India To Push For Domestic Aircraft Maintenance Requirements

It’s been a little over a month since the Government of India announced key reforms and policy targets in the aviation sector. Among them were plans of substantial rejigging of the country’s Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) industry. What changes has the government proposed in the MRO sector, and how will it impact the Indian aviation market? Let’s have a look.

The Indian government is keen to develop aircraft maintenance facilities in the country. Photo: Getty Images

New MRO policy to attract investors

In September, India’s Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia discussed, among other things, several changes the government wishes to bring about in the MRO business sector. He lamented that India only holds a tiny 2.5% share of the mammoth $80 billion global aircraft maintenance industry.

Scindia said that India has a huge potential to become a global aircraft maintenance hub and announced key changes in MRO policy to attract investment:

Leasing of land will now be done through open tenders instead of allotment based on an entity’s request.Land for MRO facilities will be allotted for 30 years instead of the current 3 to 5 years.Lease rentals would be decided through a bidding process instead of the current practice of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) determining the rates.The rate of escalation of lease rental would be 15% every three years instead of the current 7.5 to 10% yearly increase.The process of contract renewal of existing leaseholders will also be more transparent. Earlier, contract renewals were decided on a case-to-case basis without much transparency. It will now be done through a bidding process with the existing leaseholder having the right of first refusal if his bid is within 15% of the bid given by the highest bidder, and he agrees to match the rates quoted by the highest bidder.The 13% turnover royalty charged by the AAI will be removed completely.

The ministry has also identified eight AAI-run airports where MRO facilities will be developed – Begumpet, Bhopal, Chennai, Chandigarh, Delhi, Juhu in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Tirupati.

IndiGo A320neo
Indian carriers have to send their airplanes to foreign countries for most maintenance work. The new government policy plans to change that. Photo: Getty Images

Impact on Indian MRO industry

The ministry wants to tap into India’s vast engineering and IT talent to develop large-scale MRO facilities in the country. Currently, airlines in India send their aircraft to foreign countries – mainly to the Middle East and the South-East Asian region, as it’s a lot more economical than to repair them locally.

As reported by the Hindustan Times, the Indian MRO industry is worth $2 billion annually. Of this, only 16% of the business is handled locally. Within the MRO services, the engine and aircraft component maintenance, in particular, is quite lucrative, and the government would want to develop these facilities in the country.

The HT report quoted Anand Bhaskar, managing director, and chief executive officer at Air Works Group, which runs an independent MRO unit with facilities across locations:

“With the country’s aviation industry on a growth trajectory, it makes ample sense to capitalise this precious opportunity and expand the country’s aviation maintenance capabilities for greater self-reliance, job creation and to scale up the value chain, instead of just concentrating on airframes, which most Indian MROs currently do.”

IndiGo AirAsia Air India Delhi Airport
With more than 700 airplanes of Indian carriers alone, there is enormous potential within the MRO sector in the country. Photo: Getty Images

Positive steps

The change in MRO policy is certainly a step in the right direction. The announcement follows the government’s decision last year to reduce the goods and services tax (GST) on aircraft repair and maintenance from 18% to 5%.

It remains to be seen if India could eventually become the global MRO hub that the aviation ministry is aiming for. At the moment, there’s massive potential within the country itself with 700+ aircraft of Indian airlines that require regular maintenance. Hopefully, these policy changes will give the Indian MRO industry a significant boost.

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Historic: Buy Parts Of A Former El Al Boeing 707

At Simple Flying we love the chance to own a piece of aircraft. The rarer the aircraft, the better. The opportunity to purchase part of a Boeing 707 that resided at Berlin Tegel Airport currently exists, with hundreds of pieces on auction until Sunday.

280 lots from a former El Al Boeing 707 are currently up for auction. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

The aircraft formerly registered as 4X-ATB was scrapped wearing a Lufthansa livery. Intriguingly, the aircraft never actually flew for the German flag carrier. Instead, it flew for the Israeli El Al during its passenger career. In Berlin, the aircraft ended up wearing the Lufthansa livery after Boeing gifted the plane to the German flag carrier.

