Tuesday, September 2, 2014

U.S. Government shoots down Norwegian Air Internationals bid for cross pond flights

In a case that has labor and trade policy implications, the Obama administration on Tuesday rejected a request that would have immediately permitted a low-cost air carrier to begin flights between the U.S. and Europe while the government is still reviewing its application for new service.

The Transportation Department turned down a request by Norwegian Air International that would have allowed the carrier to offer new service between London's Gatwick Airport and New York, Orlando, Florida, and other U.S. cities. Officials for the airline said they hoped to charge as little as $150 each way. Such exemptions are usually granted European carriers under a U.S.-European Union aviation agreement.

Norwegian Air International is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, a low-cost carrier founded in 1993 and headquartered in Fornebu, Norway. The parent company has 417 routes to 126 destinations. Most of those routes are in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, but it also flies some long-haul flights to the U.S. and Southeast Asia.

Its subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, plans to register its planes in Ireland, an EU member, to take advantage of the U.S.-EU treaty that extends many privileges granted domestic carriers to each other's airlines.

That also would make Ireland responsible for the airline's safety oversight even though the carrier hasn't announced any plans to fly into or out of Ireland. The airline also plans to hire flight crews through a Singapore hiring agency and base them in Thailand.

U.S. airlines and pilot unions in the U.S. and Europe vigorously campaigned against the exemption, saying Norwegian Air International would set a dangerous precedent by driving down wages and undermining the ability of U.S. airlines to compete in the global market.

Ed Wytkind, head of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, recently accused Norwegian Air of trying to "usher in a Walmart-style race to the bottom for cheap labor."

Critics also questioned the ability of Irish authorities to safely oversee planes and pilots that are only available at distant locations. Dozens of members of Congress signed letters to the Transportation Department opposing the exemption.

Norwegian officials, however, have said the large airline mergers and establishment of global airline alliances in recent years have undermined competition and created great pent-up consumer demand for the cheaper air travel.

Calling the case "novel and complex," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that the department doesn't believe the exemption "is appropriate or in the public interest."

But airline industry analyst Robert W. Mann Jr. said the opposition to Norwegian's proposal is "the business equivalent of Chicken Little and the sky is falling."

"This is no clear evidence of what people are concerned about actually having happened," he said.

(Joan Lowy - Associated Press)

Xiamen Airlines becomes third Chinese 787 operator as it takes delivery of first aircraft

Xiamen Airlines has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787-8 aircraft, making it the third Chinese carrier to receive the type.

The carrier plans to use the type on long-haul routes to Europe, North America, and Australia, says Boeing in a statement. The carrier has orders for six 787s.

"We are excited to receive our first 787 Dreamliner which is also the first widebody airplane of our all-Boeing fleet," says Che Shanglun, president and chairman of Xiamen Airlines.

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"With the innovative technology and exceptional efficiency, the 787 Dreamliner will be key to our further growth and international expansion."
Boeing adds that Xiamen Airlines is China’s only all-Boeing carrier. Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database shows that the carrier operates 106 737s.

When the Xiamen 787 enters service, it will be the 19th example of the type to become operational in China.

Ascend shows that the other two Chinese operators of the type are China Southern (10 aircraft) and Hainan Airlines (eight aircraft).

(Greg Waldron - Flight Global News)

Service bulletin issued by Gulfstream on gust lock procedures

Gulfstream G-IV (c/n 1131) N55TD operated by Threshold Ventures Inc., rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on February 20, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Initial reports into a 31 May fatal Gulfstream GIV crash in Bedford, Massachusetts has led the airframer to issue a service bulletin warning pilots to ensure the flying control gust locks are not engaged before the start of the take-off run.

The US National Transportation Safety Board says the aircraft failed to take off at Bedford, overrunning the end of the runway into a gulley and killing all six people on board.

The jet’s gust locks were found to be disengaged, but it is believed during the take-off run they were engaged. This locks the elevator in the down position, and the rest of the flying controls in a neutral position.

The NTSB says the gust locks are supposed to be disengaged before engine start. As the engines run the hydraulics power up, and it becomes difficult to disengage the mechanical locks.

The NTSB’s recommendation is to shut the engines down, disengage the gust locks and restart. The controls are then to be checked for full and free movement, with another such check just before take-off.

The NTSB says the GIV’s flight data recorder shows no attempt to check control movement, but the flaps were correctly set for take-off and the engines operating according to the power lever position.

The calls for V1 and rotate were normal, but after the rotate calls the cockpit voice recorder “captured comments concerning aircraft control”, the NTSB says.

