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Southwest incident fallout: Indian DGCA in touch with US to see what needs to be done here

NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Thursday said it is in touch with its US counterpart, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to see what needs to be done in India following the recent incident on Southwest Boeing 737. While flying from New York’s LaGuardia airport to Dallas on Tuesday, one CFM56-7B engine of the Southwest plane broke mid-air and its fan blade shaterred a window, leading to a passenger’s death. The flight made an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

FAA Thursday tweeted, “The FAA will issue an Airworthiness Directive (AD) within the next two weeks that will require inspections of certain CFM56-7B engines. The directive will require an ultrasonic inspection of fan blades when they reach a certain number of takeoffs and landings. Any blades that fail the inspection will have to be replaced.”

Following this, DGCA chief, BS Bhullar told TOI, “We are in touch with FAA. We will get inputs from them and see what is required on our end.”

Indian carriers said they are awaiting instructions from DGCA to see what steps, if any, need to be taken for their fleets.

“The FAA directive following the Southwest incident will have an impact on airlines international of carrying out checks for engines. Let us see what DGCA says,” said a senior official of an Indian carrier.

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PMO asks aviation ministry, DGCA to follow Sebi model of self-financing

NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the aviation ministry and the aviation regulator to follow the model of market watchdog Sebi and fund its own cost of operations, a move aimed at ending the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA)’s dependence on government for funds and work towards making it an autonomous body.

The directive from the PMO came in a meeting held last month. “DGCA will examine the Sebi model of self-financing and also prepare a roadmap for simplification of the processes/procedures, which should include reduction in time for approval,” said an aviation ministry official, who did not want to be identified.

The official said the PMO also wants the safety regulator to explore plans for further professionalising their organisation. The market regulator Securities & Exchange Board of India (Sebi), for instance, charges the industry a fee for its services and the money earned is used to fund its cost of operations. Under this model, the DGCA may charge airlines a fee to fund its requirements.

Another reason for the government trying to stay away from funding the aviation regulator could also be the rising establishment cost of the DGCA. Budgetary allocation shows that the DGCA’s expenses have increased to Rs 210 crore for 2018-19 from Rs 157.84 crore in 2016-17.

The expense is set to rise further as India’s aviation sector is the fastest expanding in the world and domestic Indian carriers also have plans to induct 900 aircraft, including replacements into their fleets in the coming years.

Analysts welcomed the move and said that it will go a long way in making DGCA more professional.

“DGCA can easily fund its cost by charging for all services that it provides to airlines, airports and others. Funding the cost themselves would go a long way in professionalising the regulator, as they would be able to hire aviation professionals and will have funds to pay market-determined salaries. This will make the aviation regulator autonomous and not dependent on budget allocations,” said Shakti Lumba, former head of operations at Air India and IndiGo

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All 14 grounded A320 Neos back in operation

MUMBAI: All 14 Pratt & Whitney engine-powered Airbus A320 Neo planes of the two budget carriers Indigo and GoAir, which were grounded between February and March this year due to safety concerns are now back into operation, officials said.

Of these 14 planes, 11 were of IndiGo and 3 of the Wadia group-promoted GoAir.

None of the 11 A320 Neo planes fitted with P&W engines which were taken out of operation due to the engine glitches are now on ground. All these planes are back into service, an IndiGo official said today.

A GoAir official also said that its three Airbus A 320 Neos which were grounded by the regulator DGCA on March 12 are now flying again.

However, spokespersons of both IndiGo and GoAir were not available for comments.

In February, three IndiGo aircraft, with both faulty engines, were grounded. This followed the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issuing an emergency airworthiness directive on February 9 after a few occurrences of aborted take-off and in-flight shut down on A320 Neo fleet worldwide.

However, spokespersons of both IndiGo and GoAir were not available for comments.

In February, three IndiGo aircraft, with both faulty engines, were grounded. This followed the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issuing an Emergency Airworthiness Directive on February 9 after a few occurrences of aborted take-off and in-flight shut down on A320 Neo fleet worldwide.

Following the grounding of the aircraft, while IndiGo cancelled a total of 776 flights between March 13 and April 2, GoAir did not operate 336 flights during the period.

