Saturday, January 19, 2019

What’s all this about Pratt and Whitney Main Gear Box?

Neelam Mathews

With over 13,000 large commercial engines installed, Pratt & Whitney is no amateur to this business. So lets cut some flak. The GTF engine is a class by its one and as a Head of Engineering of a major airline told aerospacediary: “ Technology such as this takes some time to get off ground.” He added: “Remember the battery issue in the 787s? Now we hardly talk about it.”

Even the aviation ministry said recently in-flight shutdown cases in A320neos in India are less than global average but it would do a comparable study to assess the timeline of teething issues in new engines.

So, at a meeting at the ministry when senior aviation ministry officials met with their stakeholders to discuss the GTF performance of the A320neos, the only issue and status to be give by Pratt was regarding the main gearbox and status of root cause analysis. Pratt has said work is on and will be submitted to the DGCA in a few weeks. Secretary Choubey confirmed Pratt is working on resolving the issue related to the main /accessory gear box.

There seems to be some confusion regarding the main gear box (MGB) which is a standard component of every engine, with the fan drive gear system which is unique and central to the architecture of the GTF engine.  There were a few incidents with the MGB on a GTF engine which occurred late last year and earlier this year.

It is essential to know the main gear box is:
 A standard engine component, not specific to  the GTF, that provides power for aircraft and engine systems.
The aircraft has three sources of power: two MGBs (one per engine) plus an APU (auxiliary power unit), so there are multiple  redundancies built into the aircraft.
The MGB sits outside the engine; the fan drive gear system is separate from the MGB.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Mumbai Summit Highlights India’s Challenges, Potential

Neelam Mathews
Jan 17, 2019

As aviation infrastructure development lags behind India’s highly competitive and rapidly growing aviation market, the industry is getting a positive response from the international community looking for opportunities to invest in ground, air, and space infrastructure.
Such feedback proved particularly evident at the first Global Aviation Summit in Mumbai on January 15 and 16, attended by a mix of more than 1,200 participants from 80 countries, including the chiefs of the International Air Transport Association, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and Airports Council International.
“In order for India cope with surging demand in air transport, a clear plan for building critical aviation infrastructure is required,” said Angela Gittens, director general of Airports Council International (ACI) World. “With that in mind, it is good to see that the Indian government has moved to undertake a second phase of privatization.”
Gittens’ call for action reflects the urgency for reform intimated in the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s Vision 2040 report, which projects air traffic in India to rise nearly six-fold, from 187 million in 2018 to 1.124 billion in 2040. In the background of the unprecedented growth of aviation, the report highlights the potential of various industry initiatives to speed infrastructure development in India. 
Meanwhile, ACI expects India to rank as second fastest growing air transport market in the world from 2017 to 2040, during which time a 6.8 percent annual growth rate will equate to another 50 million passengers per year.
“Vision 2040 is a good way to align key stakeholders in the industry,” said International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Alexandre de Juniac at a closed door press gathering at the end of the summit.
If the present traffic growth continues, India’s commercial carriers will likely see their combined fleet to expand from 622 in March 2018 to 2,359 by March 2040. The report, however, acknowledges that meeting the targets will require “the right policies and a relentless focus on execution.” The document calls for global support on major sectors including airport development, air navigation system upgrades, and skills development.
The document also mentions decade-old calls to convert the present government-stifled Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to a fully independent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with “its own sources of funding and freedom to recruit professionals at market-linked salaries.”
The report expects India to have some 190 to 200 operational airports by 2040, requiring a capital investment of between $40 billion and $50 billion. “The top 31 cities may have two airports and the cities of Delhi and Mumbai three each,” it said. However, a paucity of available land—some 150,000 acres—could prove an impediment, said Secretary of India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation RN Choubey. He added that technology initiatives planned for present airport capacity augmentation such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, facial recognition, and a seamless service for passengers would bring radical changes to congested airports.
“India is on a good trajectory,” Gittens told AIN. “With six airports coming up in the next few months, it doesn’t take much for a country this size.”
Slot constraints at India’s busiest airports in Mumbai and Delhi have restricted airline growth. Presently, metro airports offer slots that favor established airlines over newer ones. While IATA’s World Slot Guidelines have demonstrated its efficiency for years, de Juniac told AIN that IATA, with help from ACI World, would soon introduce a revived set of slot guidelines

