Friday, March 29, 2013


Spotted G-IVSP (c/n 1300) N226MP operated by MPM Financial LLC at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) as she taxied for departure to an unknown destination.

New G650 at Orange County (SNA/KSNA)

Hamilton Aviation Inc. G650 (c/n 6018) N673HA ex-N618GA rests on the Atlantic ramp at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA). The aircraft arrived the previous evening (3/28/2013) at 17:22 pst from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) on her delivery flight.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Court approves US Airways-American Airlines merger

American Airlines, US Airways tails

American Airlines, US Airways tails
(Courtesy American Airlines)

A US bankruptcy judge approved the American Airlines-US Airways merger Wednesday, a key step toward making the mega-merger a reality.

Judge Sean Lane, presiding over American’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case in a federal court in New York, also approved American’s request to extend to May 29 its deadline for submitting a plan to emerge from Chapter 11 protection. “The merger is an excellent result,” Lane said, according to the Associated Press. “I don't think anybody disputes that.”

The American-US Airways merger also requires the approval of the US Department of Justice and US Airways’ shareholders, both of which are expected. American hopes to emerge from bankruptcy protection and close the merger with US Airways in the third quarter.

American’s request for the court to approve the merger also included a request to approve a severance package for chairman, president and CEO Tom Horton valued at around $20 million. Lane, however, did not approve the severance package. Horton will become chairman of the new American temporarily but plans to leave the company shortly after the merger is completed. US Airways chairman and CEO Doug Parker will be the merged airline’s CEO.

Bloomberg reported that Lane did not express opposition to the severance package, but questioned whether it was appropriate under US bankruptcy law to approve it along with approving the merger. Instead, according to the news agency, the judge indicated the severance request should be included in the company’s full plan of reorganization to be submitted by May 29.

(Aaron Karp - ATWonline News)

Airport towers scheduled for closer could remain open with local funding

The FAA released guidance yesterday to the 149 airports whose contract towers are scheduled to close as a result of budget cuts that outlines the shutdown schedule and addresses what will happen to the tower structures and equipment.

It also emphasizes that these towers could continue to operate with local funding, a measure to which 16 airports that were on the potential closure list have already committed. According to the guidance, on April 7 the agency “will begin to cease funding for [the affected] 149 contract control towers in three phases,” with funds stopping for the lowest traffic facilities in the first phase and for the busier ones in the last phase.

As such, federal funding will be cut off on April 7 for 24 contract towers, on April 21 for another 46 and on May 5 for the remaining 79. Though federal funding will end, the FAA has left the door wide open for airport operators to fund the towers locally.

“The airport operator has a choice: to operate as a non-towered airport…[or] to continue providing tower services as a non-federal control tower,” the FAA said. “[We are] prepared to discuss the continued use of buildings and equipment with airports for those who desire to continue providing tower services.” But for those airport operators who opt to go non-towered, the FAA will begin disconnecting and removing equipment at these towers within 90 days after federal funding ends.

(Aviation International News)

Large-cabin bizjets account for 65% of bizjet fleet in China

With this year’s Asian Business Association Conference & Exhibition (ABACE) now less than three weeks away, aircraft brokerage firm Asian Sky Group has released a comprehensive survey of the number and types of business jets operating in China.

According to the Hong Kong-based company’s report, the fleet of private jets in the greater China area numbered 336 as of the end of last year, with 57 percent based in mainland China and 33 percent in Hong Kong (the remaining 10 percent presumably based in Macau and Taiwan).
 Overall, Gulfstream and Bombardier accounted for 65 percent of the in-service fleet in China, which is dominated by large-cabin-class and larger jets. Last year saw 96 business jets added to the regional fleet, for a 40-percent growth rate.
Of these jets, 60 went to mainland China, a strong increase over the 43 added in 2011. Among the mainland-based operators, the survey found that just four management companies–Capital Airlines/Deer Jet, BAA, Beijing Airlines and China Eastern–account for 55 percent of the business jets in use there.

(Air International News)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

C-17A (P-220) 10-0220 delivered

C-17A (P-220) 10-0220 was delivered to McChord AFB today, departing Long Beach airport (LGB/KLGB) at approximately 09:30 pst. In the above photo the aircraft is captured rotating from Rwy 30 as it departed on a pre-delivery test flight on March 13, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Southwest Airlines looks forward to end of Wright Amendment

The final curtain doesn’t drop on the Wright amendment for another 19 months. But already, Southwest Airlines Co. is thinking about what the change will mean for service at Dallas Love Field — and the prospect has airline officials excited.

“The repeal of the Wright amendment is a fabulous opportunity for Southwest,” said Bob Jordan, the airline’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

As of 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 14, 2014, Southwest and other carriers at the Dallas airport will be allowed to fly nonstop to any other U.S. city, the first time they’ve had that right since the federal law limiting flights at Love Field went into effect on Feb. 15, 1980.

The likely result — a substantial increase in Southwest’s flights out of the Dallas airport and nonstop flights to its biggest cities, which it now reaches with at least one stop in between.

Most North Texan old-timers know the history of the Wright amendment and the Love Field restrictions by heart.

The limits, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in February 1980, were part of a compromise between Southwest, which wanted to fly beyond Texas, and Dallas, Fort Worth and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

In September 1979, Southwest launched its first flights from Dallas to a non-Texas city, New Orleans. It had also proposed Dallas-Chicago Midway Airport flights.

Officials of Dallas and Fort Worth, co-owners of D/FW Airport, then asked House Majority Leader Jim Wright, D-Fort Worth, to try to stop the expansion.

