Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nice Cessna Caravan 208's at Long Beach

International Trading Company of Yukon Inc. Cessna Caravan 208B (c/n 208B1084) N841MA rests on the ramp, April 17, 2014.

 Short final to Rwy 7R.

Cessna Caravan (c/n 208B1223) N97826 arriving from Yuma MCAS/Yuma International Airport (YUM/KNYL), Arizona on April 17, 2014.
(Photos by Michael Carter) 

Gorgeous Global!

BD700 Global Express (c/n 9148) N889JA taxies to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as it readies to depart to Honolulu, Hawaii (HNL/PHNL) on April 17, 2014.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Retirement benefits contract vote indefinitely postponed!

Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17A (F-267) CB-8008 rests on the Boeing flight ramp at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on April 16, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

A pivotal contract vote affecting a thousand Boeing Co. C-17 employees has been postponed indefinitely, a union official said Thursday morning.

Members of the United Aerospace Workers Local 148, which includes mechanics and others assigned to the soon-to-be-shuttered airplane program, were supposed to vote on a proposed contract Thursday, but their union decided to delay the vote after the union’s lawyers reviewed the proposed contract and saw “potential issues that could have legal ramifications” against current and future retirees, said Local 148 President Stanley G. Klemchuk.

“We cannot recommend a contract that could hurt members,” he said.

The union’s lawyers will also look into allegations that the company management used scare tactics. One worker said a manager made statements threatening to pull airplanes from the schedule if members voted no on the contract.

“You can’t have managers on the floor making comments like that,” Klemchuk said. “That’s negotiating on the floor instead of at the table.”

The proposed contract has pitted members against each other.

The current contract allows for full pension and medical benefits for employees who are at least 55 and have 30 years with the company. The proposal, if approved, would give 300 workers who have more than 29 years, but less than 30 years with the company, and are 55 years old or older, a chance to retire with their full medical benefits and pension.

However, there are 80 members whose pensions would be penalized if they left or were laid off. The current contract allows employees between ages 49 and 55 who are laid off to receive their pension from Boeing at 55 without penalty. That is not part of the proposed contract, so if the proposal is approved, those laid off in that age range could see their pension cut by as much as 42 percent, Klemchuk said.

More than a week ago, Boeing announced that it would hasten the closure of the C-17 program by three months to mid-2015.

Despite efforts to expand its customer base beyond the U.S., Boeing lacked the sufficient orders needed to keep the assembly plant open and decided in September to close the program that employed roughly 2,200 people in Long Beach and thousands more nationally who supply parts and services for the military airlifter.

Since its maiden voyage on Sept. 15, 1991, the four-engine planes have been used on various peacekeeping and disaster relief missions by the U.S. and its foreign partners.

Boeing officials, who declined to go into detail about the contract, issued the following statement Tuesday: “Boeing and UAW 148 concluded talks about the effects of the C-17 Globemaster III closure on the collective bargaining agreement — talks known as effects bargaining. During effects bargaining, the parties meet and bargain in good faith. The company presented the union with a fair closure agreement that recognizes the valuable contributions by C-17 employees.”

The proposed contract offers 13 weeks of severance pay, a bump in pension and a $4,000 signing bonus, which some say isn’t comparable to what was given to employees in St. Louis or Tulsa, where Boeing plants were also shuttered. Many of those employees received 26 weeks of severance pay and a $10,000 signing bonus.

(Karen Robes Meeks - Long Beach Press Telegram)

Fiji Airways reports net profit for 2013

Fiji Airways A330-243 (c/n 1416) DQ-FJU "Island of Namukalau" arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on October 30, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)  

Rebranded Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific) has reported a net profit of FJD14.5 million ($7.9 million) for the nine months to Dec. 31, 2013, compared with a net profit of FJD17.8 million for the preceding 12-month financial year.

The Air Pacific Group switched to a calendar financial year from the end of the previous financial year on March 31, 2013. The Air Pacific Group comprises Fiji Airways, its wholly owned domestic and regional subsidiary Pacific Sun (which will be rebranded as Fiji Link this summer) and a 38.75% stake in a local resort.

Air Pacific board chairman Nalin Patel said both airlines made a profit in the nine-month period, with passenger boardings up 2.5% and revenue up 1% to FJD541.2 million. Yield was down 1.5% “due to the relentless competitive environment, especially to and from the US and Australia,” the airline said.

“2013 was a major transition year for Fiji Airways,” Patel said. “We rebranded to Fiji Airways and … we changed over from our long-serving Boeing 747 aircraft to the more efficient Airbus A330 widebody aircraft. This transition alone accounted for more than FJD14 million one-time transition expenses in the FY2013. Our finance costs increased FJD33.6 million as we added these new aircraft to our fleet.”

Fiji Airways MD and CEO Stefan Pichler said: “Our recently approved five-year master plan sets the foundation for sustainable and profitable growth between now and the end of 2017.” He said the carrier is “getting ready to bring new aircraft in, growing our fleet by 25%.”

The Fijian carrier has also announced a new interline agreement with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, which will allow reciprocal sales on routes to a number of destinations in the Middle East, Africa, North America, Asia and Australia. The agreement is effective immediately, and is “the starting point of further negotiations between the two airlines,” Fiji Airways said in statement.

Fiji Airways has codeshare or interline agreements with a number of carriers, including American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Air New Zealand, as well as a cargo interline agreement with Emirates SkyCargo.

