Friday, November 27, 2020

Business Jets will be Big Bizness

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The next decade will see a global demand of 9,100 business jets valued at USD 259 Billion. This is the total market value of the sector. In spite of the current slump it is still projected to grow at 3% CAGR annually over the next decade. In the past ten years 8,190 business jets were delivered, amounting to USD 198 Billion. 

India has 250 bizjets at present and is on track to rise to 1400 jets over the next two decades as her 104 Billionaires raise her to the fifth position globally in terms of its ultra high-net-worth individuals.

There should also be a corresponding increase in bizjets with charters and outright corporate investment adding a boost to this category.

Time Still for Turboprops

There also seems to exist a belief that turboprops are passé as against turbofans and little is underscored about the fact that on 40-minute runs the costs saved on modern day high efficiency props without compromise in comfort and safety.

The slow movement should now be poised for a fresh impetus. With executive traffic showing a rise and leisure tourism coming into play especially in the short haul routes are certain to increase. Another positive impact will be felt through the opening of new markets in the interiors and these will replace the traditional routes.

Bombardier Global 5000

With political stability and peace in the region there is no reason why the growth figure should not be enhanced over the next decade. The upswing in the bizjet market is gaining impetus again and the lull of the past two years is showing a certain surge. Bombardier’s Global 5000 leads the resurgence and one can see how the company is positioning its wide range of aircraft (from the Lear45XR to the Global 5000 and the Challenger 300 as well as the Global Express) for the Indian markets. Close on the heels of the Global Express came the Bombardier Continental Business jet aircraft clearly designed to offer high value in the emerging super midsize business jet category.

AIRPORT 2024

India currently operates 449 airports. Another 100 airports are slated to be activated in the next 4 years. This strengthening of the non-Metro towns and cities as feeders to the hubs presents a major opportunity for airport managements to invest time,manpower and money.

Specific areas of expertise:

  • Air Traffic Control
  • Runway construction and maintenance
  • Airport fine dining and shopping outlets
  • Hospitality
  • Surface transportation
  • Signage
  • Security and safety.

Come Fly With Me, it is Safe

While no one in his aeronautical senses would hazard a guess on what happened to Flight PK8303 for it to come down in so horrific a fashion it is not usual for both engines to fail simultaneously unless hit by birds. If you remember Captain Sullenberger and his landing of UA Airways Flt 1549 on the Hudson this situation in the air comes pretty close to that. This specific aircraft is believed to have undergone an A check in March so that means it was not mechanically compromised. 

But such an event occurring will be an area of concern with Karachi being on the BASH(Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard) radar. From what one has been able to glean the pilot displayed great courage and presence of mind in maintaining contact with the tower while struggling to control his crippled aircraft.

That said, the tragedy will undoubtedly, if unfairly, also focus attention on the issue of the operational status of aircraft globally, after their COVID-19 grounding for several weeks. Even a day’s standby calls for a different protocol in giving the aircraft the green signal to fly. 

Air accident investigations are not completed overnight. They often take months and crucial to a conclusion are the data in the flight recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. Second guessing the cause of the crash of the Air India Express 737-800 from Dubai to Kozhikode is also an exercise in futility. India’s track record of investigating air accidents is not sterling and usually the Directorate of Civil Aviation sits in judgement on itself and hence air safety standards are largely up in the air. 
Bad weather, aquaplaning ( a phenomenon where tyres do not grip the surface and skim and skid like the stone on a pond) coming in hot and high on a plateau runway, ATC absence of warnings to go alternate after two abortive attempts, even low visibility will all go into the mix. The main question will be centred on why the aircraft split and at what point of the runway with even a downdraft or wind shear could have aggravated the contact impact.
The convenience of blaming the pilots must be placed on hold. Captain Sathe was a very experienced IAF pilot and an experimental test pilot so other factors would have contributed to the tragedy. Anyone who deals in such investigations will concede that it is usually several developments and little crises that create a string to disaster. It is seldom singular.

The actions taken by all elements to service and prepare the aircraft are critical to ensuring the airworthiness of the airplane.

We have 65% of the global fleet on the ground. Nearly 16000 aircraft have been sitting ducks for over 60 days. Literally. From the impact of temperature and humidity on the plane’s systems to deterioration of the wiring to the presence of wildlife(snakes, rodents, birds, insects,to name a few) to sludge on the tanks, the collapse of tyres and a hundred other checks each plane needs a lot of TLC (tender, loving care).  That TLC comprises  the process before returning an airplane to service after extended downtime. Heat, dust, ice, debris,storms (like the one that hit Kolkata last week and swamped the airport) are all detrimental to the aircraft’s safety parameters. The universal manual makes for a pertinent quote: “component mechanisms may lose lubrication, batteries may discharge, contamination of potable water systems or fuel tanks may occur, and some systems or components (such as oxygen cylinders, tires, hydraulic systems, and landing gear shock struts) may lose pressure. Although the airplane is inactive during parking, it is important to maintain the engine, auxiliary power unit, and cargo fire extinguishing systems and all portable fire extinguishers in fully serviceable condition in case of a fire. The airplane must be electrostatically grounded while it is parked.”

There is also fuel in the plane kept as a ballast to maintain aircraft balance and before these planes take to the air the tanks have to  be fully drained and cleaned. 

Sensors and engines have to be protected from foreign object entry. Birds building nests is common. Corrosion is a major problem. Think of how your knives and scissors and bolts rust…so why not aircraft?

And it is not cheap to get the aircraft shipshape and passed for the Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A) or Permit to Fly which can only be re-validated by the maintenance organisation responsible.

The rules of the game are pretty simple and apply to the strongest and the weakest links in the aviation network. That aspect makes for the tender underbelly of the industry because aircraft fly from good airports to inadequate airports, thereby leaving them vulnerable to short cuts. The defence is a robust and strictly unforgiving adherence to rules and it is this collective discipline that has made flying so safe.

Aircraft on ground (AOG) is usually a term used when a plane is not in good shape. It demands a great indepth inspection to be made airworthy again. An average of $300,000 is not going anywhere to get up to speed per plane and can rise to double that if there are complications. 

The sheer wonderment of modern aircraft is testament to human brilliance. This is one industry that knows it cannot afford any sort of compromise in safety.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Justin Hale is Boeing’s 787 product marketing leader. He says the Dreamliner, for example, has roughly two million parts, and each of those parts has to show up at exactly the right place and time in order to be integrated into the build of an airplane.” 

Each part has to perform perfectly for this symphony to rise into the air. Would I feel safe in a plane today? Yes. I would. Having seen this industry close up and personal for years no one, not even the most limited nation, sends up aircraft that haven’t been checked out. 

Accidents happen through human factor and caprice of fate…life is not failsafe. So fly. 

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