Engines for €2,500

Troostwijk Auctions are currently in the process of selling 280 parts from the former El Al Boeing 707. Some of the parts up for auction include the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce Mark 508 engines. The engines come complete with their cowlings, meaning they would look perfect as a display in an office or foyer. They also come with an engine rack to stand them. Three engines are for sale, with bids for each starting at €2,500. A fourth engine has been turned into individual parts, which can be bought separately.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
Three complete engines are being sold with bidding starting at €2,5000. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

Another intriguing part up for auction is the Boeing 707’s main landing gear. The left and right-hand gears are being sold separately, with bidding for each starting at €500. Due to their size, these more oversized items, such as the landing gear and engines, can’t be shipped with UPS. They can be picked up from the auction house in the north of Hamburg, or shipping can be arranged at the buyer’s expense.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
You could stand this landing gear in the corner of your office. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

colorful history

The Boeing 707 being auctioned has a bit of exciting history. While it has spent the last few decades as a showpiece at Berlin’s Tegel Airport, the aircraft being auctioned once took center stage in an attempted hijacking. Two attackers failed to storm the cockpit with a gun and a hand grenade. The flight, heading from Amsterdam to New York, diverted to London Heathrow.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
Bids for this entire wingtip start at just €35. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

El Al handed the aircraft back to Boeing in 1986, but it didn’t stay with the American planemaker for long. Instead, the jet was gifted to Lufthansa a couple of months later to mark the company’s 200th Boeing order. The aircraft was repainted in the livery of Lufthansa’s D-ABOC, named Berlin.

It kept this livery until it was scrapped, meaning that fuselage pieces from the plane are available in the carrier’s iconic blue, yellow, and white livery. Bidding for fuselage panels containing a window start at €50 and come in a range of sizes up to four windows.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
Window sections of fuselage start at €50. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

Other iconic fuselage pieces contain the aircraft’s identities. A fuselage piece containing the logo of the city of Berlin has 14 bids, currently standing at €120. Meanwhile, a portion of the fuselage with the aircraft’s Boeing 707 branding has attracted 13 bids and a price of €628. The jet’s registration (D-ABOC) has 11 bids and sits at €210.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
The aircraft’s registration is proving to be a hot item. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

From €5 to €5000

There is something available at every single price point in the auction of 4X-ATB/D-ABOC. For those who want a piece of aviation history without a hefty price tag, many smaller fuselage panels are available with bidding starting at just €5.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
Small parts of the fuselage are available from €5. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

At the other end of the spectrum is the aircraft’s cockpit, complete with a nose cone. With bidding starting at €5,000, this is undoubtedly the highlight of the aircraft auction. The cockpit’s interior is in a state of relative disrepair, though a large portion remains, including a seat and some instrumentation. Due to its size, the cockpit needs to be transported on a low-loader truck, which can be achieved sideways.

Boeing 707, Auction, El Al, Lufthansa
The cockpit comes as-is, with many parts still inside. Photo: Troostwijk Auctions

The auction of the parts from this aircraft is set to end at 15:00 on Sunday, October 24th. After this date, Troostwijk Auctions will arrange payment and shipping with the highest bidders. You can find a complete list of all the pieces up for auction on the Troostwijk Auctions website.

Troostwijk Auctions sponsored this article.

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Jordan To Get A New Airline Based In Aqaba

Eyeing a rebound in the tourism and travel industry, Saudi and Jordanian investors are looking to seize the opportunity by starting a new airline. This private sector-owned carrier will be based in Aqaba and is aptly named Fly Aqaba. At this point, it is unknown when the airline will begin its operations.

The airline will begin with two aircraft- type currently unknown. Photo: via Wikimedia Commons 

Fly Aqaba

The Jordan Times reported on October 17th that the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) and the Fly Aqaba Company had signed a $20 million investment agreement to establish an airline called Fly Aqaba. This privately-owned carrier will be funded by Saudi-Jordanian investments and will be based out of Aqaba Airport, which is also known as King Hussein International Airport.

