Facebook Google Menu Linkedin lock Pinterest Search Twitter


fleet decisions

Mar 27, 2016

Will Cathay Pacific pack its new A350s as tightly as its 777s?

Cathay Pacific isn't far behind Singapore Airlines in implementing an A350 fleet strategy, but some key questions as to where each carrier will go with the new medium sized Airbus w


Cathay Pacific's first A350-900. What will it do with it in the longer term?
Cathay Pacific’s first A350-900. What will it do with it in the longer term?

Cathay Pacific isn’t far behind Singapore Airlines in implementing an A350 fleet strategy, but some key questions as to where each carrier will go with the new medium sized Airbus widebody are also becoming more apparent.

The Hong Kong flag carrier flew the first of its 48 ordered A350s this week, although it will be a while before either it or Singapore Airlines has more than a few in service on other than shorter haul shake-down routes.

Put together with orders for 67 A350s by the Singapore Airlines, including a select mini fleet of ultra long range versions of the new Airbus design for routes like Singapore- Newark, this jet family is going to dominate much of the action in the Asia-Pacific hemisphere in this and the next decade.

Singapore Airlines is also ‘inviting’ Airbus to built it a further stretch to the A350 line-up larger than the A350-900s and -1000s to bring it closer to 400+ multi-class seat capacity of the Boeing 777-9s due in service from 2020.

The Singaporean carrier hasn’t ordered either the A350-1000 or the 777-9, while Cathay Pacific is taking both the A350-900 and A350-1000 and has ordered the largest version of the 777-X family, the -9, which Boeing is currently offering.

Airbus appears to be warming to the making of an even higher capacity A350 close to that of a 777-9, although some of the things it has said about making it a jet for those that don’t need the demanding twin-engined jet performance criteria of the major Middle East carriers’ fiercely hot hubs have caused a bit of head scratching in some quarters, and left Emirates officially ‘confused’.

We can bet that no-one is really ‘confused’ about this at an airline level, but there is the usual amount of push and pull going on at the behind closed doors customer level which have given Airbus and Boeing plenty of hard times over a long time when it comes to trying to please the competing and not necessarily aligned needs of different large carriers.

Australians are large users of Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, so what they do with the interior of their A350s is also of material importance in this market.

It is very apparent from recent briefings by Singapore Airlines that it will continue to make its brand, in any class of travel, a superb product commanding a yield premium, with its low fare brand Scoot cramming the budget conscious into its tight fit 787s.

Cathay Pacific is a shade more equivocal on the topic of passenger amenity. It doesn’t have a low fare brand yet, or maybe forever,  and has pushed the idea of turning its current and future 777s in economy into 10 across tight fit jets just like those of Emirates and most other users of this Boeing family in today’s screw-the-passengers-until-they-hurt attitude.

But this is the crunch. Cathay Pacific hasn’t said whether it intends to introduce uniformity in discomfort to economy class to its shorter range routes, currently largely flown by A330s, and destined in many cases to be also taken over by A350s, which like the 787 family, can be highly efficient over medium as well as longer haul routes.

If Cathay Pacific is to be consistent, it wouldn’t lavish a better cabin amenity on its shorter and smaller capacity fleet than it will (if it carries out its hints) on its longer range flights like Hong Kong to London or New York.

Logically, those who fly on Cathay Pacific A330s might be put into nine across economy cabins just like the delightful experience of flying AirAsiaX or Cebu Pacific,  and the A350s, which will always be more comfortable than its 777s in their current fit out, will be similarly ruined with a ten across economy format.

Cathay Pacific needs to address these inherent inconsistencies if it persists with higher density seating in its present and future 777s. Saying that people who want the old economy class amenity ought to pay sometimes multiples of that fare class to fly in premium economy or business or first class need to read the guidance that Cathay Pacific has provided in its regular market performance reports.

For all of this decade those reports highlight a generally good demand for its highly respected full service economy products and a weakening demand for premium fares. This has also been true over shorter sector premium economy sectors, where last year it cut back the size of premium economy on such routes.

