Emirates Boeing 777 Takes Off After The Runway’s End In Dubai

Emirates is in the spotlight after an incident in Dubai before Christmas raised questions about some pilots’ skills and experience levels. Last week, a Boeing 777-300ER bound for Washington DC overran the runway while taking off, narrowly missing houses close to the airport.

An Emirates 777-300Er had a near miss when taking off from Dubai last week. Photo: Emirates

Emirates jet passes over homes at just 75 feet

According to The Aviation Herald, the Emirates Boeing (registration A6-EQI) was operating EK231 from Dubai to Washington DC on Monday, December 20, when the incident occurred. EK231 is the regular 02:35 departure across to DC.

The jet accelerated for takeoff on Dubai’s runway 30R. It rotated for takeoff past the end of the runway and did not become airborne until at the end of the runway end safety area. The Boeing passed over the first private homes at 18,500 feet (5,640 meters) past the runway threshold, flying 75 feet above ground level.

The aircraft’s transponder indicates A6-EQI stayed on the runway until accelerating through at least 216 knots over the ground about 14,400 feet (4,400 meters) past the runway threshold and about 90 meters short of the localizer antennas.

The Aviation Herald reports the aircraft sustained some damage on departure. After safely gaining some altitude, A6-EQI continued onto Washington DC, where it was checked for cracks as well as damage to the wings, flaps, and landing gear.


Pilots fail to correct autopilot altitude setting

The plane operated a return service to Dubai, where the Boeing was temporarily grounded. There are also unconfirmed reports four crew members lost their jobs over the incident. Emirates also issued a crew alert to its pilots in the aftermath. That crew alert suggested the autopilot was incorrectly configured.

“Crews are reminded there are no FCOM (flight crew operating manual) normal procedure requirements to change the MCP (mode control panel) after landing or shutdown,” the alert reads. The mode control panel tells the autopilot to stick to a specific altitude.

It appears the Boeing 777 pilots did not set the autopilot to an altitude of 4,000 feet, the initial climb altitude. Instead, they left the altitude setting at the master control panel at 0 feet (probably from the jet’s previous landing in Dubai). As a result, when taking off, the flight director did not indicate takeoff rotation but instead indicated maintaining that altitude as A6-EQI continued barrelled down runway 30R in Dubai.

“There have been times when the MCP altitude window has been set to the airport elevation which may cause issues on the subsequent departure. The FCOM 4.10.2. states that the AFDS (Autopilot Flight Director System) will engage in “ALT” when the first flight director switch is turned on if the MCP selected altitude is within 20 feet of the displayed barometric altitude. Crews shall not set airport elevation on the MCP after landing or shutdown,” the alert added.

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Experts question pilot’s experience and skills

Since the near disaster, many experienced pilots have said they usually prefer to hand fly on takeoff rather than immediately flicking to autopilot. They also say at least two pre-departure checklists should have picked up the 0 feet setting in the control panel.

There are suggestions that there was a lack of experience and situational awareness in the cockpit that morning, causing the errors. The incident also shines a spotlight on Emirates’ longstanding practice of hiring relatively inexperienced Boeing 777 pilots.

After several days on the ground in Dubai, A6-EQI has since returned to service.

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What Is Jeppesen: A Look At Boeing’s Flight Planning Subsidiary

Jeppesen is one of the largest companies globally that offers navigational and flight planning software. It was founded in 1934 as one of the first companies to offer charts for pilots and was only acquired by Boeing in 2000. Today it offers all kinds of navigational logistics, tools, and training.

As a company, Boeing has many divisions and services – including the historic Jeppesen. Photo: Boeing

Making charts since 1934

Jeppesen was founded in 1934 by Elrey Borge Jeppesen, a pilot from US-based airlines Varney Air Lines (later to become part of United Airlines). He developed charts that he had used personally on fights to sell to other pilots – initially referred to as his “little black book.” He was soon sourcing route sketches from other pilots and expanded the charts on offer.

In 1931, Varney Air Lines became part of United Airlines, and this was one of the first airlines to start using Jeppesen’s charts. Jeppesen remained a pilot with United Airlines until 1954, when he left to focus on developing the chart business.

Elrey Borge Jeppesen was a pilot from a young age. Photo: Jeppesen Memorial via Wikimedia

Jeppesen’s company soon started working on other services alongside chart development. As early as 1947, it worked with the US Civil Aviation Authority (later to become the FAA) on developing standard instrument approaches for airports. Jeppesen also developed the important standard procedures for missed approaches.

