The MAX fix

When in a fix, fix it. In Boeings annus horribilis (unfortunately not just one) one major problem is about to be solved. The MCAS software, which caused the mayhem, is fixed, and the plane is again flying. For those who wish to channel their fear-of-flying to one specific aircraft, to make all other aircraft seem safer, this information is of no value. For those who wish to feel good about the most scrutinized plane in history, this is in short what has been done to the software that was so utterly half-assed.

Flight control system will now compare inputs from both AOA sensors. If the sensors disagree by 5.5 degrees or more with the flaps retracted, MCAS will not activate. An indicator on the flight deck display will alert the pilots.

If MCAS is activated in non-normal conditions, it will only provide one input for each elevated AOA event. There are no known or envisioned failure conditions where MCAS will provide multiple inputs.

MCAS can never command more stabilizer input than can be counteracted by the flight crew pulling back on the column. The pilots will continue to always have the ability to override MCAS and manually control the airplane.

On top of this there is now simulator training, which previously bean counters thought to be too expensive.

On top of that, FAA has been shaken in line with penalties and lay-offs, Boeing likewise, and the industry is better off, realizing again, under the axe, that the cheapest route is never safe. But, as always, not without some blood money spent.

A fan blade is all it takes

The fact that the host aircraft was a Boeing 777, may cause ignorant observers to believe that Boeing again has a safety issue. The engine blow-up for Uniteds flight from Denver To Honolulu has been presented in vivid visual on social media. Informed observers realize that American engine manufacturer Pratt&Whitney has a trademark stain. Then again, when a fan-blade fails it has other implications. The focus of this blog has for some time centered on the relationship between money and flight safety. The grounding of some hundred aircraft equipped with similar P&W engines tells a story; inspections required. If you inspect fan-blades every day they won’t cause trouble, if you never inspect them they will. Good judgement decides with what interval they should be inspected, and if that good judgement is clouded by economic concerns, things might go (will go) wrong. But again, the industry has become safer, by a mishap now addressed.

Bloomberg has observed a bulletin issued by Boeing to its customers, related to the latest accident involving a B737. Again, ignorant observers, eager to blame Boeing for anything these days, may be derailed. The bulletin states what is valid for anyone flying anything from a Cessna to an An-225. It reads like this: ”Continual crew awareness of airplane attitude, airspeed, flight control position and thrust settings is fundamental for airplane upset prevention and can reduce the effect of startle or surprise caused by rapid unexpected changes.” Anyone producing an airplane should include this in the first pages of their instruction manual.

An issue affecting B787 concerns the cargo compartments, where panels have become damaged or dislodged. The safety issue here is that in case of a cargo fire, the extinguishing agent may be less concentrated through leakage. Now being controlled and rectified. Nothing sensational.

Breaking news: Another similar case with an uncontained engine failure just happened, this time in the Netherlands. A 747F strew souvenirs over a village near Maastricht/Aachen airport after take-off. May-day, fuel-dump and landing in Liège, Belgium (longer runway). Pratt & Whitney again. Time to step up inspections.

Deadly plunge (cont’d)

The accident mentioned in latest article, the Sriwijaya Air plane that crashed last month killing 62 people, has been explained in a preliminary report. To any regular airline pilot the explanation should be confusing. The auto-throttle systen has allegedly reduced power on the left engine while keeping normal thrust on the right. After climbing another some 3000 ft (from 8.150 to 10.900) with the autopilot engaged, it disengaged. It had obviously co-operated long enough, trimming away the unbalance until it could take no more. When disengaging, it caused – not surprisingly – a bank to the left; ”the plane rolled to the left more than 45 degrees and started its dive.”

Unless there is more to report, the available info is nothing but sensational. Asymmetric thrust (read engine failure) is by far the most common practice in simulators around the world in normal pilot training. There simply has to be more to this story, which makes it prudent to refrain from any judgement on the airline and its pilots at this stage.