The dilemma for Cathay Pacific arises over reductions in economy seating amenity that might drive away customer support for its best performing Y class product offerings.  As it currently stands, flying in a Cathay Pacific A350-900 to London Gatwick later this year in nine across economy seating would be a far better experience for 12 or so hours, than doing this in a ten across 777, in a smaller seat and a much noisier cabin to boot, on its services to London Heathrow.


We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola


Leave a comment

41 thoughts on “Will Cathay Pacific pack its new A350s as tightly as its 777s?

  1. comet

    This is a matter of passengers educating themselves.

    Get to know which airlines have 9-across seating in their 777s, and which have quished 10-across. Hint: Singapore Airlines still runs the better 9-across. Emirates is squishy 10-across.

    In Cathay’s case the seating arrangement would affect whether I buy a ticket, but I’m more worried about their plan to put pilots on tight, gruelling, sleepless rosters, like Emirates and FlyDubai have been doing.

    I’m easily spooked by airlines that adopt bad practice.

  2. Dan Dair

    “some of the things it has said about making it a jet for those that don’t need the demanding twin-engined jet performance criteria of the major Middle East carriers”

    Not exactly on-topic but…..
    Can anyone explain this to me, as I don’t have an aerodynamics degree.!

    I would have thought that, subject to sufficient underwing clearance, Airbus could bolt pretty-much any engine onto the pylon to give the customer the amount of thrust they need for their particular business circumstances.?
    Obviously, there would be a weight-penalty for sticking bigger engines on it, but otherwise I can’t see where the issue is.?

  3. Ben Sandilands


    A twin engined jet has to have sufficient power in a remaining engine in the event of one failing at a critical point of a takeoff roll to safely complete the take off and climb away from the field clear of a specified obstacle height.

    At extreme field temperatures above 40C, jet engine performance is degraded. The result at Dubai is that on some long distance routes in the very hot months a twin engined jet is payload limited where a four engined jet isn’t, because it loses proportionately less power with an engine failure than a twin.

    Thus the rules for twin and quad jet operations under very hot conditions are tougher on the former. While there are many carriers whose networks don’t involve routine operations at 45C+ the steady rise in average temperatures is causing a steeper rise in the number of excessive hot days that cross various lines at other airports where until now it might not have been seen as a regular problem.

  4. Geoff

    Watch the Brisbane – Hong Kong Route and similar, 777 too big, 330 too small – Guess what

  5. Dan Dair

    I’m familiar with the rules regarding engine-loss at or after V1.

    The point I was trying to make is that if a B777 can comply with these rules, why can’t an A350.?

    If any of the ME3 or anyone servicing a ‘hot or high’ field needs the extra capability to take-off full, why can’t Airbus simply whack a pair of ‘bloody big’ engines onto their airframe to meet their customers needs.

    One would assume that Qantas, for example, might own 6-10 such aircraft which it dedicated solely to hot or high field routes (such as everywhere but KSA to Dubai) & the rest of their fleet wouldn’t have the bigger engines because they wouldn’t be working in the extreme environments, so they’d be a waste of money due to weight and fuel-burn.?

    Airlines without significant hot or high destinations might not own any aircraft so equipped, whilst the ME3 would probably only operate these ‘big-engined’ models.?

  6. Ben Sandilands


    No-one said it couldn’t. We will be here all day and night going over the positions taken by the aircraft makers and the airlines but I’ll try to summarise those developments.

    When Boeing proposed to build the 777-X it agreed to go beyond the power/mass relationships we see in all twin engined jets since the dawn of time to accommodate Emirates desire for an aircraft that would suffer less from hot weather limitations. Lufthansa was notable among the airlines that resisted this, arguing that the additional power which comes at the cost of more structural and design requirements is a penalty across its network compared to the giant hub centric needs of the Middle East carriers.

    At the end of the day Boeing decided to build a jet which will be skewed to the home hub needs of its biggest customers, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. And Lufthansa decided to buy some anyhow. However Boeing has reportedly told Emirates that it won’t offer a 787-10 with special Dubai capabilities, but rather, the same capabilities all twin engined jets have today. The 787-10 is in a sales contest with the current models of the A350 for an Emirates order that has been on and off the boil for several years. The A350 is the larger more powerful competitor for that order, but maybe too generous in its passenger amenity for this cruel new world of jammed tight cabins.

