Plain Aviation

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Category: Aviation news (page 2 of 3)

Cathay Pacific A350 delivery set for May 29

After more than three months of delays due to issues with seat manufacturing, Cathay Pacific’s first Airbus A350-900 twinjet airliner is set to be delivered on Sunday, the 29th of May 2016. 

The aircraft completed its maiden flight and tests last month and was scheduled to perform its first passenger flight on May 1st after after it was realized that the original February deadline (that was set last year) could not be made. 

The delivery date has already been postponed twice (see my post “Cathay Pacific A350 delayed again”) but it is guaranteed that no more delays will occur as the aircraft has already been prepared for delivery.

17 hurt on Hong Kong Airlines flight

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Hong Kong Airlines – Photo by Christian Junker CC 2.0

On Friday the 6th of May, Hong Kong Airlines flight HX6704 from Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) carrying 204 passengers and 12 crew members encountered severe turbulence while flying over northern Indonesia, resulting in the injury of 17: 14 passengers and 3 crew members. The aircraft returned to Denpasar, and landed back in Denpasar two hours after diverting. Twelve people were rushed to the hospital, one with serious injuries. It was reported that some of the passengers were immediately flown to Hong Kong aboard a Garuda Indonesia flight, while others remained in Denpasar for the night.

Orient Thai penalized for flying with missing wheel

Recently, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) laid out a series of punishments directed towards Bangkok-based Low Cost Carrier (LCC) Orient Thai for operating a flight into Nanning Wuxu airport with a wheel missing from the nose landing gear.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 launch delayed

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Airbus A350 XWB – Photo by jmiguel rodriguez CC 2.0

Recently, to the disappointment of the Hong Kong spotting community, it was announced that the delivery of Cathay Pacific’s first Airbus A350 XWB would once again be delayed. Their first A350 (c/n 029) of the 46 that they have on order successfully completed its maiden flight at Airbus’ testing facility in April with test registration F-WZFX and is still waiting to be fitted with seats before it will be delivered to Cathay as B-LRA.

Both delays are due to issues with the manufacture of Cathay’s long-haul business class seats that will be installed on the aircraft. The majority of the blame lies on French manufacturer Zodiac Seats, who have been severely behind-schedule in their production and have been receiving plenty of (justified) criticism from Airbus and Boeing for delaying deliveries. Cathay Pacific is also guilty of making last-minute adjustments to the design of their business class seats that have complicated matters and slowed production.

FlyDubai crash: Pilot error to blame

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The incident aircraft, a FlyDubai Boeing 737-800 (A6-FDN). Photo by Bruno Geiger CC 2.0

On the 18th of March this year, a FlyDubai Boeing 737-800 (registration A6-FDN) operating flight FZ981 with 55 passengers and 7 crew members crashed during landing phase at Rostov-on-Don airport in eastern Russia. The aircraft was initiating a go-around due to stormy conditions when it entered a dive and impacted the ground, instantly killing all on board. As the flight data recorders did not indicate any sort of mechanical failure and the weather was deemed not enough to be the sole cause of the crash, investigators speculated that pilot error was to blame for the crash.

Debris from MH370 found off Mozambique

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A Malaysian Airlines 777-200ER similar to the one operating MH370 when it disappeared. Photo by Christian Junker. CC 2.0

For the second time since the disappearance of MH370 in March of 2014, debris from the “crashed” airplane has been found. Last time it was a flaperon (a movable control surface) from the wing found on Reunion Island, this time it’s a piece of the horizontal stabilizer ( found near Mozambique. Experts have agreed that the piece, painted with the words “NO STEP”, is indeed from a Boeing 777, and therefore

Lasers and aviation safety – what’s the deal?

