Friday, July 21, 2017

Air India seeks to inject life into organization with mobile, social strategy

Neelam Mathews

NEW DELHI: National carrier Air India is pursuing a mobile, social strategy aimed at strengthening its interface with passengers.The airline, which has been battling negative perceptions for quite some time, last year introduced a mobile app that enables passengers to manage every step of their journey on their smart phone or tablet. Delivered by SITA, the so-called iTravel app serves as an appendage to Air India’s GDS-neutral next generation passenger service system, the SITA Horizon Passenger Management and Distribution solution. When Air India joined the Star Alliance in 2014, Horizon made the airline technically compliant with alliance requirements for reservations, departure control services, ticketing, e-commerce, loyalty, fares, and revenue integrity.“This new app is an extension of that relationship…opening up new opportunities in the fast-changing market here in India,” explained Maneesh Jaikrishna, VP for India a...Read on

Friday, July 14, 2017

Several IndiGo A320neos Sitting Idle Due to GTF Glitches

 - July 13, 2017, 1:26 PM

Premature wear of carbon air-seals and combustor liners have plagued IndiGo's A320neos. (Photo: Airbus)

Indian low-fare carrier IndiGo, one of Airbus’s biggest A320 family customers and the first A320neo operator in India and Asia, now has at least seven neos sitting idle following technical hitches with the airplanes’ Pratt & Whitney PW1100 geared turbofan engines. Since IndiGo’s contract includes replacement of the full engine, slow deliveries from Pratt &Whitney continue to hamper its efforts to place the airplanes into service while the engine maker concentrates on deliveries for newly parked neos in queue for the powerplants at Airbus’s plant in Toulouse.
IndiGo’s present fleet of 137 Airbus A320 family includes 22 neos. To date, the airline has ordered 530 aircraft, including 430 A320neos. Deliveries have stalled from the original plan of four neos a month to three neos in three months.
Last week two more aircraft joined the list of AOGs (aircraft on ground), even while Pratt delivered two engines for IndiGo neos. While the cost conscious carrier has had to cancel flights due the problem, its financial strength and influence should help its negotiating position with the OEMs, minimizing its losses.
Meanwhile, Pratt & Whitney insists it has made progress in resolving the engine problems, and that it continues to “actively work” and support its customers’ daily operations in India. “Pratt & Whitney’s on-wing carbon air-seal improvement package received certification in April and has been deployed to our customers,” it said in a statement. “These changes are designed to improve the carbon seal’s durability for PW1100G-JM engines on the A320neo fleet.” 
A main gearbox failure also required premature removals, according to a February report from India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation. It added that about 25 percent of the degradation of the engines’ combustor liners resulted from operation in coastal environments.
Last year, when IndiGo took its first neo delivery, the airline’s president, Aditya Ghosh, expressed enthusiasm about the engines’ promise of fuel burn savings. “The fuel efficient aircraft will be part of a new phase of our growth and will enable us to offer more regional and international destinations at the best price,” he said in an Airbus statement.
In fact, one engineer told AIN that Indian carriers GoAir and IndiGo had expected higher fuel burn than they generated in actual practice. “This depends on the geographical area the plane is flying in,” he said. “For instance flights in Europe get higher burn than flights in Asia.”

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Indian Military Gets Connected Aircraft Demo from Honeywell

 - July 10, 2017, 3:50 AM

Honeywell 757
Honeywell’s “Connected Aircraft” demonstrator reached India last week, after appearing at the Paris Air Show and heading east via Copenhagen, Moscow and Dubai. And while most of the company’s briefings in and around the Boeing 757 testbed have stressed the advantages to be gained from real-time connectivity by commercial operators, and their passengers, the technology has clear military applications. Honeywell invited a large number of senior officials from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy (IN) on a flight from Delhi on July 4.
We have had a good response from our aviation customers and we are in talks with Indian carriers for deployment of connected technologies,” said Neelu Khatri, president, aerospace, Honeywell India. However, she refused to comment on the military aspect of the product.
But the IAF and IN are experiencing high AOG rates with their mixed fleets of Western and Russian aircraft, and both are interested in predictive maintenance techniques as pushed by Honeywell in these demonstrations. 
Predictive maintenance is of utmost importance today,” a senior IN maintenance engineer told AIN. “Along with it goes the need for inventory management. One should be able to anticipate when a part needs to be replaced. This greatly improves serviceability and cost effectiveness,” he added. The engineer also noted that most of the Russian legacy platforms in the Indian inventory are no longer supported by their OEMs. He did not see a problem in adding the necessary sensors for predictive maintenance to those platforms.
Honeywell was displaying the fact that before the aircraft lands, engineers can identify components that will require maintenance or replacement—and ensure spare parts are available and ready for installation when it touches down. The company says that it “is improving predictive analysis by wirelessly connecting more mechanical systems. For example, capturing and analyzing aircraft data on usage and wear will enable the connected auxiliary power units, environmental control systems, and wheels and brakes to be inspected more efficiently, undergo more rapid and streamlined maintenance processes, and realize lower costs.”
Other companies such as Swedish-based IFS Applications are offering military logistics solutions that enable an integrated approach to strategic planning of support, including acquisition, fleet and asset management, MRO, storage, distribution and disposal. “This is being seen increasingly as an imperative by militaries,” a senior IFS official told AIN.

