Saturday, 29 March 2014

Air France-KLM 787 engines. Rolls Rolled Again.

The British engine manufacturer itself  may be the least surprised of anyone that Air France/KLM have chosen GE over Rolls Royce to supply the engines for its order for 25 owned and 12 leased Boeing 787s.

Whenever they have had a choice on a particular aircraft neither Air France nor KLM has ever selected Rolls or any other non American engine manufacturer. They have had to sign up with the British company to power their 25 A350s on order because that's the only engine on offer for this aircraft.  Apart from that and leaving aside the unique case of the UK based but joint venture Olympus on the  Concorde, Air France last bought from Rolls in the 1950s. Then they signed for Darts on their ten 1950s Viscount 700 turboprops and Avons for their early model  Caravelle twinjets. Again neither aircraft offered an alternative. From then until the no-choice A350, Rolls might as well not have bothered to bid. KLM's last non American engine purchases were also back in the 1950s when they had Darts on a couple of F27s and ten Viscount 800s. Once more they had no choice if they wanted those aircraft, both the best in their class at the time.

Now that they have lost the Air France/KLM 787 battle, Rolls Royce may reflect that, other than to keep doors slightly ajar for the future, they may as well have saved the time,trouble and expense and stayed at home. That would have left the way open for GE to extract whatever price and terms they liked for this contract. In fairness though, as sole supplier on the A350 they may have pushed Air France/KLM a little too hard on that deal and this is their reward . But then maybe they believed the 787 was a lost cause for them anyway.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Malaysia 370-Three weeks On.

Three weeks after the disappearance of MH 370 some parts of this very large jigsaw are beginning to come into better focus.

Through the fog , emotions, rumours, millions of words from speculative "experts" and despite continuing uncertainty about almost everything, five things things in particular now stand in better perspective.

First it is doubtful if anyone would have done much better than the much criticised Malaysians in the handling  the public relations aspects of the tragedy. Nobody would ever have got it wholly  right even in the western world of professional spinners and high technology media. In the world of vastly different oriental cultures, western media and commentators in particular have been sharply critical . This stance ignores the reality that  with few facts or certainties to work on and no sighting of the aircraft, it was always going to be a Herculean task to keep such a large number of affected families informed and looked after. Any large gathering of dissatisfied and unhappy people easily takes off in unpredictable or unreasonable directions. It's bad enough when an airline has a delay.  Self selected vociferous leaders and groups thrust themselves forward and vie for dominance. Voices of calm and reason are pushed aside  and go  unheard. When foreign liability lawyers add themselves to the mix additional, unwelcome pressures start to work. They aren't there out of love and sympathy. A general necessity in such situations is to talk to those affected in small , separated groups. It has been impossible to achieve this in either Beijing or Kuala Lumpur , so the Malaysians have had to do the best they could with very large ,increasingly suspicious and hostile, groups. The mainland Chinese in particular have gone deep into denial and see through whole affair as an anti-Chinese act . That doesn't give a lot of chance for calm and dignified mass meetings. The press conferences were lifted to the highest government level to give them the necessary " face" and gravitas. This reached a peak with the Prime Minister announcing this week that with enormous regret the aircraft, its passengers and crew must now be assumed to be lost. His delivery was clear, apologetic, thoughtful and above all sympathetic. From here on though most of the daily briefings, entirely correctly,will be led by the airline although it is likely that anything crucial such as the confirmation that wreckage has been retrieved and identified as belonging to MH 370 will again be subject of a top level government announcement to the families and  the media. Presented with an almost impossible task of simultaneously managing and organising the incoming flow of military, air traffic control and  private satellite data, keeping confidences and protecting sources where necessary and demanded ,then as quickly as possible distilling it all into public statements, Malaysia hasn't done badly.They were not sure footed at the start but once they had a few days behind them they become better organised. Mainly through a lack of understanding about the needs and power of global presentation ,they had a few PR disasters. Allowing people to be dragged out of meetings (probably with the intention of avoiding mass hysteria) was the low point since which with more grip and almost certainly more advice they have done much better. The Prime Minister's own speech would rate as excellent  anywhere.

