General Aviation News

General Aviation News (30)

Chinese passenger plane to rival Boeing and Airbus tipped to be in skies by July

China's first homegrown passenger plane is to take to the skies before July this year, according to state media.

A China state-owned manufacturer first unveiled the C919 in November 2015, leaving analysts wondering whether it can compete with major manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing.

The single-aisle aircraft, which can seat 168 passengers, has now installed its on-board system and undertaken a series of load tests.

The People's Daily Online said Tuesday that test results confirm "that the framework of the jetliner is strong enough to support future navigation."

The plane, produced by the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC), was originally scheduled to make its debut journey in 2015, but the date was pushed back to satisfy additional testing.

 

COMAC designed the C919 plane to compete with other single aisle jets such as the Airbus 320 and Boeing's 737.

In 2015 Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said that he would have "no hesitation at all in buying Chinese airplanes," as long as they were made to the standard that he wanted.

"There is nothing wrong with buying Chinese. You use an iPhone, which is made in China. Designed by somebody else, but made in China. I think it would be good for this (Boeing/Airbus) monopoly to be broken," Al Baker told CNBC at the Dubai Airshow.

 

ChinaFotoPress | Getty Images
The 'iron bird' test platform, a plane-like fuselage simulator, for the C919

 

The state manufacturer told media in November 2016 it has received 570 orders for the C919 from 23 customers, including government run firms Air China, China Southern and Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines.

Chinese demand for new airplanes is proving a key battleground for passenger plane makers. Airbus estimated in its 2016-2035 forecast that the Chinese airlines will need nearly 6,000 new planes worth US$945 billion over the next two decades.

COMAC has also developed a smaller regional jet, the ARJ21, which took to the skies in June 2016.

 

 

CREDIT: CNBC

 

World's longest non-stop commercial flight lands in New Zealand

Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Auckland arrives after 14,535-kilometre trip which took 16 hours 23 minutes

The world’s longest commercial flight landed in New Zealand on Monday with the arrival of Qatar Airways’s 14,535km (9,032-mile) Doha-Auckland service.

“We’ve officially landed in Auckland,” the airline tweeted as flight QR920 landed at 7.25am (6.25pm GMT on Sunday), five minutes ahead of schedule after a flight lasting 16 hours and 23 minutes.

The long-range Boeing 777-200LR crossed 10 time zones on its marathon flight.

Qatar Airways noted the flight was longer than the entire “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies which were filmed in New Zealand.

There were four pilots on board as well as 15 cabin crew who served 1,100 cups of tea and coffee, 2,000 cold drinks and 1,036 meals during the flight.

 

In keeping with international tradition to welcome inaugural flights, the Auckland airport rescue service showered the plane with water cannons on arrival.

New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay said the estimated economic impact of the new service “will be well in excess” of NZ$50m (US$36m) with the increased freight capacity provided.

In March last year, Emirates airline launched what was then thought to be the world’s longest non-stop scheduled commercial flight, with a service from Dubai to Auckland, spanning 14,200kms (8,824 miles).

Air India’s Delhi-San Francisco flight claims the world’s longest by flying distance but when measured on the surface of the earth Doha and Auckland are further apart.

 

CREDIT: The Guardian

MH370 Search Ends to Leave Aviation’s Biggest Mystery Unsolved

The hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was called off Tuesday after almost three years of fruitless toil.

The Boeing Co. 777 aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014, on its way to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board. According to satellite data, the jet headed south over the Indian Ocean for about six hours before plummeting into the water at up to 25,000 feet a minute.

The last vessel left the 120,000 square-kilometer (46,000 square miles) area in the southern Indian Ocean without finding the jet, transport ministers from Malaysia, Australia and China said in a joint statement. Australian investigators put the cost of the operation at A$180 million ($135 million). The scouring for the jet is the longest search for a missing plane in modern aviation history.

Even repeated analysis of the data, aimed at zeroing in on the most likely crash zone, failed to turn up any clues.