At this stage, we only have the vaguest of details on where and what this new startup will be flying. According to ASEZA President Nayef Bakhit, the company will operate flights to the Jordanian capital of Amman, as well as countries in Europe, the Arabian/Persian Gulf, and others in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the airline will only fly two aircraft in its first stage of operations. The type of aircraft that will be used remains undisclosed.

Bakhit noted that the airline’s goal is to facilitate tourist access to the “Golden Triangle” of Jordan. This triangle consists of the popular destinations of Aqaba, Petra, and Wadi Rum. The President of ASEZA emphasizes that the airline will be based out of King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba and facilitate connections to local, regional and international destinations (easyJet is already flying from Manchester to Aqaba). He hopes that its operations will be a boost to Aqaba and Jordan’s tourism industry with the provision of competitive airfares.

Aqaba is a coastal city in the south of Jordan known for its diving and watersports. Photo: Tourism JordanStay informed:Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Not a new idea

The airline is currently waiting for all of the necessary licenses required from the Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission. However, ‘Fly Aqaba’ is far from a new idea. Indeed, two separate sources note that this airline has been in the works for at least three years.

The website Airline History notes that the carrier had planned to launch sometime in 2019, while a report from November 2018 by ch-aviation states that ASEZA had hoped to acquire the Air Operators Certificate and Operators License of Royal Wings (a charter subsidiary of Royal Jordanian) for Fly Aqaba. The source also states that, at the time, this transaction was valued JOD785,000 dinar, or $1.1 million.

Jordan-Israel-Egypt Airports
Located at the southernmost point of Jordan, Aqaba Airport (AQJ) offers access to the Red Sea and is somewhat close to both Wadi Rum and Petra. Photo:

With pent-up travel demand experienced in other parts of the world already, it might be a good time to start an airline. Indeed, travelers are increasingly looking for more direct flights and avoiding connections. Additionally, with so many wet lease operators and/or used aircraft in the market, it may not be too difficult for the carrier to secure its initial fleet.

At the same time, its operations to Europe will already be met with stiff competition from the likes of easyJet and Wizz Air, who already serve Aqaba with connections to Budapest, Rome, Vienna, and Manchester.

What do you think of the Fly Aqaba? Where might it fly to? Let us know in the comments.

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Which Airports Have Beach Runways?

As explored in a recent article, most of the world’s airport runways are paved with concrete or asphalt. However, there are certain exceptions to this trend. We have previously explored gravel and ice runways, but what about beaches? Let’s take a look at where passengers should be wary of sand in their shoes when boarding their flights.

A de Havilland DHC-6 ‘Twin Otter’ landing on the beach at Barra. Photo: Colin Moss via Flickr

Barra, Scotland

Arguably the most notable airport in the world to have a runway on a beach is Barra (BRR) in Scotland. While it is not unique in its runway composition, it is the only airport with a sandy landing strip that serves regularly scheduled commercial flights. Located at the northern tip of the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Loganair flies there from Glasgow.

The beach on which the airport’s three runways are situated is subjected to high and low tides at different times of the day. This limits the hours in which aircraft can safely utilize the sandy landing strips, which are laid out in a triangle, ranging from 680 to 846 meters long. Furthermore, planes cannot use the airport at night apart from in emergencies.

Barra Airport
High and low tides dictate barra’s operating times. Photo: Tom Parnell via Flickr

Loganair’s services between Barra and Glasgow take one hour and 15 minutes, and provide the island with a vital link to the Scottish mainland. Operated by 19-seat de Havilland DHC-6 ‘Twin Otter‘ aircraft, these flights generally serve the route two or three times a day.

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Copalis State, US

While Barra is the only beach-based airport that plays host to regularly scheduled commercial services, there is also such a facility for general aviation. Intrepid general aviators can find this facility on the Pacific Coast in the northwestern US state of Washington. Known as Copalis State Airport, this facility has no IATA or ICAO airport codes, and no tower.

