The global commercial flight industry fared better on safety parameters in 2021 as the accident rate fell and for the first time in at least 15 years.
There were no runway or taxiway excursion accidents, said airlines trade body, International Air Transport Association (IATA) in its recently released 2021 safety performance data.
“Safety is always our highest priority. The severe reduction in flight numbers last year compared to the 5-year average magnified the impact of each accident when we calculate rates. Yet, in the face of numerous operational challenges in 2021, the industry improved in several key safety metrics. At the same time, it is clear that we have much work ahead of us to bring all regions and types of operations up to global levels of safety performance.In the face of numerous operational challenges in 2021, the industry improved in several key safety metrics. At the same time, it is clear that we have much work ahead of us to bring all regions and types of operations up to global levels of safety performance."Willie Walsh, Director General, IATA
In 2021, the rate was one accident for every 9.9 lakh flight, while a year earlier it was one for every 6.3 lakh flight in the year 2020, it said. In 2021, 2.5 crore airline passenger flights were operated out of which 26 met with accidents. Within these, 7 were fatal crashes that killed a total of 121 people.
In the five previous years (between 2016 and 2020), runway and taxiway excursion accidents had the highest frequency of accidents worldwide. Between those years, IATA registered 79 excursions, nearly 30% of all the accidents in that span.
A runway excursion occurs when an aircraft departs the runway in use during the take-off or landing run
A runway excursion occurs when an aircraft departs the runway in use during the take-off or landing run. There are also runway incursions, although those are less frequent.
Despite IATA claims, there were a few runway excursions in 2021, although not directly related to commercial aviation. For instance, a test flight for an Irkut MC-21 prototype aircraft slid off the runway and got stuck in the snow at Moscow-Zhukovsky airport in January 2021.
Among the fatal crashes, one involved a large passenger jet aircraft — the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 crash in Indonesia on January 9, 2021, which killed all 61 people, and the rest were smaller turboprop accidents.
Air India Express aircraft crashed in Calicut on August 7, 2020, which killed 21 people.
In 2020, 2.22 crore airline flights were operated, 35 accidents occurred, out of which 5 were fatal with a total death toll of 132 people. Among them was the Air India Express crash in Calicut on August 7, 2020, which killed 21 people.
Within the commercial airline industry, IATA member airlines fared better, with one accident for every 22 lakh flight in 2021, while the rate in 2020 was higher at one accident for every 13 lakh flight, showed the report.
India to restart scheduled international flights after 2 years from March 27
The Civil Aviation Ministry on March 8 announced that it will resume regular international flight operations from March 27.
The ministry further added that international operations shall be subject to strict adherence to Ministry of Health guidelines for international travel.
Earlier on February 28, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) extended the ban on regular international flights, until further orders. However, the DGCA said that the flights that are operational under air bubble arrangements, as well as international cargo flights, will continue to operate as scheduled.
"After having recognized the increased vaccination coverage across the globe and in consultation with the stakeholders, the Government of India has decided to resume scheduled commercial international passenger services to/from India from 27.03.2022, i.e. start of Summer Schedule 2022. The suspension of scheduled commercial international passenger services to/from India, thus, stands extended only up to 2359 hrs IST on 26.03.2022 and air bubble arrangements shall accordingly be extended to this extent only."Ministry of Civil Aviation
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The Scheduled international flight services have remained suspended in India since March 23, 2020. However, special international flights have been operating between India and about 35 other countries since July 2020 under air bubble arrangements.
India currently has air transport bubbles with 40 countries, including Canada, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the US.
Despite trying to resume the international commercial flight operations, the aviation ministry postponed its plans following the rise in omicron cases.
Limited capacity under bubble flights had led to sky-high airfares. Now even as regular flights resume, it remains to be seen how much fare relief -- if any -- passengers will get.
The ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict has pushed crude to several years high of USD 130. Jet fuel prices globally are also at a 14-year high.
Combined with longer routes that many international airlines take to avoid overflying Russian airspace, the additional fuel burden may limit fare correction post resumption of regular flights.
The Scheduled international flight services have remained suspended in India since March 23, 2020.
On March 1 an inter-ministerial committee of officials from the ministries of home affairs, health and family welfare, civil aviation and the director-general of civil aviation (DGCA) will meet this week to take a call on lifting the ban on regular international flights.
The Health Ministry has issued revised guidelines for international arrivals, with effect from February 14, doing away with the mandatory seven-day home quarantine and the need for them to undertake an RT-PCR test on the eighth day.
Apart from uploading a negative RT-PCR report, taken 72 hours before the journey, there is an option to upload certificates of the completion of the full primary Covid vaccination schedule provided from countries on a reciprocal basis.
Last year, the government announced that 500,000 free visas would be issued for international travellers before March 2022.
Also, the demarcation of countries ‘at-risk’ and other countries has been removed. Accordingly, the need for giving samples on the port of arrival and waiting till the result is obtained from countries ‘at-risk’ has been dispensed with.
