Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Qatar Airbus A320-271N (c/n 7083) F-WWDK

The launch customer for the A320NEO, Qatar may never take delivery of their aircraft unless the issues with the Pratt & Whitney engines are completely solved. The carrier recently signed an MOU with Boeing for the 737-800MAX, so time will tell. 

This 320NEO is captured in open storage at the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France on September 28, 2016. 

(Photo by Michael Carter)    

Boeing CEO says will not cut 777 output rate by more than 2 a month

Boeing will not cut production of the 777 jetliner by more than two planes a month and is taking more time to decide on whether a cut is even needed, Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said on Wednesday.

Boeing already plans to cut production of the wide-body plane to seven a month next year from 8.3 currently, and many experts expect a further cut to five a month due to slow sales and transition to a successor jet, the 777X.

The world's biggest planemaker also is studying whether to lift production of 787 Dreamliners to a planned 14 a month from 12, Muilenburg said. The company signaled that it wants to wait until several sales campaigns are finished in 2016 and 2017.

"We expect to have additional clarity on 777 production decisions in the next couple of months," Muilenburg said on a call with analysts.

"On the 787 program we have more time to further assess the implementation of the next production rate increase that is currently scheduled to ramp up to 14 per month at the end of the decade."

Boeing's production rates are bellwethers of market conditions, closely watched by investors for signs of the plane maker's future earnings and cash flow. Sales and profits at Boeing's many suppliers also are affected by changes in Boeing's factory rates.

While noting "hesitation" among airlines for buying wide-body planes such as the 777 and 787, Muilenburg said sales of narrow-body 737s are relatively strong.

He also said that even if Boeing decides to cut wide-body production "we continue to expect commercial aircraft deliveries to grow beyond 900 airplanes per year through the end of this decade," providing reassurance that overall deliveries will continue to rise from the 745 to 750 expected this year.

Earlier on Wednesday, the company beat profit expectations in the third quarter.

(Alwyn Scott - Reuters / Yahoo Business News)

Phoenix OKs $950M expansion of Sky Harbor's Terminal 4, Sky Train

The Phoenix City Council has approved a $950 million plan to add gates to Terminal 4 and extend Sky Train service from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to the airport's Rental Car Center. The vote was 7-1, with council member Jim Waring opposed.

The projects will be funded with existing passenger fees, other airport revenue and bonds and will be completed by 2021. They are needed to improve service for travelers and airlines and reduce congestion on Sky Harbor Boulevard, airport officials said in pitching the investments to the Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board on Thursday.

Phoenix Aviation Director James Bennett showed photos of long lines to catch shuttle buses to and from the rental-car center, which is located several miles from the airport itself. It opened in 2006 and houses all major rental companies. Bennett said the problem is not limited to peak tourism season, when as many as 34,000 customers a day use the center, but long lines formed as recently as a Friday this month.

"This is what poor customer service looks like,'' he said, adding that the airport fields countless complaints about waits as the buses sometimes crawl along Sky Harbor Boulevard.

The plan has always been to extend the 3-year-old PHX Sky Train beyond Terminal 3 to the rental-car center, eliminating the fleet of 108 buses, and that time is now, Bennett said. The airport's forecasts call for 48 million passengers in 2021, up about 9% from 44 million last year.

"You can't really bus your way out of this system,'' Bennett said.

He said the airport considered relocating the rental center near the Sky Train station south of 44th and Washington streets on the airport's eastern edge but couldn't find enough space.

Waring said he supports investment in Sky Harbor but voted against these projects because of comments by Bennett about other options the airport considered when studying the Sky Train extension.

He said the fact that Sky Harbor officials looked into moving the rental-car center suggests the current location is bad and perhaps wasn’t studied enough by airport officials before seeking approval. The center opened in 2006.

“It’s not like this facility was built 40 years ago,’’ he said.

Bennett said he wasn’t suggesting the location is bad. He said the airport has to study all options before deciding on such a big-ticket item.

New 8-gate concourse

A new, eight-gate concourse in Terminal 4 has also been on the table since the terminal opened in 1990 and is needed now to accommodate airlines' larger planes and reduce passenger congestion in the terminals, Bennett said.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton gave his blessing to the investments on Friday during a tour of Terminal 3, which is wrapping up the first phase of a $600 million makeover. He said he plans to support it, and singled out the 2.5-mile Sky Train extension as a "very important strategic investment'' for the airport. The Sky Train extension is projected to cost $700 million, the Terminal 4 course and gates $250 million.

Airport traffic dips

The proposed investments come as Sky Harbor, which reported record passenger counts in 2015, posted sizable, back-to-back declines in monthly passenger traffic this summer. The airport's passenger count declined 5.6% in July from a year earlier and 8.2% in August. Year to date, traffic is down 1.2%.

