Saturday, June 19, 2021

FLEET UPDATE: Aerolineas Argentinas retired last two A340-300's in early 2020, not replaced yet

Aerolineas Argentinas A340-313X, LV-FPV (c/n 193), in Skyteam colors was one of the last two Aerolineas A340's to be retired from the fleet. (Phil Perry Collection)

Aerolineas Argentinas, A340-300, LV-FPV (c/n 193), departed Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) bound for Orlando-Sanford (SFB) on 08Jan20 where it was returned to the aircraft's lessor.  LV-FPV was first delivered to Iberia on 21Oct97 and joined Aerolineas' fleet on 12Oct13 where it was painted in Skyteam colors, marking the carrier's membership in the airline alliance headed by Delta, Air France and KLM.  LV-FPV was scrapped in September 2020.

Aerolineas Argentinas, A340-300, LV-FPU (c/n 170), was returned to its lessor in March 2020, being the last A340 to be retired from the airline and marking the end of four-engined aircraft in service with Aerolineas, some of the other four-engined types preceding it being the DC-4, DC-6, Comet 4, 707 and 747.  

Aerolineas operated thirteen A340-200 and A340-300 aircraft in all with the first eleven being retired between December 2013 and March 2018.  The airline intended to retire LV-FPV and LV-FPU much sooner than it did but postponed withdrawing the aircraft from service because Aerolineas' pilots' union, APLA, wanted a commitment from the Argentine government (owner of Aerolineas) that the two planes would be replaced with other aircraft.  However, the government, headed by then-Argentine President Mauricio Macri, wanted to downsize the carrier's money-losing intercontinental operations.  Unable to come to an agreement with APLA, the government postponed the retirement of Aerolineas' last two A340's in order to head off a labor crisis.

A new government, headed by incoming President Alberto Fernandez, and much more aligned politically with the pilots' union, came into power in December 2019committing to replace LV-FPV and LV-FPU with two A330-200's that would join the numerous other A330-200's already operating with the airline, opening the door for the retirement of Aerolineas' remaining A340's while avoiding labor strife.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic came shortly after LV-FPV and LV-FPU were withdrawn from service, resultlng in a drastic reduction in flying by Aerolineas, especially intercontinental services, so nothing has been done yet to acquire the additional A330's.                           


Monday, June 7, 2021

ROUTE UPDATES: May 2021 - Iberia, Cubana

Route Updates - May 2021

The following airlines / flights are confirmed to have started or re-started on the indicated dates.  Most, maybe all, of the services are the resumption of flights that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Increases / decreases in flight frequency are not always verified.

Airline                      Origin                             Destination                      Eff Date     Type           Frequency   

Iberia                        Madrid (MAD)                 Montevideo (MVD)           18May21    A330-200    5x/weekly  
* Remarks: Increase from 3x weekly 

Cubana                     Havana (HAV)                Buenos Aires                    30May21    IL-96-300   2x/monthly                                                                                     Ezeiza (EZE)
* Remarks: Restart of service that operated in December 2020 and January 2021 that also included Cayo Coco      

Friday, June 4, 2021

FLEET UPDATE: Boeing AOG Team repaired Flybondi 737-800, LV-HQY, tailstrike aircraft in September 2018

Flybondi 737-800, LV-HQY, flew from Iguazu (IGR) where it experienced a tailstrike on 16Jul18, to the Escuela de Aviacion Militar (Miltary Aviation School) Airfield in Cordoba on 29Aug18 to have its rear fuselage repaired.

The work was to be undertaken at the FADEA (Fábrica Argentina de Aviones) hangar by the "Boeing AOG Team" (AOG = Aircraft-on-Ground), a group of 25 technicians led by Michael Barnes of the American manufacturer, with the repairs scheduled to take fifteen days to complete.    

The AOG Team is capable of carrying out repairs just about anywhere, including remote locations that have no supplies or infrastructure to speak of.  The team often takes along its own support engineers, tools, materials, supplies, generators, fuel and even food and water (!) for a completely self-sufficient operation.  They generally work 24/7 in twelve hour shifts, even on Saturdays and Sundays.  In the case of the repair of LV-HQY, many of the necessary items, including heavy machinery, were presumably provided by the FADEA, lightening the load for the trip from the US.

