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Airlineratings.com discusses Indonesian safety on CNN

indonesian crash

Airlineratings.com Geoffrey Thomas has been interviewed by CNN on the possible cause of the Indonesian air crash that claimed 62 lives.

A Sriwijaya Air 737 plunged into the sea on January 9.

Indonesian National Transport Safety Committee chief Soerjanto Tjahjono said that he hoped the plane’s black box recorders could be retrieved soon after searchers detected signals broadcast by the safety devices.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders will be critical in determining what caused the Boeing 737-500 jet to plummet 10,000 ft in less than a minute and smash into the sea five minutes after take-off from Jakarta.

They were reportedly located within 150m to 200m of the crash site and there was hope they could be retrieved as early as Monday.

WestJet slashes capacity and jobs


Canada’s WestJet has blamed government travel advisories and restrictions for a decision to slash its schedule by 30 percent and cut the equivalent of 1000 jobs.

The airline announced it would remove the capacity in February and March, resulting in an 80 percent year-on-year reduction. International capacity will be down by 93 percent.

The move will see 230 weekly departures eliminated, including 160 domestic departures, and jobs reduced by a combination of furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leave and reduced hours.

READ: Searchers locate black Boxes in Sriwijaya crash.

The airline will return to 150 daily departures, a level not seen since June 2001.

Routes to be suspended are Edmonton-Cancun, Edmonton- Puerto Vallarta, Edmonton-Phoenix, Vancouver-Cancun, Vancouver-Phoenix, Vancouver-Puerto Vallarta, Vancouver-Cabo, Vancouver-Los Angeles, Vancouver-Palm Springs, Calgary-Las Vegas, Calgary-Orlando.

There will also be a seasonal suspension of 13 international and transborder destinations including London Gatwick, Tampa and destinations in the Caribbean.

“Immediately following the federal government’s inbound testing announcement on December 31, and with the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, we saw significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations,” said WestJet chief executive Ed Sims,

“The entire travel industry and its customers are again on the receiving end of incoherent and inconsistent government policy.

“We have advocated over the past 10 months for a coordinated testing regime on Canadian soil, but this hasty new measure is causing Canadian travelers unnecessary stress and confusion and may make travel unaffordable, unfeasible and inaccessible for Canadians for years to come.”

Canada, New Zealand and Australia recently joined other countries in requiring pre-flight testing in addition to quarantine.

READ: Australia mandates pre-flight COVID testing, cuts arrival caps

The new Canadian protocol began January 7 and requires travelers to Canada who are five years and older to prove they have taken a PCR test and received a negative result within 72 hours of boarding a plane.

The Canadian government is also increasing surveillance efforts to ensure travelers complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

The increasing restrictions rebuff an airline lobbying effort to get quarantine restrictions replaced by a global testing regime.



Virgin lounge network expands with Perth and Gold Coast

Virgin lounges
Virgin's Perth lounge in T1. Photos: Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia’s lounge network is coming back to life with facilities in Perth and the Gold Coast re-opening on January 12 and Adelaide and Canberra on their way.

The Perth re-opening comes as Virgin returns to T1 and as customer demand for the airline’s services in Western Australia remains stable despite the WA government’s predilection for border closures.

Similarly, the volume of frequent flyers in the Gold Coast warrants the lounge re-opening despite the recent surprise lockdown of Greater Brisbane and associated border restrictions.

READ: Australia mandates pre-fight COVID testing, cuts arrival caps.

Virgin re-opened its Brisbane lounge on November 18 and its Melbourne and Sydney lounges on December 15.

The airline did not give a date for the opening of the Canberra and Adelaide lounges but indicated they would be opening soon.

Lounges in Alice Springs, Cairns, Darwin, Mackay and Perth T2 have been closed permanently.

Another view of the Perth lounge.

“Virgin Australia is committed to a network of domestic lounges and we look forward to continuing to offer these fantastic spaces for our frequent flyers,’’ a spokesman said.

The Virgin lounges remain in COVID mode with “hosted” pre-made food offerings that include sweet and savory options, sandwiches and fresh fruit.

There is also barista-made coffee, premium tea and soft drinks served from a hosted bar as well as alcoholic beverages such as craft beers and curated wines from noon.

Some facilities, such as showers and business center services, are still not available.

Virgin was tipped into administration by the pandemic, prompting an ownership change and restructuring that saw it reduce its fleet and move to a “mid-market” strategy aimed at providing better value for customers.

The lounges are part of that offering, which also includes business class, extra-legroom economy seats as well as a tiered frequent flyer membership.

