a large airplane on the ground

Aviation Weekly: News and Highlights 27 December – 2 January

Top News and Stories this week:

  • Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Made Emergency Landing after a Laptop Catches Fire
  • Iran Purchases Four Airbus A340s Despite Sanctions
  • Southwest Canceled Thousands of Flights on Christmas Weekend
  • China Eastern’s COMAC C919 is now Undergoing 100 Hours of Proving
  • Xiamen Airlines Takes Delivery of its First Airbus Aircraft
  • Crashed Korean Air A330 Gets New Exterior
  • Jetstar Operates an Eight-Hour Boeing 787-8 Flight to Nowhere
  • BOC Aviation Orders 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8

Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Made Emergency Landing after a Laptop Catches Fire

A Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 diverted to Chicago after a passenger laptop caught fire onboard a flight from Los Angeles.

The Boeing 747-8 with registration D-ABYJ was performing flight LH457 from Los Angeles to Frankfurt. However, around five hours after it took off, one of the passenger’s laptops stored in their hand luggage caught fire in the cabin due to overheating. The incident took place on 26th December but only came to light recently.

Flight LH457 was enroute at FL350 when the crew decided to divert to Chicago reporting that a passenger laptop had caught fire in the cabin. After passing Minneapolis, the 747 headed towards Chicago, where it entered into a holding pattern before finally being cleared to land.

Even though the laptop fire was out during the approach, the crew continued their approach as a precaution. As reported by the Aviation Herald, the 747 landed safely on O’Hare’s runway 28C about 55 minutes after leaving FL350.

Iran Purchases Four Airbus A340s Despite Sanctions

Iran’s Civil Aviation Authorities have confirmed the purchase of four Airbus A340 quad jets, despite the country being subject to international sanctions. Last week, on 24th December, the four A340s departed from Johannesburg, South Africa, bound for Uzbekistan. However, they disappeared from flight tracking services as they flew over Iran.

A few days after the quad jets arrived in Iran, the satellite recorded them at the Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran. These Airbus A340-300s were previously flown by Turkish Airlines and recently registered in Burkina Faso, with new registration – XT-AKA, XT-AKB, XT-AKK and XT-ALM, before being flown to Iran.

a group of airplanes on a runway
Source: Airbus Defence & Space

On 29th December, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Administration of Iran confirmed that the four A340s had been acquired to be used by one of Iran’s airlines. However, it is unclear how the deal to avoid sanctions was completed. Probably, these quad jets will be joining Mahan Air which already flies several Airbus A340s.

a large white airplane on a runway
One of Those Four A340s Captured in South Africa. Source: ORTIASpotter

The purchase of the A340s has drawn criticism from some quarters, as it comes at a time when the United States and other countries have imposed economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. These sanctions have made it difficult for Iran to acquire new planes from Western manufacturers, forcing the airlines within Iran to operate a fleet of outdated planes, some of which are more than 30 years old.

Southwest Canceled Thousands of Flights on Christmas Weekend

Southwest cancelled over 15,200 (60%) of its flights this holiday as a result of staffing shortages and technological problems compounded by a fierce winter storm in the East.

Even though all airlines were forced to cancel thousands of flights due to the storm, Southwest’s cancellations resulted due to the failure of its technology infrastructure. Southwest’s technology infrastructure caused the meltdown as it failed to allow for all the required crew reassignments to handle the chaos.

On 30th December, the low-cost carrier operated a nearly full schedule for the first time since 21st December, with just a few dozen flight cancellations.

a graph of flight cancellation
Comparison of flight cancellations across US airlines. Source: CNN

“The storm was the catalyst that started this whole event, but the major problem is that our scheduling IT infrastructure is outdated and can’t handle the massive cancellations that had to happen that day when the weather event occurred,” said Captain Michael Santoro, vice president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.

a graph of blue and yellow bars
Southwest Flight Cancellations. Source: Flightradar24

As thousands of travellers were stranded in airports across the country over the holidays due to Southwest’s flight cancellations, Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the DOT will continue to hold Southwest responsible for the disruptions.

China Eastern’s COMAC C919 Undergoing 100 Hours Of Proving

China Eastern Airlines has started to carry out 100 hours of proving flight for its first C919 aircraft to verify and confirm the reliability of its C919 operational support system. Proving flights are a prerequisite for entering into commercial operations under the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s regulation. China Eastern has selected 24 pilots as the first batch of C919 pilots who have been operating these proving flights.