LV-HQY returned to service with Flybondi on 07Oct18 and was withdrawn from use at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic "quarantine" in Argentina on 19Mar20, going on to storage at the Pinal County Airpark (MZJ) in Arizona, USA on 09Jul20.     



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Flybondi 737-800 LV-HQY tailstrike at Iguazu (IGR) on 16Jul18 - Final Accident Report

Flybondi 737-800 LV-HQY (c/n 34406/1852) experienced a tailstrike while attempting takeoff from Iguazu (IGR) in the early hours of 16Jul18.  

The final accident report was published by the Argentine JST (Junta de Seguridad en el Transporte) of the Ministry of Transport on 17Oct20.     

* Tailstrike before Rotation

This incident was remarkable in that the tailstrike did not happen upon rotation or overrotation of the aircraft during takeoff but at the beginning of the takeoff roll down the runway !  The nose pitched up on its own causing the rear belly of the aircraft to strike the pavement.   

* Most Passengers Seated in the Aircraft Rear
LV-HQY had a load of 65 passengers, nearly all of which were seated behind Row 15 of the aircraft plus 450kg (900 lbs.) of freight in one of the rear baggage bins too.  Had the imbalance been any worse, the aircraft probably would have tipped onto its tail at the gate.  Had it been a bit less, the plane would likely have continued its takeoff roll, coming to rest on its tail upon attempting rotation while still moving forward, perhaps exiting the runway at a very high speed, colliding with whatever lay beyond its end.       

So how did the aircraft come to be so out of balance and why was this not discovered before leaving the gate ? 

Factors that might have contributed to the accident: 

* Cheapest Seats in the Rear

The initial reason for the 65 passengers being seated so far aft is that Flybondi sold seat assignments with the cheapest seats all being in the rear of the cabin.
Had the plane been nearly full this would not have caused balance issues but with no travelers occupying the more expensive seats towards the front of the cabin there was a disproportionate amount of weight in the rear.    

* Dispatch Subcontracted

Flybondi subcontracted the dispatch role (technical flight planning, including the "weight & balance" of aircraft) at Iguazu (IGR) to Flyseg S.A. 

The Flyseg dispatcher calculated the weight & balance based on the distribution of passengers in the cabin given to him by Flybondi.

The computer systems of the two companies were incompatible and there was no procedure in place for transferring the information from one system to the other so the dispatcher manually transferred the passenger seating data, introducing the potential for error.    

* Passenger Distribution Entered Incorrectly in Load Sheet

The load sheet produced by the dispatcher for this particular flight had a passenger distribution in the cabin that differed from where passengers were actually seated, leading the dispatcher to incorrectly calculate that the aircraft was within balance limits, but it was not. 

The dispatcher passed the load sheet bearing these mistakes to the captain commanding the flight.    

* No Double-Checking 

According to Flybondi's operations manual, the dispatcher should visually check the aircraft for passenger seating distribution when entering the aircraft to give the load sheet to the captain but he reportedly did not do so on this flight. 

Flybondi's operations manual also did not require the dispatcher to give a copy of the load sheet to the cabin crew nor did it require that the cabin crew check the passenger distribution on the sheet to make sure it was correct. 

* No Safety Managememt System

Flybondi did not have in place a safety management system (SMS).

The airline was supposed to put one together but it grew rapidly between its startup in January 2018 and the July date of the tailstrike and the SMS was apparently neglected.  The carrier was supposed to implement a "post certification surveillance" with the participation of the Argentine ANAC aviation authority but this was reportedly never put into practice.

Other factors that might have played a role in the accident:

* Seating Reconfigured

LV-HQY's seating was reconfigured to 189 seats two months before the incident which would have altered the weight & balance calculations but Boeing was not advised of this change so the aircraft's Weight & Balance Manual (WBM) was not updated correctly.  

* 737-200 Calculations

The WBM was further incorrect in that some of the data for calculating weight & balance were based on the 737-200 model, not the 737-800.

* Safe Ending this Time 

In the end, LV-HQY started to accelerate down Iguazu's runway 31 with the aircraft beginning to experience pitch up moments caused by the engine thrust resulting in its tail striking the runway surface.  The crew was able to reject the takeoff uneventfully and taxied back to the ramp.  But it could have been much worse. 

Please note that the editor of this blog is informed to a degree on aircraft operational matters but is not an expert so he might not have interpreted all of the information correctly.   

The actual accident report (in Spanish) can be found at this link: