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Malaysia vows not to rest until it gets MH17 closure

US Notam pakistan missile
Wreckage from MH17.

Malaysia’s new Transport Minister has vowed his nation will not rest until it brings closure to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine four years ago.

Speaking on the fourth anniversary of the crash, Malaysian Transport Minister YB Loke Siew Fook said Malaysia remained resolved in its pursuit to prosecute those responsible for the incident in which 298 passengers and crew died.

The plane was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile over a region controlled by Russian separatists as it traveled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014.

Acknowledging the pain still suffered by families of the victims, Loke did not specifically mention Russia in a statement issued to mark the anniversary but said Malaysia appreciated a May 24 presentation by the multinational Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

That presentation centered on findings that the missile that destroyed MH17 came from a Russian Army unit, the 53rd Anti Aircraft Missile brigade based in Kursk in the Russian Federation.

READ: Social media helps MH17 investigators identify Russian army unit.

“As a member of the JIT, Malaysia once again expresses its gratitude for all the hard work of the JIT members that has enabled critical information regarding the tragic incident to be established,” Loke said

“Malaysia has consistently called for and supported a fully transparent, independent and exhaustive investigation process.

“Hence, it reiterates the JIT’s call for the public to come forward to assist in the investigation process and to provide additional supporting evidence against the people directly involved in order for justice to prevail.

“Malaysia and the other JIT members would not rest until we bring closure to this tragedy.”

It remains unclear whether US President Donald Trump raised MH17 during his controversial summit with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in Finland on Monday.

Trump did not mention the issue in his contentious post-summit press conference and the White House had not responded to queries from AirlineRatings at the time of writing.

Russia has strenuously denied involvement in the MH17 tragedy and has accused the JIT of ignoring Russian “facts and evidence”.

But Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is among those skeptical of the Russian protests.

“President Putin himself said you shouldn’t trust anybody,” Turnbull told Melbourne radio 3AW on Tuesday.

“I certainly don’t trust President Putin when he said he wasn’t responsible for the shooting down of MH17, which was four years ago today.”

The G7 Foreign Ministers — and particularly Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop — had set the stage for Trump to discuss the issue with a statement ahead of Monday’s meeting and Tuesday’s anniversary.

The Foreign  Ministers of the G7 countries once again condemned the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine four years ago with the loss of 298 passengers and crew.

“We are united in our support of Australia and the Netherlands as they call on Russia to account for its role in this incident and to cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of MH17 and their next of kin,’’ the statement said.

“In a rules-based international order, those responsible for unacceptable actions, such as the firing or launching of the BUK missile of Russian origin, which intercepted and downed a civilian aircraft, must be held accountable.


Farnborough pictures highlight present and future trends

Farnborough in pictures

AirlineRatings.com camera was out and about on the first day of the Farnborough Air Show and the snaps highlight the current and future trend in aviation.

Missed by all was the fact that this was the first Farnborough – or Paris – where there were no four-engine commercial jets, such as the A380, on show. Nor was there any three-engine commercial passenger aircraft.

Certainly, the A380 is still being sold as is the Boeing 747-8 but orders are just a trickle, compared to the large twins, the 787, 777, A350 and A330 which offer amazing economics.

For instance, the twin-engine Boeing 787-9 in a Qantas 236-seat configuration burns 34 percent less fuel per passenger than a Qantas A380 in a near 500 seat configuration.

READ: Orders rain at Farnborough

The entire commercial display was exclusively a twin-engine affair dominated by the Boeing 787, 777 737 and the Airbus A350, A330, A320 and A220.

Below these pictures capture the action.

Farnborough in pictures

Biman Bangladesh Boeing 787-8

Farnborough in pictures

Biman Bangladesh 787 and Boeing 737 MAX 7

Farnborough in pictures

L:R: Qatar A350, Air Baltic A220 and Air Portugal A330-900

Farnborough in pictures

Air Baltic A220, Qatar A350 (at the back) and A220 demonstrator

Boeing 737 MAX 7 comes into land after a demo flight as the Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet awaits its turn.