Wright originally proposed that Congress prohibit any flights out of Love Field beyond the Texas state line. When that idea met resistance, a revised proposal stated that Love Field flights could go only to Texas and four adjoining states — Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico.

The law remained substantially intact for the next 26 years, although Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas were tucked into the Wright amendment boundaries in 1997, and Missouri was added in 2005.

A new compromise
But Southwest, which tolerated the limits for nearly a quarter-century, rebelled in 2004, with chief executive Gary Kelly announcing that the airline was abandoning its stance of “passionate neutrality.” He called for the law’s repeal.

Southwest’s effort touched off a tremendous political battle that ended in a June 2006 compromise among the two cities, Southwest, D/FW Airport and its primary tenant, American Airlines Inc.
The compromise had three major parts:

The limits would expire in eight years, after which airlines would be able to fly nonstop to any destination in the United States. However, commercial carriers could not fly to any international destinations from the Dallas airport.

In the interim, from 2006 to 2014, airlines would be able to sell tickets to anywhere in the United States, although passengers would have to make at least one stop inside the Wright amendment area. For example, a ticket from Dallas to Chicago would require at least one stop along the way, in places like Little Rock, Oklahoma City or Kansas City.

Love Field’s facilities would be remodeled or replaced, with an all-new 20-gate concourse to replace all existing gates at the 1958-era airport. Southwest would control 16 gates, with Continental Airlines Inc. and American Airlines each controlling two.

In an interview last week, Jordan called the end of the Wright restrictions “a huge opportunity” for Dallas-based Southwest.

“Just at the highest level, it gives us the opportunity to add more than 65 new nonstop destinations out of Dallas,” Jordan said. “That doesn’t mean we will add those all, of course. But it gives us a huge number of new markets.”

He expects Southwest to serve its major cities — like Chicago, Las Vegas and Phoenix — with nonstop service.

“We know that customers prefer nonstop service to both connecting and one-stop service,” he said.

In addition, “we also have a large number of markets that we don’t serve today that make sense now because we can serve them nonstop,” he said. “I can’t give you exact numbers, but I would expect we will see a substantial number of not just new destinations but also new flights out of Love Field.”

In January, Southwest offered as few as 125 daily departures, but it typically goes up to 130 to 135 flights during peak months. “Could Dallas see 30 or 40 new daily flights? Absolutely, from Southwest Airlines,” Jordan said.

In 2012, Southwest carried about 7.9 million passengers in and out of Love Field. Does that suggest that Southwest, with the added flights, could be carrying 10 million a year at Love Field? “Easily,” Jordan said.

Financial outlook
Southwest hasn’t made a firm estimate on what the end of the flight restrictions will mean for its finances. But it has been quite enthusiastic about what the loosening of the rules in 2006 has meant for its bottom line.

Before the 2006 change, Southwest could not sell a ticket for travel beyond the Wright amendment boundaries. A person wanting to go farther would have to buy two tickets and, at the intermediate airport, get off the flight from Love, pick up their bags, recheck the bags and get another boarding pass — even if it was to get on the same airplane they had just exited.

Since 2006, Southwest can sell tickets to anywhere as long as there’s that one stop in a Wright amendment state. Its customers can stay on the same airplane and have one-stop service to Southwest’s major airports in Las Vegas, Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Orlando, among others.

The carrier’s Love Field traffic increased immediately and noticeably after the change. In 2005, it carried about 5.6 million passengers. Two years later, that number had jumped to 7.4 million, up 31 percent.

In 2012, its 7.9 million passengers represented a 40 percent increase in just seven years — despite a significant drop in its traditional short-haul markets like Houston and Austin.

“Since 2006, the incremental revenue just from flying passengers on through and connecting basis out of Dallas Love Field is $1.1 billion,” Southwest executive vice president Ron Ricks told analysts and investors at a December meeting. “And today the annual run rate on that incremental revenue is $250 million.”

The Wright amendment’s justification in 1979 and 1980 — and the core of its defense in the years since then — was that more service out of Love Field would hurt the area’s main airport, D/FW.

American Airlines told elected officials that it would have to split its operations between Dallas and D/FW because expanded service at Love Field would siphon away traffic from its D/FW hub.

Even today, there are worries that a busier Love Field will mean a less busy D/FW. The bigger airport is rebuilding its four oldest terminals that date from the 1970s, with part of the justification being the need to get ready for the increased competition from Love Field and low-fare carrier Southwest.

Aviation consultant Mike Boyd, a longtime observer of North Texas aviation who has consulted for a number of parties including American in the past, says pish-posh.

“Long term, is this good for the metroplex? Absolutely. Near term and long term, is this going to be good for Southwest? Stand by for news, it’s going to be great for Southwest. They’re going to do whatever they have to do,” said Boyd, chairman of the Boyd Group of Evergreen, Colo.

“But is this going to take a lot of traffic from D/FW? The answer is no. Is it going to slash fares? Our friends at Spirit Airlines have already done that and will continue to do that.”
Impact on D/FW?
He sharply disagrees with those who say that Love Field’s location in the heart of Dallas gives it an advantage over D/FW, built between Dallas and Fort Worth. New airlines arriving in North Texas will probably go to D/FW, not Love Field, he said.

“Here’s the deal. Let’s say you’re Virgin America or someone like that, a new carrier. Why would you go to an airport that only accesses a third of the metroplex demand when you can go to D/FW and access 100 percent of the metroplex demand? There’s no competitive advantage of going to Love Field over D/FW,” Boyd said.

