African airlines saw January traffic rise 5.1 per cent, up from 3.8 per cent last December according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in its global passenger traffic results for January 2019.
The global passenger traffic results for January 2019 shows traffic (revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) rose 6.5 per cent compared to January 2018. This was the fastest growth in six months. January capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) rose 6.4 per cent, and load factor inched up 0.1 percentage point to 79.6 per cent.
However, concerns continue about the region’s largest economies, South Africa and Nigeria region-wide, with capacity rising to 2.9 per cent, and average load factors jumped 1.5 percentage points to 70.9 per cent.
2019 has started on a positive note, with healthy passenger demand in line with the 10-year trend line. However, market signals are mixed, with indications of weakening business confidence in developed economies and a more nuanced picture across the developing world,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
European carriers’ international traffic climbed 7.7 per cent last January compared to the year-ago period, down from an 8.6 per cent annual increase in December.
This moderation likely reflects uncertainty over the region’s economic situation, including lack of clarity over Brexit. Capacity rose 8.8 per cent and load factor fell 0.9 percentage point to 80.3 per cent.
North American airlines experienced a 4.7 per cent traffic rise over a year ago, improving from a 3.7 per cent annual rise the month before, while capacity climbed 3.5 per cent and load factor increased 1.0 percentage point to 80.6 per cent.
Demand is being supported by comparatively strong economic conditions, which have delivered a low unemployment rate and bolstered consumer spending, said IATA.
Qantas tests 19-hour direct flights from UK, US to Sydney
Qantas plans to test non-stop flights from London and New York to Sydney this year to see whether passengers and crew can tolerate 19 hours in a plane.
The Australian airline will carry 40 passengers and crew on three flights in October, November and December, with a decision on whether to introduce the ultra-long routes commercially due by the end of the year.
The test passengers will mainly be Qantas employees, as well as scientists, with no seats sold on the flights. Passengers and crew will be fitted with wearable technology devices to monitor sleep patterns and food and drink consumption, and to see how lighting, physical movement and inflight entertainment impact their health.
Qantas aims to operate regular, non-stop flights to London and New York from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as soon as 2022.
Last year the airline launched direct flights between London and Perth, on the west coast of Australia, a 17-hour journey. However, the three most populous cities in Australia are all on the country’s east coast, and Melbourne is more than 10,300 miles from New York. London to Sydney is 10,500 miles.
The test flights will use new Boeing 787-9 planes, with fewer passengers and less luggage than usual to extend the range. However, successful test flights would fire the starting gun on a race between the US firm Boeing and its European rival, Airbus, to sell Qantas their new ultra-long-range aircraft, the 777X and the A350 respectively.
The A350 is currently in service on the world’s longest passenger flight: Singapore Airlines’s New York to Singapore slog, which covers 9,500 miles, taking 18 hours and 45 minutes.
The proposed new routes reflect a trend in the airline industry that has defied the highly damaging carbon emissions toll with an increase in direct, long-distance flights, which are generally preferred by passengers.
However, Alan Joyce, Qantas’s chief executive, said that flying a commercial airliner non-stop from New York to Sydney was “truly the final frontier in aviation”, reflecting the immense distances involved.
No commercial airline has ever flown direct from New York to Australia, according to Qantas. It said it flew non-stop from London to Sydney in 1989 to mark the entry into service of the Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet, but with only 23 people on board in order to preserve fuel.
Joyce said the start of the commercial flights was not a “foregone conclusion”, with questions remaining about the working patterns and health of crew, as well as whether the routes would be profitable.
*Courtesy: The Guardian
Boeing hiring, eyes 737 MAX flights resuming ‘early 4th quarter’
Boeing Co said on Tuesday it plans to add extra staff and hire “a few hundred” temporary employees at an airport in Washington state where it is storing many grounded 737 MAX jetliners, a key step in its best-case plan for resuming deliveries to airline customers in October.
The world’s largest planemaker, burning cash as one of the worst crises in its history stretches into a sixth month, said the workers will assist with aircraft maintenance and customer delivery preparations at Grant County International Airport.
The hiring plans are the first publicly detailed steps Boeing will take as it works to deliver hundreds of grounded 737 MAX jets to airlines globally, an undertaking that would amount to one of the biggest logistical operations in modern civil aviation.
Chicago-based Boeing has been unable to deliver any 737 MAX aircraft since the single-aisle plane was grounded worldwide in March after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people, cutting off a key source of cash and hitting margins.
Global airlines have had to cancel thousands of flights and use spare aircraft to cover routes that were previously flown with the fuel-efficient MAX, eating into their profitability. Many carriers have taken the MAX off their schedules late into the fall or early 2020.
Boeing reiterated on Tuesday that it was working toward getting the 737 MAX flying again commercially in the “early fourth quarter” after it wins approval of reprogrammed software for the stall-prevention system at the center of both crashes.
In late July, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell declined to be pinned down on Boeing’s previously stated target of October for entry into service.
“We don’t have a timeline,” Elwell said. “We have one criteria. When the 737 MAX has been – when the complications to it have been satisfactorily assessed, and the MAX is safe to return to service, that’s the only criteria.”
Boeing said it plans to move all the aircraft from Moses Lake, an eastern Washington location where it runs test flights, to facilities in the Seattle and Everett areas where its factories are located.
