In addition to the global pandemic being incredibly costly for airlines, it’s also presenting a countless number of logistical challenges. Asiana’s current issue with A380 pilots is the perfect example of this…
Asiana’s problem with A380 pilots
Generally speaking airline pilots are only rated on one type of aircraft family (in other words, variants of the same plane, like the A319/320/321, are generally considered the same for these purposes). In some cases pilots may be rated on a couple of types of aircraft if there are enough similarities, like the 757 and 767.
In order for pilots to stay “current” with their ratings, they need to do a certain amount of flying every so often. A common rule globally is that airline pilots have to do at least three takeoffs and landings every 90 days to stay current on a plane type.
Asiana Airlines has a fleet of six Airbus A380s, though as is the case with airlines around the world, they’ve greatly decreased flights:
- In February the airline operated about 300 A380 flights
- In March the airline operated about 50 A380 flights
- In April the airline operated zero A380 flights
Asiana has a total of 143 A380 pilots, but at this point they’re at risk of losing their certification to fly the plane as of this month.
In order to stay current on the aircraft type, Asiana pilots need to perform at least three takeoffs and landings every 90 days. With Asiana now having grounded their A380 fleet, as of May lots of Asiana A380 pilots are at risk of not meeting that requirement, and that’s a problem.
Why this is a bigger problem for Asiana than others
You might be saying “well most airlines around the world have grounded fleets right now, so why is this problem unique to Asiana?” The issue comes down to flight simulators.
You can stay current on an aircraft by completing the takeoffs and landings in a flight simulator. That’s why many airlines will be sending their pilots to simulators in the coming weeks, even if they don’t plan on operating flights anytime soon.
The issue is that Asiana doesn’t have an A380 simulator:
- Usually Asiana sends their pilots to Thai Airways’ A380 simulators in Bangkok, but Thailand has a two week self quarantine, so the airline views this as not being a practical option
- Asiana asked to use Korean Air’s A380 simulator, but Korean Air is busy using their simulator to keep their own pilots current on the 10 A380s that they have
- Asiana asked Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, to extend certifications, but the organization refused, noting that this is an international requirement, and the organization can’t extend it unilaterally
With Asiana having no plans to resume A380 flights anytime soon, and with no access to practical A380 simulators, the airline is considering another option. Asiana may just have their pilots complete their takeoffs and landings in actual A380s without passengers. We could very well see Asiana A380s soon doing takeoffs and landings to keep their pilots current.
Apparently the airline is considering this option, though if they do, they’ll only keep a minimal number of pilots current on the A380. After all, this is going to be costly. But arguably it’s less costly than being in a situation where the airline has no certified A380 pilots anymore.
The process of once again getting pilots certified on the plane could take about a month.
Airlines are facing lots of logistical challenges at the moment, and that’s especially apparent when it comes to keeping pilots current. For many airlines this isn’t an issue because they have simulators, but Asiana doesn’t have any A380 simulators.
With other airlines not having any extra simulator time available, along with international immigration restrictions, this is creating a challenge for the airline…
Interesting stuff, eh?