Virgin is yet to finalize its cabin offering, promising to unveil it in the first quarter of 2021.


AR’s Geoffrey Thomas talks with the BBC and ABC on Indonesian crash

Geoffrey Thomas

Airlineratings.com’s Geoffrey Thomas has been interviewed by the BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Commission on the possible causes of the tragic crash of Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500.

The first interview below is the BBC followed by the ABC.

Our coverage of the crash can be found here.

UPDATE: Searchers find wreckage from doomed Sriwijawa jet

Credit: Panji Anggoro Via Flightradar24

Searchers have located wreckage and body parts from a crashed Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737 that plunged into the sea shortly after take-off and may have detected a signal.

Officials said objects found by divers in about 75 ft (23m) of water included broken pieces of the fuselage with aircraft registration.

“We received reports from the diver team that the visibility in the water is good and clear, allowing the discovery of some parts of the plane,” Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said on Sunday. “We are sure that is the point where the plane crashed.”

Agence France Presse cited a Transport Ministry statement saying a military vessel had detected a signal from the flight, although it did not specify it was from the plane’s black boxes.

Finding the flight data and cockpit voice recorders will be crucial to determining what went wrong on the 26-year-old plane.

The Boeing 737-500, registered PK-CLC, with 62 people on board, was performing flight SJ-182 from Jakarta to Pontianak in Indonesia on January 9 when it plunged into the sea just five minutes after take-off.

According to Aviation Herald, the 737 was about 11 nautical miles north of Jakarta’s Soekarno International Airport over the Java Sea when radar and radio contact was lost with the aircraft.”

The website said the aircraft had departed Soekarno International Airport at 2:36 local time, climbed through 1700 feet and was cleared to 29,000 feet.

“Departure control subsequently noticed that the aircraft was not on its assigned heading of 075 degrees, but tracking northwesterly and queried the crew about the heading at 14:40L, but received no reply, within second(s) the aircraft disappeared from radar,” it said.

Flightradar24 ADS-B data showed the 737 departed on runway 25R at 07:36Z and was climbing through 10,600 feet at 07:39:50 UTC about 11nm north of Soekarno airport then lost 10,000ft of altitude in less than a minute.

Three fishermen from nearby Lancang Island told CNN they had heard an explosion and experienced a sudden large wave about the time the plane is thought to have crashed in dark and rainy conditions.

They smelled fuel and spotted debris, one of them said.

“I heard very loud explosion. I thought it was a bomb or a big thunder. We then saw the big wave, about 2 meters high, hitting our boat,” Hendrik Mulyadi told the network.
Hendrik’s colleague, Solihin, described the sound as “a bomb on the water.”

Indonesian authorities have begun the search for the flight recorders and said the aircraft was carrying 50 passengers, including seven children and three babies, and 12 crew members. All are believed to be Indonesian.

One passenger is said to have missed the flight because his COVID PCR test results had not arrived prior to departure.

SEE: World’s safest airlines 2021

The crash aircraft is more than 26 years old but airline officials said it was in good condition. It is a much older plane than the 737 MAX and pre-dates a controversial flight software system linked to two fatal MAX crashes.

Debris and body parts were initially located in waters of about 15 meters depth near Lancang Island part of the Thousand Islands, to the north of Jakarta’s coast.

They were found by the crew of a ship that had been about 6 nautical miles from the crash site and who had seen an object fall into the water.

An official from Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, Barsanas, confirmed that search and rescue teams operating between two islands in Indonesia’s Thousand Islands district had found debris suspected to be from the missing flight.

In a statement, Boeing said: “We are aware of media reports from Jakarta regarding Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182. Our thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand ready to support them during this difficult time.”

The pictures below have been posted on Twitter of wreckage being picked up by fishermen.

Apparent wreckage of the 737.
Credit: HzKv @HZLABZ

Sriwijaya is rated by AirlineRatings as a four-star airline (out of seven) prior to this accident. It will be re-rated to a one-star airline. It mainly serves Indonesian domestic destinations but also flies to Timor.

It has not had a fatal crash and its most recent accident before this one, according to the Aviation Safety Network, was a 2017 runway overrun involving a Boeing 737-300.

Apparent wreckage of the 737.
Credit: HzKv @HZLABZ


Alaska bans 14 after rowdy behavior on Washington flight

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737

Alaska Airlines has banned 14 passengers after unruly behavior on a flight Thursday from Washington, DC that included refusing to wear a mask.