The company was initially based in Jeppesen’s hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. It moved to Denver in 1941 as it expanded. Its first international branch opened in Frankfurt in 1957. This was initially to support a contract with the US Army, but it also allowed further expansion into Europe.

cquisitions and company expansion from the 1960s

Jeppesen remained the owner of the company until 1961, when it was sold to the media company Times-Mirror Company (Jeppesen remained on as Chairman, though). Since then it has seen a series of mergers and acquisitions that have expanded its offerings to reach the multiple services it has today.

In 1974 it merged with Sanderson Films, a leading flight training company at the time. This had been formed by pilot Paul Sanderson after the Second World War to use technology and film to improve pilot training.

In 1989, Jeppesen purchased Lockheed DataPlan, a leading flight planning, logistics, and weather information provider. In 1996, Jeppesen acquired MentorPlus, another map and flight planning services provider. And in 2000, it also took over Nobeltec, a company providing marine navigation software and charts.

cquisition by Boeing

By 2000, Jeppesen had expanded its service offering significantly into flight planning, training, and logistics, as well as charts and navigation. It has also expanded globally with further offices in Europe, Australia, and China.

In 2000, the Times-Mirror Company was taken over by competing media company Tribune in one of the largest media acquisitions in history. This gave Tribune an extensive portfolio of newspapers and the benefits of economies of scale that go along with that.

However, after paying $8.3bn and adding massive debt, it soon sold off many of the non-core media parts of the company. The Jeppesen division was sold to Boeing in October 2000 for $1.5 billion.

Boeing ForeFlight Dispatch
Boeing ForeFlight includes dispatch and planning tools and is part of Jeppesen today. Photo: Boeing

Under Boeing, the company continued its series of acquisitions and service expansion. In 2004, it acquired SBS, a provider of crew-scheduling services. It went further in this market in 2006 by taking over Carmen Systems, a leading provider of crew scheduling and disruption-management software.

The company moved into fuel management in 2014 with the acquisition of ETS Aviation. And in 2019, after a two-year partnership, it acquired ForeFlight Mobile, expanding its services in digital and real-time mapping for pilots.

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Jeppesen services today

Jeppesen retains its position as a leading provider of maps and charts – for both aviation and maritime use. These have of course rapidly moved away from paper charts to electronic. The electronic flight bag concept was introduced in 2002, and Jeppesen is a key supplier. Charts can also be incorporated into cockpit displays – first offered on the Embraer E2 in 2019 (according to Boeing).

Charts in Cockpit
Charts are used in some cockpit displays. Photo: Boeing

Other flight operation services include flight planning, and crew planning and management. Network and operations management services include aircraft utilization, fuel efficiency and management, and flight routing. It is also a leading supplier of pilot training materials and other equipment.

Have you used Jeppesen maps – either before or after it became part of Boeing? Or any of the company’s other products and services offered today? Feel free to discuss these further in the comments. 

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Where Will India’s Startups Get All Of Their Pilots?

In addition to competing for customers, India’s startup airlines will also compete with each other for other scarce commodities. Depending on the time and place, this could range from airport slots to trained and certified pilots. The latter appears to be in high demand as two airlines ramp up their operations in India’s highly competitive air travel sector.

Akasa Air will be an all-Boeing 737 MAX airline. Photo: Akasa Air

The ‘new’ kids on the block

Two Indian carriers will ‘begin’ operations in 2022: Akasa Air and Jet Airways. Indeed, while Jet Airways is a revival of sorts, it has mostly had to start back at the beginning since its collapse in April 2019.

With the two airlines getting themselves set up to fly passengers next year, their hiring departments are in full swing, looking to secure their own pools of pilots and other staff. According to Moneycontrol sources and observers, the carriers are seeking crews from other airlines such as IndiGo and SpiceJet.

Indeed, the media outlet notes that some personnel from these established carriers have already received offer letters. Headhunters are seeking senior employees from existing airlines, while a SpiceJet pilot has reported that some of their colleagues have already left, with others in the middle of serving their notice period before moving over.

A senior executive wishing to comment anonymously said that it was not surprising for pilots to leave SpiceJet to join Akasa, “especially those who have not been paid their full dues. After all, both airlines have the Boeing 737 MAX.” 

indigo spicejet
Poaching pilots from existing carriers might be a strategy that the newcomers will be pursuing. Photo: Getty ImagesStay informed:Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Poaching from SpiceJet would be easier

With most of this activity happening behind the scenes, there are no clear numbers or metrics to measure the shift of pilots from one airline to another. However, it would be safe to say that pilots from SpiceJet would be the preferred target for Akasa Air.

