Aviation News

It is a challenging time for aviation, as the sector struggles to deal with the crisis created by the global pandemic. Here we offer the latest headlines from the aviation sector.

Another blow for Airbus

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many airlines are looking to defer the delivery of new aircraft. The air transport downturn has been dramatic. However, it will still come as a blow to Airbus that Kuwaiti Lessor ALAFCO has sought an agreement to delay the purchase of new aircraft. It makes you wonder how many more airlines will follow in their footsteps and what this could mean for the thousands of employees involved.

Mixed news for Finnair

There is both bad and good news coming out of the national airline for Finland. On the one hand, they have announced a cut of 1000 permanent jobs. This number represents 15% of the total workforce for Finnair. The company blames the exceptionally tight travel restrictions within the country as the cause for such a dramatic move.

On the other hand, Finnair has also sealed a sale and leaseback deal for the A350 which has bolstered its cash position. Liquidity is always going to be an issue when there is no revenue coming in. Therefore, the positive cash influx of over 100 million euros for this sale and leaseback of the Airbus A350 could help secure the airlines future.

More on finances

To be fair, as you would imagine, the headlines are awash with financial news of one kind or another. For instance, news out of Australia is that Qantas will post a full-year net loss of AUS$1.9 billion for the financial year ending June 30th. 

On the flip side of this devastating announcement from this airline, is the news that Brussels Airlines have received EUR46 million bailout from the European Union Commission. The agreement was reached between the Belgium government and the German airline Lufthansa, who owns the airline. It is thought that this deal will save thousands of jobs and that Brussels Airline can rely on the German company to step in when it is required.

Is it time for more regulation?

The aviation sector is always hindered by the uncertainty of ever-changing regulation. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers have to remain agile to the potential for new requirements or new limits on their work. Whether the time is right for more regulation is questionable, as the pandemic and its economic consequences are giving the sector little room for agility.

Whether it is the right time or not seems irrelevant. There are new aircraft-noise rules coming in that could significantly impact airlines. Government studies seem to suggest that the new rules will do nothing to quieten the skies but would increase the cost for airlines and aerospace manufacturers. 

If this sounds nonsensical, then you are probably hearing it right. Let’s wait and see if the new regulations will be enforced.

Passengers return

The good news for airlines is that passengers are beginning to return to the skies. While numbers might be well down – with most airlines only offering 40% of services – there is revenue coming through. However, there is little room for manoeuvre as passengers are rightly wary of a return to the air. Travel now requires individuals to remember facemask, hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes, if they are to feel safe in the airport and onboard. 

There is still the reality that in America, for instance, the cases are rising again – as they are in Germany and France. With the prospect of a vaccine along way into the future, the increase in travellers is vulnerable to change.

But what about next year?

EasyJet may be leading the thinking in their planning for next year. They have recently announced that they will offer additional flights for summer routes from its main base at Gatwick Airport. The thinking is sound. Passengers have been denied their summer sun this year and so there will be increased demand next year. However, it may be planning to offer these flights but it is still dependent on the creation of a vaccine and a settling of case numbers for COVID-19.

Still, you can’t but help think that the idea is the right one. The increase in services to popular destinations such as Lanzarote, Athens and Malta could be the boost the company needs after this dreadful year. The increases are substantial; take a look at Naples where flights will fly three times on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays rather than twice.

Moving quicker

United Airlines is making the move to increase services this year and not waiting until next before trying to guess demand. The airline has increased flights to China from two to four flights per week, flying from San Fransisco to Shanghai on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

This is a bold statement from the American company, considering the extensive propaganda against China coming the US government. However, the vice president of International Network and Alliances noted that United Airlines has served mainland China for three decades and looks forward to continuing to maintain the relationship. 

Any measure to increase flights will serve as a note of optimism within the sector and boost confidence. The announcement of increased flights tends to serve two purposes it seems. First, it increases the opportunity for revenue into the company if the flights are profitable, at a time when airlines are cash poor. Second, it communicates to passengers that others are flying and so it should be safe to fly too.

The impact of the virus on aviation is undoubted. It will dominate the headlines for the sector for many years to come. If the sector is to survive then it will need to employ all the technical know-how available. Therefore, here we focus on the impact that 5G could have on the future of aviation and the possibilities it will offer. 

Here we will look at 5G. The implementation of 5G technologies in aviation could have a significant impact on the sector. Here we explore the details and consider its implication.