American, the busiest carrier at Sky Harbor since its 2013 merger with Arizona-based US Airways, posted double-digit decreases in passengers each month. American passenger counts were down 10.7% in July and 15.8% in August. Spokeswoman Polly Tracey attributes that to the airline using smaller planes with fewer seats on some routes out of Phoenix and, in August, an early end to the airline's summer schedule, which reduced its flying in Phoenix and other hubs earlier than in previous years.

She noted that American has added or announced plans to add service to several new cities out of Sky Harbor, including Memphis and Sonoma, Calif

Southwest, the other dominant carrier at Sky Harbor, also posted year-over-year declines in traffic in July and August, with passenger counts down 4.9% and 2.7%, respectively.

Numbers not worrisome

Stanton and Bennett said the declines don't give them pause about the timing of the airport's investments in Terminal 3, the Sky Train or Terminal 4. They said passenger numbers rise and fall but that the overall trend is up.

Stanton said he is not worried about the looming third anniversary of the American-US Airways merger. It is notable because American CEO Doug Parker, the longtime CEO of US Airways and Tempe-based America West before that, said at the time of the merger that the airline would maintain the status quo at Phoenix and other hubs for at least three years. American recently announced plans to close its flight-training center in Phoenix.

"Thus far they've made a business decision to maintain Phoenix as a hub. We have no reason to think that's not going to continue,'' Stanton said.

In response to a question about the performance of Phoenix on the airline's earnings conference call Thursday, American President Robert Isom said Sky Harbor is a great connecting hub and Phoenix is a strong metropolitan area.

"It's serving our network very well,'' he said.

(Dawn Gilbertson - The Arizona Republic / USA Today in the Sky)

JetBlue invests in Irvine-based private jet company

JetSuiteX operates 30 seat  Cessna Citation Aircraft)

JetBlue Airways has taken a minority stake in JetSuite Inc., an Irvine, California-based private jet company that provides charter and scheduled-service flights.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

JetBlue’s investment isn’t the first time the two companies have partnered. JetSuite, which launched its charter business in 2009, is led by former JetBlue executives, including Chief Executive Alex Wilcox, who was one of JetBlue’s founding directors and the airline’s third employee.

In April, JetSuite introduced a public jet service, JetSuiteX, to provide many of the comforts usually associated with private jet travel but for the price of a traditional airline seat. In association with JetSuiteX’s launch, JetBlue partnered with JetSuite to allow members of its customer loyalty program, TrueBlue, to earn points on all JetSuiteX flights.

With its stake in JetSuite, New York-based JetBlue will name a member to JetSuite’s board of directors. In addition, the two companies said they plan to work together on offering more benefits for their customers.

"We are delighted to have JetBlue join us as a strategic partner and shareholder,” Wilcox said in a statement. “The partnership with JetBlue will allow us to accelerate our growth and we are excited to work together to deliver new and unique experiences for all JetSuite and JetBlue customers.”

“JetBlue and JetSuite share a passion for delivering a high-quality customer experience at a competitive price point in underserved markets,” JetBlue President and CEO Robin Hayes said in a statement. “Our investment in JetSuite makes sense as we continue to execute on our west coast plan and invest in innovative ideas that reflect the disruptive spirit of JetBlue.”

JetSuite said JetSuiteX, which offers short-haul public charter flights, sold by the seat, operating from private terminals, has become the fastest-growing public charter service in the country.

JetSuiteX includes perks such as no lines, the ability to check in just 15 minutes before a flight, free Wi-Fi, free checked bags, free seat assignments, free drinks and free snacks. JetSuiteX flies 30 passenger jets to and from Burbank, Calif.; Las Vegas; San Jose, Calif.; Carlsbad; Concord, Calif.; Mammoth, Calif.; and Bozeman, Mont.

(I-Chun Chen - L.A. Biz)

Boeing sells an extra 777-300ER to Swiss Air, makes progress on Iran deal for 34 more widebodies

Swiss International Air Lines said Tuesday it's ordered an extra Boeing 777-300ER (Extended Range) airliner in a deal worth $339.6 million at list prices.

Boeing announced the surprise deal as it released third quarter earnings, though the airplane will not be delivered until some time in 2017.

Boeing's entire remaining 2016 production of the 777-300ER wide-body jet, manufactured in Everett, is sold out.
The Swiss airline previously ordered nine 777s and took delivery of six this year as it makes the 777-300ER its flagship large jetliner.

Peter Wojahn, Swiss Air's chief technical officer, said the 777-300ER will be the backbone of the airline's long-haul fleet "for many years to come."

