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Civil Aviation – 2021 – A year of uncertainty

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Summary of 2021

Civil Aviation – 2021 – A year of uncertainty.

The year that was billed the year to re-build turns out to be the stop-start year.

Air transport has continued to be hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. However much it is said that; none are safe until everyone is safe, the achievements of international cooperation and coordination have not been a high spot of 2021. The impact of travel bans, testing regimes and restrictions (quarantines) have rapidly changed, causing confusion and planning troubles.

During the pandemic commercial aircraft were temporarily taken out of service. Many organisations expressed concern about bringing aircraft back into operations. The currency, proficiency and support of staff all required particular attention. Apart from one or two notable occurrences safety was maintained through the recovery.

The worst fatal accident of the year was the Sriwijaya Air Flight 182, Boeing 737-500 that crashed into the sea killing all sixty-two people on-board. Although auto throttle issues were known on this aircraft the interim accident report focuses on the need for upset recovery training.

Fortunately, after the United Airlines Flight 328, Boeing 777-200, experienced an uncontained engine failure over Colorado it landed safely. As a result, the US FAA ordered emergency inspections of all Boeing 777s fitted with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines.

Throughout the year, the relationship between certification authorities and manufactures has continued to be under the spotlight. Public confidence was gravely shaken by the introduction to service saga of the Boeing 737 MAX. Happily, early in the year, a modified version of the aircraft returned to safely operate passenger flights.

It has been a good year for the pursuit of innovation. Several all-electric, vertical take-off and landing aircraft projects have acquired large scale financial backing and potential future orders. Advanced air mobility is going from glitzy start-ups to people who are working to meet actual certification plans.

In the year of UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), industry is getting serious about net-zero carbon emission targets. More initiatives using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) are taking shape. Hydrogen as a fuel is widely discussed. Aviation’s decarbonisation is no longer optional.

Aerospace design and manufacturing continues to find new ways of making components. Showing that industry is implementing digital transformations. The benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will dramatically change how business is done.

It is more important than ever that organisations have an effective Safety Management System (SMS). Design, manufacturing, and maintenance organisations are taking stock of this need. After decades of experience, regulators are prepared to mandate these safety practices

The end of the year saw the last new Airbus A380 delivered to Emirates in the UAE. Type certificated by EASA and FAA on 12 December 2006, the superjumbo era may be shorter than was originally hoped. One thing learned in 2021 is that a global crisis, like a pandemic reshapes what was once presumed. Now, the hope is that recovery plans to rebuild and recover losses will be fruitful in 2022.

John Vincent IFA

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