Technologies and 5G

First, it is important to know that 5G covers a range of new technologies. This tech includes radio access technology, as well as antennas operating in the low, mid and high bands of the radiofrequency spectrum. The term 5G also covers more efficient approaches to beamforming. So, while the person on the street might think mobile phone signal and faster mobile gaming, the aviation sector is looking at a broader revolution of communication tech between people but also between machines. There is likely to be innovation on the aircraft, at airports and in the IT networks.

Revolution or evolution

The company who introduced the initial radio specifications were formally introduced by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), which is a consortium of seven mobile telecommunications and wireless network standards organisations. This consortium represents some 700 companies specialising in communication technology. The reason this is important to our understanding of 5G is that is the same consortium, 3GPP was also responsible for the air interface that allowed us to have 3G, 4G and 4G LTE networks. 

Therefore, although 5G feels like a revolution in tech that will permit high-intensity activity over a mobile interface, in truth it is just another step on the same journey to interconnectivity. The difference is that 5G will run over new radio frequencies within one of three bands, low, mid and high. The current 5G tech that has been deployed is non-standalone technology that builds on what has been achieved with 4G LTE. However, what is now starting to be released is high-speed, low latency tech that is really starting to get people excited. Yet, even though this will become increasingly available in the next two or three years, it is still merely an evolution in radio frequency infrastructure.

What will this mean for the consumer?

All this sounds amazing and almost like science-fiction. We could just sit back and feel convinced of the success of consortiums looking to roll out 5G and understand that it is making something better. This would have been the option had there not been all sorts of worries and concerns about cyber-security and national/ international intrusion into our privacy.

Therefore, what are the benefits of the 5G rollout to aviation companies and consumers? First, it will reduce the time needed for a smartphone to download or update applications. How fast? Well, a two-hour movie would normally take 7 minutes to download on 4G but with 5G the download will be under 10 seconds. For the standard individual using an airport or aeroplane wifi, this is astonishing. For aviation companies, it is groundbreaking.

At the moment there are no antennae capable of standalone 5G – so at the minute no aeroplanes or airports can take advantage of this level of connectivity. However, according to Gogo, a company developing antennae, there should be sites built and available for flight testing at the end of 2020. This means that there should be the first in-flight connectivity 5G air-to-ground network by the end of the year.

The Gogo network will only be available in North America. They will be leveraging 250 exiting towers in the region that are currently used for 3G and 4G IFC networks. The 5G network will work over an unlicensed spectrum and provide an airplane-to-ground station link.

There are aircraft and airport maintenance providers looking to make use of this opportunity in the near future. The first steps have already been taken. For instance, in February, Nokia deployed a private 5G wireless network for Lufthansa Technik. It was used to enable collaboration between engineers and customers, as a means of facilitating remote engine inspections. Nokia deployed this network using a Digital Automation Cloud end-to-end wireless networking and edge computing platform for Lufthansa Technik;s virtual table inspection project.

Nokia is also looking to use the same technology at Brussels Airport in partnership with Citymesh. While the airport feels that current wifi is good enough for current passenger needs, they want the speeds and performance levels to improve ready for the next level of automation applications. In other words, the airport is responding to the increased demand on the network from the Internet-of-Things and the interconnection of different machines throughout the airport.

But 

While we all might want to get excited by these developments, it is likely that the user of these technologies is going to be in aerospace and defense and not general aviation. There is a case to be made about safety and this technology that has yet to be fully explored. Therefore, although the technology will be available and starting to be deployed at the end of the year, there will be limited application across the sector.

With events moving so rapidly, it is important to keep up to date with the latest news out of the aviation sector. All sorts of business decisions are dependent on the success of both national and international flight. Here we look at the current issues and what they might mean for the future.

The Martini Effect

2020 has certainly presented the aviation sector with a novel set of problems. The idea that a global pandemic could be spread due to air travel has always been a worry and the subject of some classic films. However, no one realised that this year would be defined so quickly by the spread of COVID-19 around the world and the need for countries to close their borders. 

The impact of the initial shock on aviation was significant enough. However, the attempted reopening of travel has proven even more difficult. With infection rates fluctuating, countries that were once perceived to be safe for quarantine-free travel have been considered a threat once more.

The idea that these travel bans and quarantines can be imposed anywhere and at any time have become known as the Martini effect – based on the advert from a few decades ago. The impact of this is that people will now never know if it is fine to travel for a holiday or business. It could be that while away the status of the country changes and passengers are forced to spend two weeks at home once they return.

The likely impact of such uncertainty is low passenger numbers. In many ways, this attempted reopening of world travel followed by this period of stuttering change is more damaging than the original shut down of aviation. People are now unclear when it will be ok to fly again and are more likely to delay travel even further. 