That’s because the startup airline will operate the Boeing 737 – an aircraft type that is at the heart of SpiceJet’s short and medium-haul operations. Considering the fact that pilots coming from this budget airline would be trained on the 737, much of Akasa’s work would be already completed. This would reduce the need for hiring and then retraining Airbus-focused pilots for its Boeing fleet. The Airbus A320 and A321neo are the main types of aircraft operated by IndiGo.

The picture for Jet Airways is a little more vague. The airline has yet to disclose details for its future fleet: Its leadership has stated that the plan is to have 50+ aircraft in three years and 100+ in five years. Jet Airways is reportedly poised to place a large aircraft order in the near future, although it has yet to determine (or at least disclose) what types of aircraft it will operate. The airline’s first run, prior to its 2019 collapse, saw it operate an overwhelmingly Boeing fleet- especially for its narrowbody jets.

Jet Airways Boeing 737s
Jet Airways was a large operator of the Boeing 737. However, it is not yet certain if the airline will return to this type or if it will instead choose jets from the A320 family. Photo: Getty Images

For their parts, SpiceJet and IndiGo have denied a move of pilots away from their fleets towards the new carriers. A SpiceJet spokesperson told Moneycontrol that “the information [of commanders and first officers leaving] is absolutely wrong and denied,” while IndiGo says “very little to negligible attrition” among its pilots has taken place over the last two years.

IndiGo says it’s a similar situation with its engineers, ground staff, and cabin crew. However, it admits that “that there will always be opportunities for talent given the way this industry is evolving.”

As the industry recovers and new carriers fight for their share of the market, it looks like a job in India’s aviation industry might be an excellent way to go- whether it’s as a pilot or other crew.


Russia’s First Widebody: 45 Years Of The Ilyushin Il-86

Passenger airplanes made during the Soviet era saw various phases of development. While the initial ones looked more like troop transport carriers, subsequent airframes down the decades began resembling more and more like the ones produced in the west. Then in the late 1970s, the Soviet civil aviation landscape witnessed another transition with its very own widebody airliner, the Ilyushin Il-86.

The Ilyushin Il-86 holds the distinction of being the USSR’s first widebody aircraft. Photo: Dmitriy Pichugin via Wikimedia Commons


The idea for a USSR-built widebody airplane emerged sometime in the mid-1960s. Given the global political climate of the time, the need for a bigger aircraft was partly Soviet Union’s response to the emerging larger jets in the west, but primarily to serve the actual growing number of air passengers.

Until the 1960s, the biggest airplanes at the time could carry a maximum of around 200 passengers. The world needed larger planes, with both Boeing and Airbus committing to such projects. The USSR also felt the need to produce an equivalent of the B747 and A300, which were in the making, to cater to approximately 100 million passengers a year within a decade.

Some early proposals envisioned giant adaptations of military aircraft such as the An-22 with passenger capacity of 600+. However, by the late 1960s, it became increasingly clear that an airplane with smaller proportions but still large enough to carry 250+ passengers was more practical.

Russia’s First Widebody: 45 Years Of The Ilyushin Il-86
The Ilyushin Il-86 traces its origins to the growing passenger need for a larger airplane in the 60s and 70s. Photo: Dejan Milinković via Wikimedia Commons

Development and commercial service

In 1969, Ilyushin started looking at its existing and popular Il-62 for inspiration, initially planning to modify it with a longer fuselage. Some other suggestions made at the time included double-decks and even conjoined double fuselages.

The following year, all modification plans of previous airplanes were scrapped, and a fresh aircraft design was proposed under the Il-86 designation. Sticking to the widebody theme, the new aircraft had twin-aisles and a 3-3-3 seat layout, comfortably accommodating more than 320 passengers. The size of its fuselage width from inside was behind only the Boeing 747 at the time.

The service entry of the Il-86 was initially planned to coincide with the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. However, much of that year went into completing the final tests and certification, and the airplane first flew on December 26th, 1980, missing the Olympics by a few months.

Russia’s First Widebody: 45 Years Of The Ilyushin Il-86
Only the military versions of the airplane, the Il-86VKP variants, remain in active service today. Photo: Dmitry Terekhov via Wikimedia Commons

Where is it now?

The Ilyushin Il-86 wasn’t quite as popular as the USSR had hoped for. A total of 106 examples were produced until 1991, of which most were put in use for the USSR’s civil aviation requirements. The airplane did not find much popularity outside the Soviet Union, with China Xinjiang Airlines being the only foreign carrier to order brand new Il-86s, with three in its fleet.

While no passenger version of the Il-86 remains in service today, there are four active military variants of the aircraft, according to ch-aviation. These modified airplanes are the Il-86VKP variants and are currently in service for the Russian Air Force.