“Whilst combined scientific studies have continued to refine areas of probability, to date no new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft,” the ministers said. “We remain hopeful that new information will come to light and that at some point in the future, the aircraft will be located.”

 

The first debris from MH370 was found on Reunion Island in July 2015. Four other pieces that turned up on Africa’s eastern seaboard and in Mauritius almost certainly belong to the doomed jet, according to investigators.

Search teams had battled ferocious winter weather and waves more than five stories high as they dragged sonar devices across the seabed. The ocean floor itself, up to 6 kilometers (4 miles) below, was peppered with trenches and submerged peaks.

The search was “an unprecedented challenge,” the ministers said.

Air-traffic controllers lost contact with MH370 less than an hour after takeoff as it approached Vietnam. Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak has said the plane was deliberately steered off course.

Credit: Bloomberg.org

American Airlines plane engine flung debris in rare failure

By Alwyn Scott and Tim Hepher

An American Airlines (AAL.O) jet engine that failed seconds before takeoff in a fiery runway accident at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport flung broken turbine parts as far as half a mile from the scene, a federal investigator said on Saturday.

Disclosure of the "uncontained" failure," in which internal engine parts breach the protective housing designed to keep them safely enclosed, even in a breakdown, came a day after a mishap that authorities said neared the point of disaster but caused no serious injuries.

Shrapnel escaping from the engine's outer cover can tear through the cabin or rupture fuel tanks in the wings.

 

Such engine failures are extremely rare, and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators were looking for clues as to whether the fault lay with the engine itself, with its manufacture or a freak event such as debris on the runway entering the engine.

The General Electric (GE.N) engine that powered the plane was a workhorse model known as the CF6, introduced decades ago, GE spokesman Rick Kennedy told Reuters on Saturday. The American Airlines plane engine dates from the 1980s or 1990s, and had been serviced by the airline, he said.

American Airlines Flight 383, a twin-engine Boeing (BA.N) 767 bound for Miami with 161 passengers and a crew of nine, was headed down a runway for departure when the right-side engine failed, forcing the crew to abort takeoff, authorities said.

Leaking jet fuel caught fire under the wing, as the crew evacuated passengers via emergency exit chutes from the left side of the plane, and fire crews arrived to begin pouring foam on the flames within minutes.

One flight attendant and 19 passengers suffered minor injuries in their escape.

NTSB investigator Lorenda Ward told reporters at O'Hare on Saturday that while flames never breached the plane's cabin, some smoke did, though city fire officials have said no one suffered from smoke inhalation or burns.

City fire department officials said on Friday the plane was 15 to 20 seconds from becoming airborne, fully loaded with 43,000 pounds of jet fuel. Ward said the aircraft stopped about 3,000 feet from the end of the runway. "That's a lot of runway to have left," she said.

 

FAR-FLUNG ENGINE DEBRIS

In a sign of the intensity of the engine breakdown, at least two pieces of a stage-2 high-pressure turbine disk were flung from the scene.

One was found at a United Parcel Service warehouse nearly 3,000 feet (915 meters), or about half a mile, south of the accident site. Another was found three-tenths of a mile to the north on airport property, NTSB investigator Lorenda Ward told reporters at O'Hare on Saturday.

She said the escaped engine parts would be shipped to a lab for examination, and the crippled right engine would be sent to a GE facility to be dismantled and examined there for clues to what caused the failure.

American on Saturday declined to provide details about the aircraft, engine or maintenance, referring questions to the NTSB.

Officials from GE Aviation, Boeing and American Airlines were on the scene at O'Hare assisting in the investigation, GE's Kennedy said.

The CF6 was introduced in the 1970s, and more than 4,000 are currently in service on seven different wide-body jetliner models, including the Boeing 747 and 767, and Airbus A300 and A330, according to GE. The engine has racked up more than 400 million flight hours and has a record of "industry-leading levels of reliability," Kennedy said.