Copalis State Airport
Copalis State Airport is on Washington’s Pacific Coast. Photo: Jelson25 via Wikimedia Commons

However, it does have an FAA LID (Local Identified) of S16. The state-owned airport contrasts to Barra in having just one runway. This sandy landing strip was 1,372 meters long, and has the headings 14/32. However, FAA data lists it as now being just 1,113 meters long.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, This shrinkage is the culmination of various geographical processes. These include river migration and coastal erosion. Much like Barra, aircraft can only use the airport at low tide.

Popular beaches for avgeeks

While these sandy landing strips are a real rarity, a slightly more common phenomenon is beaches situated at the end of runways. These are immensely popular among avgeeks, with many making journeys to such resorts to take the perfect photo.

Which Airports Have Beach Runways?
Aircraft pass very low over St Maarten’s Maho Beach: a planespotter’s paradise. Photo: Getty Images.

The most famous of these is St Maarten, in the Caribbean. Owing to the island’s links to France and the Netherlands, it has hosted iconic long-haul aircraft like the Boeing 747. As you can imagine, this makes for a spectacular sight when passing low over the beach. Skiathos Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport in Greece is a similar photographic hotspot for this reason, although its mile-long runway restricts the size of aircraft that can land there.

Have you ever used an airport with a beach runway? What other unusual surfaces have you landed on or taken off from? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!


Which Countries Banned Concorde From Supersonic Flight?

One of the most iconic commercial airliners, Concorde gave passengers a taste of supersonic flight for nearly three decades. Its speed was a blessing for many – super busy (and wealthy) business travellers who enjoyed a particularly short hop over the Atlantic, and for transporting important cargo such as supplies and organs for transplant during medical emergencies. However, the same speed also caused many roadblocks, including the aircraft being banned from a few countries. Let’s find out more.

During its operational history, Concorde was banned in a few countries due to noise issues. Photo: Getty Images

Challenges from the start

Even before Concorde took to the skies commercially, there were voices of dissent against its environmental consequences. In 1966, British environmental activist Richard Wiggs founded the Anti-Concorde Project that challenged the idea of any kind of supersonic transport aircraft.

The booms of the sonic tests leading up to the first test flight of Concorde would often startle people and cause windows to crack. To highlight the long-term effects of a supersonic jetliner, Wiggs used mass-media advertising campaigns, including full-page advertisements in the national press. He made claims of Concorde affecting the ozone layer and drew attention to its noise levels.

A British Airways Concorde
Environmental activist Richard Wiggs founded the Anti-Concorde Project, challenging any kind of supersonic commercial transportation. Photo: Getty Images

By the time Concorde was launched, many countries were convinced that the plane was not a good choice to fly over land and was suitable for supersonic flights only over water. This didn’t leave much choice for potential Concorde customers in terms of network expansion using the jet.

Over the course of its operational history, Concorde was banned by a few countries due to its sonic boom’s noise.

Initial ban in the US

Some of the first defining flights of Concorde were its transatlantic services from London and Paris to New York and Washington. However, the aircraft faced opposition for quite a while from authorities at Big Apple before it could fly into the city.

On March 11th, 1976, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey banned Concorde from landing at JFK Airport over noise issues. Protests had actually started a year before the official ban when around 2,000 cars stopped traffic near the airport.

Concorde was denied entry to New York for 17 months by authorities over noise pollution. Photo: Getty Images

Both British Airways and Air France found the ban baseless and filed a lawsuit in 1977. In August 1977, a District Court Judge in New York found the ban “discriminatory and unfair” and allowed Concorde test landings in the following 10 days.

In October 1977, the Supreme Court finally lifted the ban stating that the Port Authority was “dragging its feet” with the ban not based on any clear noise requirements.

Opposition in Malaysia and India

Before the US ban was lifted and slots were denied at JFK, both Air France and British Airways began looking at other destinations to use their new Concordes. BA wanted to deploy the supersonic jet to Sydney and was looking for a stopover city for refueling purposes. Singapore seemed a suitable choice.

