Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Interesting Visitors Today at Long Beach (LGB/KLGB)

Swiftflight Embraer EMB135BJ (145730) N730BH operating as SWQ730, departed to Pheonix, Arizona (PHX/KPHX) at 15:42.

Netjets Gulfstream G-IVSP (1436) N436QS arrived from John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) at 16:25 and went to the Gulfstream facilities.

Gulfstream G100 (IAI "Astra") N749GA (149) arrived from Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW/KATW) - Appleton, Wisconsin at 16:45 parking on the Gulfstream ramp.

Gulfstream G-IV N552WF (1000) ex-N971EC on the Gulfstream ramp.

Ontario International Airport (ONT/KONT) Forcast Bleak Passenger Numbers

For the first time since 1988, a decade before two multi million-dollar terminals were built , fewer than 5 million travelers are expected to use Ontario International Airport,according to a forecast from the airport.

The twin terminals that opened in 1998 at a cost of $270 million were built to ultimately handle 10 million. Loftier expectations from decades-old regional forecasts had the airport growing even more, to 30 million passengers by 2025.

The recession, felt intensely in the Inland region, is partly to blame, experts say. Airlines, responding to a drop-off in travel by spending-wary Americans, have continued to cut the number of flights offered and planes used nationwide. As airlines have cut back, or moved out of Ontario Airport, the ones left have shouldered higher fees and higher rents. Fares have risen.
Airport officials expect 4.83 million passengers to use Ontario by the end of 2009. In 2010, the airport expects a slight increase to 4.9 million, a figure that may be optimistic, according to one airline expert.

“They’d be very lucky to get that,” said Michael Boyd, an aviation consultant. He’s forecast that airlines nationwide will cut back their seats by another 4 or 5 percent in 2010.
No matter how much Ontario would want to increase its service, and Boyd thinks the airport’s managers are “doing everything right,” it’s unlikely an airline would be willing considering the current economic conditions, he said. “It’s not magic. ‘Let’s go find another airline,’ ” he said., “There isn’t one … there’s no airline store.”


Of the 100 largest airports based on passengers, Ontario Airport lost the largest percentage of travelers in the nation in the first half of 2009, compared with the same six months in the prior year, according to statistics from OAG Aviation Solutions.

Experts agree the recession has had a bigger impact on the Inland region, where the housing industry fueled rapid growth and quickly imploded. Travelers have also sought cheaper fares that don’t exist at Ontario, said Jack Keady, an aviation consultant in Playa Del Rey.
Keady said Los Angeles World Airports, the Los Angeles city agency that owns and operates LAX, Ontario International Airport and Van Nuys Airport, could use some of its muscle to encourage growth at Ontario. If an airline wanted another gate at LAX, officials could agree to the terms as long as flights are added to Ontario, Keady said.

“They always need favors, they always need special treatment,” he said of airlines.
Ontario is one of the most expensive airports in Southern California to do business, costing airlines about $14.50 per passenger, based on fees and rents levied. By comparison, as of March, Palm Springs International Airport cost $4.07 per passenger and Long Beach Airport cost $5.34.
Officials have raised landing fees and terminal rental rates for the current fiscal year, adjusting for lost revenue from airlines that departed the airport entirely and those that cut flights.
In September 2008, ExpressJet ceased operations at the airport and JetBlue ended its only once-daily flight. ExpressJet had started flying multiple routes from the airport in April 2007.
“This is not a good time to be raising fees, unless you want to go bankrupt,” said Darryl Jenkins, an aviation industry consultant and former aviation professor at George Washington University in Virginia. “You’re just going to send people scrambling elsewhere.”

Recently, San Bernardino International Airport approved a plan to offer up to $2.5 million worth of incentives to the first four airlines that give their brand new terminal its first scheduled passenger flights. The airport has also offered free landing fees for the first five years the airlines do business in San Bernardino.


San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt, whose district includes Ontario Airport, said that airport still remains a more viable alternative for airlines.
Ovitt said he’s met unofficially with airport staff asking how they could make it more affordable for airlines to land there and reappraise their landing fees. “Hopefully we’ll see some action in that regard,” he said. Mary Jane Olhasso, economic development director for the city of Ontario, said it’s been frustrating watching passenger numbers plummet each month when compared with the same month a year prior.

“They are not putting any more money into marketing,” she said of Los Angeles World Airports. “Therefore, the regionalization plan is not being implemented.”
In a lawsuit settlement between LAX and its surrounding cities that objected to expansion plans at the Los Angeles hub because of potential environmental impacts, Los Angeles World Airports agreed to encourage spreading air traffic among the other Southern California airports.
“We kind of put (regionalization) on the back burner and a little bit of focus went to LAX,” said Maria Tesoro-Fermin, spokeswoman for Ontario International Airport. LAX was losing traffic too, she said, so increasing passengers there was “regionalization” in and of itself.
Efforts to “re-energize” the airport agency’s office of regionalization and air service development are afoot though, Tesoro-Fermin said.

The airport has hired a consultant to spearhead efforts that, for now, focus on linking Ontario Airport and Anaheim with a shuttle to encourage Disneyland visitors to fly into and out of Ontario. “It’s time to put Ontario back on that front-burner,” she said.

(Kimberly Pierceall - The Press Enterprise)

USAirways Pilot "Sully" Sullenberger back in the air October 1st

US Airways announced Wednesday morning that Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger will reunite with his first officer, Jeffrey Skiles, for his first post-accident flight Thursday.

Interestingly, the two will pilot an US Airways flight from New York LaGuardia to Charlotte, N.C., the same route they were flying before some geese intercepted them over New York City on Jan. 15 and had them land about 540 miles short on their 543-mile trip.
They'll be operating Flight 1427, scheduled to leave LaGuardia on Thursday at 12:59 p.m. and arrive in Charlotte at 2:54 p.m.

But before they leave LaGuardia and after they arrive in Charlotte, Sully and Skiles will talk to the news media. There's a lot of interest in the two guys who guided a crippled US Airways flight down into the Hudson River with no deaths and only a few serious injuries on Jan. 15, so be sure and watch the evening news Thursday.

(Terry Maxon - Airline Biz Blog)

Frontier Airlines to Emerge from Bankruptcy

Frontier Airlines A319-111 (2392) N936FR arrives at
San Diego (SAN/KSAN) on a lovely winter afternoon.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Frontier Airlines is set to exit bankruptcy protection on Thursday as part of Republic Airways, which seems determined to run an efficient airline even if it ruffles some feathers in the process.
By buying Frontier, Republic is transforming itself from a regional jet hauler of travelers for other airlines into a carrier that competes for its own passengers. Earlier this year it bought Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines, too.

Republic may move Frontier's maintenance operation out of Denver. It's grounding the last of the Boeing 717s flown by newly acquired Midwest Airlines. And it's gambling that the payoff from hauling its own customers will make up for whatever goodwill it might burn with the big-airline partners that hire it to fly passengers for them.

Republic is looking at moving Frontier's aircraft maintenance and some ticketing operations out Denver because of high costs there, CEO Bryan Bedford said in an interview on Wednesday.
Bedford said both Indianapolis (where Republic is based) and Milwaukee are competing for the maintenance operation, and he hopes to make a decision by the end of October on where it will be located. Frontier employs about 250 people to work on planes in Denver, and they would get a chance to move to jobs wherever they're located, Bedford said.

Taxes at the Denver airport make maintenance there more expensive, he said. And a special tax on tickets processed on Frontier's computer in Denver adds about $1.5 million a year extra to the airline's tax bill, he said.

He said he expects Frontier pilots and flight attendants to stay in their own unions since they work on the Airbus A320 family of planes while Republic crews fly Embraer regional jets. Frontier's mechanics are represented by the Teamsters, while Republic's aren't in a union.
Republic is also returning the last of Midwest's 717s to Boeing in November, and furloughing the last 150 pilots and flight attendants who crewed them on Nov. 30. Those workers could get jobs back if their unions integrate with those at Republic, said Carlo Bertolini, spokesman for Republic Airways Holdings.

Struggling Midwest, known for good customer service and warm chocolate-chip cookies served to passengers, had already hired Republic to do much of its flying. Republic and Frontier planes will fly under Midwest's name starting on Nov. 3, the Midwest chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association said.

