Editor’s Comment: I can see trouble ahead…

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

Barely a week goes by without Boeing’s 737 MAX series hitting the headlines. As the global grounding of the fleet continues to take its toll on regional airline operations, it appears that the light at the end of the tunnel, in terms of getting the type back into service, by the end of 2019, has been turned out once again.

A recent announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it’s removed Boeing’s ability to issue its own airworthiness certificates for the MAX, and a statement by an FAA representative that: “The FAA would take all the time it needs,” to review the current procedures, means it’s now unlikely the jet will be back in service by the New Year.

Adding to Boeing’s woes, the manufacturer will be unable to deliver any new MAX aircraft to some of its biggest clients in the numbers it anticipated. This is due to a recent discovery of a design fault with the over-wing exit on its MAX 8, the 787-8-200. These aircraft were due to enter service with Ryanair earlier this year, in substantial numbers, following an order for a 135 of the type placed back in 2014. The original plan called for the first batch to arrive in time for Ryanair’s 2019 summer season. Now, according to a leaked memo sent to Ryanair’s pilots by the low-fare giant’s chief operating officer, Neal McMahon, the carrier will have to revise its fleet plans once again. Only 10 MAX aircraft are expected to arrive in time for the 2020 summer period.

Given the costs involved of purchasing commercial aircraft, you can’t help but admire the loyalty of many LCCs by sticking with Boeing, and its efforts to resolve the numerous issues with the MAX series. I just hope that after one summer of upheaval within the regional airline industry, the operators are able to financially weather yet another summer storm ahead.

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.

ATP Flight School open new Denver training center

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ATP Flight School has opened a second training centre in the Denver area at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in an effort to help solve the airline pilot shortage and provide students in the region with access to pilot training.

The opening of the new facility makes ATP’s Airline Career Pilot Program more accessible in the Denver region and means students in Boulder can benefit from full financing for career training, airline tuition reimbursement from 12 airline partners, cadet programmes providing a direct pathway to major airlines and ATP’s offer of a guaranteed flight instructor job to meet airline hiring minimums.

The new training centre is ATP’s second in the area, with another at the Centennial Airport. ATP’s dedicated Denver maintenance facility will maintain Boulder’s fleet of Cessna 172 aircraft while minimising training delays. The factory-new aircraft are part of a 100-aircraft fleet order to help students prepare for their careers, using the latest Garmin Q1000 NXi avionics to develop proficiency with the electronic flight decks they’ll operate in their airline careers.

“ATP is committed to providing aspiring airline pilots with the most efficient path to not only meet their goals but go further in their careers with more opportunity,” said Michael Arnold, ATP’s director of marketing. “We are proud to be able to offer students in the region with access to quality, airline-oriented flight training.”

ATP suggest the Boulder facility will also help Denver-based airlines to meet the demand for quality pilots. Students will operate using standardised airline-oriented procedures, while ATP’s exclusive CFI Academy in Denver provides a structured curriculum for professional development.

Aeroflot to take five more Sukhoi Superjets

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A meeting in late November chaired by Evgeny Ditrich, a member of the Board of Directors at Aeroflot, revealed that the airline intends to acquire five more Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft. This is part of an exercise to assist its overstretched regional fleet of aircraft. Five Superjet 100s will be leased.

Although the airline said it can postpone the order if it chooses, Aeroflot would like to have the five aircraft in service by the end of December.

Aeroflot has been operating the Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 since mid-2011 and has 49 currently in service.

Despite a promising start and a handful of big names in the aerospace taking part in the programme, the Sukhoi airliner soon started running into problems.

A crash of a Superjet 100 in Indonesia on May 9, 2012, which left 45 people dead, begun turning public opinion against the jet which continues to this day.

Being the Russian flag carrier, Aeroflot was required to order the Superjet aircraft for its fleet. But other airlines that have been considering the jet started looking for more suitable foreign alternatives.

Although Aeroflot appears committed to the Sukhoi Superjet 100, the leasing of five new aircraft is regarded by many observers as no more than a simple move to fill gaps within its regional fleet as opposed to placing a substantial order for the jet.