Have you ever seen some of the older Soviet-era airplanes? What do you feel about USSR’s aviation development back in the day? Do share your comments below.

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Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 Return: Where Are They Flying?

An unexpected twist in the second half of 2021, middle-eastern carrier Qatar Airways announced that it would be reactivating part of its Airbus A380 fleet. The airline deemed this necessary as a way to meet passenger demand and provide sufficient capacity in the face of some 20 Airbus A350s being grounded due to an ongoing saga over cracking paint. But for those hoping to fly the superjumbo with this particular airline, where might it be found?

Qatar Airways’ CEO was adamant that the A380 was an expensive mistake. At the same time, the jet is providing capacity in the face of issues with other jets in the fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Throughout much of 2021, we were led to believe that Qatar Airways’ A380 fleet would be gone for good. The airline’s CEO was quite vocal about the type’s inefficiency as a result of elevated operating costs and increased carbon emissions.

After noting that the airline would be taking an impairment on all 10 of its A380s at the end of September, there was a significant surprise change of course as it announced the superjumbo would be returning to provide capacity.

tale of two cities

At the moment, Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380 route network is extremely simple, operating two major routes as of December 15th:

Doha-London Heathrow (twice daily)Outbound: QR 0003 and QR 0009Inbound: QR 0004 and QR 0006Doha-Paris Charles de Gaulle (once daily)Outbound: QR 0039Inbound: QR 0040

It should be noted that other aircraft from the Qatar Airways fleet are also flying these routes and include the Boeing 777 and Boeing 787. Should you be lucky enough to be traveling in the near future and are hoping to step aboard the A380, select your flight carefully!

Doha Qatar A380
The airline is deploying the A380s on just two routes at the moment. Photo:

reluctant return

At this time, just four of the airline’s 10 A380s are active in providing these services and are registered as follows:

A7-APG (MSN 193)A7-APH (MSN 197)A7-API (MSN 235)A7-APJ (MSN 254)

These are the four youngest A380s in the fleet, ranging between four and five and a half years of age.

It was made very clear that the decision to reactivate the A380s was made very reluctantly. The move was based on the airline’s ongoing issues with its Airbus A350s, some of which have seen paint cracking issues and surface degradation. This has led Qatar’s civil aviation regulator to ground over 20 of the twinjets (initially this was 13).

Clearly, after the airline’s CEO called the jet its biggest mistake, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker would have preferred to keep the jets grounded. At the same time, he must be a little relieved that they’re still available as they can be reactivated to meet the current level of travel demand. At least aviation enthusiasts and all those who enjoy the spaciousness of the A380 certainly aren’t complaining.

Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Boeing 777
Over 20 of Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350s have now been grounded. Photo: Qatar Airways

Based on what we know, the A380’s continued deployment will largely depend on whether Airbus and Qatar Airways can find a satisfactory solution to the ongoing paint saga. However, in the unfortunate scenario where more A350s be grounded, the airline still has six A380s available for reactivation- in which case maybe more cities will see the quadjet.

Will you be flying on the A380 any time soon? And how long do you think this deployment will last? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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What Happened To The Rolling Stones’ Boeing 767?

Music artists and bands often rely on private aviation for their fast jet-setting lifestyle. Private airplanes save much-needed time during busy schedules of tours and provide respite in between gigs by eliminating long queues, delays, and waiting time for regular commercial flights. And sometimes, when these jets wear interesting liveries, advertising the band’s name, they also make a spectacular announcement of the artists’ arrival in a particular city.

The Rolling Stones used a Boeing 767-300ER for their latest tour. Photo: Getty Images

The Rolling Stones, too, had their own private flying experience, first with a Boeing 737 and later on a much larger 767 for their latest tour.

Private luxury

From 2014 to 2015, the Rolling Stones’ choice of aircraft was the Boeing 737-400, the first of which was hired from Greek leasing company GainJet and the second from Phoenix-based leasing company Swift Air.

For their “No Filter Tour” in 2017, the band upgraded to the much larger Boeing 767-300ER, which, like the 737, carried the same livery of the group’s trademark lips image and the band name. The aircraft was hired from leasing company Aeronexus and had the registration number ZS-NEX.

The 767 was a significant step up for the band in onboard luxury and space. The plane has 96 huge first-class seats and a comfy leather couch that could convert into a bed and was privately placed in the cabin’s front.

The aircraft was often eagerly awaited and spotted by fans and aviation enthusiasts at various cities as the group flew around the world during their tour.

What Happened To The Rolling Stones’ Boeing 767?
The 767 featured 96 first class seats and a comfy leather couch, among other things. Photo: Getty Images

Where is it now?

