Episode 777: GippsAero is Aussie again but some of Bonza’s pax aren’t happy

It’s an auspicious episode given it’s aligned to the mighty Boeing Triple-7 aircraft (the originals, not the -X :) ) but the main news is that the boys are very happy to report that George Morgan, the surviving co-founder of GippsAero, has purchased the company back from Mahindra Aerospace. His plans are to re-activate refurbishments and rebuilds of the GA-8 Airvan fleet with a goal of reviving production. Great news indeed!

Sadly, it’s not so great news for Bonza’s passengers in Darwin who were expecting to fly to the Gold Coast, only to discover that their flight was cancelled at the last minute and, in fact, the commencement of the Darwin to Gold Coast route has been pushed back to January. Fuming passengers report less than stellar responses from Bonza’s only way of getting customer service: via the Bonza app. Is this an indication of general troubles ahead for Bonza? Are they repeating Tiger Airways Australia‘s mistakes of trying to grow too quickly? We sure hope not.

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia are increasing their 737 MAX-8 order up to 14 airframes. Announced on the day their third MAX-8 arrived, VA joins Bonza as the only two domestic operators of the MAX-8 in Australia, as Qantas is planning to replace their 737 fleet with A320s.

Staying with Virgin Australia, they’ve rekindled their relationship with Air New Zealand through a new codeshare agreement that will allow VA pax to cross the Tasman on AirNZ aircraft. This will bring more passengers to AirNZ and give VA frequent flyers the opportunity to earn those all important Status Credits as they cross the ditch. Grant just wants to know where the hell was this agreement five months ago when he was booking his flights to NZ for September and had to fly Qantas.

The boys wrap the episode with Steve possibly offending our Kiwi audience, much to Grant’s dismay. Remember, you can always use IamReallyOffended@Yahoo.com if you want to tell Steve how annoying and/or wrong he was…

GippsAero GA-8 AirVan

GippsAero GA-8 AirVan

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Episode 774: Indo Pacific 2023 had helicopters, drones, and … Grant

Despite saying they’d be back next week, reality got in the way and the boys are back this week instead. They’re from Down Under and you know time works differently down here, right?

The Indo Pacific International Maritime Exposition (IndoPac 2023) was held between November 7th & 9th in Sydney, and Grant was in attendance, gathering content for Australian Defence Magazine. We take a brief look at the expo, particularly in terms of a focus on maritime aviation and defence.

Closer to home, local company Rosebank Engineering has secured a contract for RAAF F-35 component maintenance, activating their wheel & brake repair depot in an outer eastern suburb of Melbourne. Could this be the same Rosebank that produced the infamous Stackhat, the all Australian crash helmet from back in the 80s?

Over in Perth, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) this week celebrated 30 years of operations at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia, conducting lead-in and advanced training for their military pilots. The Australian Defence Force enjoys a close working relationship with the Singaporeans not only at Pearce, but in several other aspects of training including CH-47 Chinook training at the Army Aviation Regiment’s base at Oakey in Queensland.

We also look at new, deployable hangars from DomeShelter, that use 40′ shipping containers and an inflatable cover. Pretty amazing stuff that also has potential for use as a deployable studio for the boys…

Finally, to bring us back to the maritime start, what exactly was Steve eating for lunch that has Grant so concerned? Tune in to find out! Anchors (or stomach contents) away….

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Episode 772: Qantas’ reputation drops as passenger annoyance (& fares) go up

Steve’s recovery continues so the boys dive into the latest stories, kicking off with the realisation that the RAAF (or maybe the government) were listening to Episode 770 as the RAAF have been sent into Israel to provide repatriation flights for Australian citizens wishing to return home.

Meanwhile, back at home, Qantas hasn’t had the best of years, especially when it comes to reputational damage, and the latest Roy Morgan Trusted Brands Awards bear this out following a year long survey which shows Virgin Australia has now replaced their larger rival as the most trusted airline brand in the land. Further helping the reputational damage, Qantas has found another way to annoy customers (and they likely won’t be the only airline doing it), announcing fare increases of 3.5% for their mainline network, and 3% for Jetstar flights, thanks mainly to the rising cost of fuel

Closer to Melbourne, a local Member of Parliament has had a lucky escape, when a skydive aircraft he was on-board lost power soon after takeoff and returned to Earth with a thud. Everyone walked away, with only two people requiring first aid…which was lucky because this MP just happens to be a former professional firefighter.

We close out with Steve wondering if Australia is planning to start its very own Space Force?? Well… probably not, but a recent agreement signed by the US and Australia will unlock the potential for both countries to move ahead with space launch from Down Under in the near to medium future.

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Episode 770: Downunder news of Hearts and Aviation… we’re back!

It’s been a rather eventful couple of months here in Australia for aviation news and a little closer to home.

