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Massive effort to re-certify 737 MAX

737 MAX
The 737 MAX

Bringing the Boeing 737 MAX back into service after two tragic crashes that claimed 346 lives has been the most comprehensive aircraft re-evaluation since the Comet tragedies of the early 1950s.

Yesterday, the US Federal Aviation Authority, gave the green light for the return to service to US airlines of the 737 MAX after a grounding lasting 20 months.

Other regulators are expected to follow soon.

The numbers are extraordinary with 391,000 engineering and software man-hours, 1,847 simulator hours, 3000 flight hours, 80 airlines and 12 aviation regulators or organisations.

The result of that global extraordinary effort is an aircraft that is as safe as the industry can make it and reflects the watershed that these accidents are for aviation.

READ: Revamped Virgin Australia to keep business class 

In fact, Boeing and the regulatory team have put in new features designed to prevent incidents that have never happened.

Key to the recertification has been Boeing’s engineering analysis of every system, not just the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS, which is a control law within the flight control system.

The MCAS system, responding to erroneous data from a single faulty sensor, sent the Lion Air and Ethiopian 737s into a dive and the pilots did not respond as expected.

Boeing has gone through a very extensive Fault Tree Analysis of the entire flight control system and making additional changes well beyond those requested.

Once that was done there were a series of audits of its software, how it was developed, the requirements, the design and how Boeing checked the software.

Next, there were four separate audits of the entire package.

Once ticked off, pilot training was next and rather than experienced pilots Boeing and the regulators sought a wide mix of new pilots from 80 airlines.

737 MAX

Gone were the documented industry assumptions that have governed cockpit designs for decades Boeing wanted raw pilots with minimum experience.

All four of the major regulators, from the US, Canada, Europe and Brazil that approve commercial aircraft from Boeing, Bombardier, Airbus and Embraer were used for the certification management team.

Also working alongside, the regulatory team was a Technical Advisory Board, which was comprised of the FAA, the US Air Force, the US Department of Transportation and NASA. The TAB brought in a series of industry experts and former crash investigators to evaluate the two accidents and make recommendations back to the FAA on what should be done moving forward.

Another group the Joint Authorities Technical Review brought together other regulatory agencies from around the world that was continually briefed on all the findings and gave input as well.

Pilot training for the 737 MAX has gone through a radical shakeup and includes a full simulator session with recovery from a full stall, runaway stabilizer and manual trimming at high speeds.

Now begins the enormous task of refitting the 837 grounded 737 MAX aircraft with the all upgrades, training the pilots and bring the planes out of their cocooned state.

There are 387 airline-delivered grounded 737 MAXs and 450 undelivered aircraft and Boeing teams have been visiting each aircraft storage site every month during the grounding to ensure the well- being of the aircraft.

All told there are 900 hours of work required to get each 737 MAX flying made up of; 400 hours to incorporate all the software and hardware changes, 300 hours to bring the aircraft out of its storage state and 200 hours for wiring changes.

This work will take about 16 days for each aircraft.

Boeing hopes to have half of its 450 stored aircraft delivered by the end of next year and the balance by 2022 but concedes a number has been cancelled and will have to be remarketed with subsequent configurations changes.

Boeing has lost orders for 782 737 MAX aircraft and its backlog for the jet now stands at 3,365.

The cost to Boeing for the crashes and grounding is the biggest in aviation history and is now put at well over US$25 billion.


Revamped Virgin to maintain market share, keep business class

virgin airlines australia

Virgin Australia aims to keep its current one-third market share, retain business class and re-open much of its domestic lounge network as it tackles a volatile market under new owners Bain Capital.

But changes are in store for both the lounges and business class with the first  “new look”  lounge opening in Adelaide in early 2021 and a “more accessible” business class aimed at better aligning with customer expectations relaunching next year.

New chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka unveiled the new vision for the airline at Brisbane Airport on Wednesday as she took up the reins from former CEO Paul Scurrah.