(Anne Paylor - ATWOnline News) 

Are halophytes the answer to fuel needs?

A great article on renewable aviation fuels......enjoy!
(Michael Carter - Editor, Aero Pacific Flightlines)

Seven years ago, Flight International reported on a seemingly far-fetched concept: the possibility of powering commercial aircraft with biofuel derived from saltwater plants, or halophytes, grown in the desert and irrigated using seawater.

Fast-forward to the present, and Boeing has teamed up with Etihad Airways and Honeywell UOP to make this a reality.

Demonstration flights using an alternative fuel derived from the salt-tolerant salicornia crop, which will be grown in Abu Dhabi and irrigated by wastewater from the Emirate’s growing aquaculture industry, are “feasible” within two to three years, says Boeing Commercial Airplanes managing director for environmental strategy and integration Julie Felgar.

However, a great deal of research lies ahead, and it could be another decade before this type of fuel is ready for use on a wider scale. “We’ve got a process ahead of us. We’re probably talking a five- to 10-year approach, perhaps sooner,” adds Felgar.

The viability of growing salicornia as a feedstock and its potential for commercialisation will be investigated by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), which is being funded by Boeing, Etihad and Honeywell in association with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi.

Over the coming year, scientists from the SBRC plan to create a test ecosystem by planting two crops of halophytes which will be nourished by wastewater funnelled from a nearby fish and shrimp farm. Once cleansed by the halophytes, this water will then flow into a field of mangroves before returning to the sea. Both the halophytes and clippings from the mangroves will then be converted into biofuel.

“One of the biomass sources is salicornia, which is salt-tolerant and can be grown in coastal areas without the need for freshwater,” says Etihad chief operations officer Richard Hill. “This would involve an integrated seawater energy agriculture system that combines fish and shrimp farming to provide nutrients to fertilise the salicornia. Such a system could also create green electricity, in addition to biofuel.”

One of the advantages of salicornia is that the entire plant can be used to make biofuel, making it easier to scale up to commercially viable levels. “Initially we thought we could take oil from the seeds and convert it into biofuel,” says Felgar. Upon further research, it transpired that the whole of the plant could be taken apart and converted. “The fact that we can use the whole plant makes scalability more realistic,” she adds.

Etihad’s Hill says there has been “rapid progress” on addressing the all-important scalability question over the last five years. “Our halophytes, with the technology to use all of the plant parts for fuel and other energy sources, make it potentially very viable,” he says. “Of course, there is also potential here in Abu Dhabi and the region to look at other feedstocks, such as waste materials including municipal and agricultural waste.”

Another key advantage – particularly for arid regions such as the United Arab Emirates – is that freshwater, an increasingly scarce resource, is not required for irrigation. As SBRC director Alejandro Rios Galvan puts it: “This project can have a global impact, since 97% of the Earth’s water is ocean and 20% of the Earth’s land is desert.”

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(Flightglobal/Tim Bicheno-Brown)

As a member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, Etihad has committed to driving the market for alternative fuels which follow a strict set of sustainability guidelines, as Hill explains: “Members are required to commit to a sustainability pledge, which includes the development of jet fuel plant sources in a manner that is non-competitive with food, and where cultivation of plant sources should not jeopardise drinking water supplies.

"Therefore, if we are supporting the development of alternative fuel feedstock in water-scarce environments, the use of halophytes is a potential solution.”

Planting for the pilot facility will begin in November, and a larger-scale facility will follow several years later. “We hope within three to four years to move to a 200ha [494 acres] facility and then to a much larger agricultural domain,” says Felgar, stressing that Boeing is “really focused on halophytes.”

While there is “no target” for demonstration flights, Felgar says this is “feasible within two to three years” – something Boeing would never have thought possible until recently. “Five years ago if you had asked any of us would we be where we are today, we would have said no,” she adds.

In order to launch Abu Dhabi’s BIOjet initiative, Etihad carried out a demonstration flight in January using an as-yet uncertificated biofuel produced through the fermentation of plant biomass. The 50min Boeing 777 flight was conducted in Abu Dhabi airspace, with one of the engines running on a 10% blend of biokerosene produced by Total and Amyris. Takreer – a wholly owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) – carried out the final aviation biofuel distillation.

The fuel used in the demonstration flight is being evaluated by certificating body ASTM International, and Etihad’s Hill believes the flight “will support the approval process”. The BIOjet Abu Dhabi initiative aims to develop a comprehensive framework for a UAE biofuel supply chain.

“Each of these [BIOjet] partners will play an essential role in developing a commercial aviation biofuel industry in Abu Dhabi, and our combined expertise will help to overcome challenges often faced in the commercialisation of alternative fuel paths,” says Hill. “The next step will be to drive a stakeholder dialogue exercise, to inform and engage a broader group of entities who can contribute to the success of alternative fuel development in Abu Dhabi.”

Boeing's Felgar says Abu Dhabi has “the right list of ingredients” to become a key producer of alternative aviation fuels. Those ingredients include “focused leadership, a significant amount of funding, world-class researchers and a very willing airline customer.”

If halophyte-derived fuels take off, Felgar expects to see a “vertical integration model”, whereby Abu Dhabi exports its knowledge and experience to other arid countries such as “Morocco, South Africa, Australia and certain areas of China.”