“Love Field is not in the middle of the metroplex. It’s isolated. You have parking issues. It’s crowded. It’s hard to get in and out of. Our friends at Southwest will do just fine. But this argument that they’re going to hammer D/FW is hokey. There’s no factual evidence to show it.”

One question that won’t be answered until Southwest adjusts its schedules in late 2014 is the impact on its existing markets out of Love Field.

The 2006 change gave Southwest a reason to keep up its Love Field flights inside the Wright amendment states as a way to provide one-stop service to its big markets beyond the boundaries.

For example, two of its Dallas-Amarillo flights go on to Denver, its fifth-busiest city. Similarly, the Dallas-Albuquerque schedule has five flights that provide one-stop service to other major Southwest destinations — Oakland, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Jordan said Southwest, like other carriers, continues to see erosion in its short-haul markets, but he doesn’t see a big shift in Southwest’s short-haul demand out of Dallas. Still, he acknowledges that some shorter flights are doing well enough now because there may be 30 to 40 passengers going on to Las Vegas, for example.

“You’ll see some modest reduction in some of those short-haul markets because that long-haul traveler was helping prop up the demand, Dallas-Amarillo, for example,” he said. “So I think you’ll see a little bit of shifting of short haul in some markets, but I think it’ll be very modest.”

And those losses will be offset by the passengers flying nonstop from Dallas to Las Vegas, he said.
“The sum total of all this will be more flights, more passengers out of Love Field.”

The limits on flights at Dallas Love Field go away in October 2014, nearly 35 years after Congress put handcuffs on airlines operating out of that airport. Here’s a chronology of events:

June 18, 1971: Southwest begins operations with flights between Dallas Love Field, Houston and San Antonio

June 7, 1979: Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev., introduces the International Air Transportation Competition Act of 1979.

Sept. 28, 1979: Southwest begins flying from Dallas to New Orleans, its first Love Field flights outside Texas.

Oct. 18, 1979: A proposal pushed by House Majority Leader Jim Wright, D-Fort Worth, to prohibit interstate flights out of Love Field is added as an amendment to a House bill. The Wright amendment is later added to Cannon’s bill.

Dec. 12, 1979: Congress and local leaders announce a compromise that would restrict nonstop, direct or connecting flights from Dallas Love Field to airports in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico only.

Feb. 1, 1980: Congress passes the International Air Transportation Competition Act of 1979 with the Wright amendment included.

Feb. 15, 1980: President Jimmy Carter signs the bill into law.

Oct. 9, 1997: Mississippi, Alabama and Kansas are added to the states that may have service from Love Field. The change, proposed by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., becomes known as the Shelby amendment.

Nov. 12, 2004: Southwest CEO Gary Kelly officially abandons Southwest’s longtime “passionate neutrality” on the Wright amendment and calls for its repeal.

Nov. 18, 2005: Congress adds Missouri to the states included inside the Wright amendment boundaries.

June 15, 2006: Dallas, Fort Worth, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines announce a compromise that would allow airlines to have one-stop or connecting service from Dallas to anywhere in the U.S. and allow nonstop service to any domestic city in eight years. As part of that, Love Field’s existing gates would be replaced with 20 gates in a new concourse.

Late 2009: Construction begins on a five-year program to rebuild or replace Love Field’s gates, central terminal, roadways and other facilities.

April 15, 2013: Southwest is scheduled to occupy the first 10 of its new gates at Love Field.

Oct. 14, 2014: The Love Field restrictions are scheduled to end.

(Terry Maxon - Dallas Morning News)

Used bizjet market remains flat

The number of pre-owned business jets for sale has hovered around the 2,500 level over the past several years since climbing from about 1,600 before 2008, according to business aviation market information firm JetNet.

While pre-owned business jet inventory is now receding as a percent of the in-service fleet, it is doing so only because of new aircraft entering service, the company said. In fact, JetNet’s latest market report, released today, indicates that pre-owned jet inventory fell 0.6 percentage points last month, to 13.3 percent, year-over-year.

But for-sale business jet inventory has remained nearly flat–2,537 at the end of last month versus 2,567 a year earlier.

During this time the number of in-operation business jets climbed by 472 to 19,005, a figure that also accounts for 132 aircraft that were retired over the 12-month period.

Meanwhile, the pre-owned business turboprop has “clearly moved into a seller’s market,” JetNet said. This inventory stood at 7.9 percent last month, down 1.5 percentage points from a year ago. And, unlike the business jet segment, the turboprop segment is experiencing a drop in the number of aircraft for sale, with inventory at 1,090 late last month–52 fewer aircraft than were on the block 60 days earlier.

(Aviation International News)

B-17 "Memphis Belle" to visit Long Beach Airport on March 30th

Laurence Stevens was a 19-year-old B-17 tail gunner, dozing off above Brux, Czechoslovakia, in 1944 when a jolt snapped him alert.

Dozens of white parachute canopies were blossoming in the freezing stratosphere as B-17s began plummeting toward the ground.

Above him, combat box formations of B-17 "Flying Fortresses" - named for their bristling defensive .50-caliber machine guns - were being swarmed by Luftwaffe fighters.

"When I pressed my face against the Plexiglas I saw German planes swirling around the higher groups," said Stevens, now 88. "It looked like a beehive of activity. "

An enemy fighter, belching smoke and flames, dropped past Stevens' crew position close enough to see the pilot before the aircraft continued a long descent into the earth.

"It looked like a movie,"Stevens said. "It didn't look real."