Midwest pilot Anthony Freitas, chairman of the Midwest Airlines chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, called Republic's move "dismantling our airline." "Midwest's new owner hopes that if they keep the same paint scheme and cookies, no one will notice that the crews who helped build our airline's well-deserved reputation for award-winning customer service are gone," Freitas said in a prepared statement.

For Frontier, one thing that won't be changing is its competitive spot in Denver, with market share sandwiched between United Airlines and Southwest. According to the Denver airport, United and regional partners had 44.3 percent of domestic passengers in July, versus 24.8 percent for Frontier and 15.2 percent for Southwest. Frontier's share hardly moved from July 2007, while United's share shrank from 50.6 percent as Southwest grew from 5.9 percent.
"They beat Southwest in Denver, they held their own against a very strong United," said airline consultant Darryl Jenkins of The Airline Zone.

Frontier's trip through Chapter 11 began April 11, 2008, after its main credit-card processor said it planned to withhold a greater share of proceeds from ticket sales. Southwest tried but failed to outbid Republic for Frontier. Jenkins said a key to Frontier's renewed profits was trimming its routes. For a while it was adding routes like Albuquerque to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Now, nearly all of its direct flights are out of Denver.

The key to their recovery was "getting rid of the bad cities. Their network before was really schizophrenic," Jenkins said. "Now it's all Denver-based, it's good routes, they're making money when no one else is in Denver." Some have wondered whether Republic will anger its mainline airline partners by competing for its own passengers. One of those partners is United, which has a hub in Denver.

Bedford said he does not expect to lose any of his contracts for regional hauling. The big airlines understand that Republic needed to diversify, he said.
"They get it, they're not threatened by it, and that includes United," he said.

(Joshua Reed - AP Airlines Writer)
Midwest 717-2BL (55174/5124) captured on short final to
Rwy 1R at Las Vegas (LAS/KLAS).
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Airplanes with Midwest Airlines on the side will continue flying past Nov. 3, but Midwest Airlines pilots say they won't be flying them.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel quotes officials from the pilots' and flight attendants' unions as saying the key date is Dec. 1 when all "legacy" Midwest flight crews will lose their jobs.
The Air Lines PIlots Association's Midwest Airlines unit said Thursday that pilots "were informed that the operations of Midwest Airlines as we know it today will cease on November 3, 2009. On that day, the last of Midwest Airlines' larger Boeing 717 aircraft will be returned to the manufacturer and all of the remaining Midwest pilots will no longer fly any Midwest aircraft. "
Here's the statement from Anthony Freitas, chairman of ALPA's Midwest Airlines unit:

"While there will still be airplanes flying with 'Midwest' written on them, there will no longer be any of the pilots who truly provided 'The Best Care in the Air' operating them. All of the original Midwest flight crews are being outsourced in the final phase of dismantling our airline.
"Midwest's new owner hopes that if they keep the same paint scheme and cookies, no one will notice that the crews who helped build our airline's well-deserved reputation for award-winning customer service are gone.
"Clearly, the replacement of highly experienced Midwest pilots with lower-cost labor will be devastating for our pilots and their families. But the traveling public will also be affected because they will lose the high experience levels and the extraordinary dedication to service that the real Midwest pilots have always taken great pride in providing."

In a deal that closed in late July, Republic Airlines acquired Midwest from TPG Capital of Fort Worth. Republic is also acquiring Frontier Airlines.
(Terry Maxon - AirlineBiz Blog)

C-17A Clears Big Least for the Moment

C-17A 99-0167 (F-70/P-67) based at Elmendorf ABF in Alaska, basks in the afternoon sun at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday rejected an effort led by Sen. John McCain to end funding for Boeing's C-17 and close the Long Beach assembly plant by mid-2011, but the Arizona Republican is set to make a similar motion today.

Wednesday's 64-34 vote marks a major milestone in continuing production at California's last major aircraft assembly plant through at least mid-2012, securing some 5,000 jobs in Long Beach and about 25,000 more around the country where parts for the aircraft are designed and built.

While admitting defeat on his motion Wednesday, McCain promised to re-introduce a similar measure on the Senate floor today that would effectively strip the $2.5billion approved by a Senate committee in early September to fund 10 more planes.

If McCain's motion is again rejected, the massive jet's future rests with approval by the House of Representatives, which will consider the matter in coming days, and with President Obama, who has expressed reservations about continued production but has not threatened a veto.

Funding for the 10 C-17s is included in the nation's $626billion defense budget for Fiscal Year 2010, which is expected to reach Obama's desk sometime in the next few weeks.
The White House and Defense Secretary Robert Gates had objected to more C-17s, but appear unlikely to veto the entire defense budget for a program representing less than one half of one percent of total defense spending.

Still, McCain and others had argued that the $2.5 billion C-17 earmark could be better spent elsewhere - a notion vehemently rejected by supporters like senators Chris Dodd, D-Conn.; Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; and Kit Bond, R-Mo.; among others.
During debate Tuesday and Wednesday, supporters argued that continued C-17 production is vital to national security


1. Sen. John McCain indicated he will introduce a similar measure Thursday to strip C-17 funding despite his effort Wednesday being rejected on a 64-34 vote. If that fails, the C-17's fate will next move to the House of Representatives.

2. The Senate will meet with the House in the coming week to finalize the nation's Fiscal Year 2010 defense budget, currently valued at $626 billion. The Senate version includes $2.5 billion to fund 10 more C-17 s, while the House version includes about $650 million to fund just three more airplanes.

3. After a deal is reached between both houses of Congress, the final defense budget goes to President Obama, who has not threatened a veto. Obama has instead focused in recent months on efforts to end a $50 billion F-22 fighter jet program.
Obama is expected to sign the defense bill by mid-October.and humanitarian relief efforts.
In addition to supplying the military with hardware and men in the field, the C-17 has been used extensively to deliver food, medical supplies, water and other essentials in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

"According to the Air Force, over the last three years, in the military's Central Command alone, the C-17 has flown more than 100,000 airlift sorties, moved more than 2 million personnel, delivered nearly 300,000 tons of cargo, and executed nearly 2,000 airdrops," said Dodd, whose state is home to the Pratt and Whitney engine manufacturer used by the C-17. "According to the Government Accountability Office, C-17s have delivered more than 2.4 million tons of cargo to Iraq and Afghanistan. That's 2.4 million tons of supplies - everything from critical gear to large vehicles - sustaining our troops on the battlefield."

Debate surrounding the future of the C-17 program has dragged on since Defense Secretary Gates said in April that production should end by mid-2011 - after the Air Force receives its 205th C-17. Boeing began C-17 production in 1993 in part to replace an aging fleet of Lockheed C-5A aircraft, which were built between 1968 and 1973 and have been plagued in recent years by wing assembly damage that has required extensive retrofitting.

"The Air Force has informed us that today its current statistics show that it costs $6.42 to fly one pound of cargo from South Carolina to Baghdad on a C-17, but $13.76 to fly the same pound on a C-5," said Inouye, who brokered the Senate deal for 10 more C-17s in early September. "Why? Because the C-5 is unreliable, because we rarely need to fill either plane to its maximum capacity on an average mission, and because the C-17 is newer and modernized in comparison to the C-5. We simply can't rely on the older, outdated C-5."

Nevertheless, McCain and a coalition of supporters including Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., tried to rally support for an amendment ending C-17 production, but the measure was rejected late Wednesday on the Senate floor. Supporters successfully argued the plane carries an advantage over other cargo aircraft because of its ability to land on short, unpaved runways in remote regions inaccessible to the C-5A and similar aircraft.

Levin had earlier tried to rally support for McCain's amendment stripping continued C-17 production, despite public reservations on its impact on defense workers.
"Terminating production, like closing a base, can involve some economic loss for communities involved." Levin noted.

"But we must do so from time to time and make these difficult decisions, based on what is best for the nation, and what is best for the men and women of the armed forces."
Still, Congressional support for continued production of the massive jet was strong enough to override the amendment, leaving the aircraft's production in the hands of the House of Representatives and the White House.