The O'Hare incident marks the third uncontained GE engine failure in little over a year, following a British Airways Boeing 777 in September 2015 and a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 in August. Both aircraft used different engines, the GE90 and CMF56, made by a joint venture of GE and Safran of France.

In a full-power ground test situation in 2006, an American Airlines 767 with GE CF6 engines suffered an uncontained failure, according to a summary produced by the Aviation Safety Network, a service of the Flight Safety Foundation, an international nonprofit based in Alexandria, Virginia.

The high pressure turbine of the CF6-80A engine used on the 767 has been cited in six regulatory actions by the Federal Aviation Authority since 1986, FAA records show. The most recent, in 2009, required airlines to remove an engine rotor within 30 days and reduced the allowed lifespan of an engine disk, conditions that could lead to cracks and uncontained engine failure, according to FAA records.

 

(Writing by Steve Gorman and Frank McGurty; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Mary Milliken)

Credit : www.reuters.com

FAA reiterates warning that no Galaxy Note 7 phones may be turned on or charged in flight

The FAA has reiterated its position that airline passengers should power down and not use or charge Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices on airplanes, or put the phones in checked luggage. The statement comes after Samsung halted global sales of the Note 7 following a series of fires in purportedly "safe" phones after a recall last month.

In response to a statement from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and following a recent decision by Samsung to suspend global sales of all Galaxy Note 7 devices, the Federal Aviation Administration urges passengers onboard aircraft to power down, and not use, charge, or stow in checked baggage, all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices, including recalled and replacement devices.

In addition to stopping sales of new Note 7 devices, Samsung also instructed current owners of the phone to immediately "power down" the phones and return them for a refund or for another phone.

The wording of the FAA’s statement is similar to one released when the Note 7 recall was first announced, and the FAA again stopped short of banning the phone entirely — the restrictions are on using or charging the Note 7, not bringing it on the plane.

 

Credit : THE VERGE

Southwest Flight Evacuated After Samsung Phone Catches Fire, Airline Says

A Southwest Airlines flight scheduled to leave Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday morning was evacuated on the runway after a passenger’s Samsung cellphone caught fire, passengers and the airline said.

Southwest said in a statement that passengers and airline employees were taken off Flight 994, which was scheduled to leave for Baltimore, after a customer reported “smoke emitting from a Samsung electronic device.”

The Verge identified the passenger as Brian Green and his phone as “a replacement Galaxy Note 7.”

A Samsung spokeswoman said in a statement on Wednesday that the company was unable to immediately confirm which device was involved in the episode.

“We are working with the authorities and Southwest now to recover the device and confirm the cause,” the statement said. “Once we have examined the device, we will have more information to share.”

The company, which is the world’s largest smartphone maker, announced last month that it would replace 2.5 million of the smartphone model because of a flaw in the battery’s cell that could result in the devices bursting into flames or exploding.

Mr. Green told The Verge that he had picked up the new phone on Sept. 21, after the recall. The episode could be damaging for the company, because the replacement devices were thought to be safe. The new models had been approved by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, which on Wednesday said it was investigating the episode.

In a statement, the commission chairman, Elliot F. Kaye, encouraged owners of the smartphone to turn it off and immediately participate in the recall. He also said staff members had reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration, Samsung and Mr. Green, noting that the agency is “moving expeditiously to investigate this incident.”

Christine Sundman, 65, a retired teacher who was planning to return home to New Hampshire after visiting her daughter’s family in Louisville, was one of the passengers evacuated from the flight. She said that a woman sitting near the phone’s owner had told her that the device had just been powered down when it caught fire.

The owner quickly dropped the device on the floor, Mrs. Sundman said in a phone interview.

Mrs. Sundman said she had been sitting in the seventh row of the plane and did not notice any commotion until a flight attendant rushed to the front to consult with her colleague. As they exchanged urgent whispers, Mrs. Sundman said, “I did hear the word ‘smoke.’ ”

The two flight attendants went into the cockpit, Mrs. Sundman said, and within seconds the captain came out and calmly told passengers that the plane had to be evacuated. She said he did not need to use the loudspeaker to make his voice heard.

