Airlines, Airports and Airliners 23 November 2023

Compiled by Willie Bodenstein

This Week in Airlines, Airports and Airliners

FAA to appoint rulemaking committee to examine pilot mental health.

IATA - Giving airline data back to the airlines.

Boom Supersonic announces new aircraft, engine, and investment milestones.

13 November 2023 - redefines the customer experience.

Rolls-Royce successfully completes 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel test programme.

Ethiopian Airlines in it for the long-haul: commits to a further 11 A350-900s.

EGYPTAIR announces order for 10 A350-900s to meet growing demand for air travel.

Eindhoven Airport uses AI to improve turnaround process.

Worldwide incidents and accidents.

Bonus Video - The Orion Cub


The Federal Aviation Administration will establish a Pilot Mental Health Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to provide recommendations on breaking down the barriers that prevent pilots from reporting mental health issues to the agency.

“Mental health care has made great strides in recent years, and we want to make sure the FAA is considering those advances when we evaluate the health of pilots,” said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker.

Pilots must report certain mental health conditions to their aviation medical examiners, who are trained to determine the pilot's fitness to fly.

The ARC will include medical experts and aviation and labour representatives. The FAA will finalize the charter for the rulemaking committee and appoint the panel of experts in the coming weeks. It will build on previous work the FAA has done to prioritize pilot mental health, including:

Increasing mental health training for medical examiners
Supporting industry-wide research and clinical studies on pilot mental health. Hiring additional mental health professionals to expand in-house expertise and to decrease wait times for return-to-fly decisions. Completed clinical research and amended policy to decrease the frequency of cognitive testing in pilots using antidepressant medications. Increasing outreach to pilot groups to educate them on the resources available and in addition, the FAA will work with the ARC to address open recommendations from the July 2023 DOT Office of Inspector General report on Pilot Mental Health Challenges, which found that the agency has “comprehensive procedures to evaluate pilots' psychological health.”

An ARC provides information, advice and recommendations to the FAA.


From back-office systems to schedules to IATA's latest proof of concept of a fully integrated digital identity travel experience, the ability to capture and securely transfer data is the pillar on which all advanced technologies rely.

Aviation's good fortune is the amount of data it has, which translates into enormous potential to transform operations and customer service. Its challenge is properly utilizing this data, capturing, structuring, and analyzing it to make it useful.

“Aviation gets vast quantities of data from across its operational and value streams,” says Kim Macaulay, IATA's Chief Information and Data Officer. “But data's power is in its accessibility, and this is where the industry needs to improve. We cannot continue to work on data in silos.”

IATA has revamped its services to help airlines manage and exploit their data for their own benefit and for the good of the industry. A data team has been established consisting of data management experts, data scientists, and engineers that ensures IATA masters fundamental data functions. Supporting technologies, such as machine learning will also be put in place in a unified IT infrastructure that promotes cross-sector data availability.

Airline IT personnel will therefore more easily find a counterpart in IATA and be able to discuss nuanced, technical issues, making it easier to arrive at solutions. The set-up also provides huge scope for collaboration on building use cases and furthering the industry's digital transformation.

“Data was not a separate function before,” explains Macaulay. “It was tied up in the various programs and only discussed in the context of that program. But now we can more generally talk about data quality and analytics and have far more constructive conversations about the best way forward. There are new tools, new people, and an improved structure. IATA is investing in its capabilities to create more opportunities for the industry.”

Macaulay-who is tasked with leading IATA's data team and establishing best practices in data collection and retention for industry use-stresses that the IATA team will always be sized to ensure efficient and secure operations while relying on outsourcing for additional tasks, such as data input and processing.

“The point is that IATA understands the value of data, is a trusted airline partner in handling that data, and we can feed our learning throughout our industry services and products,” she says. “We will have more data than ever before, we will learn quickly, and just about every aspect of the industry stands to benefit from our work.”