"We feel confident, but we're not ready to celebrate until the Senate and House approve the order and the president signs it," said Jean Chamberlain, general manager of Boeing's C-17 program earlier Wednesday, before the vote on McCain's measure.

More than 200 of the massive jets have been built so far, primarily for the U.S. Air Force, although smaller orders have been delivered to the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Qatar and a NATO-led consortium based in Hungary.

The United Arab Emirates is also nearing a deal to order four C-17s, and the Indian Air Force has indicated it may purchase 10 within a few years.

In related news, the Air Force approved a $26.2million deal Wednesday with Boeing to buy spare parts for the C-17 aircraft. C-17 aircraft damaged during routine missions are often brought to a repair facility next to the assembly plant in Long Beach, but the spare parts order will also allow the Air Force to fix minor damage and replace worn-out parts on bases across the country where the majority of C-17 aircraft are stationed.

(Kristopher Hanson - Long Beach Press Telegram)

Photo of the Day / Delta 757-231 N717TW "Skyteam" Livery

(Photo by Adrian Arzinheimer)

Delta 757-231 (28485/854) N717TW now sports the special "Skyteam" livery and is captured departing Geneva International - Cointrin, Switzerland (GVA/LSGG). The aircraft was originally delivered to Trans World Airlines (TWA) on March 15th, 1999. Following the merger between TWA and American Airlines the aircraft continued flying until being WFU and stored in September 2003 until being picked up by Delta Airlines.

TUI Travel Parcial 787 Order Cancelation

TUI Travel is to cancel 10 of the 23 Boeing 787s which the tour operator has on order, but plans to add purchase rights for another 13. The company became one of the first European customers for the jet when First Choice Airways - with which TUI subsequently merged - committed to the type in 2004.

First Choice firmed an initial order for six 787s in 2005, and became the launch customer for the General Electric GENx engine on the twin-jet. It had firmed another six options by March 2007, when the merger with TUI was unveiled.

These were combined with a previously-undisclosed 787 order from TUI giving the combined company, TUI Travel, a total of 23 of the jets. But in a trading update today TUI Travel says: "We have been in extensive discussions with Boeing...and it is the intention of both parties to agree to cancel 10 of the 23 787 aircraft that we had on order."

It says it will add purchase rights, with no obligation, for a further 13 787s. "This optimises the flexibility around our long-haul capacity and we expect to receive delivery of the first 787 aircraft in early 2012," it adds. TUI Travel also insists that, despite the decision, the 787 is the "ideal aircraft" for its long-haul requirements.

"Not only will it be able to fly greater distances than equivalent aircraft today but it will do so with greater fuel efficiency and additional comfort for our customers," it says.

(David Kaminski-Morrow -

AirTran Strenghtens its Liquidity

AirTran Airways has altered agreements with one of its principal lenders and its largest credit card processors to shore up its cash balances to $400 million at the end of the third quarter.

The carrier has extended its letter of credit with its lender to 31 December 2010, which results in the amount AirTran is allowed to borrow under the facility increasing from $90 million to $125 million. However, the total size of the facility has decreased from $215 million to $175 million after AirTran re-worked the optimisation of its letter of credit from $125 million to $50 million.

AirTran's amended agreement with its largest credit card processor entails an extension to 31 December 2010. The carrier says the enhancements to its credit facilities result in AirTan not being subject to any cash holdbacks as of 30 September from its two largest credit card processors.

Credit card processing cash holdbacks drew a fair amount of attention last year when Frontier Airlines cited holdbacks as the primary driver in its entry into Chapter 11 restructuring. The carrier is set to emerge on 1 October.

AirTran's current cash balance of $400 million is an increase of $24 million from the $376 million in cash the carrier posted at the end of the second quarter.

US major carriers American, Delta and US Airways have all closed on financial transactions this month. American and Delta say they have raised $4.1 billion and $2.1 billion respectively. US Airways has raised $137 million.

(Lori Ranson -

DHL Operates first 767-300ERF on Transatlantic Service

DHL Cargo 767-3JHF (37805/980) G-DHLE is seen arriving at Nottingham/Leicester/Derby - East Midlands (Castle Donington) (EMA/EGNX) during crew familiarization flights.
(Photo by Keith Burton)
DHL enhances transatlantic express services with a fleet of highly-efficient Boeing 767 Extended Range Freighter aircraft.

Six brand new Boeing 767 Extended Range Freighters (ERF) to join DHL fleet till end of 2012

The first two B767ERF enter service in September on routes LEJ-JFK and EMA-JFK

Third aircraft to service EMA-CVG route from October

Blended Winglets save up to 1 million liters of fuel and 3,150 tons of CO2 per annum and support the implementation of GoGreen strategy

DHL Express, the world's leading international express delivery company, is announcing the introduction of the Boeing 767 Extended Range Freighter aircraft into its own air fleet, the first commercial flight having left Leipzig (LEJ) airport with destination JFK on September 23rd. Operated by DHL Air (UK), a total of six Boeing 767ERF will help DHL to further boost the company's on-time performance and reliability of its transatlantic services. The aircraft will replace the shared capacity of MD-11F aircraft currently provided through a joint venture with Lufthansa Cargo.

Transatlantic trade has been at a continuously high level in recent years, with EU - U.S. and U.S. - EU trade flows reaching a value of US $ 347 billion and 288 billion respectively in 2008. For DHL Express this trade lane has been of particular importance. The company's volumes in the transatlantic air express market remained at a high level during the recent economic crisis and are expected to increase when the global economy has fully recovered.

With a payload capacity of 59 tons and a max range of 6,025 kilometers, the 767ERF aircraft is widely recognized as one of the most modern mid-range wide body freighters currently available. It is ideally suited for direct flights between East Midlands (EMA), United Kingdom, and Cincinnati (CVG) and New York (JFK), USA, as well as between DHL Express' major European hub Leipzig (LEJ), Germany, and New York (JFK), USA. These flights will further improve the international connectivity of the U.S. network and enable the company to expand its next day Time Definite transatlantic services between the U.S. East Coast and Europe. DHL is the first company to register this aircraft type in Europe, following certification through the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Due to its advanced engine technology and the winglets provided by Aviation Partners Boeing, the 767ERF stands out as one of the most efficient and environmental friendly aircraft of its class. The winglets will save approximately 4% of fuel. With the Boeing 767ERFs the company expects to save about 3,500-4,000 liters (approx. 1000 US gallons) of fuel on a typical trip from the EU to the U.S. and return. Calculated for all six 767ERF aircraft on the transatlantic route, five times a week, 52 weeks a year, this would amount to fuel savings of approximately 6,000,000 liters of fuel per year. Apart from its excellent fuel efficiency, the 767ERF also shows very good CO2 efficiency figures. With winglets it emits around 3,150 tons of CO2 less annually than without them. In comparison to the MD-11F aircraft, which has previously been used on DHL's transatlantic routes, the Boeing 767ERF uses 53 % less fuel per trip and produces 53 % less CO2. With such characteristics, the 767ERF plays a significant role in Deutsche Post DHL's global GoGreen strategy, which foresees an improvement of the group's carbon efficiency by 30 percent by the year 2020, also to be achieved by re-fleeting measures.

Charlie Dobbie, Executive Vice President, Express Network Operations and Aviation, said: "By introducing the Boeing 767ERF into our own DHL air fleet we are following our smart technology approach, which aims at achieving high efficiency gains through the use of the most modern technology available, wherever possible. Furthermore, operating this highly reliable new aircraft type on our transatlantic routes proves that we are serious about further improving our capabilities for U.S. in- and outbound international express services. Moreover, the aircraft's efficiency also enables us to maintain a very competitive offer and implement our group-wide GoGreen strategy.

"DHL's reactivated facilities at Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati International Airport (CVG) will form the main U.S. hub for transatlantic shipments. CVG is a fully automated state-of-the-art facility that will be considerably more cost effective for the company's international business than its previous hub. DHL customers will also benefit from the newly established U.S. Quality Control Center, also located at CVG, which monitors shipment movements across the U.S. and redirects shipments to prevent delays.