The GIV has an embedded interlock system to prevent the throttles being advanced beyond 6% when the gust locks are still engaged. However, it has been discovered that under certain circumstances the throttles can be advanced to take-off power with the gust locks still engaged.

There is question as to whether the gust lock handle was forced into the “off” position with the engines running. The NTSB says: “The gust lock handle, located on the right side of the control pedestal, was found in the forward (OFF) position, and the elevator gust lock latch was found not engaged.”

The investigation is ongoing, and Gulfstream says it is not clear whether the appropriate reaction is for the company to make design changes or modify procedures.

(Kate Sarsfield - Flight Global News)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Frontier Airlines to unveil new livery on September 9!

Frontier Airlines' new livery. (Kristen Painter, The Denver Post)
Frontier Airlines’ new livery.
(Kristen Painter, The Denver Post)

Frontier Airlines’ planes are getting a new look — or so it seems.
A plain, white toy airplane arrived at my desk Wednesday morning from the Denver-based carrier. Every bit of color was removed except for a little green near the engines and a red question mark on the tail — the place typically reserved for one of Frontier’s endearing animals.
Frontier just revamped its livery last year, replacing the green paint that simply said “FRONTIER” with its website address "FLYFRONTIER.COM"  

The promotional stunt includes an invitation to its hangar on Sept. 9 to “see what’s next for Colorado’s hometown airline.”
From a marketing perspective, overhauling the physical appearance of the airplanes is not surprising considering the countless changes the company has recently made to its business model.
As for the beloved animals, Frontier’s CEO David Siegel told The Denver Post during an interview in April that it had no plans to do away with the creatures.
“We love the animals. There’s more we can do with the animals,” Siegel said. “You’re going to see us integrate the animals better into our product and branding.”
Perhaps that statement was a bit of foreshadowing.
What do you think Frontier may do to its livery?

(Kristen Painter - The Denver Post)

Volaris to Orange County?

Mexican carrier Volaris has applied with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to begin services between Guadalajara, Mexico and John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA).

Following approval the flights could commence as soon as early next year using the carriers A319/A320 fleet.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Gulfstream G550 B-HVP

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5216) B-HVP returns to Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) early this afternoon following a test sortie.
(Photos by Michael Carter) 

Toll Priority 737-467F passes through Long Beach

Toll Priority (Airwork New Zealand) 737-476F (24442/2371) ZK-JTQ departs Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) bound for Kailua-Kona (KOA/PHKO) following a fuel stop. The aircraft was originally delivered to Australian Airlines as VH-TJQ "Bellbird" on September 29, 1992.

(Photos by Michael Carter)  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

All Nippon Airways (ANA) reports positive quarterly results

All Nippon Airways (ANA) 777-381(ER) (34893/589) JA736A climbs from Rwy 25R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 20, 2012.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 

Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) reported net income of ¥3.5 billion ($34.4 million) for the first-quarter of the company’s fiscal year 2014 ended June 30, reversed from a net loss of ¥6.6 billion in the year-ago quarter. 

“[ANA’s] sales growth [was] supported by good demand for domestic and international air travel and diversification into other airline-related businesses, including cargo,” ANA said.

First-quarter revenues were ¥386.8 billion, up 10% year-over-year, while expenses grew 8.2% to ¥386.5 billion, resulting in operating income of ¥347 million, reversed from a ¥5.6 billion operating loss in the first quarter of FY 2013.

“Operating expenses [were] up … due principally to increased fuel costs,” ANA said.

First-quarter domestic passenger services revenue grew 0.7% year-over-year to ¥148.3 billion.

Domestic RPKs were up 3.5% to 8.79 billion and domestic capacity dipped 0.5% to 14.8 billion ASKs. Domestic passenger load factor grew 2.2 points year-over-year to 59.2%. The number of domestic passengers grew 2.9% to 9.97 million.

ANA’s first-quarter international passenger service revenue increased 22.1% year-over-year to ¥109.2 billion. International travel demand grew 21.7% year-over-year to 8.47 billion RPKs.

International capacity increased 25.2% to 12.27 billion ASKs, resulting in an international passenger load factor of 69%, down 2 points from the 2013 June quarter. ANA’s international passenger count during the first quarter grew 17.7% year-over-year to 1.69 million.

First-quarter domestic cargo revenue was ¥7.6 billion, up 7.4% from the year-ago quarter. Domestic cargo demand grew 10.1% year-over-year to 111 million FTKs. ANA’s international cargo revenue also saw a year-over-year increase, up 19.6% to ¥29.35 billion. International cargo traffic grew 33.8% year-over-year to 891 million FTKs.

ANA expanded its international airfreight network during the quarter, putting an additional cargo aircraft in service on its new Okinawa-Singapore-Narita and Narita-Jakarta routes.