An IATA Data and Analytics Task Force (IDATF) consisting of airline representatives in data management, business analytics, data science, innovation, and enterprise optimization will inform an important portion of work. Each year, the group will set an agenda to tackle identified actionable priorities where data and advanced analytics can be used to support the airline community.

In the data world, privacy and cybersecurity are paramount. In terms of privacy, there are well-established, stringent regulations in various jurisdictions, and these will be always followed where appropriate. That is no easy task, however, as every day brings new regulations either from a specific country or on a specific data element.

Because airlines operate in multiple jurisdictions and can serve a passenger from anywhere in the world, there is a real need to establish a data privacy framework to guide all endeavors in this area. Macaulay, who has a banking background, notes the progress that has been made in the financial sector in this respect and calls for something similar.

Cybersecurity, meanwhile, is an increasingly important topic and the ability to share best practices and technologies will be critical to the success of the industry's digital transformation. The key will be managing the supply chain, suggests Macaulay, and ensuring the processes are in place that allow all stakeholders to take responsibility for keeping the data secure.

Data loss prevention and incident event monitoring tools are being expanded, and the move to data warehousing also brings additional security features. Before, the security focus was on servers and laptops, but in future data storage will rarely be so localized. A more holistic view of cybersecurity will bring greater trust and create a virtuous circle that then facilitates more data sharing.

Aviation has always had enormous quantities of data but is only just beginning to manage it and exploit its potential. That data will soon be integral to providing and improving customer and operational services.

Consider forthcoming industry developments on the customer side. ICAO is working on various digital travel credentials, including a visible digital seal-a 2D barcode that is digitally signed-and a data structure barcode, with the aim of establishing standards that enable all travel documents to be held on a smartphone. There is also the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which comes into force in 2025. ETIAS is planned to cost €7 and will be valid for three years or until the associated passport expires. Airlines will be responsible for verifying that their passengers have a valid ETIAS 48 hours prior to departure. The US Transport Security Administration is also upgrading its credential authentication technology.

On the operational side, there is IATA's new Schedule Data Exchange Program, which has its first airline signatories. The aim is to have 75 airlines providing schedule data in 2024 and, as with some safety programs, those that provide information will be granted access to the anonymized industry data, helping to inform their network planning.

“Data is a key asset and aviation data belongs to the industry,” Macaulay concludes. “Airlines have been giving it away and then paying to get it back. IATA is developing its data function and programs so that airlines have greater control over their data and access to it at all times. Rather than data existing in verticals, we will create a horizontal structure. With that ability will come some key insights that help to develop products and services across the board and generate significant value for our members.”


Boom Supersonic, the company building the world's fastest airliner, announced today multiple milestones across the Overture airliner, Symphony engine, and XB-1 supersonic demonstrator programs. The company also confirmed closing of an investment round, including a strategic investment from the NEOM Investment Fund (NIF). Boom's total funding to date now exceeds $700 million.

“Our goal is to bring the world closer together through faster flights,” said Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic. “We're excited to collaborate with partners and investors around the globe as we work to realize our shared vision.”

Announced on October 24, the NEOM Investment Fund is the strategic investment arm of NEOM, the sustainable regional development in northwest Saudi Arabia. As part of the agreement, Boom and NIF will collaborate on opportunities to make the Gulf region dramatically more accessible, through the power of supersonic flight. The NIF investment now takes Boom's total funding from investment and other capital sources to more than $700 million.

Boom achieved key milestones toward XB-1's historic first flight, which remains on track for later this year at the Mojave Air & Space Port. After the receipt of its airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), XB-1 has recently completed successfully a number of integrated tests, including ground vibration mode testing, fuel system integrated testing, engine operability testing, and medium-speed taxi testing up to 90 knots. Following its Flight Readiness Review (FRR) last week, XB-1 will conduct high-speed taxi testing in final preparation for its first flight.