As the passengers disembarked, the smell of smoke began to permeate the plane.

“I did not see any of the passengers lose control,” Mrs. Sundman said. “One woman was kind of buzzing around a lot, but nobody lost control. The airline was working as hard as it could.”

Mrs. Sundman said the passengers were eventually told that a hole had burned through the floor. After about two hours, she said, the flight was canceled and passengers were allowed back on the plane to recover their baggage.

“This could have happened moments after we took off, or in the air,” she said. “It could have been catastrophic.”

Earlier this year, Qantas banned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones from its flights because of instances in which they caught fire when business-class passengers dropped their devices into the electronically activated seats, crushing the phone and damaging the battery. Air France also said it had several in-flight smoke or fire events that were set off in the same way.

The Federal Aviation Administration strongly urged owners not to use the phones on planes, before the recall was ordered.

Credit to New York Times

 

 

 

US Grants Airbus, Boeing a Chance to Sell Airplanes to Iran

 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The U.S. government granted aviation giants Airbus and Boeing permission on Wednesday to sell aircraft to Iran following last year's nuclear accord.

European airplane manufacturer Airbus announced the license from the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control early Wednesday. Chicago-based Boeing followed with its own announcement later in the day.

The approval clears the way for the two plane manufacturers to access one of the last untapped aviation markets in the world. Both companies have announced separate $25-billion deals to sell aircraft to airlines in the country, although analysts are skeptical that there is demand for so many jets or available financing.

 

The deal would be the biggest for an American company since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and U.S. Embassy takeover.

The announcements come as Iranian and U.S. leaders are in New York for the United Nations General Assembly and shows that the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama is honoring the economic terms of the nuclear pact.

Though based abroad, Airbus needed the approval of the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control for the deal because at least 10 percent of the manufacturer's components are of American origin.

Airbus applied for two licenses to cover its deal with Iran to ensure the fast delivery of some of the aircraft, Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon told The Associated Press. The license announced Wednesday covers the first 17 planes involved in the deal, which will be A320s and A330s, he said.

 

Dubon said Airbus hoped to receive a second license allowing it to sell the remaining planes to Iran soon.

Iran's U.N. mission did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. State television referred to an AP report on the sale.

Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, which limits its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of some international sanctions, specifically allowed for the purchase of aircraft and parts. That's set off a race between airplane manufacturers for the newly opened market, home to 80 million people.

In January, national carrier Iran Air signed agreements to buy 118 planes from Airbus, estimated to be worth some 22.8 billion euros ($25 billion). On Sunday, state TV reported that Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan, a deputy transportation minister, said Iran would cut the number of Airbus planes to 112.

Base model A320s are listed at an average of $98 million, while A330s start at $231.5 million. That puts the value of the approved 17 aircraft in the first license around at least $1.8 billion and possibly much higher based on list prices, though buyers typically negotiate sizable discounts for bulk orders.

Under Boeing's deal, Iran Air will buy 80 aircraft with a total list price of $17.6 billion, with deliveries beginning in 2017 and running until 2025. Iran Air also will lease 29 new Boeing 737s. In a statement, Boeing spokesman Marc Sklar said "we have received that license and remain in talks with Iran Air" based on the memorandum of agreement reach in June.

The Boeing deal has been criticized by American lawmakers over Iran's "pernicious behavior," including launching ballistic missiles, firing rockets near U.S. warships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz and briefly detaining American sailors who strayed into its territorial waters.

The U.S. presidential election could also have an effect on the sales. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has threatened to tear up the nuclear deal if elected this November.

Most Iranian planes were purchased before the Islamic Revolution that ousted Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought Islamists to power. Out of Iran's 250 commercial planes, 162 were flying in June, while the rest were grounded due to lack of spare parts.

Iran Air, whose website lists 43 airplanes in its fleet, says it has direct flights to over 30 international destinations, including London.