Not really related, but in a way similar, and where the pilots did nothing wrong except falling asleep, an incident from long ago is worth mentioning. A 747 was plowing along in the night over the USA at 35.000 ft, when one engine stopped for an unknown reason, possibly fuel starvation since everybody was asleep. The autopilot did what it could to keep things straight and level for as long as it could. All available trim adjustments made and with the speed dropping, it finally gave up fighting, flipping the aircraft on its back and sending it into a vertical dive. With a 5G pull-up the crew (they were now awake) managed to stop the descent as 7.000 ft, loosing some airfoil surfaces, especially in the tail section, with all main gears torn from their up-latches crashing out through the landing gear doors, but remaining attached to the aircraft, and limped, badly bruised, into LAX, realizing again that the 747 was the sturdiest aircraft ever built.

Some more Boeing-lover news; Boeing delivered 26 aircraft in January, boosted by the clearing of the 737 MAX jet to fly again after a 20-month ban as it also won four new orders for its 747-8 freighters. The 747 is obviously still hanging in there.

Deadly plunge

The headline does not apply to the airline industry economy in general, flight safety in general, Boeings reputation in general, but to the unfortunate flight that went down two days ago in Indonesia. That it was a Boeing 737 aircraft has nothing to do with the MAX-debacle that has badly bruised Boeing. Boeing has built in excess of 10.000 737 in different versions, so there is a good chance it is a Boeing anytime something happens. That it happened to a low-cost airline has necessarily nothing to do with the accident either, even though the airline has a tarnished safety record, with 4 previous fuselage write-offs since 2008, due to botched landings and runway overruns. They had up to now caused no fatalities, except for a farmer they hit at one of the overruns. When facts are available, there will most likely be need for further discussions.

In that discussion there will probably also be need for a repetition of the fact that safety cost money, and that people still are allowed to fly too cheap. Repetitions are boring, but safety issues not addressed by those responsible (red authorities – and managements to some degree, though only trying to survive fierce competition) needs be repeated. The post-pandemic re-start will pose some safety issues with maintenance concerns and rusty pilots. Qantas has allegedly planned for a full week of pilot training, before lade-off pilots are back on board. That this will be an industry-wide standard in cost-cutting times is a wet dream at best. (Check end of this article for 20 safest airlines).

Boeing has got one fat bill out of many. 2,5 Billion USD. (In metric countries 1000 millions are called something else.) That shall cover fines for misleading FAA and airlines in various ways, big or small, and settlements also with bereaved families. That is but a fraction of what the total cost will be when the bottom line is drawn, if it ever will be, including lost sales, returns, re-organization and a trade mark damage of historic proportions. It’s hard to wrap your head around a figure like 2,5 Billion USD. Most people can relate to 1 million USD. Like approx. 10 Ferraris. A Billion is something different. If one million corresponds to JFK runway 31L, a billion is like the distance between New York and Las Vegas. 2,5 billion will take you to Honolulu. (The bottom line will take you several orbits around the globe.)

Some up-lifting news for Boeing lovers: un-grounding is progressing as planned, some areas already ok, led by USA where AA made a Miami-New York round trip two days before the end of last year. Other areas are expected to follow shortly, where Europe and most Far East countries has decided to have their own evaluation, not trusting FAA for good reason, even though FAA has re-shuffled its ideas of supervisions. Another up-lifting piece of news for the hard pressed Boeing management, including a show of good faith, is that Alaska Airlines are getting rid of Airbus aircraft, going for an all-Boeing fleet, and ordering some 50 new Boeing MAX in the process.

A plunge for another – for generations outstanding – reputation is possibly in the pipeline for SAS, first kneeling for low-cost competition and now for pandemic consequences, firing a lot of their own pilots and cabin crew, starting a low-cost competition i.e. with itself, from a tax-haven, i.e. Ireland. Safety depends on pilots, and on cabin crew when pilots or other factors cause an emergency. Pilots are as safe as they are trained and scheduled, as long as they are suitable for the job in the first place. The fired pilots were on record for decades, well known by their chief pilots, including simulator training results, and they had a pilots union, making sure safety was not infringed upon. The CEO Rickard Gustafson has resigned his position. Shares will tell a story.