Steve returns to the microphone following his recent journey with open heart surgery, the result of a heart attack in early September.  The aviation podcast community was so generous in their support during this time, and we take a moment to speak to that and express our appreciation. For more information on the experience, check out Steve’s “Proceed Aspect” blog.

In aviation news this week, Qantas has been involved in transporting Australian citizens out of Israel, on behalf of the federal government, due to the escalating conflict there.  At the time of recording, one 787 flight had been completed, while a second was aborted due to security concerns.  That flight was rescheduled for Tuesday.  The 787’s are taking passengers first to London where they are then returned to Australia using A380’s.

Former Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon shifted into politics in recent times and is now Prime Minister of New Zealand following the recent elections.  The news comes as the nation’s flag carrier experiences financial stresses due largely to the escalating price of fuel, exacerbated by ongoing wranglings with Pratt & Whitney over engine issues, and a post-covid travel credit hangover.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is on a recruitment drive, offering multiple aircrew roles on their Dash 8 and Challenger 604 fleet.  Find out more at this recruitment site.

An Australian man is at the centre of a recent incident which resulted in a Scoot 787 flight from Singapore to Perth being turned around & given an RSAF F-15 escort back to Changi

And the team at Paul Bennet Airshows have had a grand time at the recent Australian Aerobatic Championships, held at Narromine in New South Wales.  Paul took out the Freestyle Championship, while many other members of them team swept the awards categories as well.

Steve departing the cardiac ward

Steve very happy to walk out of the cardiac ward

Paul Bennet in the cockpit

Paul Bennet in the cockpit of his Pitts S1-11X

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Episode 748: Change of Monarch at Qantas by November

Qantas has dominated this week’s airline news so naturally this episode is all about them. We start with the news that long-time, and often controversial, CEO Alan Joyce has announced his intention to step down in November, handing the reins to the company’s current Chief Financial Officer, Vanessa Hudson.

Hudson has been working at the airline in various roles over her 28 year career, and her appointment comes as no surprise, despite claims of a world-wide search for Joyce’s replacement, taking in around 40 potential candidates. Alan Joyce began his airline career in 1988 at Aer Lingus, coming to Australia in 1996 for roles at Ansett before joining Qantas in 2000. He became the CEO of low-cost offshoot Jetstar in 2003 before being appointed Qantas CEO in 2008.

Meanwhile, Qantas is once again taking unions to court, this time over the question of A380 Second Officer vacancies, and whether they’re able to bypass the long standing convention of pilot seniority to fill current gaps. Their proposal includes recruiting aircrew from outside the company. The Australian & International Pilots Association wants the seniority system retained, and the decision of the court may well have broader implications for Australian workers, should they be unsuccessful.

Joyce & Hudson

Alan Joyce and Vanessa Hudson
Image credit: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

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Episode 747: Memories of the Queen

This week being episode 747, we decided to have a little fun and look at some Australian Boeing 747 milestones over the years. There are so many to cover, so these are just a snapshot. We highly recommend checking out the Aussie Airliners website for a superb reference on Jumbo’s and many, many other types in Australian service.

We also include a piece from our friend Owen Zupp who was one of the pilots taking Qantas’ final 747 on its flight to the Victorville Boneyard. As it left Australian skies, the aircraft’s flight path traced a flying kangaroo, with Owen telling us some of the planning that went into it. This is an excerpt from our full interview with Owen which you can find at Plane Crazy Down Under‘s Series 2, Episode 2: Owen Zupp on Resilience.

Meanwhile, in the news this week, regional operator ReX have made the decision to cut schedules across their route network, citing access to trained staff and the impact of global supply chain issues impacting their ability to service and operate their fleet, especially in terms of sourcing parts & spares for their SAAB 340’s.

The Australian Government’s Defence Strategic Review has been released, and we continue to pour over the details, with the Army appearing to cop the brunt of cutbacks and/or changes to equipment and posturing, while the impact, if any, on defence aviation operations remains to be seen. We’ll have more on this in future editions of this report, and on Plane Crazy Down Underaus & the Australian Defence Magazine podcast in coming weeks.

Finally, it’s been 14 years since our first meet-up at Moorabbin that spawned the Australia Desk and PCDU. Plus, as we record this, it’s David Vanderhoof’s birthday so, sadly, Grant just had to sing Happy Birthday…

Qantas 747-438 VH-OJA landing

Qantas 747-438 VH-OJA arrives at Woolongong for permanent display at HARS
(Image by Seth Jaworski)

Stevem Grant & Steven at YMMB in 2009

Steve, Grant & Steven Pam at the Airplane Geeks meetup in 2009, from which the Australia Desk and PCDU were born…

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Episode 746: Vale Max Hazelton, an Australian aviation pioneer

There’s lots to talk about this week (no surprise given it’s been two weeks since the last Geeks episode) so we’re going to try to compress it into less than 10 minutes. Do you think we can do it this time without reverting to compression techniques or gagging Grant? Well, listen and find out :)

Aviation pioneer Max Hazelton has sadly passed away shortly before his 96th birthday after quite the career. Max was the founder of Hazelton Airlines which became a subsidiary of Ansett Airlines and then merged with Kendell Airlines to become Regional Express (aka REX) after Ansett went under in September 2001.