READ: Virgin changes hands well-placed to tackle challenges, administrators say.

Targeting the mid-market, Virgin is re-opening lounges from today and will retain three domestic aircraft seating options: business class, Economy-X extra legroom seating and economy.

Complimentary snacks in economy class will be replaced by a buy onboard menu but passengers will still get free tea, coffee and water.

Inflight Wi-Fi and entertainment are under review with more details to be announced in 2021.

Virgin will re-open a network of domestic lounge network at airports with high volumes of frequent travelers as demand resumes. It will retain the Premium Entry feature at those lounges that have it.

The network will include lounges in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Gold Coast and will initially offer an interim food and beverage menu that will be reviewed as demand rises.

Lounges in Darwin, Cairns and Mackay will close while Canberra remains under review.

On the way are new state-of-the-art check-in facilities— due to open across major airports by December 2021—and an enhanced mobile app.

There will be no change to Velocity Frequent Flyer with the airline promising “substantial airline and non-airline earn and redemption opportunities” for its 10 million members.

“In a commitment to members, Velocity granted a 12-month status extension earlier this year, and there has been no change to the number of points needed to redeem rewards,” the airline said, adding that it will announce new partnerships in 2021.

The new plans also promise a comprehensive network of domestic and regional destinations and the retention of Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA), although it will be restructured following a business review.

“The travel environment is changing and so are our customers’ preferences. We know that leisure travelers, small and medium businesses, and many corporates are now emerging from COVID-19 wanting better value,” Hrdlicka said in her first statement as CEO.

“They are hungry for flexibility and choice, a trusted brand that resonates with their values, and great prices, along with the premium features they value most.

 “Today, we’ve announced a plan that will ultimately give our customers what they value without the big price tag: premium lounges, a new and fresh retail offering onboard, a choice of cabins, better digital technology and a more streamlined check-in experience.

“We will also continue to deliver our award-winning service, strong network of destinations, an award-winning frequent flyer program and a safe and reliable operation.

 “Australia already has a low-cost-carrier and a traditional full-service airline, and we won’t be either.

“Virgin Australia will be a mid-market carrier appealing to customers who are after a great value airfare and better service

“We will continue to evolve our offering for our customers based on data and feedback, but the Virgin Australia experience millions of travelers know and love is here to stay.”

Hrdlicka said the airline was emerging from administration stronger and more competitive and ready to face the challenges ahead but acknowledged the market was still volatile.

“We have removed an enormous amount of complexity from our business, greatly improved our cost base, and have an extraordinary team on the ground and in the air to deliver our new plan,” she said.

“We are more resilient than ever and have the backing of Bain Capital who are deeply invested in seeing us succeed over the long term.

“As we have seen with the recent issues with South Australia, the travel market remains uncertain.

“We are however seeing some positive signs of recovery. Borders are beginning to open and a potential vaccine is on the way.

“We expect continued volatility, but as demand recovers, we’ll achieve a market share consistent with our pre-COVID position and continue to invest in, and grow, the fleet in line with increases in demand.”

 “Shaping our future will be a collaborative effort across the Virgin Australia Group and I’m thrilled to see the genuine excitement from our people about the future of their airline.”



American, BA and oneworld trial trans-Atlantic COVID tests

Photo: American Airlines

American Airlines, British Airways and oneworld plan to offer voluntary COVID-19 testing on flights between the US and London Heathrow (LHR) as they push to get international quarantine measures dropped.

The industry’s arguments that compulsory 14-day coronavirus quarantine should be axed in favour of testing to help re-open international travel have yet to gain significant traction with many governments and airlines have been intensifying their lobbying.

READ: Asia-Pacific airline bosses back global COVID testing regime.

Oneworld chief executive Rob Gurney said the airline alliance believed COVID-19 testing would play an important role in safely restarting international travel.

“A comprehensive testing program will provide governments the confidence to reduce or waive quarantine requirements and safely reopen their economies to international visitors, while further assuring customers that their health and well-being are protected,” he said.