 

Credit : www.bloomberg.com

Iran's Mahan Air eyes African market debut

Mahan Air (W5, Tehran Mehrabad) is considering entering the African market after it filed an application to begin flights to South Africa The Gulf News has reported.

The Iranian airline is seeking a Scheduled Foreign Operator's Permit (SFOP) from the South African Department of Transport for a planned 2x weekly Tehran Imam Khomeini-Johannesburg O.R. Tambo service. No anticipated launch date has yet been disclosed.

During a state visit to Iran in April this year, South African President Jacob Zuma signed several bilateral accords covering the areas of trade and industry, investment, insurance, money-laundering prevention, agriculture, water resource management, art and culture, and petroleum production.

Mahan Air currently offers scheduled service to diverse destinations across Iran as well as Western Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, the CIS, the Middle East, India, China, and Malaysia. According to the ch-aviation fleets database, its entire fleet currently includes fourteen A300-600s, one A300B2, one A300B4, ten A310-300s, four A340-300s, seven A340-600s, four ARJ-100s, four ARJ-85s, one B747-300, one B747-300(M), one BAe 146-200, and eight BAe 146-300s.

Credit: Ch-Aviation

Existing navigation data can help pilots avoid turbulence

Detecting turbulence is the Achilles' heel of modern-day aviation. The reports submitted by pilots, subjective and often very inaccurate, are the least expensive and the most frequently used method for trying to predict where it will occur. Scientists from the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw, have demonstrated that turbulence can be detected in a much faster and more precise way, using data already routinely broadcast by the aircraft operated by commercial airlines.

Anyone who has experienced on an airplane certainly knows that it's no fun ride. Despite advancements in technology, methods used to detect these dangerous atmospheric phenomena are still far from perfect. However, there is every indication that data allowing pilots to avoid turbulence and even to forecast such occurrences are already being routinely recorded. Jacek Kopec, a doctoral student at the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw, and a member of the staff of the University's Interdisciplinary Center for Mathematical and Computational Modelling (ICM), has managed to extract this valuable information from the flight parameters routinely broadcast by the transponders installed in most modern commercial . This new method for detecting turbulence is so original and potentially easy to implement on a large scale that the report describing it has been featured as a highlight article in the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques.

"Today's commercial aircraft fly at altitudes of 10 to 15 km, where the temperatures fall to -60 °C. Conditions for measuring atmospheric parameters are very difficult, which explains why such measurements are not taken systematically or extensively. A lack of sufficiently accurate and up-to-date information not only exposes aircraft and their passengers to danger, it also restricts the development of theories and tools for forecasting turbulence," Jacek Kopec says.

At present, pilot reports (PIREPs), relayed by radio and provided to pilots of other aircraft by air traffic controllers, are a basic source of turbulence data. Since these reports are based on the subjective opinions of pilots, the data collected in this way are often marred by substantial inaccuracies in both the area of turbulence and its intensity. More accurate readings are provided by aircraft involved in the Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) program. This method is nonetheless costly, so data collected at cruising altitudes are transmitted relatively rarely. In practice, this prevents such reports from being used to detect and forecast turbulence.

Passenger aircraft are fitted with sensors that record a variety of flight parameters. Unfortunately, most of the data are not made publicly available. Publicly available reports include only the most basic parameters such as the position of the aircraft (ADS-B transmissions, which are also used by the popular website FlightRadar24) or its speed relative to the ground and the air (Mode-S data). Meanwhile, detecting turbulence requires knowledge of the vertical acceleration of aircraft.

"Vertical accelerations are especially strongly felt both by the passengers and by the aircraft," Jacek Kopec explains. "Unfortunately, there is no access to materials regarding vertical accelerations. That was why we decided to check if we could extract such data from other flight parameters, accessible in Mode-S and ADS-B transmissions. The research aircraft in a project in which I participated was fitted with a suitable transponder, so we took advantage of that fact. By coincidence, our coauthor, Siebren de Haan from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, recorded the transmissions received from the transponder," he adds.