    I’m just the messenger. Exactly what Airbus might offer in its further stretch of the A350 remains to be seen. Like the 787 it is a high composite structure jet meaning at least in theory it should be lighter per passenger per unit of distance and so forth. Who knows what surprises await?

  7. Dan Dair

    Please forgive me if I’m labouring the point,
    Airbus made it clear that they have no plans to make a ME3 centric A350 & you just told me that Boeing made the same decision on the B787.

    The point I was trying to convey was why can’t an airline specify a much larger engine than standard if they want it.?

    I understand that the wing will have a limit on its ability to support an oversized engine & presumably the software will need significant reprogramming for an engine which is outside the original parameters of the design.

    Up to a point, I don’t see these things as insurmountable.
    Indeed, didn’t I read that the new GTF engine has variable pre-set power-outputs within the same design, depending on what the buyer requires.?

    Maybe I’m over-simplifying the problems or just missing the point somewhere.?

  8. ghostwhowalksnz

    Its not only the engines which have reduced thrust avaialble for takeoff at ‘hot’ airports.
    “Air density decreases with increasing temperature and altitude. At any given true airspeed, lower air density reduces the amount of lift generated by the wings..”
    So a possible single engine out scenario may also not have enough lift to continue the climb. So that bumping up the thrust only solves one side of the problem, you need a bigger wing as well. Obviously the weight at takeoff feeds into the thrust or lift required as well. All the more reason to get structural weight down.

  9. Ben Sandilands


    Agree that nothing is insurmountable. Call me lazy, or time poor, or indeed just poor, but when the airlines start to huff and puff over these things I accept that there is an issue.

    Most issues in business in general seem to be to be capable of being resolved by price. The aircraft makers can make individual airline concerns go away for a price, or just call their bluff.

  10. Dan Dair

    As with the engine issues, I assume that the wing efficiency problems are the same for all aircraft in extreme climates.
    As I said earlier, I’ve no background in maths or aerodynamics, but I assume that the thrust requirement issues are correlated to the lift issues.?
    So an aircraft operating in a reduced lift environment must have still greater thrust to compensate for the loss of lift & thrust on take-off.?
    I know how important your time is to you
    & I wasn’t trying to put you on the spot, nor make you responsible for answering all my questions.

  11. Fred


    It basically comes down to economics. In the past, the airframe manufacturers were able to offer their customers a range of engines & thrust ratings to suit their individual requirements. That is no longer the case, largely due to the astronomical development costs of these large engines. No engine manufacturer is going to develop a new engine unless it can capture a large part of the market to defray its development costs. Consequently, the airframe manufacturers tend to enter into exclusive arrangements with the engine manufacturers, with a sole engine optimised to suit the performance requirements of a particular airframe and the majority of customers.

    The following article from the Wall Street Journal discusses the issue:

  12. Dan Dair

    I can accept your point, but I suppose all along I was thinking (if the wing would support it.?) why not bolt an existing B777 engine onto the A350 wing.?

    That technology already exists so no massive development costs & as the engine is upgraded for the B777-X it could then be adapted for future hot or high A350’s.?
    Also, the engine weight would be broadly similar to that of a standard A350 engine, around the 6 tonne mark.?

    Equally, as the XWB engine is developed, potentially the engine for the larger A350 could be offered as a hot or high option for a smaller version of that aircraft. Ie: the A350-800 flying with the engines developed for the A350-1000.?

    Sorry Ben,
    You create a nice sensible posting about seat widths in a new aircraft & I run off with it about engine issues…….

  13. Fred


    If only it was that simple! For a start, the B777 engine wouldn’t fit under the wing of an A350. The GE90-115 that currently powers the B777-300ER is much larger than the Trent XWB engine on the A350. The GE90 has a fan diameter of 325cm (128in), whereas the Trent XWB’s fan diameter is 300cm (118in). The GE9X engine that will power the B777-9X is bigger again, with a fan diameter of 339cm (133.5in). Even if it was technically feasible, the engine/airframe combinations are very closely optimised, so bolting a different engine on to the A350 would likely ruin its fuel economics.

