disruption in the Indian aviation sector due to Akasa Air will possibly be felt from 2024-25 onwards "once it has the scale and achieves a competitive cost base".

Dube said it would be wrong to assume that the decision to get 18 aircraft in the first year was driven by the desire to start international operations at the earliest.

“We feel 18 provides the right economies of scale to a startup airline looking to start safe and maintain economies of scale. Five (aircraft) is too few and 40 is too many,” he said.

Indian carriers must have at least 20 aircraft to start international flights, a criterion that Akasa Air will fulfil in its second year. Dube said the airline hopes to start international operations in the second quarter of 2023.

Flight operations of Akasa Air pushed to July

The first 20 aircraft that Akasa will get will be white-tail aircraft, which are planes that have been produced but not taken by any airline and hence do not have an airline’s logo on them.

Apart from the launch delay by a few weeks, things are moving fast, according to Dube. The airline has hired staff members primarily from other airlines as Akasa needs trained personnel to get off the ground.

ALSO READ - Akasa to scale up quickly, plans to hire over 350 operating crew

About 120 flight attendants, 150 pilots and 20 aircraft engineers have been signed up to join Akasa. “We have about 25 to 30 pilots on our payrolls. Others will join as aircraft keep getting inducted,” Dube said.

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Tatas to announce ESOP plan for Air India employees

Radhika Bansal

26 Apr 2022

The announcement of an employee stock option (ESOP) scheme for employees of Air India could come by April 27.

This is as per a deadline set by the government in the Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) it signed with the Tata Group at the time of handing over the then national carrier.

As per the SPA, sources said, the new buyer was mandated to adopt an employee stock option scheme (ESOP) within three months of the closing date of the sale. The sale of Air India was closed on January 27, 2022, with the formal handing over of the airline to its new owner, Talace Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Tata Sons.

Tatas to announce ESOP plan for Air India employees

The SPA also stipulated that the terms and conditions of the ESOP Scheme be the same as the market standard for companies, giving all employees, without any limits of designation, the option to purchase ESOPs.

Also, the government specified in the SPA that up to 3% of the purchased shares acquired by the new owner will be up for grabs under the ESOP Scheme, and also importantly, at a price not higher than 1/3rd of the per-share purchase consideration.

In what could be seen as a pro-employee step, the government is also believed to have underlined at the time, that all employees of the airline would have the option to exercise their right to the ESOP Scheme, without any performance conditions or guarantees sought.

The sale of Air India was closed on January 27, 2022, with the formal handing over of the airline to its new owner, Talace Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Tata Sons.

As per Indian law, employees have a period of one year after the grant of the ESOP scheme to vest the option. Additionally, Tata Group is likely to give its Air India employees one month after vesting, to exercise the option.

With the announcement of the ESOP scheme for Air India employees, it will become the second company under the Tata Group, after Tata Motors, to have introduced the ESOP scheme for its employees.

Organizations often use Employee stock ownership plans as a tool for attracting and retaining high-quality employees. Organizations usually distribute the stocks in a phased manner.

Companies offering ESOPs have long-term objectives.

For instance, a company might grant its employees the stocks at the close of the financial year, thereby offering its employees an incentive for remaining with the organization for receiving that grant. Companies offering ESOPs have long-term objectives. Not only do companies wish to retain employees for the long term, but also intend to make them the stakeholders of their company.

The move is apparently directed toward retaining talent and improving the productivity of Air India, which has been a loss-making company for almost a decade. IndiGo and SpiceJet already have ESOP policies for their staff.

ALSO READ - EPFO enrols 7453 employees on board Air India for social security coverage

Air India announces group medical insurance scheme for its employees

On 25 October 2021, the central government, previous owners of Air India, signed a share purchase agreement with Tata Group, after its INR 18,000 crore winning bid to acquire the airline. On January 27 earlier this year, the formal handover took place.

ALSO READ - Air India announces group medical insurance scheme for its employees

Earlier on April 22, In an attempt to provide better medical facilities across a large network of hospitals across the country, Air India announced a Group Medical Insurance scheme that will be activated from 15 May 2022. 

The sum insured provided would be INR 7.5 lakh per annum per family (maximum family size 7 – Employees Spouse/Partner + 3 Children + 2 Parent/Parent-in-Law) with an option of corporate buffer, to be used by employees In case of medical exigencies.