Other technologies showcased by Honeywell on the 757 demonstration flights included a weather radar with real-time data, high-speed Ka-band Wi-Fi, and a flight preview product for accurate awareness of the runway and its surroundings.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Serbian government extends deadline for Belgrade bids

05 July 2017

International consortia are pursuing a 25-year operating concession for Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport. Source: ANT
The deadline for submitting binding bids for Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport has been pushed back to 4 September 2017, Serbian transport Minister Zorana Mihajlovic said on 22 June.
The contract is expected to be signed by the end of 2017 "depending on the binding bids", Mihajlovic told Serbian state news agency Tanjug.
The government - which owns 83% of Nikola Tesla - and operator Aerodrom Nikola Tesla (ANT) aim to award a 25-year concession for financing, upgrading, expanding, and managing the airport, which is a hub for flag carrier Air Serbia.
"If there is intent and people are serious, the decision can be made as announced," a representative from one bidder told Jane's .
An initial 27 bids were received, narrowed down in Phase 2 to the following consortia: Meridian East Europe Investments (Cayman Islands), Zurich Airport (Switzerland), and French civil engineering firm Eiffage; GMR Infrastructure (India) with GEK Terna (Greece); Incheon International Airport (South Korea), IC Ictas Altypi Yitimlari (Turkey), and VTB Capital Infrastructure (Cyprus); and a Chinese consortium comprising Hainan Travel Service, HNA Airport Group, and China National Aero Technology Engineering Corp. A solo bid from Vinci Airports was also shortlisted.
Qualified bidders had to prove available equity of more than EUR500 million (USD568 million). Another stipulation is to have operated an international airport with more than five million passengers per year for at least two years over the past decade.
The Serbian government expects a higher price than previously expected for the concession. Mihajlovic said, "It was completely realistic for offers from concessionaires to reach EUR350 million and not EUR50 million as earlier estimated."
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IndiGo’s Play for Air India Draws Mixed Reactions

 - July 6, 2017, 10:54 AM
IndiGo has become India's dominant domestic airline. Credit pix Neelam Mathews

The Indian ministry of civil aviation’s decision to divest Air India and its subsidiaries late last month found a suitor in the country’s largest and most successful budget carrier, IndiGo, within hours of the announcement. However, the news met with mixed reactions from industry, ranging from doubts about IndiGo’s real intent to optimism that a takeover could finally give India a strong and vibrant international flag carrier. 
Our interest in Air India is primarily in its international operations,” wrote Indigo president and director Aditya Ghosh in a letter to his employees.
Once non-aircraft debts are taken off, Air India will be a valuable asset since it will get slots and access to bilaterals,” noted the Center for Asia-Pacific Aviation’s India director Kapil Kaul. However, he acknowledged he was surprised by “this kind of unsolicited interest by a listed company.”
An airline official said under the condition of anonymity that the courtship could amount to a tactic to ensure the government invites IndiGo to bid.
Notwithstanding his belief that IndiGo would ensure the conditions for sale would align with its interests, “there is a significant risk,” he said. “It will be a strategic mistake if IndiGo goes for it.”
Meanwhile, many question the very basis of IndiGo’s expression of interest, viewing it as a way to hasten the process of divestment. “It will be in IndiGo’s interest for Air India to be sold as it is presently since it keeps getting funding, bilaterals and has major international slots,” argued Vishok Mansingh, CEO of Mumbai-based consultancy CAV Aero Services. “Whoever buys Air India will likely not be a single bidder and have a higher cost base. If the airline is not run well it goes back to the open market. IndiGo, as an established airline, will meanwhile continue its growth.”
Jitender Bhargava, former executive director of Air India and author of Descent of Air India does not agree. “Have you ever known IndiGo to go back on its word?” he asked. “It has always done what it has promised.”
Long-haul flying rights could open once Air India becomes privatized because the flag carrier maintains rights to more than 350 code shares, asserted Mansingh. However, one airline official strongly refuted that notion, stressing to AIN the importance of code shares and bilaterals. “[The new airline] will not let go of its primary source of revenue,” he said. “It is one of the reasons why Air India is being bought.”
IndiGo, which holds orders for approximately 450 aircraft, could look at Airbus A350s or A330neos, said Mansingh. “Since they go for bulk purchases, they could order forty to fifty,” he said. He also emphasized that IndiGo will ensure no interference with its domestic services and start another company for international operations.
Good timing and the right intentions should not spark an urgency to sell to the highest bidder, cautioned Frost and Sullivan’s aerospace and defense practice director Diogenis Papiomytis. “It is the Indian government’s responsibility to ensure the long-term viability of a privatized entity and therefore examine carefully the business plans of interested investors,” he said. Papiomytis added the privatization process involving state-owned enterprises never proves easy, particularly in the aviation industry, where an abundance of failed attempts should cause pause. He cited instances of Malev Hungarian Airlines, which ultimately liquidated; Malaysia Airlines, which after partially going private returned government ownership; and Alitalia, which recently entered bankruptcy proceedings.
Nevertheless, Bhargava said professional management could successfully harness the strengths of Air India—including its assets—and capture its international market. “It obviously wants to come into league with the likes of Lufthansa, British Airways, and Star Alliance,” he said of IndiGo’s intentions.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