The sanction came as security was increased at Washington-area airports after reports of rowdy behavior by supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump flying into the city earlier in the week and the subsequent siege of the US Capitol building.

A large group of Trump supporters stormed the seat of US democracy in widely condemned violence that has claimed at least five lives.

READ: Australia mandates pre-flight COVID testing, cuts arrival caps.

Reuters quoted Alaska as saying the passengers on the flight to Seattle from Washington-Dulles airport as “non-mask compliant, rowdy, argumentative and harassed our crew members”.

“Because of their actions and non-compliance we have banned 14 of those passengers from future travel with us,’’ it said.

It was not clear whether the banned passengers took part in the Trump riot but unions representing flight attendants had previously expressed concern about the behavior on flights of supporters as they headed to the event.

At least one carrier, American Airlines, suspended alcohol services on outbound flights.

Association of Flight Attendants -CWA international president Sara Nelson, who represents flight attendants from 17 airlines, labeled the “mob mentality” of some passengers  unacceptable and said it “threatened the safety and security of every single person on board”.

“There’s a reason that there are strict penalties and fines for failing to comply with crew member instructions,” she said. “Enforcement keeps everyone safe.”

Nelson warned that the Capitol Hill violence created further concern about the departure from the D.C area of those who participated in the riot.

“We in aviation have a serious role to play in national security. Airlines, in coordination with TSA, DHS, FAA, DOT and law enforcement must take all steps to ensure the safety and security of passengers and crew by keeping all problems on the ground,” she said.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents cabin crew at American,  also expressed concern about politically motivated incidents onboard aircraft, saying it had been a problem in the past few days and this was expected to continue into the weekend.

“Regardless of one’s political beliefs, the cabin of a commercial aircraft must, out of necessity, be a calm environment for the safety of everyone on board,” AFPA president Julie Hedrick said in a statement.

Boeing pays $US2.5 billion to settle MAX fraud charge

Boeing MAX fraud
Photo: Boeing

Boeing has agreed to pay more than $US2.5 billion to settle a criminal charge related to a conspiracy to defraud the US Federal Aviation Administration over safety issues on the 737 MAX.

A deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice resolves an ongoing investigation that has stalked the company for two years.

It will see the aerospace giant pay a criminal penalty of $US243.6m as well as compensation to airline customers of $US1.77 billion. It will also see it establish a $US500m crash-victim to compensate people related to the 346 passengers who died in two Boeing 737 MAX crashes.

READ: Dreamliner defects see analysts slash Boeing outlook.

“The tragic crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers,” acting assistant attorney-general David P. Burns said in a statement.

“Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candor by concealing material information from the FAA concerning the operation of its 737 Max airplane and engaging in an effort to cover up their deception.

“This resolution holds Boeing accountable for its employees’ criminal misconduct, addresses the financial impact to Boeing’s airline customers, and hopefully provides some measure of compensation to the crash victims’ families and beneficiaries.”

The DoJ said Boeing had admitted in court documents that two former 737 MAX technical pilots deceived the FAA’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (AEG) about the controversial Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control software involved in the two crashes.

According to the DoJ statement, The AEG was principally responsible for determining the minimum level of pilot training required for the 737 MAX  and Boeing’s flight technical team for providing it with the relevant information.

“In and around November 2016, two of Boeing’s 737 MAX Flight Technical Pilots, one who was then the 737 MAX Chief Technical Pilot and another who would later become the 737 MAX Chief Technical Pilot, discovered information about an important change to MCAS,’’ it said.

“Rather than sharing information about this change with the FAA AEG, Boeing, through these two 737 MAX Flight Technical Pilots, concealed this information and deceived the FAA AEG about MCAS.

“Because of this deceit, the FAA AEG deleted all information about MCAS from the final version of the 737 MAX FSB (Flight Standardisation Board) Report published in July 2017.

“In turn, airplane manuals and pilot training materials for U.S.-based airlines lacked information about MCAS, and pilots flying the 737 MAX for Boeing’s airline customers were not provided any information about MCAS in their manuals and training materials.”

While the deferred prosecution agreement focused on the conduct of the two former employees, Boeing said it recognized that other company employees had informed other officials and organizations within the FAA about MCAS’s expanded operating range in connection with the certification of the MAX.

“I firmly believe that entering into this resolution is the right thing for us to do—a step that appropriately acknowledges how we fell short of our values and expectations,’’ Boeing chief executive David Calhoun said.

“This resolution is a serious reminder to all of us of how critical our obligation of transparency to regulators is, and the consequences that our company can face if any one of us falls short of those expectations.”

