Sunday, July 25, 2010

In a life insurance policy, you never win!

"...In any kind of insurance you are betting against the insurance company & the insurance company is betting against you.

The insurance company wins if you don't die early.

You win if you die early - so effectively you never win..."

LOL! How true!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Russia needs new aircraft engines which are accepted by Western airlines and lessors

Based on my current knowledge about the state of civil aircraft manufacturing industry in Russia and Ukraine, I can say with reasonable confidence that engines (also known as powerplants) are one of the key barriers to acceptance of current (An-148, Il-96, Tu-204, Tu-334) and upcoming (MS-21, Superjet 100) Russian/Ukrainian civil aircraft among Western customers (Note: MS-21 uses a P&W GTF engine as its standard powerplant, with the option of Aviadvigatel PD-14 engine). Western customers just do not trust the current breed of engines made by Aviadvigatel, Progress, et al.

I hypothesize that the acceptance of Russian/Ukrainian civil aircraft will continue to be zero/near-zero among mainstream Western operators until Russia/Ukraine:
  1. Either develop all-new engines that are at-par with engines from CFM/GE/IAE/P&W/Rolls-Royce/Snecma;
  2. Or equip existing and upcoming aircraft with Western engines.
Of course, neither of the above steps will help alone unless Russia/Ukraine also address the (many) other technical and service/support barriers (and possibly political barriers as well) preventing large operators worldwide from betting on these aircraft.

Aviadvigatel PS-90 turbofan powerplant (source)

What qualities are desirable in aircraft engines? I can think of these:
  1. Low fuel burn
  2. Low emissions
  3. Low noise
  4. Low vibration
  5. Low weight
  6. Low maintenance requirements
  7. Low cost of the engine
  8. Low cost of spares
  9. High performance (meets requirements of the host aircraft)
  10. High durability/reliability
  11. High resilience/safety/tolerance
  12. Automatic early warning systems (in case of malfunctioning)
  13. High serviciability (cheap/easy to service and repair)
  14. High availability of spare components
  15. High compatibility (supports many of the currently popular and promising upcoming aircraft models)
  16. High modifiability/upgradability (easy to downgrade, modify, or upgrade the basic design for different aircraft types)
  17. High recyclability (easy and profitable to comprehensively recycle old/written-off engines)
  18. Easy manageability (fully automated/computerized engine with easy management/operation)
  19. Compliant with global standards for aircraft engines
  20. Supports any alternative aviation fuels being standardized for near-future implementation
New engines such as the Aviadvigatel PD-14, PowerJet SaM146, and Progress D-27 are steps in the right direction, but Russia and Ukraine need to do a lot more - including, possibly, a consolidation of major engine-makers (akin to the formation of UAC) - before their indigenous engines are considered as a threat to Western engines.

A consolidation of major Russian/Ukrainian engine-makers looks as promising as PowerJet-like collaborations with Western makers - it'll create a large pool of engineering talent, funds, infrastructure, IP/patents and other assets, and hopefully result in new powerplants that bring sleepless nights to GE, Pratt and Rolls executives...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Aeroflot should use only Russian aircraft in its fleet, and set an example for other airlines

I second Putin's disappointment (here, here, and here) at Aeroflot's fleet expansion plans that include huge orders for Airbus and Boeing airplanes, but none for any Russian/Ukrainian plane (barring the Sukhoi Superjet 100 order, which pales in comparison to the Airbus and Boeing orders).

Aeroflot has to realize (or has to be made to realize) that its role is wider than of a for-profit company in the Russian Federation. Aeroflot is the de facto national airline of Russia, and its fleet is going to be looked at by both Eastern and Western airlines. If Aeroflot doesn't rely on Russian-made aircraft, the disastrous impression that this will leave on the potential customers of Russian-made aircraft is hard to underestimate.

Aeroflot Il-96 taking-off from Salzburg, Austria (source)

I'm (cautiously) hopeful that the newest breed of UAC aircraft - An-148, Il-96, MS-21, Superjet 100, Tu-334 and other cargo/special-purpose planes can fulfill at least many of Aeroflot's requirements (and Aeroflot might want to lease a few aircraft till its Russian-made aircraft are delivered). Aeroflot should adopt these fine aircraft with open arms, maintain these well (and thus prove to the world that with proper maintenance, the latest breed of Russian/Ukrainian aircraft perform as beautifully as the stewardesses of this fine airline), and set an example for other airlines to follow.

Update (16-Jul-10): And lo, the opening sentence of this 15-Jul-10 story on Aviation Week says exactly what I'm trying to say above.

Update (18-Jul-10): Not very happy to read that Aeroflot has ordered a bunch of A330 aircraft

Parents of underage drivers deserve punishment

Whenever I see kiddies literally flying their bikes/cars/scooters as if these were Boeings, I feel that it's their parents who must be held accountable for the potential danger that these underage drivers create for themselves and others.

Yes, guardians/parents should get strict punishment - both monetary and social - for giving vehicles to teens.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sikh turbans must pass security checks at airports

Most Indians - especially Punjabis - are well aware of the existence of a large-sized subset of the Sikh population which is extreme, fundamentalist, radicalized and separatist. The Emperor Kanishka terrorist act of 1985 was a direct result of this subset, as have been numerous other large and small incidents (also see this, this, this, this, and this). Any regulation that relaxes security-checking for the turban opens up a potential security hole, especially since the turban is frequently large-enough to accommodate a small-sized bomb/weapon (large enough to bring down a commercial airliner).

And so, in my opinion, the turban - irrespective of which religion's individual wears it - must undergo routine/stringent security checks at all airports worldwide. Strong and loud voices by Sikhs that touching the turban is an insult should not deter the airport security agencies from thoroughly searching it. Religious sentiments of some cannot be allowed to come in the way of the safety and security of the public.

I, for one, want to feel 100% safe whenever I board an aircraft, no matter how much inconvenience it causes to me or to others. We can certainly do without another Emperor Kanishka.