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Boeing hiring, eyes 737 MAX flights resuming ‘early 4th quarter’

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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.

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Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

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Boeing 737 MAX may not return this year – UAE regulator

The head of the United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority said on Sunday he was not optimistic that the Boeing 737 MAX would return to operations this year and that the first quarter of 2020 was more likely.

The 737 MAX has been grounded since March while Boeing updates flight control software at the center of two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people within a span of five months.

Boeing Co is targeting regulator approval for the fixes in October, though the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has said it does not have a firm time for the aircraft to be flying again.

The GCAA will conduct its own assessment to allow the MAX to return to UAE airspace, rather than follow the FAA, Director General Said Mohammed al-Suwaidi told reporters in Dubai.

He said the GCAA would look at the FAA decision and that the UAE regulator had so far not seen details of Boeing’s fixes.

The FAA has traditionally taken the lead on certifying Boeing jets, though other regulators have indicated they would conduct their own analysis.

UAE airline flydubai is one of the largest MAX customers, having ordered 250 of the fast-selling narrow-body jets, reports Reuters.

It has not said when it expects the aircraft to be operational again. American Airlines has canceled flights through Dec. 3, United Airlines until Dec. 19 and Southwest Airlines Co into early January.

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Ethiopian Airlines’ revenue jumps with rise in passenger numbers

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Ethiopian Airlines’ revenue jumps with rise in passenger numbers

Ethiopian Airlines saw a big rise in its operating revenue in the year to the end of June, as a surge in passenger numbers helped to offset the impact of higher fuel costs, the carrier told Reuters on Friday.

Africa’s biggest airline said operating revenue rose 17 percent in dollar terms while passenger numbers were up 14 percent.

In March, one of the airline’s Boeing planes crashed a few minutes after take-off from Bole airport in Addis Ababa en-route to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.

“In one of the most challenging years, we managed to continue our fast, profitable and sustainable growth,” the airline told Reuters, sharing its preliminary results for the period.

The full set of results is expected in the next two weeks, the company said.

It flew 12.1 million passengers during the period, helping to cushion an increase in fuel costs of about 25 percent, the airline said.

Planes were three quarters full on average, a key performance measure for the industry.

Ethiopian said it offered 13% more flight seats per kilometre during the reporting period.

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BA begins cancelling hundreds of flights ahead of further strike action

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BA begins cancelling hundreds of flights ahead of further strike action

British Airways has begun cancelling hundreds of flights ahead of the next strike by pilots on September 27.

Tens of thousands of BA passengers are expected to be hit by the disruption which follows a two-day strike on Monday and Tuesday this week when 1,700 flights were cancelled affecting 195,000 people.

British Airways has offered a pay rise of 11.5% over three years, which it says would boost the pay of some captains to £200,000, but Balpa says its members want a bigger share of the company’s profits.

Both sides have said they want to resume talks, but there is little sign of the deadlock being broken.

The airline began contacting affected passengers on Thursday afternoon, 15 days ahead of the strike.

Under EU law, passengers are only entitled to compensation if they receive less than 14 days’ notice of a cancellation.

Balpa said it “set a gap between the first and second periods of strike action to give BA time to work with us to settle this dispute with their pilots”.

“We had today been exchanging new ideas to do that via Acas (the independent arbitration service) and so it’s irresponsible and inconsiderate to its customers that BA has pulled out and decided to start cancelling flights now, just to save money on compensation.”

A spokeswoman for BA said: “We have put forward new ideas through Acas this week and have called on Balpa to meet us face to face as soon as possible to return to negotiations.

“However, we need to give our customers certainty, so we have contacted all those affected by the union’s strike on September 27.”

When BA cancelled flights ahead of this week’s walkout, many passengers complained about difficulties contacting the airline, while some were sent cancellation emails in error, reports Sky News.

The airline said it had added extra staff to its customer relations teams and had up to 900 people answering phones at peak times.

During last week’s 48-hour warning strike, BA flights out of Abuja and Lagos were also affected with the planes grounded at both airports.

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BA begins cancelling hundreds of flights ahead of further strike action

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BA begins cancelling hundreds of flights ahead of further strike action

British Airways has begun cancelling hundreds of flights ahead of the next strike by pilots on September 27.

Tens of thousands of BA passengers are expected to be hit by the disruption which follows a two-day strike on Monday and Tuesday this week when 1,700 flights were cancelled affecting 195,000 people.

British Airways has offered a pay rise of 11.5% over three years, which it says would boost the pay of some captains to £200,000, but Balpa says its members want a bigger share of the company’s profits.

Both sides have said they want to resume talks, but there is little sign of the deadlock being broken.

The airline began contacting affected passengers on Thursday afternoon, 15 days ahead of the strike.

Under EU law, passengers are only entitled to compensation if they receive less than 14 days’ notice of a cancellation.

Balpa said it “set a gap between the first and second periods of strike action to give BA time to work with us to settle this dispute with their pilots”.

“We had today been exchanging new ideas to do that via Acas (the independent arbitration service) and so it’s irresponsible and inconsiderate to its customers that BA has pulled out and decided to start cancelling flights now, just to save money on compensation.”

A spokeswoman for BA said: “We have put forward new ideas through Acas this week and have called on Balpa to meet us face to face as soon as possible to return to negotiations.

“However, we need to give our customers certainty, so we have contacted all those affected by the union’s strike on September 27.”

When BA cancelled flights ahead of this week’s walkout, many passengers complained about difficulties contacting the airline, while some were sent cancellation emails in error, reports Sky News.

The airline said it had added extra staff to its customer relations teams and had up to 900 people answering phones at peak times.

During last week’s 48-hour warning strike, BA flights out of Abuja and Lagos were also affected with the planes grounded at both airports.

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FG approves airport for Ebonyi

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FG approves airport for Ebonyi

Federal Government on Friday  approved  Governor Dave Umahi’s request for the construction of a new International Airport in Ebonyi State.

With the approval all is now set for the smooth take-off of the construction of the airport in Oriuzor, Ezza North Local Government Area of the state.

The new airport when completed  is expected to help in opening up the Southeast as well as neighbouring Cross River and Benue States in the South-South and North-Central zones.

Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika  conveyed the approval in a letter to Umahi.

In the  letter, signed on his behalf by the Director Safety and

Technical Policy of the Ministry, Capt T A Alkali, the Minister said the approval followed the visit of a technical team from the ministry and its agencies to the state on inspection of the proposed site for the airport.

“I am directed to convey approval of the Honourable Minister of

Aviation for the construction of a state owned/financed International Airport on the inspected site,” he wrote.

The minister, however, noted that the approval was  subject to the state government’s fulfilment of certain requirements.

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Qantas tests 19-hour direct flights from UK, US to Sydney

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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

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U.S. draws curtain on safe skies for Africa initiative

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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.

Shared lessons

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.

Forecast

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.

Last line

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.

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BASAs: Nigeria’s battle with disadvantaged treaty

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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.

The lobby

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.

Unutilised pacts

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.

Expert’s view

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.

Contrast

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.

Last line

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.

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Chinese firm launches solar-powered unmanned aircraft

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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.

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Despite Ethiopian crash, air travel safer in Africa

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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

 

 

Steady improvement
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.

Experts’ views
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.

Last line
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.

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