In light of what happened the other day with Virgin Atlantic flight VS25, I’d like to talk about lasers and the special relationship they seem to have with aviation. On February the 14th 2016, Virgin Atlantic flight VS25, an A340-600 carrying 267 from London to New York, was forced to declare a pan-pan and return to LHR as the co-pilot felt sick after being hit by a laser during take-off. Now if you’ve been following aviation news it would appear as though incidents involving pilots and lasers are curiously commonplace. Often times pilots are hit by lasers shone through the cockpit window from a source on the ground. This seriously endangers the safety of the aircraft as studies done by the FAA have shown pilots can be temporarily blinded or distracted by such lasers. Permanent damage to the eye is also possible. Most incidents involving pilots and lasers take place during the crucial takeoff and landing phases of the flight, where smaller mistakes have larger consequences and aircraft are at their most vulnerable stage. It begs the question, of all things that can distract pilots or hinder the safety of a flight, why do laser strikes seem to be the most common? Most of the time, laser strikes such as the one that was likely experienced by the crew of Vs25 are the result of people on the ground with little concern for aviation safety or a crude and irresponsible sense of entertainment pointing basic non-military-grade lasers at departing or arriving aircraft. It seems as though there are quite a handful of such people around the world, as lasers have become a serious danger to aviation safety. Of course other sources of lasers such as weather observatories, buildings, and temporary shows/concerts pose an equal threat, however these sources are usually marked in aeronautical charts or posted in NOTAMS so that pilots are aware of their presence. Most of the issue still lies in irresponsible people on the ground shining lasers on aircraft. Aerial police units are sometimes used to locate the source of these lasers, however until serious action is taken against offenders, it is unlikely that police will be able to deter future incidents. Although it may sound cliché, the only way to do so is to educate people on the effects that lasers can have on aviation safety.

Cathay announces first flight of A350 XWB

Every cloud has a silver lining, and the passing of something old is always complemented by the arrival of something new. With the retirement of Cathay’s passenger 747-400’s comes the launch of their A350’s. While I do not think this is a fair trade-off, at least 2016 won’t be a year of only sadness as Cathay retires their 744’s and 343’s. Cathay’s first A350, a -900 variant, will be delivered late April 2016. I believe the original date was set for February, however the delivery was delayed due to issues with the seat manufacturing. As is common whenever an airline takes delivery of a new aircraft type, Cathay plans to operate their first few A350’s on short-haul intra-Asia flights for crew familiarization before setting them off to fly the long-haul routes to Europe and the Middle East that they were meant for.  The first Cathay A350 revenue flight is set for May 1st 2016 and will be the morning flight CX900 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Manila (MNL). The aircraft will return to Hong Kong around noon as CX901 and later in the day fly to Taipei (TPE) and back as CX400/401. CX900/901 to MNL is a daily flight and CX400/401 to TPE will be operated 5-6 times a week. Afterwards, from July 1st 2016, the A350 will be deployed on several flights to and from Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, and weekly flights to Singapore will begin to be operated by the A350 two days later. Cathay will continue flying the A359 on this routes until it is ready for deployment on long-haul routes. The exact flight schedule is shown below (taken from AHKGAP.net).

Last flight of Cathay’s passenger 747 scheduled

After operating several variants of the 747 on passenger flights for more than three decades, Cathay has tentatively scheduled a last revenue flight for the type. The flight will be CX543 from Tokyo Haneda (HND) back to Hong Kong (HKG) and will take place on the 1st of October 2016. The flight is scheduled to depart HND at 10:45 JST (9:45 HKT) and arrive at HKG around 15:05HKT. The HKG-HND-HKG route is currently operated by Cathay’s two remaining passenger 744’s, which have been retired from long-haul service. It is unknown if Cathay will ever operate the 747-8 on passenger flights, however it sadly seems very unlikely as Boeing has been slowing down 747-8 production in the past year due to low demand. While I may find some comfort in knowing that Cathay will still fly freighter 747’s for years to come, it’s truly saddening to see the retirement of my favorite aircraft.

First flight of the Boeing 737 Max

Back in 2011, Boeing initiated the 737 Max program, intended on providing a more fuel-efficient successor to the 737NG (-600, -700, -800, -900) family and competing with the Airbus A320neo (new engine option), which was announced a year before in 2010. After a rather quick development program, the first 737 Max prototype rolled out in December of 2015. Just yesterday, on January 29 2016, the 737 Max made its maiden flight from Boeing’s production plant at Everett, Washington to Boeing field in Seattle. The 737 Max will be offered in three variants: -7, -8, and -9 based on the -700, -800, and -900 variants of the 737NG family respectively. The prototype aircraft that made the maiden flight of the 737 Max was a -8, will be delivered to launch customer Southwest Airlines in 2017. The 737 Max supposedly incorporates many of the technologies found on the 787, including Boeing Sky Interior’s updated overhead bins and LED cabin lighting, as well as Rockwell Collins enhanced LCD screens for the flight deck and additional fly-by-wire control systems. The main improvement on the 737 Max are the CFM Leap-1B engines, designed to increase fuel efficiency by 10-12% in comparison to the 737NG.

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