Though those desperate times belong to a passing generation, Southern California residents can get a visceral connection to the airmen of the Eighth Air Force on Saturday at the Long Beach Daugherty Field Airport by touring or even flying in the Liberty Foundation's B-17 "Memphis Belle," used in the 1990 movie with the same name.

The bomber is making its first West Coast tour in honor of the 70th anniversary of its namesake plane's crew completing their 25th and final mission in May 1943.

Stevens, a Temple City resident and 35-mission veteran, stepped back into his past on Monday when he climbed back on board for a B-17 flight. Until another flight earlier this year, Stevens had not been on a B-17 since the war.

Conditions were definitely different for this flight compared to then.

Instead of cruising above 25,000 feet in temperatures around 50 degrees below zero for as many as 11 hours, Stevens' flight was only a leg around Long Beach its port. The temperature was a milk-warm 70 degrees.

The venerable B-17 carried its passengers - sightseers and one former airman - with gusto, leaping off the Daugherty Field runway, the droning engines breaking into a teeth-rattling, penetrating roar as the pilots throttled up for takeoff.

After 30 minutes, Stevens was backing carefully out of a door behind the B-17's waist gunner position.

"Not as easy as I used to do that," he said with a chuckle.

During World War II, 12,731 B-17s were built. Only 12 survive today, according to Liberty Foundation lead pilot Ray Fowler of Carrollton, Ga.

He said the rarity of the workhorse bomber of the battle against Nazi Germany, along with the reality of operating costs that reach $1,400 for fuel alone, makes it more important than ever for people to come out and support the memory of the men who helped liberate Europe almost 70 years ago.

"We tell everyone the history of what they did," Fowler said. "The only way we survive is off donations and the goodwill of the public so we can see this aircraft fly and not parked as a museum piece. "

(Eric Bradley - Long Beach Press Telegram)aily Breeze. All rights reserved.

787 now faces possible ETOPS restrictions

As Boeing works to regain permission for its 787 Dreamliner to resume flights, the company faces what could be a costly new challenge: a temporary ban on some of the long-distance, trans-ocean journeys that the jet was intended to fly.

Aviation experts and government officials say the Federal Aviation Administration may shorten the permitted flying time of the 787 on certain routes when it approves a revamped battery system. The plane was grounded worldwide two months ago after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two separate aircraft.

Losing extended operations, or ETOPS, would deal a blow to Boeing and its airline customers by limiting use of the fuel-saving jet, designed to lower costs on long-distance routes that don't require the capacity of the larger Boeing 777. Such a loss could even lead to cancellation of some routes.

"If the FAA approves (only) over-land operations it would be a very damaging blow to the 787 program," said Scott Hamilton, an aviation analyst with Leeham Co in Seattle.

"Depending on how long that restriction remains in place, it would completely undermine the business case for the airplane, which was to be able to do these long, thin intercontinental routes" over water, he said.

Grounding the 787 already has cost Boeing an estimated $450 million in lost income and compensation payments to airlines. Further restrictions on the 787's range could send the airlines' claims - and Boeing's costs - higher.

Until it was grounded on Jan. 16, the 787 was permitted to fly routes that ranged as much as three hours away from an airport. Boeing has asked the FAA to extend that range to 5-1/2 hours. That change would enable airlines to fly many more routes across remote areas such as the North Pole.

Now the jet faces the potential temporary loss of its ETOPS approval or a roll-back to two hours, according to government officials and aviation experts.

"It is completely within expectations for FAA to limit ETOPS for the 787," one regulatory source in Japan told Reuters. He said that reducing the range to two hours would force Japanese airlines to fly more circuitous routes, burning up more fuel and cutting efficiency.

A former senior U.S. government official said there was "a distinct possibility" that Boeing could win the battle over FAA flight certification for the battery only to lose permission for extended operations - at least temporarily.

An FAA spokesperson said it was too early to discuss ETOPS approval since Boeing's battery fix was still being tested.

"It's really premature to talk about what ETOPS certification we would give them right now," said the spokesperson. "We'll be in a better position to answer questions like that after we get through all this battery testing."

Boeing referred questions to the FAA. During a recent news conference in Japan, Boeing executives said there had not been any conversations with regulators about extended range operations. They said the proposed certification plan did not foresee further limitations once the plane was allowed to resume flight operations.

The issue is heating up as Boeing nears the end of testing the new battery system, designed to prevent the meltdowns that occurred in January. Boeing executives say the FAA could approve the new battery system within weeks. The first flight test of the system took place Monday, and a second, final test flight is expected in coming days, Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said.

Analysts and industry executives say any decision to limit the flying time of the new aircraft would have serious consequences.

The change would not rule out all international routes, but some specific routes, such as Japan Airlines Co's Tokyo-to-Boston flight, might have to be canceled, said the Japanese regulatory source.

The 787's biggest customers so far include All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, which fly extended routes to the United States and Europe, and Qatar Airways. In the U.S., United Airlines is the only carrier to have taken delivery of 787s. The airlines declined requests for comment on how loss of ETOPS could affect operations.

A step-by-step return to full, extended flight would give regulators more time to study the effectiveness of Boeing's battery fix, and could help the Obama administration prove that it was making good on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's promise to ensure the plane was "1,000-percent" safe, some experts said.

It would also address concerns voiced by Japanese aviation regulatory authorities in recent weeks.

Nor is it without precedent. Until the late 1980s, the FAA required airlines to fly a certain number of hours over land before it approved extended-range operations over water or remote areas. It started granting permission for those flights in tandem with flight certification when engine safety improved.

