China Eastern B737-800 crash - here's what is known so far

Radhika Bansal

22 Mar 2022

A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 domestic flight MU5735 with 132 people on board crashed in mountains in southern China on Monday, March 21 and media reported that rescue workers had found no sign of survivors.

The aircraft, with 123 passengers and nine crew on board, lost contact over the city of Wuzhou, China's Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the airline said.

The China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft, which departed from Kunming, capital of Yunnan province and was bound for Guangzhou, bordering Hong Kong crashed into a mountainous area near the Molang village in Tengxian County at 2:38 PM, causing a massive mountain fire.

The Guangxi regional health commission has dispatched 12 medical experts to the site, and over 80 medical workers and 36 ambulances sent by health authorities in the city of Wuzhou have arrived at the scene.

The nosedive by the China Eastern Airlines Corp. jet from about 29,000 feet (8,840 meters) is baffling air-crash specialists. Boeing has offered to help China’s investigation. China Eastern grounded its fleet of 737-800s, and thousands of domestic flights were cancelled on Tuesday, March 22 across China. Chinese officials are due to hold a briefing on the crash this evening. 

Boeing on Tuesday, March 22 said the company was in contact with the US National Transportation Safety Board and its technical experts were prepared to assist with the investigation led by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

"Our thoughts are with the passengers and crew of China Eastern Airlines Flight MU 5735. We are working with our airline customers and are ready to support them," the aircraft-maker said.

"Can confirm the plane has crashed," China Eastern Airlines said in a statement in which it also gave details of a hotline for relatives of those on board.

Flight tracker FlightRadar24 showed no more data for flight MU5735 after 2:22 pm local time, when it had reached Wuzhou. It showed that the plane had sharply dropped from an altitude of 29,100 feet to 3,225 feet in the span of three minutes, before flight information stopped.

The media cited a rescue official as saying the plane had disintegrated and caused a fire destroying bamboo trees. The People's Daily quoted a provincial firefighting department official as saying there was no sign of life among the scattered debris.

The Boeing 737-800 is part of the 737 families, the world's most-flown commercial aircraft series. It was developed in the 1960s to serve short- or medium-length routes. The 737-800 is part of the 737 NG or Next-Generation family - with more than 7,000 delivered since 1993 - and it has a strong safety record after nearly three decades of flights.

The 162- to 189-seat 737-800 was launched on September 5, 1994. The NG is the predecessor to the 737 MAX. The jet involved in the China Eastern accident was six years old, according to Flightradar24.

The last fatal 737-800 crash occurred in August 2020 when an Air India Express plane overshot the table-top runway and crashed while landing at Calicut International Airport of Kerala in heavy rain, killing 21. A government report cited pilot error as the probable cause.

China has the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 737-800s, meaning any further groundings of the jet could have a significant impact on domestic travel, according to aviation consultancy IBA Group Ltd. 

China’s fleet of nearly 1,200 aircraft is also the world’s youngest, with an average age of about eight years, five below the global average, IBA said. The China Eastern 737-800 that crashed was delivered to the carrier in June 2015. 

The engines on the China Eastern jet were manufactured by CFM, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet. CFM, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Safran SA, will be the technical advisor for any issues related to the engines, the NTSB said.

Rescuers in southern China continued to search a remote mountainside for the black boxes of the China Eastern Airlines plane that plunged from the sky on Monday with 132 people on board, as authorities warned the severe damage to the aircraft would make it difficult to establish the cause of the crash.

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Tirupati Airport's air cargo services to be suspended soon

Radhika Bansal

22 Mar 2022

The air cargo facility launched at Tirupati airport in 2021 amid many expectations has failed to get momentum and is set to be closed soon. The facility had become a reality in August 2021 and it was expected to be a big hit as many items can be sent to required destinations within a few hours.

With the gradual increase of domestic passenger footfall, there was a hope that it could tap the cargo potential as well from the entire Rayalaseema region and Nellore districts which led the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to moot the facility. Accordingly, the old terminal was earmarked for the purpose and necessary arrangements are made.

Tirupati Airport's air cargo services to be suspended soon

Though it was used initially as a combination of passenger and cargo together, if the demand surges, there is a chance of even operating dedicated cargo flights. But, it evoked poor response and as of now on average less than 700 kg per day is moving from the cargo terminal ever since cargo operations have started on August 12, 2021, which is considered inadequate to continue the facility.

According to reliable sources, due to low bookings, it was decided to suspend services from the exclusive cargo terminal. Meanwhile, AAI is making alternate arrangements and seeking permission for very limited cargo from the passenger terminal itself. However, sources said that there may be a relook into reopening the exclusive cargo terminal if the bookings improve.