Governments are going to have to find a way to indicate to people when travel can be undertaken with confidence, else the aviation sector will never recover.

Is China the success story we need?

It is odd to think that all this began in China and now China is a model for how to overcome the impacts of the pandemic. However, Chinese domestic airline activity has virtually recovered to those experience in 2019. Airlines have sought to maximise profits by increasing capacity and so allowing for similar numbers of tourists and business travellers. The move for more flights came from the Chinese civil aviation authority, showing the need for a centralised approach to the issue. While there has been no government directive to force the issue for aviation, there was a mandate that the population must get back to work. 

The question is whether more liberal democracies could ever hope to have the same impact with such a simple measure. It is likely were people feel more freedom to choose, there will need more work on reassurance and confidence building.

Ryanair cut flights

Whether we should be surprised that a budget airline has cut flights in these times is questionable. However, what we should wonder is if this is a signal of bigger problems to come. Is this reduction in flights a sign that the aviation sector in the UK has gone into nose dive?

The size in the cut is significant. For September and October Ryanair will reduce capacity by 20%. They noted that since the first change in Spain’s status the forward booking of seats has weakened dramatically. However, Ryanair may have been too optimistic in the first place, as they maintained 70% of normal flights when competitor Easyjet reduced their provision down to 40% for July through to September.

Predictions from October onwards are even more difficult to make. As tourist travel lessens, the airlines rely more on business people. No one can predict what will happen with this as the requirement for in-person attendance at meetings have reduced dramatically. Individuals and companies alike have realised that video conferencing is both possible and preferable, with savings in time and money.

Could there be a silver lining?

While airlines are posting billions in losses and likely to continue to make losses until a vaccine is found, there is thought that this time could be useful for the sector. Vanity Fair wrote a feature piece noting that the pandemic has offered the aviation an opportunity to take a moment to improve the onboarding experience for passengers. 

Bloomberg noted that tourism won’t recover until 2023 and that there will likely be efforts made at airports to make mass travel safe. However, unless the airlines get that process right, the impact on travel could be felt for much longer. This time when there is little travel affords the airlines the moment of pause they need to get these procedures right. If they don’t, the crowding and wait times, especially moving through security, could drive people away.

In the post 9/11 world, the airport footfall was shepherded into one area. COVID-19 will require a reversal of this model and consequently will take smoke time to think through. Vanity Fair point to the Smart Tunnel at Dubai airport that allows passengers to move through passport control in seconds. Equally, in Munich and Singapore check-in is done with machines, while Hong Kong has disinfection chambers. JFK is looking at sensors to pick up points of congestion while Seoul is using robots to sterilise common touchpoints.

Whether all this will be enough to make the onboarding process bearable is yet to be seen.

It continues to be interesting times in the aviation sector. It is certainly a good time to be a journalist seeking out the inside story on some of the troubles and turmoils facing the sector. Not only does aviation face economic challenges from the coronavirus, but it also continues to feel pressure from regulators and the need to drive forward technological improvements. Each day brings a revolution in one way or another. Here we explore the top stories that are of prime concern to aviation insiders.

Does it pay to be a contributor?

The CARES Act is a $2 trillion stimulus package that aims to support businesses through the current crisis. The hope is that this money will counter the economic impact of the virus for the sake of the US as a whole. Therefore, for some, the $27 million funding to a private jet company that was founded by a Trump donor smells a little. 

Clay Lacy Aviation, a company based in California, received the payment run by the Treasury Department – and it is the largest amount received by any private jet company. The money was received as a grant and not a loan; therefore, the money does not have to be returned.

Lacy donated the maximum amount to Trump’s campaign and a further $47000 to the RNC when Trump became a nominee. 

96 other recipients of the grants came from major commercial airlines and regional carriers with the hope to maintain jobs in the sector. Private aviation lobbied hard for eligibility within the relief package, as they argued they supported more than a million jobs. The 7.5% excise tax on private jets was also suspended to help this sector.

The question that is worth asking is whether Clay Lacy’s connections with world leaders, the top CEOs, government agencies, celebrities and sports stars help push his case for a substantial grant. 

How to benefit workers 

When an economy is in as much trouble as the world’s finances are at the moment, then it is never easy to know where to push the money. One side of the aisle might suggest giving it to the bosses and having the money trickle down to the workers on the flight deck. Others would say that pushing money into billionaire’s pockets does not help provide workers with the funds they need to retrain in the reality of this new normal.