(Kerry Reals - Flightgloabal News)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

C-17A employees voting on pension contract today

USAF C-17A (P-32) 95-0107 "Charleston" taxies at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on September 20, 2012.
(Photo by Michael Carter)  

A thousand Boeing Co. C-17 employees on Thursday will cast a pivotal vote that could shape the fate of mechanics and other workers linked to the soon-to-be-shuttered Globemaster III military airlifter program in East Long Beach.

Members of the United Aerospace Workers Local 148 are expected to vote on a proposed contract that, if approved, would give 300 workers who are less than a year short of their retirement their full medical and pension. The current contract allows for those full benefits for employees who are at least 55 and have 30 years with the company.

However, there are 80 members whose pensions would be penalized if they left or were laid off. The current contract allows employees between ages 49 and 55 who are laid off to receive their pension from Boeing at 55 without penalty. That is not part of the proposed contract, so if the proposal is approved, those laid off in that age range could see their pension cut by as much as 42 percent, according to Local 148 President Stanley G. Klemchuk.

The proposed contract is a lose-lose situation that has pitted members against each other, said Klemchuk, who expects the vote on Thursday to be close.

“It’s torn our union apart,” he said of the company’s final proposal, which Boeing offered Monday. “It’s damned if we do, damned if we don’t.”

Thursday’s vote comes more than a week after Boeing announced that it would hasten the closure of the C-17 program by three months to mid-2015.

Despite efforts to expand its customer base beyond the U.S., Boeing lacked the sufficient orders needed to keep the assembly plant open and decided in September to close the program that employed roughly 2,200 people in Long Beach and thousands more nationally who supply parts and services for the military airlifter.

Since its maiden voyage on Sept. 15, 1991, the four-engine planes have been used on various peacekeeping and disaster relief missions by the U.S. and its foreign partners.

Boeing officials, who declined to go into detail about the contract, issued the following statement Tuesday: “Boeing and UAW 148 concluded talks about the effects of the C-17 Globemaster III closure on the collective bargaining agreement — talks known as effects bargaining. During effects bargaining, the parties meet and bargain in good faith. The company presented the union with a fair closure agreement that recognizes the valuable contributions by C-17 employees.”

Some members do not agree.

“The offer that has been made to us by Boeing is not only substandard, but is an insult,” Erik Radcliffe, a mechanic who works on the C-17’s landing gear, said in an email. “People who have spent 28 years with this company will be put out on the street with no options, no pensions and nothing to show for their hard work.”

The proposed contract offers 13 weeks of severance pay, a bump in pension and a $4,000 signing bonus, which some say isn’t comparable to what was given to employees in St. Louis or Tulsa, where Boeing plants were also shuttered. Many of those employees received 26 weeks of severance pay and a $10,000 signing bonus.

Thursday’s vote will take place from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. A majority vote is required for ratification.

“It’s a very emotional time for the members,” Klemchuk said. “It’s a contract that’s going to affect them for the rest of their lives.”

(Karen Robes Meeks - Long Beach Press Telegram)

High oil prices benefit airlines....who knew?

Airline executives frequently complain about fuel costs. But the truth is higher prices actually have been good for business.

In the past six years, airlines have overhauled the way they operate to adjust to this new reality. They've shown more discipline by offering fewer seats, which ensures airfares are high enough to cover costs. Unprofitable routes have been eliminated. And every expense has been scrutinized.

These changes, along with high oil prices, have created an insurmountable roadblock to startup airlines that hope to undercut established carriers.

"Traditionally, it was too easy to start an airline and too difficult to kill one off," says Jamie Baker, an airline analyst with JPMorgan Chase. No more.

A decade ago, airlines were paying just $1.42 a gallon for fuel, when adjusted for inflation. Last year, they paid an average of $3.03 a gallon, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Fuel now accounts for more than a third of airlines' expenses, overtaking salaries, wages and benefits as the single biggest line item. U.S. carriers burned through 16 billion gallons of jet fuel last year at cost of $48.4 billion. That's up nearly $23 billion from 10 years ago — when the airlines consumed 2 billion more gallons of fuel.

So why is this good?

High oil prices forced the major airlines to do business differently. They grounded older, gas-guzzling jets. Then they charged extra for checking baggage and raised other fees. More passengers were packed into planes and mergers helped push airfares higher.

The average cost of a roundtrip domestic ticket — including baggage and reservation change fees — grew to $378.62 from $351.48 in the last five years, when adjusted for inflation.

All of that has them on pace for a fifth consecutive year of profits.

A big reason for the streak: The majors aren't facing the myriad of fly-by-night start-ups that disrupted their business in the past. Low-cost carriers like PeopleExpress and ValueJet used to be able to enter markets, charge a lot less to fly and push the established carriers out.

Now — since fuel is such a great expense — that doesn't happen anymore, said Scott Kirby, president of American Airlines, at a recent aviation symposium in Phoenix. "It's an equalizer," Kirby said.

Skybus Airlines launched in May 2007 promising to sell at least 10 seats on each of its flights for $10. By the following April, a spike in fuel prices proved fatal and the airline shut down operations overnight.

Without that competition, legacy carriers have avoided fare wars and kept ticket prices high.

"This represents the longest post-deregulation stretch that nobody has started a new airline in the United States," Baker says.

Virgin America was the last major new U.S. carrier. But since it started flying in August 2007, the San Francisco-based airline has lost hundreds of millions of dollars. It didn't post its first annual profit until last year and that was only after it stopped its rapid expansion.