Farnborough in pictures

Airbus A330-900 comes into land.

Farnborough in pictures

Airbus A350-1000 rolls for take-off

Farnborough in pictures

Boeing believes there is a future for hypersonic travel, like the model above.

On Sunday Boeing’s president, chairman, and chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg told media that the company saw “a future for supersonic/hypersonic platforms. High-speed connectivity is very important.”


Orders rain at Farnborough for Boeing and Airbus

Farnborough Air Show line up


Orders rain on the first day of Farnborough with both Airbus and Boeing all smiles. According to Farnborough International orders were placed for 311 commercial aircraft across the show worth US$43.6bn and more than US$2.8bn in engine orders were also announced.

Going into the show, the commercial aircraft backlog stood at 14,327 – the largest ever.

The first-day scorecard goes something like this:


Brazilian GOL Airlines converted 30 current 737 MAX orders to the larger 737 MAX 10 launched last year and placed a new order for 15 more MAX 8 airplanes, growing GOL’s total MAX orders to 135.

Goshawk Aviation Limited announced an order for 20 737 MAX airplanes and the order marks the first time the aircraft lessor has purchased jets directly from Boeing.

TAROM (Romanian Air Transport), the national carrier of Romania, signed an order for five 737 MAX 8s that was listed as an unidentified order.

United Airlines announced it is expanded its commitment to the 787 program with a repeat order for four more 787-9s.

Qatar Airways finalized an order for five 777 Freighters that was announced as a commitment in April.

Jackson Square Aviation (JSA) announced an order for 30 737 MAX airplanes in its first direct purchase from Boeing.

DHL placed an order and commitment for 14 Boeing 777 Freighters, and purchase rights for 7 additional freighters.

Jet Airways confirmed an order for an additional 75 737 MAX 8s.

READ: Farnborough Air Show to show the future of air travel


STARLUX Airlines of Taiwan selected the A350 XWB for its future long-haul fleet, with an MOU for 17 aircraft, comprising 12 A350-1000s and five A350-900s.

VISTARA, the New Delhi-based carrier, has signed a letter of Intent (LoI) for 13 A320neos to add to its existing portfolio of 21 Airbus aircraft.

Wataniya Airways confirmed an order for 25 Airbus A320neo family aircraft.

Goshawk Aviation Limited, the 50/50 joint venture between Hong Kong-based conglomerate NWS Holdings Limited and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Limited, placed a firm order for 20 A320neo.

Airbus also announced the signature of an MOU with a leading global lessor for 80 A320neo Family aircraft.

Oman’s first budget airline, SalamAir, signed an agreement to add six new A320neo aircraft to its fleet, of which five are on lease from an undisclosed lessor.

AirFinance Group Limited, a subsidiary of Macquarie Group Limited, place a firm order for 20 A320neos to add to its portfolio of 119 Airbus aircraft.

The future of travel to emerge from Farnborough Air Show

Airbus planes at the Farnborough Air Show

Farnborough 2018, which started today, will play out against a backdrop of fascinating dynamics that could give hints of how the next several decades in commercial aviation are going to shape up.

Both aerospace giants, Boeing and Airbus, are flying into the bi-annual air show at full throttle. The show, south-west of London, attracts 100,000 trade visitors over its six days.

Boeing has had a bumper year thus far, picking up key sales wins with its 787 and all commercial aircraft programs on track for deliveries and development.

Airbus has had a quieter year in sales but is picking up speed with an order for 60 of its new joint-venture 141-seat A220. AirAsia is expected to order hundreds of Airbus planes.

The A220 is the result of a collaboration with Canada’s troubled Bombardier C Series regional jet. It is now branded as an Airbus product with the full backing of the European giant.

READ: Why I would now fly AirAsia. 