"As one of the largest operators of the 777-300ER in Europe, we can offer our passengers unrivaled frequency and passenger comfort to a number of intercontinental markets thanks to this super-efficient long-haul aircraft," Wojahn said.

Swiss Air likely increased its order for 777s to take advantage of a lull in sales for wide-body jets around the world. Thus, it likely paid below the list price.

Boeing doesn't disclose actual prices paid by its airline customers.

Monty Oliver, vice president of European sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the jet maker values the confidence Swiss Air places in the 777 program and is glad to be involved in the airline's expansion plans.

During Tuesday's conference call with reporters, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg also said despite current hesitation among airlines to buy wide-body jets, the market is strong.

Muilenburg noted Boeing's government-approved deal to sell 80 new airplanes to Iran Air includes a mix of 34 wide-body planes.

"There's more work to do to finalize the sale, but we are encouraged by the progress," the Boeing CEO said. He added the timing and outcome of several other ongoing wide-body sales campaigns "will be the determining factors" in final decisions on whether to cut 777 production rates in Everett.

Long-term demand for twin-aisle jets is also fantastic, Muilenburg said.

"Specifically for the wide-body market, we see demand over the next 20 years for more than 9,000 aircraft and see replacement demand starting to accelerate again early next decade," he said. "We're well positioned with the 777X and 787 (Dreamliner) families."

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5551) N551GD

A new "Green" G550 arrived at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as "GLF48" following a flight from the factory at Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) this afternoon at 12:04 PDT.

This is the first "Green" G550 at LGB since last December so it was very nice for a change.

(Photos by Michael Carter)  

Bombardier prototype Global Express 7000 BD-700-2A12 (c/n 70001) C-GLBO

Captured at Toronto-Downsview Airport (CYZD), Global Express 7000 basks in the Canadian sun on October 15, 2016.

(Photo by Ted Larkin)

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-990(ER) (62682/6113) N265AK "Honoring Those Who Serve"

Caught departing Seattle-Boeing Field (BFI/KBFI) on her short delivery flight to Seattle International Airport (SEA/KSEA) as "ASA9822" on October 17, 2016.

(Photos by Joe G. Walker)

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-990(ER) (36356/5841) N448AS

Taxies off Rwy 25L following her arrival at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on October 19, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737-8Q8 (30689/908) N804SY

Arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 8, 2015.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

U.S. Air Force Fires Up the A-10 Depot Line to Keep Warthogs Flying 'Indefinitely'

In addition to standard maintenance and upkeep, the attack planes will be fitted with new wings.

On paper, the Air Force plans to start mothballing the A-10 in 2018, with the last Warthogs sent to the boneyard by 2021. But last month Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said that the retirement of the A-10 would likely have to be delayed further as the military continues to rely on the low-and-slow attack plane for close-air support (CAS) missions flown against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Even more telling, the Air Force Material Command (AFMC) is bringing the depot line for A-10 maintenance and repair back up to full capacity, according to Aviation Week.

The Hawg isn't going anywhere.

"They have re-geared up, we've turned on the depot line, we're building it back up in capacity and supply chain," AFMC chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski recently told Aviation Week. "Our command, anyway, is approaching this as another airplane that we are sustaining indefinitely."

Air Force maintainers are also preparing to replace the wings of the A-10 fleet, tapping a $2 billion contract originally awarded to Boeing in 2007, which was intended at the time to keep the fleet flying until 2028. Some corrosion of the planes has been seen at the depots, but Pawlikowski says this is to be expected, especially on an aircraft that has been in service since 1977.

Much of the leadership within the Air Force is keen to retire the A-10 so that the resources used to maintain the fleet can be pumped into the fifth-generation F-35 program. However, the A-10 is the Air Force's only plane with the sole purpose of CAS to protect ground troops. In the current struggle against the Islamic State, a heavily armed and armored attack plane with a long loiter time—and the GAU-8 Avenger 30-millimeter gatling gun that holds 1,350 armor-piercing rounds—is significantly more useful than a stealthy, fast, software-laden fighter like the F-35.

To keep the A-10 fleet of 283 aircraft flying, Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where most of the A-10 maintenance and repair work is done, is continuing to prepare for increased capacity. According to Aviation Week, the A-10 division at Hill has improved the aircraft availability rate from about 63 to 68 percent in the past year, accounting for 87,000 flight hours worldwide in fiscal year 2015.

The Air Force has been pressured by a group in Congress with widespread public support to keep the A-10 fleet maintained and flying CAS missions until an adequate replacement has been realized. Some Representatives have even suggested that the A-10's retirement should be contingent on the F-35—the Warthog's ostensible short-term replacement—being deployed in current conflicts.

