Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bizjets could see data revolution in the cockpit and cabin predicts Honeywell

Honeywell believes that improved data connectivity for business aircraft will have a major impact in both the cockpit and passenger cabin.

“Technology allows you to contemplate how to do things more efficiently for both pilots and passengers,” says Andy Gill, Honeywell senior director Asia-Pacific business and general aviation.

“It’s really bringing us to an area that allows us to think about what are the things we can do, what are the benefits from getting data on and off an aircraft at the speeds now possible.”

Flightglobal spoke with Gill at last week’s ABACE industry gathering in Shanghai.

Gill says that within a few years, improved connectivity should allow passengers aboard business jets to stream extensive data, such as that required for high-definition video conferencing.

The cockpits of business jets will also benefit, for example being able to update databases and flight plans during flight. Gill adds that business jets could one day also share radar data, allowing one aircraft to benefit from a radar set aboard another aircraft – similar to how military aircraft share sensor data.

“Dispatch reliability can be improved through having more data,” he says. “If you know more data is coming off the aircraft about its health, you can do some predictive analysis as to what issues might arise in the aircraft. But if you transmit a full picture about what’s happening on that aircraft, you can get a better sense of the health of the aircraft and position spares and that type of thing.”

Improved connectivity will also make it easier for the mission software aboard aircraft to be loaded when an aircraft is on the ground.

Gill is also optimistic about China’s opening of airspace. He says the Chinese government is “working very hard” on opening up low level air space, which could give general aviation in the country a significant boost from 2018 onwards.

(Greg Waldron - Flightglobal News)

Boeing reports 1st quarter profit

Boeing’s increased rate of commercial jet manufacturing is starting to pay off for shareholders.

In the first three months of this year, 161 new airplanes rolled off the company’s assembly lines — more jets than the same period last year. That increased rate contributed to a $965 million profit for Chicago-based Boeing Co. post in the first quarter.

The net income was actually down 12.7 percent from last year’s $1.1 billion first quarter profit, but that is because Boeing took a $330 million accounting write-off related to changes in its retirement plans. The company also noted that its 2013 earnings were inflated by a one-time research and development tax credit.

Net income per share dropped to $1.28 per share from $1.44 during last year’s first quarter. But adjusted to exclude the write-off, earnings were $1.76 per share, beating the estimate of $1.56 per share from Wall Street analysts surveyed by FactSet. Shares rose $2.38, or 1.9 percent, to $129.93 in midday trading.

The company reported $20.47 billion in revenue, more than the $20.15 billion expected by Wall Street. That’s up 8 percent from the $18.9 billion in revenue during the same period last year.

Revenue at Boeing’s commercial plane unit rose 19 percent. The business grew thanks to increased production rates on its 737 manufacturing lines. In April, the 737 program reached a production rate of 42 per month. Boeing hopes to increase that to 47 airplanes a month in 2017 to help feed a worldwide demand for the narrow-body jet.

The company’s much delayed 787 Dreamliner also showed progress, reaching a production rate of 10 per month — although only 18 were delivered during the first quarter. Still, that’s a major improvement over last year, when only one Dreamliner was delivered due to a worldwide grounding of the fleet over concerns about its lithium-ion batteries catching on fire.

Boeing has backlog of 5,100 airplanes on order with a combined book value of $374 billion.

On the defense side, revenue fell 6 percent and Boeing lowered its full year revenue guidance for military aircraft to $14.2 billion, down from $15 billion. Its global support and services revenue is expected to climb, however, from $7.8 billion to $8.6 billion. Both changes reflect a realignment within the defense unit.

Boeing also repurchased 19.4 million shares for $2.5 billion during the first quarter.

(Associated Press)

As they grow - are Southwest Airlines and jetBlue leaving employees behind?

JetBlue and Southwest Airlines are starting to look less like innovative upstarts -- complete with low fares and unusual perks -- and more like their stodgy competitors. As they age, they may have less room to treat workers well, and employees are starting to respond.

JetBlue’s pilots voted to unionize Tuesday, ending the airline’s status as the biggest U.S. carrier without organized labor groups. The airline, known for its friendly staff, TVs at every seat and cheap fares, is mirroring the legacy carriers more closely as it increases in size, expands its fleet and introduces plans for a premium cabin on lucrative routes between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. The vote for the union, which came after two previous decisions to reject unionization, shows pilots don't want to be left behind as the company expands.