The free tests will initially be offered to eligible customers booked on American Airlines Flight AA50 departing Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to LHR; British Airways Flight BA114 departing New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to LHR; and British Airways Flight BA268 from Los Angeles (LAX) to LHR

Those tests begin November 25 and will be expanded at an unspecified later date to American Airlines Flight AA106 from JFK to LHR.

Eligible customers booked on flights will take three tests — two of them self-administered— in conjunction with the journey. Any customer who tests positive will be told to reschedule or cancel their travel.

The first test, to be taken 72 hours before departure from the US., is described as “a convenient at-home RT-PCR test provided by LetsGetChecked”. Customers will self-collect a nasal sample, under the supervision of medical professionals via a virtual visit.

After landing at LHR, participating customers will proceed to their second test at the airport. The newer Loop-medicated isothermal amplification (LAMP)  test, provided by Collinson, involves the collection of a nasal sample by a medical professional and returns results in less time than an RT-PCR test.

After the test is completed, a test kit for the third test will be provided to the customer. The third test kit offers an at-home testing option through the self-collection of a saliva sample which is taken three days after arrival in the United Kingdom.

The three-test approach aims to validate a customer’s negative status for COVID-19 throughout the travel journey and will provide insight into the most effective and practical testing interval. The third test is intended to further confirm the results of the first two tests, to demonstrate that one or two tests will be sufficient to allow travel to safely restart.

A task force comprising oneworld member airline representatives and independent medical experts are overseeing the implementation of the trial and results will be shared with the US and UK governments.

Prior to the pandemic, American and BA flew to more than 30 destinations in the US  and operated 111 flights a week from London to New York alone. Today they fly to a fraction of the destinations and operate a combined 14 flights a week between the two cities.

American chief executive Doug Parker noted the airline had already introduced pre-flight COVID testing for customers traveling from the US to destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We have received tremendous feedback from our customers in response to testing, as it provides peace of mind for safe and enjoyable travel,’’ Parker said.

“The UK is a critically important business and leisure destination that our customers want to visit. We believe the results provided by this trial will be vital for reopening transatlantic travel safely.”

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said:  “We know people want to travel but our skies remain all but closed and the UK is being left behind. Major economies like Germany are adopting testing to replace quarantine.

“We need the UK Government to introduce a system that allows travelers to take reliable, affordable tests before departure, so they are confident that fellow passengers are COVID-free.

“For people arriving from countries with high infection rates, a further test on arrival should then release them from quarantine.

“We are confident this approach would open routes, stimulate economies and get people traveling with confidence. The UK’s economic recovery depends on the swift reopening of its skies.”

Virgin changes hands well-placed to tackle challenges, administrators say.

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia faces challenging business and aviation environments but is in the best possible place to meet those challenges, lead administrator Vaughan Strawbridge said as the airline officially changed hands late Tuesday.

Australia’s second carrier is now officially under the control of new US owners Bain Capital after the airline’s shares and businesses were transferred over to complete a voluntary administration described as one of Australia’s most challenging.

Virgin was also delisted from the Australian Securities Exchange at close of trading Tuesday.

READ: Aussie fare battle heats up with Jetstar ‘return free’ deals.

Strawbridge, the lead administrator with Deloitte Restructuring Services, said the life of Virgin Australia was now in the hands of Bain.

“Bain Capital has demonstrated its commitment to bringing the business out of administration and through the added hardship, brought about by COVID-19 and rebuilding the airline to compete effectively for the long term,” he said.

“We wish the Bain Capital team, and all Virgin Australia employees the very best as they now focus on the future.

“The environment remains challenging for the business and the aviation industry, but the airline is now in the best possible place to meet those challenges and be ready for opportunities that will undoubtedly emerge once COVID is no longer.”

The seven-month administration culminated in the September 4 approval by creditors of a Deed of Company Arrangement giving Bain control and unsecured creditors between nine and 13 cents in the dollar on their claims.

