Safety and pollution top of the agenda as Paris Airshow opens

(MENAFN – Gulf Times) Aviation executives descended on the Paris Airshow yesterday with pledges to improve transparency over plane safety in the wake of the Boeing 737 MAX crisis and to reduce emissions.

Few blockbuster products or orders are expected at the world’s biggest aerospace show, which brings together nearly 2,500 firms from 49 countries, and 290 official delegations, including government leaders and military chiefs.

With passenger traffic slowing this year, the atmosphere at the fair, where arch-rivals Boeing and Airbus vie for aircraft orders, was markedly less self-congratulatory than in recent years.

President Emmanuel Macron inaugurated the event at Le Bourget airport after flying in on a hulking grey Airbus A330 refuelling tanker operated by the French Air Force.

He then attended the unveiling of a full-size model of the new fighter jet that France and Germany are promoting as a symbol of their efforts to boost European defence autonomy at a time of growing strain in ties with the United States.

The stealth plane is part of the ambitious Future Combat Air System (FCAS) that includes next-generation drones and missiles, which would help reduce the EU’s long reliance on US planes and equipment.

The cooperation framework was later signed by the defence ministers of France, Germany and Spain, so far the only other EU nation to join the project, which aims to have its new plane in operation by 2040. ‘European countries tend to buy American.

We’re offering a European plane for Europeans, independent of American technologies, Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier, whose firm is building the plane alongside Airbus, told CNews television earlier yesterday.

Macron then toured the vast exhibition halls at Le Bourget, where dozens of companies are touting their efforts to make flying cleaner amid criticism of airlines’ carbon emissions.

Airbus officially unveiled its A321 XLR jet, the latest iteration of its hugely popular single-aisle A320, which can now cross the Atlantic thanks to increased fuel efficiency.

That makes it an option for airlines which currently have to use bigger, fuel-hungry twin-aisle planes on longer routes.

The US-based Air Lease Corp has signed a letter of intent to buy 27 of the planes, with deliveries to start in 2023.

Executives at Airbus’s archrival Boeing faced a fresh barrage of questions about its handling of the 737 MAX crisis, following the two deadly crashes since October which together claimed 346 lives.

‘We want to leave no stone unturned in the investigations into an anti-stall system suspected of causing the crashes, Boeing’s head of commercial airplanes Kevin McAllister told journalists yesterday.

Critics accuse Boeing of failing to properly test a system that used just one sensor to determine if the 737 was at risk of stalling, and of failing to adequately inform and train pilots on its use.

McAllister said the update would use two sensors, but it has yet to submit a fix to regulators, who have grounded the plane indefinitely.

‘We are very confident that the three layers of protection we are planning with the software update will prevent anything like this happening again, McAllister said.

He also vowed that any lessons learned from the inquiries into why the new system failed to attract the attention of safety regulators would be applied across Boeing’s civil and defence operations.

‘Our priority is doing everything to get this plane safely returned to service. It is a pivotal moment for all of us, he said.

Boeing has estimated the crisis will cost it $1bn, but the bill is likely to climb the longer the planes stay on the ground.

Boeing now has 140 737 MAXs parked on its tarmac waiting for delivery, and has had to reduce monthly production to 42 planes from 52.

Both Airbus and Boeing have suffered a wave of order cancellations as airlines grapple with slowing passenger traffic growth since the start of this year.

And air cargo shipments, often an indicator of passenger traffic trends, have been slumping so far in 2019, reflecting the trade tensions prompted by US President Donald Trump’s move to impose tariffs on several European and Chinese imports.

If the aviation market continues to soften, Airbus and Boeing could suffer their first disappointing year after more than a decade of solid growth driven in particular by the soaring numbers of people flying in Asia.

The two industry leaders can take comfort from jam-packed order books after hefty revenue growth last year, when their combined deliveries exceeded 1,600 planes.

Analysts say nearly 40,000 planes will be in service by 2038, double the industry’s current fleet.

Airbus has the technology to fly passenger planes without pilots

Photo: Michel Euler, AP

LE BOURGET, France (AP) — The chief salesman for Airbus says his company already has the technology to fly passenger planes without pilots at all — and is working on winning over regulators and travelers to the idea.