Donnachdh McCarthy, writing in the Independent, believes that the money would be better placed in the hands of the unemployed who need to retrain. The demands of the new green economy are different from what we had before; therefore, we need to help people adapt and so protect the future. 

You can imagine that McCarthy finds the bailout given to the airline sector unpalatable. In fact, he called it “an unconscionable injustice”. His point? Well, we are passing on massive debts to future generations to maintain an industry that is still not doing enough to clean up its act and protect the climate – for the same future generation. 

European flight capacity is down 88% and the passengers using Heathrow were down 97% in May. It is difficult to see how the UK government could have just let the airlines fail. Equally, it is troublesome when bail-outs seem to be going to billionaires. As with everything about this pandemic, there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution.

How can passengers protect the planet?

You might be desperate to get back on board and fly to next luxurious destination that comes available. However, you might also recognise that the skies have been clearer and the air cleaner. Your sense of conscience might have been pricked. Therefore, any sense that you are desperate to get away is countered by how much it damages the climate.

What can you do to protect the planet while emerging from the hibernation of quarantine? Well, the answer might lie in who you fly with and what other actions you take to counterbalance your carbon footprint. There are some airlines that do better than others in their green credentials, so you can research and choose to support their efforts. You can also look at carbon-offsetting. Consider how many trees you might need to plant or how much energy you use in your home. You could look to using other forms of energy supply to counter your urge to travel.

While you are only one person, it is fair to argue that it will take everyone to contribute. The airlines will only act if they feel pressure from consumers and see that the climate is vital to their clientele. Your actions could add to the power of this message.

Airline pilots banned from the UK and the US

A quarter of all pilots flying for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) have been banned from flying in and out of the UK and the US. The reason is quite shocking – they did not hold a valid license to be flying into the country.  

The Karachi air disaster was followed by a detailed investigation. The crash resulted in the loss of all passengers and the crew. During this investigation 262 of 850 pilots carried fake licenses or had licenses with irregularities. Many had not taken the regulators’ examination, so were not qualified.

Forbes reported that 150 pilots from the airline have been suspended. Now, the Pakistan airline is banned from flying by the US and UK air authorities. This response is proportional to the facts of the case, where the pilot and first officer in the crash ignored alarms and did not follow standard safety procedures. There were successive breaches in safety management that cost several hundred lives.

PIA has experienced 2 fatal events in six years. 

As governments continue to drive money into aviation, the importance of the sector has been proven. The significant organisations within aviation have proven themselves too big to fail, with jobs needing protecting and world tourism and business support crucial. Therefore, it is important to keep abreast of the latest developments. Here we guide you through the latest news.

Aerospace suffering

The chair that you take when flying business class is likely manufactured in County Down, Northern Ireland. The US giant, United Technologies, employs close to a thousand people at the Collins Aerospace seat factory in Kilkeel. It is the areas largest employer. Next, Chinese-owned Thompson Aero seating is the employer of similar numbers it is two sites at Portadown and Banbridge. With the impacts of the current health and economic climate, this reliance on aerospace is set to devastate this area of the world.

United Technologies is cutting 235 jobs and last month Thompson Aero announced 500 job losses. Although not a surprise, it still must be a shock to the area.

Air travel returns

When Flybe went into administration 60% of UK domestic flight routes came available. This was not such an issue as the health crisis deepened. However, now that the world is opening up again, people are looking to see who will claim the air routes. Loganair claimed a couple of the routes in Scotland and Air Lingus and Stobart Air are looking to take routes into and out of Belfast City. This means that every route has been claimed, barring one service to Cardiff from Belfast.

The British Foreign Office and the wider government opened up the possibility of travel after removing the essential travel only advisory. It is now a matter of helping people feel safe to fly again in this strange climate.

The importance of liquidity

Wizz Air has proven the importance of cash, as the CEO noted that the company liquidity has carried them through the crisis so far. The company has stressed the importance of this management approach, as cash preservation helps to see them through lean times such as these. 

This Hungarian airline has not enjoyed the same government support as many of the other airlines around the world. It has been forced to rely on its own resources to survive this period. Using a strategy of cash contribution, the company continues to add to its liquidity even during the crisis. It seems the focus on operational agility in the mindset of the company management has proven essential at this time.  

Is hydrogen the future fuel?

Airbus has signalled that it sees hydrogen as the pathway to zero-emissions for the commercial airline sector. The belief is that the change in fuel could come in the next decade. Obviously, the clear skies and low pollution has put extra pressure on the aviation sector to come up with a solution to this environmental dilemma.  