But the highly electrical nature of the 787 has raised new questions, said another former U.S. official, noting that the importance of the lithium-ion batteries for the plane's operation made it a bigger risk factor than past batteries.

"In the past, if you lost a battery, or a battery malfunctioned, it wasn't that big of a deal," said that former U.S. official.

"But if Boeing's battery is needed to start the engine - and that battery is susceptible to fire - isn't that a turn back condition? Isn't that something you have to go land at an airport to address? That's the question."
(Andrea Shalal-Esa and Mari Saito - Reuters)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

G550 N999FH Delivered

G550 (c/n 5372) N999FH, ex N753GA departed Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on Monday March 25, 2013 at 14:49 pst bound for Portland (PDX/KPDX), Oregon and onward delivery to its new owner.

NASA DC-9-33F N932NA visits Long Beach

NASA DC-9-33F (47476/569) N932NA "Weightless Wonder" arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) from Ellington Airport (EFD/KEFD) located in Houston, Texas at 16:17 pm pst.
(Photos by Michael Carter) 

New G550 arrives at Long Beach

G550 (c/n 5420) N120GA arrived Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) at 11:46 PST from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) and parked at the Gulfstream service center.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Monday, March 25, 2013

First test flight of 787 with battery protection system gets airborne

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner took to the sky on Monday in a test flight aimed at showing that the plane's new lithium-ion battery system meets regulatory safety standards, a key step in ending a two-month, worldwide grounding of the high-tech jet.

Monday's roughly two-hour flight, which Boeing said "went according to plan," lacked the crowds that cheered the 787's maiden journey in 2009. But if found successful, the test flight will allow Boeing to go ahead with a second flight test "in coming days" that would gather data to be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration to certify the new battery system, Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said.

The FAA and other regulators grounded all 50 787s in mid-January after batteries overheated on two separate aircraft. Earlier this month, the FAA agreed on tests Boeing would conduct to return the plane to service
Resuming flights would be a relief for Boeing, which is losing an estimated USD$50 million a week while the 787 is grounded. Airlines in Japan, the United States, the Middle East, Europe and Africa that bought the fuel-efficient jet but are barred from using those planes are also suffering. Boeing is still building 787s, but cannot deliver them to customers during the grounding.


Some Boeing officials have said the jet could be back in service by May 1, or even earlier.
But Oliver McGee, an aerospace and mechanical engineer who was a deputy assistant secretary of transportation under President Bill Clinton, said he was doubtful that regulators would allow service to resume so soon.

"Take whatever date is agreed upon and add three to six months to it," McGee said. "I don't think that you're going to see any type of quick fix or compromising on the FAA side."

McGee said the trauma of the Columbia and Challenger shuttle disasters would make federal officials reluctant to sign off on the new battery system until they were absolutely sure it would work as Boeing promised.

The US National Transportation Safety Board on Monday set a two-day forum for April 11-12 to examine the design and performance of lithium-ion batteries in transportation -- a comprehensive review sparked by the twin battery failures in January. The NTSB also plans to hold a separate hearing on the 787 battery later in April.

Monday's flight, the first with Boeing's new battery system, took off at approximately 12:11 pm Pacific time from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, on a planned two-hour mission designed to validate that all systems on the plane are working as designed.

Live video showed the LOT Polish Airlines 787-8 (35940/86) N1791B tbr SP-LRC, rising into a clear sky with snow-capped mountains in the distance. It flew south down the west coast of Washington and about half way down the coast of Oregon before turning back to Paine Field, according to flight tracking website Flightaware. It made a loop out the Strait of Juan de Fuca at low altitude and speed, then turned back toward the airport. The flight landed at 2:20 pm Pacific time, and the flight crew reported the test "went according to plan," Boeing said in a statement.

Once data from Monday's flight has been analyzed, Boeing said it would prepare for a ground and flight demonstration aimed at certifying the company's proposed changes to the battery system.

Boeing plans to conduct one certification demonstration flight using the same LOT plane, Line number 86, to show that the new battery system performs as intended during flight conditions. The system includes a steel box designed to contain a battery explosion and prevent fire, as well as a tube to vent fumes and heat out of the aircraft.

Birtel said it wasn't clear if the demonstration test for the FAA would conclude Boeing's testing of the new battery system, which was unveiled in Tokyo on March 15. The tests are being conducted in labs, in planes on the ground, and in flight.

"Obviously, progress is being made on all three fronts," Birtel said.


Despite uncertainty about when the FAA will approve Boeing's new battery system, some experts said the revamped unit is likely to prove successful.

Former NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said Boeing has invested hundreds of thousands of engineering hours to develop the improved battery system.

"They don't want to put an airplane up that they're going to have to deal with again," he said.
"They want this thing resolved. They want to do it in an efficient, appropriate, scientific, analytic way. It is not in their best interests to rush a system."

John Goglia, a former NTSB board member, said he expects the steel containment box will work as expected, and the plane could be returned to service in April.

"I will give the Boeing engineers the benefit of the doubt that they have designed a box that will handle what the battery can give it," he said.


Hawaiian Airlines finalizes A321neo order

Hawaiian Airlines has finalized an order for 16 Airbus A321neos, plus nine options. The order was previously announced in January. The aircraft, which are scheduled for delivery between 2017 and 2020, will be used on long-haul flights between Hawaii and the US West Coast.

According to a company statement, the transaction is “the latest step in Hawaiian’s phased fleet plan designed to supplement its current widebody fleet of 26 aircraft, expand its long-range fleet, and enable it to open new domestic and international nonstop services to Hawaii.”