The company told the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had taken a $US743.6 million charge as a result of the agreement.


IATA warns COVID rules are killing recovery

COVID IATA borders

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is blaming tougher COVID border restrictions for quashing a nascent recovery in international travel.

IATA’s November figures show total passenger demand barely moved compared to October and international demand was worse.

“The already tepid recovery in air travel demand came to a full stop in November,’’ IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said Friday.

READ: Australia expected to mandate pre-flight COVID testing.

“That’s because governments responded to new outbreaks with even more severe travel restrictions and quarantine measures.  This is clearly inefficient.

“Such measures increase hardship for millions. Vaccines offer the long-term solution.

“In the meantime, testing is the best way that we see to stop the spread of the virus and start the economic recovery.

“How much more anguish do people need to go through—job losses, mental stress—before governments will understand that?”

Europe’s biggest airline, Ryanair, joined IATA in slamming increased border restrictions, predicting new rules in Ireland, the UK and other European countries would materially reduce its first-quarter flight schedules.

It estimated January traffic would fall below 1.25 million passengers while new COVID restrictions could reduce February and March traffic to as little as 500,000.

The worries prompted it to reduce its full-year forecast from “below 35 million” passengers to between 26 million and 30 million.

IATA said November’s total passenger demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres) was down 70.3 percent compared to November 2019, virtually unchanged from the 70.6 percent decline in October.

International passenger demand was 88.3 percent below November 2019, slightly worse than an 87.6 percent decline in October.

The IATA figures showed the Asia-Pacific region continued to suffer the steepest international traffic declines for the fifth consecutive month with November traffic down 95 percent on the previous year.

It was followed by Europe (87 percent), the Middle East (86 percent), North America (83 percent), Latin America (78.6 percent) and Africa (76.7 percent).

When domestic operations were factored in, total traffic declines were topped by the Middle East at 84.5 percent.

It was followed by Europe (82.2 percent) Africa (75.6 percent), North America (67.6 percent), Asia-Pacific (61.6 percent) and Latin America (59.8 percent).

Australia, which has been plagued by internal border restrictions,  recorded the biggest fall in November domestic passenger demand among a basket of markets reported by IATA.

Australian passenger demand was down 79.8  percent compared to an average basket of markets reported by IATA.

The figure was an improvement compared to October but significantly higher than the average of 41 percent.

Australia mandates pre-flight COVID testing, cuts arrival caps

Image: US Food and Drug Administration.

Australia will add pre-flight COVID testing to quarantine requirements and temporarily reduce international arrival caps as airlines continue to fly infected people into the country.

An emergency meeting of Australia’s national cabinet Friday endorsed pre-flight testing for flight crew and passengers as Australia boosts its defenses against a virulent new strain of the disease.

The government announced it would reduce the caps on international arrivals by 50 percent in NSW, Western Australia and Queensland until February 15.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said government-chartered flights already had pre-flight testing and  “we have total control on who gets on the plane”.

READ: IATA warns COVID rules are killing recovery.

Flight crews and quarantine workers will face stricter requirements under new national standards.

International aircrew will be required to take a COVID-19 test in Australia every seven days or on arrival, as determined by state health authorities.

They will also need to quarantine in dedicated facilities between international flights or for 14 days and will not be able to reposition for an ongoing international service unless via a crew-only flight.

The national cabinet made masks mandatory for all domestic flights and international services coming into Australia as well as in airports.

Masks are currently mandatory for people flying to and within Victoria and New South Wales and recommended for other services. They are also mandatory on Regional Express flights.

Virgin Australia warned that customers who failed to comply with the mask requirement would not be allowed to travel.

“Customers should ensure they’re aware of the evolving travel restrictions currently in place across Australia, including the Federal Government’s directive to wear face masks and coverings onboard all domestic services,” a spokesman said.

“Hand sanitizer and face masks are available for customers prior to boarding and onboard all Virgin Australia services.”

The Australian Airports Association said travelers should arrive at the airport with their own masks.

“We want passengers traveling through airports to feel safe,” AAA chief executive James Goodwin said. “Wearing a mask for the traveler’s own safety and the safety of others should become second nature.”

The national cabinet meeting came after a quarantine worker in Brisbane was infected with the new UK strain and spent several days in the community before being diagnosed. A South African variant worrying health authorities has also been detected in Australia.

The discovery prompted the Queensland government to lock down Greater Brisbane for three days, a move backed by the Prime Minister. Brisbane was declared a national hotspot as WA closed its borders to Queensland.