AAI is making alternate arrangements and seeking permission for very limited cargo from the passenger terminal itself

However, there was a view that lack of publicity is said to be one of the reasons for the poor response. The concept was said to have not gone into various sections in the region and many were not aware of such a facility.

Tirupati Chamber of Commerce president A Manjunath told The Hans India that the traders have found it difficult to go all the way to Renigunta and hand over the consignments. Instead, there should be one or two pickup points in the city itself which can facilitate even people to book their parcels easily.

Further, the poor road connectivity between Airport and Sri City was another hurdle in this regard. When RTC cargo services are now being provided at the doorstep, people naturally prefer them. Air cargo services should also be accessed easily, he felt.

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Textron takes over Pipistrel to gain foothold in the electric aircraft market

Radhika Bansal

21 Mar 2022

U.S. industrial conglomerate Textron has signed a deal to acquire Pipistrel, the Slovenian ultralight aircraft maker and pioneer in electrically powered aviation, both companies announced on Thursday, March 17.

The Slovenian plane maker tweeted that the partnership will combine the expertise of both companies and “accelerate Pipistrel’s development and certification of sustainable aircraft.”

Textron is home to Cessna, Beechcraft, and Bell aviation brands. The value of the deal has not been disclosed. The transaction is expected to close during the second quarter of this year once all regulatory approvals are issued, Textron said.

Textron takes over Pipistrel to gain a foothold in the electric aircraft market

Pipistrel CEO Ivo Boscarol will remain a minority owner, both companies said.

Pipistrel said the deal would grant it access to greater resources, technical and regulatory expertise and a global aircraft sales and support network that would speed up development and certification of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft.

Kansas-based Textron has committed to maintaining Pipistrel’s brand, headquarters, research and development, and manufacturing in Slovenia and Italy while making additional investments in Pipistrel for the development and production of future products, the Slovenian plane maker said.

According to Slovenia’s STA news agency Boscarol said that under his leadership, the plane maker has positioned itself to offer “affordable, environmentally friendly and electric aviation.”

Textron is home to Cessna, Beechcraft, and Bell aviation brands.

Textron Chairman And CEO Scott Donelly said Pipistrel puts his company in a position to develop new aircraft “to meet a wide range of customer missions.” “Today’s announcement supports Textron’s long-term strategy to offer a family of sustainable aircraft for urban air mobility, general aviation, cargo and special mission roles.”

Along the same lines, the deal could also lead to significant changes to Textron’s Bell Helicopter portfolio. Hybridization has less traction in the urban air mobility market at the moment than with fixed-wing aircraft. However, hybridization is even more compelling in the eVTOL segment given the power requirements and challenges some competitors have had with hitting range targets.

Pipistrel, which currently employs some 300 people, posted a net profit of 4.5 million euros in 2020. It started production in the 1980s. Initially, Pipistrel made only powered hang gliders designed by Boscarol and a group of his friends.

The value of the deal has not been disclosed.

In February 2021, Pipistrel had announced it was working on a 20-seat zero-emission regional aircraft. It is expected to be available between 2028 and 2030. The Miniliner concept unveiled at the time could fly on hydrogen, but Pipistrel was also considering other propulsion solutions at the time.

In the mid-1990s, when composite materials became more widely used in aviation, the company moved to the production of ultra-light aircraft. One of the early models, the Sinus, was the first serially-built ultralight aircraft made out of composites.

The Slovenian company delivered the 1,000th plane of the Virus and Sinus light aircraft family in March 2019. In 2007, the company released an electric version of the Taurus, the world’s first fully-electric 2-seat aircraft and the first electric motor-glider to achieve serial production.

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Qatar Airways Delhi-Doha flight diverted to Karachi after smoke in cargo

Radhika Bansal

21 Mar 2022

A Qatar Airways Delhi-Doha passenger plane with over 100 passengers was diverted to Karachi on Monday, March 21 after it declared an emergency due to an indication of smoke in the cargo hold, the airline said.

The aircraft landed safely in Karachi where it was met by emergency services, and passengers disembarked it in an orderly manner using stairs, it said in a statement.

The incident is currently under investigation and a relief flight is being arranged to transport passengers onwards to Doha, the airline said.

Passengers waiting at the Karachi Airport were not given food, water and Wi-Fi

The flight took off from Delhi at 3:50 AM on Monday and landed at Karachi at 5:30 AM. It was supposed to land in Doha at 7:15 AM.

"We apologise for the inconvenience to our passengers who will be assisted with their onward travel plans," it said. Qatar Airways said its flight "QR579 from Delhi to Doha on 21 March diverted to Karachi having declared an emergency due to the indication of smoke detected in the cargo hold".