“In addition to transporting cargo departing from Japan, ANA also transports cargo from Asia/China to North America, where demand is steady,” ANA said. “This tripartite transportation of cargo within Asia, leveraging the Okinawa cargo hub, led to [the first-quarter’s] volume and revenue growth.”

(Mark Nensel - ATWONline News)

All Nippon Airways to be worlds first 787-9 operator

All Nippon Airways will become the first carrier in the world to operate the Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

After taking delivery at Boeing’s Everett factory on 27 July, the aircraft will be flown to Tokyo, arriving in 29 July, says ANA in a statement.

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The aircraft will initially be deployed on domestic routes, although the carrier did not provide details of specific destinations.

In a domestic configuration, ANA’s -9s are equipped with 395 seats, of which 18 are in business class and 377 in economy. It's -8s have just 335 seats.

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Prior to launching commercial services with the new airliner, ANA will operate a special commemorative flight with Japanese and American schoolchildren.

ANA adds that the 787-9’s fuel economy is superior to that of the -8, and 23% better than the 767-300ER. This, coupled with 20% more seating and better cargo capacity, will help cut operating costs.

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ANA, which was the launch customer of the -8 in 2011, has orderered 80 787s. Of these 36 are -8s (with 28 already delivered) and 44 -9s. 
The carrier’s 787 fleet is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.

Air New Zealand, which recently received its first 787-9, will commence using the type in October.

(Greg Waldron - FlightGlobal News)

Boeing 787-10 will be built in Charleston, South Carolina

Boeing will conduct final assembly of the 787-10 at its facility in North Charleston, South Carolina beginning in 2017.

"We looked at all our options and found the most efficient and effective solution is to build the 787-10 at Boeing South Carolina," says Larry Loftis, vice president and general manager of the 787 programme. "This will allow us to balance 787 production across the North Charleston and Everett sites as we increase production rates.

We're happy with our growth and success in South Carolina, and the continued success at both sites gives us confidence in our plan going forward."

Design of the 787 family's largest variant is taking place at Boeing's faciliities in Everett, where the 787-8 and 787-9 are assembled.

Boeing says the 787-10 midbody fuselage is too long to be transported from North Charleston to Everett for final assembly. "In addition, introducing the 787-10 in North Charleston takes advantage of that facility's capacity while allowing the Everett facility to continue improving productivity as it focuses on the 787-8 and 787-9," says the airframer.

The 787-10 is 5.5m (18ft) longer than the 787-9, and 3.05m (10ft) of that additional length is in the midbody section.

Boeing has three production lines for the 787 - two in Everett and one in South Carolina - producing 10 aircraft a month. This will increase to 12 in 2016 and 14 by the end of the decade.

Everett will continue to assemble seven aircraft a month, while the South Carolina final assembly line will grow to five aircraft each month in 2015 from three currently, and then up to seven each month by the end of the decade.

(Ghim-Lay Yeo - FlightGlobal News)

FlightSafety International receives FAA qualification for 3rd level D Gulfstream G650 simulator

FlightSafety International announces that its third Gulfstream G650 aircraft simulator has been qualified to Level D by the United States Federal Aviation Administration. The simulator is located at FlightSafety’s Learning Center in Long Beach, California. The first two Gulfstream G650 simulators are in service at FlightSafety’s Learning Center in Savannah, Georgia.

"The FAA Level D qualification of FlightSafety’s third Gulfstream G650 simulator clearly demonstrates our ability to design and manufacture the highest quality simulators," said David Davenport, Senior Vice President. "Installing this new Gulfstream G650 simulator in Long Beach is another example of FlightSafety’s commitment to provide our Customers with the scheduling and training location flexibility they require."

"FlightSafety’s Gulfstream G650 training programs, flight simulators, and other advanced technology devices are developed in conjunction with Gulfstream Aerospace," said Steve Gross, Vice President, Sales. "This ensures they reflect the exact operating characteristics of the aircraft and provide pilots, maintenance technicians, and flight attendants with current and relevant information."

This is the first FlightSafety FS1000 simulator to receive FAA Level D qualification. FS1000 simulators are designed to enhance training and maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of FlightSafety’s latest innovations in technology.

They include the VITAL 1100 visual system, electric motion cueing, and new Instructor Operating Station. The FS1000 features tightly integrated computer hardware and software across subsystems which allows for more accurate and higher fidelity simulation than found in other current and previous generation simulators.

FlightSafety has been the official factory authorized training organization for Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation for more than four decades. Training is provided at Learning Centers in Dallas, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Hong Kong; Long Beach, California; Savannah, Georgia; Wilmington, Delaware; and at the London Farnborough Airport in the United Kingdom.