Airbus has stated that hydrogen ranks high in the many approaches that are being explored.  Other than hydrogen, the sector is exploring synthetic fuels, electricity and hybrid. However, Airbus is convinced that the only option that will allow them to reach zero-emission targets by the 2030s is hydrogen, which could be produced by solar or wind, which would drive internal turbines. 

However, if such a project is to be successful, aviation companies will need to reach beyond the boundaries of the sector. It will likely take a cooperation with the automotive and space sectors if hydrogen is to be a serious option. Currently, the major barrier to using hydrogen is the increase in safety issues that have yet to be fully resolved.

Will the 737 Max make a return?

The 737 Max has been nothing short of a disaster for Boeing. With two fatal air crashes claiming hundreds of lives and proven to be the fault of aeroplane design, it could have seen the end of the giant. Boeing had already frozen production in January due to the number of cancelled orders. This delay in production has been extended by the current pandemic.

However, Boeing has now returned to work on the 737 Max. If the plane passes the scrutiny of the regulators, then the plane could be in the air again by the end of the year. 

It is estimated that the grounding of the Max due to the safety concerns have cost Boeing $18 billion. Therefore, it entered the pandemic in a relatively weak position and in April it announced plans to lose 16000 jobs, which accounts for 10% of its workforce. 

However, even though the 737 Max could return to the air, the orders might not be forthcoming. For instance, nearly one hundred were on the order books from Norwegian Air, which the carrier no longer plans to buy. It is struggling due to the current economic conditions – and it is likely not the only one. 

Therefore, could the dual problems of the safety issues and the virus see the end to the Boeing 737 Max? Boeing claims to still have several thousand orders and will reduce production by half to counter any issues created by the cancelled orders. As airlines across the globe are losing millions each day, it is hard to see how Boeing will reincarnate the troubled plane.

July News Round-Up

Probably the biggest question that faces us is what happens if the significant airlines collapse. It would have been unfeasible to suggest such a problem one year ago. However, now with the threat of a virus lingering for years to come, the aviation sector might not survive Covid-19. The aviation consultant CAPA has issued a warning that most of the world’s airlines could be bankrupt by the end of May 2021.

Airlines that have already gone

Although this “what if” question feels theoretical, for some airlines business has already moved into administration and bankruptcy. On Thursday 5th March 2020, Flybe entered administration. To be fair, this organisation was already on the brink of collapse when the lockdown threatened. Despite the significant investment by a Virgin Atlantic-led consortium, the company was always on the edge.

Another airline to disappear is Trans States Airlines in the US. Again in March 2020, was forced to close its doors early. It was already planning to end its business in 2020 but the impacts of coronavirus pushing it over the edge much quicker. April saw the end of Virgin Australia, which is possibly a bigger shock to the sector. The Brisbane-based airline suspended operations and furloughed employees but was still losing money through necessary operating costs. It was not feasible for the company to continue losing money this way. Richard Branson was forced to seek government assistance from the British government to protect other Virgin airline companies.

One of the latest companies to move into administration is Avianca from Colombia. This is a sad loss to aviation, with the largest and oldest South American airline going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May. With flight operations grounded since March due to the virus.

Government help

If we look to the UK and the US as two examples of Government intervention, we can see the importance of the aviation sector to the global economy. In the UK, there has been an extensive furlough scheme, which has allowed aviation companies to send the workforce home while the taxpayer pays them. Airlines such as British Airways, Easy Jet, Wizz Air and Ryanair have taken £1.8bn from the UK COVID relief scheme. Fifty-three other companies have taken advantage of the Bank of England Financing Facilities. 

In the US, many airlines are safe now due to the bailout bill offered by Congress. The stimulus bill includes $58 billion for airlines, including $29 billion for payroll grants and $29 in loans. Despite this help, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Alendre de Juniac has warned that many airlines will be forced to consolidate or to shut down completely.

What if…

Airbus has warned that the aviation sector will take five years to recover from COVID-19 – and this is if the crisis begins to decrease this year. With the threat of a second-wave and maybe even a third-wave, the chances that the effects of the pandemic will reverse from now are slim. Therefore, it is not such a hypothetical to suggest that aviation could be under threat, especially as the global economy goes into the likely recession – and maybe even depression.

The airline industry will continue in chaos while passenger flight revenues continue to be all but wiped out. British Airlines is a sign that even the larger companies are under threat, as they recently announced a plan to 12000 jobs. This is almost a third of British Airway’s entire workforce. When the furlough scheme ends in the UK in October, it is likely to be only one of many aviation companies looking to lay-off staff. Airbus itself is looking to cut jobs, and it employs 135000 employees worldwide. 