(DHL International - Press Release

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gulfstream Aerospace Rolls Out New G650

Gulfstream Aerospace, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), today rolled out its new flagship business jet, the all-new Gulfstream G650 (cn 6001) N650GA, at company headquarters in Savannah. The aircraft rolled out under its own power. First announced in March 2008, the ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range G650 remains on schedule for customer deliveries in 2012.
Approximately 7,000 people gathered at the new G650 manufacturing building for the aircraft’s debut.

The audience included state and local dignitaries, customers, certifying authorities, supplier representatives, members of the G650 development team and many other employees at the Savannah facility. “We’ve all been looking forward to this day since we officially announced the G650 program last year,” said Joe Lombardo, executive vice president, General Dynamics Aerospace group. “Simply put, the Gulfstream G650 is in a class by itself. I want to thank everyone who made this aircraft possible. I share the tremendous amount of pride you have for this significant piece of aviation history. Like you, I am eagerly awaiting the first flight later this year.”
The G650 offers the longest range, fastest speed, largest cabin and the most advanced cockpit in the Gulfstream fleet. It features an all-new fuselage cross section, allowing a wider and taller cabin than the previous top-of-the-line G550 model. The G650 is capable of traveling 7,000 nautical miles at 0.85 Mach and has a maximum operating speed of 0.925, which will make it the fastest civil aircraft flying. It can climb to an altitude of 51,000 feet, which allows it to avoid traffic and inclement weather.

“Our customers had an instrumental role in the design of the G650,” said Pres Henne, senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test, Gulfstream. “The G650 will set new levels of performance in aircraft capability, cabin environment and maintainability. Customer input was used to guide fuselage size selection as well as aircraft performance characteristics. The G650 offers unprecedented speed and range, superb takeoff performance, an all-new Gulfstream wing, best-in-class Rolls-Royce BR725 engines, and top-of-the-line aesthetics. It provides the most technologically advanced flight deck in business aviation with the PlaneViewTM II cockpit and an advanced aircraft health and trend monitoring system to support aircraft maintenance planning and improve availability.

“Along with traditional measures of aircraft performance, significant effort has been spent in ensuring the cabin will be in a class by itself. The Gulfstream Cabin EssentialTM systems include redundant fiber optic and wireless technologies, along with the latest innovations in lighting, seating, acoustics and cabin systems to provide the most productive cabin environment in business aviation. Three-dimensional electronic design tools were used to design the entire aircraft, facilitating remarkable part precision, allowing ease of assembly and proper placement of components for ease of maintenance and shorter downtimes. The up-front, detailed engineering effort and its end result are a real tribute to the engineering and manufacturing teams.”

The G650 features a cabin that measures 102 inches wide and 77 inches high, the largest purpose-built cabin in business aviation. The extra space allows for larger galleys and lavatories, and increased storage. The aircraft, which seats 11-18 passengers, also features 16 panoramic windows that measure 28 by 20.5 inches, the largest in the industry; improved sound levels; a vacuum toilet system; and in-flight access to 195 cubic feet of usable volume in the baggage compartment.

“Our customers had an instrumental role in the design of the G650,” said Pres Henne, senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test, Gulfstream. “The G650 will set new levels of performance in aircraft capability, cabin environment and maintainability. Customer input was used to guide fuselage size selection as well as aircraft performance characteristics. The G650 offers unprecedented speed and range, superb takeoff performance, an all-new Gulfstream wing, best-in-class Rolls-Royce BR725 engines, and top-of-the-line aesthetics. It provides the most technologically advanced flight deck in business aviation with the PlaneViewTM II cockpit and an advanced aircraft health and trend monitoring system to support aircraft maintenance planning and improve availability.

“Along with traditional measures of aircraft performance, significant effort has been spent in ensuring the cabin will be in a class by itself. The Gulfstream Cabin EssentialTM systems include redundant fiber optic and wireless technologies, along with the latest innovations in lighting, seating, acoustics and cabin systems to provide the most productive cabin environment in business aviation. Three-dimensional electronic design tools were used to design the entire aircraft, facilitating remarkable part precision, allowing ease of assembly and proper placement of components for ease of maintenance and shorter downtimes. The up-front, detailed engineering effort and its end result are a real tribute to the engineering and manufacturing teams.”

The G650 features a cabin that measures 102 inches wide and 77 inches high, the largest purpose-built cabin in business aviation. The extra space allows for larger galleys and lavatories, and increased storage. The aircraft, which seats 11-18 passengers, also features 16 panoramic windows that measure 28 by 20.5 inches, the largest in the industry; improved sound levels; a vacuum toilet system; and in-flight access to 195 cubic feet of usable volume in the baggage compartment.

Gulfstream announced the G650 on March 13, 2008, in Savannah. The aircraft is on schedule for first flight later this year and is expected to be certified in 2011. Entry-into-service is planned for 2012.

All Photos by Gulfstream Aerospace Corp
(Gulfstream Aerospace Corp - Press Release)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Photo of the Day / Air Europa 737-85P (28384/420) EC-HGO

(Photo by James Mepsted)

Air Europa 737-85P (28384/420) EC-HGO now sports a special "llles Balears" sticker. The aircraft is captured arriving at London-Gatwick (LGW/EGKK) on a gorgeous day.

Improvement Grant for San Bernardino International Airport

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has announced a $4.5 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to the Inland Valley Development Agency and the San Bernardino International Airport (SBD/KSBD) authority to make airport pavement improvements.The project is expected to create or save 645 jobs and generate $21 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.“The Obama Administration is committed to creating jobs, encouraging innovation and improving our nation’s economic competitiveness,” Locke said. “This grant will create jobs and bolster the region’s economy by rehabilitating San Bernardino International Airport taxiways and aprons to support commercial passenger airline service.”

(Highland Community News)

Marine F/A-18's pay a visit to Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB)

F/A-18D (cn 1035/DO80) 164272.
(Photo by Michael Carter)
F/A-18C (cn 1326/C141) 165190
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Friday afternoon September 25th, two U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets arrived at Long Beach Airport at 4:25PM PST. Both aircraft overnighted and were scheduled to depart at approx. 1200n on Saturday September 26th.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Photo of the Day / Ugandan Government Gulfstream G550 5X-UGF

(Photo by David Apps)

Gulfstream G550 (cn 5208) 5X-UGF is operated by the Ugandan Government and is seen arriving at London Heathrow (LHR/EGLL).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Such a Deal! Free Hotel Rooms for Southwest Customers

Innisfree Hotels owner Julian MacQueen has upped his offer of free room nights for Southwest Airlines if the carrier adds service to Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport.

MacQueen said his Innisfree company is increasing its Southwest incentive package by another 25,000 room nights, in addition to the 45,000 pledged earlier this month. "That's a total of 70,000 room nights we're offering over a three-year period," MacQueen said. "The entire package is worth about $6 million."

Earlier this month, MacQueen pledged the 45,000 free room nights at his Pensacola Beach properties if Southwest agrees to establish service at Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach or Panama City's commercial airports. But the addition of 25,000 room nights at Hilton Garden Inn and Holiday Inn Express in Orange Beach, Ala., and a third Orange Beach hotel that will open in 2011, are contingent on Southwest coming to Pensacola exclusively, MacQueen said.

Innisfree owns and operates the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front, and the Hampton Inn on Pensacola Beach. The company also has a 206-room Holiday Inn on Pensacola Beach under construction, as well as the Hyatt Place Hotel directly on the Pensacola Airport property that's scheduled to open in 2011.

Innisfree's Alabama hotel room package, valued at $3.1 million, will be used by the airline in creating travel packages to attract visitors to the Gulf Coast.
Harlan Butler, president of Innisfree Hotels, met with Herb Malone of the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau on Thursday and presented the additional free-room package.
"The Alabama CVB is working hard to attract Southwest to Pensacola, and we wanted to lead that," MacQueen said. "I encourage all hoteliers and condo rental companies in the Pensacola region and Alabama Gulf Coast to contribute to this vital economic cause."

(Pensacola News Journal)

Photo of the Day / Iberia A319-111 EC-KKS

(Photo by AJ Best)

Iberia A319-111 (3320) EC-KKS is captured arriving at London-Heathrow Airport (LHR/EGLL) sporting the carriers retro theme livery.