    Further, Airbus has an exclusive agreement with Rolls-Royce to provide the engine for the A350, just as Boeing has an exclusive agreement with GE to power the B777-300ER/9X, etc. The only option I see would be for Rolls Royce to develop an increased thrust version of the Trent XWB, specifically to cater for hot/high requirements.

  14. Fred


    I imagine the Trent XWB engine developed for the A350-1000 could be fitted to the A350-800/900 to provide hot/high versions of those aircraft, at relatively little cost. However, the comments Ben made in his article above are related to the proposed stretched version of the A350-1000. Airbus has said that the thrust of the existing Trent XWB-97 engine that powers the A350-1000 could be increased sufficiently to accommodate the needs of a stretched aircraft. However, that thrust increase would only cater for those airlines that don’t need hot/high performance, which excludes the Middle East carriers. Hot/high performance would require a bigger engine, the development costs of which have been estimated at about half a billion dollars.

    See the following articles, the second of which was cited by Ben in another blog:



  15. endeavour.paul@gmail.com

    We have had people complaining for years about the unfair advantages the ME3 have yet they really have this one big drawback to their efficiency.

    Airlines that don’t go near the Middle East have an efficincy advantage in that they don’t need to have such large engines on their planes. They should be promoting this strength.

    Meanwhile, a list of airlines that have 9 across seating on the 777 would be a handy guide. Likewise, the seating amenity of the 787, A330 and A350.

    My recent flights have been comfortable thanks to booking the last or second last row to have a two seat window side.

  16. Confirmed Sceptic

    The history of “Special Performance” variants is long indeed, and rarely has the effort paid off for the airframe builders. The DC-9-20 for SAS became an orphan, and sold in very few numbers. The 747-SP for the ultra long range of the day likewise.

    If you decide to build an aircraft for extreme temperature conditions you need to consider also the speeds needed, and hence the size of the brakes required for the rejected take-off case. Bigger brakes can mean bigger cooling fans and attachment structure. The problem with the bigger everything is that you only use it for thirty seconds then have to drag it around for 14 hours.

    Additional structure, mass and complexity is exactly what Lufthansa wanted to avoid in buying an aircraft optimised for the ME.

    (As an aside, apparently it was Lufthansa’s requirements that made the 747-8 unsuitable for the wider market)

  17. Dan Dair

    Confirmed Sceptic,
    “it was Lufthansa’s requirements that made the 747-8 unsuitable for the wider market”

    Perhaps that was because it was unsuitable for ‘hot or high’ field operations.?
    (intended as a joke,
    but I suppose there might be something in it.?)

  18. Brown David

    Hi Ben, I know that this is off topic also but picking up on the comment from comet, I think there is something to be looked at in respect to fatigue and roster issues. In Asia over the weekend, the Russian media were all over this subject. Check out the link. It would be good to open this up if it is correct.


  19. Ben Sandilands

    Hi David,

    There is a very loud campaign coming from the union side which needs respectful and fearless attention by the media closer to the action than Australia. I have a totally open mind on this, but locally, a major story is brewing and may break today so I am focused on that at the moment.

    If the accident had nothing to do with fatigue but the training or actions of a pilot the direction of the story will change radically, as it has already in some quarters.

  20. Brown David

    Thanks Ben, I am open-minded on this also especially given the source. It will be interested to see what unfolds but I am concerned (as will most readers) if there is a critical and wide-spread rostering and fatigue issue with the ME3.

    Recently I spoke with an A330 captain from a major European airline and he said that he was struggling with a roster that sent him to Asia for one mission and then the US on the next. He says that he just never catches up with himself because of the radical time shifts. The guy was tired before he left to go to the airport and fly back to his home port.

    The South China Morning Post ran a feature on the fatigue issues with CX pilots.

    It is not a good trend.

  21. Ben Sandilands


    Agree.It’s extremely important and I have picked up on a number of ATSB reports into incidents, involving major Australian carrier flights, where it drew attention to one of the pilots in each case having claimed at some length to having not been adequately rested.

    As we have learned, the ATSB is extremely reluctant to call a spade a bloody spade at times, and I end up remembering all of those briefings with lawyers about defamation, and the advantages of qualified privilege, and then proceed to bore many readers to tears writing a post as if I was walking across an ice covered river in late spring.

