News in brief from around the world… Israel’s El Al has adopted new US-inspired policies on the treatment of pilots, Indonesian regulators have suspended Lion Air’s technical director after last week’s crash, and the US has charged two Chinese nationals with trying to steal aviation data.

Middle East

⇒ Israeli flag carrier El Al reached a six-year agreement with its pilots to allow “safer and more efficient” operations in line with new Israeli regulations, bringing the country in line with US laws designed to prevent pilot fatigue and ending a long-running labour dispute, Reuters reported on 29 October. CEO Gonen Usishkin reportedly told employees in a letter that “reality obliges us all to change the organizational culture and the way we conduct ourselves in order to ensure El Al’s future”.

The airline said the deal “establishes mechanisms meant to allow more efficient commercial operation ... and growth in the company’s activities,” and will lead to an “improvement of the pilots’ lifestyle,” Reuters reported.

The regulations were adopted by reference of various US Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR), specifically part 117 covering “flight and duty limitations and rest requirements” for members of flight crew with several changes and exceptions, eshem-Kipperman partner Moshe Leshem in Tel Aviv, Israel, told ALN, adding that is it not uncommon for Israel to adopt US aviation policies and that the country has done so since 1981.

“The decision to continue with reference to the US FARs was taken after public hearing, extensive consultations with all the participants in the Israeli aviation industry, and realisation that the US legislation on the subject is the most suitable for Israeli conditions,” he said.

According to Leshem, the dispute between the pilots and El Al’s management concerned “the pilots' complaints about deteriorating working conditions, erosion of wages and the retirement of senior pilots”.

“The new agreement purports to finally put an end to the dispute by reaching a comprehensive settlement of all outstanding issues concerning working conditions, senior pilots' retirement, flight time limitations, and wages adjustments,” he concluded.

US

⇒ The US Department of Justice said on 30 October it had indicted two alleged Chinese intelligence officers and several alleged co-conspirators, including hackers and “co-opted company insiders”, on charges of conspiracy to steal sensitive commercial aviation and technological data.

Zha Rong and Chai Meng allegedly worked for a provincial foreign intelligence arm of the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of State Security, which is responsible for domestic counter-intelligence, non-military foreign intelligence, and aspects of political and domestic security in China.

According to the indictment, the pair attempted to steal technology underlying a turbofan engine used in both US and European commercial airliners from at least January 2010 to May 2015.

The engine in question was being developed through a partnership between a US-based company and a French aerospace manufacturer with an office in China, which the alleged conspirators are accused of hacking. The DOJ also claimed that the hackers conducted intrusions into other companies that manufactured parts for the engine, including aerospace companies based in the US.

At the time of the intrusions, the DOJ said, a Chinese state-owned aerospace company was working to develop a comparable engine for use in commercial aircraft manufactured in China and elsewhere.

“State-sponsored hacking is a direct threat to our national security,” US attorney Adam Braverman said in a statement. “This action is yet another example of criminal efforts . . . to facilitate the theft of private data for China’s commercial gain.”

The case is being prosecuted by Alexandra Foster and Sabrina Fève of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, and Jason McCullough of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

Asia

⇒ The Indonesian Ministry of Transportation said (link in Bahasa) on 31 October it had asked Indonesian airline Lion Air to suspend its technical director in connection with the country’s National Transportation Safety Committee’s (NTSB) investigation into the crash of Lion Air flight JT610 on 29 October.

The new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft was taking off from Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International airport en route to Pangkal Pinang, the capital city of Indonesia’s Bangka Belitung Islands, when it crashed in the sea near Karawang in West Java, 13 minutes into the flight. According to the airline, the aircraft had only been operational since early August this year and had been declared “operationally feasible”.

The ongoing NTSB investigation may result in sanctions for the airline if it is deemed to have been negligent in its operation and maintenance of the aircraft, the transportation ministry said.

The ministry also instructed two other airlines – Garuda Indonesia and Lion Mentari Airlines – operating the same type of aircraft, to carry out special inspections or airworthiness checks in response to the crash. Sumadi said that the results of the inspections would be provided to the NTSB to inform its investigation.

⇒ The day after Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner released guidelines calling for “respectful, beneficial and fair” data processing, the region’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways announced that it suffered a data breach affecting up to 9.4 million people. The airline said on 25 October that in March an unauthorised party accessed customer data including passport details, expired credit card numbers, contact information and travel history, but said there was no evidence that the information had been misused.

In a statement, Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Stephen Kai-yi Wong, expressed “serious concern” over the data breach incident and said he will be initiating a compliance check. He reiterated the values advocated in his research report, stating that organisations that derive benefits from personal data should be held to a “higher ethical standard.”

More information on the case can be read via ALN’s sister publication Global Data Review.