Indian Army Set To Receive Apaches

 - January 14, 2019, 1:26 PM
The first AH-64E for the Indian Air Force first flew in July 2018. The army is also to receive six of the type. (photo: Boeing)
The Indian Army is looking forward to putting into operation a range of helicopters, of which its most prized are six Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopters being acquired as part of a follow-on order to the deal India signed for 22 Apaches and 15 Chinook heavy-lifters for the Indian air force (IAF) in September 2015.
However, the row that has been ongoing for over six years between the Indian Army Aviation Corps (AAC) and IAF concerning who will operate the attack helicopters may be simmering again. The Ministry of Defense assigned ownership, operation and maintenance of attack helicopters to the AAC in November 2012, but the current status remains elusive.The Indian Amy Chief, Bipin Rawat, accepted when talking to AIN on January 10 that the IAF will get their Apaches first, and “ours will follow, as we are hooked on to them.”
He acknowledged that, “The major issue being addressed is who should finally control the helicopters,” adding that the two services are reaching “a consensus on the role and charter for which we are inducting the Apache”. Calling the Apache a “tank in the air,” Rawat commented that, “we feel in the army that the Apache is a tank-killer and should support and be grouped with the strike/attack formation,” to provide support for tanks, infantry and combat vehicles, “in a three-dimensional approach.”
In 2012, then-Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne had commented on the tussle that “the country doesn’t need small air forces.”  He had said that the “integration model around the world is working … we can’t have these little air forces growing and doing their own thing.” An army official remarked: “In years to come, the IAF will be ensconced in the strategic domain of air power and heavylift, while the army will tend to the tactical needs of the environment … the domains are not in conflict but in concert.”
Meanwhile, Rawat expressed satisfaction over the Weapon System Integrated (WSI) Mk-IV variant of the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter, called the Rudra, the first armed helicopter that has been produced in India. He said timelines had been given to the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) on carrying out successful trials for the rockets and missiles that had faced some safety issues for the Rudra. “An interim import will be done to bridge the gap if they cannot reach the timelines,” he told AIN. On the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) that first flew in 2010, Rawat added: “It is the right kind of machine we need for our services. We should take a call on it at the Bangalore Air Show in February." Developer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd said, “orders for 15 LCHs were in advanced stages.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ailing Indian Airlines Get Relief from Gagan Delay

By Neelam Mathews  - January 3, 2019, 11:09 AM

IndiGo pix

As airlines in India suffer severe losses despite high passenger loads, relief has come by way of an extension of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCA) mandatory deadline for installing GPS-Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (Gagan) equipment on all India-registered aircraft from January 1, 2019, to June 2020.
A dip in international aviation turbine fuel prices by 14.5 percent has also provided a reprieve. “While we welcome the respite, we hope the prices could be line with the $52 a barrel global price,” said Sanjay Kumar, chief commercial officer of budget carrier AirAsia India. Heavily taxed fuel comprises about 40 percent of total airline operating costs in India.
The compulsory use of Indian satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) called Gagan has faced vociferous opposition from airlines for the past two years. Estimates place costs at about $200,000 for equipment and training per aircraft and an additional cost of keeping aircraft on the ground for 10 to 14 days for retrofits. Airlines that have seen a deteriorating financial position include Jet Airways, which has delayed salaries and defaulted on payment of interest and principal installment owed to some banks by December 31, 2018, due to “a temporary cash flow mismatch,” it said.
The International Air Transport Association has indicated that individual airlines should have the freedom to assess whether or not to invest in SBAS based on their operational needs. An IATA spokesperson told AIN that states that decide to implement SBAS should not make it mandatory, and airlines should not suffer the penalty of unjustified restrictions to their operations due to the lack of SBAS equipment. "Costs related to SBAS should not be imposed directly or indirectly on airspace users who are not using this technology,” he said.
Still, as airlines struggle with cost overruns and continue to question Gagan’s benefits, IndiGo plans to equip all of its more than 200 aircraft by 2020, an airline spokesperson told AIN.
Gagan will prove effective at small airports whose instrument landing systems cover only one end of the runway and when ground-based operations feel the effects of natural calamities including floods. “Airlines need to be given a higher subsidy than the 5 percent on route charges offered to use Gagan,” he added.
Meanwhile, the industry awaits full preparedness for Gagan by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The authority has yet to design procedures for maintenance and flight paths on the simulator; flight trials would likely to take another eight months. Meanwhile, a lack of experts stands to delay verification, resulting in a likely further extension of the 2020 deadline.
Domestic carriers will continue to depend on low fuel prices to improve profitability for years, an analyst told AIN on condition of anonymity. “The Indian market is not yet mature,” he said. “Fuel will remain an important factor for a long while until airlines bring sanity into their fare pricing.” 