Secondly the wide and often wild speculation as to what happened  has broadly settled into two possibilities. One is an extremely well planned suicide, with everything done and timed to remove identification of the aircraft's movements, literally take it off radar and minimise to a brief few minutes while crossing the Thai/Malaysian peninsular in the middle of the night any opportunity for any one to alert friends on the ground by using a mobile phone. The other is a serious malfunction probably centred around the front of the aircraft which knocked out communications, oxygen and other systems and left the crew unable to do anything other than try to turn back or towards Langkawi or Kuala Lumpur before they lost consciousness.  Our own money is on the latter. Establishing what did happen will be enormously difficult but in view of the enormity of the event there is every chance of eventual success. Location and recovery of the black boxes won't be easy and will be more of a problem if they are not located before their batteries give out, probably in about nine days time. Even if found ,the Cockpit Voice Recorder -CVR,- which is on a continuous self erasing 2 hour loop will have overwritten the crucial period between the last routine call and the time when the aircraft turned onto its final south westerly course. Forensic technology may still be able to recover something from it. Certainly everyone will want to find and retrieve it if they possibly can.

Next, some mostly unsung heroes are already emerging . First up could still be the two pilots if they do emerge as having had to contend with an unimaginable and impossible situation. Next come the large numbers of airline staff and others who have worked with the families and friends of the crew and passengers and tried to give them the support they need . Then there are the intelligence ,satellite and computer experts , photo interpreters and mathematicians who have bust everything to try to find the aircraft and anything that may have belonged to it. They will not have had much sleep since they first got their calls. Finally there are the crews of the search aircraft and ships. There are internet video clips of the young Australian Orion Commander whose words of  enthusiastic dedication to the job  deservedly went viral .He is utterly on top of his job, loves it and is unstintingly up for challenge of this mission. He radiated confidence and personified professionalism and expertise. He was justly applauded. Interestingly he hasn't been on screen since. Hopefully his superiors were not miffed by his sudden fame. He did a great deal for the image of Australia, Australians, its armed forces and air crew.

Fourthly comes the search operation, its organisation and coordination. Malaysia sensibly delegated this to Australia ,the country nearest to the presumed site of the eventual crash site. Despite being grounded by weather on two days and the US aircraft also having two days on the ground for crew rest (why didn't it bring more with it?) , the patrols have done well in difficult conditions and flying weather. The one disadvantage of aircraft is that while they can see and record things they can't pick them up from the water. That needs ships, lots of them ,and helicopters but the search force has been very short of them. Australia has sent two and China  now five or six, one from the Antarctic and the others from China. Why not more and none from India or well equipped South Africa, around a week's sailing away?

Finally for the future, there are some massive intelligence, technical, and procedural questions and  lessons to come out of all this. All sorts of black holes in radar and communications cover have come to light. Many of them may not be admitted but all will get attention. Then there are the questions of how much automation or ground intervention could do to rescue aircraft in trouble in flight, especially when the crew can't or won't intervene. These are relevant whatever the facts of the MH 370 case. Even if it does turn out to be a suicide case, - and those are the most difficult/even impossible to predict, -most  aircraft losses are not. As in our previous post, technology does have some possible  answers to the situation where the crew can not function or even be in the cockpit. These need urgent examination and delivery. Then there is the question of how to  mobilise and organise a massive international  maritime search in the shortest possible time, what resources are vital and how quickly they, particularly ships and helicopters, can get to the scene.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Britain's High Speed railways,- at last HS 2 begins to slice through the.................

The contents of new HS2 Chairman, Australian Sir David Higgins' , report on the project's best ways forward were announced by the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, in the House of Commons on Monday. The news was positive and gave the sense of long overdue new impetus.

Media coverage,which is unfailingly substantial and enthusiastic about anything that is critical of or hostile to the new railway was muted . It mainly focused on the perceived negative but actually very sensible dropping of the link between HS 2 at Euston and the existing HS 1 Channel Tunnel terminus a few hundred  years down Euston Rd at St Pancras. Travel between provincial points in the UK and continental cities is and always will be better and more cheaply met by air services. The idea of these routes being important either to the travellers or HS2 itself has always been a red herring . It is now thankfully shovelled out of the way by Sir David. An underground moving walkway or airport type shuttle train between the two stations is long overdue anyway. A non moving one could and should have been built at least when Euston was rebuilt in the 1960s or even earlier . Little thought was given then to joined up transport , passenger convenience or comfort.

