Manta Air in Safe Hands

By General News

Manta Air, the Maldivian domestic airline has begun operating with Rusada’s maintenance management software, ENVISION after a successful trial.

The newest airline to serve the Maldivian market, Manta Air started operating last month with a fleet of ATR72-600s. Shortly to join the airline are several DHC-6 Twin Otters. Based at Malé it serves the destinations of Kudahuvadhoo, Ifuru, Dharavandhoo and Thimarafushil.

A team from Rusada successfully deployed eight of ENVISION’s modules in just four months, providing Manta Air with the key information and insights needed during the launch stage for an airline.

Julian Stourton, chief executive officer for Rusada said: “Manta Air are embarking on an incredibly exciting journey, and I’m thrilled that Rusada will be there to support them along the way.

“Our knowledge and experience of airline operations proved instrumental in securing this contract, and we’re immediately able to demonstrate this during a smooth and speedy implementation.”

Editor’s Comment Looking after your own

By General News

LARA editor Glenn Sands provides a summary of the latest happenings across the low-fare airline and regional aviation industry.

Backstop – it’s a phrase that all of us have become overfamiliar with in the UK over the past year, as we move painfully towards Brexit. But, the practice of preparing for the future is also a process that several regional and LCCs around the globe are now putting into place. Top of their requirements is recruiting and holding on to their pilots by using innovative new practices and procedures currently being introduced by airlines in Asia and the Pacific. These will allow even the most junior crew members the ability to put their views directly to the chief executives of the airline via emerging tech. Pilot rotas and schedules will also be examined with the promise of keeping that ‘work-life balance’ and, hopefully, retaining these new captains within the LCC and regional market. For an in-depth look at how these new methods will work we have an interesting article in the April/May issue of LARA.

But, it’s not all good news as Southwest Airlines, tired of its ongoing battle with the AMFA, took its case to the federal court, accusing mechanics of intentionally obstructing the airline’s operations. The outcome may well send a significant shiver through the regional airline operators and demonstrate an often-forgotten key point. No matter how significant your latest order for aircraft is, it’s the people that keep an operator in business and no more so is this the case than within the competitive LCC and regional market. By working together good things happen. It’s a point clearly demonstrated by airlines in the Far East, as they continue to develop and protect their employees, something perhaps airlines in the West have yet to realise.

And, another reminder of LARA’s 35th anniversary this year and the event will be marked with a commemorative April/May issue and the launch of our first ever LARA Global event in May. The two-day conference will bring together leaders from airlines, industry, suppliers, airports, airframe and engine manufacturers to discuss the challenges facing the industry, and what changes may need to be implemented in the future to remain viable to an ever-more-demanding market.

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the LARA e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

Irkut to Build Another MC-21-300 Prototype to Test PD-14 Engine

By General News

Irkut, is to build an additional flying prototype of its MC-21-300 airliner to be used exclusively for flight testing the Russian-built PD-14 turbofan engine, the second option for the advanced narrow-body.

The first four prototypes have been allocated Pratt & Whitney PW1400G GTF engines and will serve as the base versions of the airliner.

To test the PD-14, Irkut will modify the first serially built MC-21, the company revealed on 26 February. Assembly is scheduled to be completed by late 2019 or early 2020. No time-frame for the PD-14 equipped flight tests has been released.

Irkut and the engine manufacturer UEC-Perm Motors signed the contract for the delivery of the PD-14 for testing in January 2018, assuming the engines would follow a few months later. At the time, Irkut planned for the maiden flight to occur in 2019, in order to allow a 2021 certification time-frame. The engine achieved its type certification in late 2018.

Currently there are two prototype MC-21-300s powered with PW1400G GTFs being tested. The third and fourth prototypes are scheduled to join in March and July. The original plan was for one of these aircraft to be modified for the PD-14, but Irkut has now abandoned this idea in order not to delay the certification procedure any further.

Despite current US political sanctions interfering with the delivery of materials for the composite wings of the MC-21, Irkut appears to be in no hurry to reject the PW1400G in favour of the PD-14, or its ongoing partnership with Pratt & Whitney.

United upgrades it’s MRO Sites

By General News

United Airlines has started work on a US$352 million maintenance facility at Los Angeles International (LAX). Dubbed the ‘Technical Operations Centre’ it will cover more than 4,000 sq-ft and be able to accommodate six narrowbodies or two widebodies at a time.

“This builds on our recently completed US$600 million renovation to our terminal at LAX,” said Greg Hurt, chief operations officer at United.

The TOC will bring together and streamline United’s support work at the airport where it currently operates two facilities more than a mile apart. The new building will include a ground service equipment and a facilities maintenance building and a line maintenance hangar, including an engine support shop that will focus on the aircraft’s 787 fleet.

This is one of several upgrades taking place at maintenance facilities around the country to cope with the airline’s growing fleet.

All Stop in the Highlands

By General News

Air traffic controllers working for the Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL) have voted in favour of strike action in response to a pay dispute.

Following a rejection of a 2% pay offer made in 2018, the controllers, who are members of the Prospect Union plan to begin striking in April and continue throughout the summer. Seven airports will be affected including Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh and Wick John O’Groats.

Inglis Lyon, managing director of HIAL said he was disappointed that controllers had chosen to take industrial action. He said the it will have a “significant impact” on passengers and the communities which we serve. He added: “The Prospect Union requested a double-digit pay award, but as a government sponsored agency, they [HIAL] must follow the Scottish government pay policy. We cannot implement pay awards more than that directed by government.”