The proving flights are mandatory for a Chinese domestic airline to commence the operation of a new aircraft type to its fleet. In this phase, the aircraft’s systems and components are subjected to a variety of conditions to ensure that they meet the necessary performance, reliability and safety standards.

China Eastern took the delivery of the first C919 on 9th December holding a delivery ceremony in Shanghai. Earlier last week, the aircraft took off from Shanghai as flight MU7801 at 13:25 Beijing Time for its first proving flight. Before returning to Shanghai, the aircraft has to land in Beijing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Haikou, Qingdao, Wuhan, Nanchang and Jinan. This routine will repeat every day during the entire proving flight period, along with the entire maintenance and boarding processes.

After the completion of these proving flights, China Eastern will apply to the CAAC for the Operation Specifications to obtain the final approval for the commercial operation of the C919 aircraft, paving the way for its commercial debut in the spring of 2023.

Xiamen Airlines Takes Delivery of its First Airbus Aircraft

Xiamen Airlines has begun the new year by taking the delivery of its first Airbus aircraft. The Chinese carrier, which is a subsidiary of China Southern Airlines had been an all Boeing operator from day one.

The Skyteam member took delivery of its first Airbus aircraft, an A321neo with registration B32CU on 1st January. This marked the end of Xiamen’s all Boeing fleet history and the beginning of a new chapter in the airline’s history. The airline is looking forward to adding more Airbus planes to its fleet in the coming years as it continues to grow and expand its operations.

Xiamen Air’s A321neo is configured in a two-class layout with eight business class seats and 200 economy seats. It plans to operate its A321neos primarily on short to medium-haul routes, leaving longer routes to the 737 MAX & long-haul routes to 787 Dreamliners.

Crashed Korean Air A330 Gets New Exterior

Earlier in October 2022, a Korean Air Airbus A330 suffered a runway excursion while landing at Cebu international airport in bad weather. The Airbus A330 with registration HL7525 was operating flight KE631 from Seoul Incheon to Cebu.

Flight KE631 attempted to land twice, before suffering the runway excursion on its third attempt. The aircraft was significantly damaged, and most probably wouldn’t return to the skies again.

Fast Forward to the end of December, the aircraft involved have got a new green exterior, covering up the entire Korean Air branding. However, it’s unclear if this new exterior is an actual paint or if it’s some kind of film that was placed on the crashed aircraft. Such kind of practice is common in the airline industry with a majority of the airlines applying a white exterior to affected aircraft.

Jetstar Operates an Eight-Hour Boeing 787-8 Flight to Nowhere

Jetstar, a budget airline based in Australia, recently made headlines with its eight-hour flight to nowhere due to a miscommunication. This flight was operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which departed from Melbourne before making a U-turn to its departure point.

The Boeing 787-8 with registration VH-VKE was operating flight JQ35 from Melbourne to the popular destination Bali. However, as flight JQ35 began to leave Australian shores, it turned around and headed back to Melbourne. The Jetstar flight was forced to return to Melbourne after it was denied approval to land in Bali, Indonesia due to the model of the aircraft.

a map of australia with a plane and a flight information
Source: Flightradar24

The flight was initially scheduled to be operated by an Airbus A321, which had permission to land in Indonesia. However, after the flight was swapped to a larger aircraft to accommodate more passengers during the holidays, it was denied approval after more than four hours into the flight. The change of the aircraft led to a miscommunication, forcing the airline to operate an eight-hour flight to nowhere.

“Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, the swap to a larger aircraft had not been approved by the local regulator in Indonesia. As soon as we became aware, the flight returned to Melbourne, and we have rebooked passengers on a flight for later today.”

Jetstar Spokesperson

BOC Aviation Orders 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8

On 27th December, Boeing and BOC Aviation announced that the aircraft lessor has placed an order for additional 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets.

“We are pleased to continue to build on our existing relationship with Boeing, with this 40-aircraft incremental order for the fuel-efficient Boeing 737-8 aircraft. The incremental order takes our total 737 MAX 8 order book with Boeing to 80 aircraft,” said David Walton, BOC Aviation deputy managing director and COO.

The Singapore-based global aircraft leasing company BOC Aviation is one of the world’s largest aircraft leasing companies. As of September 2022, it had a fleet of 612 owned, managed and on-order aircraft. These jets are operated by 81 airlines in 38 different countries across the globe.

Mid-air Street Fight on Bangkok-Kolkata Flight

Beirut’s New Year Celebration!

Turkish Airlines Removing Aeroflot Livery From its Airbus A350s

Cover Photo: Dirk Grothe