The 767 first entered service 31 years ago in 1990 with LOT Polish Airlines with registration SP-LPA. Over the years, LOT leased it to airlines such as Air New Zealand and Air Europa.

In February 2016, the airplane was acquired by Aeronexus Corporation and later that year painted in the Rolling Stones livery for the band’s “No Filter Tour.”

Since 2018, the 767 has featured the Globus Reisen Voyages livery and has made several stops around the world in the last year alone. As of today, the 767’s last flight was on December 6th from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Johannesburg, South Africa, according to

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Not the only famous 767

ZS-NEX isn’t the only 767 to have high-profile owners. Canadian rapper Drake has his own Boeing 767-200ER for private transportation. Dubbed as “Air Drake,” the jet is registered as N767CJ and features shiny gold detailing on the walls, a theatre room, fully-enclosed private suites, and velvet couches.

The aircraft is provided to Drake free of charge in a partnership with Cargojet, which covered it in its unique branding in an effort to get free publicity.

Canadian rapper Drake also enjoys a 767 for personal transport. Photo: Getty Images

American billionaire Mark Cuban also once owned a 767, the most expensive aircraft in his private jet collection. Registered as N767MV, it was configured with 98 business class seats and was often hired out for high-end charter. The plane was also used at times to transport Cuban’s NBA team, the Dallas Mavericks.

As reported by Simple Flying, Cuban’s 767 seems to have had a change of ownership as it was seen flying for Atlas Air earlier this year.

Have you ever seen a private jet of your favorite band? Do share your comments.


Indian Airports Ordered To Phase Out Older Inefficient Vehicles

The Indian government’s plan of sustainable aviation practices in the country gained further momentum with the decision to replace all old airport equipment by next year. While some airports have already incorporated electric vehicles into their operations, the new mandate applies to all airports handling more than 3.5 million passengers per year.

Major Indian Airports have been asked to use electric equipment by May next year. Photo: Getty Images

Eco-friendly equipment

The Ministry of Civil Aviation of India (MoCA) is taking its aim for carbon-neutral airports seriously by giving a tight deadline to many airports to replace inefficient equipment. By May 2022, Airlines and Ground Handling (GH) companies have to find electric or more fuel-efficient replacements for their current equipment.

Once implemented, one could expect several airports in India to operate more sustainable transport buses, pushback tugs, baggage tractors, and a host of other equipment that help in passenger and cargo loading and cleaning aircraft, etc.

The Business Standard cites MoCA’s November 1st order, which says,

“It has been decided that all GH agencies and airlines doing self-handling at airports having passenger movement of more than 3.5 million passengers per annum shall comply with the minimum standard of ground support equipment and vehicle.”

So far, airports in the country have been following their own policies on such initiatives. This new mandate will help standardize the procedure and will affect around 25 airports.

Tight deadline

While the move is accepted and appreciated across the board, many feel that the deadline of May 2022 is pretty tight. The last two years haven’t been the best for airlines and aviation companies. The financial burden inherited following the pandemic makes it tricky for these new changes to be implemented in less than a year.

The order says that no ground support equipment older than 12 years will be allowed, even if refurbished. But many believe that the policy could be relaxed for certain equipment, such as the low ladders, that can be used up to 20 years when refurbished according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Delhi Airport
While the move is being appreciated, many feel the implementation deadline is tight. Photo: Getty Images

Procuring new equipment takes time, and airlines and GH companies feel that May 2022 is cutting it close. The Business Standard report quotes R Ramana, Director and CEO of GH agency AISATS as saying,

“The norms will require us to make multi crore investments. Equipment such as pushback tractors or low loaders (pallet loaders) are made to order. Usually it takes 6-8 months to receive them after placing an order. The intent of the policy is right… But its implementation timeline needs to be stretched and tailored so that airlines and ground handling companies are able to meet the conditions based on the capital expenditure implications.”

Green push

MoCA’s order is part of a larger plan by the Indian government to make Indian aviation, among other sectors, more sustainable and in sync with the global aviation industry’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality.

In June this year, Delhi and Hyderabad airports received ACI Asia-Pacific Green Airports Recognition for embracing newer technologies. Delhi was lauded for reducing carbon emissions by using TaxiBot for aircraft pushback; Hyderabad was praised for improving air quality at the airport by using electric equipment such as Fixed Electrical Ground Power (FEGP) and solar-powered Baggage Freight Loader (BFL), etc.

Delhi airport
Delhi airport has been lauded for using TaxiBots and becoming the first single-use plastic-free airport in the country. Photo: Getty Images

In February last year, Delhi’s IGI Airport also became the first in the country to be free of single-use plastics. Down south, Cochin airport became the first fully solar-powered airport in the world in 2015.