 Sir David's philosophy of "Let's get on and do it", is enough to give HM Treasury and Britain's legions of "Say No To.." campaigners a touch of the vapours. In their worlds "Let's not do it" or the only slightly more subtle "It needs further investigation/consideration/research/looking into." give much warmer and safer feelings. Those who despairingly  follow the Davies Commission's spending several years of expensive "looking into" London and the south East's need for additional runways will be delighted that someone in the transport strategy business is saying "Let's go". It helps of course that Sir David is unencumbered by being part of the British establishment or celebrity world especially those elements  of both centred or with friends in the Chilterns from whence comes much of the vociferous and well heeled opposition. From the noise, vitriol, mis and dis infomation, absurdly exaggerated claims about the effects of a narrow sliver of quiet electric railway one would think that the area of outstanding natural beauty ,if not all of rural Britain was about to be torn apart. It's not. The Chilterns cover a large area between the the Thames and their northern edge. There are plenty of them left after a sliver of a twin track railway has been cut through it and within a year or two of completion it will barely be noticed. The actual building is the messy and noisy bit so the sooner that's done and over the better for all concerned.

Predictably and right on cue some of the leaders of the "Say No To"s, including the Buckinghamshire County Council which has given or pledged half a million pounds to the anti HS2 campaigns, have written to the Times wringing their hands with a string of the sort of one liners they have been pushing out for the past 2 or 3 years. Drearily predictably they use an already discredited Treasury forecast of £73 billion for the project. The actual estimate including trains and a substantial contingency is £ 50bn. The best way of ensuring that figure is exceeded and the total does become unacceptable is, as the protesters  well know, to delay the start of work for as long as possible . This would  let inflation do its work . So would demands for ever more expensive "environmental" protection. The latter would essentially mean more tunnels and cuttings in the Chilterns . The tunnels are particularly environmentally unfriendly because they create air resistance to the trains. This in turn means that each and every one passing through them for evermore consumes more power and costs more to operate.  The tunnels and cuttings also all ensure that the tens of thousands of daily passing travellers are denied the chance to share the delights of the much vaunted declared scenery. How friendly is that?

Refreshingly Hugo Rifkind in a "Let's do it " article in Tuesday's Times concludes ".. for God's sake , build the damn thing or we might as well give up on ever building anything again". We couldn't put it better.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

East African Low Cost pirouettes

Just what is happening in the once relatively orderly East African skies ? Every day reveals another twist..........

First there was a single Low Cost Carrier (LCC) when the new British based startup FastJet's owners bought 49% of Kenya's Fly540 at the definitely non low cost price of $83m. Significantly 49% doesn't get its holder control of any business or its policies. Nothing less than 51% reliably does that. This was to be the first step in FastJet's dream of a Pan-African series of similar local airlines spanning the continent. Meanwhile Kenya Airways was already planning to launch its own LCC-Jambojet. Denied rights in Kenya FastJet set up shop in neighbouring Tanzania and started flying from Dar es Salaam. Next, another newcomer ,FlySAX of Kenya, with the same majority shareholder as Fly540, Don Smith, announced the creation of LCC, FlySAX Tanzania, thus entering direct competition with FastJet Tanzania. Next up was Kenya Airways launching JamboJet Kenya which will ultimately compete with both FastJet and  FlySAX Tanzania. Fly540 has now filed a complaint of unfair competition against JamboJet , saying it will disadvantage them. That's a tricky one. Competition is legal and highly desirable but regardless of any arguments about expanding the market etc any newcomer is going immediately to take some business off incumbents. Meanwhile FastJet is establishing FastJet Zambia which before the year is out may well establish a bridgehead in Kenya as Zambia's national carrier or at least using Zambian rights.

All clear then? And for the next pirouette?

-John Williams.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Malaysia 370. Where now and what does it mean for the future?

With the Malaysia 370's disappearance now running through a second weekend  more details of communications are gradually appearing and the intense, often lurid, speculation continues. Little of it is good for the airline, the Malaysian government or for the airline industry in general . It is dreadful for the families and friends of those on board .Whatever the eventual outcome, more failings than successes will be up in lights and there will be a lot of racking of brains, both good and bad.