Hundreds of Boeing 737 MAX jets remain grounded worldwide, and Boeing has continued building the jets at a rate of 42 per month in the Seattle area. The U.S. planemaker is also storing freshly built aircraft outside its factories in Renton and Everett, around Seattle. It also has jets parked at a facility in San Antonio, Texas.
The total cost so far of the 737 MAX crisis is more than $8 billion, mainly due to compensation the planemaker will have to pay airlines for the delayed deliveries and lower production, reports Reuters.
U.S. draws curtain on safe skies for Africa initiative
A 20-year-old programme by the United States to assist African countries to maintain high safety standards has come to an end with obvoius implications. WOLE SHADARE reports
The Safe Skies for Africa programme established by former President Clinton on April 1, 1998, which aimed to improve safety and security in aviation on the continent has finally come to an end.
Speaking nostalgically about the impact of the programme to high safety record in Africa, Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru, an aircraft engineer, paid tribute to the Managing Director of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Dennis Jones, whom he described as a gift to global aviation industry and for ensuring a good job in Africa in the area of safety.
Nobody knows why the American government decided to stop sponsorship or funding of the programme.
The programme was stopped abruptly but if all plans go well, Olateru may get Africa Development Bank (AfDB) to step in to collaborate with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to resuscitate the initiative.
AIB seeks AfDB’s help
Olateru had a meeting recently with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) President in Montreal, Canada, on how to prevail on AfDB to sponsor the programme to help not only Nigeria but other African nations.
According to him, there will be another meeting in the next ICAO Assembly on the clear cut modality to get this done, adding that talks are still ongoing on how to make this work.
“Today comes the end of our programme where we brought in African nations to join us in aviation safety programme sponsored by AIB in conjunction with Safe Skies Africa, which is under the Department of Transportation and the NTSB.
“Unfortunately, the programme has come to an end. The US government will no longer sponsor the safe skies programme. It is very unfortunate. Africa has really benefited from this programme and I think we Africans should put heads together on how we can help ourselves.
“We hope African Development Bank (AfDB) under corporate social responsibility can take up this programme to help Africans. When an aeroplane goes down, it does not distinguish nations.
“This is why we owe it to ourselves, the whole world to work together as a team and strengthen aviation and make it a safer place to be,” added Olateru.
The African Development Bank has invested close to $1 billion over the past decade in the construction and expansion of airport terminals, as well as aviation safety and aircraft financing.
Additional bank interventions in the aviation industry include grants for capacity building and coordination systems in 25 countries and 69 airports that will help increase the number of International Civil Aviation Organization safety and security compliant airports from 3 to 20 by 2019.
Gesture to eight nations
At inception, eight states selected in 1998 for the pilot project included Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Coite d’Ivore (Ivory Coast), Kenya, Mali, Tanzania and Zimbabwe as beneficiaries of the American gesture that was geared towards making them reach up to ICAO safety standards, improve aviation security at a number of African airports, improve regional air navigation services. Three states, Djibouti, Namibia and Uganda, were added in June 2003.
“People cannot meet up with collateral requirement to guarantee their payment.and offered numerous trainings for the continent on air safety and accident investigations through the assistance of the United States NTSB.
The initiative focused on conducting safety assessments and security surveys in select countries and formulates action plans together with Africa civil aviation authorities to bring aviation safety and security practices in Africa up to accepted world standards.
Impact to air safety
In the first year, the Department of Transportation held four regional conferences with African civil aviation representatives to discuss with them their airports’ needs and how best the U.S. could assist.
These conferences were built on those held last October in Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe and then followed by security surveys and safety assessments.
Aside that, the programme opened doors for workshops, helped the improvement of accident investigation programs, and training investigators.
This equally saw to increased commercial air service between the United States and Africa (for example, there are now US commercial flights to Africa, which wasn’t the case earlier before 1998, improved investigation quality, and a reduced rate of accidents involving commercial aircraft.
In the symposium organised by the NTSB in conjunction with Nigeria’s AIB in Lagos last week, the NTSB team shared a variety of lessons learned from different disciplines.
One of the speakers, a human factors investigator, outlined investigation process and explained how examine all factors—machine, human, and environment—are examined to understand an accident and make recommendations to prevent it from happening again.
The speaker highlighted several accidents investigated in which human factors played a role. But even when a probable cause statement focuses on factors not normally associated with human performance, it’s impossible to totally remove humans from the accident chain.
He noted that to prevent accidents and improve the safety of air travel in Africa, it’s important that operating aircraft are air worthy, meaning that all structure, systems, and engines are intact and maintained in accordance with the regulations.
To emphasise this point, NTSB chief presented a series of case studies discussing air worthiness issues and offered guidance on ways to classify damage to aircraft.
Aviation is a global business. The mission of NTSB and that of AIB is to make transportation safer the world over by conducting independent accident investigations and advocating for safety improvements.
With outreach activities like the one they just completed in Africa, they hope to make aviation safer, not only in Africa, but throughout the world. After all, transportation safety is a global challenge. When safety wins, they all win.
Safe skies key to Africa’s growth
Despite the current financial turmoil, the World Bank estimated sub-Saharan Africa’s growth at 3.7 per cent for 2015, with a slight uptick to 4.4 per cent and 4.8 per cent in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Six African countries featured in the bank’s list of the 13 economies projected to grow the fastest between 2014 and 2017.