In the short term, the key to survival will be their ability to adapt to COVID-safe modes of working. The airlines will also need to work out how to deal with uneven recovery. The lockdowns are likely to come and go based on infection levels – and so there may be only windows of travel available to consumers. It is expected that airlines will need to impose higher prices on periods when the chances of travel are highest – as this is where the demand will be.

However, as well as the threats posed by the pandemic, there are also opportunities being taken by some. There is an acceleration towards lower carbon-emissions, which should help the companies long-term future. With much of the success of aviation based on public relations with passengers, the change to carbon-neutral technology in this period could be a bonus – and a future cost-saving. Airlines will undoubtedly need to use air quality as a feature of their advertising. It has become all too clear to the global population the real effects of air travel on air quality. The skies cleared during the lockdown. Therefore, the airlines will feel the pressure to boast about the work they are doing to clean up their act.

If flying does return to what it used to be, it is likely to be a very different affair. It is expected, for instance, that the queue at immigration will be much longer. There will need to be checks on passengers at the airport and potential for an isolation period on the other side. This will need to be processed and administered, which will all take much longer. It will also be likely that you will be expected to carry more than your passport, as you will need to prove your immunity or your negative test results. Once vaccinations are available, you will also likely need a certificate to prove you have been protected from the virus.

There is general fatigue with the pandemic and the restrictions it places on our lives. However, the COVID-19 virus shows no sign of relenting and global problems persist. In this context, we explore the latest news from the sector and consider its implications.

F-35 Program Stalled

It probably comes as no surprise to learn that COVID-19 has dented the production of the F-35, though it is promising that development continues. You might consider the impact of one program should be of little consequence in the broader context. However, Lockheed Martin F-35 is the largest global defence program underway. Therefore, there are a vast number of domestic and international suppliers impacted by the drop in production rate.

There is calculated to be a three-month delay on production with its accompanying consequences on the lives of those who financially rely on this program. However, VP of Lockheed Martin believes that the company can ramp up production above pre-COVID levels to help with the recovery for all involved. They predict this will happen in the late summer or early autumn.

Epic granted production certification for E1000

The FAA has granted production certification for the E100, an Epic Aircraft. The approval from the FAA allows this Oregan-based company to move headlong into the manufacture of the carbon-fibre, six-seat turboprop single-engine plane. The certification permits Epic to duplicate the design of the approved model in future jets. 

Epic admits that gaining FAA approval is a significant milestone, as it offers validation of production processes and quality assurance systems. The company are grateful to the FAA for the rapid adoption of new tools and technologies that helps overcome the barriers created by the pandemic. 

Diversity has to be another focus in 2020

2020 has been quite the year for momentous events and changing attitudes. The pandemic may have dominated a lot of the headlines but the demand that “Black Lives Matter” has taken a fair few too. However, diversity is not just about race but also a matter of gender too.  

During an FIA Connect 2020 session, four female senior executives stressed the need for more diversity in the sector. They were speaking as part of the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter. This is an initiative that was launched during the 2018 Farnborough air show and has attracted more than 200 companies since this beginning.

The stats are impressive. Companies, where there is gender diversity within the executive team, outperform others on profit by 21% and are 27% more likely to generate value. However, the jobs report still makes terrible reading for the aviation sector, where an imbalance is still rife. The topic of diversity seems to be as urgent as ever, even though the initiative has been in place for two years now. Female pilots, for instance, only a total of 6% of the entire population – and this is one position in a sector that favours men.

Fire on Ethiopian Airliner

Can there be anything more terrifying than the idea of a fire on a plane? Such was the situation faced at Shanghai Pudong International Airport when an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 freighter suffered significant damage.

The 777 airliner caught fire while being loaded ready for its flight to Santiago, Chile. By the time the fire was brought under control, the damage was extensive. The widebody’s fuselage has been severely burned. Fortunately, all ground staff and flight crew were safe.

The cause for the fire is under investigation and all officials remained tight-lipped. Ethiopian Airlines promised to cooperate fully with the Chinese Civil Aviation Authorities. Undoubtedly, this damage to one of only 10 Boeing 777 freighters will be a significant concern for the company.

New emissions standards proposed

The EPA, (Environmental Protection Agency) has proposed a new standard for large subsonic turbine-powered aeroplanes to meet. Although it is pleasing to hear that standards are tightening, the proposals only equal those adopted by ICAO three years ago. 