Boom also announced that Symphony, the Boom-developed propulsion system purpose-built for sustainable and economical supersonic flight, has successfully conducted its key 2023 engineering milestone, known as the Conceptual Design Review (CoDR). This important achievement paves the way toward Symphony's first hardware rig tests planned for 2024.

In late September, Boom commemorated the “topping out” of the Overture Superfactory at the Piedmont Triad Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, signifying the completion of the building's frame. Over the past six weeks, the company has finished the decking on the top of the structure, poured the concrete flooring, and installed the metal side wall panels. The work to complete the Overture Superfactory is now ahead of its original schedule with completion anticipated in the second quarter of 2024.


Today, marks a special day for South African Airways (SAA). We are delighted to announce the opening of the new international lounge at OR Tambo International Airport. Our commitment to offering customers exceptional services both in the air and on the ground, is revealed by the recent upgrades to our world-class airport lounges, called, The Lounge.

The opening of the OR Tambo International Premium lounge is the first part of renovations of all lounges, operated by SAA. The First-Class Platinum lounge at OR Tambo International will be renovated early 2024, to be followed by refurbishments of Qheberha, Cape Town, OR Tambo Domestic and Durban lounges.

In partnership with Discovery, and Investec, The Lounge features upgraded comforts where guests can connect, or be connected ahead of their travels, and boasts all-new contemporary design furniture and fittings as well as a carefully curated local art collection. Guests have the option to be seated with a view over the airport ramp or work in one of the focus booths or simply relax in a quiet zone. The space has been carefully planned should you wish to extend your meeting in our conference rooms or have a separate space to relax with the family.

A buffet dining menu is on offer throughout the day satisfying all palates. The new bar is a show masterpiece from which trained baristas & mixologists will offer a coffee of your choice, a selection of cocktails and mocktails or a choice of the finest South African wines and bubbly.

Most notably, state-of-the-art La Marzocco coffee machines, often referred to as the “Ferrari” of coffee machines. Sourced from Florence, Italy, the La Marzocco coffee machines form part of a heritage brand dating back to 1927 and are the pinnacle in coffee craftsmanship.

To better serve our guests with the ultimate coffee experience, the SAA Lounge team has undergone specialised training focused on brewing techniques and creating various kinds of coffee - all with an emphasis on harnessing the flavour of the different blends available to suit their individual tastes and preferences.

Much attention has been placed on providing travellers with unparalleled experiences and increasing our focus on the customer experience, made possible by our partners Discovery and Investec in transforming our lounges.

By offering a truly exceptional lounge experience that boasts the very best of what South Africa, and the African continent, have on offer, SAA is confident that we will be recognised not only for our pursuit of excellence in the skies, but the overall customer experience on the ground as well.

The Lounge will help us achieve our vision of once again taking our rightful place as one of the leading airline carriers in the world.


Rolls-Royce (LSE: RR., ADR: RYCEY) today announces that it has successfully completed compatibility testing of 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) on all its in-production civil aero engine types.

This fulfils a commitment, made in 2021, to demonstrate there are no engine technology barriers to the use of 100% SAF.

A ground test on a BR710 business jet engine at the company's facility in Canada, completed the test regime. Other engines tested as part of the programme were: Trent 700, Trent 800, Trent 900, Trent 1000, Trent XWB-84, Trent XWB-97, Trent 7000, BR725, Pearl 700, Pearl 15 and Pearl 10X.

Testing has involved a variety of ground and flight tests to replicate in-service conditions. All the tests confirmed the use of 100% SAF does not affect engine performance.

In addition to proving in-production engine compatibility, Rolls-Royce has already ensured its new generation UltraFan engine demonstrator has the same capability. Its first run, earlier this year, was on 100% SAF.

The Rolls-Royce SAF story continues later this month when Trent 1000 engines will power a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Flight 100, the world's first transatlantic 100% SAF flight. The Virgin Atlantic led consortium, sponsored by the Department for Transport, includes Boeing, University of Sheffield, Imperial College London and Rocky Mountain Institute. The return flight, on regular jet fuel, will prove the engine and aircraft can run on either fuel type without engineering changes.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel has great potential to support aviation's energy transition journey, as a “drop-in” fuel that can simply be used as an alternative to conventional fuel.