Boeing Gung-ho about India Market Growth

 by Neelam Mathews
Dec 20, 2018

Boeing upholds its buoyant outlook of the Indian market and raised its long-term forecast for new aircraft demand for the fifth consecutive year, projecting the country’s airlines will need 2,300 new jets by 2037. This is 9.5 percent more than its previous prediction for a supply of 2,100 new aircraft by 2036 made last year and compares with a forecast for some 1,600 new jets predicted back in 2014. If the revised outlook materializes, Indian airlines would almost quadruple their fleet over the next two decades. The Indian commercial fleet stood at 620 aircraft at the end of July, according to data of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
“Unprecedented” domestic passenger traffic and rapidly expanding low-cost carriers (LCCs), which account for 64 percent of the total seat capacity in India, fuel the need for new aircraft, Boeing said. India’s domestic passenger traffic has recorded a consistent double-digit growth for the past 50 months.
“To meet this increased domestic air traffic growth, we see the vast majority of available airplane seats coming from LCCs. The success of this market segment would mean more than 80 percent of all new airplane deliveries in the country would be single-aisles,” Dinesh Keskar, senior vice president (Asia-Pacific and India sales) Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in New Delhi, while presenting the India Commercial Market Outlook for 2018-2037.
Low yields due to cut-throat competitive fares being offered in the market are a concern and need to become sustainable, he emphasized. “Fares in India are amazingly low despite the high [taxed] aviation fuel prices. India will be hurt more and more, and it is important that discipline comes to fares,” Keskar said. “However, it is like a chess game. Whoever takes the risk of increasing the fare even by $5 stands to lose business to his competitor. That is the reason everybody is afraid to play. The Indian market is very elastic and price-conscious.”
Although India has experienced huge domestic traffic growth, the widebody share of domestic available seat-kilometers (ASK) has remained restrained—2.6 percent in 2017—as airlines have been able to increase frequencies and single-aisle gauge. Keskar told AIN budget carriers would find it difficult to enter the widebody market and compete with their full-service counterparts, given their experience and cost efficiencies with wide-bodied aircraft, which “are complex.” But, he added, “India has a large market and it could happen.” Boeing projects a demand for 350 new widebodies in India over the next two decades.
Led by budget carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet, growth in India is outpacing global averages. The number of flights to/from/within India grew 14.4 percent in the past 12 months compared to 4.9 percent globally. ASKs globally grew 7 percent and 15.9 percent in India. India was close to reaching 12 million air passengers per month, which Keskar said “was absolutely astounding.”
Keskar said if there was just over 1 percent shift of passengers from railways to airplanes, "it would double the aviation market.” The Indian railways carry 23 million long-haul passengers daily. Economic growth will further propel air passenger traffic. “The Indian economy is projected to grow by nearly 350 percent over the next two decades to become the third largest economy in the world,” said Keskar. "This will continue to drive the growth of India's middle class and its propensity to travel both domestically and internationally. Indian airports handled some 180 million passengers in 2017 and this is expected to double in the next five years."

