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The Boeing 737 MAX 8 finally returns.



The 737 variant everybody feared, finally makes its return to the skies. Will it win the trust of airlines and the people back? Or will it still leave a trail of uncertainty? Let’s go through what happened and why things turned out the way they did.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 made its debut in the skies on January 29, 2016, and gained FAA certification on March 8, 2017. But unfortunately, when two new aircraft crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia between October 2018 and March 2019, killing all 346 people on board, the aircraft was declared ‘grounded’ around the world from March 2019 to November 2020. In the upcoming months, Boeing was under great pressure to solve the problems and deliver what they had promised, while trying to keep pace with rival Airbus’ fuel-efficient A320neo aircraft. The global fleet of nearly 400 737 MAXs flew 500,000 flights from March 2017 to March 2019 and experienced two fatal accidents for an accident rate of four accidents per million flights when it was grounded. The previous generations of the Boeing 737 averaged 0.2 accidents per million flights. But now, all is in the past as the so-called ‘feared Boeing jet’ is finally making its comeback.

Lion Air’s 737 MAX on tarmac. Photo credits Airways Magazine
Ethiopian Airways 737 MAX. Photo credits JetPhotos

The cause

Going into depths, Boeing felt the need to redesign and introduce new systems. Little did they know how fatal these additions could turn out to be. Boeing had redesigned the prior 737 to use bigger, more economical engines. But the placement of those engines could cause a stall in certain takeoff situations. So Boeing developed software known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which counteracted the stall by automatically pushing the plane’s nose down – could be activated after data from only a single sensor. In an effort to save time and money, though, the company didn’t tell the FAA or customers about MCAS. That meant the pilots of the two fatal crashes were fighting a system they didn’t even know existed. After the Lion Air crash, Boeing revealed that the MAX had a new automated flight control, the MCAS, which could repeatedly push the airplane nose down. The Ethiopian accident occurred despite revisions to the flight manual required by Boeing and the FAA explaining how pilots should respond to unintended activation of the system. Boeing had begun but not completed safety improvements to the MCAS. The report said that Boeing made “faulty design and performance assumptions”, especially regarding the MCAS, which was linked to both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.
Apart from software problems, pilots flying the 737 MAX, received no training on a new stall-prevention system and saw almost no mention of it in manuals. Most would get no visible cockpit warnings when a sensor used to trigger the system malfunctioned, and they had no access to simulators that could replicate the kinds of problems believed to have downed Lion Air Flight 610 in October, 2019.

“This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys.” Boeing Employees on the FAA

The return

Finally, its back. The FAA has published an extensive summary explaining its decision to clear the plane. The MCAS software has been modified and now uses both Angle of Attack (AOA) sensors, not just one. Pilots are provided with an “AOA disagree warning” which indicates that there might be an erroneous activation of MCAS. This warning was not standard equipment at the time of the two accidents – it had to be purchased by airlines as an option. And that MCAS will never override the pilot’s ability to control the airplane using the control column alone. Importantly, pilots will now be trained on the operation of the MCAS and management of its problems. Pilots claimed that initially they were not even told that MCAS existed. This training will have to be approved by the FAA. As the dust started to settle, a few airlines started to reintroduce the plane. GOL of Brazil, became the first airline to return the aircraft to commercial service with G34104.

The flight path of G34104. Photo credits FlightRadar24

Other airlines are getting ready to bring the plane back into their fleets, too. American Airlines plans to reintroduce the 737 MAX to its fleets by first flying without passengers and then slowly restoring commercial service starting at the end of the year. Southwest Airlines, which made the biggest bet on the 737 Max by buying about 34 aircraft, says it will restart commercial flights no sooner than the second quarter of 2021.

Major airlines with the 737 MAX 8. Photo credits Rafa Estrada

So, is all well? Probably. With flights gradually about to increase, it is still uncertain whether the 737 MAX 8 will win back the complete trust of the people around the world or whether it will still carry a sense of fear.


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IATA’s Alarm: Airline Profit Margins Remain Alarmingly Thin



Photo: Reuters/Brian Synder

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, recently gave a wake-up call to the aviation industry about the precarious state of airline profit margins. His revelations were part of a broader discussion at IATA’s 79th Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit, held in Istanbul, Türkiye.

The Current Profit Situation

This year, the aviation industry anticipates an astounding $803 billion in revenues. However, a shocking revelation is that only $9.8 billion of this colossal figure will translate into net profit. This means that, on average, the profit per passenger is a meager $2.25, an amount that can’t even cover the cost of a subway ticket in New York City. “Clearly, that level of profitability is not sustainable,” warned Walsh. Yet, he acknowledged the powerful recovery velocity, comparing it favorably to the $76 loss per passenger in 2020.

Airline Profit Margins

Identifying Major Hurdles

Walsh went on to elaborate the significant hurdles facing the industry. These include rising inflation, increasing operating costs, and enduring labor shortages. Along with these fundamental challenges, the industry is wrestling with specific pressures from OEM suppliers and oil companies. Walsh’s critique of OEM suppliers centered around their slow response to supply chain disruptions, which are both escalating costs and limiting aircraft deployment. “Airlines are beyond frustrated. A solution must be found,” Walsh expressed, reflecting the mounting exasperation within the industry.

Alongside the supply chain predicaments, Walsh pointed fingers at oil companies. He accused them of thriving at the airlines’ expense, noting that the crack spread for jet fuel was at record highs for most of 2022.

Airline Profit Margins
Photo by Ahmed Muntasir

Walsh also didn’t hold back in his criticism of certain airports for shifting their operational inefficiency costs onto airlines. He singled out Schiphol Airport for its egregious 37% charges hike spread over three years—with a 12% increase this year alone. He also flagged concerns around South African airports and ATC’s shocking 63% charges increase proposal.