Our guess is that the cause could still be much less spectacular than some of those currently being touted and more to do with the aircraft and its handling than terrorism or suicides. Whether we are right or not will do little to soothe the nerves of nervous flyers. There can be no satisfactory outcome for them. There will be plenty to worry about whatever the cause. To complicate matters further there are already unfortunate racial or even religious questions/comments in some quarters. That is probably inevitable but should be put aside.

It remains entirely possible that the chain of events started with a progressive failure of communications systems, probably caused by a smouldering fire which could have knocked out the transponder and ACARS automatic reporting system, led to progressive hypoxia at least on the flight deck which was detected only in time for a turn back for the point of departure to be manually initiated before the crew lost consciousness. At that point the aircraft could have continued in the direction it was now facing and carried on flying until it ran out of fuel at which point it would have fallen out of the sky.

Unfortunately as the, CVR,- cockpit voice recorder,- operates on a continuous 2 hour loop unless there are traces recoverable by forensic sciences it will not reveal what happened on the flight deck at the crucial point where the normal track off the north east coast of Malaysia was interrupted.

Perhaps the most significant outcome of the disaster, whatever the cause, will be a focus on new automation as well as calls to fill in any and all gaps in worldwide surveillance of all aircraft in the air. Some governments may though not be too keen on the latter as they would prefer their military aircraft to remain truly off the radar for obvious reasons.

On the automation front there is likely to be a push for simple push one button programmes linking GPS, Instrument Landing and Autoland systems on the line of "Land me at the nearest airport" ,"Take us to and land where we came from (or at destination)". These would be linked to automatic transmissions to Air Traffic Control to keep everyone else out of the way. There have been incidents including the UPS 747 crash at Dubai and the earlier Swissair MD11 off the US coast where these could have saved the day. Fire proofing and containment and provision of individual power supplies to keep the necessary kit functioning whatever else is happening would be essential parts of a package. All this is possible using refinements and adaptations of existing technology. So is takeover of control by the ground. This though is complicated by the possibility of the bad guys figuring out how to hijack the system. Iran claims it has already done so with drones.

From here on ,while backed up by good old fashioned searches by aircraft and ships ,the search for the missing aircraft moves further into the realms, capabilities and politics of advanced hi tech spookery. The USA, UK,China and Russia are notable players in the big worldwide game while in Asia the individual countries have ,as we indicated in a previous post, their own more localised one to play .All face complications about how much or little they can  or want to reveal they know. The channels do now seem to be working though .The Malaysian government and all other parties must not be nervous of where or to what the revelations eventually lead. 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Malaysia 370. Off the radar.

There is a lot going on in South East Asia, but away from the task of finding the missing aircraft there must be great concerns among governments and individuals,- and not only those in the immediate area,- about some so far unmentioned but very significant implications of the complete disappearance of a large civil airliner operated by a reputable carrier in a well populated and much overflown part of the world.

First up are the Malaysian authorities.They are struggling to maintain a clearly led and coordinated response to the intense international media questioning and speculation. Unused to this intensity of attention, they are trying hard to meet the needs of the moment, keep the salivating media happy and at the same time to give the families of the passengers and crew all the support they can. With the the latter they are doing as well as anyone possibly could in extremely difficult circumstances. These people want information and there really isn't any. The Malaysians will be very nervous of subsequent criticism of anything they have or have not done or could have done better . Hence examples of  fumbling and apparent reticence to give some kinds of information.This has led to suspicions that they are not saying all they know. There are also questions about the military's claim and then denial that the aircraft turned back across the Malaysian peninsular. If it wasn't true, why did they say anything? If it was an attempt by the military to move to centre stage in the civilian led handling of the event it was a mistake. The limitations of Malaysia's ability to constantly monitor its own airspace are now very clear as are those of its own forces to mount a major search and rescue operation. This would be true of many countries and emphasises the need for immediate and well  pre-planned regional and global cooperation to mount massive searches almost at the flick of a switch. For the Malaysians now it's an (added ) embarrassment.

Next in line are the governments of all surrounding countries, the holes in whose radar systems, military and search and rescue capabilities are also being laid bare. The realities will be intensively scrutinised, not least by each other but certainly by the USA and China, over the next few months. Questions will arise about the degrees of vigilance particularly in the early hours of the morning and whether they have sufficiently sophisticated equipment and operatives to monitor their skies and approaches. Again some myths about all- seeing systems will be destroyed or severely battered. (Let's not forget though that even in the Cold War Britain at the weekends kept only two fighters on immediate readiness to intercept any approaching aircraft from the direction of the USSR and even now the Swiss Air Force is only available for interceptions 0800-1200 and 1400-1800 on weekdays only.Outside these hours, as recently, they have to call on the French).