After a nearly two-year ban, India resumed issuing tourist visas in November last and the decision was met with an initial surge in demand. Last year, the government announced that 500,000 free visas would be issued for international travellers before March 2022.
In 2020, around 6.33 million international tourists and non-resident Indians arrived in India, down from about 18 million in 2019, as per some industry estimates.
The Air India Express Employees’ Union has called off the indefinite strike after the new management of Air India Express (AIE) agreed to renew the contract of the cabin crew for five years, which had been reduced to one year by the previous management.
In February, a meeting was held with the new management and the Assistant Labour Commissioner (Central), where the former agreed to the union’s demands.
“The management agreed to renew the contract period of the cabin crew for five years as per the company policy, subject to qualifying standards and norms of the company.The management also agreed to offer the job of ground staff to Basil K Paulose, a member of the crew, as recommended by the disability commission. He has been offered a new contract. The union welcomes the management decision and has withdrawn the proposed indefinite strike."KK Vijayakumar, President, Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU) (BMS)
AIE cabin crew had alleged that the management had reduced the contract period of the staff to one year without any explanation.
“The cabin crew were part of the Vande Bharat mission in 2020 and Operation Ganga. We are glad that the Tata management renewed our contracts to five years, which the previous management failed to,“ said a cabin crew member.
Air India Express cabin crew call off strike after contract renewal
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The Air India Express cabin crew have decided to launch an indefinite strike from January 15 if the management does not address their concerns. Over 500 cabin crew under the Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU) are likely to strike work.
They allege that the management has shown discrimination while issuing contracts. Tata Group has acquired Air India Express, a fully owned subsidiary of Air India, based in Kochi.
AAIB breaks rules by naming pilots in the final report on Gwalior accident
Carrying names of the flight crew in an accident investigation report and secondly, making changes to a final report, post-publication, without putting it on record that the report has been altered amounts to a violation of norms laid down for such investigations.
The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) allegedly committed both these violations in a final report it released recently and then re-released with changes.
The matter pertains to the May 6, 2021, non-fatal, landing accident involving a Beechcraft King Air 250 aircraft (VT-MPQ) in Gwalior. The final report of the accident was accepted by the director-general, Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) and was uploaded on its website on February 11.
The matter pertains to the May 6, 2021, non-fatal, landing accident involving a Beechcraft King Air 250 aircraft (VT-MPQ) in Gwalior.
Earlier, 10 months after an uninsured aircraft owned by the Madhya Pradesh government crash-landed at the Gwalior airbase, the state government has handed out an INR 85-crore bill for damages to Captain Majid Akhtar, the pilot who was flying the aircraft on May 6.
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The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had suspended Akhtar’s flying licence for a year. The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau is probing the crash-landing.
“It carried names of the flight crew which is a violation of the Aircraft (Investigation of Accidents and Incidents) Rules 2017, Para 17(3) states that the final report shall not disclose the names of the persons involved in the accident or incident. Para 22 states that ‘any person who contravenes, or fails to comply with, any of these rules, shall be punishable by the provisions of the sub-section (2) of section 10 of the Act.In a previous case, the AAIB had published an incident report with a map of India showing Jammu region as Azad Kashmir. Once the anomaly was highlighted, the report was replaced with a new one but without a revision number as in the case mentioned above."Capt Amit Singh, Air Safety Expert and Founder, Safety Matters Foundation
Capt Singh, founder of Safety Matters Foundation, an NGO that promotes a safety culture in aviation said that he pointed out the violation in a tweet he posted on a social media platform on February 22.
Two days later, on February 24, the final report that was accepted and published was replaced by another report. The new report redacted, deleted the names of the crew. But it did not put on record that a revision or amendment has been made to the original document, noted Capt Singh in a letter sent recently to MoCA about the issue.
Now, there are now two versions of the same final report, one which carries the names of the crew and another one without the names. “Such changes in Aircraft Accident Reports amount to fraudulent alteration involving the material alteration to a central government-issued document by a person other than the person who signed the instrument,” he said.
This isn’t the first time that the AAIB has bungled an investigation report. “Aircraft Accident Investigation is a vital element in the 'Safety Management System' for determination of the root cause or causes of accidents which can help prevent such occurrences,” he said.
Boeing halts purchase of Russian titanium, while Airbus continues to use the supplies
Boeing Co said on Monday, March 7 it had suspended buying titanium from Russia, while its European rival Airbus continues to use supplies from the nation that hosts the world's largest supplier of the commodity, VSMPO-AVISMA.
The U.S. planemaker said it had a "substantial" inventory of the metal, prized in aerospace for its strength relative to its weight and its compatibility with the latest generation of carbon fibre, long-distance passenger jets.
"We have suspended purchasing titanium from Russia. Our inventory and diversity of titanium sources provide sufficient supply for airplane production," Boeing said in an emailed statement.