“The unionization of the pilots at JetBlue may signal the blurring of the distinction between the legacy carriers and the low-cost carriers, which have made profits by having direct flights and also by having lower wage structures,” said Gary Chaison, an industrial relations professor at Clark University. “The legacy carriers have essentially said, 'We're going to cut costs no matter what,'" Chaison said. As a result, JetBlue, Southwest and other discount carriers have lost some of their ability to undercut more established competitors.

Southwest Airlines, JetBlue’s big brother in the discount carrier space, is going through similar growing pains. The company will soon begin flying internationally, and, in a classic big airline move, it merged with AirTran in 2010. Southwest is now in the midst of labor negotiations with the union that represents its baggage handlers, ramp agents and other employees -- negotiations that some are calling the most tense in the airline's history.

While Southwest officials acknowledge that changes in travel preferences have pushed the company to change its business model a bit, they say that hasn't jeopardized the company's employee-first culture. Brandy King, a Southwest spokeswoman, wrote in an email to The Huffington Post earlier this month that this round of contract negotiations isn't necessarily more tense than in previous years, but given that most other airlines filed for bankruptcy or went through some kind of restructuring in the mid-2000s, Southwest's contracts are far more generous than those of their competitors, "making it difficult to remain a low-cost carrier."
 
"The industry has changed drastically over the last decade, and we are working to adapt our workforce to the new way of flying," King wrote.
 
The two airlines have grown substantially over the past couple of years -- JetBlue is now the fifth-largest U.S. carrier, and Southwest has moved beyond offering just point-to-point service between smaller airports -- putting their famous folksy cultures at risk. One of the major sticking points in Southwest's contract negotiations is a corporate interest in adding more part-time employees.

The company argues more part-timers would allow it to more effectively compete with most other airlines that already have a larger part-time workforce. Union organizers say the move would bring in workers less interested in "career" jobs and less invested in the company's future.

Not having a union representative at the table may have put JetBlue pilots at a disadvantage already. The company’s pilot compensation package comes in below many competitors' totals, according to data from KitDarby.com, an aviation consulting firm. In January, JetBlue struck an agreement with its pilots aimed at fixing that discrepancy, agreeing to raise the base rate of their pay by 20 percent over the next three years.

Given that the airline posted record profits last year, JetBlue’s pilots likely wanted a fairer share of the pie, said John Budd, a labor relations expert at the University of Minnesota. The decision to unionize might change the company's cost structure, he said, but it "shouldn’t make them an anomaly in the industry."

“We see this not only in the airlines, but in lots of industries,” Budd said. “You join a little startup, it’s informal, people are looking for something exciting, probably working really hard, but you feel like you’re a part of something new and fresh. But you start to get bigger and things become more formal, less personal, you start to look like the other players in the industry.”

Being bigger also means it’s harder to win customers. Both Southwest and JetBlue made names for themselves by undercutting competitors with cheaper fares. In response, so-called “legacy” carriers cut their fares, too. Now there’s less room for the discount airlines to grow.

With Southwest and JetBlue looking more like other airlines with more routes, fewer rock-bottom prices and older workers, the companies are becoming more susceptible to things that typically plague the industry: fuel price spikes, economic downturns, and the cost of taking care of an aging workforce. Now that those concerns are becoming more a factor, JetBlue’s pilots are joining together to protect themselves, Chaison said.

“Essentially the pilots are saying, ‘We are the most highly paid people, management looks at us as a labor cost with very deep pockets, so when the hard times come we want to be at the table,’” he said.

(Jullian Berman - The Huffington Post) 

SoCal Boeing employees win huge arbitration award

After a 14-year legal battle with Boeing Co., nearly 500 current and former engineers and technical workers will get a slice of a $47 million arbitration award from the aerospace company for work that fell under an engineering contract.

The workers will receive an average award of about $97,000 from Boeing for their work at Edwards Air Force Base or at a Boeing facility in Palmdale from 2001 to the present if they are or were represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace IFPTE Local 2001.

Boeing had denied union representation to a handful of employees working jobs the union contended were covered by union contracts and withheld the disputed pay.

Of the 484 employees, 30 are from Long Beach, the union reported Wednesday. Union representatives held an informational session at the Long Beach Hyatt at the Pike on Wednesday afternoon that drew a handful of workers.
 