The top twenty safest airlines as promised, by a rating including incident and accident statistics and among other things fleet age: 1. Qantas 2. Qatar Airways 3. Air New Zealand 4. Singapore Airlines 5. Emirates 6. EVA Air 7. Etihad Airways 8. Alaska Airlines 9. Cathay Pacific Airways 10. British Airways 11. Virgin Australia/Virgin Atlantic 12. Hawaiian Airlines 13. Southwest Airlines 14. Delta Air Lines 15. American Airlines 16. SAS 17. Finnair 18. Lufthansa 19. KLM 20. United Airlines. Two low-cost out of twenty.

Mach 2

The quest for supersonic travel is – as mentioned in a previous article – after a dormant period revitalized substantially. Several companies are struggling with aircraft design in various sizes and shapes. It’s been 17 years since the last flight of the Concorde and now one prototype is scheduled for its first flight before the end of next year. Most manufacturers are so far aiming for the business jet segment with less than 20 passengers but one company stands out. With the suitable company name Boom Overture, the development of a 55 seat premium aircraft is leading the race for speed. All available modern efficiency parameters are involved in the design, including engines with no need for afterburners. It will be slightly faster (M 2,2) than the Concorde with a slightly longer range while being able to offer ticket prices at a quarter of that for Concorde – or rather similar to a normal business class ticket. Extensive test flights are planned for two years and hopes are high that it will be in commercial use by the end of next decade. Orders are already being placed by airlines including Virgin Atlantic and Japan Airlines.

Others are following. Worth mentioning is the plans by Virgin Galctic for the Virgin Galactic Mach 3, initially planned for 19 passengers, but with the ambition to up-size to a bigger version more suitable for airlines, where the speed would be the competitive edge. Spike is another company focusing on long range (11.500 km) and efficiency with a reduced sonic boom, and with a windowless cabin with external images projected inside. The number of passengers not certain.

Most spectacular is a Mach 5 project by Lockeed Martin together with NASA, initially not planned for, but at a later stage developed for passenger use, if all goes well. Now we are talking hypersonic.

So if you ”feel the need for speed”, the future looks bright, or at least better than before. That goes for just about everything these days, and anyone reading this; have a Happy New Year.

Here we go again

The first 737 MAX to take to the sky with passengers will today (Wednesday December 9:th) be flown by GOL, Brazils largest domestic airline (127 jets whereof 7 are MAX). It is a cautious move, they so far have not stated which route and passengers are allowed to switch to other equipment, should they want to.
American is planning a flight before years end New York- Miami.

On the east side of the Atlantic the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) expects to clear the MAX in Januari 2021. It will be a lengthy process with a long follow-up of the aircrafts performance once cleared.
What they will look for before ungrounding is listed below.

Software updates for the flight control computer, including the MCAS
Software updates to display an alert in case of disagreement between the two AoA sensors
Physical separation of wires routed from the cockpit to the stabiliser trim motor
Updates to flight manuals: operational limitations and improved procedures to equip pilots to understand and manage all relevant failure scenarios
Mandatory training for all 737 MAX pilots before they fly the plane again, and updates of the initial and recurrent training of pilots on the MAX
Tests of systems including the AoA sensor system
An operational readiness flight, without passengers, before commercial usage of each aircraft to ensure that all design changes have been correctly implemented and the aircraft successfully and safely brought out of its long period of storage.

So, after almost two years, there is hope for the future, but the costliest ever, in history worldwide, company bad luck – read mismanagement – has all but ruined the company economically, surviving on military contracts and some sales of 767, 777 and freighter versions of 747-8. In excess of 60 billion USD, it has surpassed the previous number one, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig owned by BP. The difference is that BP survived without loosing a lot of public trust. Boeing has a longer road ahed. So does FAA for their role in what is an unprecedented aviation industry management catastrophe.