It also provided for the value of all customer travel credits and pre-paid flights, the continuation of the Velocity frequent flyer scheme and jobs for the majority of employees.

But thousands of Virgin workers have lost their jobs and the airline under Bain and new chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka will be smaller and markedly different to the one that entered voluntary administration in April.

Strawbridge described the administration as one of the most challenging in Australia’s corporate history.

“Triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a process like no other in Australian corporate history,’’ he said.

“This has been a very complex insolvency appointment further complicated by the fact that the process was undertaken and completed during Australia’s Covid-19 shutdown.

“Since our appointment on April 20 this year, the approach we have taken, including how the sale was structured, has involved significant amounts of work and innovative approaches to a wide range of tasks and issues, many of which have not been encountered previously in either Australian or international market contexts.”

Strawbridge paid tribute to his team as well as the help provided by unions, staff and service providers who kept the airline flying during the devastation of COVID.

However, the process was not without controversy. This included the replacement of incumbent CEO Paul Scurrah by Hrdlicka, anger and legal threats from creditors and unhappiness about the sale process among some of the losing bidders.

Strawbridge noted the role of voluntary administrators was always challenging and inevitably undertaken in challenging circumstances.

He said that creating competitive tension in the sale process was the key element to ensuring a successful outcome to deliver a restructure of the business and survival of the airline.

“Creating deal certainty was critical from both the buyer and our perspectives, particularly given the investment the buyer was being asked to make and the importance to the economy that Virgin Australia remains a competitive force,’’ he said

“To achieve the best outcome for everyone, it was also vital that as many jobs as possible be preserved. Given the second COIVD-19 wave in June, our innovative sale structure became hugely significant in achieving, firstly, the survival of the company, and then the successful outcome we see today.”


Aussie fare battle heats up with Jetstar ‘return free’ deals.

fare sales

The battle of the fare sales continued across Australia this week with Jetstar teaming with Tourism Australia to launch a “Return for Free” campaign aimed at boosting domestic tourism.

The low-cost airline is releasing 400,000 return trips across 51 domestic routes, prompting it to claim the title of the year’s biggest fare sale against Virgin Australia’s rival offering of 500,000 one-way fares.

Jetstar’s one-way fares start at $65 and the return flight is free.

READ: Virgin celebrates rebirth with 500,000 sale fares from $75.

The sale, which complements Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year” campaign, runs from 3 pm AEDT on November 17 until just before midnight on November 19. Travel is for the post-Christmas period of February 21 onwards.

Destinations include hotspots such as Gold Coast, Cairns, Hobart, Uluru and Hamilton Island.

Fare examples include Avalon-Sydney from $65, Brisbane-Sydney from $92, Cairns-Darwin from $189, Launceston-Sydney from $89 and Melbourne-Uluru from $165.

“As the only low fares carrier in Australia, we play a key role driving tourism and reviving an industry which has been significantly impacted by COVID-19,’’ Jetstar chief executive Gareth Evans said.

“We expect the sale to be very popular, particularly for families keen to reconnect with loved ones after months apart, as well as those looking to take a well-earned break.

“We know there is a strong pent-up demand for domestic travel and we’re confident our low fares will help increase visitors and give a boost to local tourism operators across Australia.”

The sale comes as Virgin Tuesday delisted from the Australian Securities Exchange as part of the move to new ownership under Bain Capital.

The change will see former Jetstar boss Jayne Hrdlicka take over as chief executive and the airline move to a hybrid operational model with a lower cost base.

Competition is also set to increase early next year as Regional Express moves into the jet market, initially on the Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane “golden triangle”.

Buoyed by vaccine news, airlines tackle distribution issues

COVID freight vaccine
Photo: Alexandr Markin/Wikimedia Commons.

With the world welcoming news a second COVID-19 vaccine is producing striking results, thoughts are now turning to how to get doses of the drugs to global populations.