Scientists from the Faculty of Physics tested three algorithms of turbulence detection. The first relied on information about the position of aircraft (ADS-B transmissions). However, preliminary tests and their comparison against the parameters registered in the same area by the research aircraft failed to produce satisfactory results. The remaining two algorithms used the parameters received approximately every four seconds through Mode-S transmissions. In the second approach, the parameters were analyzed using the standard theory of turbulence. In the third approach, the scientists adapted a method for determining previously used to measure turbulence on a very small scale in the understory of forests. It turned out that once wind velocity in the vicinity of the aircraft was determined and its changes were analyzed in successive readings, it was possible to use the latter two theoretical approaches to locate turbulence areas with an error of only 20 km. Passenger aircraft need around 100 seconds to travel this distance, so this level of accuracy would allow pilots to maneuver their aircraft to effectively avoid turbulence.

By harnessing existing data, this system of turbulence detection developed at the Institute of Geophysics (Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw) therefore requires no significant investments in aviation infrastructure. In order to be operational, the system needs adequate software and a computer connected in a simple way to the devices that receive Mode-S transmissions from the transponders on board aircraft. Such devices are standard equipment in air traffic control institutions in Europe. In this system, act as sensors by creating a dense network of measurement points above Europe.

"In the coming months, we will be working to improve the software. Nevertheless, we have already achieved our most important goal: we have proved that the method for detecting turbulence we have proposed really works and can provide pilots with information enabling them to avoid dangerous areas in the atmosphere. Turbulence detection will also help improve aviation forecasting methods," stresses Prof. Szymon Malinowski from the Faculty of Physics, Jacek Kopec's doctoral dissertation advisor and one of the authors of the publication.

The turbulence detection system has been developed under a grant from Poland's National Science Center (NCN). Data for the research was collected in a flight test campaign financed from the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union.



Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-08-turbulence.html#jCp

Aviation in West Africa - the winners and the losers

West Africa has a population of over 300 million people within 15 countries, having over 40 airports with the largest economies in Africa. Yet there is no strong airline and no airport hub in West and Central Africa.

East Africa has two hubs in Nairobi (Kenya) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), while South Africa has the massive Oliver Thambo International Airport in Johannesburg. 

The hub concept

To establish a hub, there is a need to first have an airport that has a good transfer desk and transit section with transit Visa or Visa on Arrival. 

You also need an airport with cheap aviation fuel. You will need an airport with Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities.  You would also need an airline to drive the hub.  

As of today, no airport in West Africa has all the needed ingredients to be a hub. Ghana has moved fast to claim the spot. First, it offered Visa on Arrival to all Africans starting from July 1. Secondly, it reduced the cost of aviation fuel by 25 per cent. But the MRO and strong airline is missing. 

Ghana is making up for the absence of a strong carrier by issuing 5th Freedom Rights to other airlines to carry passengers from Accra. It has given this right to South African Airways (SAA) to fly to Washington D.C. last one year. It has also given the same rights to Kenya Airways for Freetown; TAP Portugal to Sao Tome; Air Maroc, Egypt Air among others.  

Lome (Togo) is also giving Accra a good fight. It has a strong airline, ASKY, and cheap fuel, but no Visa on Arrival and no MRO.  Lagos (Nigeria) that naturally should be the hub is huddled with operational difficulties and other issues. 

Nigeria has a large pool of international airlines, strong domestic carriers but very expensive and not readily available aviation fuel.  It lacks MRO capacity and does not have very easy immigration environment. So the options are often for the airports in West Africa to connect all the dots.

Unsuccessful national carriers

With such a huge population and vibrant economies, it is an irony that West Africans depend on others to move around.

But things haven't always been like this. Nigeria Airways, Ghana Airways and Air Afrique were major players, which collapsed with the era of the International Monetary Fund induced devaluations and age old mismanagement. Today, 80 per cent of all traffic in West Africa is carried by non African carriers and about 15 per cent by non West African carriers. 