Christian Scherer also said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that Airbus hopes to be selling hybrid or electric passenger jets by around 2035.

While the company is still far from ready to churn out battery-operated jumbo jets, Scherer said Airbus already has “the technology for autonomous flying” and for planes flown by just one pilot.

“This is not a matter of technology — it’s a matter of interaction with the regulators, the perception in the traveling public,” he told The Associated Press.

“When can we introduce it in large commercial aircraft? That is a matter we are discussing with regulators and customers, but technology-wise, we don’t see a hurdle.”

Several manufacturers are presenting unmanned aircraft at the Paris Air Show, primarily for military purposes — and some are also proposing pilotless “air taxis” of the future.

When it comes to autonomous passenger jets, safety is an obvious concern. It’s an issue that is on many minds after two deadly crashes of the Boeing 737 Max jet that have implicated problematic anti-stall software.

Scherer said the crashes “highlighted and underlined the need for absolute, uncompromising safety in this industry, whether from Airbus, Boeing or any other plane.”

While he said Airbus’ sales streategy hasn’t changed as a result of the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, “there is a capacity need that materialized as a result of this, and naturally you have airlines that are frustrated over capacity, that are looking for answers.”

Airbus announced several orders Monday as the air show kicked off, while Boeing had an anemic day as it works to win back trust from customers.

Scherer forecast continued growth in the aviation industry after several boom years, predicting the world will need at least 37,000 new aircraft in the next 20 years, especially in Asia — and that eventually the whole industry will stop creating emissions and “decarbonize.”

Air India spreads its wings, plans flights for Bali, Nairobi and Toronto

Air India plans to launch services from Delhi to Bali, Nairobi and Toronto in the winter schedule as it looks to consolidate its position as the largest carrier on overseas routes from India.

Currently, there is no non-stop service from Delhi to Nairobi and Bali while Air Canada flies daily to Toronto. New services are being proposed as Air India expects the return of its seventeen grounded planes in service by October end.

Thrice weekly Delhi-Toronto flight will be launched on September 27, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted on Friday. Launch dates for Bali and Nairobi have not been fixed. The airline is also planning Mumbai-Hong Kong flights.

The network expansion will help national carrier grow its market share and capitalise on capacity vaccum created by the collapse of Jet Airways. Improved fleet utilisation, wider network and better yields should help Air India and its chairman Ashwani Lohani is confident Air India will improve it’s performance in FY 20.

“On average our load factors are 82-83 per cent. Connecting traffic too is growing. Operationally we are doing well and this would get reflected in our financial performance in FY 20,” Lohani said.

Fuel price volatility and continued closure of Pakistan airspace are the main risks and the airline is losing Rs six crore daily as airspace closure has increased flying time of its US and Europe bound flights.

Seventeen planes including its Airbus A320, Boeing 777s and 787s have been grounded for several months because of want of spares and engines. Air India’s engineering department has prepared a schedule to get the planes back into operations making network expansion possible in winter.

In FY 18, Air India has a market share of 10.4 per cent on India’s international traffic. Jet Airways which shut operations in April had a share of around 14 per cent in same year. Despite flight cancellations, Jet had a capacity share of over 12 per cent on all international routes from India in January and commanded over half seat share on Mumbai -London and Mumbai -Kuwait routes.

In its recent report aviation consultancy CAPA said, “Air India will continue to face strong competition on domestic routes, but now that it has emerged as the largest carrier on overseas routes – where capacity is constrained – international operations could prove to be lucrative.”

Indian minister pledges to resolve major expat issues

From high air ticket prices to Indian destinations from the GCC and to issues faced by non-resident Indians (NRIs) relating to the Aadhar card, India’s newly appointed minister of state of state for foreign affairs has promised to expedite solutions relating to various issues of expatriates.

V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, interacted with the media and members of the Indian community on Friday in Dubai.

The minister visited Dubai while on a stopover from his official visit to Nigeria, where he participated in Nigeria’s Democracy Day.