U.S. Offers GA-ASI Sea Guardian UAS to India


Essential news and analysis on the defense aerospace business. Your trusted source for new and ongoing programs and requirements in military aircraft (manned and unmanned), engines, avionics, weapons and associated systems, including ground-based air defense.
Predator B UAS in flight
GA-ASI finally has a customer for its long-proposed maritime surveillance version of the Predator B UAS.

June 29, 2017
Neelam Mathews and Chris Pocock
The U.S. has offered to sell the GA-ASI Sea Guardian unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to India, as part of a planned boost in defense cooperation between the two countries. A meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington on June 26, discussed what would be India’s first procurement of a high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAS. After the meeting, the White House stated that “the U.S. and India look forward to working together on advanced defense equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States.” 
The Indian Navy has been seeking a long-endurance HALE UAS for maritime surveillance for some years. The Sea Guardian is a version of the MQ-9B Sky Guardian—also known as the Certifiable Predator B—that GA-ASI offers with a multimode maritime surface search radar and the Automatic Identification System (AIS—the maritime equivalent of IFF). Vivek Lall, GA-ASI’s chief executive officer for international strategic development, told AIN: “The U.S.offer demonstrates a major change in policy because this type of capability is only exported to a select few of America's closest defense partners.”
The Indian Navy wants to acquire 22 shore-based HALE UAS. But since it plans to become a “Blue Water” navy that will protect trade routes and conduct anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, the requirement could increase to 45 to 50 systems. Delivery is expected within three years.
Nine years ago, the U.S. Navy chose Northrop Grumman’s Titan HALE UAS for maritime surveillance, in preference to a version of the Predator B that GA-ASIoffered in partnership with Lockheed Martin. The U.S. Navy has since been developing cooperative concepts of operations (CONOPS) between the Triton and its Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). India has also acquired the P-8, and the Sea Guardian UAS will be similarly complementary to that fleet, an Indian naval official told AIN
Meanwhile, with India having joined the Missile Technology Export Control Regime (MCTR) last year, the U.S. government is considering a request by the Indian Air Force for GA-ASI’s jet-powered Avenger UAS, an official told AIN. “Perhaps the U.S. is hesitant since they fall into Category 1 which the U.S. has released to only a few NATO allies,” the official said. The MTCR tightly controls Category 1 systems because of their ability to deliver nuclear weapons.
The White House statement also referred to the already agreed supply of C-17 airlifters and AH-64 attack helicopters to India, and the possible future supply of F-16 or F/A-18 fighters. The possible sale of an additional C-17 to India has just been notified to the U.S Congress. The sale is worth no less than $366 million for the single aircraft plus support package. Discussions continue over possible Indian participation in the U.S. Future Vertical Lift development program.

One unresolved issue between the two countries since 2005 is the signing of the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA). This outlines strict safeguards for radio equipment, plus inspections by the U.S. on India’s military bases. Citing “issues related to sovereignty,” India has refused to sign it. “CISMOA is an enabler for joint operations with the U.S.However, for operations driven for India’s needs there is no practical requirement for CISMOA,” said Rahul Gangal, a  partner at defense consultancy Roland Berger.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Singapore works on UTM

Neelam Mathews

June 27 2017

Escalating demand in Singapore for cheap, high-tech commercial 

drones has prompted authorities in the city-state to develop 
an unmanned aerial system (UAS) traffic management (UTM) 
A joint research centre called the Air Traffic Management 
Research Institute (ATMRI), led by Nanyang Technological 
University (NTU) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore
(CAAS), is working on a four-year project called Traffic Management 
of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TM-UAS).
The project is scheduled to complete in JAR