737

FAA boss Steve Dickson signed an order today (19/11) that paves the way for the 737MAX to return to commercial service. Don’t expect to see it in the air in another month or two. There are extensive programs to bring aircraft out of long-term storage, pilots have to be trained and there are still some changes to be made. Further more, flight safety agencies outside the USA, have expressed well motivated mistrust with the FAA by stating that they will make their own evaluation.

No easy ride ahead. Airlines are re-naming the aircraft B737-8 or -9, and at the same time stating that passengers reluctant to fly the plane don’t have to.

Sad story all together. Money talks – and saving money by corner-cutting talks even louder. The aftermath of the Boeing decision to leave the previous company policy of safety, no matter how costly, – and FAA willing to play along (or kept in the dark) – will have courts busy for years.

On a positive note, things blow over. Over time, most of this will hopefully be forgotten, provided the aircraft performs as expected. It is after all the most checked and rechecked plane around. And Boeing can count on the fact that most passengers don’t know much about anything when it comes to what airline or aircraft they fly with. Some state they flew with Thomas Cook or something. And some don’t care, like the 39 year old Florida engineer; ”Flying is a commodity. I’ll fly on whatever the cheapest ticket gets me.”

To say – let’s hope he doesn’t live to regret that – comes out incongruous here.

Corona flight safety + B737

A new aspect of flight safety differs from what is normally the focus of this blog, but why not, there is not much else to address concerning an industry almost at a stand still. (When a US carrier looses 1 billion USD/month catastrophy is an understatement.) During the last couple of months people have experienced the regular birdstrikes, turbulence, engine failures and smoke in cabin/cockpit and runway excursions. Simply because there are birds around, turbulence here and there, engines needs maintenance and runways are too short in many places.

So whats new? Safe Travel Barometers has checked the risk of being infected onboard during the Corona pandemi and produced a flight safety rating based on ventilation, face masks, disinfection frequency and 23 other such parameters. And now we have a Covid-19 Airline Rating. They even have scores. Highest is 5.0 and lowest 0.1. None of 230 airlines evaluated reached top score (whatever that means) and none scored bottom. Emirates made first place, not all that surprisingly.

PERFECT: The Safest Airlines in the world with a score of 4.0 and above
Emirates : 4.4Etihad Airways: 4.3Qatar Airways: 4.2Singapore Airlines: 4.1Iberia: 4.1Vistara 4.1Air France: 4.1Air China 4.1Lufthansa 4.1Oman Air 4.1Delta Airlines: 4.1Virgin Atlantic 4.0Korean Air 4.0Southwest Airlines: 4.0Cathay Pacific: 4.0IndiGo: 4.0EVA Air: 4.0Asiana Airlines: 4.0Qantas Airways: 4.0Garuda Indonesia: 4.0

Above average and acceptable: 3.5 – 3.9
THai Viet Jet Air: 3.5Batik Air: 3.5Jet Smart 3.5Jazeera AirwaysMalindo Air 3.5Air Mauritius: 3.5Ryanair: 3.5Canary Fly 3.5Amaszonas 3.5Lanmei Airlines: 3.5Hainan Airlines: 3.5Finnair 3.5JetSmart 3.5Air Austral 3.5Air Tahiti 3.5SAS Scandinavian Airlines 3.5Czech Airlines : 3.5Blue Air 3.6Air Astana 3.6Anadolu Jet 3.6Air Greenland 3.6West Jet 3.6Flynas 3.6Ukraine International Airlines 3.6Citilink 3.6Blue Air 3.6Air Seychelles 3.6Air Belgium 3.6Air Greenland 3.6Japan Airlines 3.6Binter Canarias 3.6Aer Lingus 3.6Scoot 3.7Air New Zealand: 3.7Swiss Airlines: 3.7Shandong Airlines: 3.7Air Transat: 3.8Corsair: 3.7Malaysia Airlines 3.7French Bee: 3.7Air Tahiti Nui: 3.7Transavia France 3.7Jetstar Asia 3.8Air Asia 3.8Spice Jet 3.8Africa World Airlines: 3.8Copa Airlines: 3.8Indonesia Air Asia: 3.8Air North 3.8Allegiant Air 3.8Lufthansa City Line 3.8All Nippon Airways 3.8Africa World Airlines 3.8American Airlines 3.8Copa Airlines 3.8Royal Jordanian 3.8Vietnam AirlinesKLM 3.8Philippine Airlines 3.9Thai Airways 3.9Saudia 3.9Air India 3.9Eurowings 3.9Alaska Airlines 3.9Vueling 3.9Fly Dubai 3.9Ethiopian Airlines 3.9Cebu Pacific 3.9China Eastern Airlines 3.9United Airlines 3.9