(FlightSafety International Press Release)

Boeing forcasts hug global demand for pilots and techicians over the next 20 years

Boeing has projected a global demand for 1.1 million new airline pilots and technicians over next 20 years, according to its 2014 Pilot and Technician Outlook. The report projects that between 2014 and 2033 there will be a global demand 533,000 new commercial airline pilots, up 7% year-over-year, and 584,000 new commercial airline maintenance technicians, up just over 5% compared to 2013.

The report also noted the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East are showing the strongest demand and most rapid growth. “Pilot demand in the Asia-Pacific region now comprises 41% of the world’s need, and the Middle East region saw significant growth since last year’s outlook due to increased airline capacity and orders for wide-body models which require more crew members,” the outlook stated.

Projected demand for new pilots and technicians, broken down by global region, comprises: Asia Pacific-216,000 pilots and 224,000 technicians; Europe-94,000 pilots and 102,000 technicians; North America-88,000 pilots and 109,000 technicians; Latin America-45,000 pilots and 44,000 technicians; Middle East-55,000 pilots and 62,000 technicians; Africa-17,000 pilots and 19,000 technicians; and Russia and CIS-18,000 pilots and 24,000 technicians.

“The challenge of meeting the global demand for airline professionals cannot be solved by one company or in one region of the world,” Boeing Flight services VP Sherry Carbary said. “This is a global issue that can only be solved by all of the parties involved—airlines, aircraft and training equipment manufacturers, training delivery organizations, regulatory agencies and educational institutions around the world.”

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Westjet posts 2nd Quarter results and announces the addition of 767-300(ER)'s to its fleet in 2015


Calgary-based WestJet next year will start flying Boeing 767-300ERs, the first widebody aircraft the low-cost carrier (LCC) will operate since its 1996 founding.

The announcement about the 767s came as WestJet reported second-quarter net income of C$51.8 million ($47.9 million), up 15.9% over a net profit of C$44.7 million in the prior-year period and the highest-ever June quarter profit in the airline’s history.

“We’ve got some good momentum and we’re going to keep our foot on the accelerator,” WestJet president and CEO Gregg Saretsky told analysts and reporters. The LCC plans to grow system capacity 6%-7% year-over-year for the full-year 2014.

WestJet operates an all-737NG fleet on mainline flying and last year launched regional affiliate WestJet Encore, which operates Bombardier Q400s. It will take delivery of four 767-300ERs by 2016, two of which will be operated on seasonal flights between Alberta and Hawaii starting in late 2015. In the 2016 summer, the 767-300ERs will be used “to expand overseas markets,” Saretsky said.

WestJet has not decided whether it will purchase or lease the 767s. “We’re not disclosing where they’re coming from other than to say that they’re used 767s that will be completely refurbished before going into service with WestJet,” Saretsky said.

Currently, WestJet contracts Thomas Cook Group to operate two 757-200s on seasonal Hawaii services, but that contract will expire in the spring of 2015 and WestJet will operate its own 767s on Hawaii flights starting in the 2015-2016 winter season.

The WestJet 767s will be configured with 262 seats. The Thomas Cook 757s are configured with 211 seats. “We have absolutely no trepidation about our ability to fill 262 seats,” Saretsky said.

WestJet’s second-quarter revenue grew 10.3% year-over-year to C$930.3 million and expenses increased 8.6% to C$851.9 million, producing operating income of C$78.4 million, up 17.9% over an operating profit of C$66.5 million in the 2013 June quarter.

Second-quarter traffic rose 5.5% year-over-year to 4.93 billion RPMs on a 5.2% increase in capacity to 6.19 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 79.6%, up 0.2 point. Yield increased 4.5% to C$0.189.

(Aaron Karp - AWTOnline News)

Air Algerie cockpit voice recorder damaged on impact

Heliopolis MD-83 (53190/2148) SU-ZCA was the Swiftair aircraft operated for Air Algerie as AH5017 which crashed on July 24, 2014.

It is seen at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) in August 1996 as it prepares to depart on a pre-delivery test flight as "DACO2148." The aircraft was delivered on August 26, 1996.

The aircraft also served with Avianca Columbia as HK-4137X and N190AN, and Austral Lineas Aereas as LV-BHN.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

French air accident investigators have read the flight data recorder (FDR) of the Boeing MD-83 that crashed in Mali while operating for Air Algerie, but work is continuing on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which was damaged on impact.

Flight AH5017 was operating from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers on July 24 when it crashed in the Gossi region of northeastern Mali, near the border of Burkina Faso. The wreckage was found in a disintegrated state and there were no survivors among the 112 passengers and six crew on board.