A Boeing employee who declined to give his name said he found out on Saturday about the arbitration award.

“It’s all a shock,” he said. “Who expects to get something like this? For many of these guys, it’s life changing.”

The arbitrator, who made the ruling in January that was not reported until this week, said the workers are entitled to wages and benefits for Boeing work covered under the SPEEA contract, according to the union.

Rich Plunkett, the director of Strategic Development for SPEEA, said he was glad to see the years he put in to secure the multimillion-dollar arbitration finally come to fruition.

“It’s not just about the money. It’s getting what you were owed and doing right by employees who generate profit for Boeing,” he said.

Tim Healy, labor communications spokesman for Boeing, said the company was disappointed in the arbitrator’s decision siding with SPEEA, which maintained that the contract language should extend to the majority of engineers in California, including those who had been added over the years because of mergers. The company argued that those who were added should be able to vote on whether they wanted to be represented by SPEEA.

“We’re disappointed that the arbitrator ruled against Boeing, but we’re working with SPEEA to fulfill this ‘make work’ award,” Healy said.

The company must fulfill the award by May 21, he said.

Several current and retired employees who showed up to SPEEA’s informational session on Wednesday said they were pleasantly surprised to be notified by mail of their back pay, which ranged from a few dollars to more than $400,000.

For Riverside resident James Thornell, who retired from Boeing after suffering a major stroke, the arbitration award comes as his long-term disability money runs out in May.

“We had been living off of that money and it ends next month, and we didn’t even know about this and we just found out about it,” he said. “We lucked out.”

(Karen Robes Meeks - Long Beach Press Telegram) 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Four Seasons Private Jet



If you are looking for the lowest fare for an around-the-world trip, booking flights on Priceline.com and hotels on Trivago.com may be your best bets. If you have a taste for luxury that is not easily satisfied, check out the new Four Seasons Private Jet Experience.

four-seasons-jet-interior-upright

Beginning in February 2015, the Four Seasons Jet will transport 52 guests on bespoke journeys, offering discerning travelers a distinctly Four Seasons travel experience from the moment they book their trip. Four Seasons in-flight staff, including a dedicated on-board concierge, will coordinate with local Four Seasons concierges in each destination to ensure that the Four Seasons Private Jet Experience is nothing short of extraordinary.

four-seasons-jet-interior-flat-bed

This marks the hospitality industry’s first fully branded private jet. What could be better than globe-trotting from one Four Seasons Hotel to another? Why getting there on a Four Seasons Boeing 757 of course!

four seasons jet 2

“Taking our legendary service to the skies is a natural extension of what we’ve been doing in our hotels for more than 50 years,” says Susan Helstab, Executive Vice President Marketing, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “The Four Seasons Jet showcases the unforgettable people and experiences that make Four Seasons unique. It speaks to our pioneering spirit and the aspirations of today’s modern luxury traveller in an imaginative new way.”

Reservations are now being accepted for the following Four Seasons Private Jet Experience trips:
Reservations aboard the new Four Seasons Jet are currently open for the following trips:

Around the World, February 2015 – Beginning in Los Angeles and concluding with a celebratory dinner in London, this 24-day, 9-destination journey explores dynamic cities, exotic islands, architectural wonders and awe-inspiring natural environments. Highlighted by an only-by-private-jet stop at the Taj Mahal, all accommodations will be at Four Seasons hotels and resorts.

Backstage with the Arts, April 2015 – In the company of like-minded travellers who share a passion for the arts, guests will visit six cities and spend 16 indulgent days filled with backstage visits to Europe’s most stunning museums, outstanding performances at Teatro alla Scala in Milan and the Estates Theatre in Prague, exquisite dinners and a private gala in the Pavlovsk Palace outside St. Petersburg.

Around the World, August 2015 – Epic is the word to describe this globe-circling expedition through nine destinations, including stays in three of the newest Four Seasons hotels, plus the brand’s very first safari lodge in the Serengeti. From the Forbidden City in Beijing to the medina in Marrakech, the pristine waters of the Maldives to the excitement of the world’s largest fish market in Tokyo and a final, glittering dinner in New York, it will be 24 days no one will ever forget.