The proposal from the US-based EPA directs the FAA to establish new regulations to ensure compliance with these new proposals. The requirements apply to the new production of jet aeroplanes with an MTOW of more than 5700kg/ 12500 pounds. From Jan 2023 this will apply to those with an MTOW of 60000KG/ 132270 pounds or less for those with 19 passenger seats or less.) It would also apply to turboprop-powered planes with an MTOW greater than 8618kg/ 19000lbs. However, it also prohibits any change should there be a significant increase in noise or if the changes would adversely impact safety.

The proposals are set for publication in the Federal Register and will be open for comments for 60 days.

News round-up

It is, in some ways, refreshing to see that issues of regulation are showing up in aviation news once more. The pandemic has dominated the world news in all sectors and pushed any sort of normalcy aside. With the return of the regulators comes a sense that aviation is about to come back online and be ready for business again. The news about delays and supply chain issues are certainly a concern and we will have to wait and see what the long term consequences of 2020 will be on aviation.

Aviation may have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant economic devastation; however, it continues to innovate and adapt. Here we look at the latest news coming out of the sector, exploring what this means for the future.

Airbus in Japan

Airbus marked 60 years in Japan this July, as its presence began in 1060 under the predecessor name of Sud Aviation. They have more than 370 of the company’s helicopters in the skies over Japan. The company, based in Europe, has an impressive 53% market share in the country, serving more than 100 operators. 

The success of Airbus in the region is set to continue, as they secured almost half the new bookings available in Japan. They also delivered 10 new helicopters last year. Japan’s National Police Agency has increased its Airbus fleet to 30.

Airbus is a major employer in Japan, with 330 employees in Tokyo and Kobe. The factories in these regions offer aircraft completion, maintenance and technical support. They also serve as trainers for those wishing to fly the Airbus. The new hanger in Kobe increased Airbus capacity by 60%, which bodes well for the relationship between this aviation company and the Japanese people.

Symposium gets the go-ahead

The Electric Aircraft Symposium will be held online this year due to the threat of COVID-19. The 14th annual event was in danger of being cancelled but has moved online to stay within current regulations. The event is being jointly hosted by the Vertical Flight Society and the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency.

The agenda of the symposium this July 28th to 30th will focus on the concerns of leading industry experts. The panellists will be asked to speak on an area of concern that most relates to their expertise, whether this is urban air mobility, community engagement, regional air services or more. It is exciting to see stakeholders from manufacturing, academia, as well as the armed forces.

Newscopter versus drone

The beginning of July saw an incident that highlighted the increasing dangers of crowded urban air space. The NTSB concluded that the helicopter from the Los Angeles news outlet was damaged due to a strike with a drone. The damage was consistent with a hard object made of polycarbonate about the size of a drone.

Although no one on the helicopter was hurt and the damage to the aircraft marginal, the pilot still made a precautionary landing. What is disturbing is that the newscopter was flying at 110 knots and at an altitude of 1100 feet. Therefore, the consequences on the strike with the drone could have been much worse. Investigations have failed to identify the drone or the operator.

The incident surely raises questions about how to keep the skies above cities safe now that there are so many amateur drone operators around. It is likely that there will soon be some regulation put in place for the sake of pilots and for those walking the streets below.

Laser versus helicopter

A man who pointed a laser at a helicopter has been sent to federal prison for 27 months. He will also be expected to serve three years’ probation. The man, 34-year-old Roger Shane John pleaded guilty to striking the sheriff’s helicopter with an 85mw green laser, which is 17 times more powerful than allowed.  

The consequences of John’s crime could have been significant. The pilot and tactical officer were hit with the laser, which have been known to cause significant damage to the eyes. However, it is more the fact that they were forced to abort the call they were on. They were responding to a plea for help from someone threatened by domestic violence. John also admitted to knowing that his behaviour was illegal. 

The acceptance of wrongdoing saved the man from the more severe punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of $250000.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 released

The all-new Microsoft Flight Simulator delivers some pretty impressive graphics as well as real-time live traffic, which encourages flight awareness. This is the next level of simulation, as there has been an emphasis on hyper-realistic terrain – including weather and buildings. Not only is it beautiful to be within the game but it is also a testing experience for the pilot.

Microsoft worked with FlightAware to provide the real-time data feed on air traffic. This data is gathered from the company’s global terrestrial ADS-B network that has more than 28000 receivers. Therefore, this gives the simulator a new level of realism, as the pilots are forced to share the airspace with others – matching patterns they would see in the real world. This pattern is also apparent at airports both on the land and in the air. Therefore, getting to the airport in your slot becomes a new challenge.