The global aviation sector has been pushing hard for better and efficient aircraft, sustainable fuel, and airport equipment. The contribution of an enormous aviation market like India is definitely required.

What are your thoughts on the Indian government’s plans for sustainable aviation in the country? Please leave your comments.

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From Kuala Lumpur To The World: The History Of Malaysia Airlines

Closing in on its seventy-fifth birthday, Malaysia Airlines is one of Asia’s most high-profile airlines. Nowadays, Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysia Airlines’ 99 aircraft flies 116 routes to 76 destinations in 22 countries. In addition to a comprehensive domestic and regional network, Malaysia Airlines has a presence throughout Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Europe.

A Malaysian Airways Fokker F27 Friendship photographed around 1970. Photo: foundin_a_attic via Flickr

The airline can trace its history through several name changes and ownership changes to 1947, when Malayan Airways Limited operated its first passenger flight. At the time, modern-day Malaysia did not exist. More recently, it hasn’t been the easiest ride for Malaysia Airlines. The contemporary state-owned airline has struggled to make a profit with the recent travel downturn has also highlighting the airline’s financial stresses.

post-WWII airline that grew fast

That early postwar airline, Malayan Airways, operated out of Singapore. The airline, a collaboration between Straits Steamship Company and Imperial Airways, operated Airspeed Consul twin-engined aircraft. The first passenger flight was on April 2, 1947. Five passengers flew between Singapore’s Kallang Airport and Kuala Lumpur’s Sungai Besi Airport.

With the input of airlines from friendly countries, Malayan Airways grew rapidly. By 1955, the airline was flying Douglas DC-3s. Within 20 years of that first flight, Malayan Airlines was flying a wide variety of planes, including the Douglas DC-4 Skymaster, Vickers Viscount, Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, Bristol Britannia, de Havilland Comet 4, and Fokker F27.

In 1960, Malayan Airlines commenced its first long-haul flight to Hong Kong, using an 84-seat Bristol Britannia. Three years later, in 1963, modern-day Malaysia was born, and Malayan Airways rebranded to Malaysian Airways – just a tweak but one that better reflected the airline’s home base. In the same year, five ultra-modern Fokker F27 Friendships landed at Malaysian Airways.

A MAS De Havilland Comet 4 photographed in the late 1960s. Photo: RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons

Malaysian Airlines System (MAS) breaks away from Singapore

In 1966, Singapore broke away from Malaysia to form the contemporary stand-alone city-state, and Malaysian Airways renamed to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MAS). Within a short time frame, Boeing 707s and 737s began arriving at the airline. But 20 years after formation, the airline was beginning to experience some growing pains.

Core to the problem were the differing interests of the two owners – the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia. As a city-state, Singapore had an outward focus and wanted to build up the airline’s international network. Malaysia wanted to focus on domestic routes at home.

That strategic conflict led to the break up of the airline in 1972. The two new airlines were named Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airline System, informally known as MAS. Singapore Airlines took the Boeing 707s and 737s and began flights out of Singapore. MAS took the Fokkers and started concentrating on domestic routes and some international services from Kuala Lumpur.

After the breakup, MAS was operating 19 aircraft, including jets capable of operating flights through to London. With the advent of DC-10-30 aircraft in 1976, MAS flights to Amsterdam, Paris, and Frankfurt began.

Under Malaysian Government ownership, MAS really began spreading its wings. Like the present day, emerging nation-states put a lot of value on their national carriers having both an extensive network and a high profile. Malaysia was no exception.

Malaysian Airlines System received its first Boeing 737 in 1993. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

sian Financial Crisis deals MAS a body blow

By the 1980s, MAS was flying to 47 overseas destinations. In addition to an extensive network throughout Asia, MAS flew to eight airports in Europe, seven airports across Oceania, as well as Los Angeles and Honolulu. MAS has always concentrated on Europe and Ocean at the expense of the Americas, where it struggled to make flights profitable. But that didn’t stop MAS from having a go. Over the years, they’ve tried flights as far afield as Mexico City and Buenos Aires.

Nonetheless, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, MAS grew into a significant long-haul airline. However, the airline was dealt a serious blow with the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. A series of financial losses caused MAS to undertake what nowadays would be called a “transformation program.”

Aside from one noteworthy annual profit in the early 2000s, the period of financial turbulence lasted well over a decade. Loss-making long-haul routes got the ax, but that couldn’t offset rising salary, airport, and aircraft costs. Fuel costs and poor revenue management would prove particularly problematic.