Boeing halts purchase of Russian titanium, while Airbus continues to use the supplies
The head of state-controlled VSMPO-AVISMA hit out at Boeing's decision to suspend the contract, which had been renewed four months ago at the Dubai Airshow where Boeing pledged to keep the Russian company as its largest titanium supplier.
The two companies had also agreed to increase the use of forgings manufacturing joint-venture - Ural Boeing Manufacturing - in Russia's Titanium Valley in the Urals.
"We sincerely regret that the contracts with our long-term partner are suspended," VSMPO-AVISMA Chief Executive Dmitry Osipov said in an emailed statement on Monday, March 7.
"We are now reorienting our sales policy to other markets," he said, adding that the company had prepared for such an outcome for several months.
The head of state-controlled VSMPO-AVISMA hit out at Boeing's decision to suspend the contract
Western governments imposed sanctions on Russia after it invaded Ukraine in what it calls a “special military operation,” but they have not targeted VSMPO-AVISMA, 25% of which is owned by state defence conglomerate Rostec. It relies on aerospace for three-quarters of its sales.
The potential for disruption to Russian commodity supplies has thrown a spotlight on titanium, which is also used in the marine, auto and nuclear industries.
Besides Boeing, aerospace firms including Safran and Dassault Aviation are looking for alternative supplies of titanium, which is used in airplane parts from engines to fasteners.
In France, Airbus said it continued to source titanium from Russia and other countries
In France, Airbus SE said it continued to source titanium from Russia and other countries. In an emailed statement, it said it was also obtaining titanium indirectly via its first-tier suppliers, all in compliance with sanctions.
The European planemaker has said it relies on Russia for half of its overall titanium needs, while VSMPO-AVISMA provides a third of Boeing's requirements.
Industry sources say Airbus receives its Russian titanium primarily from VSMPO-AVISMA with some titanium parts for landing gear supplied by Nizhny Novgorod-based Hydromash.
Besides Boeing, aerospace firms including Safran and Dassault Aviation are looking for alternative supplies of titanium
It has been said that its general ability to boost jet output depends on the availability of raw materials, including titanium. Its NH90 and Tiger military helicopter programmes have relied on Russian titanium, according to Airbus' 2019 annual report.
Airbus did not immediately respond to a query about the specific status of its VSMPO-AVISMA contract.
Aerospace companies worldwide have been increasing stocks of titanium and moving to diversify sources since the Crimea crisis in 2014.
Boeing Co has preliminary plans to boost production of its cash cow 737-family narrowbody to around 47 per month by the end of next year, as the U.S. planemaker looks to extend its recovery from successive crises, two people familiar with the matter said.
After slashing production due mainly to the pandemic, Boeing and European rival Airbus SE are seeing more demand for their medium-haul passenger jets, with both planemakers adding eye-catching deals to their order books in recent weeks.
Boeing intends to double its 737 MAX production by the end of 2023
Boeing's production plans shift and are influenced by many factors, the people cautioned. Doubts are already swirling in the industry over whether the supply chain will be able to meet aggressive production ramp-up plans, particularly in Europe.
Suppliers are grappling with labour and materials shortages and weakened balance sheets following the overlapping pandemic and 737 MAX safety grounding crises.
Boeing said in late January it was working to clear an inventory of 335 737 MAX airplanes amassed following two fatal crashes of the jet that grounded the plane for 20 months. It has been estimated most of those jets would be delivered by the end of 2023.
Over 4,800 737 MAX aircraft have been ordered as the Boeing 737 MAX is becoming more proven & trustworthy
With the 737 MAX in such high demand, Boeing's Renton, Washington, USA factory will be humming along for years to come. Over 4,800 737 MAX aircraft have been ordered as the Boeing 737 MAX is becoming more proven & trustworthy as a jetliner for the next few decades and logical evolution to the 737 design.
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The 737 MAX is designed around new larger CFM International LEAP engines that are more efficient and provide a longer range plus a lower cost per passenger. Boeing declined to comment on its production plans and referred to its last public statements.
In late January, Chief Financial Officer Brian West said the 737 programs were producing at a rate of 27 jets per month and we're on track to reach 31 per month "fairly soon".
Two of the people said the 31-jet monthly stride would come during the second half of the year, though a third person said it could happen sooner.
Beyond that, Boeing aims to increase to around 38 narrowbody jets monthly during the first half of 2023, and reach about 47 jets per month in the second half of 2023, two people said.
Boeing was laying the groundwork to nearly double production by the end of 2023, the third person said but noted the plans could change due to supply chain constraints or other factors.
A rate of 47 aircraft per month is five shy of its build rate in 2019 when the 737 MAX was grounded.
Airbus, meanwhile, has set a production target of 65 a month by summer 2023 for its A320-family narrowbody. It has been at odds with engine makers led by France's Safran over its ambitions to push production afterwards as high as 75 a month.
(With Inputs from Reuters)