Reports that a vaccine from Moderna is proving 94.5 percent effective in early trials come after earlier news that a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech appeared to be similarly effective.

Both companies are reportedly on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the US.

READ: Asia-pacific airline bosses back global COVID testing regime.

“That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives,” Moderna president Stephen Hoge said, adding that it will require many vaccines to meet global demand.

The announcement was more good news for an airline industry ravaged by the pandemic and set to play a critical role in distributing the vaccines.

But the International Air Transport Association has warned that getting the vaccines to the people who need them will be one of the largest and most complex global logistics challenges ever undertaken.

IATA estimates that just providing a single dose of vaccine to 7.8 billion people would fill up 8000 Boeing 747 cargo aircraft.

More than half of all air freight is usually carried by passenger planes and a key issue for the industry is how reduced capacity and connectivity will affect distribution. Border restrictions have seen the 22,000 pre-COVID city pairs serviced by airlines dramatically reduced.

Working with a wide range of partners, IATA has made an early move to tackle some of the complex issues by developing guidance material aimed at ensuring the air cargo industry is ready to support the large-scale handline, transport and distribution of vaccines.

“Delivering billions of doses of a vaccine that must be transported and stored in a deep-frozen state to the entire world efficiently will involve hugely complex logistical challenges across the supply chain,’’ IATA director-general Alexandre de Juniac said.

“While the immediate challenge is the implementation of COVID-19 testing measures to re-open borders without quarantine, we must be prepared for when a vaccine is ready.”

“This guidance material is an important part of those preparations.”

Other key challenges for the industry include the availability of temperature-controlled storage facilities and contingencies when such facilities are not available.

At least one vaccine needs to be shipped and stored in a deep-frozen state and IATA says this means making available ultra-cold facilities across the supply chain.

Some types of refrigerants are classified as dangerous goods and volumes are regulated. Staff also need to be trained to handle time- and temperature-sensitive vaccines.

All parties will also need to know their roles and responsibilities in distributing the doses.

IATA says governments need to ensure adequate capacity is available for vaccine distribution and that there are timely regulatory approvals for storage and clearance.

Security arrangements also need to be in place to make sure the vaccines, which are valuable commodities, are secure from tampering and theft.

Partners working with airlines on the problem include the  International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),  the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA),  the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the UK Civil Aviation Authority, the World Bank,  the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Asia-Pacific airline bosses back global COVID testing regime

Photo: Changi Airport.

The chief executives of key Asia-Pacific airlines have issued a joint call for a global COVID testing regime as part of protocols aimed at kick-starting the shattered aviation industry.

They have warned that cross-border cooperation and collaboration is urgently needed to restart the aviation industry and avoid further economic damage.

The call from the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines’ (AAPA) annual Assembly of Presidents came in joint declaration firmly supporting the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Council Aviation Recover Task Force (CART) guidance on dealing with the pandemic.

READ: FAA warns airlines of disinfection safety risks.

The industry wants protocols for dealing with COVID-19 to be the same at borders throughout the world and to include “globally accepted and mutually recognized” rapid testing techniques rather than quarantine.

The airline chiefs endorsed setting up a testing framework prior to departure “based on mutually-recognized accredited facilities delivering rapid, accurate, affordable and scalable testing” as an effective approach to safely restart international air travel.

They criticized blanket quarantine procedures as a significant deterrent to air travel that should be reviewed in the context of rapid testing and other risk mitigation measures.

“The ICAO CART guidelines established earlier this year provide practical guidance to governments and industry to restart aviation and recover from COVID-19 in a coordinated manner while keeping the safety, health and well being of the traveling public as a top priority,’’ said AAPA director-general Subhas Menon.

“Inconsistent and patchy measures create unpredictability and confusion for both travelers and airlines while hampering the meaningful restart of cross border air transport.

‘’The prolonged closure of borders has had deep and lasting effects on the public and the wider economy.

