Some airlines saw their shares rise over 5% on Tuesday 14th March 2017 as the oil price shuddered and went into a flat spin. Well, sort of. More of a steep semi-controlled descent. Unless you’re flogging the stuff, a side-slipping oil price is my preferred news aerobatic manoeuvre considering everything we consume is directly linked to the price of petroleum. In India some airlines found their share prices rising by over 5.5%, including SpiceJet, while in South Africa Comair, which owns Kulula, rose a dignified 2+%. The big story in oil is the Saudis.
After running about during an OPEC meeting in January and boasting about cutting production, they did, then again, they didn’t. Or did, but then changed their minds. We see that not only have they failed to follow up on production cut promises, they’re almost Trumpian in their duplicitous factoid release overnight. Riyadh told their pals at OPEC that it had in fact RAISED its output above the ten million barrels a day it promised it would pump. That started happening in February and reverses by 30% the cuts they’d made for a couple of weeks. No honour amongst… er .. on second thoughts.
Combine that with the increasing inventories in the US and suddenly the oil barons are beginning to look a little slippery, a little sweaty. How we like it, no? Cold-sweaty oil barons. Yes please.
Combine that too with Iraq promising to accelerate production and Iran the loose OPEC canon on the sidelines, and who knows? JetA1 back to R5 a litre? It’s global warming time and the US is about to head into summer when oil traditionally takes a small price slap downwards as the energy hungry Americans stop pouring it into their large barrels in order to heat up buildings in -15˙ weather.
Comair executives must be smiling, unless they’ve hedged on the oil price heading north then there’s going to be hidden pain in its next financial report. I’m also smiling, the cost of buying litres of fuel in order to fly the Cirrus goes down, although Avgas is still pretty expensive.
Enough of this blathering on about oil, this is an aviation blog. So let me tell you about a flight a day after a Cyclone hit Madagascar. I’ll adopt a slight pirate gaaaaaaahhhhhrrhrhr accent for this one, for it involves lashings of rain, hammerings of wind and flingings of turbulence. (Is that a phrase or something we can agree makes sense?). It was Wednesday 8th March and I was sitting on the apron at OR Tambo in Johannesburg waiting for the pilot to provide us with information about the flight 8252 to Antananarivo which locals call “Tana” and we will too. Then we were told that Madagascan airspace was closed owing to Cyclone Enowa and I was quite pleased to trudge back through passport control and home.
Back on Thursday 9th March, same time, same flight, and we were off.
But the effect of the cyclone was everywhere, including over the Mozambique Channel where we flew into thunderstorms 49 000 feet high and were truly phenomenal to observe. Note the picture at the head of this blog, with our pilot, a certain Captain Bezuidenhout if memory serves, plotting a course zig-zagging through the monsters.
We were bouncing around like the ping pong balls inside a Lottery drum before we spent 20 minutes or so descending to Antananarivo in thick cloud and rain. It made me realise just had truly insignificant we are looking up at the cumulonimbus top on the way which was roughly 17 000 feet higher than the Avro EV175 can fly.
Just to put things into perspective, the towering cumulonimbus was roughly the height of the entire Kilimanjaro ABOVE us. What little mammals we are.