“There’s no doubt that the African growth story remains resilient in the face both of global and continental challenges. However, in order to capitalise on our growth potential, we have to ensure that we have integrated transport solutions in place to promote regional, continental and inter-continental trade,” says Jeoff Motshoba, Executive, Air Traffic Management/ Communications, Navigation and Surveillance at Air Traffic & Navigation Services (ATNS).
“Aviation, in particular, has a critical role to play in providing the kind of infrastructure that a competitive modern economy needs,” he added.
The African commercial air travel market represents massive amounts of untouched opportunities for new airlines.
According to the data from International Air Transport Association (IATA), Africa is home to 16 per cent of the world’s population but it accounts for only 2.20 per cent of the global air service market.
With a clear need for air travel and a demand for more quality airlines, the African continent is emerging from under the radar and making gains to increase its total market share.
Reworking Africa’s image
The reputation of African airlines and the complicated cross border political matters have been a hot topic of discussions for many years; however, with a new generation new opportunities are presenting themselves to completely rework the image of Africa in the international air travel industry.
Safe air travel and secure airports are necessary for increasing trade, attracting investment, expanding tourism, and developing a more modern society as nearly half of all world commerce is conducted by air.
BASAs: Nigeria’s battle with disadvantaged treaty
Nigeria is generally viewed as having one of the most liberalised air transport industries in Africa. Although still competitive within Africa, it has a significantly weaker bargaining power as regards the BASAs with non-African countries, thereby leading to an imbalance with results spanning from increased dominance of foreign airlines to capital flight. WOLE SHADARE reports
Business of freedom
Nothing should stand in the way of aviation. Aviation has been described as business of freedom. Aviation is globalization at its very best. But to deliver aviation’s many benefits needs borders that are open to people and trade.
Over the years, countries Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) had been modified to guarantee more flights between nations having air pacts with one another. These agreements have become uneven with one party seeking to take advantage of the weaker side to have more flights than their counterparts. Not a few have given it different terms ranging from ‘skewed’ to ‘imbalance and one-sided’ among others.
Negotiations to enter into BASAs are usually spearheaded by the Ministry of Aviation after extensive consultation with aviation regulatory authorities and concerned institutions, for example, the immigration authorities.
However, it is quite common to see airline operators, desirous of expanding their routes to target destination, lobby the Ministry of Aviation through diplomatic channels, to engage in formal talks, which usually lead to the commencement of negotiations between countries.
In general, BASAs are negotiated based on the five freedoms prescribed under the International Air Transport Agreement (IATA, which are stated as privilege to fly across a state’s territory without landing; privilege to land for non-traffic purposes, for refuelling, repairs and maintenance; privilege of an airline from one country to carry traffic from its own country to another country; the privilege of an airline from one country to carry traffic from another country to its own country and the privilege of an airline from one country to carry traffic between two other countries, provided that the flight originates and terminates in its own country.
Out of the five freedoms mentioned, the first two freedoms are considered technical rights while the last three are considered economic and commercial traffic rights.
Never has BASA been talked about than in Nigeria where everybody has become an expert in the subject. Government has been taken to the cleaners because of what they describe as its lackadaisical attitude and lack of policy foresight to protect Nigerian carriers that are not only weak to compete but offer little in terms of financial might to compared with the smallest airlines in Europe.
Nigeria presently has 90 BASA pact with only about 39 of it active. Many of these have been reviewed to create opportunities for domestic carriers, but are largely not utilised. Specifically, domestic carriers are yet to utilise 10 per cent of the air pact due to their limited capacity.
Currently, 33 foreign carriers operate in and out of Nigeria almost on a daily basis. Among them are nine African carriers. Air Peace recently opened Lagos-Dubai operations.
Agreements without reciprocity
Nigeria is into commercial agreements with many countries that operate to the country without reciprocity. The country rakes in millions of dollars from the deal, which clearly shows that the country is not losing on all fronts.
Many of the foreign airlines have also been accused of mopping up the domestic market with designations handed them to operate to Kano, Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and other cities.
Until recently, and due to the terrible state of Enugu airport, Ethiopian operated to Enugu and Kaduna airports. The airline relies on the Single Air Transport Market (SAATM) to which Nigeria and 28 other countries including Ethiopia are signatories.
SAATM is a project of the African Union to create a single market for air transport in Africa. Once completely in force, the single market is supposed to allow significant freedom of air transport in Africa, advancing the AU’s Agenda 2063.
Some aviation experts have passed some jokes on Nigerian carriers that despite the over 80 international routes given to them, they lack the capacity, discipline to operate profitably.
Nigerian-born international expert and Chief Operating Officer (CEO), African Aviation Services Limited, Mr Nick Fadugba, says the country’s small fleet of aircraft will make it practically impossible for it to compete with foreign counterparts.
The former Secretary-General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA) put the average fleet size in Nigeria at a maximum of 10 aircraft, a number not enough to compete with British Airways that has over 400 aircraft.
His words: “Delta Airlines have over 500 aircraft. Even Ethiopian Airlines has a 110 aircraft. So how can small airlines compete? And I am not being disrespectful by the way, the airlines I am not talking about is fleet size, I am not talking about commitment to the industry but I want to be realistic, because this industry is cut throat. If you don’t have a critical mass in terms of size, in term of good management, in terms of fleet, in terms of good network, it is very hard to succeed.”