There’s no need to elaborate further since passengers normally don’t think twice about what airline they fly with, as long as they don’t have to pay what it cost (to fly safe).

To something more interesting, especially for Boeing lovers. (There are some hardcore fans still around. American Airlines for one, who has chosen Boeing over Airbus for its wide-body operations.) The recent black sheep of the family is getting a new chance in a few days if everything goes according to plan. B737 MAX will fly again. It will take most of a month to get planes and pilots in shape for normal operations. Most likely the ”MAX” name will silently disappear, and possibly replaced by something else. American Airlines plans to re-introduce ”the most scrutinized aircraft in the world” on Dec. 29 between Miami and New York.

Boeing lovers might also find some weird joy in the fact that Singapore Airlines currently has so little demand for their A380 aircraft that it converted one into a pop-up restaurant, Restaurant A380@Changi. The A380 maintained it luxury cachet to the end. Meals on Singapore Air’s plane-turned-restaurant range up to $400, depending on which cabin class you paid to sit in.

Finally, PIA will most likely be forced to fly domestic only, at least for some time, since a ban is likely to most of the rest of the world, following their latest crash in Karachi, revealing the fact that almost one third of their pilots had fake licences.

Their Covid-19 rating is unknown.

Two aspects of low-cost policy on aviation

Safety always depend on pilots and aircraft (and sometimes on cabin crew and ground equipment). How the aircraft is operated and how it is constructed (and for that matter maintained). The development in recent years has seen a downturn in both areas. Safety has been affected by itself, i.e. by the extremely high level of flight safety, where companies and authorities has found no reason, in todays economic squeeze, to maintain the vigilance of previous decades, since everything is going so well. Pilots are less trained and more depended on automation, while aircraft manufacturers are shortcutting quality in lieu of profit. From that has come numerous incidents and needless number of fatal accidents as well as groundings of plane for months or years.

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One viewpoint from an unknown source – though depressing reading for a Boeing lover – is worth reciting in its entirety. Feel free to agree or disagree. There is at least some truth to what is said:

Is it possible that Boeing will decide to permanently halt production of the 737 Max in the very near future?

No. Like the Bruce Springsteen song, they took a wrong turn and they just kept going. To understand the 737 max, one has to go back in time to 1987, when Airbus unveiled the A320. Any aeronautical engineer would be able to tell you that the A320 was far superior in scalability in the future. Boeing should have started a clean-sheet replacement for the 737 that day. But, since they had already sold so many, they continued making them and sellin them, as they were still competitive with the A320.

However, advances in engine technology require larger fans on the engine. The 737 was designed when engines were fitted with small fans, and was meant to be a regional jet. The 737 sits too low on the ground for large-fan engines, which the A320 can readily take. When Airbus was able to fit even larger engines on their A320 NEO, Boeing finally had to face the music. But by then, two huge airlines operated 737 exclusively: Southwest and Ryanair. Their entire profitability is predicated on flying this single model. Like an addict who can’t get enough, they convinced Boeing they could not live without the 737.

By then, Boeing had also stopped being an engineering company that sold the best aircraft to airlines and the government, and had moved to Chicago, to be a company that creates wealth for shareholders. It still made airplanes, but for management it meant nothing, they could be making underwear for all they cared. All that mattered was the stock price and that juicy year-end bonus.

