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Vietnam contemplates longer life for passenger, cargo aircraft

Vietnam Airlines aircraft flies over a corn field before landing in Hanoi.
Vietnam Airlines aircraft flies over a corn field before landing in Hanoi.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport is considering a five year extension to the maximum operational age of both passenger and cargo aircraft.
According to draft regulations being reviewed by the ministry, the ‘service life limit’ of passenger aircraft will be increased to 25 years from the current 20, and that of cargo aircraft to 30 years from the current 25.

Several carriers have said that the current age restrictions for aircraft are too strict, making it difficult for businesses to enter the transport industry, especially into the freight segment.

Tran Bao Ngoc, head of the Transportation Department under the Ministry of Transport, said that even if Vietnam raises the ‘retirement age’ for its aircraft, the new level would still be below the global average.

Moreover, although the age of aircraft has an impact on aviation safety, it is not the most important factor. The biggest influence on safety is how often an aircraft is maintained, he said.

On the same issue, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), Vo Huy Cuong, said that over 10 years ago, Vietnam lacked the means, expertise and infrastructure to adequately assess airplane safety. Therefore, aircraft age needed to be limited to 10 years post-manufacture to deter the purchase of old aircraft.

However, now, when Vietnam has the capability to carry out quality inspections, the maximum age has been loosened for charter aircraft operating at peak seasons to prevent overly restrictive provisions from obstructing the business of local airlines.

Currently, budget carrier Vietjet Air has an average fleet age of 2.8 years, Vietnam Airlines, 5.5 years, and Jetstar Pacific, 7.8 years.

The country’s airport capacity has been stretched as rapid economic growth has increasing numbers of people taking flights.

FLC Group’s Bamboo Airways is expected to take off in October, becoming Vietnam’s fifth airline.