However, since Nigeria Airways was liquidated there was no airline to reciprocate on bilateral air service agreements, so foreign airlines gained a huge advantage over Nigerian airlines.
Although Nigeria currently lacks a national carrier, a number of foreign airlines operate to and from the country at varying levels of frequencies to multiple destinations from Nigeria’s international airports located in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Kano.
The reality of operating a national carrier is not as clear cut. A national carrier, unlike other government owned institutions, must be run as a business.
National carrier question
In arguing for a national carrier, a lot of confidence is inadvertently placed in the Ministry of Aviation’s ability to operate the national carrier as a profitable business. The ministry would be expected to take pains to ensure that costing, pricing, advertising, marketing and other business fundamentals are effectively and efficiently carried out to a professional standard.
It is apparent that certain BASAs have been negotiated or renegotiated without extensive consideration of the commercial elements required for the industry to experience the proposed targeted benefits of BASAs neither has there been much emphasis on the economic realities under which the country is operating.
Most agreements provide for royalties to be paid to the Nigerian government where the nominated Nigerian air carriers are unable to reciprocate under the agreement. This measure may be a sound way of boosting government revenue under the agreement but it does nothing commercially for the industry. In some cases, agreements have been signed to stop the payment of these royalties altogether.
In stark contrast, in 2014, Emirates entered into an agreement with South African authorities for additional frequencies from South Africa to Dubai. It was reported that the additional frequencies were granted on the condition that the airline pay 40 per cent of the cost of each ticket to South Africa Airways.
As such, there is a commercial benefit to the national carrier and the nation, by extension. It is recommended that the government consider similar options or other commercial options so as to give an incentive for indigenous carriers to continue operations and possibly expand their operations internationally. The idea is not to reduce the frequencies or entry points of foreign carriers but to increase the indigenous air transport industry to a level of competitiveness that would rival that of any foreign country.
However, as attractive as the concept of reciprocity of rights is in BASAs negotiation, Nigeria as an economy is not primed to take full advantage of the concept. This is because the concept of reciprocity of rights must be exploited within the body of the existing regulatory framework of each participant country. Consequently, whereas the United Kingdom’s extant laws on commerce, immigration and registration of companies are robust enough to streamline foreign entry into their domestic market, Nigerian extant laws are not yet that robust. This results in a huge gap between Nigerian airlines and their foreign counterparts.
Chinese firm launches solar-powered unmanned aircraft
The China-developed solar-powered uncrewed aircraft “MOZI 2” has completed a successful maiden flight, its producer OXAI Aircraft Co., Ltd. said Tuesday.
The flight was conducted on July 27 at an airport in Deqing County in east China’s Zhejiang Province, according to the Shanghai-based company.
The company said the aircraft, designed with a wingspan of 15 meters and solely powered by solar cells, can fly at a maximum altitude of 8,000 meters. It can cruise at a low speed for up to 12 hours during the night after charging in the sunlight for eight hours.
According to Xinhua, the aircraft is expected to be used for disaster relief, reconnaissance and communication.
Mao Yiqing, the company’s general manager, said they would work with 5G service providers to further expand the application of the aircraft.
Despite Ethiopian crash, air travel safer in Africa
Africa is usually seen as a continent with huge risk but indicators suggest otherwise when it comes aviation. Despite challenges, the region ranks higher in aviation safety, writes WOLE SHADARE
Aviation safety in Africa continues to be a central concern for governments and aviation industry stakeholders, although the situation has been improving in recent years.
Until the recent Ethiopian Airlines accident, African airlines had gone two years without any jet hull losses or fatalities.
This demonstrates progress after decades of poor safety records in some African countries, which could be attributed to lax regulatory oversight, obsolete infrastructure, aging and poorly maintained fleets and inadequate technical training of aviation personnel.
Airlines raise the bar
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), only 24 African states—out of about 104 states around the world—currently have a critical elements implementation score of 60 percent or above in the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme.
This program is considered the global benchmark in assessing the oversight capabilities of government entities charged with regulating civil aviation. Cape Verde, South Africa, Mauritania, Togo and Egypt rank are the top five African countries in terms of operational safety according to this metric, while countries such as Djibouti, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sao Tome and Principe score below 25 percent on implementation of the critical elements.
There has been a very positive trend with regard to many of the larger African flag carriers, such as Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Mauritius, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc.
These airlines strive to maintain excellent safety records that are on par with global industry standards, and they have great reputations among the traveling public in Africa.
Smaller carriers, such as African World Airlines in Ghana and Air Peace in Nigeria, have also made strides in recent years, as demonstrated by their successes in the IATA’s industry-benchmark Operational Safety Audit.
In 2018, African carriers that successfully completed this process averaged only 1.18 accidents per million flights, while other African carriers’ average accident rate was 9.79, according to the IATA. The global average accident rate was 1.35, which roughly equates to one accident for every 740,000 flights.
Increased safety compliance
Experts are crediting increased compliance with global aviation standards, better regulation and younger fleets for the improvement.
From less than three per cent of global passenger air traffic but more than two-thirds of fatalities just over two decades ago, Africa entered new territory when it reported zero deaths attributable to a commercial jet aircraft accident in 2016. The region maintained the record with no fatalities in 2017 as well.