“It has now become critical to improve collaboration and cooperation across borders so as to mitigate further damage and jump-start recovery efforts.

“Asia-Pacific airlines are firmly committed to working with governments and other stakeholders to rebuild passenger confidence and pave the way for the meaningful recovery of travel and tourism as essential services supporting commerce and livelihoods within the region and across the world.’’

In other resolutions, the Asia-Pacific airline bosses also renewed a call for governments to respect the integrity of ICAO’s global carbon emissions scheme, known as CORSIA.

They said governments should not apply their own duplicate requirements on international aviation CO2 emissions and should support the use of sustainable aviation fuel to help the industry reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

They also called on governments to refrain from increasing aviation levies in any form and to support Asia-Pacific airlines as they faced unprecedented financial and operational challenges.

Korean Air to buy rival Asiana in market revamp

A Korean Air Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Korean Air.

Korean Air and holding company Hanjin KAL on Monday confirmed they would acquire rival Asiana Airlines for 1.8 trillion won ($US1.6 billion) as part of a wider restructuring of the Korean aviation industry.

The merged airline is expected to rank as one of the world’s top 10 in a  move Korean Air says is designed to improve the competitiveness of the Korean aviation industry.

Korean plans to sell new shares early next year worth $2.5 trillion won (US$2.3 billion) to finance the merger.

READ: Qantas ‘ready to fly’ as it turns 100.

The deal will see Hanjin KAL pass on to Korean Air an 800-billion won investment from the state-owned Korean Development Bank to support both airlines ahead of the share sale.

Hanjin said in a statement that a restructuring of the entire Korean market, including low-cost carriers such as Jin Air, was unavoidable because of the crisis facing the airline industry.

“The main reason behind Korean Air’s decision to acquire Asiana Airlines at this time is to stabilize the Korean aviation industry, which is suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ it said

“Considering that Korean Air’s financial status could also be endangered if the COVID-19 situation is prolonged, it is inevitable to restructure the domestic aviation market to enhance its competitiveness and minimize the injection of public funds.

“Korean Air decided to acquire Asiana Airlines after much consideration and deliberation in order to pursue its founding mission to contribute to the nation through transportation.

“Following its mission, the carrier will ensure job security for employees at both airlines as well as relevant industries and support the development of Korea’s aviation industry.”

Spruiking advantages of the deal, the statement said countries with populations of less than 100 million generally had a single full-service airline compared to the two currently operating in Korea.

This put Korea at a competitive disadvantage to countries such as Germany, France and Singapore.

“However, Korean Air’s acquisition and the expansion of its routes, fleet and capacity will give the airline the competitiveness to compete with global mega airlines,’’ it said.

“The merger of the two airlines is expected to further enhance the competitiveness of the Korean aviation industry with more streamlined route operations and lower costs.

“More slots secured at Incheon International Airport, a transport hub in Asia, through the consolidation of the airlines, may lead to an increase in joint ventures with global airlines and greater transfer demand, which will also spur the growth of the domestic aviation industry.

“Customers will be able to enjoy a wider range of choices in routes and schedules. They will also be able to benefit from more convenient transfer options, integrated mileage and enhanced safety in all areas.”


Qantas ‘ready to fly’ as it turns 100

ilot Lester Brain DH50J Atlanta Eagle Farm Brisbane early 1929. All photos: Qantas

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has declared the airline ready to fly again as Australia opens up from the COVID shutdown on its 100th anniversary.

“Distance has always defined Australia,” Joyce said in prepared comments to mark the anniversary.

“Between our cities and regional towns, and from the rest of the world. Qantas prided itself on closing that gap. Before COVID interrupted, we were working on non-stop flights from the east coast to New York and London – the last frontier of global aviation.

READ: Virgin celebrates rebirth with 500,000 fares from $75.

“For most of this year, it’s the distance between Melbourne and Sydney (or any of our capitals) that has been the challenge. Hard state borders for the first time in, coincidently enough, about 100 years.