Jeff Knittel, president of transportation and international finance at CIT, which leases planes to airlines, says the high fuel costs has created a financial discipline among carriers that has made them look closely at every expense — in the air and on the ground.

As part of their quest to reduce fuel consumption, airlines have replaced drink carts with new, lighter ones. Planes now taxi with only one engine running. And wingtips have been redesigned to reduce drag.

"It has forced efficiency throughout the entire organization," Knittel says.

High oil prices have also caused lenders to take a closer look at business models. In the past, they just considered the collateral — the airplane — that they were lending against.

"It makes the merits of the airlines matter more than they have in the past," says Hunter Keay, an airline analyst with Wolfe Research.

Airlines are only expanding to cities where they know they can make money, limiting competition and keeping everybody's flights profitable. Instead of fighting to become the largest airline in a city, airlines are now making rational decisions based on profitability.

"The only universal disciplinarian across the entire global airline industry is high oil prices," Keay says. "It makes even the bad actors make hard choices."

(Scott Mayerowitz - Associated Press)

How 777 programe pushed Boeing forward

I thought this was a great article on the 777 program. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
(Michael Carter - Editor: Aero Pacific Flightlines)

No aircraft roll-out ceremony is complete without a video montage, and the unveiling of the Boeing 777 on 9 April 1994 before 100,000 onlookers was no exception. As the Disney-style production opened on a screen wide enough to fill the aircraft assembly bay, an unseen narrator asked three questions:

“Why does one idea succeed while another fails? How do you define the future? What is greatness?”

Predictably, the Boeing-scripted answer in the presentation was based on a marketing theme: the 777 was designed, developed and introduced successfully because workers, suppliers and customers were “working together” to deliver the new wide-body.

The reality was more complex. It involved a failed bid to develop a twin-aisle 737 replacement called the 7J7, a new challenge from Airbus and, some might argue, a renewed appetite within Boeing to accept – within limits – the risk of introducing new technologies on a commercial aircraft.

When the first of the type – registered as N7771 – was unveiled 20 years ago, a Boeing leadership team including such still-familiar names as Alan Mulally, Phil Condit and Mike Bair could not know how successful the 777 would become, but there were high hopes. Condit, who in less than a decade would become the first Boeing chief executive to resign due to scandal in 2003, prophesied during the event that the 777 would be a “30-, 40- or 50-year” programme.

Twenty years later, Condit’s vision seems destined to be fulfilled. Nine major variants of the 777 have been launched, with six already in service. The arrival of the 777X family starting in 2020 – 26 years after roll-out – could extend production by at least another decade.

As high as Boeing’s expectations for their third clean-sheet wide-body probably seemed in 1994, the sales record of the 777 has undoubtedly outperformed them.

The 777 is already the highest-selling commercial wide-body in history. If current production rates are maintained, the 777 family will surpass the venerable 747 as the most-delivered wide-body aircraft by mid-2016.

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Despite already reaching a higher delivery rate, the 787 will struggle to catch the 777’s delivery record over the next three decades. Using an arguably generous forecast – which assumes current and planned production rates hold steady for both aircraft families – the 787 would not overtake the 777’s delivery total for nearly 25 years, in late 2038.

Why has the 777 succeeded?

It started with a failed project. What was originally called the 767-X was still a glimmer in a strategic planner’s eye in the mid-1980s, when Boeing got serious about replacing the 737 Classics. Airbus was developing a real competitive threat to Boeing’s single-aisle franchise with the A320, featuring a slightly wider cabin than the 737 and – for the first time on a commercial aircraft – a fly-by-wire flight control system.

Boeing invested hundreds of millions in the 7J7 before cancelling the project in 1988. The company had realized the certification challenges posed by the 7J7 open-rotor engines were too great – indeed, open rotor technology has only now been proven to meet modern noise regulations.

But the 7J7 paved the way for two key features later installed in the 777: flat panel displays and fly-by-wire flight controls.

It is difficult to appreciate the technological leap of flat panel displays in the 777 cockpit in the early 1990s, but the video montage played during the roll-out event offers a clue. Images of Boeing engineers working on cathode ray tube (CRT) screens flashed on the big screen, while the aircraft they were designing provided the 777’s pilots with more advanced equipment.

The cockpit is where the 777 stood apart from the competition in other ways as well. Boeing’s design was to make the 777 the first “paperless cockpit”, which still seemed a lofty ambition in the early 1990s, when email was in its infancy for offices on the ground and transmitting documents by fax machine was still the norm.

This design preference for digitizing previously analogue systems ran deeper than the cockpit, however. Although not new in the industry, fly-by-wire was a new and potentially threatening challenge to Boeing’s cockpit philosophy, which emphasized direct control by the pilots.

But inserting a flight control computer between the pilot and the control column promised reduced weight and maintenance and improved safety – advantages that had already proved compelling on the aborted 7J7 concept.

Though initiated nearly a decade later, Boeing’s usage of fly-by-wire technology was certainly no copy of the Airbus approach. Boeing developed a distinct set of control laws that keep the pilot fully in command of flight-path and speed. This concession to Boeing’s decades-old design approach allowed fly-by-wire to make its debut on the 777. It has since been copied to the 787 and Boeing also is adding fly-by-wire spoilers on the 737 Max.

