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Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg admits on falling short on 737 MAX problems

NEW YORK, May 29: The head of Boeing acknowledged Wednesday that the company “clearly fell short” in dealing with the accident-ridden 737 MAX and said that it had not adequately communicated with regulators.

Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg’s remarks to CBS News -- his first interview since the global grounding of the plane following two crashes that claimed 346 lives -- came as a top airline representative signaled that the top-selling jets could be out of service at least through mid- to late-August.

Muilenburg was pressed by CBS about failing to notify the Federal Aviation Administration for more than a year that the company had deactivated a signal designed to advise the crew of a disagreement between the plane’s “angle of attack” sensors, which measure its angle vis-a-vis oncoming air to warn of impending stalls.

The sensors provide data to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, a flight handling system connected to the deadly crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines MAXs.

The FAA did not learn of the issue until after the Lion Air crash, more than 13 months after Boeing first unearthed the problem.

The design of the MCAS system has been criticized by aviation experts because it is tied to just one sensor at a time, making it susceptible to malfunction.

In both of the MAX crashes, the MCAS pointed the plane sharply downward based on a faulty sensor reading, hindering the pilots’ effort to control the aircraft after takeoff, according to preliminary crash investigations.

Muilenburg, who has repeatedly rejected suggestions of a design flaw in the 737 MAX, acknowledged implementation shortcomings.

“The implementation of this angle of attack alert was a mistake,” he told CBS. “Our communication on that was not what it should have been.” But Muilenburg, who also issued a sweeping apology to the families of flight victims during the interview, said he believes in the plane and would have no reservations putting his family aboard.

“We’re confident in the fundamental safety of the airplane,” he said.

The interview comes a week after the FAA led a meeting of international regulators designed to coordinate the process to approve the return of the 737 MAX into service.

Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association, said Wednesday that the plane -- which has been grounded since mid-March -- will remain out of service “at least 10 to 12 weeks” while regulators review Boeing’s proposed fix to the MCAS.

A note from CFRA Research characterized the timeframe for the 737 MAX resumption as “worse” than expected, but said Boeing was still well positioned once it exits the crisis.

“Our thesis on Boeing is based on long term commercial aerospace demand, a strong order book and the likelihood that Boeing will not lose significant orders as long as the plane resumes service safely,” CFRA said.

“We expect continued volatility in the shares until the issues hanging over Boeing move closer to being resolved,” CFRA added.

Earlier Wednesday, Muilenburg told an investor conference in New York that the company will tailor its compensation to airlines for the 737 MAX grounding around customer preference, and they could be paid back in services instead of cash.

“We know we’ve impacted the summer schedules for many of them, and it’s difficult, it’s painful,” he said.

“I don’t see this as an additional material event for us, but it’s something that’s going to require individual attention customer by customer.” Compensation could include tweaking plane delivery schedules, or offering additional training or services, as well as cash in some cases, he said.

Muilenburg described last week’s meeting of international regulators as a “key” event in returning the plane to service, but acknowledged that it may take more time before global regulators are ready to approve the plane’s return.

“Our hope is that we’ll have a broad international alignment with the FAA,” he said at the conference.

“But there may be some international authorities that will operate on a different schedule. So we’ll have to tailor our plans, depending on the regulatory approval to get the airplane back up and flying.” The FAA will be the first regulator to clear the plane for service, but aviation analysts say the agency wants at least some other countries to approve the plane soon after.

Muilenburg said Boeing was prepared to be flexible as more customers get the green light.

Boeing has cut it production schedule of the 737 MAX and halted new deliveries, necessitating additional storage capacity in Washington and Texas, he said.

Air India changes Delhi-Chicago schedule

NEW DELHI, May 28: Effective June1, 2019 up to July 31 Air India daily non-stop flight AI 127/AI 126 Delhi-Chicago-Delhi will operate as Delhi-Stockholm-Chicago-Delhi.