Interesting new Gulfstreams at Long Beach

Gulfstream G550 HZ-ALFA (cn ?) in the paint shop.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G550 B-LSM (cn ?), was towed from the paint facilities this afternoon at about 6:40pm PST and G550 HZ-ALFA (cn ?) was spotted in the paint shop.

C-17A 08-0003 (F-211) NATO3 takes first flight.

Short final to Rwy 30 (Photo by Michael Carter)
Taxies to the Boeing C-17A flight ramp following it first pre-delivery test flight. (Photo by Michael Carter)

C-17A 08-0003 (F-211) NATO3 performed her first pre-delivery test flight this afternoon at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) departing shortly after 1:00pm PST, returning at 6:07pm.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Virgin America Reality Show

The CW is adding a new reality show to it's roster. This one will follow flight attendents who work for Virgin America Airlines. It's name: Fly Girls!

The show will follow five flight attendants as the jet-set across the country and enjoy places like New York City, South Beach, and where else, Las Vegas! The show's premise has the girls constantly looking for "good times, great parties, adventure and love."
Let's hope the latter isn't found in a airplane bathroom stall!!!!

Actually, scratch that. It's asking too much! There always has to be a whore!
Kristen Vadas, head of alternative programming for the CW, released a statement explaining more about the show:

“This show is about real, down-to-earth young women who happen to have landed in an exceptionally glamorous, high-flying career filled with exotic locations and handsome strangers. We’re thrilled to be working with Virgin America for this unique peek into a whirlwind lifestyle that shows how tough it is to be grounded when you work 35,000 feet in the air.”

Just one problem there: no "real, down-to-earth young" woman would actually do a crappy reality show. That's what makes them horribly wonderful!

The show has already been picked up for 8 episodes and is slated to premiere in early 2010.


Ryanair to allow "Smokeless Cigarettes" but for a Price

European low-cost giant Ryanair typically grabs headlines by announcing draconian amenities cuts or by finding ways to add fees for even the most basic of services. But, now, the airline is bringing back a flying perk that's most-often associated with the "golden age" of flying. Kind of.
Ryanair announced this week that it would allow passengers to smoke on board. Of course, there's a catch. Passengers won't actually be lighting up. Instead, the airline will permit passengers to use its new brand of "Smokeless Cigarettes" during its flights. And, as you may have guessed, Ryanair says in a press release that it will sell those smokeless cigarettes "for just €6 – or just under $9 per pack.

The Irish Times says the so-called smokeless cigarettes "look like the real thing but do not have to be lit to provide nicotine to the user … . A company statement said they contained no toxins or chemicals and were harmless to the user and to those around them." So, why introduce them? In its press release, Ryanair barely discusses its latest fee-generating opportunity, saying instead that "a recent survey over 24,000 Ryanair passengers said they would like to smoke during flights."

The Independent Online of South Africa quotes Ryanair as saying the introduction of the smokeless cigarettes means smokers no longer need "to worry about long flights without a cigarette." Ryanair adds its "new range of smokeless cigarettes (ensures) passengers get their required nicotine hit without breaking the law by 'lighting up' onboard." And, again, don’t forget the charge of about $9.

Will there be a market for Ryanair's latest "product?" The Daily Mail of London talked some people who tried the smokeless cigarettes. The Daily Mail writes "smoker Andrea Russell, 38, was not impressed by the substitutes saying it didn't give her the same feeling as smoking a real cigarette, although she agreed it could be comforting to hold the smokeless cigarette in her hands during a flight. Iwana Falkiewecz, 28, agreed, saying she couldn't feel the usual rush from the substitute but it could be good enough if you were desperate for nicotine."

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today in the Sky)

Tenatative Labor Agreement Rejected by Pinnacle Airlines Pilots

A federal mediator will determine the next steps for US regional operator Pinnacle Airlines and its pilots now that members of Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have rejected a tentative agreement management and negotiators reached in August of this year.

Pinnacle and ALPAhave been in contract negotiationssince February 2005. The National Mediation Board (NBM) began mediating their talks in September 2006, after which ALPA sued the airline in October 2007 over claims that Pinnacle violated the Railway Labour Act. Then the carrier sued the union in January 2008, alleging bad-faith bargaining. A Pinnacle spokesman says both lawsuits are still pending.

The proposed deal included one-time signing bonuses totalling roughly $10 million, Pinnacle vice president and CFO Peter Hunt revealed during an August investors call.He explainedPinnacle's current average wage is as much as 6% below the industry average.

While Pinnacle executives declined to discuss contract specifics, carrier CEO Philip Trenary said last month that first officers would receive a 20% raise under the proposed deal, noting starting pay for that position is in "the low 20s".

"We felt that the improvements in compensation, benefits and work rules agreed upon by the airline and the pilot negotiating committee are industry competitive, so we are very disappointed that the tentative agreement was not approved by the pilots," says Pinnacle president and general manager Clive Seal says in a statement. ALPA represents some 1,250 Pinnacle pilots.

The union was not immediately available for comment.

(Megan Kuhn -

787 Wing Modifications Commence

Boeing has begun modifying two 787 Dreamliners as it pushes toward meeting its goal of flying the aircraft by the end of 2009.

The company's first 787 to fly, ZA001, along with the static test airframe, ZY997, are currently undergoing modification to return full static strength to the upper stringers of the structure that joins the wing to the side of body of the aircraft. Boeing says the entire process of preparation, installation and restoration will take about three months, with programme sources indicating that the installation itself will take roughly 30 days to complete.

After the installation is complete, Boeing will have to restore ZA001 to flying condition which includes a thorough aqueous wash to remove any debris accumulated during the work inside the fuel tanks. Boeing says that to gain access to the area being modified, some systems and access doors were removed and will have to be reinstalled.

Following the completion of the installation, Boeing will first analyse the fix on ZY997 through a series of static tests that will validate the design, ultimately clearing ZA001 for flight.
After being in the shop for three months, ZA001 will go through a "warm up" process by repeating some gauntlet testing and taxi testing to prepare the 787 for it's maiden flight.

The company announced 23 June that it had discovered that the upper stringers of the wing to body join were not strong enough to meet FAA certification requirements for static strength, curtailing plans to achieve first flight by the close of the second quarter.

(Jon Ostrower -

Rush Limbaugh G550 visits Long Beach

(Photo by Michael Carter)

G550 N1EB (cn 5194) owned by CFS Air LLC is captured just off the deck (Rwy 30) at Long Beach (LGB/KLGB) as it departs for Burbank Airport (BUR/KBUR). Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is reportedly the actual owner of the aircraft.  

Photo of the Day / White Airways A310-304 CS-TEJ

(Photo by Terry Wade)

White Airways A310-304 (494) CS-TEJ is captured arriving at London -Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) on a gorgeous morning in London. The aircraft was originally deliverd to TAP Air Portugal on03/01/1989 as CS-TEJ "Pedro Nunes"  

Technology Still can't Replace Pilots

Aviation safety academics say the term "pilot error" is greatly over-used. Accident chronicles may record human error, they say, but the many occasions when technically troubled flights are saved by ordinary airline crews are not given publicity unless, like the US Airways Airbus A320 Hudson River ditching, they are caught on camera.

Speaking at the UK Royal Aeronautical Society's International Flight Crew Training Conference in London, the US Federal Aviation Administration's chief scientific and technical adviser, Dr Kathy Abbott, and Capt John Cox of the RAeS's operations committee challenged the widely-held belief that sophisticated automation is not far away from taking over pilots' roles.

Dr Abbott said records showed about 30% of all system failure modes that led to accidents had not been anticipated by designers, so there were no checklists to deal with them. The corollary was that pilots successfully dealt with 70% of unanticipated failures, let alone the failures for which there was a checklist, she said.

Meanwhile, since a Thomsonfly Boeing 737-300 crew allowed the aircraft's speed to drop to a dangerously low level on an approach to Bournemouth airport in September 2007 and nearly lost control of the aircraft, the airline's successor, Thomson Airways, has carried out eye-tracking tests of its crews.
The tests have revealed that a few pilots' instrument scans are seriously deficient, even when their performance would have been judged as good by an examiner on the flightdeck.