While the Republic of Mali is leading the investigation, France’s Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA) has been brought in to provide technical assistance. BEA said two of its investigators traveled to the scene July 25, where the CVR and FDR were both recovered. These were transported to France and officially handed to the director of the BEA on Monday.

“Work on opening them began immediately. BEA investigators were quickly able to read out the data from the FDR. Work on decoding and analyzing the data in detail will now start, with members of the Malian Commission of Inquiry. The CVR was damaged in the impact. Work is continuing on this recorder in order to extract data from it,” BEA said.

It added that next steps and initial findings would be communicated by the Malian authorities.

While the cause of the crash remains unknown, weather is being considered. French officials said they believe the aircraft broke up only upon impact with the ground, rather than in mid-air.

The aircraft was an MD-83, chartered by Air Algerie from Spanish company Swiftair (53190/2148), EC-LTV). It was manufactured August 1996 and was powered by Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 engines. Swiftair said it was equipped with Cat III, BRNAV, FMS/GPS, TCAS II and RVSM.

(Victoria Moores - ATWOnline News)

Aeromexico reports 2nd quarter loss

Aeromexico 737-752 (35118/2151) XA-GMV taxies from Rwy 25L following it's arrival at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on January 5/2014. It sports special markings promoting the beautiful beaches in Cabo San Lucas.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Grupo Aeroméxico incurred a net loss of MXP89 million ($6.9 million) in the second quarter, reversed from a net profit of MXP322 million in the 2013 June quarter. Mexico’s largest airline operator noted that the “Mexican economy continued to have a weak performance.”

Grupo Aeroméxico, parent of mainline Aeroméxico and regional Aeroméxico Connect, also pointed out the Mexican peso depreciated 4% relative to the US dollar during the second quarter and “Grupo Aeroméxico’s price of fuel denominated in Mexican pesos increased during the second quarter … by 6.9% year-on-year due to the increase in the US dollar-denominated average price of fuel and the exchange rate depreciation.”

Grupo Aeroméxico’s second-quarter revenue increased 9% year-over-year to MXP10.36 billion, but expenses grew at nearly double the rate of revenue, rising 16% to MXP10.15 billion. Second-quarter operating profit decreased 73% compared to the 2013 June quarter to MXP202 million and operating margin dropped 5.9 points from 7.9% in the prior-year period to just 2% in the 2014 second quarter.

Second-quarter traffic rose 21.6% year-over-year to 7.03 billion RPKs on a 17% increase in capacity to 8.92 billion ASKs, producing a load factor of 79.3%, up 3.4 points. Yield decreased 12.4% to MXP1.35.

Grupo Aeroméxico took delivery of two Boeing 787s, one 737-800 and four Embraer E-190s in the second quarter while retiring one 737-700 and two ERJ-145s, ending the quarter with a fleet of 119 aircraft.

Aeroméxico’s fleet at the end of second quarter comprised four 777s, five 787s, six 767s, 25 737-700s and 20 737-800s while Aeroméxico Connect’s fleet included 28 ERJ-145s, seven E-170/175 aircraft and 24 E-190s.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Airbus cancels Japans Skymark Airlines A380 order

Skymark Airlines’ first A380 takes off from Toulouse to Hamburg on its maiden fl

Departs Toulouse on it's maiden flight in April 2014.
(Photo by Airbus)

Airbus has terminated an order for six A380s from Tokyo-based Skymark Airlines, scheduled for delivery between 2014 and 2015.

Skymark, which was due to be the first Japanese A380 operator, had planned to deploy the aircraft on international trunk routes, in particular linking Tokyo Narita Airport to destinations in the US.

However, in a brief statement issued Tuesday, Airbus said: “Following discussions with Skymark Airlines and in light of the airline’s expressed intentions [with] respect [to] the A380, Airbus has—in accordance with its contractual rights—notified Skymark Airlines that the purchase order for the six A380s signed in 2011 has been terminated. Airbus is reserving all its rights and remedies.”

Skymark had selected Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, supported by a TotalCare maintenance package, to power the aircraft. Rolls-Royce confirmed the cancellation, which reduces its order book by £351 million ($596 million), or 0.5%.

In February, Airbus announced it had completed structural assembly of Skymark’s first A380, which flew for the first time in April.

“There were two [Skymark] aircraft where the production was quite advanced, but neither of them had the cabin installed yet,” an Airbus spokeswoman told ATW. “We decided to cancel the order, but why and how is between us and the airline—it is confidential. We have been talking for a few months now, for some time, but could not reach a satisfactory resolution so this is how it ended up.”