The airline was already running a thrice-weekly service to Bahrain and extended the service to Singapore as the next stage. However, the flight to Singapore met with huge opposition in Malaysia over the plane’s supersonic boom. The service had to be stopped after just three flights.

Singapore Airlines Concorde Getty
BA and Singapore’s joint venture of Concorde flights between the two nations also faced hurdles from Malaysia and India. Photo: Getty Images

Crossing India to reach Singapore was also a suitable option for BA, but it had also refused to allow the plane to fly at supersonic speed over its airspace. Many believe, however, that the real reason for both Malaysia and India to deny Concorde entry was political, as both countries were trying to obtain important slots at London Heathrow at the time.

BA eventually figured out another route to Singapore, but it consumed so much fuel that the service ended for good on November 1st, 1980, citing unprofitable operations.

The aircraft, however, went on to fly for more than two decades after that before ceasing operations in 2003 with a final flight between London (LHR) and New York (JFK).

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Do Airlines Offer Student Discounts Or Perks?

Being a university student is a curious paradox, in the sense that you have more time to explore the world, but less money with which to do so. With this in mind, several airlines offer students discounts and/or perks to help enable such youthful exploration. These are particularly useful for those studying abroad. Let’s look at some examples of such schemes.

Singapore Airlines offers student perks to KrisFlyer members. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Ryanair’s Erasmus partnership

The Erasmus Programme has made study abroad years possible for EU students since 1987. I am one of the millions of students lucky enough to have partaken in the scheme. Erasmus gives students the opportunity to study at a foreign partner university, while receiving financial assistance in the form of a grant to cover certain living costs.

Being a low-cost carrier with an extensive European network, Ryanair plays a key part in transporting participating students across the continent. As such, the Irish budget airline established a partnership with the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) in 2017.

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Edelweiss A320 EU Flag
Thousands of Erasmus students take to the air across Europe every September. Photo: TimOve via Flickr

The ESN states that:

“The Erasmus Generation is a generation of Europeans that are perennially curious, open-minded and full of wanderlust. This is made possible not only through the success of the European project and initiatives such as Schengen and Erasmus+, but also thanks to companies like Ryanair, without which it would be much harder to travel around Europe.”

The partnership allows participating students to receive a 10% discount on up to four one-way flights (or two return trips) during their year abroad. Furthermore, they can check in a 20kg bag free of charge. These perks are only valid between September and June of the academic year in question, despite countries like Germany having terms that run until July.

Ryanair Boeing 737-800 Landing
Ryanair has helped Erasmus students since 2017. Photo: Getty Images.

Singapore Airlines

Full-service carriers like Singapore Airlines also offer certain perks to student travelers. These are available to members of its KrisFlyer loyalty program who have verified their student status at an eligible university. Like Ryanair, Singapore Airlines also offers free baggage to students. Participating passengers get either 40kg, or three bags if traveling to the US.

In terms of savings, Singapore Airlines’ student offer sees such travelers receive a 10% discount. This is valid for a stay abroad up to 12 months in length. The discount applies to Lite, Value, or Standard economy fares, as well as tickets in the premium economy cabin.

The best discount of all?

Ryanair and Singapore Airlines are just a couple of examples of several carriers worldwide that work hard to make air travel more affordable for students. However, there are some instances in which students have been offered flights that are not just discounted, but free!

Do Airlines Offer Student Discounts Or Perks?
Frontier offered students free tickets last year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

As it happens, Denver-based ultra-low-cost operator Frontier Airlines implemented such an offer for students last year. Admittedly, these were only available for a limited period (March-May 2020), but it was still an admirable gesture from the all-Airbus carrier.

Frontier implemented the deal at a key travel time for students, in a period encompassing both Easter and spring break. The carrier made the offer available on routes to nearly 100 destinations, helping students all over the country to travel home for free.

Have you ever taken advantage of any of these offers? Perhaps you’ve flown with other carriers that have similar schemes in place for students? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.