Southwest 737

No Quick-fixes at Southwest

By General News

Southwest Airlines has asked a federal court to step-in to its battle with mechanics by imposing that they stop writing up minor maintenance issues. The airline claims that it’s a prohibited job action designed to obstruct the airline’s operations.

Filed on 28 February with the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the Dallas-based carrier laid out its case stating that the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) is coordinating the action as part of ongoing and contentious contract discussions that began in mid-2012. The latest trouble began on 12 February, less than seven days after the most recent mediated negotiation session between the two sides concluded.

The airline said within its filing that: “Southwest began to experience an unprecedented number of aircraft out of service despite no change in leadership and no change in policies or procedures.” It continued, “Given the timing of the recent talks and the nature of the write-ups, it appeared that the AMFA and its members were organising and encouraging Southwest mechanics to unnecessarily write up maintenance issues in order to remove aircraft from service and disrupt Southwest’s operations in an effort to gain an advantage in contract negotiations.”

The out-of-aircraft count, which averages about 14 per day during normal operations, increased to 35 on 12 February, and rose steadily each day, peaking at 62 on 19 February.

Southwest has a fleet of 752-aircraft and can withstand about 35 aircraft out of service and still complete its schedule. When more than this are out of service, it is impossible to meet regular customer flights. At its peak the out-of-aircraft count forced the airline to cancel more than 10% of its 4,000 daily departures. Looking back through its records over the last three years the airline said the number of out-of-service aircraft cannot be clearly explained.

The impact on the airline’s schedules forced Southwest to declare operational emergencies at Houston Hobby, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Orlando on 16 February, later extending this to Dallas Love Field three days later and Los Angeles on 27 February.

Operational emergency essentially requires all-hands on deck to address the increased workload created by the maintenance write-ups. For the mechanics, only existing holidays requests are permitted.

AMFA insists that its 2,400 mechanics with Southwest are working to rule citing: “No matter how small an issue we may find with an aircraft, we have obligations mandated by the FAA to repair and make aircraft airworthy,” said national director Bret Oestreich.

The spat between the airline and the AMFA centres on a third-party work provision introduced during the last round of talks. Southwest wants to move work sent to third-party shops within the US to overseas vendors, and in the process increase its offer to AMFA. This is disputed by the union.

The two sides currently remain in National Labor Relations Board mediation, which prohibits strikes or coordinated job actions.

Profits on the Up for Rex

By General News


Australian regional airline Regional Express (Rex) has announced a profit after tax (PAT) of AUS$9.8 million on a turnover of AUS$163.8 million for the first half of financial year 2019. This represents a 7.7% improvement in PAT and 8.5% improvement in revenue over the previous financial year.

Rex executive chairman Lim Kim Hai said: “This period was particularly difficult with fuel prices skyrocketing and with the sharp slowdown of economic activity from December due to the Sino-US trade war. I am please to report that Rex bucked the worldwide airline trend of steep decline in profitability by turning in a modest 3% improvement in profit before tax.”

“There are too many uncertainties in the Australian global economy for the leadership to provide a specific profit forecast. However, the cash flow of the company has remained strong and we’ve decided to maintain a fully franked interim dividend of four cents per share. We remain committed to a healthy final dividend pay-out for FY19 if the Group turns in an improvement in earnings.”

Regional Express

Regional Express Welcomes Revised CAA Bill

By General News

Regional Express (Rex), Australia’s largest independent provincial airline has welcomed the proposed amendment to the Civil Aviation Act 1998. The revision requires the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to examine the economic and cost impact, in the development and spread of aviation safety standards, on individuals, businesses and the community, along with the associated relevant risks.

The amendment means that CASA will act in accordance with the instructions of its own Directive 01/2015 which states that “regulatory changes are justified on the basis of safety risk and do not impose unnecessary costs or unnecessarily hinder participation in aviation and its capacity for growth.”

When the Bill is passed, it will be down to CASA to demonstrate that the right balance can be achieved between safety and risk before introducing any new policies or procedures.

Neville Howard, chief operating officer for Rex stated: “This amendment to the Civil Aviation Act is strongly supported by us and closely follows the guiding principles advocated in the CASA’s Directive, which states ‘that aviation safety regulations must be shown to be necessary’ and ‘that every proposed regulation must be assessed against the contribution it will make to aviation safety’.”

He further commented that: “Rex looks forward to working with CASA in order to achieve a safer aviation environment through regulatory reforms that are grounded on rational, balanced and evidence-based policies.”

Thailand’s Kom Airlines orders six SSJ100s

By General News

The Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company signed a contract on 28 February to supply six SSJ100-95 for Thai-based airline Thai Kom. The contract was signed during a working visit from the Russian Minister of Industry, Denis Manturov, to Thailand. The aircraft are due to be delivered during 2019–2020 at a total cost of US$300 million.

The first SSJ100 is due to be begin operating with Kom Airlines in the autumn. The aircraft will serve on domestic and overseas routes. The technical maintenance of the SSJ100 will be carried out by WishV, the maintenance and repair company registered in Thailand.

Superjet 100 is a medium-range aircraft designed, developed and manufactured by the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company. It is designed to carry a maximum of 103 passengers a distance of 4,320km. The aircraft has been certified by both Russian and European aviation authorities.