AI 127 departs from Delhi at 22:05 hours (local time) and arrives into Chicago at 07:25 hours (local time) the following day.

AI 126 departs from Chicago at 12:00 hours (local time) and arrives into New Delhi at 14:15 hours (local time) the following day.

Air India stops flights from Mumbai to New York

MUMBAI, May 20: National carrier Air India, which had commenced direct services from Mumbai to New York’s John F Kennedy airport in December 2018, has decided to discontinue the flights, reportedly owing to poor demand.

AI officials said the Mumbai-New York flight operation was causing losses to the airline.

However, the airline will continue to operate direct flights from Mumbai to Newark.

An AI spokesperson said the Mumbai-New York flight, operated thrice a week, was temporarily suspended in February owing to the Pakistan airspace closure and was expected to resume in June.

“However, we won’t be resuming the services. The flight has been discontinued owing to poor load factor or low seat occupancy,” the spokesperson said.

The official said AI has not included the flight in their winter schedule, which usually commences from third week of October up to second week of March in the next year.

Other AI flight operations to the US from Delhi have been witnessing up to 80% seat occupancy.

AI operates Boeing B777-ER aircraft to operate flights to Newark, Washington, Chicago (from Hyderabad via Delhi), San Francisco and New York from Delhi.

The national carrier had planned to commence the direct flight from Mumbai to New York, thrice a week, from October 2018.

However, it had to delay the operations to December owing to fleet crunch.

Meanwhile, the flying time of US-bound flights from Delhi has seen an increase by three hours as they are being re-routed via Mumbai or Ahmedabad. This has led to heavy losses for the airline, said AI officers.

Air India has 16 Boeing B777-ER planes, of which four were grounded because of unavailability of spare parts in October. However, according to AI chairman and managing director (CMD), Ashwani Lohani, all the planes are operational now.

In October, AI had re- launched its other direct Mumbai-Frankfurt flight, which was suspended in 2010.

Singapore flight with ‘nose gear glitch’ causes scare at IGI

NEW DELHI, May 8: A “full emergency” was declared on board a Delhi-bound Singapore Airlines flight with 228 passengers on board after the pilots detected a technical glitch in the front wheel of the aircraft. Singapore Airlines flight SQ 406 landed safely at the Delhi airport on Wednesday evening but the jet had to be towed away, due to which the runway was closed for about 18 minutes, delaying some flights, a Delhi airport official aware of the development said.

Airport officials, who did not want to be identified, said that at around 8pm, the pilots on flight SQ 406 detected a glitch in the nose wheel and alerted the Delhi air traffic control (ATC) officials, who then provided a priority landing slot. The flight landed at runway 28 at around 8.20 pm.

A passenger on the flight, who did not want to identified, said that the pilot also announced that the aircraft had lost its steering capacity. “We were all set to land but the flight started to ascend… We were all scared. The flight made another attempt to land and did so with a jerk. We were asked to be prepare for a hard landing. The aircraft stopped in the middle of the runway and had to be towed away,” the passenger said.

The Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), which operates the Indira Gandhi International Airport, said in a statement, “There was some technical issue with the front wheel of the aircraft. We had made all the possible arrangements and fire tenders along with medical team were kept on standby to tackle any emergency condition.”

As the plane landed, it said, all the crew members and passengers on board were marked safe. “However, the aircraft had to be towed away from the runway. Runway clearance took 18 minutes from 8.20 pm to 8.38 pm,” DIAL said.

The runway was again made available for flight operations from 8.45 pm, it added. The aircraft was docked at the parking stand by 8.49 pm and the emergency was called off at 8.50 pm.

ATC officials, however, said that the closure of the runway for 18 minutes delayed some departing flights. “Since the wheel of the aircraft had come out in time, there was not much impact on flights getting delayed. Runway 28 was being used for departures. Some flights ready to depart had to be put on hold until the runway was cleared. The lag is expected to be normal by late [Wednesday] night when the frequency of departures is lower,” the official, who did not want to be named, said.