The implication is that some airline crews, possibly at all airlines, are getting by simply because nothing goes technically wrong on their watch. The worry, says Thomson, is that this pattern may not be correctable because, even with retraining, the pilots concerned tend to revert to their natural patterns later.

(David Learmount -

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 ZS-NRM Goes Down in Durban

South African rescuers are attending the scene of a crash involving an Airlink British Aerospace Jetstream 41 ZS-NRM (msn 41069) at Durban Airport. The aircraft was on a positioning flight, SA8911, from Durban to Pietermaritzburg when the accident occurred at around 08:00, says the carrier. Images from the scene show that the aircraft's fuselage has broken into several pieces.

Airlink says the aircraft departed Durban but, shortly after take-off, the crew declared an emergency, reporting an "engine loss" and smoke from the rear. The Jetstream crashed around 400m (1,300ft) from the airport, it adds, in a school field.

Initial indications suggest the turboprop had been transporting only three crew, with no passengers, and that there are no fatalities. Airlink says it is "deeply shocked and saddened by this event".

(David Kaminski-Morrow -

UAE A330 MRTT will Feature Passenger Cabin

Etihad Airways A330-243 (823) A6-EYN.
(Photo by Robbie Shaw)
The United Arab Emirates air force is to equip its three Airbus Military A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports (MRTT) with the standard passenger cabin used by the country's national airline, Etihad Airways.

The aircraft will be converted by Airbus Military for an air-to-air refuelling role from "green" A330-200s at the company's Getafe facility near Madrid, and will feature Etihad's two-class, 262-seat layout and full galley and in-flight entertainment system fit. Service entry of the first UAE A330 MRTT is scheduled for 2011.

"They like an interior prepared not for troops, but for real passengers," says Miguel Morell, Airbus Military head of derivative programmes. "If you go inside the aircraft, you are going to see an Etihad aircraft."

(Andrew Doyle -

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WTO Dispute could effect USAF Tanker Decision

The trade dispute between Airbus and Boeing has taken a central role in the fight to build the KC-X tanker for the US Air Force. Northrop Grumman and EADS North America are offering the KC-45, an Airbus A330-200 modified into a tanker. Boeing is considering both the KC-767 and KC-777, depending on how the USAF sets the requirements for the potentially 179-aircraft order.

A draft request for proposals, expected to be released within weeks, will set the requirements based on the tanker mission, but some of Boeing's allies in Congress want an interim ruling by the World Trade Organisation stating that Airbus benefited from illegal subsidies to factor heavily into the selection process for KC-X contract.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley has said he opposes making any changes to the unreleased draft RFP to account for the WTO's confidential interim report. It also remains unclear what legal ability the Department of Defense has to wrap international trade disputes into the selection process for a weapon system.

However, even as the WTO considers a similar case against Boeing, the US manufacturer's allies in Congress appear intent on making the confidential interim ruling a major factor in the USAF's decision.

On 15 September, Senator Patty Murray, who represents Washington state, wrote to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, expressing her "expectation" that the WTO ruling will be factored into selection process for the KC-X deal.

Murray described the issue as a matter of maintaining the health of the domestic aerospace industry. "I want to ensure the actions of the DoD do not unintentionally penalise our domestic industry," Murray wrote. A spokesman for Gates has said the impact of the WTO ruling on the KC-X contract competition is still being examined within the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, a group of 47 Congress members, led by Representatives Rick Larsen, of Washington, and Todd Tiahrt, of Kansas, have sent a letter to President Barack Obama to also press for making the WTO decision a factor in the KC-X selection.

The letter asks the Obama administration to reconcile its trade policy that accuses Airbus of harming a domestic industry with a defence procurement process that remains neutral in acquisition matters involving trade disputes.

"Our federal trade policies and defence procurement policies should work in co-ordination, not conflict," Larsen says. "We believe that American taxpayers must not be forced to foot the bill for products which benefited from illegal subsidies."

The Northrop/EADS team's response has so far come from only a single voice in Congress, with Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama warning that "Boeing's allies" in Congress are calling for "vigilante justice".

On 16 September, Shelby also wrote to Gates to argue on behalf of Northrop's position in the KC-X competition. Shelby reminded Gates that the preliminary WTO ruling is only one of two parallel claims filed against Airbus and Boeing. The case pending against Boeing will likely be completed late in the fourth quarter, Shelby wrote.

Shelby also warns that wrapping the WTO trade disputes into defence contract awards sets a dangerous precedent for both sides. "It would be a grave mistake, with severe consequences to both our economy and trade relations, to use a prelimary WTO report as justification for restricting the ability of our military to procure the best equipment possible," Shelby wrote.

(Stephen Trimmble -

Boeing 787 and 747-8 may be sharing flight test skies together

Boeing has decoupled the flight test programmes for the 787 and 747-8, allowing the two new aircraft to potentially take to the skies for the first time simultaneously.

The 787 and 747-8 are both now scheduled to have first flight during the fourth quarter, most likely the second half of November or first half of December. To avoid having to slow down one flight test programme to keep another on schedule, Boeing has taken the unprecedented step of entirely separating the two flight test programmes and allocating each with a dedicated set of equipment and resources.

"We have completely decoupled the flight test programme on the 747 from the 787," says 747 programme vice president and general manager Mo Yahyavi. "Each programme [now] has its own allocated resources and support equipment."

He says first flight for both the 787 and 747-8 could "absolutely" occur the same day now that the two aren't sharing flight test resources. But whether that happens purely depends on both aircraft becoming ready for first flight at the same time.

Yahyavi says separating the two flight test programmes has required additional investment as typically all of Boeing's commercial aircraft programmes share flight test resources and equipment. "We've had to do some extra efforts out of the ordinary because we have two major flight test programmes going on. We needed to make sure our equipment was reinforced and our resources reallocated properly to get the job done," he explained during an interview with Flight International at his office adjacent to the 747 assembly line.

Yahyavi says the 747-8 programme on its own now has the resources to fly all three test aircraft before the end of this year. This includes having sufficient test pilots, engineers, data analysts and "supporting team members for operation of the airplane during the flight tests". "We're ready and go and fly the aircraft," he adds.

(Brendan Sobie -

Photo of the Day / Farnair Europe Fokker Aircraft F-27 HA-FAB

(Photo by Keith Burton)

Farnair Europe Fokker F-27 (10370) HA-FAB is captured departing Southend-Rochford (SEN/EGMC) on a less than perfect day.

The aircraft was delivered to Air France as F-BPUB on June 26th, 1964 ex-Fokker PH-FMS. On June 1st 1994 the aircraft was sold to Farner Air Transport and registered HB-ISY. The company changed its name to Farnair Europe in June 1997.   

Last United Boeing 737-322 will be Retired October 28th

United Airlines 737-322 (24228/1594) N333UA delivered to the
 carrier on 08/18/1988, taxies for a morning departure at
 John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA).
(Photo by Michael Carter)

United Airlines will retire the last Boeing 737 jet from its fleet on Oct. 28. In a message issued to employees this morning, United says its "last Boeing 737 -- the beloved 'guppy' that served our airline and millions of customers well for more than 41 years -- will retire from revenue service at the end of October, in line with the fleet retirement plans announced in the fall of 2008."

United's final 737 flight will be on a 737-322 designated as United Flight 737. Its last day of service will begin with an early morning flight from Washington Dulles, with stops at Chicago O'Hare, Denver and Los Angeles before going on to San Francisco, where the airline will perform decommissioning work on the jet at its San Francisco maintenance base. Then, the jet will be transported to an airliner storage yard in Victorville, California.

The company also indicated that there could be some fanfare for its 737 sendoff. "Given that literally thousands of United's employees have touched these aircraft over the years, both above and below the wing, plans are being made for teams at each of the hubs to commemorate the event during the respective ground service times," United's memo reads. "Many of our customers, particularly those who are aviation enthusiasts and engage in the numerous online communities, are expected to fly on one or more of the segments, and special announcements and other activities are being planned for on board."

United called the retirement of its 737s "an important step forward," saying the "decision to retire all 94 of the B737s enabled (it) to take important proactive steps in reducing capacity at a time when fuel costs had hit record-high levels." United adds that the phaseout of the 737s – along with the retirement of six older Boeing 747 jets – has positioned it "at the forefront of the industry in adjusting capacity to help increase pricing power."