When the lifecycle of SAF is taken into consideration, IATA (International Air Transport Association) estimates the net CO2 lifecycle emissions of unblended SAFs are up to 80% lower than conventional fuel.

Rolls-Royce estimates that to reach Net Zero flying by 2050, a combination of highly-efficient latest-generation gas turbines operating on 100% SAF is likely to contribute around 80% of the total solution.

The international standards body for jet fuel, ASTM International, currently permits up to a maximum of 50% SAF to be blended with 50% conventional jet fuel. All Rolls-Royce in-production civil aero engines are already certified to operate on a blend of 50% SAF. The successful 100% SAF tests will provide further support for a pathway to commercial flights on 100% SAF.


Ethiopian's flagship carrier, Ethiopian Airlines Group, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for 11 additional Airbus A350-900s to be added to its existing fleet. The latest agreement takes Ethiopian Airlines' total order book and commitment for the A350 to 33, including four A350-1000s.

Ethiopian Airlines currently operates a fleet of 20 A350-900s and with this commitment, it will confirm its position as Africa's biggest A350 customer.

The signing of the MoU took place at Dubai Airshow in the presence of Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mr. Mesfin Tasew and Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International, Christian Scherer.

Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mr. Mesfin Tasew said, “We are excited to place this commitment for 11 Airbus A350-900s. As a customer focused airline, we are particularly excited for this fleet as it offers extra comfort to passengers with its features like the quietest cabin in its class and ambient lighting. We are keen to expand our fleet size, acquiring the latest technology aircraft to offer a convenient and memorable onboard experience to our esteemed passengers.”

Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International, said, “Ethiopian Airlines is a great example of how to leverage the exceptional values of the A350 for long-haul travel, playing on the benefits of Ethiopia's unique geographical position that offers the fastest connections between China and Latin America. We are delighted to further strengthen Ethiopian Airlines fleet, and through this, continue the great relationship we have built up together.”

The A350 is the world's most modern and efficient widebody aircraft and the long-range leader in the 300-410 seater category, flying efficiently on any sector from short-haul to ultra-long-haul routes up to 9,700nm. Its clean sheet design includes state-of-the-art technologies, aerodynamics, lightweight materials and latest generation engines that together deliver 25% advantage in fuel burn, operating costs and CO2 emissions, as well as 50% noise reduction compared to previous generation competitor aircraft.


EGYPTAIR customers will soon be flying to destinations around the globe aboard new Airbus A350-900s, after the airline disclosed an order for 10 aircraft at the Dubai Airshow.

Once added to the fleet, the A350-900s will provide EGYPTAIR with 25% less fuel burn and, in turn, reduced emissions, while passengers enjoy the comfort of the Airbus AirSpace cabin, including a feeling of true spaciousness, wide seats, high ceilings and alluring ambient lighting.

The signing took place at the 2023 Dubai Airshow, in the presence of EGYPTAIR's Chairman and CEO, Engineer Yehia Zakaria and Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International, Christian Scherer.

"EGYPTAIR is a key partner of Airbus in the Middle East and Africa. We take immense pride in this partnership aimed at furthering the aviation industry. Our focus lies in the enhancement of our fleet to embrace some of the most contemporary aircraft available,” says EGYPTAIR Chairman and CEO Yehia Zakaria.

Zakaria adds: "EGYPTAIR has firmed up an agreement with Airbus to procure 10 A350-900 aircraft, each boasting a capacity of 340 seats. These aircraft come equipped with cutting-edge technologies and Rolls-Royce XWB Trent engines, known for their modern design and reduced fuel emissions and consumption. As we tackle growing demand across our network, this aircraft is the optimal choice.