This is not the first time Airbus has initiated an order cancellation, she added. “It is actually part of our watchover principle, to actively manage our order book,” the spokeswoman said.

(Victoria Moores - ATWOnline News)

Boeing Aims To Build 747-8s Faster

Boeing hopes further improvements will make the 747-8 more attractive for passenger airlines

The 747-8 has given Boeing more than one reason for concern. But a renewed sales push and technical upgrades are intended to ensure production rates can slowly increase again.

Boeing is “very close” to reaching deals in sales campaigns for the 747-8 that would fill some empty production slots in 2016. “We want to be back at rate 1.75,” says 747 Vice President and General Manager Eric Lindblad.

He declines to disclose the exact split between freighters and passenger aircraft but adds that “there are a lot of Intercontinentals in the conversations that we are having.” 

According to industry sources, Boeing is talking to up to four airlines in Asia and Europe about a potential order for the type. By contrast, Lindblad concedes that demand for the freighter version is still weak: “The freight market has to become better before we see a ton of activity.”

Boeing is currently at a rate of 1.5 aircraft per month. “We expect the market to be in parity [equal sales of passenger and freighter aircraft] by 2016. That’s when we expect freighter sales to pick back up,” Lindblad says.

Sales of the 747-8 have lagged far behind initial expectations. Boeing has reached 120 firm orders, and 69 aircraft have been delivered so far. After Lufthansa, Air China will become the second passenger airline to take delivery of a 747-8 later this year—its first aircraft is receiving its interiors on the Everett final assembly line—and Korean Air is to follow in 2015.

Boeing has been pitching the aircraft to Emirates Airline for flights from Dubai to the U.S. West Coast, but Emirates Airline President Tim Clark has publicly discarded the idea. Emirates flies the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 to destinations on the West Coast now. Turkish Airlines also has been named as a potential 747-8 operator.

As part of the campaigns, Boeing is still talking to airlines about 747-8 improvements that have been defined in “Project Ozark,” some of which have already been introduced. “We can have an aircraft that can do 8,200 nautical miles if we have the right customers,” Lindblad says.

The current 747-8 has a design range of 7,700 nm with full reserves and 467 passengers. All of the Ozark improvements combined would lead Boeing to raise maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) beyond 1 million lb. from the current 987,000 lb.

“We have not launched Ozark, but we have taken items off the list,” Lindblad says. Aircraft coming off the line today are 3.5% better in terms of fuel burn than the aircraft initially delivered. Lufthansa, which took delivery of its 14th 747-8 at the end of June, says the aircraft is now meeting the performance specifications guaranteed by Boeing. The airline has 19 747-8s on firm order.

According to Lufthansa’s executive vice president for fleet management, Nico Buchholz, the in-service fleet can be upgraded to reach a 2% improvement mainly by bringing engines up to the performance improvement package (PIP) standard during shop visits. But he says, “we want to see further improvements.”

Upgrades already implemented include the PIP, the tail fuel tank activation and a flight management computer (FMC) modernization, among others. Boeing has so far reached a 9,000-lb. weight reduction and wants to reach 10,000 lb. before  year-end. That target was originally planned to be reached only in 2016.

In 2013, the empty weight of the aircraft was a bit more than 7,000 lb. lighter than when the 747-8 first entered service in 2011. “Now it has grown to 9,000 pounds. I don’t think we will stop at 10,000 pounds,” Lindblad says.

“The max zero fuel-weight reduction currently offered for the -8F is outside the former Ozark package and provides more capacity for the freighter market,” he adds. The -8F has a 4,400-nm range with a full payload of 135 tons.

The overall goal is “primarily about overall efficiency; it would not be a specific fuel-consumption improvement on the engine,” Lindblad says. “It would include an aerodynamic component and continued weight improvements as well as a maximum take-off weight increase.”

The aerodynamic improvements encapsulated within the Ozark package include “some of the fairings adjacent to the horizontal tail [and] the wing-to-body fairing, and in the scalloped area of the thrust reverser,” he adds. The upgrade would focus on “thinning” of the chevrons on the trailing edge of the GEnx-2B nacelle.

“Those are the major pieces of the menu,” Lindblad says. “We will still go after some of the smaller aero packages, but the wing-to-body fairing is a fairly large-scale job, so we’d probably wait to see if we need to get to 8,200 nautical miles. It is the same with the MTOW. We will wait to see if we need to do that. So far, we would have to have a launch customer, and it is a sizable investment.”

Boeing is also continuing to drive improvements in the production system that will help keep costs in check despite production volumes that are lower than hoped. “It has finally started to stabilize following the difficult years during the development cycle,” Lindblad says.