African Jet aircraft losses first fell from an average of 2.21 hull losses between 2012 and 2015, to zero in 2016.
That compared with 0.18 for the Asia Pacific, 013 for Europe, 0.92 for the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Union republics) and 0.41 for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017.
While 556 people died in 15 fatal commercial airline accidents during 2018, data for the first half of the year shows that there was no fatal jet accident in the region. The only fatal accidents involved small propeller driven aircraft in which 14 people died.
One such accident was the FlySax Cessna 208 Grand Caravan that crashed into a ridge in Kenya’s Aberdare mountains killing eight passengers and two crew on June 5 and a June 24 Let410 cargo charter operated by Eagle Air Guinea in which four people died.
Africa, Ethiopia confront challenges
Africa and Ethiopian Airlines are dealing with its biggest challenge in years following the crash on March 2019 of Nairobi-bound Flight 302 soon after take-off in Addis Ababa. All 157 people on-board were killed.
The crash raised serious questions about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max jet, which was involved in another fatal accident last year in Indonesia. For all the focus on the crash in Ethiopia, major African carriers and civil aviation entities have made significant strides in improving their safety records in recent years.
Commenting on Africa’s high safety record in relation with Ethiopian Airlines accident, Director-General of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac said in the case of Ethiopian Airways, it was not the first reaction.
“I have heard blames on the aircraft system. I have heard blames on Ethiopian. On my point of view, you find it difficult to say anything on that until after investigation is concluded.”
The IATA DG disclosed that both ICAO and IATA work in partnership in doing workshops, training, initiatives to help the authorities and airport operators for airlines to lift up the safety standards.
“We have all that relates to airlines in IASA, IASAGO. By implementing the standards of IOSA, we say automatically we uplift compliance with ICAO recommended standards. They go hand-in-hand and ICAO has accepted the IOSA as standards to uplift countries’ standards to where they should be.”
Similarly, IATA’s African envoy for aero-political affairs, Dr. Raphael Kuuchi said, “A number of factors account for the significant improvements in safety achieved by Africa in recent times.”
Kuuchu explained that following the Abuja Declaration in 2012, there has been effort among key players and stakeholders in the industry to improve aviation safety.
The IATA, the Civil Air Navigation Services organisation, AFRAA and the AU-based African Civil Aviation Commission have pooled technical, financial and material resources to help African states, regulators and airlines to tackle aviation safety.
Building safety capacity
To this end, capacity building courses as well as safety gap analyses were conducted at different points in Africa while states were continuously pushed to get their airlines to adopt the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA].
Besides more airlines signing up for IOSA certification, African states invested in infrastructure and committed resources to addressing safety gaps that have been identified through ICAO safety audits.
Also, concerned about the likelihood of unsafe aircraft entering its territory, the European Union introduced its AU Safety List in the early 2000s on which airlines deemed unsafe were banned from operating in the EU. The list was dominated by African airlines with the DRC and Nigeria taking the lead. This forced African governments and airlines to invest in air safety and airlines to buy newer aircraft.
Availability of new aircraft types that fit the thin African routes better has encouraged African airlines to transit from aged to new equipment.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, the average age of the African airline fleet is less than 20 years, compared with the high 30s two decades ago.
“New aircraft have better reliability and operational efficiencies. On average, they are less susceptible to technical failures than ageing aircraft,” Kuuchi added.
It is important for developed nations with stronger economic resources and interests in African aviation to assist African countries in modernizing their regulatory frameworks around aviation safety.
Incident concealment: Time bomb for Nigeria’s aviation
The occurrence of many aviation safety infractions give cause for concern. WOLE SHADARE writes that the aviation regulatory and the accident investigative bodies need to be resolute on safety matters
Timely reporting of hazards, incidents or accidents is seen as an essential activity of aviation safety and risk management. One can safely say that airlines are preparing the ground for disaster if they conceal or fail to report hazards or safety related issues.
Without an effective hazard/safety reporting culture, there is no way that any aviation service provider can demonstrate continuous improvement to their aviation safety management system (SMS).
The foregoing points to the perceived rift between the Accident Investigation [AIB], Air Peace and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority [NCAA] over alleged concealment of accident/incident reports that generated furore in the country’ aviation industry.
Aside concealment of accident/ incident reports to the relevant aviation authorities, airlines pilots and crew are known to have flown or still fly with expired licence and health records.
They have been caught many times with expired Airline Operator Certificate [AOC] certificates; a situation that put the lives of people in jeopardy.
The accident investigative body has taken a swipe at Nigeria’s biggest carrier for allegedly not notifying it at the appropriate time, explaining in a statement it made available to the media that on June 5, 2019, the Bureau received notification about a serious incident involving a Boeing 737-300 aircraft with Registration Marks 5N-BUK, belonging to Air Peace Limited from a passenger-on-board.
Commissioner, AIB, Akin Olateru stated that the said incident occurred on May 15, 2019, while the aircraft was on approach to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos from Port Harcourt.
The aircraft was said to have experienced a hard landing, as it touched down on the runway (18R). Upon receipt of the notification, he noted that the Bureau visited Air Peace Limited office and confirmed the said occurrence, adding that the agency further conducted a damage assessment on the aircraft, which revealed that the air-craft made contact on the runway with the starboard engine cowling as obvious from various scrapes, scratches and dents, an evidence of tyre scouring on the sidewalls of the No. 4 tyre.