His first official trip to the UAE began with a meeting with the blue-collared workers at the Eversendai labour accommodation in DIP in the morning. He also met the members of the Indian business community during a meet organised by the Indian Business and Professionals Council, followed by an official reception at the Consulate-General of India in Dubai.

Air travel flexibility a priority

The minister said making air travel to India flexible and comfortable for NRIs residing in the Gulf is a top priority, as presently Gulf NRIs face multiple issues while planning trips back home, especially the high cost of travel.

Muraleedharan also said escalating airfare is an alarming issue and after his meeting with the minister for civil aviation, the price regulation on air tickets have been placed on a priority list.

He added: “From Gulf region, there are a total of 1,050 flights that travel to various destinations across India every week. The grounding of Jet Airways flights has contributed more towards this problem. I think our priority should be to sort these issues out as soon as possible.” He suggested that flights to India from Gulf region, especially to airports in Kerala, faced several issues, and he explained his plans on meeting with the respective authorities to resolve these issues as soon as possible.

During the interactive session with members of the Indian community, Muraleedharan said he would like to take steps to make Indian airports more traveller-friendly.

He added that several mechanisms were put into place to make travelling easier for Indians, including removing the ceiling on the baggage tax, reducing the number of screening processes, etc. “Our airports should help anyone who wants to travel. We are aiming to provide a friendly atmosphere,” he stated.

Meanwhile, in a bid to resume Emirates Airlines services to Kozhikode in Kerala, members of the business community, including Dr Azad Moopen, chairman, Aster DM Healthcare Group, along with James Mathew, senior partner and CEO of Crowe, and representatives from the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) had a meeting with the minister.

According to officials at the KMCC, the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority has requested India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation to grant Emirates a temporary approval to operate 2,500 weekly seats in each direction on the Dubai-Kozhikode route for a period of four months, effective from June 2019 for the summer high peak demand.

“The minister has assured to take it up on priority with the cabinet secretary for civil aviation at New Delhi in two weeks. A response to the letter is anticipated from the Ministry of Civil Aviation of India for getting the necessary approvals from the authorities,” said Anwar Naha of the Dubai chapter of KMCC.

Status of e-migrate Bill

Muraleedharan said discussions for the Emigration Bill 2019 are in the final stages. However, it will not be tabled in this parliamentary session. The Ministry of External Affairs had proposed to introduce the Emigration Bill to replace the existing Emigration Act, 1983.

He said the bill will focus on providing safety to workers aspiring to travel to Gulf countries. “The law would ensure that workers will not be cheated by fraudulent recruiting agents and the government will provide them with job protection and training. The workers will also be given post-departure counselling,” he explained.

However, when quizzed about the proposal to register NRI details on the e-migrate platform, Muraleedharan said the government is still mulling over the issue. “We are still discussing whether to make it mandatory or voluntary. However, I do hope we will be able to table this at the earliest possible parliamentary session,” he added.


Gathering clouds cast shadow over Paris Air Show

Cargo performance is an indicator for coming passenger traffic – and it’s not looking too good


Slumping orders, production bottlenecks, regulatory pressures and the prospect of fewer flyers: Aviation executives have plenty on their minds as they head to France on Monday for the opening of the Paris Air Show.

It’s a starkly different mood from the previous edition two years ago, when airlines worldwide were optimistic about their prospects and placing big orders for new planes.

But industry leaders Airbus and Boeing have instead seen clients cancel orders for dozens of planes in recent months, managing to sell just a handful of new jets.

While Airbus might claw back some ground with the launch of the A321XLR at the airshow in Le Bourget, just north of Paris, Boeing’s future has been clouded by two deadly crashes that have grounded its popular 737 MAX.

With the cancellations, “we’re in negative territory for the year, and Airbus has a chance to rescue that a bit, but Boeing does not,” said Richard Aboulafia, a longtime industry analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia.

He said that slowing passenger traffic globally — year-on-year growth slowed to just 4.3 percent in April, compared with 6.5 percent growth for all of 2018 — also has airlines worried.

The decline echoes soft global economic growth amid trade tensions between the US, Europe and China, three huge markets for air travel.