As the older sibling of the mostly composite 787, the 777 is now considered a transition design from a materials perspective. Airbus was first to use composite as a primary structure, and for Boeing the 777’s usage of composites was still quite a leap. It had previously used carbon-fiber composite only in the 767 as a rudder, a secondary service.

The 777 uses composite in two primary, load-bearing structures – the vertical fin and horizontal stabilizers. While not an industry first, it set the stage for Boeing’s more ambitious move on the 787 to composite wing skins and fuselage barrels.

Of course, Boeing’s internal innovations on the 777 programme were not all successful. A key market for the aircraft was as a replacement for the DC-10, but the 60m wingspan appeared to pose a problem here. Boeing’s initial solution was to offer the 777 with a wing-fold mechanism borrowed from the composite wing of the Grumman A-6 Intruder, for which Boeing was the supplier.

Airlines, however, never warmed to the idea of a folding wing, and Boeing quietly dropped the idea after the aircraft entered service. Like the open-rotor engine, the real problem with the folding wing was being slightly ahead of its time. Boeing has revived a much simpler version of the folding wing concept on the 777X.

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(Stephen Trimble - Flightglobal News)


Swiss pilot union at odds with managment

Swiss is planning to operate its on-order Boeing 777 fleet through its regional arm, after the Alpine carrier was unable to reach a labor agreement with the mainline operation’s pilot union.

Pilots at the wholly owned Lufthansa subsidiary are organized in two separate unions: Aeropers and IPG, which represent the pilots of, respectively, the mainline operation’s fleet of Airbus narrow-bodies and wide-bodies and the Swiss European Air Lines division’s BAE Systems Avro regional jets. Separate labor agreements are in place for the two unions.

Swiss has been negotiating since 2012 with Aeropers and IPG about integration of the two pilot workforces into a single unit and a new, universal labor contract. But while IPG’s members have agreed to the proposal earlier this year, Aeropers members voted against the new collective bargaining agreement, dubbed GAV14.

Now, the airline plans to operate its six 777-300ERs – to be delivered from 2016 to replace some ageing Airbus A340-300s – through the Swiss European Air Lines division, says Aeropers.

The union adds that management also intends to remove “numerous” A319s and A320s from its fleet without replacement. This will mean mainline job cuts “for the benefit of cheaper jobs at Swiss European”, while the regional arm is to undergo “significant” growth, it says.

Aeropers is supporting the integration of the pilot workforce and establishment of a single labor agreement, it says. But the union claims that the deal was broken when management tried to introduce additional cost cuts to the labor contract.

The three parties had agreed about the staff integration and found ways to handle pilot seniority across the combined workforce, establish a new crew base in Geneva, and reduce costs despite the harmonization of the European unit’s salaries with the more generous mainline pay packages, says Aeropers.

However, the union argues, management wanted to introduce additional cost cuts – such as increased working hours, shorter holidays and less generous pension regulations – to improve the airline’s profitability.

The staff cost reductions were not part of the trilateral discussions until late 2013, says Aeropers.

IPG’s existing labor agreement expires in June, while Aeropers’ collective bargaining deal is valid until at least November 2016.

If Swiss went ahead with its plan to establish GAV14 with IPG alone, it would not be a “sustainable” solution and lead to conflict within the pilot workforce, argues Aeropers.

The latter union’s managing director Henning Hoffmann says employees across the airline have lost trust in its senior management. Alluding to Lufthansa’s cost-cutting programme Score, he says the management strategy “coming from Germany” is based on “pressure and fear” and “is not working in Switzerland”. Hoffmann adds that Swiss’ chief executive Harry Hohmeister – a former Lufthansa manager – “has not understood the mentality of his Swiss employees”.

(Michael Gubisch - Flightglobal News)

Chinese leasing firm orders 60 Gulfstreams

Operated by Heibi Aviation Group (Beijing Airlines), Gulfstream G450 (c/n 4180) B-8158 arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on June 11, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)
Minsheng Financial Leasing and Gulfstream have signed an order for up to 60 Gulfstream aircraft, one of the largest orders in the airframer’s history.

The two companies originally signed the deal in the fourth quarter of 2013, but Minsheng wanted to wait for the ABACE show before formally announcing it.

The deal encompasses the complete range of Gulfstream aircraft, including the G280, G450, G550, and G650. Deliveries will start in 2015, says Gulfstream.

“Minsheng has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Gulfstream,” said Johnny Lau, vice president, Aviation Leasing Division, Minsheng Financial Leasing.

“The Gulfstream products combine reliability, performance, comfort and efficiency to provide a world-class flying experience for our customers. In addition, Gulfstream’s high-standard product support was a major contributor to our decision to move forward with this agreement.”

(Greg Waldron-Flightglobal News)

8,000th 737 rolls of the Boeing production line

Southwest Airlines 737-7H4 (32523/2182) N266WN "Heroine of the Heart-Colleen Barrett" caught at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) on April 7, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Boeing’s 737 aircraft just marked an aviation first: The 8,000th model has rolled off the assembly line, a round-number milestone for the best-selling airplane of all time. Boeing will deliver the aircraft, a 737-900ER, on Wednesday to United Airlines, the buyer of the first 737 sold in the U.S.

For an idea of just how popular the 737 is among airlines—several have built their entire business models around that one airplane—consider that Boeing’s archrival, Airbus, finished its 8,000th overall plane in August. The 737 program started in 1967, seven years before Airbus delivered its first airplane.