“We were equivalent of about four days behind schedule and today we are about 1.5 days behind schedule. So, with stability, we see that giving us the opportunity to drive down operational costs. We have had a chance to drive flow reductions and improve operational efficiency within each area of the factory and start to now look at other things that allow efficiency to take place.”

These include improvements to the process used to fasten fuselage lap-splice joints where two panels come together with three rows of fasteners. “On the 747, all of those are done with a human, and in June we started going through the validation cycle to use flextrack drillers, which are used on the 777 now,” Lindblad says.

“It is our intent to use this technology across the majority of the 747 fuselage lapjoints as well as the circumferential joints. We will start first with lap joints across forward [Sections 41/42] and aft [Sections 46/48] in subsequent phases, and while we are doing that will bring in circumferential joints beginning with the aft joint in Section 44.

We are not only investing in the product but also the production system. There is a lot of time left on this aircraft.” 

(Guy Norris and Jens Flottau - Aviation Week & Space Technology)                 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Boeing reveals some 777X facts

Passenger-friendly interior details like big windows, clean air, and comfortably high cabin pressure that Boeing introduced with its 787 Dreamliner will also come to its larger long-haul sibling, the 777X passenger jet due in 2020.
Boeing announced the details for the 777 successor here at the Farnborough International Airshow, a premier event for the aviation industry where aircraft manufacturers try to win over the world's airlines. In addition, the company said it's bringing robotic manufacturing to some parts of fuselage assembly for both the 777 and 777X, a move that should increase production rates and quality.
The 787 Dreamliner family -- including the existing 242-passenger 787-8 and the new 787-9 that just started shipping -- has a range of change designed to make passengers more comfortable.
That includes large windows that let more than just window-seat passengers see out; high ceilings and reworked higher-capacity overhead bins; air-filtering systems that can absorb odors like perfume; higher humidity; and cabin pressure that's the equivalent of 6,000 feet above sea level, not the usual 8,000 feet.
Among the features that will move to the 777X will be the humidity, cabin pressure, and large windows, said Scott Fancher, Boeing's senior vice president of airplane development. It'll also get lower cabin noise by virtue of a quieter new engine housing.
"One thing we learned from the 787 is the amazing passenger experience -- the cabin altitude, the cleanliness, the openness and airiness of the interior. We've learned from it and replicated it in the 777X," Fancher said. "From every seat in this airplane, the passenger will see the horizon."
Some of the changes may seem cosmetic or simple, but they aren't necessarily. Structural changes are necessary to accommodate larger windows and the higher pressure from the 6,000-foot equivalent altitude.
But the prospect of happier passengers -- especially on the long trips up to 10,700 miles (17,220km) the 777-8X -- is a good argument for airplane salespeople to use, and right now the market is fiercely competitive. Both Boeing and its rival Airbus are scrambling to satisfy new demand from customers.
On the first day of the airshow, customers placed about $41.9 billion worth of orders and commitments, triple the rate of the last Farnborough show in 2012. "Prospects for the rest of the week are looking extremely positive," show organizers said in a statement.
At least some of that demand is directed at the 777. Air Lease Corp. said Tuesday it's ordered six of the current 777-300ER (extended range) jets. But Boeing has to be more excited by last week's news that Emirates Airline finalized its order for 150 777X jets. That's fully half of the 300 orders so far, and at list prices is worth $56 billion.
Boeing is ramping up production to keep pace with passenger-jet demand. For instance, its 787 manufacturing is moving from 10 per month now to 14 per month in 2018.
A rendering of Boeing 777X's interior
                                              A rendering of Boeing 777X's interior Boeing

Here come the robots
Helping the production-line speedup will be increased use of robots for manufacturing, a move that follows the auto industry's footsteps. Boeing is moving to a new assembly technology in which robots join some 777 and 777X fuselage panels together by drilling holes and attaching about 60,000 fasteners. A German company with a major presence in the auto industry, Kuka Robotics, is supplying the robots.
Robots can improve quality and speed, and Boeing also pointed to safety improvements: the process that's being automated is responsible for more than half of worker injuries today, the company said.
Workers often aren't happy to be replaced by robots, but those affected by the robotic assembly won't lose their jobs. Instead, they'll be moved to other manufacturing jobs or to operating the robots, said company spokesman Doug Alder.
The company already opened the door to robots in 2013, using them to paint 737 wings. And it's accepted delivery of robots that will automate 737 wing assembly.
Boeing plans to keep making 777 models for another six or seven years, said Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing's commercial airplane division.