Hawaiian reached key labor agreements with its pilot and flight attendant unions on the introduction of new aircraft earlier this year.

Hawaiian president and CEO Mark Dunkerley said, “As our Airbus fleet expands, so does our destination network. The addition of the A321neo to our fleet is expected to generate around 1,000 new jobs at our airline.”

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Philippine Airlines considers Boeing 777X

Philippine Airlines (PAL) said it is looking to buy 20 Boeing 777X jets as part of a re-fleeting programme aimed at challenging its main domestic rival Cebu Air Inc and launching flights to the United States and Europe.

The jet, which is still in the development stage, is envisioned to be an improvement on Boeing's existing 777 models intended for long-haul service.

PAL, owned by Philippine conglomerate San Miguel Corp and local billionaire Lucio Tan, also sealed deals last year to buy Airbus jets with list prices totalling close to $10 billion.

"It depends on the price. We are looking at the new Boeing 777X. We may buy 10 and, if it performs well, we'll exercise an option for 10 more," PAL President Ramon Ang told reporters on Monday.

"That's larger, can carry 400 passengers with longer range," Ang said. "The new 777, they call it X because it's lightweight, has bigger wings, newer engine," Ang added, without giving any further details.

PAL wants to add 100 new jets to its current fleet of around 40 planes in the next five to seven years as it reshapes its business. In August last year, Airbus won a $7 billion order from PAL, beating Boeing to a deal marked by diplomatic lobbying.


Friday, March 22, 2013

The new look Long Beach Airport

Long Beach Airport Director Mario Rodriguez likes to tell the story about the couple that flew out of the airport in early December and returned mid-month after the new passenger concourse opened.

"I think we're in the wrong place," the woman told her husband, gaping at the new surroundings.

The 35,000-square-foot concourse is the capstone of a $139 million expansion and rehabilitation project at Long Beach Airport, which handled 3.2 million passengers last year.

"This is so gorgeous," said Gail Krause, 54, who was flying to Las Vegas with her husband this week. "The last time we flew out of here it was so, uh, temporary."

Ten years in the making, the new, improved Long Beach Airport, has arrived.

Rodriguez, a 25-year airport veteran, said he had one goal in mind for the $45 million concourse project – to give travelers the best possible experience within the confines of a municipal airport.

"I didn't want to build a Taj Mahal," said Rodriguez, who has worked at major airports from Miami to Kuwait to Hong Kong. "I wanted to change how you travel."

That meant less emphasis than bigger airports on volume – moving as many people through as possible – and more concentration on the human level by making it as easy and convenient as possible to get from curb to air carrier, while providing a few amenities along the way.

Passengers can now check in, clear security and go directly to their planes without ever entering the historic terminal. A video projection called Ava (for Audio Visual Assistant) – the first outside New York and Boston – welcomes passengers in English and Spanish, instructing them about the security process. Coveted plug-ins for electronics, which travelers vie for at every airport, are now everywhere.

Then there's the food. The airport chose local eateries for its food service. Visitors can select from Long Beach favorites like McKenna's by the Bay (called McKenna's on the Fly), Taco Beach Cantina and George's Greek Café and eat on site or take their food to eat on the plane. The 4th Street Vine wine bar boasts a large selection of wines and tapas, which travelers can enjoy next to an outdoor fire pit. Rodriguez said it's the only fire pit he knows of at an airport. All of them are within the secure area of the terminal.

Security has been streamlined to the point that the average wait is four minutes – maybe seven minutes at peak periods. That poses a problem.

"People think they can arrive 20 minutes before their flight boards," Rodriguez said. "We'd like them to come a little earlier and maybe have lunch."

A long journey

For years, many local travelers valued the circa 1940 airport, variously described as cute and vintage, because they did not have to battle the crowds and traffic at larger facilities such as Los Angeles International Airport. But that convenience came at a price.

"If you have more than an hour wait, this becomes the unforgettable layover at the 'trailer park' airport," wrote one commenter on Yelp.

The airport expansion faced opposition from people living in nearby homes before the city finally began construction of the new concourse in 2010, just as airlines were consolidating and cutting back flights.

There was also the question of cost. Moody's, the credit rating agency, rated the airport's bonds A2 in its most recent evaluation in 2010. That placed the bonds in the upper medium rating range and indicated a low credit risk.

The report said one potential negative was Long Beach's reliance on JetBlue Airways, which made up 78 percent of all flights. Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines and US Airways are the other carriers.

Moody's, however, noted only 26 percent of airport revenue came from airline fees with concessions, parking, flight schools and other businesses making up the rest. The ratings agency also cited Long Beach's low cost per passenger, which was $5.83 in 2010 compared to the industry median of $7.

Rodriguez said any concerns about revenue proved unfounded. All 41 one of the airport's slots for commercial flights are filled and there's a waiting list if any are relinquished. The offsite parking lots the airport had been leasing were closed when a new 1,989-space parking structure opened in 2011. Now all parking is on site, with daily rates from $17 to $19.

Revenues now are more than twice the amount needed to service the airport's $117 million debt, the airport said.

"We run this airport like a business," said Rodriguez.

The focus on cost control meant a few tradeoffs for passengers. Rodriguez opted against using jetports, the covered bridges most airports have for passenger loading, at the 11 gates. The jetports would have cost $500,000 each but that means on rainy days, passengers get wet going up the outdoor ramps and steps to the airplane. Luggage carousels also remain outdoors.

Moving the parking on site means there is no cheaper, long-term parking available. Rodriguez said the airport's on-site parking is still the lowest in Southern California, but travelers at John Wayne Airport have the option of remote parking at $14 a day and LAX's Parking Lot C costs $12 daily.