Each journey includes air travel and ground transportation, planned excursions, all meals throughout the trip and luxurious accommodations exclusively at Four Seasons.

(Gailen David - Savvystews.com)

The most friendly and most unfriendly F/A's in the sky!

**I found this story very interesting and what a surprise the airline I work for tied for first place with having the friendliest flight attendants.....go figure!

(Michael Carter - Editor APF)

You're probably not going to be terribly surprised by the results of the latest Airfarewatchdog.com reader poll.

The truth is, at least in my experience, most flight attendants are "nice" at least if you're nice to them. Pour on the charm, and they'll respond. That's not always the case, but here are some tips.

We polled 3,400 people, and by a wide margin, Southwest and Alaska were voted as having the nicest flight attendants and Spirit the worst, followed by Air Canada. We adjusted the results by the number of passengers carried between January and October 2013 in order not to skew the results based on airline size (the more people who fly an airline, the more flight attendants they encounter).

The results of the worst flight attendant poll:

Spirit - 26%

 Air Canada - 14%


 Frontier - 11%


 Virgin America - 9%


 Allegiant - 8%


 United - 7%


 US Airways - 7%


 American - 5%


 AirTran - 3%


 Delta - 3%


 Hawaiian - 3%


 JetBlue - 3%


 Alaska - 1%


 Southwest - 1%


Since most people seem to love Virgin America (and it is indeed a pretty cool little airline) you might be surprised as I was that it came in 4th in the worst poll, even worse than tiny Allegiant.

As I've noted elsewhere, I never have problems with flight attendants because I treat them with excessive courtesy but the only time I had a really bad one was in first class on Virgin America. The dude just went AWOL and when he finally showed up at the end of the flight I asked what happened, "Where'd ya go, was there an emergency back in coach?" he said "Is there a problem? That's what the call button is for."

Maybe he knew I had upgraded my $150 fare with a last minute $350 upgrade and wasn't entitled to a second drink.
 
Harrumph.

(George Hobica - Airfarewatchdog.com)

The new Cargolux Airlines

Cargolux Airlines 747-8R7F (35811/1461) LX-VCF "City of Grevenmacher" rests on the ramp at Anchorage International Airport (ANC/PANC) on May 5, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Effective today, Henan Civil Aviation and Investment Co. Ltd (HNCA, an investment arm of the government of China’s Henan province) owns 35% of Luxembourg-based Cargolux Airlines.

The sale of the stake to HNCA was agreed to late last year, and although it has only become final today, it has already had an enormous impact on the carrier.

From the beginning, the prospect of selling the 35% stake to HNCA was divisive, with the Cargolux Board and the Luxembourg government (which owns the carrier) pitted against senior executives who believed the conditions demanded by HNCA would be ruinous.

When the Board and Government, against the advice of top management, signed the deal they were US$231 million richer, but all those millions of dollars came with a high price – the resignations of Senior VP Marketing and Sales Robert van de Weg, COO Peter van de Pas, and Asia boss Matthew Ma. All of which came at a time when Cargolux was without a permanent CEO.

So today is Day One for the New Cargolux:
  • New ownership structure
  • New dual-hub strategy
  • New CEO (Dirk Reich, who will also take over as SVP Sales),
  • New SVP Asia Pacific (Robert Song, the point man for HNCA during their purchase of the 35% stake),
  • Many new faces in other executive positions…

This list could go on, but the point is that the Cargolux that has been such a significant point of reference for the air freight industry is gone. The carrier that replaces it has the same name, and yes, there will be some continuity, but it really is a new player. Perhaps, given that the air freight game has changed so much in the last few years, new players are only to be expected. But tonight I expect many in the industry will be raising a glass in memory of the “Old Cargolux.”

(David Harris - Air Cargo News)

Boarding aircraft..........ready, set, go!

This is an interesting story but is written by a writer / researcher that does not have a clue how the airport works or how our current day travelers fly. I live it every day and know a couple ways boarding could be sped up but the flying public would have nothing to with it!.

(Michael Carter - APF Editor)    

If the conference calls that come with earnings reports attracted exhausted travelers instead of financial analysts and journalists, there’s no way Delta, United, American, and Southwest could make it through the week without getting an earful about the agonies of boarding an airplane.

