NEWS: Boeing 737 Max returns, 50% Pilots out of a job & new Heathrow Express trains no longer step free

Boeing 737 MAX 10 Reaches Firm Configuration (PRNewsfoto/Boeing)

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Boeing 737 Max to return to UK airspace

The ill-fated Boeing 737 Max aircraft will return to UK skies, after an announcement by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirmed the aircraft have been cleared to be operated by UK airlines for passenger flights.

The ‘Boeing 737-Max ban’ has, until now, also extended to the aircraft not even being allowed to fly through UK airspace. This will also be amended to allow the aircraft to enter UK airspace, even if not operated by a UK airline.

The ban, which has been in place since 2019, came into play after the aircraft experienced two fatal crashes, and the CAA maintain that extra precautions and monitoring will be in place as the aircraft returns to service.

The move was likely considered after similar decisions were made by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada.

Boeing have put forward several design modifications, as well as how it is flown and aspects of pilot training. Significantly, modifications to the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) and other key safety changes aimed at preventing further accidents.

Two Boeing 737 Max planes were involved in accidents – Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29th, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10th, 2019.

In a statement by Richard Moriarty, chief executive at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, he reiterated that the decision was not undertaken lightly, and acknowledged those affected by the two fatalities.

 “Our thoughts remain with those affected by the tragic accidents of the Boeing 737 Max.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and we would not have allowed a return to service for UK operators, or lifted the ban on the aircraft operating in UK airspace, unless we were satisfied that the aircraft type is airworthy and can be operated safely.

The international work to return the Boeing 737 Max to the skies has been the most extensive project of this kind ever undertaken in civil aviation and shows how important the cooperation between states and regulators is to maintaining safety.”

Boeing 737 MAX 7 

The CAA further stated that they have been involved on all levels of the journey to get the Boeing 737-Max back in service. They also reiterated that the decision was based off detailed information from EASA, the FAA and Boeing, as well as extensive engagement between the authority and the airline operators and pilot representative organisations.

Officials also said they have been in close contact with TUI, who are currently the only operator of the aircraft in the UK, and will be working with them to ensure all aircraft are up to standard and operators and pilots undergo the necessary extra training.

The ban removal also means other operators will be flying the aircraft in UK airspace, but will first be required to prove that the same measures have been undertaken and the aircraft is fit for flying.

The extensive measures will very likely slow the return of the Boeing 737-Max to the skies, as well as the ongoing implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


50% of pilots are now grounded due to COVID travel slump

Well, perhaps it’s not the most shocking news, but it has been confirmed: 2020 sucked for travel, especially so for those who work in the industry.

In the first worldwide survey of the aviation industry since the crisis began, it was discovered that more than half of airline pilots across the globe were no longer flying for a living. Participants were surveyed from a wide range of countries.

The survey was thought up and carried out by a specialist aviation and pilot recruitment agency named ‘Goose’, in partnership with aviation publisher FlightGlobal. The survey was designed to better understand and capture the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on airline pilots, and involved surveying almost 2,600 pilots and flight crew.

In the survey, 30 percent described themselves as currently unemployed, with a further 17 percent saying they have been furloughed.

Another 6 percent answered that they are still employed, but in a non-flying role, and four percent said they have found work but in another industry.

Those numbers mean that around 43% of pilots are actually working in the job they trained so hard for.

The online report comes 12 months after a previous survey by Goose and FlightGlobal revealed that pilots – though admitting occasional challenges of stress and achieving a better work-life balance – were enjoying a strong global demand for their services.

The results of the newest survey, which was undertaken in October, quantify what we have all known for a while – the tourism industry has been decimated, with huge economic and psychological impacts on those that work in it.

Of the pilots surveyed, two-thirds answered they are actively looking for new employment as pilots; however, the high number of jobseekers means that the market is oversaturated.

More than 8 in 10 said they would take a pay cut if it meant they could keep doing their job. Statistics like this are very troubling, meaning that as the industry recovers, workers may be forced to expect much lower wages or worse conditions.

The survey also asked questions such as whether pilots would recommend their career to young people, when pilots think the recovery in the market will come and how valued they feel by their employers.

Katie Mann, global recruitment sales manager for FlightGlobal, said the results really spoke for themselves.

“It is simply a shocking reality of the state of the aviation industry that more than half of the world’s pilots are not employed as pilots and flying as they have trained to do so.”


‘New’ Heathrow Express trains unveiled, no more step-free access

Late last year we showed you a sneak peak of the new Heathrow Express trainsets, after the decision was made to upgrade the network.

The specially converted GWR Class 387 trains will replace the current Class 332 fleet, which have been in service for 22 years carrying more than 115 million passengers over 44 million miles.

The 12-strong fleet have been refurbished to ‘meet the operators standards’. Heathrow Express remains under Heathrow management, however the new trains will be operated by GWR.

The journey time will remain at 15 minutes, however the frequency at which the service is running has dropped from four times an hour to twice an hour (in large part due to travel restrictions).

The new trains have been fitted out with all the latest mod-cons, including at seat USB power, fast Wi-Fi, ample luggage space and the option of Business First.

However, some aren’t happy with the new-look trains, and there have also been complains about the facilities and amenities not functioning. Hopefully it’s just teething issues, and the more premium experience lives up to all its promises.

The main issue of concern is the fact that there is no longer step-free access to the platform; not only is this frustrating for those with heavy luggage, but significantly impacts those with mobility issues or parents with prams.

When questioned, the company said that they were working on the issue.

“In response to step-free access the operator told Business Traveller “Our new Class 387 trains will still allow for level boarding at both Paddington and Heathrow platforms and we are adding additional modifications to reduce the gap between the trains and the platforms to make it even easier for passengers to travel with us.”

Sadly, it is expected that the original trains will be scrapped, despite their relatively young (by industry standards) age.

To find out how to get Heathrow Express tickets from only £5.50 in our previous article, plus a bunch of other tips!

3 Comments on "NEWS: Boeing 737 Max returns, 50% Pilots out of a job & new Heathrow Express trains no longer step free"

  1. The Class 332s (the old HEx trains) were pretty challenging trains to maintain and, despite looking good on the inside, had a whole load of structural issues – so unsurprising no other operator wants to pick them up!

  2. I appreciate that GWR / HEX have installed a custom interior for the 387’s but I think it speaks volumes that said interior has been kept under wraps in even their own press releases.

    They’re, imho, loathsome trains and very poorly suited to airport pax traffic but hey this much vaulted( if hidden) refit may be able to work some wonders. They certainly never managed it on the G-EX service.

    If anyone has a source for any actual images of what GWR has done/ is doing to them i’d be genuinely interested if you have a link.

    As for the Max’s, I don’t care what anyone says. It was ‘safe’ when it was released and then it crashed. It’s recertification has been mired in multiple controversy’s and a number of whistleblowers have recently come out and expressed concern with the recertification process both having corners cut and being rushed so it will be some years before i’am happy to step foot on one including using alternative carriers if it calls for it. My rule with the Dreamliners was ‘must go 3 years without setting itself on fire’ & the 787 never killed anyone.

  3. If I got to Heathrow I arrive in London at Euston & get the tube one stop to Kings Cross, then Piccadilly line direct to Heathrow.
    There is normally a train every 5 minutes, & it costs about £1.80 using Oyster & Pensioner Travel Card.
    Thats a £44 saving for the 2 of us & only slightly longer travel time, depending if you catch a Heathrow Express leaving.

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