Looking ahead

A few more airport projects remain to be completed. Rodriguez said the next step is to restore the terminal to its original look from 1941. Workers have already pulled up the carpeting to reveal the intricate tile work underneath.

Over the next three years, rental car services will be moved just north of the terminal and will be replaced by a new transportation center and airport valet parking.

Rodriguez noted that with the airport's limit on commercial flights and its niche in the local market – primarily jets that seat 150 to 180 passengers – it will never be a big international facility. But he hopes to attract more business travelers, which made up 22 percent of the passengers as of 2010, the most recent data available.

He also would like to attract more business from the northeast. JetBlue now flies to New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.

And what about Hawaii service? Rodriguez said none of the four airlines that serve the airport have discussed service to Hawaii and the jets they currently operate at Long Beach can't make it to the islands.

"But JetBlue's new (A320)neos can," he said with a smile.

(Mary Ann Milbourne - Orange County Register)

Fullerton Airport to loose tower due to budget cuts

The control tower at the Fullerton Airport is among 149 that will close beginning April 7, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday.

Earlier this month, the FAA said it would close 189 air traffic control towers as part of $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration. The FAA tower closures will save up to $50 million this year.

Article Tab: fullerton-municipal-airpo
A control tower dominates the compact Fullerton Municipal Airport.
(Photo by H. Lorren Au Jr., Orange County Register)
"I don't think the city is interested in losing that revenue," he said.
There were 11 Southern California airport towers closed, including ones in Riverside, Victorville and Lancaster.

When the controllers do leave Fullerton, sometime in April or early May, pilots flying in and out will have to be a little more patient.

Planes will have to move into a so-called "one in, one out" procedure, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said Friday. That means only one aircraft can be on approach to – or departing from – the airport at any given time.

"The procedures we use for operations at uncontrolled airports are perfectly safe but much less efficient than at airports with staffed control towers," Gregor said.

Upon departure, pilots will be required to call an FAA traffic control center in San Diego to receive authorization to take off and discuss routing information to their destination. Pilots then will switch to a universal frequency used by other planes flying in the area and announce the departure.

While in flight, pilots must remain in constant contact with the San Diego-based radar controllers, responsible for keeping all planes a safe distance from one other.

Pilots landing at Fullerton Airport will be required to tell the San Diego-based controllers when they clear the runway so that another plane can arrive or depart.

Currently, the Fullerton tower is unmanned from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. The airfield had about 65,000 takeoffs and landings in 2012, a number that pales to that at many airports.
Reaction among pilots at the municipal airport on Friday varied.

"It's going to be a lot more dangerous," said Jackie DeCosta, 62, of Fullerton, a 20-year pilot who houses her Cessna 150 at the airport. "You're going to have to really watch out more."

Pilot Fred Pecoraro, 73, of Anaheim, was less concerned, noting there are already municipal airports without control towers.

"We manage without it," said Pecoraro, who's flown for 45 years and owns a four-seat Beechcraft Bonanza. "It's not the end of the world. ... You just have to be more careful."

Martin Coda, 79, of Anaheim houses his plane at Chino Airport and flies into Fullerton about once a week.

"A lot of guys who don't fly a lot might get affected," Coda said. "There is the possibility for more mid-air (collisions)."

Aside from John Wayne Airport, Los Alamitos Army Airfield is the only other Orange County airfield that will have a manned control tower. Non-military aircraft can only land at Los Alamitos in an emergency, Hoppe said.

(Lou Ponsi and Art Marroquin - Orange County Register)

Orange County "Nimby's" continue to dictate airport noise restrictions

After nearly two years of closed-door negotiations, Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry announced Thursday that the strict curfews governing John Wayne Airport's operations could remain in place through 2035 if a proposed airport settlement agreement extension is approved.

But a cap on the number of passengers and flights that can pass through the airport would be allowed to rise starting in 2021.

"This is a balanced approach that will follow the law and maintain the protection of our community," Curry said at a news conference in the Newport Beach Police Department auditorium. "Growth, after all, is part of life at the airport."

The current agreement, which resulted from a 1985 legal settlement aimed at curbing the airport's impact on the surrounding community, is set to expire in 2015.

The city had been waiting for feedback from the Federal Aviation Administration before announcing the proposed new terms, which must toe a fine line between allowing the airport room to grow and hanging on to some of the nation's strictest airport noise and traffic restrictions.

Orange County was able to grandfather in its airport regulations, despite some conflict with the federal 1990 Airport Noise and Capacity Act, meaning that any new settlement terms cannot impose more stringent limits than already exist.

(Jill Cowan - L.A. Times)

Boeing plans lay-offs

Boeing Co. (BA) plans to dismiss about 800 commercial-jet workers this year as it completes post-assembly fixes for its newest models, the 787 Dreamliner and the 747-8 jumbo jet.

There will be an overall reduction of 2,000 to 2,300 jobs in the Seattle area, Boeing’s headquarters for the development and manufacturing of commercial jets, said Marc Birtel, a spokesman. Some cuts will be absorbed through attrition and other measures.

Companywide employment will be unchanged or slightly lower this year, even with Boeing hiring as many as 10,000 as it boosts production another 25 percent through 2014. Increases are planned on the 787 and 737 programs, part of a four-year effort to boost jet output more than 60 percent. Work is winding down on refurbishing the 787s and 747s that were built before the models entered service at the end of 2011.