    The issue has also arisen in a number of its inquiries into AirServices Australia incidents, some of them very serious, where it has at least been suitably blunter about the situation. I used the South China Post story and invited Cathay Pacific to respond to those alarming claims and was referred to a rather anodyne response it made to the HK media.

    My opinion at the time of the Emirates overrun at Melbourne was that the ATSB was ridiculously out of touch with reality when it found that fatigue wasn’t a factor in that incredibly serious incident.

    Incidentally, while we have been in this discussion the story I have been pursuing much of the holiday weekend has ‘fallen over’ at least for the time being, so call me ‘peeved’ rather than ‘fatigued.’



  22. Dan Dair

    It’s weird that it was reported the pilot aborted one landing due to dreadful weather before circling for two hours.????
    According to reports the PIC then attempted to land again before crashing onto the runway.

    If this report is accurate, it looks like the PIC didn’t go to the designated alternate, but instead remained on-station, presumably because the meteorological reports suggested a significant ‘window’ in the weather.?

    It would seem like perhaps the flight crews decision not to go for the alternate, has resulted in a case of insufficient fuel to change that decision once it was clear that the weather was not going to improve.?

    IF (big IF) these reports are correct, it would imply either;
    That the flight crew / PIC were inept,?
    That the flight crew / PIC failed to follow appropriate diversion procedures,?
    That the flight crew / PIC were lied to by weather forecasters (or the ATC),?
    That the flight crew / PIC were under extremely strong pressure from their airline not to divert to their designated alternate airfield.?

    So, if true,
    Is this;
    The pilots fault,?
    The meteorologists fault,?
    The airlines fault.?

    Lets hope for an honest and independent accident investigation which will find out what the sequence of events actually was.
    Rather than the usual ‘easy-out’ of pilot error.?

    I don’t mind a pilot error conclusion.
    I never like it when the investigators decide that when there’s simply not an apparent other cause.? (what do I know.?)

    We will see…… probably.?????

  23. Brown David

    @Dan – it would be interesting to know if there were other aircraft that landed during the 2 hours that the Fly Dubai pilots were flying around locally and not looking for an alternate? Or, was there pressure from the company to not divert? Agree, let’s hope the report is factual, truthful and covers all the contributing factors.

  24. Fred


    Two hours is quite a long time to hold, but it’s not unheard of, especially if the weather was forecast to improve. Early reports (not confirmed) indicate the aircraft had about 2½ hours of holding fuel available, in addition to the fuel required to divert to their alternate. If true, then they still had the option to divert. Most airlines would prefer a crew to hold as long as possible before diverting, in the hope of an improvement in the weather. In this case, I suspect the aircraft was approaching the limit of its holding fuel and the crew decided to give it ‘one more shot’ before diverting, with tragic results.

    Meteorology is a notoriously inexact science. The forecasters don’t always get it right, but I think it’s a bit extreme to suggest they would ‘lie’ about an expected improvement in the weather. Early indications are that this was a go-around that went horribly wrong, for reasons yet to be determined. Fatigue may have been a contributory factor, but handling errors are, unfortunately, quite often a feature of this type of accident.

    Wow, talk about thread drift!

  25. comet

    Cathay has copied Emirates 10-across 777 seating, and it has indicated it wants to also copy the crew rostering style of the UAE carriers.

    One can only hope that the FlyDubai crash persuades CX to abandon that desire. But when the competition is doing it, it makes it hard for an airline to resist.

    We now know that FlyDubai pilots made bad decisions in the cockpit leading up to the crash, switching off autopilot at a critical moment (AF447 also switched off autopilot at a critical moment.) It’s very hard to separate the fatigue from the poor training, or the combination of both.

    But when a pilot works 11 days straight, alternating between night and day shifts, then has to land in a fatigued state at 4am during a bad storm, that kind of shifting is asking for trouble.

    A bleary-eyed Emirates pilot entered the wrong weight into the A340 flight computer in Melbourne, sending the aircraft down a grassy slope, smashing through lighting fixtures, before achieving liftoff within one second of disaster.