Today, however, Airbus is a strong competitor in the market for medium-range, single-aisle aircraft with its A320 family, which made its debut in 1988 and topped 6,000 deliveries last month—an illustration of how much more quickly airplanes are turned out in recent decades than in the early days of the 737.

Boeing builds 42 737s each month and says it will boost output to 47 in 2017 because of strong demand; Airbus is increasing A320 production from 42 to 46 per month by 2016.

“The 737 continues to be an important part of United’s narrow-body fleet, and this tradition will continue with our order for 100 737 MAX 9 aircraft,” United’s vice president in charge of fleet, Ron Baur, said in a statement.

Boeing’s next generation of the aircraft is called the 737 MAX, which will be available in 2017 and come in three versions of varying size. Those models will replace the current 700, 800, and 900ER series. Southwest Airlines, which flies an all-737 fleet, is the MAX launch customer, with 200 firm orders and options for 191 more.

Boeing had a celebration on Monday with workers at its plant in Renton, Wash., where the 737 has been built since 1970. And there will likely be many more such parties in the Puget Sound area as the program topples future delivery milestones. Engineering prowess has made the plane—along with its A320 nemesis—durable, flexible, cost-effective, and profitable for airlines.

As that evolution continues, seeing the 737 soar to 16,000 seems like a real possibility.

(Justin Bachman - Bloomberg Businessweek)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Philippine Airlines announces upgrade to 777-300 on LAX route


Philippine Airlines (PAL) is ready to implement an expansion plan in the United States, following the re-classification of the country’s aviation safety rating to Category 1, which it said would boost tourism and trade and open up new and exciting opportunities for the flag carrier.

With the upgrade, the Philippines now re-joins the ranks the most important aviation nations in the world, made up of select countries that meet the US’ strict standards of aviation safety.

Following the re-classification, the flag carrier said it is set to immediately deploy a fleet of newly - acquired Boeing 777-300ER aircraft for its long-haul flights to the US. With this, passengers can now enjoy non-stop flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco aboard new aircraft equipped with the most modern cabin and state-of the-art amenities, including lie-flat beds in business class.

PAL President & Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang said: “Your flag carrier welcomes the return of the country’s aviation rating to Category 1. This is a culmination of the government’s hard work, as exemplified by the efforts of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, to upgrade the country’s international aviation safety standards.”

“This latest development allows us to deploy our modern and fuel-efficient Boeing 777-300ER fleet to the US, and enables us to explore new destination opportunities in one of the Philippines’ largest passenger markets,” he added.

Currently, PAL operates a total of 26 weekly flights to the US, with frequencies to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Guam.

The flag carrier said it would deploy six Boeing 777-300ERs, amounting to US$1.2 billion, for US flights within a month’s time. For its flights to Honolulu and Guam, PAL will continue to utilize new wide body Airbus A330-300s and single-aisle A320-200s.

Apart from ushering a new era in the flag carrier’s trans-pacific service, Mr. Ang added that the upgrade will also allow PAL to explore possible airline partnerships with foreign carriers in order to maximize its growth potential.  

(PAL Press Release)

Upgrade to an Allegiant Air "Giant Seat"

Allegiant Air's Giant Seats are a roomier 25 inches in width, up from the standard 17.5 inches.
(Photo Allegiant Air)
Allegiant Air passengers flying to Hawaii can now say "aloha" to "Giant Seats." The airline has supersized some economy rows on Boeing 757 airplanes for long-haul flights to Honolulu, Maui, and some western U.S. cities.

Although they've only been offered for a couple of weeks, "generally we're seeing people purchase them, so there is a demand for them," Allegiant Air spokesperson Jessica Wheeler told Yahoo.

The airline made the change to comply with FAA rules that require wider seats for crew members who need to rest during longer flights. The seats are a roomier 25-inch width, up from 17.5 inches.

The airline decided that in addition to those required seats, paying customers might also enjoy (and pay for) a bigger seat on longer flights. Passengers can now reserve them on some flights to Hawaii and Las Vegas. The "Giant Seats" are available for a fee on all six of the airline's 757s, which fly the longer distances.

For those who want to stretch out, the seating arrangements also include a "Legroom +" option, which gives travelers an extra six inches of space, with up to 34 inches of legroom between rows.

In order to make these changes, the number of available seats on the retrofitted planes has gone down from 223 to 215.

Allegiant isn't the only airline making some updates to its economy seating. Many airlines now offer customers the option of premium features and perks, such as extra legroom, priority seating, priority boarding, and free checked luggage.

Virgin America offers "Main Cabin Select," with "six extra inches of legroom," according to its website.

US Airways has "Choice Seats," which are mostly aisle and window seats, some in exit rows, at the front of the plane. Although there's no difference in seat size, travelers are among "the first to board (with Zone 2) and among the first to leave."

United offers "Economy Plus," which gives travelers extra legroom.

JetBlue promotes its "Even More Space" option, with seats that promise "up to 38 inches of legroom."

Travelers who choose Delta can opt for "Economy Comfort," with up to four more inches of legroom and priority boarding.

American has "Main Cabin Extra" seats with up to six inches of extra legroom and priority boarding.

Even Southwest will offer slightly wider seats, from 17.2 to 17.8 inches, on its 737 Max Jets starting in 2017, according to Bloomberg News.

While your seat will be bigger, your wallet will be lighter. The cost of an Allegiant Air "Giant Seat" upgrade will run about $40 to $50 a flight, according to the Chicago Tribune. These days, there's no such thing as free elbow room.