One day after the rebranding ceremony in Toulouse last Tuesday, July 10)Airbus was able to announce an order from US airline JetBlue had ordered 60 of the “new” jets.

In the first few hours of the air show the orders were flowing:

Airbus secured orders from Kuwait’s Wataniya Airways for 25 A320neo aircraft;  Vistara, the New Delhi-based airline signed a letter of Intent for 13 A320neos and Starlux Airlines of Taiwan selected the A350 XWB for its future long-haul fleet, with an MOU for 17 aircraft, comprising 12 A350-1000s and five A350-900s.

Boeing secured; Qatar Airways for five 777Fs; Jackson Square Aviation ordered 30 737 MAXs, and DHL announced an order for 14 Boeing 777Fs, and purchase rights for 7 additional freighters.

Aircraft at the Farnborough Air Show
Boeing’s big sellers the 787 and 737 are expected to feature in order announcements.

The only cloud on the horizon for both manufacturers is engine problems from suppliers.

In the months leading up to Farnborough, Rolls-Royce has been grappling with two durability issues with its Trent 1000 on the Boeing 787, which has left more than 50 planes grounded. and the prestigious British engine-maker with a black eye.

Rolls-Royce is one of two suppliers of engines for the 787. General Electric, the other supplier, which powers the Qantas and Jetstar 787s, has no issues with its power plant.

The problems have prompted Boeing to move in a team of troubleshooters to help Rolls-Royce. work through the problems.

While Rolls is in the hot seat, Pratt and Whitney is only now solving its geared turbofan engine issues for the upgraded A320 series.

Airbus has about 100 new A320s parked in Toulouse or Hamburg production centres awaiting engines. These complex engine snafus go further than just the 787 or A320 deliveries and were also affecting Airbus sales for the 350-seat A350, Richard Aboulafia of the Washington-based Teal Group, said. “It’s a big issue for the Airbus [A350],” Mr Aboulafia said.

He believes airline confidence in Rolls-Royce has been dented and this could hurt sales prospects for the A350 with airlines such as Qantas, which is evaluating the Rolls-Royce-powered A350-900ULR against the new 380-seat General Electric- powered Boeing 777-8X for its Project Sunrise.

Qantas wants a plane to fly from Sydney to London nonstop with 300 passengers by 2022.

Airbus planes at Farnborough
(L:R) Airbus A350, A220 and A330-900

Most analysts say all the engine issues will be solved, but some are questioning the pace of technology upgrades and if they will affect the engine offerings for Boeing’s next proposed offering, dubbed the 797.

That plane will seat between 220 and 270 passengers in an economy cabin cross section of 2-3-2 and fly just 11 hours (9000km) on routes such as Perth to Tokyo. Business class would be 1-2-1 and premium economy 2-2-2.

This plane, which Boeing calls a new mid-size airplane, (NMA) is pitched at what is termed the middle of the market, between the 180-220-seat Boeing 737 — which can fly just over 7000km — and the 300-seat 787, which can fly more than 14,000km. That 787 capability requires a great deal more structure and weight — and thus cost.

All three big engine-makers have just pitched their bids to be part of the 797. But the concept is not new.

Boeing showed a similar cross-section for its 7J7 at the 1989 Paris Air Show. McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing, touted the concept in 1981, but at the time airlines were lukewarm on the concept.

Now they are keen to buy because passengers are crying out for more room for themselves and their carry-on baggage — issues the 797 addresses.

Boeing chairman and chief executive Dennis Muilenburg has said he expected the Boeing 797, with a range of 9000km,  would be launched within a year.

He believed the market was for between 4000 and 5000 units.

The company said that there were 30,000 city pairs currently not connected yet by an air service that would be perfect for the 797. From Perth, the 797 could reach any city in Asia or the Indian subcontinent and would be perfect for Perth to Beijing and Perth to Ho Chi Minh City routes.