While airlines policies vary—there is no standard accepted way of loading passengers—any “eye test” indicates that having travelers line up at the gate, only to wait again inside the plane, isn’t efficient. Data back this up: Boeing’s research showed that boarding a plane was 50 percent slower in 1998 than in 1970. “Boeing believes that these trends will continue,” the study noted, “unless the root causes are understood and new tools and processes are developed to reverse the trend.”



From a data-driven perspective, this is nothing short of maddening. There are many ways to board a plane, with “back-to-front”—the chosen boarding process of most U.S. carriers—the slowest. It is so ineffective that timed research shows that simple random boarding ends up being faster.



Getting on a plane is so complicated that Southwest even has a 12-question FAQ devoted to boarding. It’s simply not possible that a boarding procedure that looks like the one below is set up with customers’ best interests in mind.



Another minor perk that’s growing throughout the industry is the increased use of zone boarding as a way for airlines to reward passengers with a small status perk. Just owning a Delta Amex Card (AXP) brings early boarding privileges. These customers may not be able to upgrade to a higher class, but they can be consoled by making it to their bad seat earlier than others.

To be fair, some airlines are trying: American Airlines spent two years studying its boarding process and landed on a randomized, zone-based system. Last year it introduced a tweak that gives a slightly higher priority to passengers who have no carry-ons for the overhead bin.

United uses an “outside-in” boarding process by which people with window seats board ahead of those on the aisle. This is a version of what’s known as the Steffen Method, after astrophysicist Jason Steffen‘s 2008 research paper offering a mathematically sounder approach to efficient boarding. A reality show producer recruited Steffen for a video segment about it; yet, three years after his paper was published, none of the major airlines had asked him for help.

(Eric Chemi - BloombergBusinessweek)
 
**Scary, I know the Southwest Airlines employee pictured in the story. I worked with him at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) and John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA).
 
(Michael Carter - APF Editor) 

Netherlands Air Force DC-10-30CF to be scrapped

A Royal Netherlands Air Force-owned McDonnell Douglas DC-10 transport/freighter has been flown to the UK for scrapping, less than three years after entering use with the service.

Aircraft T-255 departed Eindhoven air base for the last time on 11 April, and was flown to Newquay airport in the UK for dismantling.

asset image
(Photo by Joris van Boven)

Originally operated by United Airlines, the DC-10-30 was acquired by the Netherlands in 2004, and underwent extensive modernization before being delivered in May 2011 after lengthy project delays.

It was deemed surplus to requirements as part of a package of defense cuts announced later that year, and subsequent efforts to find a new buyer for the 334 Sqn-operated transport failed.

Some parts from the retired aircraft will be used to support the Netherlands’ retained pair of KDC-10 tanker/transports, which have already received the same cockpit and systems modifications as T-255.

The nation’s military airlift inventory also includes four modernized Lockheed Martin C-130Hs.

(Flight International)
 
**The above article states that the DC-10-30CF (46987/255) was originally operated by United Airlines as N1858U but in fact it was originally delivered to World Airways on August 4, 1978 as N105WA.
 
(Michael Carter - APF Editor) 
 

Long Beach Airport to loose Director to Indianapolis International Airport

Long Beach Airport Director Mario Rodriguez (Brittany Murray - Staff photographer) 

 
Mario Rodriguez, the Long Beach Airport executive director who oversaw a major recent overhaul of the passenger concourse, is leaving to run Indianapolis International Airport, he announced Monday.
 
Rodriguez, who has been at the helm of the airport since 2009, was instrumental in the construction of the $45 million passenger facility that opened to travelers at the end of 2012. The 13-gate concourse is cheap by airport standards — Burbank Bob Hope Airport estimates that it will soon need to spend $300 million to $400 million on a new 14-gate terminal — but Rodriguez repeatedly said the airport should only build what it needed.

He also supervised construction of a new parking garage that finished under budget and ahead of schedule, according to airport officials.
 
Both Rodriguez and the airport won accolades for the terminal facility, a project that included a rehabilitation of the airport’s historic 1941 Art Deco main building. The Southern California Chapter of the American Public Works Association called the building the best transportation project of 2013. Last month, Long Beach’s updated passenger facility made a Fodor’s list of the top 10 new airport terminals.

“Mario came into Long Beach at a time when the airport was trying to build a new passenger concourse,” said Brett Snyder, a Long Beach-based airline industry analyst and blogger. “He made sure it was done with a focus on passenger comfort while also keeping a close eye on costs. The result is one that travelers love the convenience but airlines also love the low cost of operating there.”