And Aboulafia noted that air freight levels are usually good predictors of passenger traffic trends, “and these past couple of months have been even worse for cargo traffic”.

The International Air Transport Association reports that freight traffic has been in a downward spiral since the beginning of the year.

“The two most recent months, March and April, were just god awful, and we’re going into this show not really knowing what is happening,” he said.

– Win back confidence –

Boeing and Airbus can take comfort in the fact that both their order books remain strong after hefty revenue growth last year, when combined they delivered more than 1,600 planes.

And their dominance has been bolstered by the woes at two main rivals, Canada’s Bombardier — which has hived off aviation units while cutting thousands of jobs — and Brazil’s Embraer, which is selling its commercial plane division to Boeing.

That leaves them in prime position to meet an expected surge in global passenger traffic, especially in Asia — at least until China’s state-owned Comac starts marketing its first jet in 2021.

Analysts say nearly 40,000 planes will be in service by 2038, double the industry’s current fleet.

Yet the frenetic production pace has left several Airbus and Boeing suppliers struggling to keep up, leading to delays as “gliders” without engines or other key parts remain parked on tarmacs.

Some pilots and travellers also suspect the rush to build may have contributed to the flawed anti-stall technology in the Boeing 737 MAX.

The so-called Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) is blamed for an Ethiopian Airlines crash in March and an Indonesian Lion Air crash in October, which together claimed 346 lives.

“The 737 MAX crisis has an impact across nearly the entire industry, because aviation security is an essential issue for every player,” analysts at AlixPartners said in a research note.

“It’s too early to tell what will happen, but winning back passengers’ confidence will be a true challenge for the entire industry,” they wrote.

– Pollution pressure –

French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the show’s 53rd edition on Monday highlights another headwind: government pressure to limit carbon emissions.

While an official in Macron’s office said no announcements on potential jet fuel taxes or emission quotas are planned, he has made no secret of wanting airlines and aviation firms to make more of an effort.

The subject will be on the menu at a dinner Macron will host for executives Sunday night, as France tries to forge a common EU strategy, the official said.

“Aerospace is about two percent of global emissions and 14 percent of those from transportation, so it’s not negligible,” said Philippe Plouvier, an analyst at the Boston Consulting Group.

“It’s an industry that’s going to double its emissions by 2040,” he said, as growing passenger traffic offsets any expected improvements in engine designs.

On the military front, the defence ministers of France, Germany and Spain will meet in Le Bourget on Monday to sign a formal cooperation accord to build a new European fighter jet which they hope will be in the skies by 2040.

No financing deals or contracts will be announced for the so-called Future Combat Air System, and the production launch is still years away.

But another Elysee official said the cooperation pact would be the latest signal of Europe’s determination to unite its defensive capabilities.

“We want Europe to be stronger, able to completely ensure the protection of its citizens, and to intervene jointly,” he said.

Aviation Minister offers hope as Jet Airways sinks deep

New Delhi, June 14 (IANS): Amid dwindling hopes of Jet Airways’ revival, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Friday exuded confidence that a solution would be found for the defunct carrier.

“(We are) very confident that we can solve the problems at the now defunct carrier,” Puri said on the sidelines of an event here.

The statement has come days after a section of Jet Airways staff claimed to have received assurance from the Minister for taking measures to resuscitate the carrier.

Running out of fuel, Jet Airways had on April 17 suspended its operations. Nearly 90 of its aircraft, out of 119, have already been de-registered with the lessors taking their possession.

Once a flagship carrier and a well-recognised brand globally, Jet Airways is now staring at complete shutdown in the absence of its shareholder Etihad or a new investor infusing fresh funds.

The employees of Jet Airways are hoping the government will help revive the carrier and has been meeting top functionaries, including Puri, ever since the NDA government returned to power last month.

Puri, a former diplomat, is the new Aviation Minister. In addition to aviation, he holds the portfolios of urban development as well as trade and commerce.

While he is Minster of State (independent charge) for both aviation and urban development, Puri serves as junior to Piyush Goyal in the Commerce Ministry.