The headline-grabbing aspect of air shows are the orders. With a slightly lower than usual order flow leading up to Farnborough, analysts were wondering whether the normal number of orders were being saved for the show or whether the market was softer.

: “Are more than the normal number of orders being saved for the air show — or is it a softer market.”

However, one Airbus executive told AirlineRatings.com that “it will be a very busy show”.

Updated: Did Trump have the gumption to take on Putin over MH17?

Trump putin MH17 answers

Donald Trump likes to pride himself on his chutzpah but it’s unclear if he had the gumption to demand answers from Vladimir Putin on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 during his meeting with the Russian leader in Helsinki.

The issue did not rate a mention as part of either leader’s statement or the limited questioning allowed in Monday’s post-summit press conference.

The G7 Foreign Ministers — and particularly Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop — had set the stage for Trump to discuss the issue with a statement ahead of the meeting and the fourth anniversary of the attack on Tuesday.

The Foreign  Ministers of the G7 countries once again condemned the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine four years ago with the loss of 298 passengers and crew.

The Ministers representing the governments of  Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US joined the High Representative of the European Union in condemning “in the strongest possible terms” the attack on the plane by a Russian-made BUK missile as MH17 travelled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014.

“We are united in our support of Australia and the Netherlands as they call on Russia to account for its role in this incident and to cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of MH17 and their next of kin,’’ the statement said.

“In a rules-based international order, those responsible for unacceptable actions, such as the firing or launching of the BUK missile of Russian origin, which intercepted and downed a civilian aircraft, must be held accountable.

“To this end, we call on Russia to immediately engage with Australia and the Netherlands in good faith to explain and to address all relevant questions regarding any potential breaches of international law.”

Read: Pressure mounts on Russia over MH17 attack.

The Ministers also supported the work of the multi-national Joint Investigation Team.

Video and images posted on social media helped the JIT team conclude the BUK missile that downed the Boeing 777 came from a Russian army unit and significantly increased the pressure on Russia.

“The JIT’s findings on Russia’s role in the downing of MH17 are compelling, significant and deeply disturbing,’’ the G7 said.

READ: Social media helps MH17 investigators identify Russian army unit.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop last week told the ABC she believed MH17 should be raised with Putin and Russia needed to take responsibility for the tragedy.

Asked if she was concerned Trump would not push Putin on the matters, she said: “Well, these are matters that I would raise if I were meeting with President Putin.

“The United States has its own foreign policy, its own priorities. We would urge the United States to not reward Russia for its bad behavior and certainly not invite Russia back into the G8.

“I think Russia has many questions to answer, including its involvement with Syria, backing the Assad regime and its use of chemical weapons. There are a number of matters that I would certainly raise with President Putin.”

Russia has strenuously denied involvement in the MH17 tragedy and has accused the JIT of ignoring Russian “facts and evidence”.

“There is a well-known style, a rough, clumsy algorithm,” Russia’s ambassador to Australia, Grigory Logvinov, said in a statement. “Dirty provocations are organized, and the guilty side is determined in advance.”

A350’s Trent XWB engine hits twin milestones

Trent XWB 500th delivery Rolls-Royce
Photo: Rolls-Royce.

As  Rolls-Royce continues to grapple with Trent 1000 problems affecting Boeing 787s, the powerplant used on the rival Airbus A350 quietly reached two milestones in recent days.

The UK manufacturer delivered the 500th Trent XWB engine to the Airbus assembly facilities in Toulouse, France, as the engine exceeded two million flying hours after entering service in January, 2015.

Rolls-Royce said the two milestones reflected the “the growing momentum and maturity” of the program, noting that it took two years to accrue the first million flying hours and just nine months to add the second million.

It described reliability as “impeccable” with a dispatch reliability of 99.9 percent and no in-flight shutdowns so far.

“We have enjoyed the smoothest entry into service of any widebody engine and we continue to see the engine achieving market-leading levels of reliability,’’ said Rolls-Royce Trent program director Gareth Davies.

