Airways Top 10 Post of 2022

Airways Top 10 Post of 2022

DALLAS — This year has been chock-full of commercial aviation events that have reshaped the industry for the long haul, so get ready for the round-up. Airways brings you the top 10 most-read stories of 2022.

We started the year hoping that a post-pandemic recovery would soon come without any hiccups. As the year went by, the push for more sustainable aviation became stronger; supersonic startups gained lift, albeit without much thrust; and airshows came and went without much fanfare.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and its ramifications for global air travel, however, caught our readers’ attention the most. The now-infamous “summer of travel chaos,” with its flight cancellations and delays due to industry-wide staffing shortages, new route announcements, and the return of the A380, are also on the list.

Sit back and enjoy our top stories of 2022.

10. Summer of Travel Chaos

At the start of June of this year, KLM (KL) announced that passengers who booked a flight to Amsterdam (AMS) from any European destination could not board their flight. The airline operated empty flights on the way back to its main hub.

The decision was taken to allow as many passengers who were stuck at AMS to reach their final destination. The airport was facing unfavorable weather conditions and undergoing runway maintenance, which caused many flight cancellations or delays.

However, what would be a running headline throughout the summer, AMS was also facing staff shortages and overcrowding in terminals. This would become a common issue as the airline industry began ramping up for a busy summer with the ease of travel restrictions, resulting in what would become the summer of travel chaos.

9. The Return of the Superjumbo

Again in June, British Airways (BA) announced it was bringing back all its Airbus A380s in full swing as travel demand made its way through the summer season.

The British airline has a total of 12 A380s, and all of them were pulled out of long-term storage. The airline was rather optimistic about the return of its superjumbos in November 2021 and had brought five back into service.

At the time of the post, nine of them were operational. The 12 superjumbos would return to active duty by the third quarter. As we’ll see, many A380s would do so, despite the pandemic fear of the type never returning to the skies.

8. Canadian Winter Meets Thai Getaway

The beginning of the summer travel season also saw Air Canada (AC) announcing the addition of Bangkok, Thailand, to its international network, marking the carrier’s first nonstop service to the region.

Winter seasonal flights to Bangkok depart from the airline’s trans-Pacific hub at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) four times a week. AC flights to Mumbai also resumed, with flights departing from Toronto via London Heathrow Airport (LHR) on a daily basis.

7. The Battle of Hostomel

April saw what was left of an Antonov AN-124, UR-82009, after Russian troops left Hostomel in Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine. Along with the AN-225 Myria, the AN-124 Ruslan (Lion-like) was damaged during the Battle of Antonov Airport (GML), also known as the Battle of Hostomel Airport, which was a military engagement that happened at GML during the Kyiv offensive of the Russian invasion.

UR-82009’s last flight departed at 1:55 EET from Burgas, Bulgaria (BOJ) bound for GML on January 25, 2022. It would not be the last time the Russian invasion of Ukraine would affect commercial aviation.

6. Russian Sanctions, Leased Aircraft

Not long after the conflict in Ukraine began, Western countries barred Russian airlines from using their airspace; foreign airlines severed commercial ties with them; and plane manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus stopped delivering critical spare parts to Russia.

In March, Silk Way West Airlines (7L) managed to repossess and transfer two Boeing 747-400FSCD formerly operated by Sky Gates Airlines (U3), re-registering them in Azerbaijan, according to ch-aviation. At the end of February, both jumbos terminated operations for the Moscow-based U3 and were transported to Baku, 7L’s home base.

At the time of the post, Russian airlines were already taking the brunt of the country’s wide-ranging sanctions implemented in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Bermuda withdrew all certifications of airworthiness for aircraft operating in Russia, where the two Boeing 747s were registered and operated by U3.

Russian airlines were banned from flying in the airspace of the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They still are.

5. The End of a Decade-long Relationship

In July, Malaysia Airlines (MH) listed its A380s for sale, be it the entire aircraft or parts. July passed and nothing. Solution? MH decided to get rid of them for good by the end of the year. It went on to show that there was no second-hand market for the A380.

Malaysia Airlines would find a new owner: Airbus. The plan to give away the A380s was part of the recent deal where MH ordered 20 new A330-900 aircraft. “The plan is for them (Airbus) to take back all the aircraft (A380) by the end of this year. It’s up to them what they want to do with the aircraft.”