Earlier this month, government had informed Parliament that 11 of these 14 A320 Neo aircraft had started flying again after change of engine.

“As of now, 11 of the 14 grounded aircraft have started flying after changing the engines,” Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on April 5.

Pratt & Whitney President Robert F Leduc had said last month that the grounded aircraft of IndiGo and GoAir will be back in operation by April-end.

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Govt comes out with fresh info memorandum for Pawan Hans Divestment

NEW DELHI: The government has came out with a fresh information memorandum for strategic stake sale of helicopter services provider Pawan Hans wherein bidders need to have a minimum net worth of Rs 500 crore.

The latest memorandum has been issued days after the government withdrew the previous note apparently due to a tepid response from investors.

Pawan Hans is a joint venture between the government and state-owned.  Under the disinvestment proposal, the government plans to offload its entire 51 per cent stake in the company.

According to the 96-page Preliminary Information Memorandum (Pdf), that includes 14 annexures, the bidder should have a minimum net worth of Rs 500 crore.

In the case of consortium also, the net worth criteria would remain the same. They should set up a special purpose vehicle and each members should have at least 20 per cent equity share capital.

For entities which are Air Transport Service Operators (ATSOs) and hold up to 51 per cent equity share capital of the consortium, the thresholds pertaining to net worth and profitability would not be applicable, the memorandum said.

A profit-making entity, Pawan Hans had debt outstanding of more than Rs 45 crore as on January 31, 2018.

This includes term loan facility availed from in 2012 at a 6 per cent per annum rate of interest to be repaid in 120 equated monthly installments ending in March 2022

The loan — for purchase of 1 new Dauphin N3 helicopter — is secured by hypothecation of the helicopter in favour of NTPC, as per the memorandum.

Pawan Hans had contingent liabilities to the tune of Rs 610.44 crore as on January 31 this year. This includes an amount of Rs 454.31 crore related to demand notice for payment of VAT (Value Added Tax).

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New Airbus A321LR Claims Long-Distance Record With 4750 Mile Flight

Airbus claims their new variant of the popular A321 family, the A321LR for ‘long range’, has the longest range of any single-aisle (ie, compact and economical) jetliner. (Take that, Boeing 737 Max, seems to be the subtext of the Airbus announcement.) The new plane recently completed a 4750-mile nautical mile flight, which Airbus claims as a record. The A321LR, in both dimensions and capacity, also represents the latest ‘stretch’ of the versatile A320/A321 single-aisle twinjet.

The A321LR showed its impressive range with a long flight over the ocean from Mahé in the Seychelles islands to Toulouse, France, covering a total distance of 4,750 nautical miles. Airbus says the aircraft is ideally suited to transatlantic routes, allowing airlines to tap into new long-haul markets that were not previously accessible with current single-aisle aircraft. For example, routes covering the 3,965-mile distance from New York to Berlin or even the 4,068 miles from Boston to Warsaw might be possible with the A321LR.

The plane is said to be 27% more efficient than the aging Being 757. Primera Air plans to use the plane in a “low-cost, high density” configuration, on flights such as its planned Paris-Toronto route of 3,752 nautical miles. Norwegian Air is also planning to order the plane for routes from the Washington, DC area to Europe, which might potentially even cover the 4012-mile span from Copenhagen to Baltimore.

According to Airbus, one way the A321LR achieves its long range is by adding a third auxiliary center fuel tank. Set for an introduction later in 2018, the plane can handle up to 240 passengers with what Airbus calls the widest single-aisle fuselage in the sky. The increased fuel and passenger load helps account for its increased maximum take-off weight of 97 tons, compared to 93.5 tons for the current A321.

As for the long-distance ‘record’ for single-aisle jetliners, most likely the record is an informal one, as it’s part of the A321LR’s 100-hour flight test and certification program. That puts it in a different category than the speed record recently set by a Norwegian Air 787 Dreamliner flying across the Atlantic from NY to London Gatwick (a scheduled commercial flight) in just 5 hours, 9 minutes.

Speaking of speed records, the A321LR apparently did not set one, as it made the 4750 nautical mile flight in 11 hours, at about 425 nm per hour. By contrast, cruising speed for the A321 is listed at 515 miles per hour, while maximum speed is 541mph. But the 162 passengers did not complain about the long jaunt, cramped conditions or limited opportunities to stretch their legs in the jet’s single-aisle. That’s because the A321LR “carried 162 human heat-replicating dummy passengers” in addition to its 16-member test crew.

After the flight, test engineer Jim Fawcett said of the A321LR, “It is an excellent aircraft that keeps its promises in terms of flight behavior, passenger comfort and fuel consumption.”
The A321LR test aircraft is shown at Mahé in the Seychelles islands ahead of its record-breaking flight to Toulouse, France, which covered a total distance of 4,750 nautical miles in 11 hours.


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Boeing inks pact with HAL, Mahindra to make F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet in India

Aerospace major Boeing entered into an agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Mahindra Defence Systems for manufacturing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets in India. The deal happened on the second day of the ongoing Defence Expo.

Boeing India president Pratyush Kumar, HAL Chairman and Managing Director T Suvarna Raju, and Mahindra Defence Systems Chairman S P Shukla exchanged a Memorandum of Agreement for ‘Make in India fighter’. The proposal entails building a production facility in the country that can be utilised for other projects, like India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme, said a statement by Boeing.

“Boeing is excited to team up with India’s only company that manufactures combat fighters, HAL, and India’s only company that manufactures small commercial aeroplanes, Mahindra. This partnership brings the best of Indian public and private enterprises together in partnership with the world’s largest aerospace company, Boeing, to accelerate a contemporary 21st-century ecosystem for aerospace and defence manufacturing in India,” said Pratyush Kumar.

Kumar said that partnership with HAL and Mahindra will enable Boeing India to optimize the full potential of the country’s public and private sector to deliver next-generation F/A-18 fighter capabilities.

“The plan addresses the infrastructure, personnel training, and operational tools and techniques required to produce a next-gen fighter aircraft right here in India. In addition, Boeing will work closely with India industry to ensure they have the very latest technologies, applying lessons learned from the current Super Hornet production line,” the company statement further said.

The partnership will also work for the joint development of future technologies in India, Boeing said. The company, however, did not disclose how much it will invest in India under its deal with HAL and Mahindra Defence.

Boeing said the partnership is meant for production of an affordable, combat-proven fighter platform for India. The company said the deal will result in growth momentum to the Indian aerospace ecosystem with manufacturing, skill development, innovation and engineering and job creation.

As the most advanced and least expensive aircraft per flight hour of its kind, the F/A-18 Super Hornet will deliver on India’s need for a carrier and land-based multi-role fighter, the Boeing said. The F/A-18 Super Hornet has a long life ahead, with the US Navy making significant investments in the latest evolution, the Block III, the company added.

“The Super Hornet does not only have a low acquisition cost, but it costs less per flight hour to operate than any other tactical aircraft in U.S. forces inventory. And with a plan for constant innovation, the F/A-18 Super Hornet will outpace threats, bolster defence capabilities and make India stronger for decades to come,” it said.

HAL chairman T Suvarna Raju today said the partnership will create an opportunity to strengthen indigenous platforms in India thereby contributing to the Make-in-India activities.

This partnership is in preparation for a tender for 110 fighter aircraft from Indian Air Force (IAF). Boeing is among the leading contenders likely to vie for the deal which could be worth more than $15 billion. An RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender for the deal was issued on April 6 with officials saying that the procurement would adhere to government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative in the defence sector.

Aircraft manufacturers have to send their proposals by July 6. Officials had said the jets will be produced jointly by a foreign aircraft maker along with an Indian company under the recently-launched strategic partnership model which aims to bring in high-end defence technology to India.

Other companies expected to contend for the IAF tender include Lockheed Martin, Airbus, and Saab AB. Lockheed Martin had formed a partnership with Tata Advanced Systems back in 2017 to produce F-16 aircraft.

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Maharashtra to draft its own civil aviation policy to boost regional connectivity

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government is planning to draft a comprehensive state civil aviation policy for the next 10 years to boost regional air connectivity, perhaps a first in the country.