“Now, as Australia opens up, we’re ready to fly again.”

See Joyce’s full comments here.

A low-key ceremony to mark the airline’s 100th anniversary will see it operate a 100-minute sunset flight for 100 employees as well as frequent flyers.

Plans to celebrate the centenary have been significantly scaled back due to the impact on the airline of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen thousands of staff laid off, aircraft retired and its international services suspended.

At least one union, the Transport Workers Union, announced plans to mark the occasion with protests against the airline’s move to outsource 2500 ground workers.

Planned highlights of anniversary flight included a wing wave over the HARS aviation museum at Albion Park,  home to a record-breaking Qantas 747-400, a  flyover of former flying boat base Rose Bay and scenic flyovers of Sydney Harbour.

Qantas is the oldest continuously operating airline in the world and began life in outback Queensland on November 16, 1920, as the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services.

Co-Founders Hudson Fysh (Right) and Paul McGinness1919. All Photos: Qantas

It was formed by Australian Flying Corps veterans Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness together with grazier Fergus McMaster just 17 years after the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers, two years after the end of World War One and at the tail end of the last major global pandemic, the Spanish Flu.

The new airline focused on conquering the “tyranny of distance” that was a major barrier to the growth of modern Australia. Its early chances of success were uncertain, to the point early backers called their investment “a donation”.

But Qantas persisted with charter flights across Queensland and the Northern Territory and began its first scheduled flights in 1922 as a mail service that carried some passengers.

By 1926, Qantas was the only airline in the world to be operating, building and maintaining its own aircraft and in 1928, the Royal Flying Doctors Service was launched using Qantas aircraft.

A major leap came when Qantas spreads its wings overseas in the 1930s in partnership with British Airways forerunner Imperial Airways.

By 1938, Qantas was operating flying boats to Singapore using Sydney’s famous harbor as the city’s first international airport. Comedian and film legend Charlie Chaplin was one of its early international travelers.

Empire Flying Boats Rose Bay 1939

Advances in aircraft technology saw Qantas break new boundaries and by 1942 it was operating 30-hour flights over the Indian Ocean to Ceylon using Catalina Flying Boats to maintain a link with Britain. Pilots on the service saw the sun rise twice, earning them “The Secret Order of the Double Sunrise”.

By the end of the 1940s, its strategic importance saw it nationalized and the 1950s saw it flying Super Constellations around the world.

Australia’s flag carrier was an early adopter of the new Boeing 707 passenger jets and in 1959, the airline operated the first transpacific jet service between Sydney to San Franciso via Fiji and Hawaii.

Qantas Boeing 707-138 VH-EBB in Honolulu in 1959

Qantas continued to connect Australians to the world through the 1960s and in the early 1970s introduced an aircraft that would come to define it for the rest of the century: The Boeing 747.

It would go on to operate almost every 747 variant and demand developments that would extend the plane’s range.

The 747 reduced the cost of flying overseas and opened up international travel to the average Australian.

The first Qantas B747, VH-EBA, in 1971

Qantas achieved another milestone in the 1970s by inventing business class and in 1974 received national acclaim when it evacuated thousands of people from Darwin in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy.

The 1990s saw major changes as the airline was first merged with domestic carrier Australian airlines to take its current form and was then privatized in 1993. This was also the decade it launched the “I Still Call Australia Home” campaign and wowed the world with two striking aircraft in Aboriginal livery.

The 2000s saw the launch of QantasLink as four regional airlines were combined and the arrival of low-cost carrier Jetstar in 2004.  The Airbus A380 superjumbos, now in storage in California, entered the fleet in 2008 to becomes the airline’s new flagship in terms of comfort and amenities.

A Jetstar Airbus A320.

Industrial turmoil and a dramatic engine failure off Singapore marked the start of the next decade. The industrial trouble prompted Joyce to make an unprecedented decision to ground the airline in 2011 while the engine failure uncovered a manufacturing flaw at engine-maker Rolls Royce.