There was also visible damage to the right-hand engine compressor blades.
Of utmost concern is the fact that till date, the AIB has received no notification of the incident: three weeks after the date of occurrence, contrary to ICAO Annex 13, which guides the operations of aircraft accident investigation procedures.
Rather, the Bureau further to the occurrence, received a submission of a ‘Mandatory Occurrence Report’ (MOR) subsequently filed at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), on June 7, 2019, which filing was as a direct result of the Bureau’s visit to Air Peace office on the 6th day of June 2019.”
Similarly, Olateru stated that in recent times, an aircraft belonging to Air Peace Limited was also involved in a serious incident, hinting that the airline wilfully failed to comply with the provisions of the Bureau’s regulations.
General Manager, Public Affairs of AIB, Mr. Tunji Oketunbi, said the airline’s Accountable Manager and Chief Pilot at the material time, were duly warned by the Bureau for non-compliance with the regulations.
He said based on all the foregoing, it was obvious that Air Peace Management lacks the full understanding of the statutory mandates, functions and procedures of the bureau
The airline has stoutly denied that it concealed serious incident information from the AIB, describing it as incorrect.
Chairman of the airline, Mr. Allen Onyema told New Telegraph that when the incident happened, the airline reported to the regulatory agency, NCAA and also wrote to Boeing and the manufacturer of the aircraft’s engine, CFM International.
“When the incident occurred, we reported it to NCAA,” he insisted. “We followed the aircraft manual, which guided us on what to do when such incident occurred. We wrote to Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer and also wrote to the engine manufacturer, CFM International. We also grounded the aircraft.
“We always report any incident to NCAA and, sometimes, you may not know what to report to AIB because the NCAA is the regulatory authority and the Bureau is in charge of accident investigation.
“So when incident like hard landing happens and you inform NCAA, we feel we have followed the procedure. Boeing has written back to us and has told us what to do, according to the procedure. Currently, inspection is being carried out on the aircraft,”
Delta Airlines example
AIB has come out to say it does not have any personal issues with Air Peace, saying it was only carrying out its functions as stipulated by law. The agency maintained that ignorance of the law and provision under, which it acted was not enough for the airline to cry blue murder.
Olateru cited similar incident with United States airline, Delta Airlines that apologised to AIB February last year over the airline’s failure to notify the government agency of the emergency landing involving its Airbus 330-200 aircraft. He said the airline should simply have apologised rather than whip up, ‘unnecessary sentiments.’
It would be recalled that Atlanta bound Delta Flight 55, which departed Lagos Tuesday night returned several minutes later to Murtala Muhammed International Airport following an issue with one of the Airbus 330-200’s two engines.
The Nigerian accident investigation body had frowned at the American carrier’s failure to notify it of the serious incident involving its aircraft in line with Nigerian air safety regulations and international practice.
The airline was believed to have notified the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the occurrence immediately in line with the US laws.
Nigeria, as the state of occurrence under the International Civil Aviation organisation (ICAO) Annex 13 is responsible for investigating any aircraft occurrences within her airspace. The State of registry of the aircraft and the airline may serve as observers.
A team of the airline officials including the technical crew of the flight and the airlines Lagos Airport Station, Miss Shannon Masters, Manager, Air Safety Investigation expressed the airline’s regret for the oversight, stressing that it was not intentional.
Said Masters: ‘We sincerely apologised for the error and we promise to cooperate with AIB in the investigation of this occurrence.”
Former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Group Capt. John Ojikutu said: “I have read the report. The conducts of the pilots and the operator is beyond the violations of those pilots and their operators who were reported to have been flying with expired medical license. To even hear that the operator tampered with the aircraft’s CVR, is a criminal offence and will be surprised if the sanctions would be anything less than suspension of the airline AOC.”
The objective of mandatory occurrence reporting is to prevent safety occurrences, such as accidents and incidents, not to attribute blame or liability if they happen. The person filing a safety report needs to have the strong assurance from the regulatory authority and the employer that prosecution or punitive actions such as suspension of licence will not be sought unless the unsafe act is deliberately committed or gross negligence is demonstrated.
Europe’s congested airspace, Africa’s empty skies
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is worried about congested European airspace, which is likely to cost airlines 35 years in delayed time by 2025. It is an irony that while airspace in Europe is congested, Africa’s airspace is virtually empty due to SAATM low implementation. WOLE SHADARE writes
The air transport network plays an important role in today’s globalized society. The connectivity it generates is a key element for the competitive position of European countries, regions and cities. It drives consumer and wider economic benefits.
A superior connectivity performance minimizes travel costs for passengers, businesses and shippers. Aviation facilitates global contacts, mobility and trade. It stimulates productivity, trade, Research and Development (R&D) and foreign direct investment (FDI).
In addition, the aviation industry is a major industry in its own right, supporting about 12 million jobs and 4.1 percent of Gross Domestic (GDP) in Europe.
Europe is in a strong position in terms of connectivity. Since the start of liberalization of the European air transport market about 25 years ago, consumers have benefitted from connectivity growth within Europe as well as to/from other world regions.