As part of this, new airports and heliports will be built, aviation-related industries will be set up and the process of getting clearances in the sector will be expedited.

The Maharashtra Airport Development Corporation (MADC), a state government company that looks after development and management of regional airports in the state, is in the process of roping in a consultant with expertise in aviation and aerospace infrastructure. The consultant will be expected to draw up a vision plan for 2018-2027, an implementation plan and a civil aviation policy.

“There is a national aviation policy…it is the central government that is the decision maker for any proposal. As a result, what the state sees as a top priority may not necessarily be the highest priority of the Centre,” Suresh Kakani, managing director, MADC, told.

“So, we decided to have a state-centric policy to take quick decisions for better regional connectivity, provide for investments and take advantage of the fast-growing aviation industry,” he said.

Maharashtra is perhaps the first state to develop such a comprehensive state civil aviation policy, Kakani added.
Under the overall policy, there will be individual policies for the development of airport infrastructure on a public-private partnership model, for international charter and helicopter operations, for airport security, as well as for employment generation in the aviation industry.

The civil aviation policy will also have norms for development of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centres, aviation training institutes, ground handling and cargo. It will take into consideration other existing schemes such as the Centre’s Regional Connectivity Scheme, Maharashtra’s recently drafted policy for helipads, policies for sea planes, skill development, and ease-of-doing business, among others.

While drafting the civil aviation policy, the consultant will also be expected to develop a system for speedy approvals by various departments such as environment, coastal zone clearances, forest, defence, home, among others through a single-window system.

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After IndiGo, Jet Airways drops idea of Air India bid

New Delhi: Jet Airways has become the second major Indian airline to rule out a bid for debt-laden Air India. The move comes four days after IndiGo’s decision to back out of bidding. “The company examined the possibility of taking over the struggling national carrier, but had decided not to do so. Considering the terms of the offer in the information memorandum and based on our review, we are not participating in the process,” Jet Airways deputy chief executive officer Amit Agarwal told the Financial Times.

Jet Airways along with Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines showed interested in participating in Air India disinvestment, people in the know told the Press Trust of India last month. The Naresh Goyal-led airline reported a 46 per cent drop in third-quarter profit, hurt by higher fuel expenses. Net profit for the three months ended December 31 stood at Rs 165 crore (USD 25.74 million) versus Rs 305 crore in the year ago quarter. Revenue from operations grew 10.4 per cent to Rs 6,086 crore.Read: Swiss aviation firm shows interest in acquiring debt-laden Air India, says report

Last week, IndiGo — India’s largest domestic airline — said was opting out of buying Air India because the terms set by the government were unfavourable. Meanwhile, global advisory firm Swiss Aviation Consulting (SAC) showed interest in bidding for Air India. The move, however, did not look serious and the Swiss company may only be scouting for clients. The European company offers services including aircraft asset management and sales and consultancy services on acquisitions, according to its website.

The government may relax the deadline for submitting an expression of interest to buy 76 per cent in state-owned carrier Air India. However, the structure of the deal will remain unchanged with no plans to split the international and domestic businesses of the airline, media reported.

The government, which fully owns money-losing flag carrier Air India, put the company on the block late last month, seeking to sell a 76 per cent stake. Experts are of the view that the stake sale will go a long way in helping the government realise its disnivestment target for the year besides finding a solution to the controversial issue of having to continue bailing out the loss-making national carrier.

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Incident: Air India Regional AT42 at Delhi on Apr 9th 2018, engine shut down in flight

An Air India Regional Avions de Transport Regional ATR-42-300, performing flight AI-836 from Pathankot to Delhi  with 42 passengers, was descending towards Delhi when the crew declared emergency reporting the right hand engine needed to be shut down. The aircraft continued for a safe landing on Delhi’s runway 11.

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Jet Airways flight 9W545 contacted a catering van as it was taxiing

New Delhi : On 8 Apr 2018 Jet Airways flight 9W545 contacted a catering van as it was taxiing at Indira Gandhi International Airport in India. The aircraft had arrived from Dubai and taxied to parking bay 20R. The aircraft turned right to the park spot when the right hand wing tip scraped the roof of the catering van.

The flight had 133 occupants on board at the time of the incident. All are safe.

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