Towards the end of this century’s first decade, a business turnaround plan executed by a new CEO got the airline back into the black. CEO Idris Jala made some big changes at MAS. He rationalized routes, including ending all unprofitable international flights. MAS changed from a predominantly point-to-point airline to a hub-and-spoke airline.

Idris Jala also got serious about revenue management. He was so successful the Malaysian Government wanted him in the national cabinet. His successor, Tengku Azmil Zahruddin, took over in 2009. Around this time, a raft of new aircraft orders went in, including for Boeing 737s, Airbus A330s, and Airbus A380s.

Malaysia Airlines, Airbus A380, Retirement
Malaysia Airlines brought the Airbus A380 into service in 2012. Photo: Getty Images

troubled last decade at Malaysia Airlines

The last decade has been a turbulent one for MAS. The airline rebranded once again, this time to Malaysia Airlines. But the legacy airline struggled to compete against the rise of nimble low-cost airlines. This was perhaps best illustrated by the arrival of the expensive A380s in 2012. The big jumbos rapidly became an albatross for Malaysia Airlines.

Two high-profile incidents also kept Malaysia Airlines in the public eye for all the wrong reasons. Flight 370, a Boeing 777-200ER, and its 239 people onboard mysteriously vanished in 2014. Searches have never found that plane. In the same year, another 777-200ER was hit by a missile over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 onboard.

High turnover of executives, plans to delist the airline, rebranding, and cultural issues at Malaysia Airlines combined with financial issues to create a perfect storm of problems. The recent travel downturn was the icing on the cake, but the ongoing problems at Malaysia Airlines predate that.

It would be enough to end most airlines, but Malaysia Airlines survives. Owned by a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, the airline may be a shadow of its former self and still in trouble, but Malaysia Airlines is hanging in there. The airline is still flying and waiting for better days. In 2021, Malaysia Airlines remains a highly recognized carrier with an excellent inflight product.

Malaysia Airlines will be back better than ever as people start flying again, rebuilding and planning to capture a slice of the glory days before the Asian Financial Crisis.


AirAsia Is Eyeing A Narrowbody Airbus Freighter

AirAsia wants to start flying dedicated freighters as it diversifies away from its core low-cost passenger operations. Reports suggest the airline is talking to Airbus about developing a freighter version of its popular A321neo passenger plane.

AirAsia is in talks with Airbus about producing an A321neo freighter. Photo: AirAsia

irAsia wants Airbus to make an A321neo freighter

AirAsia has a massive 362 narrowbody aircraft order with Airbus. Recently, the airline has tinkered with that order, including upsizing some A320neos to A321neos. AirAsia has also extended the delivery timeline, which now runs through to 2035.

According to a Reuters report on Wednesday, AirAsia now wants to convert a “meaningful chunk” of those ordered passenger planes to freighters, specifically an A321neo freighter.

“For a lot of the markets that we need to reach both in range but also in capacity, it’s a great product,” Pete Chareonwongsak, CEO of AirAsia logistics division Teleport, said.

AirAsia is busy re-inventing itself from a purely low-cost airline into a southeast Asian logistics giant. The airline’s executives have expended a lot of time and energy developing to-the-door delivery options for people and packages, including drones and flying taxis.

Teleport already has its first dedicated freighter, a Boeing 737-800. It plans to take a further five over the next two years. But these planes are a stop-gap solution, and AirAsia is an Airbus airline. In the meantime, the Boeings will boost AirAsia’s freight capacity by 45%.

“We have pilots and spare parts for A320 family aircraft, so we would prefer it,” AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said earlier this year.

AirAsia received its first A321neo in 2019. Photo: AirAsia

irbus needs customers to commit

Whereas Boeing produces a range of dedicated freighters, aside from the future A350 freighter, the only dedicated freighter Airbus now makes is the A321P2F. A new-build A330-200F failed to take off, as did a freighter version of the A380.

Reports in August suggested Airbus was talking to potential customers about an A321neo freighter. But those reports also say Airbus won’t launch any new freighter versions without a baseline of customers already locked in. It is suggested Airbus will need at least 50 firm orders to consider an A321neo freighter.

Reuters cites an Airbus spokesperson saying they constantly talk to customer airlines about their future needs and adapt their product line accordingly. The Airbus spokesperson declined to provide specifics on any potentially soon to be announced A321neo freighter.

Insiders say Airbus will need at least 50 firm orders before starting to produce any freighters. Photo: AirAsia

Is Airbus over AirAsia?

A potential problem for AirAsia is that passenger planes from the A320 family have sold like hotcakes. Airbus is under no real pressure to generate further sales by developing costly variants.

AirAsia is also under financial pressure and has spent much of the last 18 odd months wrangling with Airbus over delivery dates and aircraft types in existing orders. Subsidiary airlines, such as AirAsia X, have proved especially problematic for Airbus.