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India suspends tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals

Radhika Bansal

25 Apr 2022

India has suspended tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals, global airlines body IATA told its member carriers on April 20.

India has been raising with China the plight of approximately 22,000 Indian students enrolled in Chinese universities who are unable to go back for physical classes. However, the neighbouring country has to date refused to let them enter.

These students had to leave their studies in China and come to India when the COVID-19 pandemic began at the beginning of 2020. They have been kept waiting even as Beijing allows students from Thailand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to return.

India suspends tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals

In a circular issued on April 20 regarding India, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said, "Tourist visas issued to nationals of China (People's Republic) are no longer valid."

UK and Canada are among the countries whose citizens can’t fly to India on e-tourist visas but can come on regular paper visas issued by Indian missions in those countries. Indian tourist visas with a validity of 10 years are no longer valid, except for those issued to nationals of Japan and the US.

It said the following passengers are allowed to enter India: nationals of Bhutan, India, Maldives and Nepal; passengers with a residence permit issued by India; passengers with a visa or an e-visa issued by India; passengers with an overseas citizen of India (OCI) card or booklet; passengers with a person of Indian origin (PIO) card; and passengers with a diplomatic passport.

The IATA also said that tourist visas with a validity of 10 years are no longer valid. The IATA is a global airlines body with around 290 members that comprise more than 80% of global air traffic.

IATA issues these updates regularly so that airlines know which nationalities are allowed to be flown to which countries. The latest India-specific IATA update, issued on April 19, is about the countries whose nationals cannot travel to India on e-tourist visas.

India had late last month restored the electronic tourist visa facility for 156 countries, in time for the resumption of scheduled international flights from March 27 this year, after a gap of over two years.

India has urged Beijing to adopt a "congenial stance" on the matter as the continuation of the strict restrictions is putting the academic careers of thousands of Indian students in jeopardy, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on March 17.

This issue was also taken up with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a meeting in Dushanbe in September 2021.

Bagchi said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson had stated on February 8 that China was looking into the matter in a coordinated manner and that arrangements for allowing foreign students to return to China were being examined. 

"But let me clarify that to date, the Chinese side has not given any categorical response about the return of Indian students. We will continue to urge the Chinese side to adopt a congenial stance in the interest of our students and that they facilitate an early return to China so that our students can pursue their studies," Bagchi said.

He said the issue was also taken up with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a meeting in Dushanbe in September 2021. The two foreign ministers had held talks in the Tajik capital city on the sidelines of a conclave of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

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Air India flight lands safely from Chicago to Delhi after suffering a lightning strike

Radhika Bansal

25 Apr 2022

An Air India Boeing 777 flight operating from Chicago to Delhi on April 22 suffered a lightning strike during a climb from the origin at about 10,000 feet. The flight, AI-126, continued to its destination safely.

The lightning strike on the aircraft (VT-ALM) was observed during an inspection at Delhi airport. "Air India reported the lighting strike to the regulator on April 23," said people in the know. DGCA is examining this case.

ALSO READ - Wondering what if your flight suffers a lightning strike?

Air India flight lands safely from Chicago to Delhi after suffering a lightning strike

If a plane is struck by lightning, the pilots check all the systems to ensure everything is functioning as it should. If there is an issue, the aircraft should land at the nearest airport. Preferably not getting struck again before touching down.

However, even if the flight does continue to its destination seemingly unscathed, maintenance crew will examine it thoroughly for damages upon arrival. Small holes, no larger than a centimeter, may have appeared at the points where the current entered and exited the fuselage.

Even though lightning activity can vary by geographic location, its frequency is such that, an aircraft is struck by lightning every 1,000 flight hours, the equivalent of one strike per aircraft per year.

Seasons play their part too with the most occurrences reported in spring and summer.

It is estimated that most of the strikes are triggered by the aircraft itself and they generally occur during the climb and/or descent phase at an altitude of 1,524 to 4,572 meters.

Aircraft are built to power through these electrical power outages and rarely pose a safety risk, although it can cost a fortune to the companies in post lightning strike repairs and flight delays/cancellations. Statistics show commercial airliners get struck by lightning once or twice a year.

Lightning activities are influenced a lot by geographical locations. Areas in and around the equator tend to experience the most lightning events as thunderstorms are rampant due to warm temperatures leading to convection. Seasons play their part too with the most occurrences reported in spring and summer.