These gains include more directly and indirectly served destinations, higher frequencies, shorter travel times and lower fares. The connectivity gains have substantially reduced consumer’s costs to get from A to B and induced significant consumer welfare benefits, as well as gains for the wider economy. But there are challenges to deal with if these gains are to continue.
Sufficient capacity both in the air and on the ground and an efficiently organized airspace are key in this respect.
However, the European air transport system is not operating at its optimum level. Flight trajectories are longer than needed. On average, flights in European airspace are 3 per cent longer than the great circle distance between origin and destination airport.
Airspace inefficiencies and capacity bottlenecks cause delays of around 10 minutes per flight. In contrast to the US, which has just one single Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), Europe has 38 ANSPs to handle approximately the same geographical area, resulting in higher than needed costs of Air Navigation Service Provision for airlines and passengers.
Examples of these costs are higher ANSP user charges and longer than needed flight trajectories, with associated fuel burn and environmental burden. But the much-needed modernization of European airspace is progressing slowly and is lagging behind the targets set. Furthermore, airport capacity is expected to fall short of future demand growth.
The continued congestion of the airspace is a source of worry to the clearing house for airlines. The Director-General of IATA, Alexandre de Juniac had during an interview at the just concluded IATA 75th Annual General Meeting in Seoul, South Korea stated that that compiled minutes of delay runs into about 36 years if the situation continues till 2025.
Just like the bottlenecks faced by Africa to have a unified single African airspace, which has lingered for about 20 years with slow implementation of Yamoussoukro Declaration, Europe seems to be facing a more intriguing decision to have single European airspace. This has even lingered more than the much talked about Yamoussoukro Decision. That is where the comparison ends. While Europe has gone to develop its air transport sector albeit with some bottlenecks, Africa is still confused on what to do.
While on one hand they support Single African Air Transport Market [SAATM], on the other hand, they are very reluctant to open their airspace as the still consider Bilateral Air Services Agreement [BASA] far and above a policy that would make them prosperous and face competition if they are to survive in the highly competitive aviation industry.
The IATA chief lamented that what is happening in Europe is similar to those of Yamoussoukro Declaration, which has been there 20 years ago.
His words, ‘Firstly, it is political reason. You are touching on a subject that has sovereignty, economic reasons because some of the incumbent airlines owned by governments want to protect their airspace and their operators against what they perceive as threatening competition.
“They also think that it will kill any initiative of national carrier and the reasons they don’t want to open their borders. It is all about political control, sovereignty issues. It is protection, political issue.”
Getting air traffic to and through a country gives a proven boost to trade, tourism and other economic activity. Countries and cities that have managed to do this have been handsomely rewarded. While Africa’s geography gives it the potential to become a hub for flights from Australia to the Americas, from China to South America, and many other routes, that is no more than a threshold advantage. Getting airlines to fly to a city rests on issues that Africa still struggle with – not just inadequate infrastructure, but also a scarcity of Africa-based international airlines, poor route management, insecurity and a failure to generate tourist interest.
Many African nations lack national carriers and some of the international airlines that do exist are loss-makers – South African Airways is one example. People obviously cannot fly to or through a country if there are no airlines to take them there. Furthermore, internal connections between many African cities are poor or non-existent.
We regularly talk about the need to develop a ‘United Africa’ to enable air transport to grow to its full potential and the need for enhanced connectivity and cooperation within the Continent.
Part of the reason for Africa’s under-served status is that many African countries have continued to restrict their air services markets to protect the share held by state-owned air carriers. This practice originated in the early 1960s when many newly-independent African states created national airlines, in part, to assert their status as nations.
It has been a long journey with lots of talking but very little action, albeit there has been limited liberalisation in certain regional economic blocs and between certain markets. Now, the industry in Africa appears to better understand the economic benefits of a more liberal regime and moving from a general protective stance of state interests. We are now the closest we have ever been to allowing Africa to fulfil its aviation potential.
Africa covers over 30 million square kilometers and is home to more than a billion people. Due to its challenging terrain, air transport is often the best—sometimes the only—way to connect the continent. Africa needs safe, efficient and affordable air transport links to make the most of its people and resources.
Ibom Air begins commercial flight today
Ibom Air, the Akwa Ibom State owned airline will commence full commercial flights today, Friday 7th June 2019.
Ibom Air managed and operated by Ibom Air Company Limited is one of the signature projects of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s first term, launched amidst pomp and pageantry on February 20th with three aircrafts on its fleet.
A release by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Ekerette Udoh, says the airline has met all regulatory conditions and requirements and has been certified fit to commence commercial operations.
With this development, Governor Emmanuel’s avowed determination to open the three gateways to industrialization-land, sea and air is on course, the release adds.
The release disclosed that the airline will operate regular daily flights to Lagos and Abuja.
“Aircrafts in the Ibom Air fleet (Bombardier CRJ 900) have the distinction of being relatively new, all three, under 10 years old.”
However, the commencement of the commercial operations by Ibom Air has been celebrated by Akwa Ibomites and Nigerians as a testament to the visionary leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel, who is determined to break conventional wisdom concerning things long thought to be impossible to achieve, the release adds.