"The Air Force has been at war for a long time, and every time we think things are going to slow down for us something else happens," Pawlikowski told Aviation Week. "We struggle with, how do we find that balance between modernization and the sustainment of what we have?"

A controversial plan to replace the A-10 with two aircraft has emerged among Air Force leadership. The tentative strategy would involve using an off-the-shelf turboprop aircraft, such as the A-29 Super Tucano or the AT-6 Wolverine, to fly a supporting role to the A-10 until a new aircraft, either a clean-sheet design or modified existing aircraft, could be developed as a more complete replacement.

With Air Force financial resources already stretched thin from the F-35 program, and an uncertain future budget due to the elections in November, it remains to be seen if the two-plane replacement plan is viable or not.

Whatever the Air Force decides to replace the A-10 with, one thing is clear: The Warthog won't be replaced by anything for some years yet.

(Jay Bennett - Popular Mechanics) 

Southwest Airlines Tumbles as Revenue Falls

Southwest Airlines' earnings in the third quarter topped analysts' estimates but the stock tumbled almost 7% in premarket trading on Wednesday.

Southwest reported adjusted earnings of 93 cents a share on net income of $582 million, better than consensus estimates of 88 cents.

However, both total revenue and average revenue per available seat mile (RASM) fell during the period, with total revenue down 3.2% to $5.1 billion, and RASM down by 4.1%. Helping to darken the mood among investors, management also warned that fourth-quarter RASM is expected to decline by between 4% and 5%, a consequence of overcapacity across the airline industry.

Operating costs also grew sharply during the recent quarter. Stripping out fuel, oil expenses and special items, costs rose 6.8% to $4.4 billion. Management project that operating costs will rise by somewhere between 4% and 5% during the fourth quarter.

"We will continue to manage our growth prudently in light of the revenue environment and increasing fuel prices. We plan to slow our 2017 available seat mile growth rate to less than 4.0%, year-over-year," said CEO Gary C Kelly.

Analysts expect the company to report net income of $2.4 billion and earnings per share of $3.77 for the full year.

Southwest stock fell 6.7% in premarket trading to $39.15. The stock has fallen 2.5% so far this year.

(James Skinner - The Street)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Boeing gets max $196 million F/A-18 spares contract

Delivery order is against a five-year base contract with one five-year option period.

Boeing was awarded a $196 million delivery order against a five-year base contract to provide F/A-18 Super Hornet spare parts.

The deal for the U.S. Navy jets also includes one five-year option period to provide the spares.

Work will be performed in Missouri, with an estimated completion date of December 2019.

The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency is the contracting entity.

Boeing's Super Hornet is a twin-engine, super sonic, all-weather fighter that can take off from and land on an aircraft carrier.

(Geoff Ziezulewicz - UPI)

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-890 (35180/2090) N563AS

Seen departing Rwy 25R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/LAX) on October 18, 2016 this Alaska 737-890 was the first in the carriers fleet to sport the new corporate livery.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Whole crew gets sick: Flight from SFO makes emergency landing

A London-bound British Airways jet that took off from San Francisco with 425 people aboard made an emergency landing in Vancouver, B.C., after the entire crew became ill, officials said.

British Airways Flight 286 left San Francisco International Airport (SFO/KSFO) at 7:15 p.m. Monday. As it was flying over Montana several hours into the flight, the plane was diverted to Vancouver because all 25 members of the crew, including three pilots, had fallen ill, an airline spokeswoman said.

“The cabin crew were checked as a precaution at local hospitals before being discharged,” the spokeswoman said. She said none of the 400 passengers aboard the Airbus A380 aircraft became ill.

It was not immediately clear what sickened the crew.

The airline arranged for passengers to stay in hotels in Vancouver and rebooked them on other flights for Tuesday, the British Airways spokeswoman said.

(Bill Hutchinson - SFGate)

Japan Air Lines Boeing 777-346(ER) (32432/521) N733J

Seen at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on October 18, 2016 sporting the carriers special "Jet Kei" livery.

(Photos by Michael Carter) 

Qantas Boeing 747-438(ER) (32914/1331) VH-OEJ "Wunala"

Captured under-tow at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) October 13, 2016 sporting the carriers "Australian Olympic Team" livery.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) Airbus A330-343E (c/n 1715) LN-RKU "Frithiof Viking"

Departs Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) bound for Stockholm-Arlanda (ARN/ESSA) on October 22, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 (37968/256) G-VOOH "Miss Chief"

Taxies at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) following its arrival from London-Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) on October 13, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter) 

EVA Air Boeing 777-36N(ER) (42108/1313) B-16723

Climbs over a busy International ramp at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on October 13, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)