Striking pilots and engineers of India’s Kingfisher Airlines have accepted a three-month portion of their eight months of unpaid salaries and agreed to return to work, even as management struggles to get its suspended Scheduled Operator’s Permit reinstated. Still, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh warned that paying salaries alone would not guarantee that Kingfisher would fly again. “I think the Kingfisher problem is much bigger; even if they pay the salaries today, are they going to take off and fly? I don`t think so,” he said.
After failing to reach an agreement with striking engineers and pilots who have not been paid since March this year, India’s Kingfisher Airlines has effectively grounded itself until at least October 12 by locking out staff. Kingfisher’s management, led by owner Vijay Mallya, is trying to renegotiate some $2.49 billion in debt with creditors while it struggles with serious cash-flow problems, evidenced by $1.9 billion in losses for the first half of this year.
Concerns over the safety oversight of financially struggling Kingfisher Airlines continue, even as the fleet–once 64 aircraft strong–has now shrunk to six A320s and five ATR 72s. The fleet reduction, driven largely by non-payment of leases, comes as a portion of the company’s pilots took strike action on August 18 to protest more than six months of back wages owed them by Kingfisher.
A controversy is raging over the safety practices of India’s airlines following the partial “leak” of a financial audit from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The report indicated that poor safety practices may be endemic in the Indian air transport sector.
Shares in cash-strapped Indian carrier Kingfisher Airline fell by almost 18 percent on November 18 as company chairman Vijay Mallya worked to secure new short- and long-term funding amid reports of further routes being cut and flights cancelled. On November 17, Mallya confirmed that he is negotiating with an undisclosed high-net-worth individual in India with a view to injecting approximately $250 million into Kingfisher.
Bend, Ore.-based Epic Aircraft continues to pursue certification of its $1.2 million single-engine, owner-built kitplane, the Epic LT, re-badged in certified form as the $1.95 million Dynasty.
India’s Kingfisher Airlines announced it will launch its first international service on September 3 between Bangalore and London Heathrow Airport. Kingfisher will serve the route with a new Airbus A330-200, the first of 10 on which it holds delivery positions. Indian law requires that an airline operate domestically for five years before authorities consider it for an international air transport license.
EADS Socata, the France-based manufacturer of the TBM 850 turboprop, last month denied the content of a June 1 story in the India Times, which reported that UB Group’s Vijay Mallya was ready to invest $200 million in the development of a jet. “We did talk to Mallya, but it was about relaunching our line of piston singles,” a spokesman said, adding that the company has made no progress recently in the search for partners in business aircraft.
EADS Socata, the France-based manufacturer of the TBM 850 turboprop single, today tried to clarify the status of its negotiations with a number of potential partners for the development of another business aircraft. Speaking to AIN, a spokesman essentially denied the content of a story published Sunday in the India Times, which reported that UB Group’s Vijay Mallya was ready to invest $200 million in the development of a Socata jet.
Epic Aircraft continues development of its all-composite turboprop singles and very light jets, though without the $200 million in funding Indian billionaire Dr. Vijay Mallya pledged last September at the NBAA Convention.