    I’m hoping Cathay doesn’t introduce harsher crew rostering, as then I’d have to cross CX off my list of airlines that I fly.

  26. Fred

    The following quote from Ray Ronan, a former pilot and author of a book entitled ‘Seconds to Disaster’ is a very good illustration of the fatigue problem in today’s airlines:

    “It’s almost an ethos within the airline industry, that if you don’t push your pilots to the very limits of flight time limitations, then you’re not running the airline correctly. And from an accountancy point of view, you’re not maximizing your profits,” he explained.

    Even worse, however, is a situation when a particular airline does not have “a culture system where you listen to your pilots,” Ronan pointed out, adding that the regulator must step in and deal with problems like pilots fatigue in that scenario.

    “If the airlines are using flight time limitations as target – then [regulators should] reduce the flight time limitations. We don’t want tired pilots flying airplanes that are flying past us around the world.”

    In short, the airlines view flight time limitations as productivity targets, not limits. We often hear the mantra ‘but it’s legal’ in response to ridiculous rostering decisions. The problem won’t go away until the aviation regulators start doing their job properly and force the airlines to roster their crews sensibly.

  27. Dan Dair

    Fred, re: postings #22 & 24,

    You’re quite correct,
    ‘lie’ was an inappropriate term.
    I was trying to convey something & chose my words badly.

    With the benefit of more time to think about it I’d suggest that,
    ‘the meteorology report or ATC interpretation might have said that there would be a DEFINITE window in the weather in two hours time.?’

    If FlyDubai pilots are under company pressure not to divert, then such a forecast would be absolutely what they’d want to hear.? (maybe a divert would put the crew over their hours at the wrong end of the return leg.?)
    As you say, ‘Meteorology is a notoriously inexact science’ & if the forecasters or the ATC didn’t convey that in their report, it would go a long way to explaining why a tired flight crew would hold for over two hours instead of diverting.?

    Purely speculation on my part, at this point.

  28. Dan Dair

    I read, some time ago, that the European Union commercial driving / Tachograph regulations were more stringent on driving hours & rest times, that the similar regulations for pilots flight duties.?
    I don’t know if that’s still the case.?

    It strikes me as odd that companies would ‘let-loose’ a potentially tired flight crew in charge of a multi-million dollar aircraft & with a couple of hundred potential law-suits on-board, as a matter of course.?

    Is it that old chestnut;
    ‘it’s more profitable to pay the law-suits than remedy the problem’.?

  29. Fred


    Re #27: Pilots rely on forecasts (TAFs) for long-term planning purposes, and observations by trained observers (METARs) and ATC (ATIS) for short-term planning. The TAF for Rostov-on-Don for the period before and after the accident indicated TEMPO periods (ie up to 60 minutes duration at a time) of nasty weather, with wind gusts up to 50 knots, visibility 1000m in rain showers and mist, scattered cloud at 300ft and broken CB at 2000ft. In between those TEMPO periods, the weather was forecast to be better, with wind gusts up to 34 knots and visibility 3000m in light rain showers.

    Given that the nasty weather was only forecast to last for periods of up to 60 minutes at a time, I’d say it was quite reasonable for the crew to hold and wait for a break in the weather, rather than divert to their alternate straight away. Holding isn’t really a problem, provided there is still fuel available to divert if necessary. A diversion, on the other hand, causes all sorts of problems with regards to flight time limitations, etc. If it does become necessary, then so be it, but airlines generally want their crews to avoid diverting, as long as safety isn’t compromised.

    The crew would have monitored the METARs and the ATIS while they were holding and used that information to decide on the best time to fly an approach. The METARs for the period show that the weather was constantly fluctuating, with the worst bits not quite as bad as forecast. The biggest problem seems to have been the wind, which was gusting up to 40-45 knots around the time of the accident. As I said earlier, I’m guessing the crew was approaching the limit of their holding and felt pressured into attempting one more approach before diverting. In hindsight that was obviously a bad decision.

