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The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

International aviation news

B737 Max Woes 

The Boeing 737 Max issue shows no sign of being resolved in the near future. 

United Airlines and American Airlines have removed Boeing 737 Max aircraft from their schedules through to November, indicating they do not expect the aircraft to return to the skies before that time. 

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that Ryanair has dropped the name Max from its livery, instead painting new aircraft with the designation Boeing 737-8200. Ryanair has 135 Boeing 737 Max models on order from Boeing, the first five of which are due for delivery in spring, once regulators have declared the plane safe. 

Ryanair would not be the first airline to use a different formulation in referring to the plane, according to the Guardian. International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns carriers including British Airways and Aer Lingus, announced its purchase of discounted Max planes from Boeing at the recent Paris Air Show. The announcement referred to “200 B737 aircraft” that would join IAG’s fleet from 2023, which it described as “a mix of 737-8 and 737-10 aircraft”. 

The BBC reports that Ryanair is cutting flights while its Boeing 737 Max aircraft are grounded, and has written to its pilots saying “the economic backdrop for European short haul airlines continues to be very challenging”. It says it has a surplus of around 300 pilots which “may get worse with any knock-on effect of Max delivery delays.” 

The Wall Street Journal reports that Boeing’s 737 Max planes are unlikely to be carrying passengers until 2020 because of the time it will take to fix flight control software and satisfy United States regulators that it has answered all outstanding safety questions.

The process of developing and certifying revised software and pilot-training changes has been repeatedly delayed, with airlines scrambling to cope with slips month after month, the newspaper reports.

It says the specific software fix for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) is complete and has been awaiting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for months. Since then, it says that Boeing and safety regulators have been delving into related issues that cropped up from earlier engineering studies, ground-simulator sessions and flight tests. 

In late June another flight control problem was identified and a software fix generated. 

“Even assuming new Max issues don’t crop up, Boeing will need FAA approval for its entire suite of fixes, not just those directly related to MCAS, along with a new round of flight tests, a green light for enhanced training procedures and approval of updated simulator software,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“In addition, airlines have said it could take them up to 45 days to complete necessary maintenance procedures and other mandatory checks by mechanics to bring Max aircraft out of storage.” 

The newspaper reports the delays are affecting flight schedules, staffing levels and pilot training. 

IFALPA is receiving briefings from Boeing and also attended the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Boeing 737 Max 2nd summit in Montreal last month. 

IFALPA President Captain Jack Netskar says the big issue is the return to service process, which he says has three clear priorities: “The technical challenges must be remedied and satisfy established safety standards; the regulatory processes must take place in a way that prevents a greater degree of self-regulation and removal of factors for different understanding of the systems; and the training must be adequate and relevant information about the flight systems must be available. 

“We are doing our utmost to validate the process; we cannot presently approach the public with a clean bill, but will, if and when we feel comfortable to do so.” 

Read more HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.


Singapore cracks down on drone use 

The Singapore government is cracking down on drone use following recent drone-related disruptions at Changi Airport, according to Today Online

The Government will introduce mandatory registration for all drones in Singapore as well as a licensing framework for pilots of large and more capable drones. It is also looking to increase penalties for errant drone users. 

Under existing laws, it is an offence to operate drones within 5km of the airport or military bases, or to fly drones above 200 feet (61 metres) without a permit for recreation or research purposes. Offenders face a fine of up to S$20,000, or a jail term of up to 12 months, or both. 

Mandatory registration is likely to kick in later this year.

During two nights in June, drone intrusions at Changi Airport — the first confirmed intrusions at the airport — led to 55 flight delays and eight diversions. Police investigations into the incidents are ongoing, with the Government acknowledging that identifying the perpetrators takes time. 

Singapore authorities have “taken a multi-agency approach and deployed national resources towards ensuring the safety of Changi Airport operations”. 

A civil engineering company was fined S$9,000 last month for flying a drone in public for business purposes without a permit, becoming Singapore’s first business to be dealt with in court for such a case. The company was doing work on a mass rapid transit development project in the area.

Just a few days earlier, two men became the first individuals in Singapore to be prosecuted for allegedly flying drones without a permit at an open field within 5km of the Paya Lebar Air Base. 

Read more HERE.


Flag of convenience carriers 

The United States government has introduced legislation targeting flag of convenience carriers. 

If passed into law, the Fair and Open Skies Act would require the government to ensure all new foreign air carrier permits issued to European airlines meet the requirements of the US-EU-Norway-Iceland Air Transport Agreement. Permits would be denied for any airline believed to be operating as a foreign carrier to avoid its home country regulations. 

The legislation is designed to avoid situations such as occurred in 2016 when Norwegian Air won permission to fly to the United States while operating under Irish law, rather than the laws of its Norwegian homeland. Ireland has less stringent labour laws than Norway. 

The Washington Post reports comments from the Air Line Pilots Association president Joe DePete, suggesting that flag of convenience operations are used to undercut tax, labour and safety regulations. “These venue-shopping efforts allow airlines to undermine pay, benefits for workers, but it also threatens to erode the proactive safety culture that we should demand.” 

The newspaper reports the issue of foreign carriers is particularly relevant after investigators raised questions about pilot training in the recent crashes of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in Indonesia and Ethiopia. 

The bill applies only to new applications and has no impact on permits already issued (such as the Norwegian Air permit). 

The new bill is nearly identical to legislation introduced during the last Congress, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump – minus its provisions relating to flags of convenience. 

The new bill is supported by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines as well as unions including the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has opposed previous efforts to introduce legislation targeting flags of convenience, on the basis that it would erode free-market air service agreements, according to a report in Travel Weekly. Last year IATA wrote to leaders of the House and Senate transportation committees arguing that such legislation would violate the aviation agreement between the United States and the European Union, under which airlines are able to fly unfettered across the Atlantic. 

Read more HERE or HERE.


Power outage affects Gatwick flights 

A power outage affected air traffic control equipment at Gatwick Airport for several hours early last month, resulting in cancelled and diverted flights. 

Gatwick is the United Kingdom’s second busiest airport. 

The Evening Standard newspaper reported the airport company’s explanation for the problem. “It was a power failure. It was in relation to the IT systems within the control tower. The system was rebooted and we managed to get it back online.”

The recent suspension of service follows the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights at the airport over three days last December, affecting more than 140,000 passengers, after repeated drone sightings forced closure of the runway. 

Read more HERE.



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