Asiana Airline Flies Empty A380 To Keep Its Pilots Certified

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Asiana Airlines Inc. flying the world’s biggest commercial plane more than 20 times, going nowhere and carrying no passengers, just to keep trainee pilots certified.

The crew’s readiness to fly is one of the challenges that air carriers face when they face the unprecedented crisis that is affecting more than a third of the world’s fleet.

The empty Airbus SE A380 flew over South Korea for a few hours a day in May for three days so that the 495-seat superjumbo pilots could practice taking off and landing.

The alternative – a trip to Thailand to use a Thai Airways International Pcl simulator – was blocked due to travel bans, a spokesman for Asiana said.

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“Takeoffs and landings of this plane cost a lot of money, and it’s money that needs to be used wisely, especially these days,” said Um Kyung-a, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co. in Seoul. “Asiana is in a bind because it also can’t afford for its pilots to lose their licenses.”

Asiana had another 135 pilots who did not have enough flight time on their six A380s but could not afford to continue flying the empty jet.

In the end, the country’s Ministry of Transport expanded the pilots’ flight cards as a special exception. Japan’s All Nippon Airways, which operates two A380s, received a similar extension from Japan’s aviation authority.

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Most major A380 operators, such as Asiana’s rival Korean Air Lines Co., have their own simulators.

The International Civil Aviation Organization has provided state members with guidelines on how to help pilots maintain their skills.

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Normally, pilots must have taken off and landed an aircraft at least three times within the past 90 days to retain their license.

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The problem is acute for the largest jets designed for an age of mass travel. Boeing Co.’s 747, however, has more simulators and is used by many airlines, including Korean Air, for cargo flights, so airlines can switch crews to keep them certified.

One of the few that still fly the A380 is Emirates Airlines, which has the world’s largest fleet of superjumbos. The airline restarted its A380 flights to London Heathrow and Paris on July 15 as Dubai eased travel restrictions.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG announced last month that its A380 jets will be mothballed for at least two years and may never be put back into service. Even before the virus, weak demand for the giant aircraft announced that Airbus would stop producing the A380 next year.

“It’s like you’re basically stuck with a 1990 car that’s running on diesel,” said Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consulting firm Endau Analytics in Malaysia. “We’re going to see more heading to the scrapyard.”

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The International Air Transport Association said international air traffic may not return to pre-Covid levels until 2024.

(Source – Hindustan Times)


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