The UK manufacturer continues to ramp-up production to meet demand and has more than 1700 XWBs either in service or on order across 45 customers.

Rolls now assembles the engine in both Derby, UK and Dahlewitz, Germany, and can deliver one new Trent XWB engine a day at peak levels.

The XWB engine comes in two variants: The 84,000 pound-force (lbf) Trent XWB-84 used in the A350-900 and the newer 97,000lbf Trent XWB-97, used on the bigger A350-1000 that entered service earlier this year.

However, the Trent 1000 engine issue is a massive headache for Rolls-Royce and primarily affects engines known as Package C.

This was compounded when the UK manufacturer announced in June that airlines with older Boeing 787 Trent 1000 engines would need to perform inspections because compressor blades in those engines may also be wearing prematurely.

READ: Rolls-Royce to ax 4600 jobs as problems found in older 787 engines.

The finding that Package B engines in service since 2012 could also be affected by a blade durability issue came as the engine-maker continued to grapple with the fall-out of the issue with its Package C engines.

The package B problem added another 166 engines to about 380 package C engines already under the microscope.

The engine issue has led to flight cancellations and aircraft groundings as airlines faced increased inspections, range restrictions and delays in getting engines repaired. Some airlines have had to lease aircraft to replace out-of-service 787s.


Innovation, technologies, hypersonics will keep us ahead – Boeing Chief

Boeing chief Dennis Mulinberg

Boeing is focusing on innovation and disruptive technologies to stay ahead of the competition, including hypersonic travel, while playing down the looming trade war between the US and China.

At stake is a share of the 43,000 commercial aircraft needed over the next 20 years, worth $US8.1 trillion.

That is the clear message from Boeing’s president, chairman, and chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, speaking with select media in London before the 2018 Farnborough Air Show.

READ: I have changed my mind. I will fly AirAsia.

“We are investing in innovation, bringing new products to the marketplace, introducing disruptive technologies and new manufacturing techniques,” said Mr. Muilenburg.

On a mooted trade war,  Mr. Muilenburg said that “aerospace sector drives economic benefit globally” and the US aerospace industry is a net contributor to a trade surplus with a contribution of $80 billion annually.

“We want a free flow of trade around the world. While there have been discussions about disruptions we have not seen anything yet.”

“But we are watching very carefully. We are very much engaged with the US and Chinese governments and we have a voice at the table. We are making our views heard.”

“US aerospace generates an US$80 billion trade surplus and both countries know how important aerospace is.”

Boeing media conference
Boeing’s executive team faces the media In London

On trade, Mr. Muilenburg noted that China’s COMAC builds parts for all Boeing commercial aircraft but is also a potential competitor with its C919.

“That is why we can’t stand still, we need to innovate. We should not be surprised that there is not more interest and more competitors.”

On the much talked about 220-270 seat Boeing 797, which Boeing refers to as the New Midsize Aircraft, .Mr Muilenburg was upbeat but gave nothing away.

“The business case is making progress,” he said.

Mr Muilenburg said he expects Boeing to make a go or no-go decision to launch in 2019.

Kevin McAllister,  executive vice president of The Boeing Company and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, noted that there are a “large number of city pairs that now need larger planes.”

“Many routes are also being flown uneconomically with aircraft [A330] that are too heavy and large,” said Mr McAllister.

Finally, on future travel, Mr. Muilenburg said Boeing sees a future for high-speed travel.

“We do see a future for supersonic/hypersonic platforms. High-speed connectivity is very important.”

Safest aircraft in the world revealed

A380 wake turblence Sydney Airport
Photo: James Morgan.

With seventy percent of air travelers having some degree of fear of flying, it’s a question on the mind of almost every passenger – which are the safest aircraft.

Flying today in a commercial passenger jet is incredibly safe but some aircraft types are safer than others and have perfect fatality free records.