The airline undertook a major restructuring in 2014 and in 2018 it connected Europe and Australia for the first time with a Boeing 787 service between Perth and London.

Qantas-Dreamliner Emily-Kame-Kngwarreye

The airline, like others around the globe, has entered the 2020s grappling with the devastating impact of COVID-19 but remains better placed than many to handle the onslaught.

But it again faces a changing domestic aviation landscape with a restructured Virgin Australia returning to life and new jet competition on major routes from Regional Express.




FAA warns airlines of disinfection safety risks

Airlines have been warned to look at the safety implications of disinfection.

While airlines make a big deal about touting their disinfection procedures, the US Federal Aviation Administration has issued a behind-the-scenes warning that some actions could pose a safety risk.

A Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin issued on November 4 warns that too frequent or improper use of disinfectants could cause problems such as corrosion, embrittlement, increased flammability and electrical short circuits.

READ: Covid crash allows Delta to accelerate $US1.8 billion LAX revamp

“Depending on the system or part affected, any of these conditions could create either an immediate or latent airworthiness issue,’’ the bulletin says.

The FAA urges airlines to use disinfectants compatible with aircraft and approved by the manufacturer

It says they should also make sure the disinfectant and the method of applying it are compatible.

“For example, certain disinfectants are suitable for wiping, but not suitable for spraying,’’ it says.

“Flammable disinfectants, such as those that are alcohol-based, should not be fogged as this creates a dangerous atmosphere prone to sudden combustion.

“Note that alcohol-containing wipes that are disposed of in bulk have the potential for any remaining alcohol to evaporate and collect in the disposal container, creating a similar sudden combustion risk, locally.”

Fogging and misting has been used to disinfect difficult-to-reach areas, but the FAA warns these could be areas where disinfectants should not be used such as fan-cooled electronic boxes, smoke detectors and underlying structure.

Running aircraft ventilation will typically exacerbate this condition, it warns.

It advises airlines to protect structures and electrical systems from disinfectants with potentially corrosive elements and consider increasing inspections of these areas.

They also need to be especially careful when using liquid disinfectants on the flight deck, particularly those with long “dwell times”.

“Liquids can intrude into flight deck switches and seals,’’ the FAA says. “Excessive liquid intrusion can lead to electrical shorts in the near term and unexpected corrosion in the long term.

“Take care to prevent liquids from pooling or dripping in the flight deck. FAA emphasizes that owners and operators should follow, and not exceed, the disinfectant manufacturer’s instructions for application of disinfectants identified as appropriate for the aircraft by the aircraft manufacturer.”

And it isn’t just sensitive equipment that can be affected: the FAA warns that disinfectants containing ethyl alcohol can cause crazing on windows and window dust covers and damage thermoplastics.

“As a result, windows on certain aircraft types might not be able to continue to serve their intended purpose after multiple cleanings,’’ it adds.

The FAA recommends using electrostatic spraying over fogging because foggers can more easily transport charged particles into “unintended areas that may be incompatible”.

Longer lasting antimicrobial coatings are another area where caution needs to be exercised with a warning these may have more impact when it comes to altering the surface on which the coating is applied.

“Preliminary investigations by aircraft manufacturers indicate that most aircraft interior materials can be treated with antimicrobial coatings with no negative effects to flammability (specifically its heat release rate); but, such coatings should be assessed by the user regarding any other potential negative impacts before use,’’  it says.

The bulletin notes that other methods of disinfection, including ultraviolet radiation and ionization, are under investigation both in terms of effectiveness and the potential effect on an aircraft.

But it advises operators to look at any method of disinfection for potential short-term and long-term consequences “not just on the equipment and furnishings deliberately treated, but also on any equipment and furnishings that could be exposed during the disinfecting process”.

“Be aware that these processes may create by-products that should also be evaluated for the effects on the aircraft and personnel,’’ it says.









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