So they browbeated the engineers to somehow strap a huge engine to and old frame AND to figure a way to make the plane look the same to pilots, because otherwise Southwest and Ryanair would have to spend more money training pilots on how to fly it. So they concocted a poorly designed system called MCAS whose purpose was to make the Max feel like a 737 NG to pilots, so they would not need to be certified on a different type. They had a cozy relationship with the FAA so they were able to pass that.

Just so they could keep the money flowing from those addicted airlines to their pockets. The system was so poorly designed that it crashed two brand new aircraft and killed over 300 people. Boeing lost as much in market capitalization in one month as the amount it would have taken to start a clean-sheet design. They don’t have that money now, and will continue to peddle the 737 in some iteration or another.

In the meantime, Airbus continues to advance the A320, so much that it was able to make the A321 XLR, a plane that is big enough and flies far enough that it also killed Boeing’s plans for a New Midsize Aircraft (a sort of new 757) at least for now. And probably is working on a replacement for the A320 already. China is prototyping the COMAC C919, also more advanced than the 737. Boeing is stuck with a plane that dates to the 60’s, with no confidence from the public, no money, They will come up with some tale about how the 737 is the best since sliced bread. Until another breakthrough occurs and then again they have to face the music.

For Boeing fans there is a different picture, focusing on the pilot issue.

Boeing has been blamed unfairly in the opinion of many, Boeing included. The debacle around the MAX has focused too much on the flaws of the aircraft and not on the fact that better trained pilots would – most likely – have had no problem saving the day.

Pilot skills needed
Boeing has conceded that the assumptions it made about how pilots would react to a malfunction of the MCAS system proved totally wrong.

Certainly, there was some fault at Boeing in its safety analysis in assuming a level of pilot competence and training that doesn’t exist in some parts of the world. A training captain told quite simply that the Lion Air first officer (co-pilot) ”could not fly”. ”The (training) report on the FO is an eye-opener as he is constantly very poor in all phases of operating an aircraft,” the training captain said. ”The report indicates a lot of additional training in standard operating procedures and emergencies and this was repeated on almost every subsequent training session but the problems were never resolved.” ”That FO could not fly and I wonder why the Lion Air trainers didn’t cull him as his performance at proficiency checks are all fail items.”

Flight Safety Detectives highlight multiple failures of maintenance and serious pilot deficiencies at Lion Air related to the 737 MAX accident. NTSC obviously reverse-engineered the ”facts” to support their preconceived conclusions that the airplane and MCAS are to blame.”
”The NTSC stated the pilots, especially the First Officer, had significant training deficiencies and lacked basic flying skills. These same deficiencies occurred during the accident flight.

The mistake Boeing, and all manufacturers, have made is to assume that the pilots flying their aircraft are well trained and competent and will follow instructions and obey warnings.

Very little of the above has had widespread exposure and the majority of passengers believe Boeing is totally to blame for the 737 MAX crashes.

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On the pilot issue there are so many worrying comments on the quality in different areas around the world that just a few can be given space here.

When I first got there, as a simulator instructor at Asiana, I was shocked and surprised by the lack of basic piloting skills shown by most of the pilots. They were basically given an ultimatum by the FAA, Transport Canada, and the EU to totally rebuild and rethink their training program or face being banned from the skies all over the world. This Asiana SFO accident makes me sick and while I am surprised there are not more, I expect that there will be many more of the same type accidents in the future unless some drastic steps are taken. The Koreans are very very bright and smart so I was puzzled by their inability to fly an airplane well. Crosswind landings are also an unsolvable puzzle for most of them.So, when I hear that a 10,000 hour Korean captain was vectored in for a 17-mile final and cleared for a visual approach in CAVOK weather, it raises the hair on the back of my neck !!

