Major events and glitches in aviation sector in 2019
The shutdown of Jet Airway operations in April and glitches with Airbus A320neo aircraft flying Pratt and Whitney engines were the major events dominating the Indian commercial aviation sector in 2019. This and the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in March caused a rise in air fares and a drop in footfalls at major airports like Delhi and Mumbai. With other airlines taking over flying slots at airport left vacant by Jet Airways domestic passenger numbers have recovered but the international sector, where Jet Airways was a major player, is yet to reach pre-April figures.
These are the major events and glitches in the aviation sector this year.
Crew shortage forces cancellation of 70 flights
The airline cancelled flights for a week, primarily because of shortage of pilots. Sectors affected were Kolkata-Delhi, Kolkata-Nagpur, Kolkata-Chennai, Kolkata-Bangalore, Hyderabad-Kolkata, Hyderabad-Bangalore, Ahmedabad-Udaipur, Ahmedabad-Bangalore, Mumbai-Delhi, and Bangalore-Raipur routes. India’s largest airline by market share, IndiGo on Wednesday announced that it has touched a milestone 1500 flight departures daily this month across 83 destinations and 250,000 passengers daily.
SpiceJet and Jet Airways
Ban on Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft after incidents of malfunction
Aviation regulator Director General of Civil Aviation DGCA grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in the fleets of SpiceJet and now-defunct Jet Airways after deadly crashes -- one involving Ethiopian Airlines and other Lion Air of Malaysia. The decision to ground these planes was taken after the European Union and many other countries across the world banned the use of 737 MAX 8 aircraft in their respective airspace.
The airline shuts down operations
The airline failed to get funds to run operations and announced a shutdown, leaving 20,000 workers jobless. The then Naresh Goyal-promoted airline, which also had strategic partnership with Etihad Airways initially started cancelling flights, cutting routes, grounding planes and handing pink slips to employees due to cash crunch and then finally decided to halt operations on April 15 night. The airline is now under bankruptcy proceedings.
Indian Air Force
Aircraft gets stuck after overshooting runway
A An-32 transport plane, overshot Mumbai airport’s main runway- 27 during takeoff, causing delays in flights leaving the city. The main runway had to be closed to remove the IAF aircraft, forcing commercial operations to shift to the shorter, narrower andless-efficient secondary runway. Airport officials said while the incident took place late on May 7, aircraft retrieval process began only in the morning. The main runway was finally made available for flights at 4.51pm next day.
SpiceJet flight SG 6237
Aircraft overshot runway while landing and came to rest in a muddy area, paralysing operations at Mumbai for five days
The flight from Jaipur with 167 passengers overshot the runway while landing at Mumbai amid heavy rains. This slowed operations at country’s second busiest city airport, which has only one operational main runway, as flights were shifted to the shorter and less efficient secondary runway. Over 250 flights were cancelled and over 400 flights delayed as the stuck aircraft could not be retrieved.
Government announces privatisation plan for national carrier after it accumulates debt of Rs. 58,351 crore
In 2019-20 budget the government announced Air India privatisation plan after failing to get a buyer for the loss making carrier in 2018. Though the Air India Unions have opposed to the privatisation plans, the government is expected to come out with 100% strategic sale in the national carrier by early next year.
Vistara flight UK 944
Pilot continued to divert and operate despite being low on fuel.
Flight with 153 passengers was airborne for nearly four hours during which it first diverted to Lucknow due to bad weather in Delhi, and carried on with second diversion to Allahabad only to return to Lucknow. While landing at Lucknow, the pilot declared Mayday – declaration of emergency - as the Airbus A320neo aircraft had only 200kg of fuel – enough for five minutes of flying - left.
Air India flight AI 173
First flight by an Indian airline over the North Pole
Air India’s Delhi-San Francisco became the first Indian flight to fly over the North Pole. Though many international airlines fly over the North Pole, no international airlines operating services from India currently use the route and no Indian airlines has ever used it. Some international airlines flying from India to the US had used it but have since changed their route. The flight cuts flying time from 17 hours to 15.5 hours.
Training institute aircraft crashes, killing two
Trainee pilots, Prakash Vishal (21) of Delhi and Amanpreet Kaur (20) of Punjab were killed near Hyderabad after their four-seater Cessna trainee aircraft, belonging to a flight training institute crashed. The trainee aircraft had taken off from Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy at Begumpet in inclement weather and latter crashed in the fields in Sultanpur village, Vikarabad district, Telangana. The aircraft was on a regular training sortie when it lost control of the radar and later crashed.
Unavailability of crew leads to cancellation of flights
The airline cancelled 21 flights owing to unavailability of crew on December 23 and another 20 flights the next day. The delays are expected to continue during the week as the airline is yet to solve the issue of crew rostering. The airline did not obey the mandatory flight duty time limitations prescribed for crew members by the aviation regulator- DGCA.
Throughout the year
IndiGo and GoAir
Technical issues with Airbus 320neo powered by Pratt & Whitney engines (P&W) 1100 series engines
The aircraft were first inducted by IndiGo in 2016. The airlines reported a number of incidents, both mid-air and on-ground, leading to grounding of these aircraft on several occasions. In October DGCA ordered the airlines that P&W 1100 series engines that have clocked more than 2,900 hours must get at least one modified engine. A total of 29 A320neos planes were affected, of which 16 are operated by IndiGo and 13 by GoAir. On November 1, DGCA directed the airlines to replace P&W engines with modified low pressure turbines (LPTs) on all its Airbus A320Neo aircraft.