Whether Airbus wants to deepen its relationship with AirAsia right now is an interesting question. But AirAsia has big ambitions in the freight sphere. Tony Fernandes has said a lot about this lately, seeing the AirAsia Group as the Amazon Prime of southeast Asia.

He is also under some pressure to act reasonably soon. China’s JD Logistics is eyeing a fleet of 100 dedicated freighters by the end of this decade, and AirAsia could lose any first-mover advantage.

Talks continue between AirAsia and Airbus. But it is uncertain whether they can do a deal in time for an announcement at the upcoming Dubai Air Show.

Did you miss our previous article…


Boeing 707: Air India Was The 1st Asian Airline To Enter The Jet Age

The pairing of Air India and Boeing 707 was one of the most successful of its time. One was a highly respected airline known for its hospitality and onboard services; the other was an aircraft often credited with ushering in the era of the jet age in the truest sense. Both complemented each other perfectly and together developed into a formidable force in the aviation world.

Air India enjoyed some of its most glorious years with the Boeing 707. Photo: Eduard Marmet via Wikimedia Commons


Before Boeing, the UK, France, and Russia had developed their own jet-powered civilian planes, but none could mainstream jet travel the way 707 did. The British de Havilland Comet created buzz when it first flew in 1952, but the airplane’s structural problems quickly dented its reputation.

The Boeing 707 entered commercial service in 1958 with Pan Am, flying from New York to Paris with a refueling stopover in Gander, Canada. Within two years, the narrowbody quadjet revolutionized air travel. Although initially intended for medium-range flying, the 707 soon became the aircraft of choice for cross-Atlantic and continental flights. Boeing produced further 707 variants and even custom-designed the airplane for many customers, further consolidating its position throughout the 1960s.

Boeing 707: Air India Was The 1st Asian Airline To Enter The Jet Age
When Air India received its first Boeing 707 in 1960, the aircraft had already established itself as a trusted jetliner. Photo: Steve Fitzgerald via Wikimedia Commons

By this time, Air India was also emerging as an airline of repute. Founded by well-known businessman JRD Tata, the carrier started as Tata Air Services, flying mails around Karachi and Bombay. As it grew over the years, the carrier rebranded itself as Tata Airlines and started flying passengers and cargo.

After World War II, the airline became a public limited company and was renamed Air India Limited. In 1953, the carrier was fully nationalized, but JRD Tata remained its chairman until 1977.

ir India enters jet age with 707

Air India received the delivery of its first Boeing 707 named Gauri Shankar in 1960. Before that, the carrier used the Lockheed Constellation series of airplanes on its international routes to places like London, Geneva, and Cairo.

With the 707 in its fleet, Air India became the first Asian airline to enter the jet age and by 1962, had become the first carrier in the world to operate an all-jet fleet.

#FlyAI : A pioneering role! Air India International was the first Asian airline to join the jet age with its first Boeing 707-420 inducted into its fleet. #PioneerAirline #IndiasWings #JetAge #FirstAsianAirline

— Air India (@airindiain) August 1, 2021

The 707 complemented Air India’s growing ambitions tremendously. Faraway destinations, which until then were out of reach, soon became a reality. On May 14th, 1960, Air India flew to New York City for the first time using the jetliner, becoming the first Asian airline to operate a transatlantic flight.

Soon, the airline featured the 707 in its advertisements, boasting several key destinations, including Sydney, Australia. The aircraft helped the airline become bolder in its approach to route planning and paved the way for the bigger 747 jumbo to consolidate its position as a premium carrier in the next few years.

#FlyAI: Flying in style & comfort to USA was offered by Air India in 1960 with a Boeing 707 aircraft. Get the right city name and an opportunity to feature on our page.

— Air India (@airindiain) August 19, 2021


While Air India certainly benefitted from the 707, the aircraft’s operational history with the carrier is also dented by two accidents.

In January 1966, an Air India 707 crashed near the summit of Mont Blanc in the Alps. The plane was on a regular Bombay to New York flight when it went down, killing all 117 onboard.

The second accident involved the very first 707 delivered to the carrier – Gauri Shankar. In June 1982, the airplane was on a scheduled service between Kuala Lumpur and Bombay, with stopovers in Singapore and Madras. Due to bad weather, it skidded off the runway in Bombay, killing 17 people onboard.

Over the next few decades, Air India went through significant ups and downs, with the last few years particularly turbulent for the carrier. With the airline now back with the Tatas, everyone is hoping for it to recreate its glory days of the ‘60s and ’70, of which the Boeing 707 was an important chapter.