“With the 787 and 747 development efforts completing and the disruption associated with that substantially decreasing, we require fewer resources,” Birtel said in a telephone interview.

He said the reductions aren’t related to the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner, which has been parked worldwide since Jan. 16 amid investigations into battery faults. The 787 assembly lines have continued producing five jets a month during the grounding, with plans to double that by the end of the year.

Boeing said last month it was eliminating contractors’ jobs at its new 787 plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, where it employs about 6,000 workers who were becoming more efficient with experience.

Boeing, based in Chicago, employs about 174,000 people worldwide, including more than 86,000 in the Seattle area.

(Susanna Ray - Bloomberg News) 

G550 N753GA performs pre-delivery test flight

G550 (c/n 5372) N753GA tbr N999FH rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as she departs on a pre-delivery test flight as "GLF17" at 14:58 pst. 
(Photo by Michael Carter)

NetJets G-IVSP N416QS

 Taxies on "Delta" towards a Rwy 30 departure.
 Rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30.
NetJets G-IVSP (c/n 1316) N416QS departed Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) at 13:53 pst bound for San Francisco International Airport (SFO/KSFO).
(Photos by Michael Carter)

149 control towers to close due to budget cuts

Under orders to trim hundreds of millions of dollars from its budget, the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday released a final list of 149 air traffic control towers that it will close at small airports around the country starting early next month.

The closures will not force any of those airports to shut down, but pilots will be left to coordinate takeoffs and landings among themselves over a shared radio frequency with no help from ground controllers. Those procedures are familiar to all pilots.

Since a preliminary list of facilities was released a month ago, the FAA plan has raised wide-ranging concerns, including worries about the effect on safety and the potential financial consequences for communities that rely on airports to help attract businesses and tourists.

"We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement.

Airlines have yet to say whether they will continue offering service to airports that lose tower staff. The trade group Airlines for America said its member carriers have no plans to cancel or suspend flights as a result of the closures.

The FAA is being forced to trim $637 million for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. The agency said it had no choice but to subject most of its 47,000 employees, including tower controllers, to periodic furloughs and to close air traffic facilities at small airports with lighter traffic. The changes are part of the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect March 1.

The airports targeted for tower shutdowns have fewer than 150,000 total flight operations per year. Of those, fewer than 10,000 are commercial flights by passenger airlines.

Airport directors, pilots and others in the aviation sector have argued that stripping away an extra layer of safety during the most critical stages of flight will elevate risks and at the very least slow years of progress that made the U.S. aviation network the safest in the world.

One of the facilities on the closure list is at Ogden-Hinckley Airport in Utah, where air traffic controllers keep planes safely separated from the F-16s screaming in and out of nearby Hill Air Force Base and flights using Salt Lake City International Airport.

"There's going to be problems," said Ogden airport Manager Royal Eccles. "There will be safety concerns and ramification because of it."

Opponents of the closures are also warning of possible disruptions to medical transport flights and flight schools training the next generation of pilots.

The 149 air traffic facilities slated to begin closing on April 7 are all staffed by contract employees who are not FAA staffers. There were 65 other facilities staffed by FAA employees on the preliminary list of towers that could be closed. A final decision on their closure will require further review, the FAA said.

The agency is also still considering eliminating overnight shifts at 72 additional air traffic facilities, including some at major airports like Chicago's Midway International and General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee. There was no word Friday on when that decision will come.

The targeted towers are located in nearly every state.

Hundreds of small airports around the country routinely operate without controllers. Pilots flying there are trained to watch for other aircraft and announce their position over the radio during approaches, landings and takeoffs.

But the overall air system's safety is built on redundancy. Taking away the controller's extra set of eyes is like removing stop signs or traffic lights from city intersections and forcing drivers to be more vigilant and cautious, said Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

"That's what the pilot is going to have to do now," said Rinaldi, whose group represents nearly 15,000 FAA-employed controllers as well as some staff at privately run contract towers. "A pilot is now going to have that extra duty of making sure that everybody seems to be doing the right thing on a crowded" radio frequency.

Some aviation experts say overnight shifts should have been eliminated regardless of the sequester at facilities that don't see enough traffic to justify the expense. The budget cuts being forced on the FAA could provide the agency with political cover to make some of those changes.

"There's a tendency over time to have Congress direct more money to small airports than would probably be economically justified," explained Robert Poole, an aviation analyst at the Reason Foundation think tank.

He said his own initial review of the list released Friday showed that many of the towers are at airports with few or no scheduled passenger flights, suggesting there will be little effect on airline service.

Rinaldi acknowledged that "just maybe there are some that don't warrant" air traffic control services.
"But I would bet the vast majority of them do," he said.

In Dallas' northern suburbs, local officials plan to put up the $315,000 needed to keep the tower open for the next six months at Collin County Regional Airport in McKinney, said airport Director Kenneth Wiegand.

That will drive the airport into a deeper operating deficit, but it is worth it to keep the dozens of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the area happy and the local economy healthy, Wiegand explained.

"These businesses aren't going to fly a $70 million airplane into an airport that doesn't have positive control," he said. "They don't want to mix it up with the smaller aircraft."

In New Mexico, officials in the state capital of Santa Fe said they were concerned about the impact on tourism.

In just the past few years, the mountain community has won back commercial jet service. For now, Mayor David Coss remains optimistic the airlines will continue to fly in, adding that the city cannot afford to pick up the $60,000 a month cost of operating the tower without federal funds.

"None of them have indicated otherwise," he said. "Our airport manager has contacted all of them, and they have all said they didn't have any change in plans right now."

(Jason Keyser - Associated Press)