Airlines are taking extreme measures to survive the pandemic, with Asiana Airlines flying the world’s biggest commercial plane more than 20 times, going nowhere and carrying no passengers, just to keep trainee pilots certified.
The empty Airbus A380 flew over South Korea for a few hours a day for three days in May to enable pilots of the 495-seat superjumbo to practice taking off and landing.
The alternative, a trip to Thailand to use a simulator owned by Thai Airways International Pcl, was blocked because of travel bans, an Asiana spokesman said.
“Takeoffs and landings of this plane cost a lot of money, and it’s money that needs to be used wisely, especially these days,” said Um Kyung-a, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co. in Seoul. “Asiana is in a bind because it also can’t afford for its pilots to lose their licenses.”
Most of the big A380 operators, like Asiana’s rival Korean Air Lines, have their own simulators.
The International Civil Aviation Organization has provided guidelines to state members on how to help pilots keep up their skills. Normally, pilots must have taken off and landed an aircraft at least three times within the previous 90 days to keep their license.