The winners

Only ASKY is really profitable, having declared a US$2 million profit for the first time in five years of operation. But ASKY is partly owned and operated by Ethiopian Airlines out of Lome, Togo. The other airline making a difference is Ghanaian Airline Africa World Airlines (AWA), but that is also partly owned by Chinese giants HNA. Air Cote d'Ivoire also has international interests in Air France.

The biggest airline in West Africa is privately owned Nigerian Carrier, Arik, but it also has issues with debts owed banks and Nigerian agencies but it’s still the first choice for travelers in Nigeria because of its young fleet and extensive network in the region. 

Recently the lucrative Accra-Lagos route with about 10 daily flights collapsed leaving only AWA and Arik as survivors. AWA had struggled on the Lagos route since it started flights there two years ago. Eventually, it settled for four flights a week until recently when the collapse of three Nigerian competitors Dana, AERO and a scaled down flights by Medview, AWA increased flights to Lagos from four to 10 weekly flights, stepping into the gap.

Today, an economy ticket from Lagos to Accra is between US$200 and US$300 on Arik, depending on whose exchange rate you are using. The bottom has finally fallen out of the once lucrative Lagos-Accra market. 

As Arik and Medview are now the only regular Nigerian carriers on the route, complemented by the growing Ghanaian carrier AWA.

The biggest winner on this route is turning out to be the Ghanaian carrier AWA. It had applied the right equipment, an Embraer 45, and changed schedules many times to find the right spot and timing. 

It has established a smart schedule integrity for its evening flights, always leaving almost on time. Now with the forex crisis in Nigeria and AWA’s price stability, its only disadvantage which was the fact that most Nigerians don’t like small planes, has turned into an advantage as Arik sometimes uses CRJ, a small craft. Arik because of its multiple connections and network is also thriving.

Keen competition

AWA would be the first Ghanaian carrier to survive the brutal competition on the Lagos Accra route. Other attempts by Antrak in the past failed woefully. 

The over-supply of available seats on the route helped depress the market, coupled with shrinking economic activity in Nigeria. Dana had started daily evening flights to Accra with an MD 83 aircraft to join Medview that has a daily morning flight using a B737-400. 

Arik flies twice daily with a B737-700 next generation aircraft and Aero twice daily with a B737-500. There were flights by ASKY from Lagos via Lome to Accra using a Dash 8 and now a B737-800. There are daily flights from Abuja by Arik to Accra. 

Outside Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt (all Nigerian cities), considered sweet routes for Nigeria airlines, it was a bragging right for an airline to initiate a flight to Accra. But with a supply of over 1,500 seats daily, the competition has become intense.

Aero has proven to be the most resilient of all Nigerian carriers, in spite of being accused of lacking courage in its formative years. It is the oldest airline still flying in Nigeria today. 

It was a competitor to Virgin Nigeria on the Accra route when it started in 2004. Arik joined later and had since prospered on the route. The was a Bellview Airline cash cow before its collapse. 

But it is also the graveyard of many airlines. Antrak and Chanchangi are good examples. 

Surviving the Accra route

When a Nigerian airlines thinks it has matured it heads to Accra and when they lose out on the route they eventually collapse. There is no airline that lost on the route that eventually survived. It’s usually a sign of tough times for the Airline. 

But in this situation, the problem is the near collapse of the Nigerian economy in the last one year. If foreign airlines are pulling out of Nigeria because of the forex crisis, how many Nigerian airlines will be left standing by the end of this year. 

The signs are there for all to see, the passenger is now paying more than three times the cost of a 50 minutes flight. It might get worse as the market shrinks. 

The prices will go up unless there is an increased supply of seats by one of the other airlines in spite of what AWA has added. 

The writer is a travel business consultant, travel promoter, tourism development expert, journalist and media consultant. He is the organiser of Abuja Bantaba and Akwaaba African Travel Market, the only international travel fair in West Africa.

Credit: Graphic Online

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