The crazy economics of inflight Wi-Fi
Forget champagne, fully flat beds and on-board showers. WOLE SHADARE writes that for airlines’ travellers, the must-have facility these days is WiFi
At over 37, 000 feet above sea level, air passengers can make video calls, send Short Messaging System(SMS) and be in contact with their loved ones and continue with their works as if they are in their homes or offices.
That is the power of technology, which was a rarity many years ago, as airlines are taking advantage of technology to offer great services to their passengers especially for long haul passenger.
Travelling long distances across different time zones can become a big torture, tiring and sickening. So, many passengers pay with their credit cards to surf the Internet and be in touch while they are in the air.
Most gulf carriers like Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, United States airlines and others are daily developing Internet technology. For Emirates, the airline offers 20 free MB to its economy passengers, which they expect passengers to exhaust within two hours when they log in. They are allowed to pay between $9 and $24 for few hours and duration of the flight.
On an American or Delta plane you could wind up paying $10 to $20 to surf for the duration of your flight. JetBlue offers complementary Internet access to all of its passengers. For most major airlines, Internet is a revenue generator.
An airline expert told New Telegraph that passengers go for airlines that provide such facilities especially if the journey is more than six hours or one that lasts for between 10 and 16 hours. It keeps them busy and helps them to run down the time of sitting in a position for so long. Long distance journeys can be very boring even with inflight entertainment facilities.
It would be recalled that from humble beginnings, inflight connectivity has certainly taken off in recent years. With more than 80 airlines worldwide now offering wifi services to passengers, nearly half of all the miles being travelled by air each year have the option of inflight wifi.
From real-time access to news and weather, to being able to browse the web, stay in touch with family, or catch up on email, the benefits to passengers of on-board Internet are clear. So much so that today, 94 per cent of air travellers believe inflight Internet enhances their travel experience and 30 percent check if wifi is available before booking.
For the airlines, however, it’s not as simple as just offering connectivity any more. Back on the ground, the world of public wifi has rapidly evolved and become increasingly commoditized, so businesses have looked to both monetize and differentiate their offering from the competition.
Customers can increasingly walk into their favourite café or hotel and access the wifi network using a branded application, where they will also see promotions and marketing for additional products or services. Not only are customers avoiding the frustrating login screens and confusion around choosing a network, they’re getting a more personalized experience and incentives to spend more money as a result.
Making a wifi strategy more passenger-centric is also becoming increasingly important from a business model perspective.
The CEO of Delta Air Lines recently announced aspirations to make on-board Internet free to passengers across the Delta fleet, a move that could set off a domino effect across the industry.
This highlight that now is the time for airlines to put in place a differentiated wifi service that not only delivers for the customer, but can provide a revenue stream in the future.
By tightly integrating wifi within the airline’s apps and entertainment systems, it becomes a means to offer passengers additional, paid-for services – from inflight food and personalized entertainment, to last-minute deals at their destination or even loyalty credit cards.
Win-win for airlines
It’s clear that the inflight connectivity landscape is evolving – it’s no longer just about making sure it is available on board most flights, but also about making the customer experience great too. For airlines, keeping customers within a more tightly controlled airline-branded ecosystem is an obvious way to differentiate from the competition and serve up additional, complementary services.
This has the double benefit of a better passenger experience and a better way to monetize each seat – two things that are going to be increasingly important in a future where free wifi might not just be available in the hotel and café at the airport, but on the flight home as well.
Though frequent fliers have made their pleas to the airlines to offer on-board Internet, when the service is available it isn’t always up to par with the tech-savvy traveller’s needs…
Even though an increasing amount of airlines like Finnair, Srilankan Airlines, Kuwait Airways, TAAG Angola Airlines, and WestJet have announced that they’ll soon be implementing WiFi, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to the quality of the service, as exorbitant pricing and slow speeds that would make even a snail yawn are deterring fliers from considering purchasing Internet aboard.
Airlines that offer inflight WiFi and/or GSM Internet access are Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, AirAsia, Air Canada, Air China, Air Europa, Air France, Air Tran, Alaska Airlines, Alitalia, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines and ANA. Others are British Airways, Cebu Pacific Air, China Eastern Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Egypt Air, Emirates, Etihad, EVA Air, Finnair, Geruda Indonesia, United, Turkish Airlines.
Also included are GOL Linhas Aereas, Inteligente, Gulf Air, Hong Kong Airlines, Iberia, Iceland Air, JAL, Jetblue, Lufthansa, Libyan Airlines, Malindoair, Mango Airlines, Nok Air, Norwegian, Oman Air and Philipine Airlines. Qatar Airways, Ryannair, SAS, SaudiArabian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SouthWest Airlines, TAM, Tap Portugal, US Airways, West Jet, Vietnam Airlines and Vueling also made the list.
The London School of Economics has made a strong business case for the future of Inflight Connectivity (IFC), predicting a market worth $130 billion by 2035, and contribution of $30 billion to airline revenue.
By world region, the largest market will be in Asia Pacific, reaching $10.3 billion in revenue by 2035, with Europe and Russia in second place at $8.2 billion and North America, which took the lead in the initial introduction of IFC inflight as a common service, in third place at $7.6 billion by 2035.
Consumers expect in-flight Wi-Fi to offer the same browsing experience in the air, as they have at home or at their favorite hotel. Like in the hospitality industry, airlines see the connectivity experience as a differentiator that customers care about and that can help increase ancillary revenues from added services and purchases.
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