    Re #28: I’m not familiar with EU flight time limitations, so really can’t say if they are any better or worse than the limitations imposed on commercial drivers in the EU. The FlyDubai crew would have been subject to Dubai’s flight time limitations. If the airline can show that the crew satisfied those flight time limitations, then they’ll hide under the “but it’s legal so we didn’t do anything wrong” umbrella. I think it’s a case of the airlines (and their regulators) putting their heads in the sand, rather than thinking “it’s more profitable to pay the law suits than remedy the problem”.

  30. comet

    It was Garuda Flight 200, which crashed at Yogyakarta, that exposed the airline’s incentive not to do go-around. Pilots were given bonuses for using less fuel.

    FlyDubai penalises pilots for taking sick days. So pilots turn up for work when they’ve got the flu, or feel like death warmed up. Instead of lying down in a sick bed, they sit down at the controls of a 737 to avoid being docked a day’s pay.

    There seems to be a stream of incidents across the aviation industry where pilots have mishandled stall situations.

    AF447, pilot disconnected the auto-pilot during bad weather, and the plane stalled and plummeted.

    AirAsia flight 8501, the aircraft hit bad weather and went into a stall, crashing into the sea.

    FlyDubai FZ981, pilot disconnected the auto-pilot during bad weather while attempting a go-around, and the plane stalled and plummeted.

    Sick and sleepless pilots lose situational awareness, become specially disoriented, and are unable to handle a stall. Poor training is also a factor.

  31. Going Boeing

    The 737 autopilot limits for autoland headwind is 25 knots. This would preclude using both autopilots for an autoland which also gives you an autopilot go around capability. In this terrible event they probably used a single channel or one autopilot approach therefore requiring an autopilot disconnect to go around. If the mechanical turbulence associated with the wind was severe it makes the go around very challenging and the autopilot may have disconnected itself if the turbulence was too much for it to cope with during the approach.Hand flying the go around also requires manual thrust unlike an Airbus. Fatigue would have been a major factor. Crew experience another major factor. The cockpit relationship between the pilots also known as the cockpit gradient meaning the relative experience levels together with cultural differences and the likelihood of the First Officer asserting themselves could also be a contributing factor here. You want an experienced F/O who is not afraid of speaking up if at all not comfortable. Push on itis to get the job done without considering all the safety and fuel implications especially when fatigued must be guarded against influencing the pilots judgement in a situation like this. Blaming a crew for mishandling the aircraft in my view is a basic rudimentary mistake absolving the airline of its role in this. This is Human factors bread and butter stuff. We shouldn’t be debating this in the twent first century. A mature airline with highly experienced crew and a strong safety culture would help mitigate against the threats facing the crew on this night. Blaming the dead pilots is a cop out!

  32. Ben Sandilands

    Going Boeing,

    I think your informed views, which seem totally reasonable to me, justify my deciding not to do an early post on the FlyDubai crash.

    While people may have reasonable concerns about fatigue in UAE airlines, it could be that both pilots turn out to have been rostered together after a period of leave for one or both, eliminating fatigue as a major factor.

    If the Russian leak, concerning the CVR, turns out to be correct, and I suspect it is, it may reveal a totally different set of factors at play, and by the response of one pilot, it seems like he was right on the ball and totally aware of the risks of his colleague making a fundamental mistake. If that proves to be the case, and so forth.

    Germanwings was a different tragedy, and I think it was inevitable everyone would weight in hard the moment an independent criminal prosecutor revealed that one pilot had been locked out of the cockpit by the other.

    Keep in mind that in Australian practice, the ATSB would in such circumstances, be obliged to hand the information over to the AFP, and I think subsequent events would have been very similar in this country to what then happened in France in the case of Germanwings.

    From long experience, the only experience I can bring to any technical piloting discussion, we don’t have the full story yet, and when we get it, it is highly likely to reveal major factors that will influence the findings of reasonable people. And Yes I know I’m overusing the word ‘reasonable.’

  33. comet

    We don’t have the full story of any air crash in the days after it happened.

    But we can canvass the possibilities, as you have done in your previous post (above), Ben, and in your MH370 stories.

    The many pilots working for UAE carriers who leaked information to Russian state television revealed unacceptable pilot rostering practices, and they all stressed that it’s unknown if fatigue was involved in the FlyDubai crash.