Finally there are the superpowers of the US and China. Encouraged by heroic films, official statements, pictures of door knockers from outer space and general hype, people everywhere have come to believe that almost nothing moves on the face of the planet without being observed and recorded by the military and intelligence services of the world's big powers. This notion is now being shown up as flawed. The reddest faces at the end of the saga could be US, Russian and Chinese security chiefs whose capabilities are shown not to be quite as all pervasive as previously believed.  As result we are now likely to see an electronics- led scramble to plug the gaps by nations large and small. There are some good things about that and some less good.

Finally, partly born of disbelief that really nobody anywhere knows at least where Malaysia 370 is, there is some concern that in order to protect and keep methods,sources and extent of surveillance under wraps, one or more players could be holding back vital pieces of information. In this case though anything crucial, at least about the location of the aircraft, would almost certainly be delivered to the Malaysians by one credible channel or another.So far it doesn't appear to have been. That being the case, everyone really is in the dark.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Malaysian 777 disappearance.

Amidst all the speculation about the disappearance of  this aircraft , to make any predictions  as to the possible cause carries a high risk of being wrong.

Ours is very simple. Location : The point of disappearance shown on FlightRadar24 . Event:A high speed, high altitude stall on reaching the cruising height of 35,000 ft followed by the still intact aircraft's near vertical entry to the water resulting in no surface debris.

Note: The square object with a central hole shown floating on or near the sea surface  on Saturday could possibly have been an interior wall panel complete with window cutout or it may have been something else entirely and nothing to do with any aircraft.

Friday, 7 March 2014

New liveries,-the beast with a sting on the tail.

Image ,logo, corporate identity changes. As John Williams points out these are serious things with many pitfalls for the unwary and dividends for the exceptionally clever. A veritable minefield for the graphically enthusiastic but unwary. Nobody should get carried away by them without first defining their objectives and testing the ground very thoroughly. The aim has to be to achieve a thumbs up in a Coliseum style vote amongst constituent interests. Thumbs down and it's the lions. That's serious for any management. Ask Bob Ayling, former CEO of BA.

The latest to rush off merrily into this always beckoning but potentially nightmarish quicksand or cliff edge is the fledging (New") American Airlines with added US Air(except that managerially it's actually the other way round though that's not what the name says).  Many staff are not happy. This is very common, especially amongst longer serving employees of historic legacy carriers who see see the company as "Ours" .This may surprise those who find their dedication to service and making the airline the best in the business less than stunning. Somewhere deep in their psyche lurks a deep sense of owning their airline. Long standing badges, totems and other rallying paraphenalia are extraordinarily significant. Incoming new managements, particularly if from outside, have enormous difficulties in understanding these cultural issues or how to deal with them without shutting down the business. Ruthless big bang or softly softly? Mass executions or bringing former and potentially dissident staff on board? Easyjet did it well,- positively, energetically and softly when they took over British Mediterreanean . Others have failed dismally.

In "New" American there will now be a belated staff vote. The spray guns have been at work for some time. Will the thumbs go up or down?

Apart from the above realities there is a generational thing. Managements will spend months and hundreds of millions of dollars with design consultants in genuine efforts to get things right only to have their new corporate identities and colour schemes greeted with derision. This is even more likely if there is little consultation or, as in the BA ethnic tails fiasco, a top down decision imposed with little discussion outside a small group of like minded or compliant people. If the small group is , as can happen in the design world, exclusively 20 or 30 years younger than a solid phalanx of older staff it is likely to become an age based decision which may not sell well to the veterans or the all important customers and other influencers of the company's destiny. The most/the best/the highest yield plus the media and political influencers and backers need to be on board with the new look. If the group of the decison makers is out of line with any of those or does not understand and accomodate their significance , then again the company is between a quicksand and a cliff top and the lions are roaring hopefully. A Prime Minister putting a handkerchief over a "New Look" is about near doom as you can get.

Shareholders are a third group of very interested people. Their verdict will come later when they can see the result of the money spent on the new look. If it doesn't bring in the dividends or the share value appreciation their thumbs will go down and the lions will lick their paws.