These are the latest types from Airbus and Boeing that incorporate state-of-the-art technology and importantly the lessons learned from past accidents.

WATCH: Gorgeous rainbow contrail

An aircraft like the Airbus A380, which has been in service for over 10 years, is a classic example with no fatalities – or the Boeing 787 which has been in service for 7 years.

The 787 is one of the safest planes.
Qantas 787

And with both types, it’s not just a handful of aircraft. There are 226 A380s and over 700 Boeing 787s in service with a further 680 of the latter on order.

Unlike previous aircraft, with the 787 all the numerous safety features in the cockpit are standard fit – there are no options for thrifty accountants to take out.

READ: I have changed my mind; Why I would fly with AirAsia 

Another new kid on the block, the Airbus A350, also has a perfect record and there are 182 in service with another 700 on order.

The latest models of the two biggest sellers in aviation, the Boeing 737MAX and A320neo family, also have fatality free records. Boeing has delivered 162 737MAXs and Airbus 359 A320neo family aircraft. The orders for these two aircraft are staggering. Boeing has sold  4,649 of the 737MAX series while Airbus has orders for 6,143 A320neos.

A320neo is one of the world's safest aircraft
Airbus A320neo’s first flight

Now out of production, Boeing’s baby, the 125-seat the 717, which was formerly the MD-95, also makes the world’s safest list, which is an outstanding achievement, as it operates into many rugged and remote airports. There are 156 of the 717s in service and it is one of the most sought-after aircraft in the second-hand market. Airbus’s A340, also out of production has a fatality free record.

Another aircraft with a perfect record is the latest version of the 747 the -8 Intercontinental.

And the “new” 108-160 seat Airbus A220, formerly the Bombardier C Series, makes the world’s safest list. There are 38 in service with another 360 on order.

Another Bombardier model that makes the safest list is the CRJ700/900/1000 series. These regional jets, which entered service in 2001, seat between 60 and 104 passengers and there are over 800 in service operating into many small airports.

While not having a perfect record Boeing’s 777 has been involved in three fatal accidents none of which can be blamed on the aircraft’s design. One accident was almost certainly pilot error, another was shot down, while MH370 appears to be human factors.



I have changed my mind: I would now fly AirAsia

AirAsia X liquidation
An AIrAsia X A330.

The AirAsia Group is now on the up and up in the critical safety area and I would certainly fly with them without hesitation.

Three years ago, after the tragic loss of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 from Surabaya to Singapore on December 28, 2014, which killed 163, I wrote that I would not fly with the group’s airlines because of my concerns.

That article was based on the fact, that apart from AirAsia X the rest of the group’s airlines were not going to do the comprehensive International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA).

READ: World’s Safest Airlines for 2018

READ: Safest aircraft in the world 

The IOSA audit covers 1066 parameters and airlines that have done the audit have a four-fold better safety record than those that have not. The audit is done every two years.

Indonesia Airasia A320

However, over a year ago the rest of the group’s airlines started the IOSA process.

An AirlineRatings.com investigation has revealed that AirAsia X has just had its IOSA certification renewed, while the operations in Indonesia and the Philippines “are in the process of closing the small number of outstanding findings with the Audit Organization and are both well on track to achieve IOSA accreditation, in due process, by or before October 2018”.

An AirAsia spokesperson told AirlineRatings.com that “AirAsia Malaysia is also in the process of closing any outstanding findings and is on track to achieve accreditation before the December timeframe.”

AirAsia Thailand will start the audit process in August and it will take 12 months. Other members of the group will follow.

The airline group has certainly had some bad press particularly in Australia where a string of incidents, some serious, has focused attention on the airline’s systems, pilot training and culture.

However, the spokesperson told AirlineRatings.com that “recently the AirAsia Group formed two independent internal departments – Group Safety and Group Operational Quality Assurance to oversee safety and quality assurance for all AOCs (Air Operator Certificates).

An Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) is the approval granted by a National Aviation Authority (NAA) to an aircraft operator to allow it to use aircraft for commercial purposes.

AirAsia X Business Class angled flat beds Picture: Facebook/ AirAsia
AirAsia X Business Class

“Since then, both Group departments have been working vigorously with all AOCs to strengthen safety and efficiency in all operational areas,” said the spokesperson.

Clearly, the airline is on the right flight path to dramatically improve its safety culture and this is so important as it continues its spectacular growth.

Today the Group operates scheduled domestic and international flights to more than 165 destinations spanning 25 countries.

Its fleet numbers over 160 Airbus aircraft with a further 349 on order.

AirAsia brought the low-cost airline model to Asia in 2002. It has joint-venture partners in Indonesia, Thailand, Japan the Philippines, India an, China as well as long-range partner AirAsia X in Kuala Lumpur.





Australia’s Rex warns of disruptions, accuses rivals of plundering pilots

regional lifeline aid
Photo: Rex

Australia’s biggest independent regional airline, Regional Express (Rex),  has accused bigger rivals Qantas and Virgin Blue of “rapacious plundering” of its pilot pool as it struggles to cope with increased global demand for aircrew.

Australia has been affected by a global shortage of pilots at a time robust growth in worldwide air travel has put pressure on training organizations to keep up.

Qantas regional offshoot QantasLink and smaller operators such as AirNorth and Australia’s iconic Royal Flying Doctor Service have all been hit by increased competition for pilots.

The shortage also prompted Qantas Domestic to recently announce a temporary return of Boeing 747s to transcontinental services.

In an open letter to regional communities, Rex chief operating officer Neville Howell said the airline no longer had enough pilots to roster its usual contingent of stand-by pilots.

He warned that any last-minute sick leave may result in flights being canceled or combined and promised the airline would redouble its efforts in pursuing all pilot recruitment options, including overseas flight crew.

“We will also be reviewing our network with a view to trimming our schedule where possible to conserve resources,’’ Howell said.

Pilot shortages are not new to Australia and regional operators are usually the first affected as pilots move on to bigger airlines to boost their pay packets and further their careers.

Rex responded to a round of strong pilot demand a decade ago by starting its own pilot academy, the Australian Airline Pilot Academy, in which it has invested $A35 million.

Howell said the academy had since trained 220 cadets who make up 71 percent of the airline’s first officers and 29 percent of its captains.

“Whilst Rex’s initiative is successful in responding to natural attrition rates, it is not enough to stave off Qantas and Virgin Australia’s rapacious plundering of Rex’s pilot pool instead of using their not inconsiderable resources to train their own pilots,’’ he said.

“In the past two years, these two airlines collectively have poached 17 percent and 56 percent of Rex’s first officer and captain establishment respectively.

“These two airlines are causing widespread chaos and disruptions to regional air travel by their selfish and irresponsible actions.”

Howell said Rex was acutely aware of the effect flight disruptions had on business and leisure travel plans.

“Rex apologizes for all past and potential future disruption to services throughout the network as a result of the industry-wide global pilot shortage,’’ he said.

Both major airline groups are already involved in pilot training and there is the prospect of further relief in 2019 when Qantas starts up its own training academy with a capacity of up to 500 pilots year.

READ: Qantas names shortlist for pilot academy.

The Flying Kangaroo has selected nine Australian towns as potential sites for the academy from more than 60 applications and plans to make a decision in the third quarter of this year.

The academy’s primary function is to provide a long-term source of flight crew for Qantas but the airline group has also flagged the potential for training overseas pilots.

Forecasts suggest the global airline industry needs about 640,000 more pilots over the next 20 years – 40 percent of them in the Asia-Pacific region.

A summit of Australian general aviation groups also this week called for changes to the Civil Aviation Act to reduce red tape and help promote areas such as pilot training.


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