Air Astana To Extend Regional Footprint

Neelam Mathews
Dec 17, 2018
Air Astana's first Embraer E190-E2 features a special snow leopard livery. (Photo: Air Astana)
As Kazakhstan’s national carrier Air Astana awaits delivery of its delayed A321LRs to replace its to-be-retired Boeing 757-200s, having become the second operator after Norway’s Wideroe to take delivery of the first of its five Embraer E-190 E2s, it is moving on its sizeable plans corporate business,” he said.
The first E2 will enter commercial service from Astana to Almaty on Wednesday and four more examples are set to join its fleet next year. The E2s are part of the airline’s short-/medium-haul fleet renewal and growth to support expansion from its Astana and Almaty hubs into Central Asia, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and China. All five E2s are leased from AerCap and will replace older first generation E190s in the fleet.  
With the leases of its nine E190s expiring by 2021, “we are keen to get into the E2 program,” said Air Astana president and CEO Peter Foster, indicating the airline would look at an additional four E2s on top of the five ordered.
“Given the [E-190-E2’s] extra [range envelope [of 1,000 km] over the E-190s, we might do quite a lot with it…It will be significantly possible to open routes to points that are far more distant than we would have imagined. Now with a five-and-a-half-hour option, we can fly to small points in China and Eastern Europe if we wanted to,” noted Foster.
Kazakhstan’s strategic location between Russia and China puts it in a position to tap regional routes particularly being a major partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—it includes aviation—that looks to enhance connectivity between Asia, Africa, and Europe. China’s new action plan for aviation, released last week by Civil Aviation Administration of China, that targets a near doubling of the country's airports to 450 by 2035 may further fuel Air Astana’s ambition to fly to China.
“China remains a significant opportunity for Kazakhstan and Air Astana,” Richard Ledger, vice president, sales and marketing, told AIN. In addition, the international Financial Center launched this year in Astana to make Kazakhstan a financial hub in the region will “position Air Astana to take advantage of corporate business,” he said.
“An opportunity for discretional travel for Chinese citizens also exists,” Ledger pointed out. An initiative for transiting Chinese and Indians flying with Air Astana to a third country to enjoy a 72-hour transit visa-free regime that was to expire this year has been extended for subsequent years, he said. Air Astana’s Stopover packages start from $1 a night.
In addition to the E2, Air Astana received two new Airbus A321neo and one A320neo this year as part of an order for six A320neos, seven A321neos, and four A321LRs. Four A320s from its current 34-aircraft fleet will transfer to its recently formed budget carrier FlyArystan. A request for proposal is out to both Airbus and Boeing as part of the LCC’s foreseen expansion, Foster said. “We think it is right to evaluate both OEMs at the…inception of the carrier…The [decision] will conclude in the first quarter of 2019.” FlyArystan is scheduled to commence domestic operations mid-2019 and fly to international regional routes in its second year.

Indian Navy Embarks on Quest for Fighters for Indigenous Carrier

 - December 12, 2018, 11:32 AM

Two LCA Navy technology demonstrators have been built, the first of which is seen during ski-jump launch trials in 2016. The test facility at Goa is equipped with undercarriage restraints that allow the aircraft to apply full power before being released. (photo: Aeronautical Development Agency)

As India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier (INS Vikrant, IAC-1) reaches its third and final phase of construction at the Kochi Shipyard in South India, with sea trials to start in mid-2020, Chief of Naval Staff Sunil Lanba confirmed to AIN that the design for the follow-on IAC-2 has been frozen. India currently has one aircraft carrier, the refurbished 44,000-tonne Soviet-era Kiev-class carrier INS Vikramaditya, which is equipped with RAC MiG MiG-29K fighters.
IAC-2 will take at least a decade to construct and will be a 65,000-tonne conventionally powered vessel in CATOBAR (catapult-assisted takeoff but arrested recovery) configuration. “This will give the navy an operational capability of two battle groups at a time. We have decided on the form and fit and costing details of IAC-2,” said Lanba.
The construction of the IAC-2 will take between seven and 10 years. “We see it starting within a three-year period,” noted Lanba, adding, “We are also hopeful for a new fighter produced in India [for the IAC-2]. This will move progressively from the LCA Navy to a twin-engine deck-based fighter.” He confirmed that this project is unrelated to the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) program.
Having earlier rejected the original LCA Navy version, the Navy is supporting the government’s naval Light Combat Aircraft Mk2 (LCA) program, for which two technology demonstrators have been produced. Based on the Indian air force LCA, the naval version of LCA Mk2 will require a higher thrust engine, an increased wing area, lighter landing gear and structure, and a tailhook. However, a Request for Proposal for 57 twin-engine naval fighters is to be issued by next year in which both the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale M could be considered. “The size of the carrier deck lift will be decided later on,” said Lanba.
Meanwhile, Lanba told AIN that India’s ministry of defense is working on how payments could be made to Russia on current, ongoing, and future contracts. This follows U.S. sanctions on Russian companies under CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act), which seeks to preclude countries from buying Russian weapons. This has led to apprehension within the military concerning the serviceability of Russian equipment and the supply of spares. Lanba commented, “There is no issue on supplies of spare parts from Russia at the moment…the MiG-29K fleet has been performing well now.”