The carrier notes that the retirement of the 737s also will simplify its fleet, adding that the 737s had also been receiving the lowest customer satisfaction ratings among its narrowbody fleet. Going forward, United says current discussions with jetmakers Airbus and Boeing on replacing its Boeing 757 and widebody aircraft "is the next step leading to a more effective and efficient operating fleet for United in the years ahead."

(USA - Today in the Sky)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fed Ex Takes Delivery of its First 777-FS2 Freighter

Fed Ex 777-FS2 (37721/813) N850FD rolls for departure on a pre-delivery test flight.
(Photo by Joe G. Walker)

FedEx has taken delivery of its first of at least 30 Boeing 777 freighters and plans to use the new type to operate non-stop services between the US and Asia from January.

FedEx CEO David Bronczek formally took the keys to 777-FS2 N850FD (37721/813) at a ceremony on 22 September at Boeing's Everett plant. FedEx will fly the aircraft from Everett's Paine Field to Memphis, Tennessee on 25 September and will initially operate the 777 on proving flights between its Memphis and Anchorage hubs.

While FedEx will be able to carry revenue cargo on the initial Memphis-Anchorage flights the 777s are intended to replace and supplement Boeing MD-11s on transpacific routes. FedEx Express International president Mike Ducker says the carrier will be ready to use the 777F on scheduled transpacific services in January. At that point FedEx will have two 777s in service as its second aircraft is now scheduled for delivery in November.

FedEx has already trained 78 of its pilots for the 777 and installed two full motion 777 simulators at its Memphis hub.

Ducker says FedEx will operate the initial pair of aircraft on a US-Asia route but "hasn't yet determined the specific routing in terms of city pairs". However, FedEx sources say China will be the first scheduled destination for 777F. FedEx operates a hub at Guangzhou in southern China.

Ducker says the 777F will allow FedEx to cut shipping times between the US and Asia by one to three hours. Currently FedEx transpacific services between the continental US and Asia require a fuel stop in Anchorage. The 777 has the range to operate these services non-stop without payload restrictions. Ducker says eventually 777Fs will also be used on direct flights between Europe and Asia.

"The 777 freighter is a game changer," he told reporters during a briefing prior to the delivery ceremony. "I believe it will improve our competitiveness substantially in the global network." Bronczek at the delivery ceremony singled out the 777F's "unprecedented range" and said the aircraft will "be able to provide unparalleled service to customers". In addition to improved transit times, Bronczek says the 777F will allow FedEx to improve its reliability and lower its costs.

The 777 becomes the largest and longest range freighter in the 650-aircraft FedEx fleet. FedEx, which had not taken delivery of a production freighter from Boeing since the 727, also becomes the first US operator of the 777F.

Before today Boeing had delivered eight 777Fs to four customers - Air France, LAN, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) and German bank DVB. Emirates is operating the DAE-owned aircraft and AeroLogic the DVB-owned aircraft. Boeing also has completed two additional 777Fs which are have been parked in the desert as part of a delivery deferral arrangement with Air France.

With 30 firm aircraft on order, FedEx is the largest 777F customer. Ducker says the carrier's third and fourth 777F will be delivered in the first calender quarter of 2010.

The last aircraft in the first batch of 15 are now scheduled to be delivered by April 2014. The last aircraft in the second batch of 15 are now scheduled to be delivered by April 2019. FedEx also has options for 15 additional 777Fs and is looking at 777 converted freighters.

Despite the economic downturn Ducker says FedEx believes now is a good time to add the 777F to the FedEx fleet. "Right now we're seeing positive signs," Ducker says of the global economy, adding Asia in particular China is leading the recovery.

"As sales continue to improve, an inventory restocking we believe we'll have to occur. We are starting to see that now," Ducker says. "We've reached bottom and traffic is beginning to climb from multi-year lows."


Photo of the Day / Global Aviation DC-9-32 ZS-GAJ

(Photo by Adrian Arzemheirmer)

Global Aviation DC-9-32 (47730/828) ZS-GAJ has received this gorgeous livery to celebrate the 2010 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour which will be held in South Africa. The aircraft is seen in Zurich, Switzerland (GVA/LSGG) following it's ferry flight which commenced in Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB/FAJS). 

The aircraft was originally deliverd to Garuda Indonesian Airways as PK-GNO "Jamboaye" on August 13th, 1978. Merpati Nusantara Airlines leased the aircraft in February 1994 and operated it until November 1994 when it was WFU and stored at Jakarta Indonesia. The aircraft was bought by Australian Aircraft Sales in November 1995, then sold to Midwest Express Airlines on February 6th, 1991 as N209ME. The carrier sold the aircraft to M and  I First National Leasing Corporation on September 9th, 1996 and immediately leased the aircraft back. Midwest Airlines as it was now known returned the aircraft to M and I Leasing Corporation on May 23rd, 2004. The aircraft has since had two more owners Protours US LLC which bought the aircraft on May 24th, 2004 and Raceair LLC buying the aircraft on November 24th, 2005. The aircraft was last registered as 3D-MRW.

Cargo Carriers Expect Slow Recovery

United Parcel Service (UPS) has been adding new aircraft to it's fleet in recent years. Here we see N570UP 747-44AF/SCD (35667/1388) on the ramp at Anchorage, Alaska.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Air cargo has always been an optimistic industry, and in the second half of 2008, when traffic volumes started to drop, air cargo managers were confident that the downturn would be short-lived. Even in December and January, when year-on-year declines reached 23%, plenty of executives still predicted that there would be a sharp recovery by the third quarter of this year. The optimists expected that once the economy recovered, companies would be caught short with excessively low inventory levels and would rush to use air freight to replenish them. This is what had always happened in previous air cargo downturns.

It is therefore ironic that nine months later, with reports of a fewgreen shoots and definite signs of inventory restocking, air cargo is locked in the worst depression it has ever known. Managers have not just discounted the prospect of a sharp bounce back,they are predicting several gloomy years ahead.

"We think the industry could be in trouble for the next three to four years and donot expect to see the levels we saw in 2007 until 2013 at the earliest," says Ulrich Ogiermann, chief executive of Luxembourg-based all-cargo airline Cargolux. "There will be no peak season this year or next year. I think it will be two or three years before we see a recovery," agrees Robert Frei, head of corporate air freight for global freight forwarder Panalpina.

The initial onset of the downturn is evident in the 2008 Airline Business Cargo Rankings, which show many carriers posting lower year-on-year traffic. And while revenue declined for only a few in 2008, the picture has since crystalised and for many revenue is looking twice as gloomy as traffic.

In the quarter to June cargo revenue at Air France-KLM fell 41.5% based on a 22.7% traffic decline, while those at American Airlines fell by 42.6%, based on 25.1% lower traffic. For the same quarter yields at Singapore Airlines dropped by a third and interim yields at Cathay Pacific fell32.8%. IATA calculates a 40% fall in revenue and 21% fall in second quarter yields for the industry overall.

The reason for these precipitous revenue falls is not hard to find. Ogiermann has a nice phrase for it: "irrational capacity". More charitably, freighter operators have found it hard to cut capacity fast enough to match the slump in demand and, since the slump hit passenger operations six months later than those for cargo, there has also been an overhang of belly capacity. That said, there are signs that in recent months, capacity cuts have caught up with the market. In May, Singapore Airlines recorded a 21.4% year-on-year fall in capacity, compared with a 20.7% fall in traffic. In July, both traffic and capacity at Air France-KLM were down by 17%.

IATA says 227 freighters - more than 10% of the global freighter fleet - are now parked in the desert. Cathay Pacific, which has 24 Boeing 747 freighters, has grounded five and leased another one out. Lufthansa has four Boeing MD-11 freighters parked and says by the end of September it will have reduced freighter capacity by 30% year-on-year.

What undermines these efforts somewhat is that airlines are waiting to take delivery of an unprecedented number of new freighters. Boeing has 63 outstanding orders for its 777-200LR freighter, having delivered eight already, and 78 orders for the 747-8 freighter, which is due to start production next year. Airbus has 65 orders for the A330-200 freighter. To put these numbers in perspective, the entire 20-year production run of the Boeing 747-400F amounted toonly 166 aircraft, including the 400ERF versions.