”These two pilots had no business being in the cockpit and the airplane should not have been operated”

A perfect example of this involves the loss of a Pakistan Airlines Airbus A320 flight PK8303 on May 22, 2020, which killed 97. The pilots made a completely unacceptable approach.In the wake of this disaster, it was revealed that in Pakistan 262 pilots have fake pilot licenses. Pakistan International Airlines sacked 150 of its pilots.

FAA’s Failure to Cull Bad Pilots Cited in Fatal Atlas Crash. The copilot of an Atlas Air cargo plane who inadvertently added full power during a routine approach to land in Houston became disoriented and pushed the Boeing Co. 767-300 into a steep dive, NTSB found. He had repeatedly panicked during training exercises and shown other deficiencies and those systemic issued hadn’t been addressed, NTSB found.

There have been 10 airline accidents over the past 30 years in which pilots with prior performance issues were identified as part of the reasons for the crash, Sumwalt said.

”Safety lapses are a serious concern at Air Asia,” Taneja had tweeted to the aviation minister.

Dieusaert also fears that increase automation in the cockpit will reduce the skill level of younger pilots. ”It becomes a vicious circle, with fewer competent pilots leading to calls for increased automation. ”[Aircraft] manufacturers have no confidence today in pilots,” he said, adding that ”a pilot contacted me to tell me that he worries about the capabilities of the younger generation of pilots.” Meanwhile, airlines, especially low-fare carriers, see increasing automation as a way to reduce staffing and cut costs. Some ultra-low-fare airlines are already pressing to be allowed to operate with only one pilot on board, he said.”The passenger who wants a flight as cheap as possible has to know that he is contributing to more automation and pilots with less flying skill,” he said. He asked, ”Do you want to put your life in the hands of inexperienced pilots? That’s what’s happening now.””I think in the future we’re going to have to start flying less and paying more, not only because of the impact flying has on climate change but also to maintain flight safety, he predicted.

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Two sides of the coin, where the coin plays a significant role. As long as airlines, led by low-cost, budget no frills airlines, are not paid / do not charge enough for the expensive high-tech product they provide for its customers, they cannot in the long run do that without cutting corners. Since you can not expect people to beg for more expensive tickets, and airline managements are stuck with competition fighting for survival, the responsibility for change falls heavily in the lap of authorities. Now more that ever.

Post-pandemi aviation?

With no money coming in, how can we keep flying without stopping money going out = more savings programs. Since getting back to anything like normal will take years, many airlines are cutting down work forces across the line, but there is one work force you can’t do without, no matter how hot you wish; crew. Cockpit and cabin. For cargo airlines just cockpit. (In the beginning there was a plane and a pilot.)

For airlines, the need to cut crew costs are soon the only savings possibility remaining. There are different ways. When union negotiations have come to the end of the road, you might be tempted to replace your pilots with non-union pilots = cheaper pilots. This might be good for company shareholders. Is it good for your customers?

Pilots are men and women. If there is a difference in skills and judgement it’s basically due to different amount of training, provided they were properly screened in the first place. Training is expensive. Training is so expensive that Boeings debacle with 737MAX was caused partly by the ambition to sell a new version without need for simulator training. For low-cost companies the need to not spend a penny more than absolutely necessary is a company strategy.

Pilots are a worldwide commodity and you get what you pay for. Better pay and better training go hand in hand. Many flag carriers have a sound base of extensively trained crews from way back when money was not so scarce. Budget airlines might in some cases pay fairly well to get experienced pilots, as quite a few are prepared to follow the money, but in general (with a few adventure oriented exceptions) pilots prefer well renown airlines with a reasonably stable economy (read salary) – and why not a union.

Bottom line regardless of all the above; if you get the pilots left over when everybody else has hired, you might be in trouble. So might your passengers be one day. Many of the  latest fatal accidents with a couple of thousand casualties were avoidable, including Air France over the South Atlantic, Colgan Air in Buffalo, Asiana in SFO, PIA in Karachi, Air India Kozhikode, Atlas Air in Houston, AirAisa over the Java sea, Air Algerie over western Africa – and of course the two cases with the Boeing 737MAX.