A single strike may contain around 100,000 volts (30,000 ampere)

The initial strike of a lightning charge may be seen as a glow on the nose or wingtips. The charge then travels through the aircraft’s metallic shell before exiting through a point in the tail. A single strike may contain around 100,000 volts (30,000 ampere).

Typical after-effects

Temporary flickering of lights or short-lived interference with equipment.Ferromagnetic aircraft components may become strongly magnetised after a powerful lightning jolt.Lightning strikes at night may temporarily blind the flight crew hampering visibility.

The metal skin that goes into the construction of a modern-day fuselage is thick enough, providing the first line of defence while at the same time, preventing the entry of electromagnetic energy from penetrating the electrical wires.

Out of 3,000 aircraft incidents since 2000, only eight of them were caused by lightning.

Modern planes are made of lightweight carbon composite covered with a thin layer of copper that acts as Faraday Cages.

Fuel tanks located under the wings are shielded from lightning sparks as the surrounding structural components and fuel and filler caps have a temperature threshold of up to 30,000 degrees Celsius and hence can withstand any burning from lightning.

Most lightning strikes are benign, and only very rarely cause for major concern. According to an article by Interesting Engineering from 2019, out of 3,000 aircraft incidents since 2000, only eight of them were caused by lightning.

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India integrating Russian Mi-17 helicopters with Israeli NLOS anti-tank guided missiles - here's what we know


24 Apr 2022

As a part of its strategy toward bolstering aerial prowess and enhancing firepower against enemy armoured regiments, India is now planning to arm its Russian Mi-17 helicopters with the Israeli ‘Non-Line of Sight (NLOS)’ anti-tank guided missiles.

Russian Mil Mi-17 chopper

Also known as the Mi-8M series in Russian services, the Mi-17 is a Soviet-designed Russian military helicopter. Although primarily used as a medium twin-turbine transport helicopter, armed versions are deployed for military operations as well.

Mi-17V5 | Representative | The Print

These helicopters are part of a larger family of high-performance and multipurpose Mi-17s that can fly at high altitudes in complex weather conditions, be it in tropical and maritime climates or even in desert conditions.

A Mi-17 showcasing the clamshell cargo door arrangement | Wikipedia

Tech and specs

The Mi-17 is easily recognizable in that it has the tail rotor on the port side instead of the starboard side and dust shields in front of the engine intake.

Crew3Capacity24 troops / 12 stretchers / 4,000 kg (8,818 lb) cargo internallyHeight 5.65 mMTOW13,000 kgPowerplant 2 × Klimov VK-2500PS-03 turboshaft engine (2,400 hp)Cruise speed 260 km/hRange  800 kmService ceiling 6,000 m (20,000 ftWikipedia

It was reported as "the most widely operated helicopter in history", on its company's website of Russian Helicopters, in 2021.

Spike NLOS anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM)


A member of the world-renowned Spike Family, the Spike NLOS is a multi-purpose, electro-optical missile system with a real-time wireless data link for ranges up to 32 km - nearly four times that of the US-made AGM-114 Hellfire, which is carried on the Apache attack helicopter.

Hellfire air-to-ground missile | Representative | News from Havana

Tech and specs

Provides the gunner with the unique ability of striking targets at stand-off range with no line of sight and can be installed on a variety of platforms.

Rafale Advanced Defense Systems

The Spike NLOS electro-optical (EO) seeker incorporates a dual sensor capable of effectively engaging targets day and night and in adverse weather conditions.

The capability for the operator to control the missile, known as "man in the loop", enables engagement of moving targets and operations in bad weather

Effective Range30kmWeight-Missile in canister71kgModes of operationDirect AttackMid-course navigationWarheadsHeat/Fragmentation/PBF,PBF-FRafael.co

According to the manufacturer Rafael, the Spike NLOS has been modified to be fired from helicopters and can be armed with different types of warheads suited to destroy tanks, air defence systems or for use in urban combat, where the need to prevent harm to civilians is critical.

Reportedly, these armed choppers might also be deployed in the high mountainous terrain in Ladakh and adjoining sectors where the Chinese have positioned a large number of their armoured regiments.

Furthermore, the missiles have already arrived in the country and are being integrated into Russian helicopters somewhere in the western sector-reports.


COVER: India Strategic