The credit crunch will almost certainly slow down the roll-out of new aircraft. Bankers such as Bertrand Grabowski, head of aircraft finance at German-based DVB Bank, report that there is almost no finance available for freighter aircraft at present, making it likely that airlines will seek to delay deliveries.


But that has not stopped some carriers from making awkward decisions. Cathay Pacific has parked some 747-400 conversions that it has only had in its fleet for a year or two, while at the same time taking delivery of six brand new 747-400ERFs over the past 12 months.

Air France-KLM, meanwhile, has leased four of its factory-built 747-400ERFs to Netherlands carrier Martinair, which itself has grounded four 747-400 conversions. That has still not prevented the group from having to park two more 747-400ERFs, along with two 777 freighters, which Air France has only just received from Boeing as launch customer.

More radical steps could be on the way. In August, it was reported that Japan Airlines was considering a merger with Nippon Cargo Airlines, an unsurprising move when both carriers are in a crisis on the cargo side. In the second quarter, JAL saw a 31.1% fall in cargo traffic and a 56.2% fall in revenue. NCA, meanwhile, has an ambitious order for 14 747-8 freighters to digest.

In late September Air France-KLM was due to reveal its strategy for coping with the downturn. Some indication of the scope of changes under consideration came from Air France chief Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, unveiling second-quarter results for the carrier: "The cargo situation is extremely depressed," he said. "These are terrible figures, never seen before. Air France is losing a lot of money. We are a large operator, and we are trying to reduce our exposure. In cargo, we will have to go on with a steep decrease in our activities."

Lufthansa Cargo, meanwhile, seems to be already thinking the unthinkable. In late August, board member Andreas Otto, sent - or at least drafted - a letter to customers, which was leaked to the cargo press. In it, Otto said: "If current market trends continue, we expect that in the medium termthe majority of the world freighter fleet will have to be permanently grounded because there will simply be no economic justification for keeping these aircraft in service."

Otto went on to announce an across-the-board 25% increase in rates, so the letter could be read as part of a negotiating ploy, but it could also reflect doubts about the future of the cargo business in the Lufthansa boardroom. The industry has been here before. The US majors had substantial freighter operators in the 1970s, but all but Northwest withdrew from the market by mid-1985 due to competition from express carriers and the increased availability of low-priced belly capacity.

Much will depend, of course, on what happens next in the global economy and whether former growth levels will return for air cargo even if the economy does pick up. It is interesting that despite the prevailing mood of pessimism, many carriers do report some green shoots, or a "green fuzz" as one European cargo manager puts it.


Industry figuresinsistthe signs are tentative, however and are reluctant to call it a trend. "We have been wrong so many times this year in our predictions that we have stopped making them," as Ogiermann puts it. And yet Ram Menen, divisional senior vice-president for cargo at Emirates, reports that shipping of clothingis returning, having almost disappeared earlier in the year. "I am not an economist, but I have the gut feeling the market is doing what we expected it to do earlier this year, which is pick up towards the year end," he says. Lufthansa, meanwhile, reports improved consumer confidence in Europe and signs of a pick-up in traffic out of Asia.

Rupert Hogg, director of cargo at Cathay Pacific, says both volumes and yields have started to improve in Hong Kong, albeit from a low base. In July, tonnage at Cathay was only down by 6.7% and load factors were up by 6.6% yearonyear. However, Hogg adds: "Much of the volume improvement appears to be a consequence of inventory replenishment after a period of freeze, so this current phase does not necessarily represent a recovery in fundamental demand."

IATA, in its third-quarter 2009 cargo analysis makes a similar point. Pointing to a 10% recovery in air cargo FTKs from the December low point and a restocking of inventories by air freight at the expense of sea freight, which are typical signs of an economic recovery, it nevertheless notes: "The upturn remains fragile until the economic recovery broadens out from an inventory cycle to stronger consumption and business investment."

In any case, improving figures from airlines and airports need to be treated with caution. Traffic began shrinking in June and July 2008 - gently at first, but much more sharply in September, and then very sharply in November and December. That means year-on-year comparisons are bound to improve as the year goes on and by December, even parity with the 2008 figure will mean a fall of more than 20% over 2007 levels. That would leave air freight with its worst year to date and more or less back where it was in 2000, in traffic terms. This "lost decade" is prompting some to wonder if the optimistic long-term forecasts for air cargo are really valid.


Bob Dahl, managing director of Seattle-based consultants Air Cargo Management Group, points out that in freighter terms real industry growth came in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1980sthe freighter fleet doubled and in the 1990sit increased by a factor of 1.5 to reach some 1,700 aircraft in 2000. Today, the total is only 1,948, including grounded aircraft.

The big question, says Dahl, is whether the rapid growth phase of air cargo is over, or will the 6% annual growth so often forecast by Boeing eventually resume? "The question is what will happen to global trade, to globalisation, to consumer trends," he says. "There has been a tendency in Europe and the USA for consumers to spend money they didnot have and that drove air cargo growth. There is no guarantee we will go back to that. Some would argue that we have struggled to have 6% growtheven in the good years of this decade when the economy was robust."

The idea that air cargo may have reached its maturity phase is not a new one, but it was previously regarded as a bit eccentric by air cargo managers. Now it has definitely become more mainstream. Part of this may just be gloom caused by the current situation. As Boeing regional director, cargo marketing, Thomas Hoang points out, when you are in a trough, it is difficult to see the way ahead.

But there is also a longer-term worry that the globalisation of manufacturing is slowing down - or even reversing. A report published byErnst & Young in August suggested that many large companies in Europe and the USA were switching from global supply chains to regional ones, owing to a variety of factors. These include concerns over high fuel prices and their impact on transport costs, a desire to be more responsive to market changes, a need for more regulatory oversight of suppliers and worries about their carbon footprint. None of this is good news for air cargo.

Even if globalisation does not go into reverse, manufacturers may be getting smarter in their use of air freight. Many prefer not to use it at all if they can avoid it and they are getting cleverer at finding those ways. Even arch-optimist Menen concedes this, citing an example from the mobile phone industry, where a product might only have a market for six months before a new model comes along and makes it obsolete. He says: "In the past, that might have meant air freight for the whole six months. Now, the first batch goes by air, the second by sea-air and the third by sea."


Nevertheless, he remains optimistic about long-term air freight growth, as does Hoang, who notes that air cargo has always grown at about twice the rate of GDP. "And even in the current downturn, GDP forecasts for the next 20 years are still predicting 3% growth per annum," he says, adding that cargo is getting more efficient - with new aircraft and improved processes - and so will be cheaper and thus more attractive to shippers in future.

On globalisation, Hoang believes labour costs in China will continue to remain lower than those in eastern Europe and Mexico, giving the former an advantage. But if Chinese labour costs do go up, so will its consumer power, drawing in imports from Europe and the USA. For all these reasons, Boeing is sticking with its 5.4% annual air cargo growth prediction spanning the next 20 years.

Only time will tell who is right. But in the shorter term, a more important factor for air freight is that bankers seem to be subscribing to the gloomier outlook. Grabowski says potential aircraft purchase backers are wary of freighters because of such longer-term concerns about industry growth. If that makes it harder for carriers to finance freighter purchases, the result could be a capacity shortagewhen the recovery comes. In that case, airlines that can access finance could emerge from this downturn with less competition for their cargo business, better yields and lower costs through more modern equipment.

On the other hand, some pundits point to the big reserve of parked capacity, including relatively new 747 freighter conversions, which could flood the market once an upturn comes, leading to a drop in yields and a return to damaging rate wars. Hogg is at least upbeat, speculating that many parked freighters will never return to service. "Some were parked to defer heavy maintenance and these aircraft would need significant capital investment to reactivate," he says. Meanwhile, Grabowski points out that venture capitalist funds for new start-up carriers will be hard to find.

So a more slimmed down, saner air cargo industry could yet emerge from this crisis. But as Ogiermann points out, now is not the time to make predictions.

(Story by Peter Conway -