Qatar Airways operates the Airbus A350-900 (twin-jet) on its Qatar Airways 579 flight.

Qatar Airways operates the Airbus A350-900 (twin-jet) on its Qatar Airways 579 flight.

Airbus India Head Remi Maillard said "will defend the reputation of Airbus and our A350 fleet against all claims by Qatar Airways in court and also will look into all details on the technical reasons for the flight landing.

Airbus has asked a London court to grant it more than USD 220 million as part of its protracted legal dispute with customer Qatar Airways.

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Air India restricts local agents from booking tickets to Canada

Radhika Bansal

21 Mar 2022

Air India has banned local agents from booking tickets for the Canadian sector. After a ban of two years, now there has been an exemption in international travel, due to which the demand has increased. Local agents are making huge profits on this.

Air India has taken this step to stop this. A section of the travel industry believes that the airline’s strong action reflects the value of its new owner, the Tata Group.

Air India had received information that some local agents were not following proper rules in the sale of tickets. Because of this, the company banned them from booking their tickets.

Air India restricts local agents from booking tickets to Canada

A source said that there was a big misunderstanding between these agents. They were blocking seats at a fixed price and selling them at four times that. This is the reason why he has been banned because it was causing a huge loss to the airline.

Now passengers travelling in the Canada sector can book tickets directly on the airline’s website. An industry source said that a discrepancy was found in the way some agents were booking tickets and hence this action was taken.

Passengers can now book tickets through call centres and the airline’s website. In this regard, an Air India spokesperson said that it is awaiting a response from the concerned department in this regard.

Only Air India and Air Canada operate on India-Canada direct route.

The government has announced the resumption of regular international flights from March 27. But the ban on agents may affect Air India’s booking of tickets to Canada during the peak summer vacation season.

A large number of Indians live in Canada. Due to this, there is expected to be a huge demand in this sector this year. Only Air India and Air Canada operate on this route.

However, a section of the travel agent community says that punishing everyone for the mistake of a few is not the solution.

Tata Group gained bids to personal Air India and was handed over the airline in January

Ajay Prakash, president of the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), told ET that foreign agents can sell tickets on the India-Canada route. Agents registered abroad can also do the same. Only travel agents from India are being discriminated against.

The Tata Group gained bids to personal Air India and was handed over the airline in January. While the brand new homeowners haven’t introduced any main change within the administration of the airline, the group’s plan to herald former Turkish Airlines chairman Ilker Ayci as its CEO & MD couldn’t undergo after Ayci declined the supply.

ALSO READ - Amid the security row, Ilker Ayci declines Tata Sons’ offer to be the new CEO of Air India

The Tata Group has additionally retained administrators of 4 practical departments – finance, operations, business and HR – however, is working with a plan to enhance service high quality within the first part.

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INR 25,000 crore to be spent on developing new and existing airports in next 5 years

Radhika Bansal

21 Mar 2022

In a bid to meet the increasing demand in the aviation sector, the central government will spend INR 25,000 crore in the next five years to develop new and existing airports across the country, Minister of State in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, VK Singh said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on March 14.

As part of the plan, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) will spend INR 25,000 crore in the next five years to construct new terminals, expand and modify existing terminals, expand or strengthen existing runways, aprons, Airport Navigation Services (ANS) infrastructure, control towers and technical blocks.

INR 25,000 crore to be spent on developing new and existing airports in next 5 years

The government is also looking to invest INR 36,000 under public-private partnerships for the development of new greenfield airports across the country. So far 'in-principle' approval has been given to set up 21 greenfield airports across the country.

Out of the aforementioned 21, eight airports at Sindhudurg and Shirdi in Maharashtra, Durgapur in West Bengal, Pakyong in Sikkim, Kannur in Kerala, Orvakal in Andhra Pradesh, Kalaburagi in Karnataka and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh have been operationalised, the government said.

As part of its regional connectivity scheme (RCS), Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN), the government has operationalised 403 routes connecting 65 airports, including 8 heliports and 2 water aerodromes.

In 2021, the air passengers grew in India by 73% with 200 million passengers

AAI has further identified 154 airports including 14 water aerodromes and 36 helipads so far to be developed under UDAN for the operation of RCS flights.

As per the traffic forecast by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the all-India passenger throughput growth for the next three years is projected to be 69% in 2022-23 with 338 million passengers, 20% in 2023-24 with 404 million passengers and 11% in 2024-25 with 449 million air passengers.

In 2021, the air passengers grew in India by 73% with 200 million passengers after several covid restrictions were eased and domestic airlines started to function with 100% pre-Covid capacity.