“Once delivered the A350-900 will be EGYPTAIR's flagship aircraft. Adding the world's most modern and efficient widebody aircraft to the airline's fleet will be instrumental in expanding its offering, opening new opportunities particularly in Western US and the far East,” says Christian Scherer, Chief Commercial officer and Head of Airbus International.

It's the one and only aircraft enabling EGYPTAIR to open up its network with benchmark economic efficiency - not to mention passenger comfort.

The A350 is the world's most modern and efficient widebody aircraft and the long-range leader in the 300-410 seater category, flying efficiently on any sector from short-haul to ultra-long-haul routes up to 9,700nm. Its clean sheet design includes state-of-the-art technologies, aerodynamics, lightweight materials and latest generation engines that together deliver 25% advantage in fuel burn, operating costs and CO2 emissions, as well as 50% noise reduction compared to previous generation competitor aircraft.
The A350 has won over 1,000 orders from leading carriers from around the globe.


Eindhoven Airport, in cooperation with Schiphol Airport, is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to further improve the aircraft turnaround process and minimize delays. Using Deep Turnaround, cameras on the apron automatically detect the start and end times of the ground handling process. This makes it possible to predict the end time of the turnaround process (the turnaround) and have advance visibility of when an aircraft is ready to push.

Currently, 4 aircraft stands are equipped with cameras to monitor the turnaround process. The plan is to equip all 14 aircraft stands with cameras by 2024.

The turnaround runs from the time an aircraft is parked until the time the aircraft departs again. In the meantime, ground handling activities are performed to get the aircraft ready for the next flight. You can think about boarding and disembarking passengers, catering, loading and unloading luggage, etc. To ensure that the turnaround runs smoothly, good planning and overview of the process is important. We achieve this with Deep Turnaround in which we analyse the data to discover where are areas for improvement.

Images from the cameras are analysed by an AI-based algorithm that records when an activity starts and stops. Once enough images are analysed, AI learns to predict when an aircraft is ready for departure. This allows us to know in advance if there is a chance of delay, allowing us to take action at that time. All valuable information is recorded in the Turnaround Insights Dashboard. This makes it clear at a glance which flights need extra attention.

Mirjam van den Bogaard (Chief Operations Officer Eindhoven Airport): "Mirjam van den Bogaard, Chief Operations Officer at Eindhoven Airport: "Eindhoven Airport works continuously on the further optimisation of airport processes. Deep Turnaround is a valuable instrument that contributes to this, both on the ground and in the air. The latter is something more long term. Our aim is to be able to predict as accurately as possible when aircraft can depart. There is still a lot to be gained for passengers, airlines and our sustainability ambitions.”

Lennert L'Amie, (Director IT & Data at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: “The insights provided by data help to make the ground operation more predictable. We've collaborated with various stakeholders on Deep Turnaround to make the ground handling process more transparent. It's worthwhile to share this knowledge with other airports and learn from their experiences so that we can continue developing the product.”

USA, NW of Newark, NJ: A United Airlines Airbus A320-232, suffered a no.1 engine compressor stall after departure from Newark Airport, NJ (EWR).
The flight returned to EWR for a safe landing.

USA, Portland International Airport, OR: An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-990ER, suffered a blown left main tire during landing on runway 10R at PDX,
causing damage to left flap. The aircraft was ferried to Oklahoma City (OKC) the following day for maintenance.

Costa Rica, San José-Juan Santamaria International Airport: An Avianca Airbus A320-214, suffered surges from engine no.1 after take-off from San José-Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). The flight returned for a safe landing back at SJO, 30 minutes after take-off.

Brazil, São Paulo-Congonhas Airport, SP: An Azul flight AD4251, an Airbus A320-251N, touched down short of runway 35L at São Paulo-Congonhas Airport, SP (CGH), Brazil. The flight crew initiated a go around and safely landed at 14:51 UTC. The aircraft remained on the ground after the incident and was ferried to São Paulo/Campinas-Viracopos International Airport 20 hours after the occurrence and resumed service a few hours afterward.

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