2023 is nearly over (or just gone for you, perhaps) but here are some of the bigger stories that caught our reader’s attention this year.
The world of aviation continues to recover, following the worst of the pandemic and the continuing war in Ukraine, while more recent world events continue to challenge the industry. We will definitely continue to hear more about these and other big stories in 2024.
But in this article, we are going to have a really quick look at some stories that caught the attention of our readers in 2023, many of which are still worth keeping an eye on. One was the way the airlines prepared for last summer, after many debacles in 2022.
In hindsight, last summer (for those in the northern hemisphere) went reasonably well. There were plenty of cancellations, many of them pre-emptive. Lufthansa, for example, canceled 32,000 flights well before the 2023 summer season got going. Hopefully, we won’t see any complacency on this front in 2024.
Engines for a Chinese Jet and a Stranded Airbus in Russia
Our readers also focused on two stories involving China’s COMAC C919 in the outgoing year. The first happened last March when a Chinese engine for this jet flew for the first time on a test aircraft. The service entry of this engine may still be years away.
Then in September, COMAC got its first order for the C919 from a customer outside China. With the aircraft’s production still relying heavily on foreign engines and other parts, its production ramp-up for the coming years will most likely be very slow. That will eventually change, but perhaps not in 2024.
Another 2023 story that could still generate news in the coming months involves a Ural Airlines A320. In September, a crew found themselves very low on fuel, after a diversion. They successfully landed the aircraft in a field, keeping it in one piece.
Ural Airlines reportedly wants to fly the jet out of there. But some early suggestions that they would wait for the ground to harden in the winter, didn’t prove true. Or, there were more obstacles to this happening, with Russia’s authorities later changing the focus of their investigation.
Some 2023 Aircraft Orders
Elsewhere, the recovery of the industry is getting plenty of attention. And nothing says “aviation recovery” better than new aircraft orders. The world’s biggest-ever aircraft orders (yes, plural) materialized during the 2023 Paris Airshow.
OK one of them was in the works since earlier in the year. This was the one for Air India, for 470 aircraft from both Boeing and Airbus. This number doesn’t include some additional jets that the airline will get from lessors.
The other order came from IndiGo, for an even 500 aircraft. India’s aviation industry is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Other airlines in the country have been at various levels of financial turmoil, with analysts worrying that monster orders like these may be going after the same passengers.
Airbus was the winner at the Paris Airshow in 2023. But Boeing had a really strong showing in Dubai, in November. Not only did Boeing win some decisive orders for its 777X (and the 787), but the affair included some really interesting drama for Airbus and its A350-1000.
That drama involved Rolls-Royce engines. The British engine maker has had mixed fortunes in 2023. Earlier in the year, there were still worries that the engine maker’s dependence on long-haul aircraft was slowing its recovery.
But the strong rise in demand for exactly this kind of travel later in the year rejuvenated Rolls-Royce. Worries about the longevity of the Trent XWB variant for the bigger A350-1000 took some of the shine away from this, however.
Unfortunately, 2023 also came with some aviation accidents. The year started quite badly, with a fatal accident in January. A Yeti Airlines ATR-72 crashed in Nepal while on final approach, with 72 people on board. A final investigation report on this accident has just been published.
Then later in the year, a very suspicious fatal accident in Russia got everyone’s attention. This was the private jet that Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin was on, along with the aircraft crew and Wagner staff. This happened exactly two months after Prigozhin’s very public mutiny. Russia later announced that they wouldn’t open a normal investigation into the event.
Odd Incidents And Looking Beyond 2023
Beyond these fatal events, 2023 saw several notable incidents and accidents that didn’t involve loss of life. An early example in the year was the case of the Asiana passenger who managed to open the door of an A321 in flight.
A variety of close calls in the United States and elsewhere also got a lot of attention in 2023. Then in October, a jump-seating Alaska Airlines pilot tried to pull the fire handles of a Horizon Air Embraer, to shut down its engines.
It later transpired that this pilot had self-medicated with magic mushrooms. The event brought new attention to pilot mental health, and what the industry could do to encourage pilots to seek help if they need it, without worrying about losing their jobs and livelihoods.
There were certainly more aviation stories in 2023, but again – the ones above got a lot of attention from you, our readers. So, what can we look forward to in 2024?
Well, there is still much work to do with easing supply chain bottlenecks, that slow down aircraft production. The industry is still trying to address shortages that it was slow to fully understand, which could still take months to handle.
Finally, some Boeing aircraft are long overdue for certification. The 737-7 didn’t get it in 2023 but could do so in the first half of the new year. The 737-10 is some way behind it and the bigger 777X will have to wait for 2025.