Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

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

International aviation news

Bushfire support 

International airlines have offered their support in the wake of the Australian bushfires. 

AirlineRatings.com reports that Virgin Australia is offering a four-week paid leave period to employees who are volunteer firefighters. It is also collecting donations for the Salvation Army disaster appeal through its lounges, and matching employee donations dollar for dollar. 

Travel and logistics support was also available for community organisations and charities, and emergency service organisations are being offered discounted fares. 

The airline is also offering support to customers who need to change their travel plans due to the bushfires. 

The Qantas Group (including Jetstar) donated $A1 million to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund and has been encouraging passengers to donate. It is also offering paid leave to volunteer firefighters and has been working with an American aid agency to get 100,000 donated masks to bushfire-affected communities. 

Air New Zealand donated $A100,000 and is flying New Zealand firefighters and emergency workers to Australia. 

Singapore Airlines donated $A100,000 to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Appeal and is helping its customers affected by the fires on a case-by-case basis, offering support with booking changes. 

United Airlines donated $US250,000 to a GoFundMe campaign set up by American television host Ellen DeGeneres. It is also matching donations for wildlife relief as well as matching up to $US50,000 of donations from its loyalty programme members. 

Boeing has donated $A1 million for recovery and relief efforts and this will be distributed by the Australian Red Cross. It is also matching employee contributions made to eligible nonprofits supporting Australian bushfire relief efforts. 

Read more HERE.


Boeing 737 MAX developments 

Boeing’s 737 MAX woes show no sign of easing, almost a year after the aircraft was grounded following two crashes that killed 346 people.

Just over a month before the grounding, Boeing had reported it had orders for 5,011 of the Boeing 737 MAX from 79 customers.

In recent developments: 

  • CNBC reports United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying the United States gross domestic product (GDP) could drop half a point in 2020 in response to the Boeing 737 MAX crisis. This will be outweighed by an expected 2.5 percent increase in economic growth.
  • Regulators in the United States and elsewhere have no timeline to get the aircraft airborne again. AirlineRatings.com reports that American Airlines and United Airlines have taken the aircraft out of their schedules until June 2020. 
  • Boeing announced late last year that it would suspend production of the Boeing 737 MAX. Around 400 of the aircraft have been built since the grounding and are now in storage. 
  • Companies making parts for the Boeing 737 MAX have laid off thousands of workers, with more layoffs expected as the grounding continues. Boeing is reassigning its own employees from the 737 MAX programme to its other aircraft programmes. 
  • The grounding has wiped $US50 billion from Boeing’s market value and cost the company more than $US9 billion. It has also cost airlines more than $US1 billion.
  • Boeing has appointed one of its board members as the new President and Chief Executive after firing his predecessor in what it said was a move to restore confidence in the company. The outgoing Chief Executive will not receive severance pay but will receive $US62 million in compensation and pension benefits, according to the NZ Herald
  • Recently released internal Boeing communications predating the crashes show employees raising doubts about the aircraft and Boeing’s commitment to safety. They also reveal a coordinated effort among Boeing employees to persuade the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that pilots of the new 737 MAX aircraft did not need simulator training, a significant financial boon for the company. The FAA has described the tone and content of some of the language in those documents as “disappointing.” 
  • The FAA is fining Boeing $US5.4 million for installing nonconforming parts on around 178 of its 737 MAX planes, saying it “knowingly submitted those aircraft for final FAA airworthiness certification after determining that the parts could not be used due to a failed strength test.” This is not connected to the software system implicated in the crashes. 

Read more HERE and HERE and HERE.


British government steps in to help Flybe 

The British government has offered a rescue deal to save Flybe, Europe’s largest regional carrier.

The Guardian reports that Britain’s Treasury will review air passenger duty, a tax that adds £26 per passenger to all Flybe domestic return flights, to “ensure regional connectivity is strengthened while meeting the UK’s climate change commitments to meet net zero by 2050”. 

The Guardian also says it understands the government is still in negotiations over a possible £100 million loan to Flybe. The airline has a £106 million outstanding air passenger duty tax bill. 

The expected tax deferral, potential loan and promised tax review were enough to persuade shareholders to commit more funds to cover ongoing losses, according to The Guardian

Last year Exeter-based Flybe carried more than 8.6 million passengers. It was sold to Connect Airways early last year, following reports that it was facing a desperate financial situation due to Brexit uncertainty and the weak pound driving up fuel prices.

Connect is a consortium backed by Virgin Atlantic and Stobart Aviation. 

Reuters notes Flybe’s fight for survival comes amidst a string of European airline collapses over the past few years that have left thousands of passengers stranded in airports and had a knock-on effect for related industries. It reports the following airlines have gone bankrupt since 2017 (in chronological order): Air Berlin, Monarch, Primera Air, Germania, Flybmi, Wow Air, Thomas Cook, Aigle Azur, Adria Airways and XL Airways. 

Read more HERE and HERE.


Aircraft dumps fuel on American schools

A Delta Airlines Boeing 777-200 aircraft made an emergency landing at Los Angeles Airport after dumping fuel – some of which landed on schools near the airport. 

The January incident occurred soon after the flight took off for Shanghai. The crew reported a compressor stall and said they needed to return to the airport. The Los Angeles Times reports that the crew was asked by air traffic control if they needed to dump fuel and replied they did not. Less than 20 minutes later the jet dumped fuel, while flying at about 2,300 feet over an urban area.

Paramedics treated dozens of people affected by the fuel dump, none of whom were seriously injured.

The United States Federal Aviation Authority says that it will thoroughly investigate the incident as special fuel dumping procedures require fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomises and disperses before reaching the ground. 

Stuff noted the case of a Swissair aircraft which called an emergency and then crashed into the sea killing all 229 people on board while preparing to dump fuel. That incident occurred in 1998. 

Read more HERE and HERE.


Anti-drone technology

Heathrow Airport has just installed a high-tech anti-drone system that can identify and track drones up to 5km away, according to the Bloomberg news website.

The bespoke system was designed specifically for Heathrow – the second busiest airport in the world for international passenger traffic and the busiest passenger airport in Europe.

As well as keeping the skies around the airport safer, the new equipment will reduce fuel wastage caused by stacking aircraft when they are unable to land due to unauthorised drone use around the airport. 

It is almost a year since Britain introduced legislation prohibiting unauthorised drone use in flight restriction zones – which extend about 5km out from airport boundaries. Unauthorised drone use around airports is a growing international problem.

Read more HERE.


2019 one of aviation's safest years 

The number of people killed in large commercial aircraft crashes fell by more than 50 percent in 2019, according to Newshub

It says Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 reports there were 86 accidents involving large commercial aircraft last year – eight of which were fatal and resulted in 257 fatalities (more than half of those in one Boeing 737 MAX crash). In 2018, there were 160 accidents, of which 13 were fatal and resulted in 534 deaths.

This equates to an average of one fatal accident for every 5.58 million flights by large commercial passenger aircraft in 2019, a significant improvement on 2018. 

This year got off to a bad start with 176 people killed in January when a passenger aircraft was shot down over Iran.

To70 says that while the aviation industry spent significant effort in 2019 "focusing on so-called 'future threats' such as drones" the Boeing 737 MAX crashes "are a reminder that we need to retain our focus on the basics that make civil aviation so safe: well-designed and well-built aircraft flown by fully informed and well-trained crews." 

Over the last 20 years there has been a sharp drop in aviation deaths at the same time as strong growth in passenger travel. Newshub reports there were 1015 deaths resulting from commercial passenger flights worldwide in 2005. 

Read more HERE.



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