A new national standard will see quarantine workers, including those transporting passengers, move to daily testing rather than every seven days.

Some states have already increased testing frequency for quarantine workers but Morrison said others would be encouraged to put the new standard in place as soon as possible.

The new rules have sparked fears that the testing may make it more difficult for some 40,000 Australians stranded overseas to get home.

Chief medical officer Paul Kelly said passengers would be required to take a regular PCR swab test, rather than a rapid test, prior to departure. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) later confirmed that all passengers would need to take a PCR test 72 hours or less prior to traveling.

Professor Kelly acknowledged the tests were not foolproof but said they were another layer in existing “rings of containment”.

“If it’s positive, we know it’s positive,” he said. “If it’s negative, that does not prove that the next day, or even on the plane, they might become infectious.”

He said the government had been requiring pre-flight testing on its chartered services to Alice Springs and 15 people had been denied boarding on its last flight because either they or their household contacts had proved positive.

“So a negative test is not foolproof but a positive test, they’re not coming,” he said.

Australia joins Canada and New Zealand in introducing pre-flight COVID testing.

READ: New Zealand, Canada add pre-flight COVID testing to quarantine.

New Zealand announced recently that all travelers to New Zealand from the US and UK will need a negative pre-departure COVID test from January 15.

The New Zealand regime will require travelers from the UK or US to have approved evidence, such as a written form certified by a laboratory, showing a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result in the 72 hours prior to departure.

The NZ government also indicated there were more restrictions to come.

The new Canadian protocol began January 7 and requires travelers to Canada who are five years and older to prove they have taken a PCR test and received a negative result within 72 hours of boarding a plane.

The Canadian government is also increasing surveillance efforts to ensure travelers complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

The increasing restrictions rebuff an airline lobbying effort to get quarantine restrictions replaced by a global testing regime.

The International Air Transport Association on Thursday blamed tougher COVID rules for bringing the recovery in passenger demand to a halt in November.

IATA said November’s total passenger demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres) was down 70.3 percent compared to November 2019, virtually unchanged from the 70.6 percent decline in October.

International passenger demand was 88.3 percent below November 2019, slightly worse than an 87.6 percent decline in October.

“The already tepid recovery in air travel demand came to a full stop in November,” IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said.

“That’s because governments responded to new outbreaks with even more severe travel restrictions and quarantine measures.  This is clearly inefficient.”

US rule aims to make supersonic flight testing easier

airports supersonic FAA
Boom's proposed supersonic airliner. Image: Boom.

US authorities have issued a final rule that makes it easier for companies to test supersonic passenger aircraft in situations where they break the sound barrier.

The rule-making does not overturn regulations introduced in 1973 banning civil aircraft operating above the speed of sound on a regular basis over land.

But it streamlines and clarifies the procedures for obtaining US Federal Aviation Administration approval for supersonic flight testing, something that remained available despite the 1973 ban prompted by Concorde.

READ: Amazon’a air force buys its own planes

The FAA said the rule would help companies developing supersonic aircraft to clearly understand the process, a key step in bringing their products to market.

“The FAA supports the new development of supersonic aircraft as long as safety parameters are followed,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.

“The testing of supersonic aircraft at Mach 1 will only be conducted following consideration of any impact to the environment.”

The US regulator received more than 200 comments on its Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), with 43 supporting the rule and 45 opposing it.

Another 188 comments seen to be outside the rule’s scope related to changes to air traffic control or expressed general annoyance about aircraft noise.

“Approximately 77 commenters included some combination of general concerns about the possible environmental effects of supersonic airplanes—whether they were about the noise anticipated from new supersonic airplanes, the effect of supersonic operations on the atmosphere, or both,’’ The FAA said.

“Some commenters generally cited the Concorde model airplanes as an example.

“Those opposing the rule, including two municipalities, stated their opposition to the addition of supersonic airplanes, citing detrimental environmental effects, but did not comment on the changes proposed for the application procedure.

“In response, FAA emphasizes that the proposed rule would not have allowed supersonic flights to occur on a regular basis in the United States.”

There are several supersonic projects underway in the US, including research by NASA aimed at significantly dampening sonic booms and reducing them to a level similar to the thump of a car door being closed.

READ: NASA lowers the boom for supersonic travel.

Boeing is backing a 12-passenger business jet being developed by Nevada-based Aerion that will slash five hours off a Pacific crossing and is due to fly later this decade.

Japan Airlines has committed to a Mach 2.2 55-passenger  jet being developed by US-based Boom Supersonic.





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