    Even so, pilot fatigue is now a hot issue, regardless of the outcome of the Russian investigation. I’m glad to see the international spotlight shon on this issue.

  34. Ben Sandilands

    Agree. I’m disappointed however that when fatigue is raised, officially, and under privilege, about Australian carriers and AirServices, the politicians look the other way, the general media says next to nothing if anything at all, and it even gets brushed aside in discussions here.

    The one area where it does receive attention is in trucking accidents. However if you follow the discussion about new road transport laws set to take effect next week in this country, to reduce accidents caused by lack of maintenance, and fatigue and unrealistic trip times, you will see most of the commentary is about how it will drive up costs to consumers, or help wreck national productivity.

    I regret this lack of focus on home problems in this area.

  35. Going Boeing

    The travelling public and CASA should be very concerned about Emirates new flight time regulations. They are now way outside industry norms. When the regulating authority is chaired by the President of Emirates draw your own conclusions?

  36. Fred

    Unfortunately, many senior airline executives view pilots as a bunch of cosseted prima donnas. The great majority of those executives have never worked as pilots and have little or no understanding of the challenges pilots face in their day-to-day work. When pilots raise fatigue issues, it is all too often seen as nothing more than whingeing and is cast aside as an industrial issue. Consequently, the regulators don’t want to get involved and the politicians don’t want to know. Sadly, it will take a number of high profile accidents, where fatigue is clearly identified as a causal factor, before people start to sit up and take notice.

  37. ghostwhowalksnz

    Intriguing about the fatigue story being mentioned in regard to trucking accidents. I was wondering if new technology with apps and cloud storage could provide a national database of truck drivers ( and pilots ) hours. As the hourly records are required anyway, here if a truck is stopped they have to provide a logbook of the old fashioned kind which shows up to date times they are driving and resting. Replace to old log book with an app on a tablet/smartphone and the details can be accessed by law enforcement at any time.

    An additional feature would tie in the ‘road user charges’ applied to heavy trucks in NZ, ie charges for distance travelled based on loaded weight of truck ( this is instead of taxes on diesel for road use). Many trucking firms use an auto system which pays as they go, ie the mileage is electronically measured and uploaded along with correct charge per km travelled.( the alternative is to pay in advance as there are large fines if you are in arrears)

    This way we can check which driver is with a particular truck and the number of hours he/she has recorded and verified by the time /distance that vehicle has traveled as recorded by the electronic road user charges.

    Similar systems for airline pilots would show those airlines which are pushing a portion of their pilots for longer hours, rather than fining out in an accident investigation?

  38. Dan Dair

    Prepare to amaze me…….

    I will be completely amazed if that raw information isn’t already available to the regulators,
    if they can be bothered to look / ask for it.?

    I’m starting to see a pattern emerging,
    regulate the a$$ off domestic road transport, where the probability of causing mass-deaths is very limited, whilst allowing a virtual free-for-all in aviation, where the possibility of….. etc, etc.????

    Perhaps, at some time in the future, most aircraft will be registered in the UAE,
    where, like Liberia,
    the rest of the worlds usual regulations no-longer apply.?

  39. Fred

    In Australia and other ‘civilised’ countries, airlines are required by law to maintain records of flight crew members’ rosters, actual duty periods and flight times, off duty periods, etc. Those records must be retained for a least ten years and are audited by the government regulators and by IATA during their operational safety audits.

  40. comet

    I wonder why airlines are only required to keep that information for ten years?

    Crew rosters are just a bunch of simple numbers. You could keep the whole decade’s record on a small disk, and compare it with the previous decade to look for trends. In fact, it’s crazy that the government doesn’t store that information. I can only assume the government is not interested.

  41. comet

    On the fatigue issue, Russian state news channel RT has posted a video story about fatigue at FlyDubai:


    The story doesn’t really provide new information from what has been published in text form over the past week, but it is still interesting to watch in video form.

    The video runs 7:51.

Leave a comment


https://www.crikey.com.au/2016/03/27/will-cathay-pacific-pack-its-new-a350s-as-tightly-as-its-777s/ == https://www.crikey.com.au/free-trial/==https://www.crikey.com.au/subscribe/

Show popup

Telling you what the others don't. FREE for 21 days.