That's the picture.

Opinions on the value of new looks, images and identities are divided but fall broadly into two or three groups.

Lufthansa, Singapore and others have kept the same basic tails for 40 or more years while going for modest cleaning up of fuselage decoration. They don't seem to have suffered or lost a single £ or $ as result. Customers and staff continue to rally to the (totem) tail.

Others have changed significantly and more frequently. Landor have done some brilliant transformations and some equally clever modernising tweaks.  Implimenting even the simplest costs millions so big paybacks are essential. Some of the less successful makeovers have been when there has been an insistence on using local rather than international consultants or designers. Companies operating in international markets need to cast their feedback and expertise nets wider than most close to home alternatives can manage. Other failures can come from not recognising that what may look good , modern and stylish at home may look dated or even amateur abroad.

The clever courses are therefore either :

1)  Lufthansa and Singapore style to leave a good formula and branding  more or less well alone other than freshening up and subtly modernising it. Even a change of type face may do the trick.


2) As per BA with the Landor Speedwing design on privatisation, to use a total new identity to demonstrate a totally reborn company, carrying with it the support and enthusiasm of as many as possible of the stakeholders in sweeping aside the old and replacing it all with a new bold and exciting. To secure support a number of previously important features-eg blue lower hulls,- can be part of the deal. In the previous post BOAC/BEA Merger Negus and Negus design there was such a tribal uproar about the elimination of the historic BOAC Speedbird symbol that it had to be stuck back on, a little incongrously, ahead of the company titles on the roof. The BEA tribe was less impressed but over ruled. The Landor transformation was greeted with a real morale boosting "Wow" when the box was opened and the first aircraft rolled into view.

Big Bangs can only be done once in a generation. Good candidates now include Kuwait Airways, Air Tanzania, and Air China. Air Botswana turned down a new partnership with SA Express because the partner insisted on it adopting a look similar to theirs. Never mind the business need for a dramatic transformation. Political pride came first. It has cost and will go on doing so.

It will be interesting to see how American's staff vote and whether the thumbs go up or down. The telling factor though will be whether anyone is under any illusion that a transformation can really occur without a surge of staff enthusiasm and change of legacy airline culture so that the customers start to feel that they are valued and genuinely getting their moneysworth. If they don't, the paint job will just come over as a cynical  waste of money.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

African Roundup December 2013-January 2014

Note: We apologise for the late appearance of this regular feature. The February-March edition will appear on schedule by early April. Normal service is now resumed!

The two months were unusually quiet for news but business pressures continued for carriers across the continent.  Cash flow will have been uppermost for many chief executives. The bogeymen of debt servicing, fuel payments, insurance premiums and IATA Clearing House settlements are universal; failure to cover just one can ground the business.  On time staff salaries are also ‘must pay’.  Sliding too far into any of these potential swamps is dis-spiriting for all concerned.  Drive and energy weakens and business growth becomes but a dream.  CEOs and Finance Directors spend ever more time searching for financial life-belts.  Inevitably a percentage of such businesses eventually fail.  Of the large ones think Zambia Airways, Air Afrique and Nigeria Airways.  Others defying all economic logic continue,- think Air Tanzania and Air Zimbabwe.

Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines are not immune to these pressures but both have developed into progressive and profitable international businesses over the past 60 years.  Although Ethiopian has 100% Government shareholding it operates completely independently.  In Kenya Airways Government is a minority shareholder.  Both CEOs have freedom to operate with a high degree of commercial freedom.  Both also have aggressive multi-year growth plans, including tripling fleet sizes and global network expansion.  Senior management and all staff are far from dis-spirited. Fear would only come from looking down. These airlines know they have to look forward and upward. That means they can not and must not stop growing.  SAA would dearly like to be seen in the same category . Much is expected from the 2014 ramped-up implementation of its latest restructuring plan but we've been there before and the Government is a very hands-on and not entirely helpful owner. Extraordinarily, all long-haul routes are loss-making, many operating only out of a mistaken idea of national prestige.  Capetown-London which should have been making a mint has been abandoned to BA and Virgin. Other cut-backs are imminent .  Understandably Buenos Aires is an early candidate.