(Claudine Zap - Compass)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Airlines should track aircraft better according to FedEx CEO Fred Smith

As the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet continues, the head of FedEx said Thursday that airlines will move quickly to better track aircraft over the ocean.

Frederick Smith, CEO of the cargo-delivery company, told the International Aviation Club that maintenance and navigational equipment aboard most airliners could be adapted to better keep track of planes. That would help reduce the gaps between planes, making flights more efficient and saving money on fuel, he said.

"It is unacceptable to the public for a 777 airplane in 2014 with 239 souls on board to go missing," Smith said, "so there's going to be a response."

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared March 8 on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Two dozen countries have spent weeks searching for the jet, most recently chasing signals from deep in the Indian Ocean that could be from the jet's voice and data recorders.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents 270 airlines worldwide, recently created a task force to better track planes that is likely to make recommendations before the end of the year.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, a branch of the United Nations that recommends airline policies, will hold a special meeting May 12 and 13 for experts to discuss better aircraft tracking.

The uncertainty about whatever happened to the flight led to great frustration among aviation experts and travelers.

Smith said industry officials understand what makes tracking planes difficult, but the Malaysia flight made finding a solution urgent.

Frederick Smith, CEO of FedEx, takes part in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan 27, 2007.
(Photo by Suzanne Plunkett - Bloomberg News)
"The public doesn't give a damn about that," Smith said of difficulties.

Two pieces of equipment that can signal a plane's location are on most airliners.

The Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System automatically sends messages back and forth about maintenance issues between planes and manufacturers or airlines.

The Malaysia flight's system stopped signaling less than an hour after taking off, and the equipment can be either turned off by the pilot or damaged in a fire.

Another piece of equipment is called the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, which sends precise information about a plane's location by satellite to airlines or air-traffic controllers. A more basic form of locater, called a transponder, stopped signaling aboard the Malaysia flight, either because a pilot turned it off or it was damaged.

Smith said both ACARS and ADS-B could be modified to be more difficult for pilots to turn off. He said airlines could better monitor both systems to keep better track of their planes over oceans.

"It's going to be relatively easy to do with the new satellite constellations that will be up there," Smith said. "That's why we think it's an inevitability, and that's the best course."

(Bart Jansen - USA Today)

Southwest Airlines 737 Max to have wider seats

Southwest Airlines plans a little something extra for passengers when its Boeing 737 Max jets debut in 2017: more elbow room.

Travelers used to over-coziness in coach will get some of the widest seats on U.S. single-aisle planes -- 17.8 inches (45.2 centimeters), instead of 17.2 inches now. Slimmer frames create additional sitting space in each row, Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said.
In an industry where many carriers are cramming in more main-cabin fliers, even fractional improvements can matter. Economy upgrades have been an afterthought as airlines woo high-fare customers with amenities such as lie-flat beds, a niche where Southwest, the largest discounter, doesn’t compete.

“If Southwest markets the wider seat advantage, it may indeed give the airline a preference among passengers who are brand-neutral” on longer trips, said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and founder of Atmosphere Research Group in San Francisco. Southwest’s average flight length in 2013 was 693 miles (1,115 kilometers), 24 percent more than a decade earlier.
Southwest, whose 737 fleet is the world’s biggest, will be the initial commercial operator for the Max, giving the industry a glimpse of how Boeing’s latest redesign of its top-selling model may reshape short-haul flying.

The new seats are becoming available for the first time on the Max, Van de Ven said in an interview at Southwest’s Dallas headquarters. The airline declined to identify the manufacturer or say how much the equipment costs.

‘Improved Tremendously’

“The seat technology has improved tremendously over the years,” Van de Ven said. “It’s allowing us to get the seats closer to the sides of the airplane by almost an inch, maybe a little bit more than that. You can then use that increased space in a little bit of additional seat width.”
Economy-class seats in American Airlines narrow-body Boeing 737-800 are 17.2 inches wide, and 18 inches on a Boeing MD-80, according to travel website The MD-80s are among American’s oldest jets, and are being retired.

Seats on Delta Air Lines single-aisle planes are 17.2 inches wide, while narrow-bodies at United/ Continental have seats from 17 to 18 inches wide, according to the website.

While any additional space might be welcomed among U.S. travelers -- a 2012 federal report found 69 percent of adults were overweight -- the promotional value of Southwest gaining less than one inch of seat width was questioned by Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at Fairfax, Virginia-based consultant Teal Group.

Price Driver

The “ultimate commodity market” is U.S. domestic flying, Aboulafia said in a phone interview. “People go to a website, click on price, period.”

Fuel economy on the Max has long been a sales point for Chicago-based Boeing, which began taking orders in 2011. Test flights are due to start in 2016. The jet will cut jet-kerosene consumption by as much as 15 percent on the most-recent 737 models and 22 percent over the oldest versions being replaced by Southwest, Van de Ven said.

Those projections exceed Southwest’s original estimates of about 12 percent and 18 percent, and Boeing’s own calculations for gains of gains of 14 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Boeing’s figures are based on flight lengths of 575 miles, said Lauren Penning, a spokeswoman.
“At longer ranges you’d get even more efficient,” Penning said in a phone interview.

Max Orders

Southwest has orders for 200 Max models along with options for 191 more. With the airline preparing to keep flying longer routes by adding international destinations in Latin America, improved efficiency and roomier seats both come into play.