The number of flights affected by the incident was not available with the DIAL till the time this report went to press.

Mumbai-bound Air France flight from Paris makes emergency landing in Iran

TEHRAN, May 8: A plane flown by a subsidiary of Air France heading from Paris to Mumbai has made an emergency landing in central Iran.

The Airbus A340 flown by the low-cost carrier Joon landed in the city of Isfahan on Wednesday.

Joon said in a statement the plane, operating as flight number AF218, landed out of precaution over a malfunctioning ventilation circuit.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said local authorities are providing services to passengers, all of whom were in good health.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the flight would take off.

41 feared dead after Russian plane crash-lands in Moscow

MOSCOW, May 6: Forty-one people including at least two children are believed to have died when a Russian passenger plane made an emergency landing and was engulfed in flames at Moscow’s busiest airport Sunday, investigators said.

Dramatic footage shared on social media showed Aeroflot’s Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft, land at Sheremetyevo international airport, flames and black smoke pouring from its fuselage.

Passengers could be seen leaping onto an inflatable slide at the front and running from the blazing plane as huge black columns of smoke billowed into the sky.

“There were 78 people including crew members on board the plane,” the Investigative Committee said in a statement, adding it had headed to the northwest Russian city of Murmansk.

“According to the updated info which the investigation has as of now, 37 people survived.”

Another 11 people were injured, Dmitry Matveyev, the Moscow region’s health minister said earlier in the day. Three of them had been hospitalised but they were not in a serious condition, he added.

Investigators said they were looking into various lines of inquiry and it was premature to draw any conclusions about the cause of the accident.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered his condolences to the victims’ loved ones, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also ordered a special committee to investigate the disaster.

The jet carrying 73 passengers and five crew members had just left Sheremetyevo when the crew issued a distress signal, officials said.

“Flight Su-1492 took off on schedule at 6:02 pm (15H02 GMT),” said a statement from the airport.

“After the take-off, the crew reported an anomaly and decided to come back to the departure airport. At 6:30 pm, the aircraft made an emergency landing,” it added.

The tabloid newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted one passenger, Petr Egorov, who said: “We had just taken off and the aircraft was hit by lightning.... The landing was rough, I almost passed out from fear.”

“The plane sent out a distress signal after takeoff,” a source told Interfax news agency.

“It attempted an emergency landing but did not succeed the first time, and on the second time the landing gear hit (the ground), then the nose did, and it caught fire,” the source added.

Interfax, citing an anonymous source, said the plane had landed with its fuel tanks full because, having lost contact with air traffic controllers, it was too dangerous to dump its fuel tanks over Moscow.

Several flights have been diverted to other Moscow airports or Nizhny Novgorod, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of the Russian capital.

The Sukhoi Superjet-100 was the first civilian aircraft developed in Russia’s post-Soviet era and at the time of its launch, in 2011, was a source of national pride.

But it struggled to convince buyers from airlines outside Russia, and several foreign carriers that did buy it have since prefered to cut back its use or phase it out completely, citing its reliability.

The Russian government offered subsidies to encourage Russian airlines to buy the Superjet and Aeroflot became its main operator.

In September 2018, it announced a record order of 100 Superjet-100s.

Boeing 737 slides into Florida river with 136 on board, no fatalities

JACKSONVILLE, May 4: A Boeing 737 commercial jet with 136 people on board slid into the St. John's River near Jacksonville, Florida after landing on May 4, a spokesman for Naval Air Station Jacksonville said.

The flight arriving from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay went into the river at the end of the runway at about 9:40 p.m. local time, the air station said.

The mayor of Jacksonville said on Twitter that everyone on board the flight was "alive and accounted for" but that crews were working to control jet fuel on the water.

"The plane was not submerged. Every person is alive and accounted for," the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said on Twitter.

The flight was arriving from Cuba, the air station spokesman said. Emergency response personnel were on the scene.

No further details were immediately available.



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