There are bright spots to look forward to in 2014.  The continent is in a continuous state of flux.  ASky of Togo is one of several carriers to stand out.  With 40% Ethiopian Airlines shareholding operations started in early-2010 with two ET leased B737-700s and an ET management team.  Since then the West African network has grown to 23 points and the fleet has expanded to 7 aircraft. It has the appearance of a well-managed operation with a clear strategy. In addition to regional connectivity it provides feed to ET transatlantic services routed via Lome.  The new Malawi Airlines could well follow the same positive path.  Ethiopian Airlines is again involved, this time with 49% shareholding and an ET appointed CEO.  The single B737-800 and Q400 come from Ethiopian. The airline has to grow quickly beyond this minimalist fleet which only replicates that of the now thankfully defunct Air Malawi. Operations have started .New cross border destinations in Mozambique will help knit the two adjacent countries together, something always useful in Africa.  Ethiopian’s expertise with ASky is now proven. Can it be repeated in 2014 with Malawi Airlines?

The brightest spot for 2014 might just be FastJet with its vision of creating a pan-African, high quality low-cost operation. It just has to find the funds to survive the prolonged startup phase until it has enough mass and connectivity to really fly.  Based in London with a European/US business approach and shareholdings it is unlike any other new carrier on the continent.  Operating within Tanzania since late 2012 and now with new routes to Johannesburg and Lusaka it has taken the first steps. It needs more and quickly. High load factors are trumpeted as is passenger satisfaction with the service on its A319s and its quantity of ultra-low USD20 fares (plus taxes). The buildup is though coming at high cost. Losses of USD42m are quoted for the first 6 months of 2013 and the share price has taken a battering dropping from GBP 44.0 pence to 2.7 during 2013.  The Board Chairman has been replaced and "new" Lonrho, the original major shareholder and nothing like its Tiny Rowland pan-African big player, has dropped away.  It is not a business venture for the faint-hearted or shallow of pocket but any boardroom tension or doubt is well-hidden with the company now talking of creating FastJet Zambia, a subsidiary to be based in Lusaka.   It needs strong nerves and much cash but FastJet could just be the biggest event in African aviation for many years.  The jury watches with interest while some of its long established competitors sit like hopeful vultures.


Air Burundi’s  start of operations has been delayed awaiting local certification of its sole MA60 . Even when flying this type of aircraft is unlikely to have the customers flocking . (Jan 2014).

Ethiopian Airlines is planning to add to its Far East route portfolio by launching to Shanghai with B787s in March.It is also nearing placing an order for 10-20 narrow bodied aircraft. Unsurprisingly for a long term nearly exclusive Boeing operator, it has previously said B737MAX ‘makes more sense’ than A320neo  (Jan 2014)

FastJet is planning the creation of franchised FastJet Zambia and of holding a ‘substantial share’ in the Zambian registered company with local AOC and Air Service Licence. This comes at a time when moves are afoot in Zambia to revive the long defunct Zambia Airways, or at least its name. FastJet is a UK registered company and aims to own of franchise its name extensively in Africa. Franchised FastJet Tanzania is based in Dar es Salaam. (Jan 14)

Kenya Airways has, in advance of the first expected delivery in late March or early April, added the B787 to its Air Service License. The first of 8 B787-8’s is due in March and will from April 14th initially be deployed on 2 daily shorthaul rotations to both Mombasa and Dar es Salaam so to build up crew experience. Johannesburg will be its first longer haul operation starting 18th April.(Jan 2014)
Kenya Airways The airlines’ revolving door of Commercial Directors has now delivered Gerard Clark, ex Hong Kong Airlines to the seat. CEO, Titus Naikuni, has extended his contract for a further year and is currently due to retire at the end of this year. His heir apparent is Mbuyi Nkunzi who he recruited from outside the industry as Chief Operating Officer two years ago.(Jan 2014)

Nova Airways (Sudan) has launched six weekly CRJ200 services between Asmara and Khartoum plus a twice weekly Asmara-Khartoum-Juba.  Its total fleet is a single B737-500 and, 4 CRJ200ER.s (Dec 2013)
Rwandair’s new Q400 arrival is now scheduled for now Feb 2014 and the leased Dash8-200 will be returned. (Jan2014) 
Rwandair Meanwhile its four times weekly CRJ900 services to Douala will start 30 March. Abidjan is also planned. (Jan 2014)