But there was a limit to what Rodriguez could accomplish in Long Beach. Unlike most airports, which are constantly seeking growth, Long Beach is limited in the number of new flights it can accept. A city ordinance restricts the number of commercial flights to 41 per day on large jets, such as the Airbus A320, which seats 150 in JetBlue’s configuration, and 25 per day on smaller planes, such as the 65-seat CRJ700 operated by Delta Connection.
 
Rodriguez will have no such limitations in Indianapolis, which accommodated 7.2 million passengers last year, or about 4.2 million more than Long Beach.

He’ll also be running an airport with international flights. JetBlue, the main tenant in Long Beach, has long wanted to build a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing center at the airport, a requirement before the airport can accept international arrivals. But so far that has yet to happen. (Rodriguez said JetBlue’s request is reasonable, and he suggested the airline probably will eventually get its wish.)

“I like the challenge of learning a new organization and working with the dynamics that Indianapolis has,” Rodriguez said. “It has a lot more airlines.
It is going through a couple of interesting developments, like new leases with airlines. That is really interesting to me. The airport is also the second largest FedEx hub in the United States.”
 
In addition to running the international airport, Rodriguez will oversee four other airports and one heliport operated by the Indianapolis Airport Authority. The other airports handle mainly general aviation flights.

Rodriguez’s last day will be May 23. City officials say they will conduct a national search for Rodriguez’s successor. They plan to appoint an interim head after Rodriguez leaves.

Rodriguez said the airport will be fine without him.

“This is a service industry, and the people here and their level of professionalism is amazing,” he said.

Long Beach Airport, operated by the city of Long Beach, has 125 employees and an annual operating budget of more than $40 million.
 
(Brian Summers - Daily Breeze)

Azul and ILFC ink deal for 5 A350-900 and 3 A330 aircraft

(AZUL)

International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC), a wholly owned subsidiary of American International Group, Inc., announced today that it has signed an agreement with Azul Brazilian Airlines (Azul) to lease five Airbus A350-900 and three A330-200 aircraft. The aircraft will be operated on the airline’s new international routes from São Paulo/Campinas airport to the U.S., which are expected to launch in early 2015.

“ILFC is pleased to support Azul’s introduction of international service with these Airbus A350s and A330s,” said ILFC Chief Executive Officer Henri Courpron.

“There is a real opportunity for Azul to build on its successful base in Brazil and provide air service in a region which is becoming increasingly important to the aviation marketplace. We believe this is only the beginning of a successful strategic partnership between Azul and ILFC.”

“Azul is the one airline that truly serves all of Brazil. With 104 destinations, Azul unites the country better than any other airline, with convenient and frequent connections,” said Azul Chief Executive Officer and Founder David Neeleman.

“Our customers have been asking for this and now we look forward to providing them with our superior service on international flights, just as we have been doing today on our 880 daily domestic departures. We’re excited to share the Azul experience with new customers internationally and expand the airline’s success story beyond Brazil’s borders.”
 
The A350-900 aircraft are anticipated to deliver in 2017, while deliveries of the A330-200 aircraft are expected to begin in 2014. Rolls-Royce engines will power the aircraft.

Azul’s U.S. gateways will be announced later this year.

(Business Wire News) 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Boeing announces 50 aircraft deal with China's Shandong Airlines

Shandong Airlines has placed an order for 50 Boeing 737 aircraft, in a deal worth $4.65 billion at list price.

The order, part of the carrier's 13th five-year plan, comprises of 34 737 Max aircraft and 16 737-800s, says the carrier in a disclosure on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The aircraft are scheduled to be delivered between 2016 and 2020, it adds.

The Chinese carrier says it will use cashflow from its operations, bank loans and other funding options to finance the aircraft purchase.

It adds that the purchase will help the carrier increase its capacity to meet future demand. The 737 Max aircraft will be equipped with CFM International Leap-1B engines.

Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database shows that Shandong Airlines has 67 737s and seven Bombardier CRJs in its fleet
.
Shandong Aviation Group, a conglomerate based in Shandong city, owns 42% of the airline while Air China has a 22.8% stake.

(Mavis Toh - Flightglobal News)

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)