Other 777X improvements
Boeing and Airbus are steering away from major new designs like the Airbus A350 XWB and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Instead, they're moving toward updates to existing craft. Airbus announced its A330neo on Monday, for example, a model that will be 14 percent more fuel-efficient than the current A330 and can carry 10 more passengers. And Boeing's 737 Max is 20 percent more efficient than today's 737 and can carry 11 more passengers.
The 777X -- a placeholder name during the development and testing phase -- is another such update. It's a lot more than just cabin improvements and a fresh coat of paint, though.
Boeing says the 777X will have 12 percent better fuel efficiency and 10 percent better operating costs than Airbus' A350-1000.
One big aspect of the 777X will be a technology called hybrid laminar flow control. In laminar flow, a fluid or gas travels smoothly, with none of the vortices and pressure differences characteristic of turbulent flow.
"It's a competitive advantage for us," Fancher said. "The longer that laminar flow length, the more efficient that surface is. It's very economical, maintainable, supportable, and on our airplanes."
The 787 uses hybrid laminar flow control on its tail assembly's vertical and horizontal stabilizers.
Fancher wouldn't detail where it'll be used on the 777X, but said it's applicable to that same area. The wings, though, won't get the technology, because anti-icing technology makes it too complicated.
The 777X, announced in May 2013, will come in two varieties, the 350-passenger 777-8X and the 400-passenger 777-9X. The twin-aisle planes are wide-body models, but are two-engine craft that aren't as big as the venerable four-engine 747 jet line.
The planes aren't an impulse buy: The 777-8X has a list price of $350 million and the 777-9X $377 million.
(Stephen Shankland - CNET)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Air New Zealand takes delivery of 787-900

(Mike Siegel - The Seattle Times) 

Painted black with white wings and a traditional fern design on its tail, the first delivered 787-9 Dreamliner was unveiled Wednesday by Boeing and Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand will be the first airline to fly the new plane, which is scheduled to enter service Oct. 15, on a route from Auckland, New Zealand, to Perth, Australia.

The 787-9 will be used on Air New Zealand’s flights to Shanghai and Tokyo as well. Rob McDonald, the carrier’s chief financial officer, said it will also enable the airline to open new routes, but he would not give details.

The airline will start to replace its Boeing 767-300 planes with 787-9s, completing the switch by 2016, he said. The company has ordered 10 787-9s and should receive them all by late 2017.

Boeing Vice President Mark Jenks said Air New Zealand, as the launch customer, worked closely with Boeing on both the interior and exterior design of the plane.

“We involved them (Air New Zealand) very early,” Jenks said. “Having them there was really fantastic from the development perspective.”

Jenks praised Air New Zealand’s innovations on the jet’s interior, from the seating arrangements to USB ports for passengers’ electronic devices.

(Mike Siegel - The Seattle Times) 

Inside the 302-seat plane, there are four different seating sectors: Business Premier, Premium Economy, Economy Skycouch and Economy. Each seat comes with a high-definition touch-screen entertainment device.

Business Premier includes a leather armchair that can turn into a lay-down bed with memory-foam mattress.

In the economy section, there are 14 three-seat groupings that can be turned into a flat, sofalike surface that Air New Zealand calls a Skycouch.

The windows on Air New Zealand’s 787-9 are 30 percent bigger than the airline’s current 767. This allows in more natural light, and passengers can easily see out the windows on the other side of the aircraft.

(Mike Siegel - The Seattle Times)

At 206 feet in length, the 787-9 is 20 feet longer than Boeing’s first version, the -8. Boeing boasts a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared with earlier airplanes of similar size.

Through June 2014, Boeing has received 409 orders for the 787-9 from 26 different customers, according to its website. In total, it has 869 unfilled orders for the 787 Dreamliner.

(Brandon Brown - The Seattle Times)

Let jetBlue check you in for your next flight!

Consider our preflight rituals: packing, maybe pet care, stopping the mail, driving or getting a lift to the airport. Oh, and also the business of checking in 24 hours ahead of time. JetBlue Airways has a new idea: Automatically checking you in for flights and e-mailing the boarding pass.

“The idea of asking customers to jump an additional hurdle before their flight is an increasingly antiquated concept,” Blair Koch, a JetBlue vice president, said in announcing the new process. “By having the right systems in place, we can remove this step and even help identify and prevent issues that can hinder customers from fully enjoying their travel experience.”

The idea is to catch potential name typos and other security problems earlier and to identify passengers who have special service needs, such as a wheelchair or traveling with a pet. That should also help JetBlue, over time, shorten its airport queues.

The current process for people who need to alter or cancel their reservation will not change, said airline spokesman Morgan Johnston.

(Justin Bachman - Bloomberg Businessweek)