Speaking of REX, they’ve taken a financial stake in a local electric propulsion company.

Meanwhile, Qantas’ bid to take over Alliance Airlines is blocked by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Qantas are not happy about it.

Finally, a former RAF Museum P-51 Mustang arrives at the Hunter Fighter Collection in Scone where it was reassembled to static display in just three days.

Whew! Done in under 10 minutes with no sneaky shenanigans. Who knew? :)

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Episode 745: Accents to the MAX as Winter draws near Down Under

Accents?? What accents?? It may well be a matter of perspective of course, but following on from last week’s discussion by the Geeks of Aussie accents vs American accents, we take a quick look at some of the challenges that can sometimes pose, from an aviation standpoint. Suffice to say, not all phonetics work: X for Xylophone, anyone? :)

In the news, Virgin Australia has resumed flights this week to the Pacific paradise of Vanuatu, following a three year COVID driven break. As you’ll hear, the crew received a warm welcome upon arrival in Port Vila.

Virgin are also expecting the delivery of their first 737 MAX aircraft, something also delayed, and obviously not only by the COVID years. The airline had originally placed their orders prior to the type’s well publicised issues, and hence put those plans on hold pending a solution. At any rate, we expect to see the first MAX in VA colours here in June.

And being Easter, we see the yearly reportage of massive queues and delays at many of Australia’s larger airports, as people flock to get away on the last holiday break before the Australian winter sets in.

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Episode 744: Bonza ticket sales for Bonza!

Australia’s newest airline, Bonza, continues with the rollout of its new route network with the opening this week of its base in Melbourne, Victoria. The opening comes as figures show they’ve sold over 100,000 seats since commencing operation two months ago. Will the strategy of offering budget fares for Melburnians to access the warmer weather of Queensland and points north be sustainable in the medium to long term? Will other airlines move to match their destinations and pricing? Business is busss, after all. We’ll continue to watch with interest.

Qantas meantime has ventured into the sustainability stakes from another angle: biofuels. Partnering with Queensland based biofuel manufacturer LanzaJet & JetZero Australia, the airline will aim to jointly fund the construction of a facility to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The proposed facility will utilise LanzaJet’s alcohol-to-jet technology to produce up to 100 million litres of SAF per year. Construction is expected to start in 2024.

The Royal Australian Air Force has returned from a successful Exercise Cope North in Guam, testing new strategies for the use of its C-27J Spartan fleet. The platform continues to evolve for the RAAF, having been re-classified in 2021 from that of a battlefield airlifter to “Light Tactical Fixed Wing Airlifter,” preventing its use in “hot” environments due to issues with its self-protection systems. This exercise allowed it to demonstrate its suitability for operations in “warm” environments and not just for Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief operations (HADR).

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Episode 743: Taking the MRH-90 for a drink

After a busy couple of weeks, the guys are back in the studio as Grant recovers from another weekend of air show commentary duties, this time at Benalla, 130 miles north of Melbourne. We discuss the role these regional air shows play in terms of promoting the importance and fun of aviation in the community.

Meanwhile, the Army’s fleet of MRH-90 Taipan helicopters has been temporarily grounded following an incident this week. The crew of a Taipan conducting a special forces training exercise off Jervis Bay, 200km south of Sydney, had to ditch their aircraft after it appeared to lose power. Only minor injuries were sustained by some on-board, and the aircraft was successfully recovered. An investigation is now underway,

Staying with military, Northrop Grumman Australia’s newly-modernised Brisbane Maintenance and Modification Centre (BMMC) has been officially re-opened; a major facility for the sustainment of the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) aviation capability. Northrop Grumman has invested $20 million in the BMMC project and the facility conducts continuous through life support to RAAF fleets including its six KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft and 10 C-27J Spartan transport aircraft, and will provide jobs for around 100 people.

And across the Ditch in New Zealand, Bevan Dewes’ immaculately restored, former Royal New Zealand Air Force Harvard Mk.IIa (NZ1044) landed at its new home in Masterton, New Zealand on March 19th, 2023 following a three-year rebuild effort with Twenty24 Ltd, at Wanaka. Registered as ZK-OTU, the aircraft made its first post-restoration flight from Wanaka on March 10th.

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