'High visibility events' prompt safety alert from FAA
March 23, 2023
The US Federal Aviation Administration has issued to aircraft and airport operators an aviation safety call to action (SAFO) in the wake of a recent series of near-catastrophic events on runways at US airports. The FAA notes that in recent months "a number of notable and high visibility events have occurred in the National Airspace System". "While the overall numbers do not reflect an increase in incidents and occurrences, the potential severity of these events is concerning," it says. It adds that six serious runway incursions have occurred so far in 2023, including a narrowly avoided aircraft collision on 13 January at runways at New York JFK, along with another runway near miss on 4 February at Austin-Bergstrom airport. The runway events spurred officials from the FAA and other government agencies, aviation executives and labour-union representatives to convene a safety summit on 15 March in Washington DC. The SAFO recommends that aviation operators reinforce adherence to published processes and procedures, including checklists, air traffic control instructions and internal company procedures; and ensure pilots and flight attendants have the same understanding of a “sterile flight deck” and of the risks associated with extraneous communication. It further recommends that aviation operators encourage crews to follow crew resource management procedures and principles to control workload and reduce distractions; and encourage personnel to identify and report existing and emerging safety issues through voluntary reporting programmes.

ARJ21 hits 200,000 hour milestone
March 23, 2023
The in-service fleet of Comac ARJ21s has passed the 200,000 flight hour milestone on 18 March. The Chinese manufacturer says that the type has also carried over five million passengers since entering commercial service in June 2016 with launch customer Chengdu Airlines. Data shows that there are 83 ARJ21s in service, 20 in storage and 337 on order. Chengdu Airlines is the largest operator with 23 in service, followed by Air China, China Southern Airlines and OTT Airlines, which each operate 14. The only operator of the ARJ21 outside of China is Indonesian carrier TransNusa, which recently took delivery of an aircraft leased from China Aircraft Leasing. In January, Comac received Civil Aviation Administration of China approval for a freighter conversion of the ARJ21. YTO Cargo Airlines and Longhao Airlines are the first customers for the conversion, with YTO taking delivery of the first converted freighter in December 2022.

UK ECA in no rush to sell aircraft repossessed amid pandemic
March 22, 2023
UK Export Finance (UKEF) is in no rush to sell the aircraft that it repossessed from airlines during the pandemic, its senior restructuring officer for aviation Chris Leeds has said. Speaking during the Aviation Developments in Finance, Leasing and Insurance event in London on 20 March, Leeds said that out of a portfolio of 464 aircraft placed with 42 airlines and 12 lessors that the UK export credit agency had on its books at the start of the crisis, it ultimately repossessed 14 of them. UKEF is happy to "sit on those" aircraft with leases attached until a suitable moment presents itself to monetise those assets, Leeds observes. "At some point I imagine we will sell with lease attached, but we are in absolutely no hurry to do that and the deal will have to make sense," he adds. Leeds says that at the start of the pandemic UKEF implemented a policy called the common approach under which all airlines were offered a payment holiday for principal, but not the interest, for payments due by 31 March 2021 on loans that the ECA had guaranteed. Leeds was brought in by UKEF to handle this process and oversee negotiations with airlines. A number of airlines took up the offer, but others were unable or unwilling to meet these terms and Leeds says that UKEF consensually agreed to the repossession of some aircraft. He says that there was a perception among some airlines that the UKEF would be unwilling to consider repossessions, a perception that he believes was misplaced. The UK government-owned agency took the view that it would take a robust approach in its dealings with airlines amid the crisis. "A number of airlines had thought that as soon as they told us that if we don't do what they want, they are going to dump all their aircraft on us [and] we would run a mile," he says, adding: "If we showed an airline that we were more than happy to take the aircraft back, that strengthened our position." Leeds says the UKEF is happy to hold on to assets for as long as it takes to avoid incurring net losses on the UK taxpayer. He notes that after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 the ECA held onto a number of assets until it could make a return on its investment. It did not sell its last aircraft repossessed after that event until 2015. Repossessing aircraft and then remarketing them requires time and an administrative burden, including the UKEF setting up special purpose vehicles to become effectively the new operating lessor for the aircraft. This often involves the assistance of external remarketing agencies, Leeds notes.


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