1Time (S Africa) this Low Cost Carrier is progressing towards resumption of flying in March 2014.  The original 1Time filed for liquidation in November 2012. The new entity involves Global Aviation, holder of an AOC, and PakAfrica, a grouping of Pakistan and Dubai investors.  The first of 4 planned A320s has arrived in Johannesburg. Whether in the crowded South African domestic trunk market it can be any more successful against the dominant weight of SAA and Comair/Kulula remains to be seen (Jan 2014)
Air Zimbabwe talking of issuing a US$50m ‘aero-bond’ in early 2014 to provide working capital and debt repayment. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone is interested. China maybe?
 An external forensic audit has revealed a 4 year US$10m aircraft insurance fraud including periods of operations without cover.  (Jan 2014)

Malawi Airlines has received its AOC and is to be in the air on 31st January.  Ethiopian owns 49% (Jan 2014)
Royal Zimbabwe Airlines This proposed start-up has secured Harare- Guangzhou traffic rights.  The owner is ex-head of the Zimbabwe CAA.  (Jan 2014)
SAA is mulling over a possible 30% stake in Senegal Airlines in line thoughts about establishing that elusive thing,- a West African hub. Maybe they haven’t noticed that an airline perched on the western extremity of the continent is not well placed to provide a regional hub. Its real potential could though be as a gathering point for departures across the Atlantic.  (Jan 2014)

ASKY plans to fly to Beiruit in early 2014 ,connecting in Lome with Ethiopian Airlines thrice weekly codeshare flights to Rio and Sao Paulo.  (Dec2013)

Dana Air resumed services on 27th January after passing an Nigerian CAA audit.  Flying was suspended by this body in Oct 2013 due to ‘operational concerns’.  (Jan 2014)

Med-View Airlines (Nigeria) is planning to expand into international services by adding Abijan to Lagos and on to Dubai with B737-400s. Kano to Jeddah is another aspiration. (Jan2014)


Acacusair (Libya) is aiming at a 2014 start-up with two A319-200s (Dec 2013)

Afriqiyah has taken delivery of its latest A330-200.  It continues to use wet-leased aircraft for routes to Europe (Jan 2014)
Egyptair In the face of severe falls in incoming tourism numbers, the airline is switching its priorities towards intra-Africa connectivity. There are plans for a big new fleet order by the end of March (Jan 2014)

Royal Air Maroc is to wet-lease a Sukhoi SSJ100 to follow 2 wet-leased E190s for extended evaluation prior to a late 2014 planned acquistion of 12-15 aircraft. Almost certainly the price of the Russian aircraft will be unbeatable but............ (Jan 2014)


Qatar Airways is upping its Doha-Khartoum frequency by 3 to 17 A320s a week.  (Jan 2014)


East African Community (EAC) Citizens’ passport free travel between Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda had been agreed with effect from Jan 2104 . Also agreed was a common visa for visitors. The introduction of these was subsequently deferred pending procedural clarifications. (Jan 2014)

Kenya’s government has awarded the contract to a German company for construction of new temporary arrivals terminal following the Aug 2013 fire. This goes against the recent flow of all major transport infrastructure contracts including the completely new Kenya Airways and partners terminal, the Nairobi ring roads and the standard gauge railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi and ultimately Uganda to Chinese companies using Chinese finance.(Jan 2014)

Nigeria’s  NCAA completed its audit of Dana Air and highlighted ‘open items’ for resolution prior to AOC restoration. As above, this has now happened. A compulsory annual audit of each AOC holder will now commence. Dana Air was originally suspended following the June 2012 MD83 crash at Lagos. (Dec 2013)

Nigeria’s  Ministry of Transport audit has found that 5 carriers owe a total US$ 1.2bn to AMCON (Asset Management Co of Nigeria), – a near doubling of previous estimates (Jan 2014)

Nigeria An Aero B737 has appeared in a green/white ‘Nigerian Eagle’ livery but the government  has made no comment other than a new national carrier is targeted for this year. Eagles might fly,- or not. (Jan 2014) 

Somaliland is exploring the possibility of Sharjah, UAE, investment in its aviation development (Jan 2014)

Uganda’s government has approved an US$ 175m for Entebbe airport upgrade . In the past President Museveni has shown great personal interest in the facility functioning well and looking good.(Dec 2013)

John Williams  31 January 2014