News in brief from across the globe... This week, a US court has thrown out a claim against the Arizona flight school that trained the Germanwings pilot responsible for the Flight 9525 crash in 2015, while US FAA administrator Michael Huerta has announced a new rulemaking committee to help overcome safety concerns related to the operation of drones over people. Elsewhere, ICAO is set to lobby for the installation of video recorders in aeroplane cockpits.
⇒ The International Civil Aviation Organization is set to push for the installation of video recorders in aeroplane cockpits later this year to aid accident investigators, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cites anonymous sources familiar with the proposals. Such a move has long been opposed by pilots, who have raised privacy concerns. ICAO is reportedly championing new technology that would avoid recording the faces or bodies of those in the cockpit, but would document for investigators precisely what flight crews experienced during emergency situations. ICAO, which is the first major regulatory body to call for the use of such technology, has submitted the proposals for comment from national regulators by 20 April.
⇒ A US court has thrown out a lawsuit against the Arizona flight school that trained the Germanwings pilot responsible for crashing Flight 9525 into a hillside in March 2015. The families of 81 passengers who lost their lives in the crash sued Airline Training Center Arizona, which is owned by Deutsche Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, alleging that the flight school was partially responsible for failing to screen out pilot Andreas Lubitz from its programme. US District Judge Diane Humetewa said in a ruling on 27 March that the claim had merit, but the case should be heard in Germany. “Although Arizona certainly has an interest in this litigation, it is comparatively low when considering the much higher level of public interest in the lawsuit that is likely in Germany given the number of German citizens who lost their lives,” Humetewa said.
⇒ In a speech on 27 March at the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium, US Federal Aviation Administration administrator Michael Huerta outlined plans for a new Aviation Rulemaking Committee, made up of aviation, technology, law enforcement and safety stakeholders to help overcome safety concerns related to the operation of drones over people. “As we move toward fully integrating unmanned aircraft into our airspace, the questions we need to answer are only getting more complicated... There’s tremendous interest in expanding operations so that unmanned aircraft can be flown over people, and beyond visual line of sight... But introducing these operations into our airspace also introduces a unique set of challenges. There are obvious safety questions. What happens to people on the ground if a drone flying overhead fails? Then there are security concerns. How can we make sure unmanned aircraft don’t gain access to sensitive sites? And after seeing how drones can be used for ill-intent overseas, how can we ensure similar incidents don’t happen here? These aren’t questions the FAA can or should answer alone,” he said. “This is one of the law enforcement community’s top concerns, and we hope the recommendations we receive will pave the way for expanded drone operations over people and beyond visual line of sight.” His remarks come a week after Amazon Prime Air announced it had completed its first drone delivery to a conference in Palm Springs, California. The entire flight took place in the controlled airspace of Palm Springs International Airport.
⇒ Six US senators sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on 22 March, imploring both to “take firm action” to address the impact of alleged state subsidies enjoyed by Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates. Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar, Dick Durbin and Tammy Baldwin as well as Republican senators Johnny Isakson, Jim Inhofe and Thom Tillis wrote: “The size of the subsidies has increased and US airlines have lost routes. It is no longer possible to fly a US airline to Qatar or the UAE. The overcapacity on these routes facilitated by the subsidies has made the flights commercially non-viable for unsubsidised carriers.”
⇒ American Airlines will pay $200 million for a minority 2.68% stake in China Southern Airlines. China’s largest state-owned carrier confirmed details of the deal on 28 March to the Hong Kong stock exchange. The transaction still requires regulatory approval.
⇒ Ultra low-cost US carrier Frontier Airlines could launch an initial public offering within the next three months, Bloomberg reported on 28 March. The carrier, which operates flights between the US, Mexico and Jamaica, began exploring a potential offering in December 2015 but anonymous sources have indicated the airline plans to float as soon as the second quarter of this year.
⇒ The European Commission has cleared a tie-up between Qatar Airways and Meridiana, which will see the Gulf-based carrier acquire a 49% share in the Italian airline. The Commission’s initial investigation concluded that the airlines’ operations overlapped on several routes, but did not identify any competition concerns because the routes in question experienced very low traffic density. The airlines notified the deal to the Commission in February 2017. The airlines reportedly expect the transaction to close in April.
⇒ Scandinavian Airlines has sold two pairs of slots at London Heathrow Airport to an unnamed buyer for $75 million, the carrier said in a statement on 27 March, reducing its slots portfolio from 19 daily slot pairs to 17. Under the terms of the deal, the carrier can continue to use both slot pairs until 2020.
⇒ Italy’s government is preparing emergency contingency financing for Alitalia in case a majority of the carrier’s shareholders reject a restructuring plan, which would see the Italian carrier seek cost savings of €1 billion. The country’s Finance Ministry is pushing for a state-backed guarantee through national investment bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, worth €200 million, as part of a wider €400 million contingency plan, Bloomberg reported on 24 March, quoting anonymous sources. Etihad Airways, which owns a 49% stake in the Italian airline, has reportedly pledged to provide the remaining €200 million. Reports in Italy’s domestic press suggest Alitalia only has enough cash to see it through to mid-April.
⇒ The UK’s data protection regulator has fined Exeter-based airline Flybe £70,000 for breaching rules restricting unsolicited email marketing. The Information Commissioner’s Office sanctioned Flybe for sending over three million emails to consumers who opted out of receiving correspondence from the carrier.
⇒ Korean Air and Delta Air Lines have agreed a joint venture, which will see both carriers share costs and revenue on trans-Pacific flights. The airlines, which are founding members of the SkyTeam alliance, announced the memorandum of understanding on 29 March. “This agreement deepens our longstanding partnership with Korean Air and will provide the global access and seamless service our customers demand,” Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian said.