Despite the enormity of these challenges, Walsh applauded the airline industry for maintaining profitability. He ended his speech with a powerful call to arms for increased accountability and stricter economic regulation for monopoly suppliers. In light of his critique, calls for lighter regulation should be dismissed outright.

READ Also: Riyadh Air Reveals New Livery and Receives IATA Code RX

The question that remains is: How can airlines and other stakeholders address these challenges to strengthen the airline profit margins? Your thoughts and opinions matter, share them in the comments section below.



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Aviation News

Riyadh Air Reveals New Livery and Receives IATA Code RX



Riyadh Air

Saudi Arabia’s newest airline, Riyadh Air, continues to make significant strides since its launch. Not only has the airline been assigned the Airline Designator Code RX by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), marking its official engagement with the global airline community, but it has also recently unveiled the first of its two livery designs. In this article, we delve into the exciting reveal of Riyadh Air’s new livery and the airline’s acquisition of the IATA Code RX.

This design, a perfect blend of cutting-edge technology and timeless elegance, embodies the airline’s vision for the future of flight. These developments underscore Riyadh Air’s commitment to innovation and sophistication in its operations, promising an exciting future for the airline and its passengers.

Riyadh Air Acquires IATA Designator Code

The IATA code was acquired during the 79th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit, which took place in Istanbul on June 4, 2023. Tony Douglas, the airline’s chief executive, expressed his enthusiasm for this development, stating that the code would be visible on “every touchpoint that our guests see as they take flight with us.” He further added that the Riyadh Air team has been actively engaging with industry stakeholders and experts to discuss safe, efficient, and technologically advanced topics in the global air travel industry. The code reflects the airline’s ambition to be a digitally led airline, having the connection of innovation and state-of-the-art technology.


IATA codes play a significant role in the travel industry and the efficient organization of air transportation for both passengers and cargo. These codes are essential for airline identification, international bookings, and the smooth operation of ground service teams at airports.

Unveiling of Riyadh Air’s Livery Design

In a recent development, Riyadh Air has unveiled the first of its two livery designs. The design is a perfect blend of cutting-edge technology and timeless elegance, embodying the airline’s vision for the future of flight. This reveal further emphasizes Riyadh Air’s commitment to innovation and sophistication in its operations, promising an exciting future for the airline and its passengers.

Riyadh Air’s Strategic Positioning and Future Plans

Riyadh Air, which was officially unveiled in March 2023, is a part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 investment plan. The airline was established to leverage the country’s strategic location as a hub connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe, promoting growth and economic diversification in Saudi Arabia. Owned by the Public Investment Fund of the nation, Riyadh Air has outlined its plans to begin commercial operations in early 2025. The airline aims to establish connectivity between Saudi Arabia and 100 destinations by 2030.

In its ambitious plans, Riyadh Air is expected to add $20 billion to the country’s non-oil GDP growth and produce over 200,000 jobs both directly and indirectly. The airline’s career webpage has already attracted job applications from over 300,000 applicants across 182 countries worldwide.


Potential Aircraft Orders and Future Fleet

There are also speculations about a potential hefty order for 737 MAX aircraft. Although Airbus is being considered a potential supplier for a portion of the required single-aisle aircraft, namely the A321neo models, Boeing appears to have an advantage. This news comes just two months after Riyadh Air announced a major order for 72 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner widebodies. Previous reports indicated that the new airline was nearing a potential purchase deal with Airbus for A350 widebodies.

READ ALSO: Riyadh Air and Saudia to Purchase 78 Boeing 787 Dreamliner Aircraft

In conclusion, Riyadh Air’s acquisition of the IATA code and the unveiling of its livery design mark significant steps in its journey towards becoming a major player in the global aviation industry. With its ambitious plans and strategic positioning, the airline is set to make a significant impact on Saudi Arabia’s economy and the global aviation landscape.

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Air Algérie Airbus Order: A330-900s and A350-1000s Join the Fleet




In a substantial stride forward, Air Algérie, Algeria’s flagship airline, recently confirmed an Airbus order for seven widebody aircraft. This move not only underscores its deep-rooted association with Airbus but also paves the way for its ambitious commercial growth.

A330neo and A350-1000: Powering Air Algérie’s Airbus Order

Air Algérie Airbus order
Photo by Abdallahh / Hhussein Abdallah

Central to Air Algérie’s Airbus order are the A330neo and the A350-1000. Incorporating these aircraft into the fleet promises flexibility, efficiency, and lower operating costs, including a 25% reduction in fuel burn per seat.

Both these aircraft are equipped with the award-winning Airspace cabin, known for its superior comfort and ambiance. Increased personal space, expanded overhead bins, state-of-the-art lighting system, and access to the latest in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems are notable features.

Spotlight on A330neo and A350

The A330neo and A350 are prominent members of the Airbus widebody family. The A330neo, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, boasts a non-stop flight range of 7,200 nm / 13,334 km. As of April 2023, the A330 Family had amassed 1,775 firm orders from 130 global customers, signifying its popularity in the short and medium-haul market.

Air Algérie Airbus order
Photo by Don-vip

The A350, a modern long-haul aircraft, runs on Rolls-Royce’s innovative Trent XWB engines. Capable of non-stop flights of up to 8,700 nautical miles or 16,100 kilometers, the A350 had garnered 967 firm orders from 54 customers worldwide as of April 2023.

READ ALSO: Airbus A350 Freighter Delivery Delayed to Early 2026

Looking Ahead: Air Algérie’s Airbus Order and Its Impact

This significant Air Algérie Airbus order is a testament to its commitment to growth and improving passenger experience. With the integration of the A330neo and A350-1000, we eagerly anticipate the airline’s expanded services. What new routes are you most excited about? Share your views in the comments section below!

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