Per the deal with Airbus, MH was to return its six inactive A380-800s by 2023. MH’s sixth and final A380, registered as 9M-MNF, arrived at Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrénées Airport (LDE) on December 19, thus ending a 10-year relationship between the airline and the Superjumbo.

4. The Search for Sustainable Aviation

Engine makers are a prime target for reducing aviation’s impact on the planet. As well as reducing emissions from their power plants, they must also strive to reduce fuel burn, thus reducing costs for their airline customers. Unlike other transport industries, this search for efficiency has been at the core of the aerospace industry.

Over the years, there have been various innovative designs, one of which was the ‘Prop-fan/Unducted fan,’ also known as an ‘Open Rotor Engine.’ This is the story of the inducted fan engine, a design that we might see again in this decade.

A timely reminder that the aviation industry has always strived for efficiency on all fronts, this history post comes at no 4.

3. Alaska Airlines’ Route Blitz

We begin our top 3 on this list with Alaska Airlines (AS) launching a barrage of new routes, including two new destinations, Cleveland (CLE) and Miami (MIA) as the much anticipated and busy summer travel season kicked off. 

The airline also began flights between Anchorage (ANC) and Salt Lake City (SLC) and will connect Boise (BOI) with Idaho Falls (IDA) and Las Vegas (LAS).

Alaska joined Spirit Airlines (NK) and United Airlines (UA) in connecting Cleveland with nonstop service to the West Coast and is the third city in Ohio to be served by AS.

On its flights between MIA, CLE, and SEA, AS chose the Boeing 737-9 MAX and 737-900 aircraft, the largest aircraft in its fleet, pointing to the demand the carrier saw in the new markets.

2. Sleeping on the Job

Back in May, both pilots aboard ITA Airways’ (AZ) flight from New York to Rome were asleep at the same time and failed to maintain communication with air traffic control for about 10 minutes.

The departure was just like any other, but things went quiet in the cockpit towards the end of the flight, as local media reports indicated that both the First Officer and Captain were asleep for a brief period and did not respond to nor communicate with air traffic control (ATC).

They were somewhere over France at FL380 and in contact with Marseille control –  a rather busy center, especially in the summer months.

Not to forget, the Airbus was at cruise altitude and on autopilot while the incident took place. While this is not uncommon, and the circumstances of the lack of communication with ATC were unclear, this story made the rounds enough to become our no. 2 post of the year.

1. The China-Russia Aviation Connection

Coming in at no. 1 is China’s airspace prohibition of Russian Boeing and Airbus aircraft owned by foreign leasing companies. The ban came due to a safety concern over the responsibility of aircraft maintenance. It’s no surprise that our top post of the year deals with superpowers and commercial aviation safety.

According to Russian media, the ban affected equipment whose legal status had not been confirmed following Western sanctions and the re-registration of the aircraft in question in Russia.

Western leasing companies that terminated their Russian contractors owned a large portion of Russia’s air fleet. Moscow refused to return the planes and re-registered them, rewriting Russian aviation rules and removing various safety regulations related to maintenance and certification in the process. This, of course, alerted China’s aviation safety alarms.

You can read the rest of the story, but suffice it to say that the nascent superpower was playing the long game. It ironed that wrinkle out with the aging superpower in no time.

The Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Willie Walsh recently voiced his concerns about the ramifications of Russia’s closure of its airspace to 36 Western countries, which had previously been mitigated by a drop in travel demand to China.

Western airlines have no access to Russia’s East-West air corridors. That means airlines flying between Europe and China need to add 3-4 hours to their flights. Chinese carriers, on the other hand, never stopped flying passengers and cargo thru Rusian airspace.

This will be an issue of discussion in 2023, among many others, so stay tuned to Airways. Our team will keep you up to speed on the latest developments in the air travel industry next year and in the years to come.

Featured image: This is one of SU’s A330-300 aircraft. Photo: Davide Calabresi/Airways

Chief Online Editor
Chief Online Editor at Airways Magazine, AVSEC interpreter, and visual artist. I am a grammar and sci-fi literature geek who loves editing text and film.

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