Garmin GI 275 Approved

The Garmin GI 275 electronic flight instruments are now to be installed in Part 27 helicopters after passing through the field approval process. This instrumentation mounts in the rear panel and replaces much older models. It is touchscreen and has dual concentric knobs.

The Garmin GI 275 can include a course-deviation indicator, altimeter display and a multifunction display. It has been tested and proven to deal with high degrees of temperature change and excessive vibration.

This model also includes built-in Wi-Fi. This means that updates can be transferred wirelessly and multiple models can be synced within the same aircraft. The WiFi also allows the sharing of GPS position and offer backup altitude information.

As we are still in the strange reality of COVID-19, how is the aviation sector continuing to evolve to the new ways of working? Here we explore the latest news from aviation, keeping you up to date.

UK and quarantine

Apart from the seeming impossibility of flight and social distancing, the UK 14-day quarantine is the leading threat to the aviation sector. The UK, in an attempt to encourage the recovery of the economy, has issued flight resumption guidance. However, this guidance has come with something of a sting in the tail.

First, the Minister for Transport, Grant Shapps still maintains that the advice should be that UK people to avoid all non-essential travel is to be avoided. Therefore, the hope there would be a rush to book holidays has been squashed. Even if people wanted to ignore the advice coming out of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, such advice would make getting travel insurance impossible.

More pressingly, on return from a trip, those who have travelled would need to self-quarantine for 14 days. Therefore, any two-week holiday would necessarily take a month out of the year.

 It is likely that this news is more challenging for business travellers who may have hoped to resume trips to The City. It would be wholly impractical to arrive for a day of business meetings to then be expected to stay in the country two weeks before you could interact.

While there has been talk of opening air bridges with other countries, it seems unlikely while the UK is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world. There are few other countries that couldn’t claim they are in a better situation than the UK, making any quarantine farcical.

And then there is the price war


The bounce back from the virus will not be easy. While companies make their first steps into the resumption of operations, they are dealing with a global recession and a consumer base that is reticent to get back onto an aeroplane. There is going to be a struggle to get cash flowing through these airline businesses once more.

In an attempt to lure those afraid to fly back into the air, many European airlines are dramatically cutting prices. The thought process is sensible. To build confidence in the safety of flying in the time of an airborne virus is essential. Once people have climbed back on board once, consumer confidence will return.

EasyJet is selling millions of seats at about £30 while operating about half its routes in July and August. Rival Ryanair is also cutting fairs by a massive 50% to tempt people back. Ryanair is clear though, seat demand will direct pricing policy. Wizz Air, another European low-cost airline, is also significantly cutting prices. Everyone is clamouring to be the first choice of the limited clientele available and so become the airline of choice when the recovery sets in.

Consequently, for many, this battle to see who can offer the cheapest flights feels a lot like a price war. However, with a reduction in demand so brutal, it might also be a reality of doing business at this time.

And then there is the airport

It might be easy to get distracted by the fate of the airlines. A photograph of an apron at an airport filled with parked aeroplanes is a powerful reminder of the money being lost. However, with no take offs and no passengers walking through terminals, airports also struggle to survive in this new time.

There are ten airports in Russia that have applied to the civil aviation regulator for subsidies, including Moscow’s Sheremetyevo. At the beginning of June, the Russian government issues a subsidy decree that promised partial reimbursements for loss of profits during the pandemic. The hope is that the state support will help continue the operation of airports while travel is interrupted.

Usually, Sheremetyevo would record 3.3 million passengers in a month. In April, it reported just 161,000 passengers. There is hope that the required subsidies will be approved in a matter of days, helping this airport to continue to trade in such difficult times.

Toilet News!

Sure, the headline of this update is a gratuitous attempt to grab your attention. Yet, there is a real issue here. How can you go to the toilet on an aeroplane in a world with a pandemic? There are a host of devices that mean you can go through most of life without touching surfaces but sitting on the toilet on a flight seems to be a deal-breaker. You would need impressively strong thighs to maintain a squat during even the mildest turbulence. Also, those cubicles are really small – no, really – so small. Keeping all body parts away from the edge of a toilet on a plane would be an act of contortionist brilliance.

Jokes aside, the need for cabin solutions is pressing. There is a need for a hands-free experience of using aircraft lavatories or a means of sanitising the area to keep passengers safe. The first move towards foot-controlled switches or infrared controls seems a sensible move. Also, devices will need to replace the need for wipes or paper towels too.

Airlines are going to have to cover all the bases in the future – and the toilets are definitely one of these bases. People on a long haul flight can’t be expected to hold on but equally have every right to worry about the safety of a confined area that could house a deadly virus.

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