AirFrance: goodbye A380, Pakistan’s fake pilots…

AirFrance said goodbye to the A380 yesterday

It still seems almost unbelievable that AirFrance has flown its last A380. Taking staff on a tour of France for its final flight.

I have only ever flown on 1 A380, and that was AirFrance a few years ago when I had to come back from SFO in a hurry via Paris. Many times they flew from there right in the ideal position, 3 miles west of me at 35kft, easily recognisable with the naked eye, a prize for my obsession with long range spotting!

26 Nov 2013, 37kft vertical, line of sight 68,502 ft The AF A380’s were always unmistakable on their way over the U.K. from LAX and SFO

The economics of the aircraft in what are relatively small numbers at 10 in a fleet, have always been a problem. Buying them was as much a political decision, because it supported French industry, but it was also a matter of national pride – AirFrance has to have its nations aviation masterpiece to look the part. Besides it was the future.

Realities of course proved to be somewhat different. As they aged one was always on standby and couldn’t be deployed because of engine reliability issues. An AF A380 had possibly the most dramatic of engine failures when one exploded over Greenland, taking nearly two years to find the compressor fan in the arctic ice. That was the start of the airline falling out of love with its giant.

By 2018 it was recognised that the interiors of the oldest aircraft were in need of refurbishment and plans were made. Until the price tag at some $45 million per aircraft reached board level and questions started to be asked on the viability of such vast capital expenditure over ten aircraft.

With a change of managers at the very top, they simply couldn’t countenance it and faced the facts that getting rid of the leased aircraft and just keeping the ones they owned was better. Besides which most of them were younger and the interiors could last a couple more years. Yet the viability of operating just 5 was even less practical.

The decision to phase them out by the mid 2020’s wasn’t difficult, then along came Covid19 and they instantly lost any appeal they had left, they were simply, no longer viable. All of them would go.

And now they have.

Arguably AirFrance A380’s were the most poorly specified of any. Relatively high seat numbers at 510 compared to say a BA version at just 420, an already dated seating product in business and first when they were first delivered didn’t help. All that simply made them even less attractive to customers as the years progressed, all contributed to the airline itself feeling it just never really fitted its profile.

They should have been a flagship, but they never really felt like it.

Their futures are bleak. Most of them will probably end up broken up and parted out.

Pakistan’s fake pilots

The crash of the A320 a few weeks ago has been declared pilot and ATC error. What it highlighted was the state of pilot training. And what came out of that was the revelation that a staggeringly high number of Pakistan’s licensed pilots have not actually qualified, apparently getting someone else to take the exam for them.

Pakistan’s civil aviation authorities suspended 262 pilots on Friday pending conclusion of inquiries against them including 141 from PIA, nine from Air Blue, 10 from Serene Airline, and 17 from Shaheen Airlines, which has closed down.

They are suspected of collusion with aviation authorities from 2018, where either payments were made, and/or someone else sat the final examination, with the potential that all of them were unqualified to fly.

I have heard of this when in comes to driving tests, in India, Egypt, even Spain and France over the years, but pilots?

97 human beings were killed on that A320 by what appears to be an unqualified wannabe pilot whose ambitions outweighed his abilities.

This is the problem when corruption reaches every level of society and becomes the norm. In the end people die.

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