“We’re going to have great comfort in those seats,” Van de Ven said.
Adding the Max also marks a shift by Southwest to larger aircraft capable of carrying more passengers, according to a report last month by David Strauss, a New York-based aerospace analyst with UBS Securities LLC. The majority of the airline’s current planes seat 137 to 143 people.
As Southwest increases service to airports like New York’s LaGuardia or Washington’s Reagan, where flights are limited, “it’s going to examine how to maximize its revenue potential,” Atmosphere’s Harteveldt said. “Moderately larger airplanes certainly play a role in that.”

(Mary Schlangenstein & Julie Johnsson - Bloomberg) 

First 787-9 destined for United Airlines emerges from paint shop

The first Boeing 787-9 bound for United Airlines rolled out of the factory in Everett, Washington, on 8 April.

asset image
United Airlines

The aircraft will be one of five participating in the flight test programme for the 787-9.

Chicago-based United plans to take delivery of the aircraft in July with domestic proving flights beginning in September or October. International service between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia, will start on 26 October.

The aircraft is configured with 252 seats, split between 48 in business class, 88 in economy plus and 116 in economy.

United plans to take two 787-9s in 2014 and has a firm order for 26 of the type.

(Edward Russell - Flightglobal News)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New G550 arrives at Long Beach

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5471) N541GA arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) as "GLF17" at 1215 pst.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Aeronautical Engineers (AEI) launches 737-800F/combi conversion program

There was much interest in the four sessions held here today at Cargo Facts Asia, but the big news was undoubtedly the formal launch at the event of a 737-800 Passenger-to-Freighter and Passenger-to-Combi conversion program by US-based Aeronautical Engineers (AEI). We will analyze the program in detail in the upcoming issue of Cargo Facts, but here is a brief overview:

AEI said that although it was in late-stage talks with at least two customers (which Cargo Facts believes are likely lessors), it did not have a firm launch order, and that “the program development costs are being fully funded by AEI.” Regarding schedule, AEI said that it expected the time from launch to certification of the freighter variant to be two-and-a-half to three years, which means entry into service will likely take place sometime in early 2017, assuming development goes according to schedule. Modification of the conformity aircraft will take place at the Commercial Jet facility in Miami. AEI provided the following specifications for the 737-800 freighter:
  • Twelve Main-Deck Pallet Positions, Eleven 88”X125” full height AAA ULD’s plus one 53”X88”X64” Pallet or AEP/AEH or 60.4”X61.5” AKE/LD3 or 61.5”X88”X56”H AYY
  • Up to 52,000 lb (23,587 kg) Main-Deck Payload
  • 86”x140” main-deck cargo door
  • Low profile 1.25” Ancra International Cargo Loading System
  • 9g rigid cargo / smoke barrier with sliding door
  • 28VDC independent hydraulic system
  • Up to 5 Supernumerary Seats
And these specs for the combi:
  • Five Main Deck Pallet Positions 88”X125” full height AAA ULD’s
  • 90 passengers in coach-class configuration
  • Up to 30,000 lb (13,608 kg) Main-Deck Payload
  • 86”x140” main-deck cargo door
  • Low profile 1.25” Ancra International Cargo Loading System
  • 9g rigid cargo / smoke barrier with sliding door
  • 28VDC independent hydraulic system
  • Up to 5 Supernumerary Seats

Boeing introduces cabin up-grade for older 737NG "Next Generation" aircraft

Courtesy: Boeing.
Boeing is featuring its new enhanced interior for Next-Generation 737s this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany. Boeing has incorporated multiple independent retrofit features into one flexible package, allowing airlines to customize an updated cabin interior in a style that supports its brand identity while remaining in line with the rest of its fleet.
The updated Next-Generation 737 interior offers improvements in passenger comfort and design elements to modernize the cabin. The package can include new LED lighting, updated forward and aft entry coves, Boeing Sky Interior sidewall panels and air grilles, and larger-capacity stow bins. The upgrades create a greater sense of spaciousness at the ceiling.
“Customers have been overwhelmingly positive about the aesthetics, functionality and flexibility of the new interior,” said Rick Anderson, vice president of Sales, Commercial Aviation Services, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “As part of our commitment to delivering a competitive edge to our customers, we worked closely with our suppliers to minimize costs and maximize the impact and value of the new interior.”
Boeing collaborated with EnCore Interiors, Inc., on the industrial design and with EMTEQ for the lighting. The companies’ close working relationship will enable Boeing to offer options carefully tailored for each operator’s needs.
While Boeing continues to offer retrofits of the popular Boeing Sky Interior, the enhanced Next-Generation 737 interior offers customers another option for creating interiors to support their unique brands.
(Boeing Media)

First A380 destined for Japan's Skymark Airlines takes to the skies on maiden flight!

Skymark Airlines' first Airbus A380 aircraft has performed its maiden flight, after the completion of airframe assembly and system tests.

The widebody aircraft will now enter next the phase of production, where it will complete cabin installation and painting in Hamburg, says Airbus.

asset image

Japan’s first operator of the A380 plans to deploy the aircraft on international services from Tokyo Narita to destinations in the United States. The first of six A380s it has on order will be delivered later this year, the airframer adds.

Skymark also has two Airbus A330-300s in operation and another eight aircraft on order, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows.

(Firdaus Hashim - Flightglobal News)